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 Table of Contents  
LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 157-158

Telecommunications and health in rural India: Present scenario and way forward


Department of Community Medicine, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Puducherry, India

Date of Submission21-Dec-2019
Date of Decision17-Jan-2020
Date of Acceptance21-Feb-2020
Date of Web Publication21-Dec-2020

Correspondence Address:
Ariarathinam Newtonraj
Department of Community Medicine, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Puducherry
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jcrsm.jcrsm_46_19

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How to cite this article:
Newtonraj A. Telecommunications and health in rural India: Present scenario and way forward. J Curr Res Sci Med 2020;6:157-8

How to cite this URL:
Newtonraj A. Telecommunications and health in rural India: Present scenario and way forward. J Curr Res Sci Med [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jun 19];6:157-8. Available from: https://www.jcrsmed.org/text.asp?2020/6/2/157/304205



Dear Sir,

Telecommunication (Telecom) technology can play various roles in improving the health of the country.[1] Telecom including internet will increase the awareness about the health and diseases and improve the health seeking behavior. Telecom has the highest potential to close the health-care gap between rural and urban areas through telemedicine.[1],[2] However, in medicine, growth of technology is not uniform across the field. Application and adaptation of technology are fast in Radiology and imaging sector, whereas the use of technology in other fileds of medicine is still slow.[3]

India is an early adopter in telecom technology with the second largest number of subscribers in the world.[4] In wireless technology, India has introduced 2G in 2008, followed by 3G and 4G in 2010.[5] At present, internet and smartphone usages have accelerated in India, where 560 million people are accessible to the internet and 446 million people are using smart phones.[4] Meanwhile in wired connections, India is moving from dialup network to broad band connections and in the recent years, public and private partners showing interest in high-speed broad band with the speed upto 1 GBps.[5] But unfortunately, India being a country where 70% of people live in rural India, communication technology growth is not uniform across rural and urban areas.[4] According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, rural teledensity is decreasing and urban teledensity is increasing.[4] Commercial networks with the compulsion to provide a better network at the cheapest rate concentrate and invest more in the urban areas and major cities and show less interest in rural areas. This also aggravates the gap between rural and urban areas in Telecom.[4],[6] Meanwhile, public network provider (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited), which has the potential to close this “Rural-Urban” gap is also suffering in the competitive market.[7] Meanwhile, in the domain of internet speed, India ranks the lowest in Asia.[5] At present, the average download speed in India is around 20 mbps whereas the global average is two times higher (40 mbps).[8]

At the same time, even before the telecom revolution in India, starting from 2001 itself, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has been taking earnest steps in reaching the rural population through satellite-based internet supported telemedicine programs.[9] At present, telemedicine and teleeducation are collectively handled by various functioning satellites under ISRO namely INSAT 3A, INSAT 3C, and INSAT 4A.[9],[10],[11] Recently, ISRO came with a practical and innovative initiative of combining supplementary education of students, telemedicine, rural agricultural development by interacting with farmers, Panchayat meetings, etc., under a single initiative called Village Resource Centres.[11] This center will act as a common hub for various activities listed above, functioning at a village level. Even though this model has the potential to reach the remote villages with high speed internet with the specific goals of telemedicine, teleeduction, and teletraining of farmers; unfortunately, this also did not receive much financial support from the government and other stakeholders and did not become popular in a large scale.

As a way forward, at this point, when the government is proposing so many smart cities under Digital India initiative, it is the high time for India to ensure telecommunication reach equally between rural and urban India, which could be ensured in two ways. First, is to encourage and provide special support to the public and private telecommunication providers to reach the rural area with high speed internet and mobile technologies and the second is implementing ISRO initiative in a large scale. The ISRO initiative on Village Resource Centre could be studied in detail for feasibility and modified after discussing with the different stakeholders, and then could be implemented in a phased manner throughout India. These satellite-based and wireless and wired broadband have the highest potential to bridge the technology gap between rural and urban India. In the meantime, one should also understand technology is just a platform for communication. The stakeholders from health, education, and Panchayat officials should be willing to make use of these technologies for the betterment of the community. To conclude telecom technology for rural India is not a privilege; it is their basic right and their essential need. Ultimately, Digital India should grow equally in urban and rural areas.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Kvedar J, Coye MJ, Everett W. Connected health: A review of technologies and strategies to improve patient care with telemedicine and telehealth. Health Aff (Millwood) 2014;33:194-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Lama T, Karmacharya B, Chandler C, Patterson V. Telephone management of severe wasp stings in rural Nepal: A case report. J Telemed Telecare 2011;17:105-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Brink JA, Arenson RL, Grist TM, Lewin JS, Enzmann D. Bits and bytes: The future of radiology lies in informatics and information technology. Eur Radiol 2017;27:3647-51.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Highlights of Telecom Susbscription Data as on; 31 May, 2019. Available from: https://main.trai.gov.in/sites/default/files/PR_No. 49of2019.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. A 20 Year Odyssey 1997-2017; 2017. Available from: https://main.trai.gov.in/sites/default/files/A_TwentyYear_Odyssey_1997_2017.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
The Economic Times. Internet Users in India Expected to Reach 500 Million by June. JAMA; 2018. Available from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/internet-users-in-india-expected-to-reach-500-million-by-june-iamai/articleshow/63000198.cms. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
The Economic Times. BSNL FY19 Loss at Over Rs 14,000 Crore, Government; 2019. Available from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/markets/stocks/earnings/bsnl-fy19-loss-at-over-rs-14000-crore-govt/articleshow/70059516.cms?from=mdr. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
The Economic Times. India Ranks 67th in Fixed Line, 109th in Mobile Broadband Speed: Ookla. Available from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/india-ranks-67th-in-fixed-line-109th-in-mobile-broadband-speed-ookla/articleshow/63471893.cms. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Indian Space Research Organization. Tele-Medicine ISRO. Available from: https://www.isro.gov.in/applications/tele-medicine. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Indian Space Research Organization. Tele-Education ISRO. Available from: https://www.isro.gov.in/applications/tele-education. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Indian Space Research Organization. Village Resource Centre ISRO. Available from: https://www.isro.gov.in/applications/village-resource-centre. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 11
    




 

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