Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the search engine giant would provide high-speed public WiFi in India’s 400 railway stations to connect the next billion people in the country.
Pichai made the announcement during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Google headquarter in Mountain View, California. The installation of its high-speed public WiFi in the country’s railway stations is in line with the Prime Minister Modi’s initiative called Digita India.
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In a blog post, Pichai wrote, “We’d like to help get these next billion Indians online—so they can access the entire web, and all of its information and opportunity. And not just with any old connection—with fast broadband so they can experience the best of the web.”
Pichai said the service will be initially free, and the long-term goal is to make it sustainable to expand to more stations and other places.
Google is working with Indian Railways and RailTel
According to Pichai, Google through its Access & Energy team is working with Indian Railways and RailTel to set up the high-speed public WiFi in the railway stations. The search engine giant’s Access & Energy team plans to bring internet access to the first railway stations over the next few months.
Google aims to expand the network to cover 100 of the busiest stations in India before the end of 2016, and the remaining stations will follow.
Pichai emphasized, “Even with just the first 100 stations online, this project will make Wi-Fi available for the more than 10 million people who pass through every day. This will rank it as the largest public Wi-Fi project in India, and among the largest in the world, by number of potential users.”
According to him, the WiFi that will be provided by Google is significantly faster than the current Internet speed used by most people in India. Travelers would be able to stream high-definition videos, download a book or a new game while waiting for their destinations.
Google did not disclose the commercial terms of its agreement with Indian Railways.
Google’s other initiatives to help Indian users access the web
Furthermore, Pichai said Google launched the Android One last year to provide Indians with affordable and high-quality smartphones—the primary way most people access the internet.
According to him, the search engine giant also addressed the challenges of limited bandwidth by rolling out a feature that makes mobile web pages load faster and use less data. Google also made YouTibe available offline. Offline Maps will be available soon.
Moreover, Google launched the Indian Language Internet Alliance to make web content more useful for Indians who does not speak English. The search engine giant is promoting more local language content and building local language support into its products including Hindi Voice Search.
Modi aims to accelerate the Digital India initiative
Prime Minister Modi is meeting with the business leaders in the Silicon Valley to attract support and attract investments for his “Make in India” and “Digital India” initiatives.
The Digital India initiative aims to provide internet access to more people in the country. At present, there are 300 million Indian people with internet access.
During a dinner with Silicon Valley executives on Saturday, Prime Minister Modi said, “We want our 1.25 billion citizens to be digitally connected. We already have broadband usage across India go up by 63% last year. We need to accelerate this further.”
The Indian Prime Minister said his government launched an aggressive project to expand its optical fiber network to provide broadband to 600,000 villages in the country.
Prime Minister Modi also visited the headquarters of Facebook and conducted a Town Hall Q&A with the social network giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
During the Town Hall Q&A, the Indian Prime Minister became emotional as he reminisces his humble beginnings. His voice broke while telling the audience, “I came from a very poor family. … We went to our neighbors’ houses nearby (to) clean dishes, fill water, and do hard chores. So you can imagine what a mother had to do to raise her children.”
Prime Minister Modi also had a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook. The Prime Minister invited Apple to start manufacturing in India. Cook responded positively to the invitation and emphasized that the country holds a special place in the hearts of all Apple employees. Steve Jobs visited India for inspiration to launch Apple.