When John Lennon sang ‘Imagine all the people sharing all the world...’, he probably did not have the wired, and progressively a wireless, world in mind. But the sheer growth of information and communication technologies (ICT) has given us a good chance of realising that dream. Pune on Monday became the first Indian city to become a wireless city, which means that users can now access the internet from anywhere, be it a bus stop or a café, by simply connecting their laptops or personal digital assistants to the ‘hotspots’ scattered across the city. And, all this without a single piece of wire. ‘Unwiring Pune’ is a joint initiative of the Pune Municipal Corporation and Intel Corporation.
The project, which will use WiMAX and wi-fi as its technological base, can become a role model for similar initiatives across India. These have been successful across the world, from New York to tiny Pirai in Brazil to Baghdad. Wireless technology has helped each of these ‘hotspots’ in different ways. Students in Pirai are now using such technology to access the net and exchange e-mails. In Baghdad, where setting up phone lines is a Herculean task, wireless technologies have become indispensable for thousands of Iraqis, journalists and officials. On the other side of the spectrum is New Delhi, which failed to become a wi-fi-enabled city because of lack of coherent policy and procedural problems.
To realise our dream of ‘last mile’ connectivity, the Centre should release additional spectrum at the earliest. The 3G-policy has already missed its March 31 deadline. Only clear-cut policies and government-private partnership (like in Pune) will help spread ICT projects seamlessly across the country.