The Indian government is finalising a plan to distribute free mobile phones to the poor at an expense of about Rs 7,000 cr to the exchequer. According to a report, the scheme titled “Har Hath Mein Phone,” is expected to be announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 15.
This is good news for the telecom companies, private players and start-ups trying to tap into the bottom of the pyramid. However, challenges like lack of electricity, bad connectivity and linguistic diversity might affect the overall experience.
The scheme may be funded from the telecom department’s universal service obligation (USO) funds, the report said.
Widely perceived as a populist measure ahead of the 2014 general elections, the scheme is drawing criticism from hundreds of angry tax payers for spending tax money to “buy votes. “ Like this one:
Some believe that this might not be all that effective in the coming elections.
However, the program could prove to be meaningful with the government’s plans on financial inclusion, direct cash transfer and programs like the mobile based fertiliser management system. For instance, mobile phones could be used with UID to implement direct cash transfer and to streamline multiple public utility schemes like the public distribution network.
While the government’s timing is questionable, the outcome is likely to be positive as millions of subscribers get connected and also start consuming technology.
And while free phones for poor, free iPads are for MPs!
Whose (free) money is it anyway?