Public WiFi connectivity has many success stories. From countries like Lithuania to Singapore, it has transformed ease of living for citizens as well as visitors. Public WiFi networks enable people to really integrate into an environment with ease, especially in cases where visitors might not have data connectivity from their original network providers. Public WiFi hotspots offer a convenient way of getting around a city, know more about it, and get comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. Ease of living remains the key focus to the Why of implementing Public WiFi.
Coming to India, studies suggest that by 2022 approximately 80 crore people in India will own smartphones, as of 2020 around 44% of the Indian population has a mobile internet connection but India lacks a strong, reliable Public WiFi network infrastructure throughout the country.
Rapid urbanisation coupled with an ever growing demand for uninterrupted internet access makes a good case to start scaling infrastructure for the foundations of widespread Public WiFi hotspots. We need to be prudent about our plans for public connectivity or we risk falling behind economically.
Public WiFi can serve as a catalyst to improve the economy in several ways:
Administratively, smart cities, which is an effort under the Digital India initiative of the Government of India, relies heavily on the use of smart devices, smart lighting and much more. These smart devices can be powered by Public WiFi solutions that help these smart devices interact with each other to offer a smart approach to smart administration. Such an approach, in the long run, can help reduce the overhead costs of administration to a great extent because of improved effectiveness and co-ordinated functionality.
In public areas like bus stops, railway stations, public libraries, universities, public parks, the presence of Public WiFi networks can incentivise people to spend more time on premise, here pertaining exclusively to libraries and universities. Students at universities, teachers, staffers, people who are unable to afford high charges on data rates, can use Public WiFi hotspots set up by the Government. The Government can also choose to monetise these Public WiFi hotspots at nominal rates per individual usage which can serve as an extra income for utilisation elsewhere.
In a commercial setting, shops, cafes, markets, restaurants, hotels and other outlets of service can also provide Public WiFi, provided that the security constraints are taken care of. As a consequence it can increase customer satisfaction, and happy customers always come back.
In a rural environment, setting up Public WiFi can greatly aid the development of the people. There are three socio-economic factors that contribute to the health and well-being of people as we know— Employment, education and income. Insofar employment and income is concerned, it is largely influenced by education. The state of education in rural India has to improve, where there is a massive lack of good educators, that gap can very effectively be filled by E-Classrooms, E-Schools that use Public WiFi, where students can learn every day without having to worry about the quality of their education. These well educated students will be the demographic dividend that will pay off in the long term, contributing socially as well as economically on a huge scale.
Good, viable healthcare is lacking throughout rural India. If there are Public WiFi hotspots set up in rural areas, it can enable the rural populace to interact with healthcare workers and doctors to work on resolving health related issues easily. It can also help doctors and patients to keep track of their health on a regular basis, without the hassle of having to travel long distances. This approach can save both time and money, more so for the patient where both of those factors need to be perfectly balanced in order to get through the month without problems.
Public WiFi has the potential to penetrate and provide last-mile connectivity to every corner of the country. From MSME’s to local retailers to normal every day individuals on their way to work, all entities are eligible to gain from accessible and reliable Public WiFi hotspots. There are an unfathomable number of possibilities in what Public WiFi can enable in an individual as well as industrial space. In an industrial space where Internet-Of-Things as a part of Industry 4.0 is about to drive a revolutionary model of efficiency improvement, the connectivity gap between production lines and IT services needs to be bridged. Bridging that gap can incentivise investors to shift their manufacturing to different areas. Companies prefer to move their supply chains to places that are well connected, in terms of road, electricity and network infrastructure. Employees prefer working in an environment that provides them with Public WiFi access. Employee satisfaction increases productivity leading to better economic output.
Implementation of stronger and verified methods for securing identity and data remains a requirement, but with the development of newer authentication methods, these constraints can be bypassed with no issues.
The world is at a stage where the impetus of all growth, internal and external, will largely be digital, supported by and with necessary human intervention. The ever pervading, and increasing need for digitisation, made possible only by very high levels of public connectivity, must be extended to the entire country as quickly and as efficiently as possible to achieve the highest levels of socio-economic output.
It also opens up new avenues for a public-private relationship between the Government and private vendors to push for and make available this Public WiFi infrastructure to each and every citizen of the country.
And as India matures and gradually grows into an advanced industrial economy whilst shedding the decades old agrarian underpinning of economic development, it is important that we focus on addressing the challenge of laying the framework for widely accessible, available and reliable public wireless network throughout India.