Internet in Rural India

As part of an article on extending the Internet via the road, The Economist writes on an innovative idea to take the Internet to the masses in India:

At The Future in Review, a wide-ranging technology conference held in San Diego earlier this year, Allen Hammond of the World Resources Institute, an environmental think-tank, outlined a cunning scheme to provide e-mail access in rural India using buses. Each bus would be equipped with an e-mail server and a high-power Wi-Fi base-station, with a range of a mile or so. This communicates with nearby computers in homes, schools, offices or post offices, delivering and collecting e-mail wirelessly as the bus drives past, so that there are a handful of deliveries and collections each day. The buses connect to the internet when they reach the depot at the end of the line. Given the reach of the bus network, it is estimated that this approach could provide national e-mail coverage for a paltry $15m. E-mail by buswhy not?

From what I can understand, this is a project which began as part of Media Lab Asia, and is called DakNet. Here is more from an article recently in the Financial Express:

According to First Mile Solutions founder Amir Alexander Hasson, who helped initiate the two DakNet Wi-Fi pilot projects in Tikawali, a village near Faridabad, Haryana, and Dodabalapur district in Karnataka, We are using IEEE 802.11b equipment at 2.4 GHz. We dont use base stations, but rather our custom DakNet Mobile Access Point (MAP) that is mounted on and powered by a vehicle.

Giving the project details, Mr Hasson said, Essentially, a van roam roams around the Dodabalapur district in Karnataka, stopping at different villages long enough for the local computer to connect to it wirelessly and transfer the data stored in it. From the van to the central database is also a Wi-Fi hop, thus resulting in a wireless end-to-end transfer of information – which is what Wi-Fi is all about. The project involves creating an online database of land records.

Essentially, the DakNet-enabled vehicle drives past a kiosk where it picks up and drops off land record queries and responses. Each day, this is synchronised with a central database. Data is transported through the access point, which automatically and wirelessly collects and delivers data from each kiosk on the network. The transfer of data can take place up to a radius of 1.25 km around the kiosk.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.