By Ashna Butani
Indian Space Research Organisation’s GSAT-29 launch, which took place on 14th November, Wednesday, will help increase connectivity in rural areas, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. While crores of rupees are invested in space technology and research, it is important to assess whether it has been helping the lower income groups in our country.
Launch of GSAT-29
The Indian National Satellite (INSAT) series, now renamed GSAT (Geosynchronous Satellite) is a series of communication satellites that are expected to change the face of communication.
GSAT-29, India’s second throughput communication satellite, was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. India’s heaviest rocket, Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk III D2, a three stage launch vehicle, launched the communication satellite GSAT-29 into the Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The satellite weighing 3423 kg has a mission life of 10 years.
Earlier this year, the Centre allocated funds for satellite updates for farmers and fishermen. 10,400 crore was allotted to ISRO, in order to facilitate job creation for more than 10,000 people and boost local economies. The organisation is also working on manufacturing 30 indigenous and 10 high-end rockets over the next four years.
The role of Communication Satellites in Rural Development
Since 1982, ISRO has launched 32 successful communication satellites. A communication satellite helps create a channel between a transmitter and a receiver, thereby amplifying radio telecommunications. They are used for telephones, televisions, radio and internet. Even though there are around 2000 satellites in space, few are intended to ease the lives of lower income groups.
Under the Digital India program, PM Modi has been undertaking projects such as the e-Panchayat Project that aims to improve the quality of governance in Panchayat Raj Institutions. However, the program was unable to kick off due to lack of connectivity in villages. This is where ISRO comes into the picture.
Upcoming projects by ISRO will give India a broadband connectivity of 100 gbps, said Dr. Kailasavadivoo Sivan, the director of ISRO. Better internet connection will have a far reaching effect in rural areas, while also facilitating Modi’s Digital India campaign, said Dr. Sivan, after the successful launch of GSAT-29.
Earlier this year, ISRO set up 473 Village Resource Centres (VRCs). VRCs use a combination of Satellite Communication (SATCOM) and Earth Observation (EO) to reach out to people in remote areas.
Scope of the Internet in rural India
The growth of the internet could have both a negative and a positive connation. However, in the area of rural development, internet has sped up progress. VRCs have succeeded in connecting doctors to patients and setting up virtual classrooms in areas that do not have education. So far, 6500 programs by ISRO Village Resource Centres have been conducted in 22 states and Union Territories.
The programs have also touched upon areas such as agriculture development, fisheries development, live stock development, water resources, tele-health care. Programs to spread awareness on social issues have been conducted, along with skill development programs. So far, 5 lakh people have used the services.
Out of a population of 1324 million, only 460 million Indians have internet access, while the internet penetration is 10.1%. China has an internet penetration of 38.4% while the USA has a penetration of 78.2%. As the internet penetration increases, the quality of life in rural areas will become better. We still have a long way to go, but every effort is a step forward.
The outcome is not certain but experts are of the opinion that rural India has the power to drive growth in the country. In the future, rural businesses will be given an impetus as the use of e-commerce will increase profits and sustainability. Internet usage in rural India has increased by 14% in 2017.
‘A year from now, India’s data capability will be on par with those of other countries,’ said Dr. Sivan, chairperson. The launch of GSAT-20 in 2019, will improve India’s connectivity to a great extent, while our competence in the sphere of data will aid India’s rural development, and hence push India’s economy forward.
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