Google has announced plans to make Internet accessible to one crore passengers at 100 busiest railway stations in India by the end of next year and will later expand it to 300 other stations, making it one of the largest public Wi-Fi projects in the world. "I'm very proud to announce that it's the train stations of India that are going to help get millions of people online. In the past year, 100 million people in India started using the Internet for the first time", Google's India born CEO Sunder Pichai said in a blog post yesterday after his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This means there are now more Internet users in India than in every country in the world aside from China. But what's really astounding is the fact that there are still nearly one billion people in India who aren't online, he noted. Pichai said Google would like to help get these next billion Indians online so they can access the entire web and all of its information and opportunity. "That's why, today, on the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to our US headquarters, and in line with his Digital India initiative, we announced a new project to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 train stations across India", he said.
Working with Indian Railways, which operates one of the world's largest railway networks, and RailTel, which provides Internet services as RailWire via its extensive fiber network along many of these railway lines, Google's Access & Energy team plans to bring the first stations online in the coming months. The network will expand quickly to cover 100 of the busiest stations in India before the end of 2016, with the remaining stations following in quick succession, he announced. Pichai said 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", he said. "It will also be fast many times faster than what most people in India have access to today, allowing travelers to stream a high definition video while they're waiting, research their destination, or download some videos, a book or a new game for the journey ahead," the Google CEO said. "Best of all, the service will be free to start, with the long term goal of making it self sustainable to allow for expansion to more stations and other places, with RailTel and more partners, in the future", he said.
Google also released a map of India with public Wi-Fi railway stations. To help more Indians get access to affordable, high quality smartphones, which is the primary way most people there access the Internet, Google launched Android One last year, Pichai said. "To help address the challenges of limited bandwidth, we recently launched a feature that makes mobile webpages load faster and with less data, and we've made YouTube available offline with offline Maps coming soon", he said.
To help make web content more useful for Indians, many of whom don't speak English, we launched the Indian Language Internet Alliance last year to foster more local language content, and have built greater local language support into Google products including Hindi Voice Search, an improved Hindi keyboard and support for seven Indian languages with the latest versions of Android. "And finally, to help all Indians reap the benefits of connectivity, we've been ramping up efforts to help women, who make up just a third of Internet users in India today, get the most from the web", Pichai said.
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