Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources.
PM WANI Scheme
Context: Union Cabinet has approved Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM-WANI). This is being seen as an attempt by the government to elevate wireless internet connectivity in the country.
Key Features of PM WANI Scheme
- Public Data Offices (PDOs) — comparable to a PCO or a cybercafe — will establish, maintain, and operate only the WANI compliant Wi-Fi access points to deliver broadband services to its subscribers.These PDOs will either provide internet on their own or will lease from some other Internet Service Provider (ISP).
- PDO Aggregators (PDOAs) will also be set up. These will perform the function of authorisation and accounting of the numerous PDOs.
- The app provider will develop the app to register users and discover PM-WANI compliant WiFi hotspots nearby.
- A central registry will be set-up which will maintain details of all app providers, PDOAs and PDOs. The registry will be handled by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT).
- A customer wanting to access the network from a PDO’s premise can do so only after an eKYC authentication.
Do You Know?
- Service providers had in 2018 stated that they aimed to provide 5 lakh hotspots by March 31, 2019 and 10 lakh hotspots by September 30, 2019. However, these targets have not been achieved.
- PM WANI Scheme that enables public wi-fi data service through small retail data offices can get many more people connected, just as long-distance telephony was expanded through STD public call offices over three decades ago.
Merits of PPM WANI Scheme
- Unleashes Wi-Fi revolution in India: According to TRAI, in most major economies, 50%-70 % of the total usage time of mobile users is through WiFi but in India, this figure is less than 10%. PM WANI will help increase Wifi usage through increased presence of Wifi hotspots.
- Enhances Quality of life: Internet access will connect a new wave of users not just to commercial and entertainment options, but also to education, telehealth and agriculture extension
- Ease of doing business: Registration for PDOs will be granted within seven days of the application, else they will be deemed registered. Also, Communications Ministry has stated that no license fee will be charged for providing broadband internet services
- Creates Employment and enhances Incomes: The scheme would enable small shopkeepers like tea shop owner to register online as a service provider which will boost their incomes as well as ensure our youth gets seamless internet connectivity.
- Strengthens Digital India mission: The vision of Digital India programme is to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. The Digital India programme is centred on three key vision areas – Digital Infrastructure as core utility to every citizen, Governance & Services on demand and Digital Empowerment of Citizens
- Financial Inclusion: Bringing broadband Internet to remote locations at minimum investment, and giving subscribers the option of making small, need-based payments helps increase digital financial transaction across India particularly in rural areas
- Boosts GDP: Three years ago, when TRAI outlined WANI plan and initiated the first pilot of a public wi-fi system on the WANI architecture, it noted that a 10% rise in net penetration led to a 1.4% increase in GDP.
- Bridges Digital divide: A rapid scale-up of Internet in rural India will be transformative, given the low level of penetration — 27.57 subscribers per 100 population in 2019 – and wi-fi linked to broadband fibre service is the fastest route to achieving that.
- Cost Effective way of Digital Expansion: Upcoming mobile technologies such as 5G may provide good quality data, but they involve high investment in new spectrum, connectivity equipment and regular subscriber fees. The WANI system offers an elegant way forward to connect low revenue consumers.
- Entrepreneurship Opportunities: It opens up opportunities for community organisations, libraries, educational institutions, panchayats and small entrepreneurs to tap into a whole new ecosystem, purchasing bandwidth from a public data office aggregator to serve local consumers.
- Clash with Mobile Telecom Firms: Public wi-fi suffered neglect in past because it was seen as a competitor to data services sold by mobile telecom firms, rather than as the complementary technology it.
- Safety and Security: There is huge expectation on provision of robust service, protection of data integrity, transparency on commercial use of data, and security against cyberattacks.
- Ensuring Free Market: The government must also ensure true unbundling of hardware, software, apps and payment gateways in the WANI system, as advocated by TRAI, to prevent monopolies. Existing public wi-fi options run on a limited scale by some entities compel consumers to pay through a single gateway app, underscoring the need for reform
Executed properly, the public data offices (PDOs) of PM WANI can do what the PCOs did for phone calls, going well beyond ‘ease of doing business’ to genuinely empower citizens.