Can Google’s Free Wi-Fi Help India in Transforming Into “Digital India” ?


The omnipresence of internet is a dream of a digitizing world. However, India being a developing nation aiming at transforming into “Digital India,” is endorsed by a lot of technological pioneers. After Facebook’s “Free Basics,” it is now Google offering free Wi-Fi in 400 train stations in India. Google’s new CEO Sundar Pichai propagated this. To aid them in fulfilling their dreams the free Wi-Fi project is an endeavor to make things easy.

The move comes soon after the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Google headquarters. With this initiative Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) aims at connecting the 1 billion Indians, who don’t have the internet access with free internet network. By 2016, the project is aiming to cover the 100 busiest stations, connecting 10 million people. In future, the project extends throughout 400 stations in India. The project is being executed in partnership with the Indian Railways and Railtel and is operated employing fiber network.

Sundar Pichai said, “Just like I did years ago, thousands of young Indians walk through Chennai Central every day, eager to learn, to explore and to seek opportunity.”

The Significance of Internet Connectivity

India being the second most populated country, it accounts for 354 million internet users by June 2015. With this number, it is evident that India’s internet users surpass the population of the US. The huge potential of internet connectivity is yet to be tapped in this developing nation. To unleash the potential, the technological pioneers likes of Facebook, Google, have initiated a lot of programs to bring the unconnected people on the internet through the affordable network.

Facebook’s Free Basics is one of the initiatives to fulfill the purpose. But, it faced backlash owing to its incompatibility with net neutrality dogmas. However, Google’s Wi-Fi connectivity is free to start with and in the long term it is seen as a self-sustainable project. Though, India has large internet user pool than any other nation in the globe but China, there are about one billion people who are still left out Sundar Pichai said.

With the new initiative, Google is up to spearheading an “internet revolution.” Similar to the industrial revolution in the past that rattled the lifestyle of our ancestors, the new step of Google is expected to connect a huge user base. Today, the internet is the new haven of global business. The Indian eCommerce market is expected to account for 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030. The industry will reach US$ 300 billion growing 15 times by 2030. Consequently, in the growing economic phase none of the services, products or business can afford to miss its presence on the internet.

Moreover, the internet is the free space to exhibit their presence. It is a platform aiding to establish one’s identity globally. Additionally, it provides a level playing ground irrespective of the participants. These factors clearly indicate the world is heading towards a great internet revolution. Google has pitched in at the right juncture with an awesome venture and to make it more lucrative it remains free in the initial stage.

Further, Sundar Pichai assures that the project is focused on the deployment of high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity. And with this speed, it is aiming to connect 10 million train passengers a day. This speed is good enough to view buffer-free high definition videos allowing travelers to enjoy the boring waiting time at railway stations. It also helps the user to browse through the destination details.

Language is never a barrier for Google’s service. Hindi being the national language of India, the service enables the non-English users to utilize the Hindi Voice Search. Apart from this, it also offers Hindi keyboard and support seven more local languages.

Digital India

The new initiative of Google takes India a step further in its Digital India program. Government of India, under this scheme, aims to provide speedy Wi-Fi connectivity in cities over 1 million populace. By December 2015, it also seeks to connect the tourist destinations too.

Though, internet users are huge in numbers the internet penetration and online shoppers remain low in India. India is home for 1.271 billion people and among them meager 354 million use internet. However, only 14% of these internet users shop online. By offering free inexpensive internet connectivity top internet giants, including Google and Facebook, are trying to reach the home of as many people as possible in India and educate them about their own offered services and products than anything else.

By providing the supportive ecosystem requires to digital India, internet giants are trying to secure their share of the future success and business. However, it would be interesting to see how people react to war between Facebook and Google in transforming India into a digital India.

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