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India's Digital Landscape with PM-WANI

  • 22 Sep 2023
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: PM WANI, India's Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)

For Mains: Role of PM-WANI in India's Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)

Source: IE

Why in News?

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.

  • The scheme enables public Wi-Fi data service through small retail data offices, which can potentially bring broadband internet to remote locations at a minimum investment.

What is PM-WANI?

  • About:
    • The PM-WANI, launched by the Department of Telecom (DoT) in December 2020, is one key scheme launched to bolster the penetration of public WiFi hotspots to establish a robust digital communication infrastructure throughout the nation, especially in rural areas.
    • It is a framework that enables any entity, such as a shopkeeper, a tea stall owner, or a Kirana store owner, to set up a public Wi-Fi hotspot and provide internet service to customers.
    • This framework takes forward the goal of the National Digital Communications Policy, 2018 (NDCP) of creating a robust digital communications infrastructure.
  • Importance:
    • To facilitate ease of doing business and encourage local shops and small establishments to become Wi-Fi providers, it has been approved that the last-mile Public Wi-Fi providers require no license, no registration and will not need to pay any fees to DoT.
  • PM-WANI Ecosystem:
    • PM-WANI consists of four elements:
      • Public Data Office (PDO): PDO is the entity that establishes, maintains, and operates the Wi-Fi hotspot and provides last-mile connectivity to the users by procuring internet bandwidth from telecom service providers or internet service providers.
      • Public Data Office Aggregator (PDOA): PDOA is the entity that provides aggregation services, such as authorization and accounting, to PDOs, and facilitates them in providing services to the end users.
      • App Provider: It is the entity that develops an application to register users and discover and display PM-WANI compliant Wi-Fi hotspots in proximity for accessing the internet service and also authenticate the potential users.
      • Central Registry: It is the entity that maintains the details of App Providers, PDOAs, and PDOs. It is currently maintained by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT).
    • Status:
      • As of November 2022, the PM-WANI central registry reported the existence of 188 PDO aggregators, 109 app providers, and 11,50,394 public WiFi hotspots.
  • Benefits of PM-WANI:
    • It can expand Internet access in rural and remote areas.
    • It can provide an affordable and convenient option for internet access, as compared to mobile technologies like 5G, which require high investment and subscription costs.
    • It can stimulate innovation and competition in the internet market.
  • Challenges of PM-WANI:
    • Ensuring Wi-Fi quality and user experience poses challenges related to bandwidth availability, managing user numbers, device compatibility, and maintaining data security and privacy.
    • Security threats like data leakage, hacking, and malware can jeopardize user and provider privacy.
    • Mobile telecom companies might face challenges, including market share and revenue loss, due to PM-WANI's affordability and accessibility.
    • Expanding and maintaining PM-WANI in rural and remote areas with low internet demand and high operational costs could be challenging.

How can PM-WANI be a Game-Changer for India’s Digital Public Infrastructure?

  • PM-WANI is a key part of India's Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI). It can democratize internet access and bridge the digital divide by enabling anyone to become a Wi-Fi provider and anyone to become a Wi-Fi user, without any license, registration, or fee.
  • Leverage the existing physical and social infrastructure, such as the shops, the CSCs, the SDCs, the post offices, the schools, the panchayats, etc., to create a distributed and decentralized network of Wi-Fi hotspots, and also utilize the existing digital infrastructure, such as Aadhaar, UPI, e-KYC, e-Sign, etc., to enable seamless and secure authentication and payment of the Wi-Fi services.
  • Empower the citizens and the communities by providing them access to information, knowledge, opportunities, and services that can improve their quality of life, and also enable them to participate and contribute to the digital economy and society.

What is Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI)?

  • About:
    • DPI refers to blocks or platforms such as digital identification, payment infrastructure and data exchange solutions that help countries deliver essential services to their people, empowering citizens and improving lives by enabling digital inclusion.
    • DPIs mediate the flow of people, money and information. First, the flow of people through a digital ID System. Second, the flow of money through a real-time fast payment system. Third, the flow of personal information through a consent-based data-sharing system to actualize the benefits of DPIs and to empower the citizens with a real ability to control data.
      • These three sets become the foundation for developing an effective DPI ecosystem.
    • Operates under open, transparent, and participatory governance.
    • India, through India Stack, became the first country to develop all three foundational DPIs, Digital identity (Aadhar), Real-time fast payment (UPI)and Account Aggregator built on the Data Empowerment Protection Architecture (DEPA).
  • Constitutes Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI):
    • DPI comprises three integral layers:
      • Market: Innovative and competitive players designing inclusive products.
      • Governance: Legal and institutional frameworks, public programs, and policies.
      • Technology Standards: Identity, payments, and data sharing standards for interoperability.
  • Benefits of DPI's Approach:
    • Reduced development costs and modular end-user solutions.
    • An ecosystem of diverse applications and lower entry barriers.
    • A democratic, non-monopolistic system with built-in scalability.
  • Successful DPI Initiatives in India:

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year’s Questions (PYQs)


Q. Consider the following statements: (2018)

  1. Aadhaar card can be used as a proof of citizenship or domicile.
  2. Once issued, Aadhaar number cannot be deactivated or omitted by the Issuing Authority.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Ans: (d)

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