Google is looking to take on Facebook’s Internet.org project by launching Google Station in India, a service designed to rollout free Wi-Fi hotspots across locations frequented by many people.
The search company had started bringing Wi-Fi to railway stations in India last year in partnership with RailTel and Indian Railways; expanding that rollout to cafes, shopping centres and other public places appears to mark the second stage of Google Station.
The current rollout covers 53 railway stations across India with Google citing ambitions to scale that number up.
“The goal is to give people many hot spots within a few minutes walk from their home, university, or workplace, unified by a simple login process that works across all of them,” said Caesar Sengupta, Vice-President of the Next Billion Users programme at Google.
Projects like Google Station and Facebook Internet.org, which aims to provide free Internet connectivity in India and other regions where a connection is not widely available, look to fill in the divide between those who have Internet access and those who do not.
It could be argued that Google and Facebook’s seemingly philanthropic endeavours are perhaps means of getting more people to use their services in return for free Internet services. However, the Internet is pretty much the great enabling tool of our generation, giving people a voice, status and access to the wider world, be that through social platforms or access to online marketplaces; either way it offers opportunities that narrow the gap between the rich and poor.
With Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg committed to Internet.org and its ambitions to bring wireless broadband to Africa via satellites, we can expect access to the Internet on a global scale to expand significantly in the near-future.
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