A typical train station in India. Source: Shutterstock

Google helped India build 400 wi-fi-enabled train stations

BACK in 2015, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, embarked on a journey to provide 400 of the country’s local train stations with wi-fi.

Yesterday, Google and its partners the Indian Railways and RailTel announced that the mission to empower people to take new online journeys was a success.

“The first Wi-Fi enabled railway station, Mumbai Central, went live on January 2016. We later rolled out a global public Wi-Fi program called Google Station based on the model that we developed in India,” said Caesar Sengupta, VP, Next Billion Users Team at Google.

According to Google’s announcement, the Dibrugarh railway station in the state of Assam in northeast India is the 400th train station in India to be powered by public Wi-Fi.

“There are now over 8 million people getting online with Google Station every month. On average, people consume 350MB of data per session, roughly the size of a half hour television episode and over half of the people using Google Station engage in multiple online sessions a day,” explained Sengupta.

Although the target of 400 train stations has been reached, Google isn’t finished. It recognizes the fact that despite their efforts almost a billion Indians still aren’t online, and so, they endeavor to continue building more “Google Stations” in the future.

Sengupta, is obviously serious about building capabilities for the next billion as VP of the Next Billion Users team.

Despite delivering on expectations in India and establishing a presence in Mexico and Indonesia among other geogrpahies, Sengupta added: “we remain committed to making the internet accessible and useful for everyone in India”.

In fact, Google realizes that not everyone lives or works near a train station, which is why the company is working on moving beyond train stations and into the rest of the cities.

Google Station is now also available in 150 locations in the city of Pune in Maharashtra and as the country builds more smart cities, Google expects to increase the reach and density of its stations.

Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (Independent Charge) Housing and Urban Affairs, reviewed the status of the smart cities movement launched by India in 2016 while speaking at the opening of the First Apex Conference for CEOs of Smart Cities last month.

While some are wondering why it’s taking so long for the country to show results with its 2016 plan, the fact is, smart cities aren’t built overnight.

Despite the odds, India announced Bhopal as the country’s 9th and most recent smart city last month. Given the effective action being taken by the government, there’s hope for the future.