Satya wrote recently about an interesting idea on how to use school and college studets to create local information resources:
Students will create databases of information relating to their locality and issues of immediate importance to the residents of the locality (neighbourhood, city, state or even country).
Students will learn how to gather information, analyse it, organise it and publish/disseminate it to those who can use the information to their advantage.
Possible focus areas to start with include:
local geography (creating a map of the school and its neighbourhood, a local GIS database with information on population, soil, climate, flora & fauna, pollution levels, civic facilities, utilities, infrastructure etc.)
local history (mapping history starting from the present day and going back in time)
local arts, crafts, literature, cultural traditions, practices etc.
local businesses (create an online directory of local businesses, maintain a local classifieds web site and publish a daily neighbourhood blog online or even a weekly/monthly newspaper including advertisements from local businesses/traders to meet costs
availability/price of basic essentials, rental values, land values in the neighbourhood and comparison of different products and services and merchants in the neighbourhood
generating local neighbourhood census data with the students collecting the data themselves
The college students can focus on creating more value-added information including economic and financial information, scientific and technical information and tracking the activities of all local councillors and legislators etc.
Each school/college does all of the above for its neighbourhood and the schools form a network so students can interact with their peers in other localities and share information and experiences through blogs, online groups and web sites. All the local databases (GIS data, classifieds etc.) can then be integrated together to create larger city-wide, state-wide and nation-wide databases. These databases can then be commercialised with the school/college serving as the information consultant to local businesses and organisations by helping them address their specific information requirements using the databases and undertake customised market research surveys or polls, or develop customised databases as well. All of this can generate sizeable revenues for the school/college as well.
This dovetails nicely with my IndiaMirror idea.