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While the country is still debating the 'free' in Facebook's Free Basics platform, four young engineers from India, Shakeel Anjum, Tushar Bharthare, Bhanu Yadav and Abhishek Bharthare, have managed to attain what seemed to be a distant dream for the rural areas of the country for ages now. The magnificent four have been able to connect the Indian villages by providing them unrestricted Internet access for free.

The four young IT engineers have been successful in setting up and starting a free Wi-Fi service in a village in their home district Rajgarh in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India.

According to the four, it was the Narendra Modi's government's Digital India initiative that inspired them to do something for their village in the direction of providing digital access to it.

They started by developing Wi-Fi in Shivnathpura village in August last year. Having no financial help from the local government or private organisations in the area, they pooled in their resources in order to set up a 80-foot-high tower with a high-frequency device. Since the village also faced a problem of long power cuts, they also decided to set up an inverter to ensure uninterrupted Internet access.

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The service was finally started in October and extended to the gram panchayat Bawdikheda jagir in November. The service was then officially launched in January this year.

On the whole, the project has costed them around Rs 2 lakhs but according to them, it is a small amount to pay for the immediate impact the Wi-Fi have had on the lives of the villagers.

According to the founders, setting up of free Wi-Fi has led to more and more villagers buying smartphones. Further, school children have now started using apps and e-books in order to help themselves in their studies. Not only this, a Bank of India kiosk which was already set up in the village can now work much more efficiently in opening new bank accounts because of uninterrupted Internet service it would get all thanks to the free Wi-Fu service set up. In order to make sure that each villager is able to reap in the benefits of free Wi-Fi, the four youngsters have tied up with a local NGO called Rajgarh Computer Seva Sanstha. The sanstha teaches the villagers on how they could use the Internet to make their everyday lives easier and more efficient.

Bearing monthly expenses amounting to Rs 8,000 for the free Wi-Fi, the four IT engineers are hopeful of getting help from the local government in the near future. They also plan on extending the low-cost Wi-Fi service to surrounding villages in Rajgarh within a 15 km-radius through the same tower.

Notably, last year, Google announced to set up free Wi-Fi in 100 railway stations and also plans to bring low-cost Internet connectivity to country's villages through Project Loon.

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