Internet In South Asian Development
- a weapon to
Heritage & Travel
the-south-asian.com February 2001
Page 4 of 4
Technology – a weapon to fight poverty South Asian Success Stories
Technology – a weapon to fight poverty
South Asian Success Stories
Solar-Powered E-Commerce Village Centers
Greenstar Development Worldwide, Inc. is attempting to build a profitable
business while addressing the fundamental needs of people in the developing
world. In the end they hope to help ensure that "everyone everywhere
has enough food, adequate shelter, economic opportunity and life of learning
creativity and dignity." They have only established one pilot project
for their model. Nevertheless, the sheer boldness of their effort is
inspiring and as they wisely note in their literature, "only a
development model based on a business-case will have any chance of
alleviating world poverty." Greenstar offers a model of how to scale a
solution to the size of the challenge created by the two billion people who
currently live off the grid, in over 600,000 villages around the world.
M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
[M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and Centre for Research on
Sustainable Rural Development
The Village Information Project in India is an example of the worldwide effort to provide Telecenters to remote regions. The . Village. project provides freestanding, solar powered computers. Information is relayed daily by radio handsets and cell phones regarding the availability of medicine in health centers, credit opportunities for microenterprises, market prices, warnings of pest, weather and water risks, and educational materials for school children.
The village of Warna Nagar in rural Maharashtra state had no school, no clinic, and no telephone. It did have television, thanks to a satellite receiver put up by a couple of the more prosperous farmers in the village. Satellite television brought the villagers images and information about the world beyond Warna Nagar for the first time in their lives, but gave them no way to interact with it or access it. A project by the Government of Maharashtra State has set up the first rural network project in India. Villagers are now using networked ‘facilitation booths’ or kiosks to access agricultural, medical and educational information on the Internet. Development Alternatives Group is taking this effort one step further and launching a national effort. Development Alternatives aim is to set up a TARA kiosk in every village. Modeled on the PCO telephone booths common throughout India, the TARA kiosk--or TARAdhaba as the locals call it--will give everyone in the village the opportunity to connect via the internet with the world beyond. The man who runs the TARA kiosk as a franchise has the possibility of making a good living and can hire village youths to help him out, while the villagers gain access to all kinds of information, from weather reports to courses at Indira Gandhi National Open University. They also have a means to sell their products to distant markets. The service is capable of communicating in the local language, both on the screen and with audio, as well as through basic picture symbols, insuring that everyone in the village can use it. Royalties, commissions on sales, service fees and other earnings underwrite the cost.
Warana Nagar is the first rural network project in India - delivering165 PCs and an Internet Kiosk in all of the 70 villages in the region of 400,000 people. Villagers are now using networked facilitation booths to access agricultural, medical and educational information on the Internet.
Information for this article was provided by Digital Partners.
Digital Partners, a Seattle-based nonprofit institute, was formed in 1999, with initial support from the Kellogg, Ford and Rockefeller foundations, to map out initiatives bringing together corporate and entrepreneurial leaders, philanthropic organizations, governmental and non-governmental agencies to create market-driven solutions for bridging the Digital Divide. The India Initiative Working Group includes Vijay Vashee, General Manager, Microsoft, Yash Gupta, Dean of the Business School, University of Washington, Pradeep Singh, co-founder of Talisma; Shirish Nadkarni, CEO TeamOn; and Sam Pitroda, CEO of World Tel.
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