TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India: More Rural ICT Projects

There are many other technology-related projects for Rural India and eGovernance going on across India. Here is a summary of some of them:

Warana Wired Village: The Wired Village Project (WVP) implemented at Warana was conceived as a pilot project to bring benefits of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to rural India. Warana is a cluster of seventy villages, forty-six from Kolhapur and twenty-four from Sangli district, in the Western State of Maharashtra, India. There are several cooperative societies actively working in Warana complex like Sugar Cooperative, Dairy Development Society, Cooperative Bank, Womens Cooperative Society, Super Market, Educational Institutions, etc. Sugarcane is the major crop of this area and most of its production in Kolhapur and Sangli districts is processed at the Warana Sugar Co-operative factory. Each village has about 200-300 farmers registered as members of various cooperative societies. (More, from a discussion paper by DP Bobde, A Deb, RR Rane.)

Media Lab Asia: MLA, a joint iniitative of MIT Media Lab and the Indian Government, is doing a number of projects in the areas of World Computer (A computer for the illiterate, for communities, for everyone. Language, electrical power, literacy, and personal wealth are some of the problems that prevent participation in the digital revolution. We are creating computers that transcend these barriers to bring digital services to everyone. The design goal of the world computer is a locally localized, grassroots interface.) and Digital Village (Realizing Gandhi’s vision of a sustainable village through culturally appropriate use of new technologies. Our goal is to create a sustainable digital ecology that maintains traditional values and community while opening economic and expressive opportunities. The twin themes of the Digital Village projects are tools that empower invention and expression, and advanced financial tools for rural markets.)

Sustainable Access for Rural India: SARI is a project in the villages of Madurai district in Tamil Nadu to offer voice and Internet services. IIT-Madras; MIT Media Lab; Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University Law School; and the I-Gyan Foundation. It is carried out jointly with n-Logue Communicaitons Pvt. Ltd., a rural ISP. Here is a note from the project plan: A kiosk will be set up in each village to service the needs of the people in that village. Separate connections will be provided to schools, colleges, primary health centres, etc. The project aims at identifying and providing appropriate access technologies and applications that will be of use to the local community. Possible applications are school education, farmers’ commodity market information, e governance, local commerce, etc. The project will receive initial funding from outside for procurement of equipment as well as paying for its operation, but will eventually become self-sufficient and pay for itself. The pilot project aimed at setting up 1000 connections in 350 villages.

FRIENDS and Akshaya: Keralas FRIENDS (Fast Reliable Instant Efficient Network for Disbursement of Services) centres accept all utility bills, taxes and fees pertaining to the participating departments and offer quality services to the citizens. FRIENDS has been launched in all 14 district headquarters in the State. Akshaya plans to develop Kerala’s first comprehensive digital network to train at least one member in 64 lakh families in the basics of Information & Communication Technology thus opening a hotline between the citizens, the government and the world.

Mahiti Shakti Kendras: Started in the Panchmahals district of Gujarat, the Mahiti Shakti Kendras become a single-window clearance for forms and other information that people in small towns and villages may require. All forms of various district level offices with a checklist giving details of required documents at the time of submission are provided. As many as 200 forms have been made available on-line. Information pertaining to ongoing schemes like those under the District Rural Development Agency and District Planning Board have also been made available. The web-enabled version of the Gujarat Geographic Information System (GGIS) giving details of the resource availability in terms of 95 parameters of every village of the district is available on a query-based system, according a report in Times of India (Oct 2002). About 80 such centres have been set up so far.

Tomorrow: More ICT Projects (continued)

TECH TALK Transforming Rural India+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.