India’s government is gearing up to provide Wi-Fi and internet access to its rural citizens. Previously, Google and Facebook have undertaken the task of bringing internet connectivity in India. According to a report by CNN Money, the government plans to provide free wireless Internet to over 1000 villages across its vast expanse in a new pilot project called ‘Digital Village.’
The government plans to setup Wi-Fi hotspots (mounted on special towers) in these villages. CNN Money reports that Indian as well as global Internet providers are queuing up for the project, which aims at connecting more than 900 million people in the country. The government is allocating $62 million (over Rs 400 crores) in the initial phase of the project, before it is expanded to the entire country.
The aim of the government is to use digital technology to provide basic development services to rural areas, according to Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology official, Aruna Sundararajan as reported by CNN Money. The project will also bring interactive education and give basic Internet access to villages.
In the budget today, the government also announced a boost for the BharatNet plan of installing fibre-optic internet lines across the country. In its Union budget, Finance minister Arun Jaitley has said high-speed broadband (via optic fibre) will become available to over 1.5 lakh gram panchayats.
Under the Bharat Net project (with a Rs 10,000 crore allocation of funds) optical fibre cables will be laid across 1,55,000 kms all over India.
Google is currently providing free Wi-Fi at 100 railway stations across India. According to Google, the free service is available to over 10 million people passing through these stations everyday. The company has also claimed its free Internet service sees over five million monthly users, with 15,000 first time users connecting each day.
India’s Internet penetration is at 27 per cent (343 million) according to Deloitte-Assocham study, growing thanks to the growth of 3G and 4G connectivity – however the Wi-Fi penetration remains low. The report has suggested India will have close to 600 million Internet users by 2020.