Mera Internet Project


Hon’ble commissioner PCMC Mr. Jadhav, visited our Mera Internet Pilot Project site on the 19th of April 2015, he was accompanied by the local corporator Mr. Nanavare. The commissioner also visited our instruction center ‘Swabhiman Internet Kendra’ and interacted with students

As we all know, India fares poorly in the Global Indices, which map the penetration and use of ICT tools and Services. At best, despite a couple of decades of having ushered in New Telecom policies and privatization and competitive availability of Internet services, the penetration of Internet amongst the Indian masses continues to be extremely limited and poor, with just about 12-15% of the population having access to Internet. This, we know are largely due to many reasons, viz., economic, social, cultural and many such barriers.

We also know that competitive access to Internet services, using many technology platforms, which are available from most industry players are directed towards those who can afford to pay and therefore provide an assurance of financial returns potentially. Supposedly, this leaves out the majority of Indian people who are village dweller and they remain by and large unconnected.

However, to tackle this segment of unconnected people, Government of India has some massively funded plans and programs such the Universal Services Obligation Fund, and of course the NOFN project to take connectivity to the last village.

Certificate Distribution

MP Nagar Corporator Mr. Jitendra Nanavare and our Mr. Ravindra Ghate distributing Certificates, for having completing the training session on Computers and Internet, to the school students at a ceremony held recently.

Certificate distribution at Swabhiman Internet Kendra

Myth about City Connectivity

In 2012, Telxess and Ford initiated an exercise to understand and uncover more reasons, than previously known, for the shallow and slow penetration of Internet in the country and to find out the reasons behind as well as to discover, if and what measures need to be considered, in order to augment any or all the efforts currently being undertaken, so improve Internet access penetration and usage.

As per the Census 2011 there are 7,935 towns in the country. Many of these towns are part of Urban Agglomerations and the rest are independent towns. The total number of Urban Agglomerations/Towns, which constitutes the urban areas, is 6166 in the country. The total urban population in the country as per the Census 2011 is more than 377 million constituting 31.16% of the total population. The UAs/Towns are grouped on the basis their population in Census. The UAs/Towns which have at least 1,00,000 persons as population are categorized as Class I UA/Town. At the Census 2011, there are 468 such UAs/Towns.

264.9 million persons, constituting 70% of the total urban population, live in these Class I UAs/Towns. The proportion has increased considerably over the last Census.

Million Plus UAs/Towns: Out of 468 UAs/Towns belonging to Class I category, 53 UAs/Towns each has a population of one million or above each.

Of the nearly 8000 towns in India, Total Number of Towns reporting Slums is 2613 with a Slum population of close to 66 million (6,54,94,604 to be exact).

Under Section 3 of the Slum Area Development and Clearance Act 1956, slums have been defined as mainly those residential area where dwellings are in any respect unfit for human habitation by reasons of dilapidation, overcrowding, faulty arrangements and designs of such buildings, narrowness or faulty arrangement of streets, lack of ventilation, light, sanitation facilities or any combination of these factors which detrimental to safety, health and morals.

As per UN Habitat, slum is characterized by lack of durable housing, insufficient living area, lack of access to clean water, inadequate sanitation and insecure tenure.

After detailed deliberations and analysis of current plans and programs, we surmised broadly that:

  1. Most Service Providers have already been able to establish connectivity in most major towns and cities, wherever the business case made it feasible in terms of potential for revenue. Hence mobile connectivity has become almost ubiquitous.
  2. In addition to Mobile penetration, service providers, due to technology enablement are providing data and Internet access over their mobile networks and a fairly large number of mobile Internet users are emerging across the country, in additional to other forms of connectivity such as DSL, etc.
  3. For village connectivity, which is considered non lucrative, Central government has in place many plans and programs to fund and support increasing penetration of Internet.
  4. Telxess and Ford then looked at the Town/City based Internet penetration scenario and a fair understanding came about regarding the fact that even in well developed and fairly well connected towns and cities, the penetration rates may not be picking up and reasons for that needed to be understood better.

The Pune-Pimpri Chinchwad Experiment

After carrying out detailed surveys and research along with our local partners in Pune/PCMC area, a Multi stakeholder meeting, involving various service providers, non governmental organizations, civic agencies, state and central government representatives and other interested prominent individuals was organized and a Report on the state of ICT use, (which threw up interesting data regarding an almost complete lack of Internet use amongst the substantial number of slum dwellers emerged) and way forward towards Universal Access to Internet was compiled and submitted by Telxess to Ford Foundation.

Ford on the basis of the recommendations which emerged, has now commissioned Telxess to:

  1. Build a technical pilot to set up Mesh Network based Wi-Fi Internet access infrastructure in a select economically deprived area, to cover 1200 households, and other establishments in the area.
  2. Build capacity with regular trainings and instructions, familiarize the community with devices and Internet and thereby find exposure to government applications as well.
  3. Disseminating the purpose and progress of the pilot, through reports and briefs, stakeholder meetings, setting up High Level Committee for the purpose of initiating policy dialogues and work towards building a Universal Access Policy for Pune’s poor.

The Objective

In order to complete the loop towards building a Digital India, the aim of project will be to ensure a successful pilot, in terms of spreading the access to Internet amongst a economically deprived section of the society, by way of encouraging and helping all local governments and municipal administrations to incorporate localized and bottom up driven Policy, Plans and Programs for Universal Access to Internet for the digitally deprived.

How did it all start?

