Moving towards a digital India
Vipin Tyagi, Executive Director of C-DOT, who has been actively working to ensure that each citizen of our country can become a ‘Digital Indian’, speaks to Millennium Post in an exclusive interview.
At a time when the Government of India is pressing for the need to digitally revolutionise the country, the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) has spearheaded this goal and brought internet access to millions of Indians located all across the nation. With new and progressive developments in the field of telecommunications and telematics, C-DOT promises to change the face of India, ushering in a new tomorrow where our country will not only be self-reliant but also a force to be globally reckoned with.
First, tell us about C-DOT. What is your entrepreneurial vision, what is the gap that your enterprise attempts to bridge?
C-DOT is the Telecom R&D centre of the Govt. of India that has been developing the indigenous Telecom technologies and solutions, ideally suited to the varied requirements of our diverse nation, since its inception in 1984. The face of technology is changing globally and rapidly. We must keep pace with these changes and adapt ourselves accordingly. Our prime focus is centred on three aspects, namely, rural communications, intense research and development with an eye on the future and strategic communications.We aim to build and nurture a continuously evolving, indigenous Telecom manufacturing ecosystem based on our "Transfer of Technology (ToT)" model, whereby our technologies are made by the local manufacturers for bulk consumption, as envisioned in our Govt.'s initiative of "Make in India." We have so far been very successful in building the highly reliable and cost-effective technology for the prestigious BharatNet, the National Optical Fiber Network. We harness strong wireless capabilities to innovate new products and solutions attuned to the dynamically changing Telecom landscape. We are committed to realising the overarching objectives of "Digital India" program by developing our capabilities to make world class Telecom products and solutions in our own country.
C-DOT has been working in this sector for the last three decades, and in these thirty years, there has been a universe of change in the field of telecommunications. How have you adapted yourself and your goals to suit modern day requirements?
Going back to the 1980s, Telecom started with telegrams & tele-printers, then we had telephones and then came mass scale digital switching systems. Earlier there was a mechanical system at play, and C-DOT introduced the first commercial grade digital switching system in India which proliferated massively and gave birth to modern day communications. Telephones were rare in those times, almost like a status symbol. The digital switching system was also replaced by GSM, but the GSM market saw a huge involvement of international parties, due to which domestic players did not get a chance to adapt to this new technology. Then came the broadband era, where we emerged as a key player effectively harnessing the huge potential of optical fibers, capable of carrying 16 terabytes of data. We succeeded in adopting this powerful broadband technology for several segments including campuses, enterprises and large buildings, thus building a complete range of Optical Fiber based solutions. Gradually, we moved towards creating Next Generation Networks (NGN) which areIP based. During this technological journey, we have been constantly aware of making changes in a cost-effective and reliable manner thus meeting the specific requirements of our nation.
Speaking of innovations, to be relevant in current times, one has to constantly bring about new innovations to be able to make a difference to people's lives. C-DOT has been actively engaging in several such projects. Tell us a little about some of your innovations that have really affected people's lives.
The unfortunate thing is that people in our country generally do not get to know about the latest developments in the field of science and technology. C-DOT has built Wi-Fi systems that can span across 10 km. We are able to connect up to three villages with a single Wi-Fi access point using 3 segments. C-DOT also has solar Wi-Fi systems ideally suited to overcome the power related hurdles in remote terrains. We will also try to create hotspots from these systems that will connect entire villages together.
Our latest technology which is under trial by the Common Service Centre (CSC), is the PDO or the Public Data Office, the modern day version of the PCO. These will be available for deployment through C-DOT manufacturers at small dhabas, shops, or even on mobile carts. People can buy coupons and use the internet to avail all facilities. India has a large rural population, and it is imperative that this segment is tapped and educated about the benefits of using technology. Through PDO services, millions of Indians across the country will have access to internet facilities at lowest prices.
Another initiative of ours which has been globally recognised is the GyanSetu. It is our attempt to reach out to the illiterate sections by adapting them to the myriad benefits of technology in a simplified manner. They fear the keyboard, the mouse and other complex computer paraphernalia; so we came up with a system that that surmounts these stumbling blocks with its unique design based on numerals and pictorial representations. This enables the delivery of targeted information in the desired languages in a more convenient and efficacious way. The system has been further strengthened with the provision of biometric authentication access to ensure security.
The present government has been very astute about making India digitally independent and taking technology to each citizen. What would C-DOT's role be in achieving this goal of the Government of India?
The goals of the government are all intertwined. Skill India, Make in India, Digital India, and Start-Up India; they all feed into each other. We have to constantly deliberate upon how we can create jobs, how we can create a knowledge economy. Our Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) solution earlier had 7 manufacturers, but now we have grown to 22 for all our products. In the future, we see high possibility of exports too. Our country is capable of creating a large number of jobs for its own citizens; however, we fail to identify our own capabilities. We endeavour to create a situation where we can tap on our intellectual property for national development.
Like in any undertaking, there are several challenges here, too. The two most striking challenges would be possibilities of connecting such a wide landscape like India and concerns over looming security threats. What are your comments?
We have come up with technology that will deal with this problem of landscape. In India, We have high mountains, deserts, forests, oceans; our technologies like GPON and Broadband Wireless Terminal (BBWT) are well suited to deal with the problem of diverse terrains.
Security continues to be a herculean challenge. Technology users are unable to assess the serious implications of such attacks. We need to further strengthen our security methods; this is a field where continued R&D is necessary.
What can we expect from C-DOT in the next 5 years? What are the developments that you are hoping to achieve?
Our focus is on building wide rural networks offering seamless connectivity to every nook and corner of the nation, thus bridging the divide between rural and urban India, where all services will be digitised, and each individual will have access to an online gateway. As regards to emerging Smart Cities in the country, C-DOT is engaging with the developer community and startups by creating collaborations through "C-DOT Common Services Platform", which is one M2M standard-based middleware for smart cities and sensor networks. We will have new generation of technologies available with higher speed, secure access and easy to use technologies specifically designed for India. This will augment our present portfolio of products
( Radhika Dutt is Editorial Consultant with Millennium Post. The views are personal.)