Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

Bridging the Last Mile: An Exploration of ICT Policy Through Bharatnet

Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Media and Communication

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Oliver Boyd-Barrett (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Clayton Rosati (Committee Co-Chair)

Fourth Advisor

Shannon Orr (Other)

Abstract

India is brimming with new optimism about its economic growth potential and ability to enhance its status. Democratic and demographic dividends play a crucial role in its aspiration. As a key IT player with regard to the services and allied sectors its transformation from telecom as a luxury to appreciable levels of teledensity is a narrative in itself. Its tryst with harnessing communication for development integrates the modernization approaches with all the consequent set of problems and issues. The liberal framework in which telecom reforms were initiated have spread the vision of modern handheld communication devices as harbingers of empowerment, entitlement and entertainment. Connectivity and access in the last mile is no doubt a significant variable and required a major policy articulation and push by the government. It was against this reality shared by many other nations that incremental articulations for broadband access in keeping with the vision of creating an information society were made. Through a historical institutional analysis, this study unravels the pattern leading up to one of the major initiatives by any country in the world, the BharatNet project. The rollout processes of BharatNet examined by applying academic perspectives that draw from three major strands of studies: the discourse of communication, modernization and development; the relationships in policy formation and implementation through political economy framework with regard to information and communication technologies, networks and knowledge societies and the time and space approach with regard to the dichotomies of urban and rural spaces and factors of exclusion and inclusion. The study posits an argument that discourses within a paradigm necessitate choices of technology and articulations of beneficiaries that may or may not factor them. It also reveals the many pulls and pressures are commercially dictated and pose inherent contradictions for a state that espouses a consciousness towards welfare within a larger neoliberal framework.

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