The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is planning a project called Digital Village to provide free WiFi hotspots at over 1,000 gram panchayats across the country, reports the Economic Times. Other than Internet, the program will provide users to avail health and educational services.
The project will be based on a public/private partnership, and will take place through common service centers (CSCs). The agency has currently put out draft specifications for public consultation, post which the project will be enacted. According to the ET report, the project has been provided with a budget of Rs 423.26 crore and will be implemented over a period of three years.
Note that the Indian Government had planned to set up WiFi hotspots in 2.5 lakh villages as a part of its national optical fiber network (NOFN) project back in 2013, and the project was expected to be completed by 2015. However, NOFN had only made it to the pilot stages of a single district in Kerala by the start of that year.
Interestingly, just last week, state owned telco BSNL said it would install optical fibre cables spanning 5,200 kms to connect close to 1,518 gram panchayats in Assam. This project would be funded by the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF), set up by the government for providing telecom services in rural areas at subsidised rates.
Other than this, the Karnataka State Government had launched public WiFi services in 11 gram panchayat areas in November last year, while the Tamil Nadu government had said that it would provide free internet in villages back in 2015. In the private space, Microsoft had said in 2015 that it would look to bring internet to 500,000 villages in India possibly through TV white spaces, while IIT Bombay students had used similar technology to connect 13 villages to the Internet last year.