(The article is authored by Ninad Desai, District Secretary – BICSI INDIA)
Fiber is everywhere. Be it the internet, telecom, CATV, Data centers, enterprise networks, security, audio & video Communications, electrical utilities, oil and gas, alternative energy, metropolitan networks, remote piloted vehicles, healthcare, industrial applications and controls and the list could go on. It’s not that fiber optic networking is a recent phenomenon it’s something that has been there for more than two decades and is now far more relevant and important than ever before because of the changing perceptions of speed, distance and economy.
NOFN – The Game Changer
NOFN (National Optical Fiber Network) which is a part of the Digital India initiative is opening up new avenues for access service providers like mobile operators, cable TV operators etc. to launch their next generation services and spur creation of local employment opportunities, encompassing e-commerce and IT outsourcing, as well as e-banking, e-health and e-education.
NOFN is a landmark initiative in taking forward the vision of Digital India which aims to transform the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. NOFN as envisaged will provide a minimum bandwidth of 100 Mbps to each of the 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayat’s, thereby facilitating delivery of e-governance, e-health, e-education, e-banking, public internet access, weather, agricultural and other services. The work on the project has already commenced in 26 states across the country, a total of 6,00,000 KM of OFC is to be laid under NOFN of which 1,10,000 KM of Fiber has been procured and is being installed.
The Demand for professionals
Fiber optic networking professionals will be in demand in the coming decade. The NOFN project supported by the exponential growth of Fiber in a wide range business communication sectors will create a huge employment opportunity, mainly for operations and maintenance activities that will be required invariably to help maintain these verticals build communication infrastructure. What is interesting to note, is that it would also help create a good scope for entrepreneur activities as it is envisaged to have a Fiber professional for every 11 km of radius, for maintaining this infrastructure, which alone demands a staggering 3,00,000 technicians in the next decade of which 10000 are required in the very immediate span i.e coming months of 2016.
According to the recent findings in the ‘Internet in India 2015’ report released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International, India had around 402 million Internet users as on December 2015 and is the world’s second-largest Internet user base (China has the largest Internet user base, with over 600 million users) increasing by 49 per cent compared to last year. This implies to a significant digital enablement of semi-urban and rural consumers, which would race further on the NOFN bandwagon in the years to come.
A note of caution – beware of the Jugaad
However there is a note of caution which must be addressed. Empowering professionals with quality skillsets is an important activity that will make or break this opportunity. The term ‘Jugaad’ that we are used to, also plagues this growing industry, in integrating quality components as well as imparting quality in skillsets training’s in installation and testing which directly affects the infrastructure throughput and therefore the performance.
Making compromises in this national communication infrastructure that’s going to serve for the next many decades may prove a lot costlier, than could be envisaged. A Jugaad mentality will hamper in taking this 30,000 crore NOFN project to its ultimate end and therefore would fail in achieving its prime objectives.
Imparting quality generic skillsets is the prime area wherein skill sector organizations must step in and play a
major role in providing directions on the standardization of skillsets and into providing quality services in offering third party assessments.
The ICT industry as a whole is on the brink of an opportunity to take the economy and the country forward and we as industry professionals must everything that we can, to make it happen.