The Indian broadband plan: a review and implications for theory
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Given the benefits of ubiquitous broadband deployment and availability that include economic growth, participation in the Internet economy and increased competitiveness, several countries have launched major national initiatives to accelerate broadband deployment including supporting such initiatives often as a part of their fiscal stimulus plans. These include Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Sweden, UK and USA and the European Union as a whole. Despite the initiatives of developing countries, the broadband gap in terms of deployment and adoption between them and developed countries is increasing. There is recognition that there are significant challenges in designing the institutional infrastructure required for broadband deployment, which are accentuated in a developing country context due to the weak existing institutional environment. But since the impact of telecom and, broadband in particular, is more significant in developing countries than in developed ones, policy makers in developing countries are increasingly focusing on National Broadband Plans (NBPs). For example, policy makers in India realize that broadband can accelerate the increasing contribution of the service and knowledge sectors to India's economy and also help to alleviate its poor physical service delivery in areas such as health, education, banking, etc. and have adopted a broadband plan. This paper documents the development of the Indian NBP. Based on prior studies, we identify key factors that contribute to success of broadband deployment and adoption and based on these, we assess the Indian NBP. Further, it uses the framework of multiple streams (Kingdon, 1995) to critique the policy formulation and agenda setting aspects of NBP in an emerging economy. We also highlight the key differences in the policy making processes in developed and developing economies. Given the inter-linkages and complexities of implementing a broadband strategy, we identify the role and attributes of a policy entrepreneur that are critical to evolving the policy, in a developing country context and how these differences lead to the primacy of the role of policy entrepreneur. Thus, the contribution of this paper is in assessing the Indian NBP and providing insights in theoretical aspects of policy making in the realm of broadband in emerging economies, an area that has received little attention.
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