TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India 2: TeleInfoCentre and RISC

A TeleInfoCentre (TIC) is present at the village-level, and can have between 3 and 10 computers. All the content and applications required is available at the TIC. It is not necessarily dependent on real-time connectivity for providing services. A TIC is entrepreneur-driven.

The TIC fulfills a multi-centric role: it is a computing and communications centre, has a digital library of documents, complements the teachers for school and adult education, and serves as a small business office for entrepreneurs. Its additional value comes from applications that it can enable for citizen services and government interactions, making it an eGovernance touch-point for the villagers.

As far as possible, the TIC should be able to work in the offline mode that is, its dependence on Internet connectivity should be minimal. The server should mirror key applications and relevant data, making it possible for the clients to work without the need for an Internet connection. In fact, even the assumption that a TIC may have a few hours of Internet connectivity daily could be far-fetched. This makes the application development challenging, but it becomes an important pre-requisite given the realities of Rural India.

The offline mode entails updating through CD (or an alternate such device like a USB Memory Key). A CD will get written daily at the village TIC which has the days emails and requests which cannot be served locally. This CD would then be sent by courier or through the postal system to the next level in the hierarchy, which is likely to have better Net connectivity. Similarly, a CD from there would bring updates to the village. Over time, WiFi will solve the network connectivity bottleneck.

Here are the costs (in Rs) for a 3-computer TIC (TIC-3) and a 10-computer TIC (TIC-10):

Cost Items                            TIC-3       TIC-10
Thin Clients at Rs 5,000 per system  15,000       50,000
1 Thick Server                       25,000       30,000
Software and Curriculum               5,000       10,000
Networking, Modem, Phone Line        10,000       15,000
Printer, Scanner, Webcam, Speakers   10,000       15,000
Power Supply                         15,000       30,000
Total Capital Costs                  80,000      150,000
Monthly Running Costs                 4,000        8,000
Teacher Costs                         3,000        6,000
Capital Cost EMI (at 12% for 5 years) 1,780        3,337
AMC (10% of capital costs, monthly)     667        1,250
Total Monthly Cost                    9,447       18,587

Rural Infrastructure & Services Commons

RISC is a much larger set-up, serving a cluster of about 100 villages in a bicycle commutable radius of 10-15 kilometres. In India, a RISC would thus service about 100,000 people. Each RISC serves as a local business center where the downstream flow of information and material to the villages is complemented by an upstream flow of goods and services from the local village economy to markets that are global.

A RISC center:

  • clusters economic activities in specific rural locations by facilitating firms’ businesses
  • provides a standardized reliable infrastructure platform in an economically efficient way
  • co-locates a wide variety of services provided by market forces on the platform
  • provides services on a for-profit basis
  • serves as a focal point for the bi-directional flow of information and materials within the rural areas
  • coordinates the investments of the private sector, the public sector, and multilateral organizations into rural India
  • uses the tools provided by advances in information and communications technologies

    Essentially a RISC is a micro-city, an appropriately scaled down version of a city. It acts as a focal point that provides a bi-directional flow of information and materials that are essential to the rural economy and which uses state of the art tools and technologies to do so efficiently. It can be conceived of as a holographic projection of a city on a small scale at the rural location.

    By using elements from the 5KPC ecosystem, it becomes possible to create an affordable technology infrastructure at the RISC, which can be leveraged by the service providers.

    We will now look at how ICT tools and platforms like the TIC and RISC can transform education and market access in rural areas.

    Next Week: Transforming Rural India 2 (continued)

    TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India+T

  • Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.