Present on the dais are my colleagues from the Central Government, dignitaries from the mobile and telecom industry, esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen!
Being among you in the seventh edition of the India Mobile Congress is a delightful experience in itself. In a rapidly changing world of the 21st century, this event has the power to change the destiny of millions. There was a time when we talked about the future, it meant the next decade, or 20-30 years later, or the next century. But today, due to the rapid changes in technology every day, we say, 'the future is here and now.' Just a few minutes ago, I visited some stalls in the exhibition here. I glimpsed the same future in this exhibition. Whether it is telecom, technology, connectivity, 6G, AI, cybersecurity, semiconductors, drones, space sector, deep-sea exploration, green tech, or other sectors, the coming times are going to be completely different. And it's a matter of joy for all of us that the younger generation is leading the future of the country, leading our tech revolution.
You would recall that we gathered here for the rollout of 5G last year. After that historic event, the entire world was watching Bharat with astonished eyes. Finally, Bharat had the world's fastest 5G rollout. But we didn't stop even after that success. We started the work of bringing 5G to every citizen in Bharat, moving from the 'rollout' stage to the 'reach out' stage.
Within a year of the launch of 5G in Bharat, around 400,000 5G base stations have been set up. This covers 97 per cent of the cities and more than 80 per cent of the population in the country. In the past year, the median mobile broadband speed in Bharat has increased almost threefold. In terms of mobile broadband speed, Bharat was once stuck at 118th place, and today we have reached the 43rd position. We are not only rapidly expanding 5G in Bharat but also moving towards becoming a leader in the field of 6G. What happened during the 2G era here, perhaps the new generation may not know. But I won't describe it, or the media might latch on to it and not let talk about other things. However, I will say that 4G expanded without a flaw in our era. I believe that now Bharat will lead the world in 6G.
Improvements in internet connectivity and speed aren't just about rankings and numbers. Improvements in internet connectivity and speed enhance the ease of living as well. When internet speed increases, students find it easier to connect with their teachers online. When internet speed increases, patients have a seamless experience connecting with their doctors for telemedicine. When internet speed increases, tourists can use maps without any hassle to explore locations. When internet speed increases, farmers can easily learn and understand new agricultural techniques. The speed and availability of connectivity bring about significant changes both socially and economically.
We believe in the 'Power of Democratization' in every field. We are working swiftly towards ensuring that the benefits of development reach every class, every sector in Bharat. Our goal is to ensure that everyone in Bharat benefits from resources, lives a dignified life, and enjoys the advantages of technology. For me, this is the greatest form of social justice, and we are working rapidly in this direction.
Access to capital, resources, and technology for citizens is our government's top priority. Whether it's about collateral-free loans under the Mudra Yojana, clean toilets under Swachh Bharat, or direct benefit transfers through the JAM Trinity, one thing is common in all these initiatives. They are empowering the common citizens of the country with rights that were once difficult for them to obtain. And certainly, telecom technology has played a significant role in this. The Bharat Net Project has connected around 200,000 gram panchayats with broadband connectivity.
The same thought underlies our Atal Tinkering Labs. We have connected around 75 lakh children with cutting-edge technology through 10,000 labs. I am confident that with the launch of Hundred 5G Use Case Labs in academic institutions today, a similar wave of expansion is set to happen. It is a significant initiative to connect the new generation. The more our youth get involved in any field, the greater the possibility of development in that sector and personal growth for the individual. These labs inspire the youth of Bharat to dream big and believe that they can achieve those dreams. I am fully confident that our youth can surprise us with their energy, enthusiasm, and spirit of enterprise. Many times, they will work with a particular technology in ways that the creators of that technology never even thought of. I was watching a video a few days ago about how the people of our country think and how drones can be used. In the Ramayana enactment, Hanuman ji needed medicinal herbs, so they sent Hanuman ji on a drone to get them. Therefore, this campaign is a welcoming step in enhancing the culture of innovation among our young people.
Bharat's start-up ecosystem has become a crucial part of the country's success story in the past few years. What are the start-ups doing here? In a very short time, we have witnessed the century of Unicorns, and we are now among the top three start-up ecosystems in the world. In 2014, we had only a few hundred start-ups. Why am I emphasising on 2014? You must be aware. It’s not a date, but it heralded a change. We had only a few hundred start-ups before 2014, but now that number has reached around 100,000. It's noteworthy that India Mobile Congress has initiated the ASPIRE program to mentor and encourage start-ups. I believe that this step will greatly help the youth of Bharat.
