The IAS Officer Who Firmly Put Kerala on Digital Highway
- Indian Masterminds Bureau
- Published on 23 Sep 2020, 8:11 pm IST
- 4 minutes read
It is estimated that one individual each from all the 3.25 million families in Kerala has benefitted from `Akshay’- Ms Aruna Sunderarajan’s e-literacy initiative in the state. Subsequently, as Secretary DoT, she revolutionized the telecommunication landscape of India.
- Ms Aruna Sunderarajan
Undoubtedly, civil servants act as the bulwark of any administration and are dedicated to serving the nation. However, only a few exceptional officers surpass their call of duty and go the extra mile. The recently retired Secretary in the Department of Telecommunication, Aruna Sundararajan, is among them. She is perhaps best known for `Akshya’- the mass e-literacy campaign she initiated in Kerala.
Holding a post-graduation degree in philosophy, Ms Aruna was an IAS officer of the Kerela cadre since 1982.
During her three-decade-long government career, Sundararajan showcased immense analytical abilities on various policy issues. Prior to her last posting, she worked as the Secretary in the Ministry of Electronics & Communication Technology and Administrator of the Universal Service Obligation Fund. Her administrative stints in government included a term as chairman and managing director of the Bharat Broadband Network, also as Managing Director of the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation.
Kerala’s Digital Journey
In 1998, Ms Aruna established Kerala’s first-ever Department of Information Technology (DIT). Thus began Kerala’s digital journey, and it was not without its quota of bumps. It took off after her unabating efforts in convincing the then chief minister E K Nayanar that the IT revolution was a necessary step in the development of the state and hence required an altogether separate department. Since then, this eminent officer has continued her work towards the profound growth of the technological sector.
In the course of the last 37 years, she has pioneered a myriad of innovative projects, most of which enjoy considerable acclaim, especially `Akshaya’, an e-literacy initiative wherein more than a million people were trained in basic digital skills on a campaign mode. `Akshaya ‘ has also received tremendous praise internationally.
`Akshaya’ started in 2002 as an e-literacy project in Kerala’s Malappuram district. Its aim was to spread knowledge regarding basic computer skills amongst the public. Almost instantaneously, it caught people’s imagination and interest across the state. As a matter of fact, it’s estimated that one individual in each of Kerala’s 3.25 million families became computer literate through `Akshaya’ centres!
When the government set up a scheme to provide life insurance coverage to poor people, the pleathora of `Akshaya’ centres in the state helped in speeding up the registration process. Also, 75 percent of all UID (Unique Identification number) registrations in Kerala took place in `Akshaya’ centres.
`Akshaya’ likewise catalysed one of the biggest known Internet Protocol (IP) based rural wireless networks in the world. `Akshaya’ has gotten domestic and worldwide recognition as one of the most spearheading and digital transformation projects universally.
Additionally, she has led the rural broadband initiative in our country, taking telecommunications to distant parts of rural India.
Apart from working for the growth of telecommunications, in 2014, as the Managing Director of Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, Ms Sundararajan launched the Young Entrepreneurs Summit (YES), aimed at fostering entrepreneurship among youth. To this day, it remains as the flagship project of Kerala with regard to building and promoting the growth of entrepreneurship in young minds.
Furthermore, Ms Sundararajan was actively involved in establishing the Indian Institute of Information Technology& Management – Kerala (IIITMK), and the Kochi Infopark, which altered the IT landscape of the state of Kerala. She was also instrumental in kick-starting the SMART City project in Kochi.
Moving On to Centre
As Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in the Centre, Ms Sunderarajan spearheaded the National Digital Communications Policy 2018, which aimed to impel India as a worldwide pioneer in Digital Communications. Key accomplishments throughout the course of her tenure were the launch of the country’s 5G roadmap, the foundation of indigenous Test Bed, creation of the National Frequency Allocation Plan- 2018, and completion of the first phase of Bharat Net.
The illustrious officer has received innumerable awards for her achievements. Honours bestowed upon her include the Top Professional Women Achievers by India Today in 2009, Top Professional Women Achievers by Forbes Business Magazine in Aug 2012, The USIBC Transformative Leadership Award 2017 and Business Today’s 10 Most Powerful Women for 2018. In November 2018, Intel conferred her with the Technology Visionary Award. In January 2019, she was awarded the Digital Woman of the Year by IAMAI and at the 9th India Digital Awards in February 2019, she was unanimously selected as the Telecom Person of the Year by Voice and Data.
Through her expertise and commitment, Ms Sundararajan has paved the way for India’s technological and telecommunication sector. Her indomitable spirit and persistent hard work are an inspiration for women, and will surely leave a lasting impact on one and all.
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