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Telecom is now the new lifeline of any country's economy and lives of people. It is a fact no institution in the world can afford to ignore it, and during the last 100 days, telecom services have demonstrated its importance as an 'Essential Service.'

It is not just high and mighty, who were served by the telecom services, but the poor and daily bread earner too survived during the various phases of lockdown, because of telecom operation.

"Lockdown demolished my earnings, and we didn't have money even for food weekly money transfer by a relative on my neighbour's mobile phone, which I used to collect from him," says Riazzudin, Daily Wager(Age 41).

A similar story was narrated by Vakil Mian, a skilled mason, who depended on his mobile to stay put in the city. "Everyone was leaving Delhi, but I decided to stay though I had no money and had only my jhuggi (hutment) to live. But my relatives and friends used to speak with me many times during the day. They also transferred money through the mobile phone," said Vakil Mian.

Other medical services along with COVID-19 were under stress, due to the initial four lockdowns initiated for social distancing by the government. "But, patients were able to remain in touch with doctors through telemedicine by audio and video consultation to seek advice and manage most common diseases while sitting in the safety of their homes," says Dr Digvijay Singh, Director of Noble Eye Care, Gurugram and President of Young Ophthalmologists society of India. He also advised many of his elderly patients using his mobile phone.

Telemedicine using mobile phone proved critical for COVID patients. Quick communication of reports between the doctors and administration was detrimental in managing the difficult situation that the country and world had not witnessed for centuries.

Deepak Kumar of Central Government Health Department says, "Our health department teams heavily rely on digital messaging platforms and emails, we know hardcopy orders can follow, but we act on directions received digitally. There are different coordination groups of the department on WhatsApp, which are used for ordering workforce requirements in different testing centres, isolation wards and hospitals. Daily reports are submitted all through this. We can't visualize our operations without them."

Education the foundation for our next generation was ensured with robust telecom data services during this work from the home period. Students and teachers did a commendable job of learning and teaching effortlessly on the mobile phone and other mobile devices. The Economically Weaker Section (EWS) students were also benefitted by the mobile phone in receiving education, ensuring that there is no digital divide in this crisis.

"Because of telecom services, we have been able to take online classes, and I felt that this technology allowed me to share a lot more relevant and rich content in terms of videos etc., with my students," says Rajni Gupta (43), Alcon Public School, Delhi.

Similar stories were narrated across the country, like the one shared by Mariam Thomas (57), Associate Professor, Mahatma Jyotiba Fule College, Amravati, Maharashtra, "Network connectivity has been an absolute boon during this period of lockdown, as it helped us to continue education and other academic work."

Telecom services played a vital role in ensuring that peoples' aspirations to have a roof and four walls to live is secured. "The business was dependent on the telecom network, that supported my video call and webinars," highlights Amit Kumar Jha, CEO, Nestrov Consulting.

Health, education and economy survived, ensuring that the mobile connectivity with data and voice will help it to jumpstart when the situation settles down. The media, bureaucracy, government and even judiciary realized that telecom services are now the backbone of a country.

A representative of the legal community Vivek Singh Attri, Advocate, High Court of Himachal Pradesh, aptly summed up the absolute dependence of our lives on telecom. "Clients prefer to send documents through email and WhatsApp. Professional fees of lawyers are being paid through mobile banking. Lawyers and Judges are handling cases through video conferencing while sitting in their chambers. Lawyers also organized a virtual farewell for much Hon'ble Justice, of Supreme Court of India."

In future, mobile phone and mobile devices will play a critical role, as technology offers more prowess to the network. It is pertinent that operators improve their service quality; the government enables better policy and funding. Every other stakeholder needs to play their part responsibly. Telecom services are a lifeline; all precautions adopted will ensure the functioning and operation of the telecom industry is not disrupted abruptly.

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