The Digital India policy of the central government was one of the strongest impetus for creating India as one of the hubs of consuming most data in the world. The next boost in this regard could come from the PM-WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) scheme. The PM-WANI scheme is slated to be for the consumers, and it targets the customers in regards to what the telecom companies were unable to do until now, that is providing cheap data to the people in the rural areas, and to avail the data in the cities publicly, at free of costs. While the homes of people are being met with FTTH connections with high speed, the public places in India remain devoid of internet services even now. PM-WANI will fill these gaps.
Working of PM-WANI
The most grassroot and decentralised element of PM-WANI is supposed to be a PDO (Public Data Office) which is a throwback to the vintage PCOs, except, in this case, these small offices will act as distribution centres for public Wi-Fi and cheaply available data. In the command chain, there are supposed to be aggregators of the PDOs and registries as well, which will look after the registration of the PDOs and the aggregators. The PDOs will be opened up mostly by private players or even by public initiative with the help of data providers.
The central government will also be responsible for developing an app for the users wherein they will be able to find and locate public Wi-Fi hotspots and get into the network to satiate their data needs. It is worth noting that the PM-WANI scheme, which has come to become what it is today, has found its roots in the DoT’s 2018 Digital Communications Policy.
What Things Will it Change?
As per the objectives of the scheme, PM-WANI is supposed to be the deliverer of the internet in the areas where rampant data usage has not found its foothold like the other areas of the country. Not only this, but this sits well with the government’s idea of a digital economy.
The foray of public Wi-Fi and data services will bring in a slurry of jobs to these areas, connect the people to better governance, health, and education services, and in turn increase the disposable income in their hands. PM-WANI is supposed to bring reeling changes in how people use data in the country. Since the rural population currently relies on feature phones mostly, and their contact with data has mostly been limited to the Community Service Centres spread across 2.5 lakh panchayats. With a lot of rural population getting smartphones, the vacuum of cheap data will be dealt with PM-WANI.
Hurdles On the Path
However, there are some challenges in the way as well. Firstly is the problem of data safety, protection, and security since the public Wi-Fi hotspots are breeding grounds for phishing attacks and other malicious activities, and with a lack of proper digital infrastructure, this problem might be further aggravated.
The protection of personal data is also another question. Lastly, the economic viability of the project is also a thing to ponder upon since data is certainly cheap in India, but the equipment installation which is required of a public Wi-Fi setup is certainly in dearth. Nonetheless, PM-WANI is undoubtedly a step in progression when it comes to changing how Indians consume their data.