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India’s Digital Transformation: PM-WANI and Digital Connectivity


In today’s environment, digital connectivity is a crucial requirement for anything digital.

The Shifting Digital Connectivity Landscape in India

Relevance –

  • GS Paper 2 – Government Policies & Interventions
  • GS Paper 3 – Infrastructure ( Digital ) & Awareness in the fields of IT

Mains Question

The PM-WANI programme intends to fill in the gaps in India’s data supply and advance internet accessibility. Examine how PM-WANI might improve internet connectivity, encourage local business growth, and expand digital inclusion in rural areas. (250 Words)

The Shifting Digital Connectivity Landscape in India

India’s digital connectivity landscape has changed dramatically in recent years as a result of a number of important causes. With more than a billion mobile connections in use nationwide, the growth of mobile telephony has been a significant catalyst. Additionally, millions of Indians now have substantially better access to the internet because to the widespread availability of 4G coverage. Additionally, the significant drop in data rates—from Rs 300 per GB to roughly Rs 7 per GB—has increased the affordability and accessibility of internet use for a wider range of people. The widespread use of smartphones has improved digital connectivity and increased access to a variety of online resources and opportunities. In addition to this, the government’s focus on developing Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), particularly digital ID and UPI, and the implementation of supporting legislation like Net Neutrality have led to the rise in digital transactions across various areas.

Vision and Objectives of India’s “Digital India” Programme

  • With the goal of transforming India into a knowledge-based economy and digitally enabled society, the Digital India programme was established. The objectives of the programme centre on achieving digital inclusion, empowerment, and closing the digital divide. It focuses on three main aspects of vision:
    • Governance and services on demand, ensuring seamless access to digital services and information for every person;
    • Digital platforms for easy access and effective delivery of government services.
    • The digital empowerment of citizens, which provides people with the information and skills they need to succeed in the digital age.
  • The main goals are to use digital technology to enrich the lives of all citizens, promote the development of India’s digital economy, open up investment and job prospects, and strengthen the nation’s technological strengths in this area.

the Digital India Program’s results

The Digital India program’s execution has produced noteworthy results. Notably, it has significantly shortened the gap between the government and its constituents, improving service delivery’s openness and accountability. By providing services directly to recipients, the programme has reduced corruption and increased effectiveness. India has consequently become a world leader in transforming its residents’ lives through the use of technology. The program’s emphasis on digital empowerment has given people the information and skills they need to engage more fully in the online world. Additionally, the expansion of digital transactions across numerous industries has aided India’s digital economy.

Data Demand and Gaps Challenge

Digital connectivity’s explosive development has resulted in an unparalleled increase in data demand. Particularly, video consumption has emerged as the main force behind this demand. India now consumes an astounding 19.5 GB of data per person per month. India’s mobile networks have even outperformed China’s and the US’s mobile networks in terms of total data volume carried. Nevertheless, despite the extensive use of data, there is still a sizable affordability gap between demand and supply, particularly for poorer households and rural areas.

Bridging the Data Supply Gaps with PM-WANI

• The government launched the PM-WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) programme to alleviate the data supply shortages and expand internet accessibility in a practical manner.

Public Data Offices (PDOs), which are interoperable Wi-Fi hotspots for the general public, are the goal of PM-WANI. These PDOs would act as last-mile broadband internet distribution points, providing cost-effective sachet-sized data packages priced between Rs 5 and 10.

• PM-WANI aims to make it easier for more people to use the internet by offering community content without clogging up the network bandwidth.One of PM-WANI’s main benefits is the lucrative commercial potential it provides to aggregators because it does away with the necessity for additional licencing costs. This in turn promotes the development of neighbourhood nanobusinesses that can create Wi-Fi hotspots and provide internet access to others, increasing their monthly income.

PM-WANI, the Wi-Fi Access Network Interface, understanding

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) first suggested the idea of WANI in 2017. WANI plans to build millions of interoperable Wi-Fi hotspots or Public Data Offices (PDOs), which are analogous to the old idea of PCOs (Public Call Offices). These PDOs would provide last-mile broadband internet delivery to the general public in reasonably priced sachet-sized bundles.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI): What is it?

A significant organisation known as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was founded on February 20th, 1997, as a result of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997. Its main goals are to promote the development of telecommunications in the nation, regulate telecom services, including tariff fixation and revision (previously under the control of the Central Government), and establish an environment of fair and open policy that promotes competitive fairness and level playing fields. The TRAI’s main office is in New Delhi.

PM-WANI’s Contribution to Increasing Internet Access

In order to increase internet access nationwide, PM-WANI is of utmost importance. It offers a distinctive method for last-mile internet distribution that promotes accessibility and affordability. The programme invites more players to engage in offering Wi-Fi hotspots by eliminating unnecessary licencing fees, assuring increased coverage and reach. This can therefore result in a rapid rise in the number of people with internet connection, particularly in underdeveloped areas.

Sachet Internet: Giving Customers Access to Reasonably Priced Plans

Sachet-sized internet bundles with prices ranging from Rs 5 to 10 were introduced, and this was a game-changer for encouraging widespread internet use. These cost-effective programmes, in particular for students, have emerged as an advantageous substitute for using their pocket money to buy other consumables like chips or soft beverages. The availability of sachet internet services has democratised access to knowledge and learning materials, facilitating the use of the internet for learning and personal development by people from all walks of life.

PM-WANI Implementation Challenges

Although PM-WANI has a lot of potential, there are some issues that must be resolved. The idea that bandwidth is already inexpensive and that almost everyone has access to 4G connectivity is a typical argument against the effort. This oversimplification, however, fails to take into account the fact that availability and affordability continue to be major problems, particularly in rural and economically underdeveloped areas. Additionally, the lack of a legal mandate specifying the functions, roles, and responsibilities of several existing platforms, such as Aadhaar, Aarogya Setu, CoWIN, and Government E-Marketplace (GEM), raises questions regarding data collecting and potential breaches of personal information.

The Future of PM-WANI

PM-WANI needs the active promotion and support of all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, and startups, to be successful and widely adopted. It has a sizable and important potential for bridging the digital divide and empowering communities through improved internet access. PM-WANI has the potential to be just as successful as UPI and other DPIs thanks to its distinctive approach to interoperability, openness, and scalability in DPI.

Conclusion: Digital connectivity will empower India.

The government’s Digital India programme and other factors have helped India’s digital connection environment advance significantly in recent years. The need for more data and the affordability gap, however, continue to be problems that need to be solved. By encouraging the use of Wi-Fi hotspots to provide inexpensive and accessible internet access, the PM-WANI programme offers a possible option. India can further close the digital gap and give its people more power by adopting and supporting PM-WANI. This would increase access to digital technology, promote economic growth, and improve people’s lives.

October 2023