Amitabh Singhal, Founder and Director of Telxess has long been associated with the Internet industry, from before it became the industry as we see it today. He played a significant role in helping to develop the policy, licensing and regulatory framework starting with the privatisation process of the ISP industry that was kicked off sometime during 1997. In 1998 he helped write the ISP licensing conditions and from thereon he was involved with initiating, spearheading and overseeing a slew of policies and regulations, as ISP Association Founder Secretary and then President, as well as the Founder, CEO and Board Member of NIXI, along with being a member of various government and industry committees from time to time.

Motivation was to all this (apart from holding a day job simultaneously) was to ensure that all Indians should receive the most competitive, freely, easily and openly accessible Internet access.

However, despite the efforts, which continue on, by all concerned, India’s standing on the ICT Indices globally remains abysmally low. India’s internet penetration levels remain very low even 19 years after it started in India and nearly 15 years since the industry was opened up to free competition (in late1998).

Licensed Service providers are guided by motives of economic returns and the Government has schemes and plans for providing Internet access to villages, and we all are aware of the results till now.

Ford Foundation & Telxess come together

About 3 years ago, Ford and Telxess initiated a discussion, expressing their experiences and interests in the spread of Internet services and what it meant in terms of empowerment of people at large. What emerged from a series of dialogues and discussions was that, while there was a tremendous amount of institutional initiatives being planned there were both identified and unidentified gaps, which was keeping a large populace of India away from accessing the benefits of Internet.

One gap that became clear was the while cities and villages are being actively targeted by both the private industry and the government, there was a huge chunk of underprivileged and underserved socially and economically backward class of people, whose living conditions precluded them, largely, from looking at Internet as a useful tool to improve their lives. These are the people that inhabit the ‘slum’ areas of our country’s cities, towns and urban conglomerates and any Digital Inclusion or Universal Internet Access plans and programs have not targeted these people yet.

Ford Foundation was quick to accept that this gap indeed was glaring and quickly commissioned Telxess to select an appropriate town/city and conduct a study on the state of Universal Access to Internet in that city, with specific reference to the ‘slum areas”.

Studies were carried out in Pune/Pimpri Chinchwad, by Telxess as well as other prominent NGO partners like CCDS, all supported by Ford Foundation, and followed by a Multistkeholder meeting in December 2012.

The studies and the multistakeholder meeting, involving concerned citizens, civil society groups, service providers, government and non government agencies, civic agencies participated and this exercise threw up many startling revelations:

  1. PCMC, an Urban Agglomeration with Pune has a population of nearly 1.7 million.
  2. It is one of the richest Municipalities of Maharashtra, but nearly 30% of its population lives in economically backward areas (slums).
  3. Just about 6 lakhs of the 17-lakh people have computers and laptops and those with active web connections are even less.
  4. Despite some plans, the issue of digital divide is ever widening with miniscule number of these people using the Internet, despite a limited use of mobile Internet.
  5. Municipal and local administration does not yet have formal policies and plans for ICT development and Digital Inclusion.

Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation and others agreed that mechanism was needed to address the connectivity deficit (which was also a hindrance in delivering e-services) and it was recommended that a pilot project could be undertaken to establish the feasibility of local administrations supporting Digital Access/Universal Internet Access plans as a component of their overall City Development Plans.

Municipal Commissioner of PCMC, enthusiastically embraced the idea and followed this up by notifying the setting up of a High Level Committee to look into the state of ICT development in PCMC area and recommend appropriate policies, plans and programs. The HLC is also mandated with the task of extending support to a pilot project.

Mera Internet Pilot Project

Telxess with support from Ford along with it’s technical and ISP Partner DVOIS Broadband has now planned and designed a Wi-Fi Network to provide wireless Internet access, which will provide coverage to around 1200 marginalised households in the notified ‘Vasti’ Mahatma Phule Nagar. All residential, local businesses, SHG’s and other establishments will receive Wi-Fi signals and the residents will be able to use wireless devices to access Internet 24×7.

Knowing that most of the residents have never used computers and will need to be trained, a significant component of the project is dedicated to capacity building. This is being enabled through the setting up of the Swabhiman Internet Kendra, in the vicinity, where computers will be installed and all interested residents will be trained in batches and certified in the use of computer basics, useful applications and Internet. They will be exposed to the information highway and the myriad benefits which Internet can bring to their lives.

Uniqueness of the Project:

We believe that, while many Wi Fi networks are being set up in many cities and towns across the world and in India, all such projects are focussed on high usage and potential revenue generating areas where economic returns are paramount and maybe justifiably so.

However, this consortium of Telxess, Dvois Broadband, CCDS with support from Ford Foundation, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, etc. has embarked on, what we believe is the first of it’s kind project, i.e. Wi-Fi enable square kilometre area of economically backward ‘slum’ consisting of 1200 plus households with nearly 4000 residents, who will all be trained in the use of computers and Internet.

Our hope is that this showcase pilot project will be replicated widely not only across PCMC itself, but all of Maharashtra and other parts of India overtime, thereby contributing towards bringing Internet closer to those who are still deprived.

About Us

Telxess Consulting Services was set up with the main objectives of providing a suite of Consulting, Advisory and Business Support Services, mainly in the fields of Telecom, Internet and IT. We are a small boutique consulting firm, which can provide clients a deep local understanding, a wide contact base and rich experience with a global outlook. Telxess was set up in the year 2006, and already has had an impressive profile of services that it has been engaged for by various clients in the Telecom and Internet space.

Contact Information

Address : Regd. Office: C-73, Upkar Apartments, Mayur Vihar Phase-I Extn, Delhi-110091 ,
Phone : +91 9810081774,
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