Railwire Saathi — Wi-Fi Kiosks At 500 Stations

Democratisation of knowledge and services is underway in Overlooked India

With the objective of improving connectivity in remote areas, Indian Railways is committing to set up Wi-Fi hotspot kiosks at 500 railway stations across the country.

This would enable the masses in these possibly remote areas that suffer connectivity problems, to gain access to a range of online services. The initiative has been named, ahem, Railwire Saathi.

Railwire Saathi intends to facilitate the utilization of e-services like e-commerce, online banking, government schemes, open school/university programs, e-ticketing for trains and buses, and the like.

In a country where Mobile Data is the only source of internet access for a majority of the population (outside of the bigger towns and metropolitans areas), an initiative of this kind can be the springboard for change, and perhaps a precedent for more!

The good feeling I’m getting about India is — this is not the first initiative of the kind. A project of equipping 400 stations with free Wi-Fi service, is already under way in association with Google.

The project was announced in September 2015, with support from the Digital India campaign, and went live at the bustling Mumbai Central station in India’s financial capital.
 India’s first railway stop to provide free, high-speed public Wi-Fi became an overnight success.

Six months in and Google’s public Wi-Fi was up at 19 stations, supporting 1.5 million users. Google’s next plan is to go for 100 railway stations.

This new venture, however, goes one step ahead by adding the ever-important aspect of employment.

A senior Railway Ministry official communicated the simultaneous goals under the scheme — and I personally love that this comes with an entrepreneurial model, such that unemployed youths, preferably women, can be trained and supported to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot. Not only will this endeavour connect people, it will provide a platform to online services which will make the business sustainable.

Apart from the mentioned purposes, Railwire Saathi hopes to provide services like automated form filling and enabling payments for commodities and utilities like DTH televisions and mobile connections, in these areas with low connectivity.

Despite the existence of many schemes for farmers, minorities and common public, the lack of knowledge about them in remote areas makes the access difficult. A venture of this kind can be critical in being a resource for such kind of information, where people can then go and ask for things, look for things, and get their things done.

The process of setting up a hotspot will begin with a training program under RailTel, the telecom branch and will be approved by the National Skill Development Council (NSDC). The youth can apply to RailTel and receive his or her training.
 There’s more. The certificate obtained in consequence can be used for a loan under the Mudra scheme, to be used to set up hotspots according to the design handed over by RailTel.

Railwire Saathi will also help in spreading information about government schemes and other critical factoids that are otherwise lost to the populations in these areas.

So, all in all, not only is Railwire Saathi going to be a technological advancement in bringing the internet to areas that might be struggling with connectivity, the program will also bring employment to a country that has been ridden with unemployment for decades.

In addition, it could also become a center of knowledge and information in areas where the people are perhaps just too lost sometimes.

It would be enriching to see this unfold.

Originally published at Chip-Monks.