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Universal Internetization comes for Rural Areas

Along with arrangement of optical-fiber network, additional infrastructure will be developed at local level.

The Government has approved a broadband infrastructure development state program. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili noted that the program comprises an action plan on how to create optical-fiber internet network in more than 2000 cities and villages of Georgia. The state program is based on the private sector interests, the Prime Minister said.

“Several months ago we adopted a strategy. The whole territory of Georgia was identified and divided in several zones. The state program has determined various interest zones and this project does not confront with the private sector interests. On the contrary, the program fosters the private sector’s entrance into Georgian villages and cities, due to various interest zones”.

The places, where less interest is recorded or the interest absents at all or it is unreasonable to arrange the internet network  from the economic point of view, Cartu foundation will finance similar places. This is an absolute charity, without any business interest. This program presumably will cost roughly 100 million USD. This is a genuinely historical project, because access to information is a key precondition for formation of free society. We believe this program is of strategic importance for both formation and development of civil society.

It is wonderful that in such a short period we have managed to structure this project in the way that it is maximally efficient in many aspects”, Giorgi Kvirikashvili noted.

The project is being implemented by Cartu foundation and the Innovations and Technology Agency of the Ministry of Economy, the Prime Minister said. The Agency has established a special company OPEN Net, through which the private and state sectors will cooperate.

“It is important that the network will be arranged based on the free admission principle. This signifies that the main infrastructure will have not only technical compatibility, but any provider wishing to join this main infrastructure will be admitted to it. Therefore, this is a clear sample of charity, on the one hand, and on the other hand, this is an evident sample of partnership between the private and state sectors’, Giorgi Kvirikashvili said.

Naturally, the question arises – what benefits will the universal internetization program bring to rural areas and how will local residents make use of the state project?

The business sector and government officials have serious expectations from the government program. The project consists of several stages and voucher financing is one of the components.

Kakha Bekauri, member of the National Communications Regulatory Commission, noted that having arranged the Internet network in regions, the government should stimulate the product by use of voucher system.

“The voucher system introduction for population  will last for 3 years and more. At  the first stage, the government will issue vouchers to the population under certain principle and local residents will be able to purchase the product”, Bekauri noted.

The voucher system will be financed by about 9 million USD out of 40 million USD allotted by the World Bank (WB).

“We have already received 40 million USD from the World Bank (WB) and one part of this loan will be spent on opening technological clusters and innovation centers in regions, where local residents will be able to have access to the Internet. Nine million USD will be directed to the voucher system introduction process”, Bekauri said.

“Funds allocated by the education ministry will be expanded for the project that calls for computerization at secondary schools and transmitting gadgets to pupils”, Bekauri added.

The voucher model is not specified, but the decision has been taken. All these issues will be discussed publicly and a final decision will be taken jointly with due structures in autumn 2016, Bekauri said.

The businessmen that have direct relation with rural areas and agriculture sector positively appraises the universal internetization state program.

The internetization program will defeat information vacuum in regions. Local residents will receive information on state programs  and will try to use the offered opportunities, Mindia Kavtarardze, head of Tapli Sachino agriculture cooperative, noted.

The internetization program will also enable young people to stay in highland regions.

“Why do young people abandon villages? Because they do not have internet, roads, schools, kindergartens. If these problems are resolved, road infrastructure will be arranged, several enterprises will be constructed and people will be employed”, the cooperative manager noted.  The universal internetization will facilitate business activities of small enterprises and they will be able  even to easier find business partners through the Internet, Irina Gaprindashvili, the Marneuli food factory director, noted.

“Today it is impossible, in practice, to do business without internet. Therefore, small business representatives will easier perform their job, because the Internet provides huge information resources and its is an instrument for communication with foreign partners. Small business representatives will receive information on innovations and new tendencies and will be able to establish modern standards in practical life in Georgia”, Irina Gaprindashvili noted.

The universal internetization project will create infrastructure that will cover the whole territory of Georgia, all settlements with more than 200 residents. As a result, by 2025, when the demand will increase, regions will receive 30 mb/sc connection.

Donor organizations are expected to allocate 70-100 million USD for the project implementation, Minister of Economy Dimitri Kumsishvili said.

“The Donor organization allocate a grant directly and transfers funds to Open Nest company. The donor organization gives a grant, but it does not remain in operation, management or anything else. Moreover, even the government does not participate in the mentioned chains and it wholly belongs to the private sector”, Kumsishvili said and noted that the state budget funds will not be used for financing the universal internetization project.