From awareness of rights and entitlements, to knowledge about government benefits; from obtaining academic material to entertainment – internet benefits citizens in so many ways. By encouraging interpersonal communications through e-mail, video conferencing and social media, internet has been creating equitable platforms of knowledge empowerment to serve both rural and urban India.
However, the impact of internet is significantly lesser in the rural regions. Although India has over 30 Crore internet users, making it one of highest in the world, it also has one of the weakest internet penetrations of barely 24%. Its vast geographical diversity and a large population make it a challenge to take internet access to the grassroots. Moreover, rural India, in general, faces poor public infrastructure, which includes lack of communication mediums, unreliable power supply, low bandwidth and disturbed network connectivity. Additionally, network operators rarely consider taking their services to the rural areas a viable approach towards attaining their economic goals.
In order to bridge this connectivity gap in remote and rural areas, it is essential to implement innovative and inexpensive technologies that enable easy and affordable internet access to even the most hard-to-reach locations of the country.
Wireless for Communities – W4C
In order to connect rural communities with open internet access, CIRC implements W4C –a technology driven initiative where low-cost Wi-Fi based equipment, along with unlicensed spectrum is utilized to facilitate internet connectivity to the remotest corners of the country. Launched in 2010, the W4C programme aims to create community-wide wireless communication networks to empower those who have been deprived of access to information.
The idea behind this project is to democratise connectivity and facilitate internet accessibility to information in rural parts of the country. This would be followed by addressal of issues that prevent mainstream economic changes from impacting the grassroots. This includes lack of quality content and inadequate product and services originating from rural areas.
The project comprises of two functions – providing Training of Trainer (ToT) programme to community members on wireless and wireless mesh technologies; and deploying wireless mesh network in cluster-based environment to understand and observe the impact of the project over a period of time.
So far, the W4C programme has impacted more than 10 locations across the country. Following its pilot launch in Chanderi (Madhya Pradesh), the programme expanded to the neighbouring districts of Shivpuri and Guna along with districts of Tura, Baran and Tilonia in Rajasthan. The target is to equip all CIRCs spread across the country with W4C wireless technology and connect them together in an indestructible digital complex, which would create a holistic, information empowered wireless ecosystem for rural communities to flourish.