At this stage, we must also remember how far we have come and under what circumstances. Recall mobile phones from 10-12 years ago. At that time, the screen of out-dated phones used to hang every moment. Was it not like that? Tell me. No matter how much you swiped the screen or pressed buttons, nothing would happen, right? Similarly, the economy of the country or the government was in a 'hang mode.' The situation had deteriorated so much that restarting had no effect. Charging the battery had no effect, and even changing the battery had no effect. In 2014, people abandoned such out-dated phones, and we were given the opportunity to serve. The transformation is evident. At that time, we were importers of mobile phones, and today, we are exporters of mobile phones. Our presence in mobile manufacturing was negligible then, and now, we are the world's second-largest mobile manufacturer. There was no clear vision for electronic manufacturing then. Today, we are exporting around 2 lakh crores worth of products in electronic manufacturing. You must have seen it recently that Google announced that it will manufacture its Pixel phones in Bharat. Samsung's 'Fold Five' and Apple's iPhone 15 are already being manufactured in Bharat. Today, we all take pride in the fact that the entire world is using Made in India phones.
Today, it is essential that we further enhance our success in mobile and electronic manufacturing. For success in the tech ecosystem, it is crucial to build a robust semiconductor manufacturing sector in Bharat. The government has already implemented a PLI scheme of around eighty thousand crore rupees for semiconductor development. Today, semiconductor companies from around the world have begun investing in semiconductor assembly and testing facilities in collaboration with the companies of Bharat. Bharat's semiconductor mission is not only about fulfilling its domestic demand but is also advancing towards a vision to meet the world's requirements.
If there is something that can accelerate the journey from a developing country to a developed one, it is technology. The more we use technology for the development of our country, the more we will progress towards being developed. We can see the same in digital technology where Bharat is not lagging behind any developed country. We are integrating technology to bring about the same change in every sector. We are creating platforms tailored to different sectors, such as the PM GatiShakti National Master Plan for logistics, the National Health Mission for healthcare, and Agri Stack for the agriculture sector. Several platforms have been developed. The government is making significant investments in scientific research through initiatives like the Quantum Mission and the National Research Foundation. We are continuously promoting Indigenous Design and Technology Development. It is also gratifying to know that the International Telecommunication Union and India Mobile Congress are jointly organizing an event on Innovation and Entrepreneurship for SDGs.
Among all these efforts, there's a crucial aspect that I'd like to draw your attention to. This aspect is the importance of cybersecurity and the security of network infrastructure. We all understand the complexity of cybersecurity and the potential consequences it can have. Even at the G20 Summit, there was a serious discussion on global threats related to cybersecurity in this Bharat Mandapam. Self-reliance in the entire manufacturing value chain is crucial for cybersecurity, whether it's hardware, software, or connectivity. When everything in our value chain is in our national domain, securing it becomes easier. Therefore, it is essential for India Mobile Congress to discuss how we can make democratic societies around the world secure from troublemakers.
For a long time, Bharat missed many buses in the field of technology. Then came a time when we showcased our talent in already developed technologies. Our IT service industry has made efforts to enhance and advance. But now, it's Bharat's time for thought leadership in the 21st century. I want to say to everyone sitting here and to the young people present at the inauguration of Hundred Labs—trust me when I say something, it's as good as guaranteed. Therefore, I'm talking about Thought Leaders. Thought leaders can create new dimensions that the world will follow later.
We have become thought leaders in some domains. For example, UPI is the result of our thought leadership, leading the world in digital payment systems today. Even during the time of COVID, the initiative we took with CoWIN is still discussed globally. Now is the time for us to not only be excellent adopters and implementers of technology but also to become thought leaders in technology. Bharat has the strength of a young demography and a vibrant democracy.
I invite the participants of the India Mobile Congress, especially its young members, to come forward in this direction. I am with you. At a time when we are advancing towards becoming a developed nation, this transition to becoming thought leaders can bring revolutionary changes across the sector.
I have full faith and this belief is based on your capabilities. My trust is in your strength, your abilities, and your dedication. That's why I say we can, we surely can. Once again, my best wishes to all of you. I would like to urge the young people from the country, Delhi and nearby areas who have interest in technology to visit the Bharat Mandapam and explore the exhibition. It's a great opportunity to understand how technology is touching new horizons in the future and in life. I also request all the departments of the government to send their technology teams here to witness these advancements. Once again, my heartfelt congratulations to everyone!