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Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface

Context:

The Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM WANI) scheme is set to revolutionize public Wi-Fi in India. PM-WANI can be a potential game-changer for India’s digital public infrastructure.

Relevance:

GS II: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. PM-WANI: Empowering Public Wi-Fi in India
  2. Advantages of PM-WANI
  3. Challenges of PM-WANI
  4. How PM-WANI Can Transform India’s Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)
  5. Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) Defined

PM-WANI: Empowering Public Wi-Fi in India

  • PM-WANI was launched by the Department of Telecom (DoT) in December 2020.
  • It’s a significant scheme aimed at expanding the reach of public WiFi hotspots, thereby strengthening digital communication infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.
Key Components:
  • Framework for All Entities: PM-WANI allows any entity, including small businesses like tea stalls, Kirana shops, or even individual shop owners, to establish public WiFi hotspots and offer internet services to customers.
  • National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) 2018: PM-WANI aligns with the objectives of NDCP 2018, which seeks to create a robust digital communications infrastructure across India.
  • Simplified Licensing: To promote ease of doing business, last-mile public WiFi providers are exempted from licensing, registration, and fees payable to the DoT.
Four Key Elements:

PM-WANI comprises four core elements to ensure its effectiveness:

  • Public Data Office (PDO): These entities set up and manage WiFi hotspots, providing last-mile connectivity by procuring internet bandwidth.
  • Public Data Office Aggregator (PDOA): PDOAs offer aggregation services, including authorization and accounting, to PDOs, facilitating their services to end users.
  • App Provider: Responsible for developing applications to register users, discover and display PM-WANI compliant WiFi hotspots, and authenticate potential users.
  • Central Registry: Maintained by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT), this entity keeps records of App Providers, PDOAs, and PDOs.
Current Status:
  • As of November 2022, the PM-WANI central registry recorded the presence of 188 PDO aggregators, 109 app providers, and an impressive 11,50,394 public WiFi hotspots across India.

Advantages of PM-WANI:

  • Promoting Internet Access: PM-WANI has the potential to extend internet access to rural and remote regions, bridging the digital divide.
  • Affordable Internet Option: It offers an affordable and convenient alternative for internet access, making it more accessible than technologies like 5G, which require substantial investments and subscription expenses.
  • Stimulating Innovation and Competition: PM-WANI can drive innovation and competition within the internet market, encouraging service providers to offer improved services and competitive pricing.

Challenges of PM-WANI:

  • Ensuring Quality and User Experience: Challenges related to bandwidth availability, managing user volumes, device compatibility, and maintaining data security and privacy must be addressed to guarantee a seamless Wi-Fi experience.
  • Security Concerns: Security threats, such as data breaches, hacking, and malware attacks, pose risks to both users and service providers, necessitating robust security measures.
  • Impact on Mobile Telecom Companies: Mobile telecom firms may encounter challenges like potential market share and revenue losses due to PM-WANI’s affordability and accessibility, requiring them to adapt their business models.
  • Expanding to Remote Areas: Expanding and maintaining PM-WANI services in rural and remote areas with low internet demand and high operational costs can be logistically and economically challenging.

How PM-WANI Can Transform India’s Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)

  • Empowering Internet Access: PM-WANI plays a crucial role within India’s Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) by democratizing internet access, allowing anyone to offer or use Wi-Fi services without the need for licenses or fees. This empowers citizens with digital inclusion.
  • Utilizing Physical and Social Infrastructure: Leveraging existing physical and social infrastructure such as shops, Common Service Centers (CSCs), Schools, and Panchayats, PM-WANI establishes a decentralized network of Wi-Fi hotspots. It also utilizes digital infrastructure like Aadhaar and UPI for secure authentication and payments.
  • Citizen Empowerment: PM-WANI provides citizens and communities access to information, knowledge, and opportunities that enhance their quality of life. It enables active participation in the digital economy and society, contributing to empowerment.

Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI):

  • DPI, or Digital Public Infrastructure, encompasses various platforms and systems such as digital identification, payment infrastructure, and data exchange solutions.
  • These elements are designed to assist countries in providing essential services to their citizens, thereby promoting digital inclusion and enhancing their quality of life.
DPI’s Mediation of Flows:
  • DPI plays a pivotal role in facilitating the flow of three key elements: people, money, and information.
  • Firstly, it manages the flow of individuals through a digital identification system.
  • Secondly, it oversees the flow of funds through a real-time, efficient payment system.
  • Lastly, it governs the flow of personal information via a consent-based data-sharing system. These components are crucial for harnessing the benefits of DPI and giving citizens control over their data.
Building an Effective DPI Ecosystem:
  • DPI forms the foundation of a robust digital infrastructure. It operates under principles of open, transparent, and participatory governance.

India’s Leading Role in DPI:

India Stack and Foundational DPIs:
  • India, through initiatives like India Stack, achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first country to develop all three foundational DPIs: Digital identity (Aadhar), Real-time fast payment (UPI), and Account Aggregator, all built on the Data Empowerment Protection Architecture (DEPA).
Components of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI):

DPI Comprises Three Integral Layers:

  • Market: This layer involves innovative and competitive players who design inclusive products and services to meet the needs of the public.
  • Governance: It encompasses legal and institutional frameworks, public programs, and policies that govern the operation of DPI.
  • Technology Standards: These standards cover identity, payments, and data-sharing, ensuring interoperability and seamless operation within the DPI ecosystem.
Examples of DPI Success:
  • India has witnessed the success of various DPI initiatives, including Aadhaar, Unified Payment Interface (UPI), and CoWin.
  • Additionally, projects like Unified Health Interface (UHI), Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), and Open Network for Digital Commerce are currently underway, further strengthening the digital infrastructure and services in the country.

-Source: Indian Express


February 2024
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