Tata Trusts has helped the Indian government set up free public wifi connectivity at thousands of railway stations across India “as part of charity.”
So far, wifi connectivity has been set up at 6,102 railway stations in all. Tata Trusts helped with 4,412 of these, according to the answer by prime minister Narendra Modi’s government to a question asked in the Lok Sabha on July 27.
Tata Trusts is a century-old philanthropic organisation set up by Jamsetji Tata, the founder of the Tata Sons conglomerate. Its partnership with Indian Railways began in 2018 with the intent “to ensure greater adoption of the internet and enable India’s vast hinterland of rural communities to benefit,” according to the December 2019 issue of Horizon, the Trusts’ magazine.
“The facilities are managed by RailTel Corporation of India Ltd. (a central public sector undertaking under the ministry of railways). No Wi-Fi has been provided under private public partnership (PPP),” Ashwini Vaishnaw, minister of railways, communications and electronics, and information technology, informed parliament.
Google, which ended its free wi-fi connectivity project at hundreds of Indian stations in 2020 after five years of operation, has been credited with helping bring 416 railway stations on the grid.
India has around 7,500 railway stations in all. The 1,000-odd ones that still don’t have free public internet connectivity fell behind because of “the (lack of) availability of infrastructure like optical fiber cable & other resources,” Vaishnaw has said.
Besides connectivity, Tata’s welfare organisation and Google have also launched initiatives to up digital literacy and parity in the country.