Demystifying India’s Online Landscape: Unraveling the PM-WANI Scheme’s Promise of Free WiFi Access for All

Demystifying India's Online Landscape: Unraveling the PM-WANI Scheme's Promise of Free WiFi Access for All

The Prime Minister’s WiFi Access Network Interface, known as PM-WANI, was initiated by the Department of Telecommunication in December 2020. It represents a significant effort by the Indian government to expand the reach of public WiFi hotspots and establish a robust digital communication infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.

When launching the scheme in 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his optimism, stating, “The historic PM-WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) scheme… will revolutionize the tech world and significantly enhance WiFi accessibility across India. It will further enhance the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ and ‘Ease of Living’.”

Undoubtedly, the PM-WANI scheme plays a crucial role in building a robust Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), a cornerstone of the Delhi G20 Declaration.

This initiative aims to improve access to public hotspots, thereby fostering employment opportunities for small and micro-entrepreneurs, while offering affordable internet access to marginalized urban populations and rural households.

Under the PM-WANI initiative, local businesses are encouraged to provide WiFi services for last-mile internet delivery without the burden of licensing or registration fees.

Consider this – much like how UPI transformed personal banking and transactions in India, the PM-WANI scheme is poised to revolutionize internet access in India, making it accessible to underserved segments of society for less than Rs 10 a day.

How to Access PM-WANI WiFi:

To access the public hotspots established under the PM-WANI scheme, users need to download an app that displays available networks. Users can then select a connection from the list and make a payment to access the network. The network remains accessible until the user’s balance is depleted, similar to regular 4G or 5G data from an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Components of the PM-WANI Ecosystem:

The PM-WANI ecosystem comprises four key components: Public Data Office (PDO), Public Data Office Aggregator (PDOA), App Provider, and Central Registry.

  1. Public Data Offices (PDOs): These entities set up WiFi hotspots and provide internet access to end-users.
  2. Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs): Responsible for authorisation and accounting services to PDOs.
  3. App Providers: Facilitate the display of nearby available hotspots on users’ mobile devices.
  4. Central Registry: Overseen by the Centre for Development of Telematics, it maintains essential information about App Providers, PDOs, and PDOAs.

Benefits of the PM-WANI Scheme:

As of November 2022, the PM-WANI central registry reported the existence of 188 PDO aggregators, 109 app providers, and 11,50,394 public WiFi hotspots.

The PM-WANI WiFi architecture has the potential to significantly increase internet penetration, contributing to GDP growth, bridging the digital divide in rural areas, and creating employment opportunities in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Moreover, PM-WANI could offer affordable internet access to underserved segments of society, further advancing the Digital India initiative.

Challenges to the PM-WANI Scheme:

Implementing the PM-WANI scheme in India faces several challenges:

  1. Security Concerns: A vast network of public WiFi hotspots is susceptible to security threats, demanding robust security measures.
  2. Data Privacy: Transmission of private data across a wide network poses challenges in safeguarding user data, raising concerns about privacy and the “Right to be Forgotten.”
  3. Network Congestion: Public WiFi networks may experience slowdowns during peak usage, necessitating infrastructure upgrades.
  4. Internet Cost: While promoting private sector involvement, this approach may lead to potentially higher internet prices, impacting affordability for users.

Also Read

PM WANI Yojana Free Wifi- Know the full form, Registration Process and How to apply Online I प्रधानमंत्री वाणी योजना, फ्री वाई-फाई

Balancing data retention policies and affordability remains essential as India continues to expand its digital infrastructure and internet access framework.

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