Sustainable Access in Rural India (SARI)                                      

Jal Chitra                                                                                           


Lokmitra – Himachal Pradesh                                                                 

ICT Initiatives of Rajasthan Government                                              



FRIENDS – Kerala                                                                             

E-Sringla: Info Kiosks in South India                                                     

SETU – Maharashtra                                                                          



NIIT-Hole in the Wall                                                                          


Information Village Research Project (MSSRF)                                          

Warana Wired Villages                                                                         

Community Radio – VOICES                                                                

Community Radio – AID                                                                       

Community Radio – Mana Radio                                                            

Community Radio – Deccan Development Society                                  

Community Radio – KMVS                                                                    

Telemedicine in Pune                                                                             

Telemedicine from Apollo                                                                       

Telemedicine in Karnataka                                                                      

E-Choupal by ITC                                                                                   

Foundation of Occupational Development (FOOD India)                           

Bombay Leprosy Project                                                                         

Internet Kiosks for Delhi Slums                                                                

Freedom Foundation                                                                               

Computers for Adult Literacy                                                                         

Smart Cards                                                                                            





Agri Info Portal                                                                                        

Computerised Gram Panchayat                                                                    

Rural Relations                                                                                         

Kaun Banshe Aksharpati                                                                           

GIS for Local Level Development Planning                                                

GIS-Based Decision Support System                                                        

IT-based Networks for Access to Information                                          

S&T Applied to Rural Transformation (START)                                       

S&T Entrepreneurship Parks (STEPS) and Technology Business Incubators (TBIS)                

UNITeS Volunteers                                                                                   


One Village One Computer (1V1C)                                                                      


Computers in Karnataka Schools                                                                 

Gram Phones                                                                                       

I-Community of Kuppam                                                                             

Same Language Sub-Titling                                                                        

UNICEF initiatives                                                                                         



Developed indigenously by scientists from the Indian Institute of Science and technologists of Encore Software, a private enterprise, the Simputer (Simple Computer) is a low-cost, portable alternative to personal computers. It is pegged as the first of its kind in the world as it promises to ensure that illiteracy is no longer a barrier to handling a computer. It permits simple and natural, user-friendly interfaces based on sight, touch and audio so one need not know English in order to operate it.

Problems of access to telecommunications in the developing world have often paled into insignificance beside those of gaining access to a working computer capable of connecting to the Internet. For a vast mass of the rural poor for whom a computer is probably as remote an option as a trip to the moon, the Simputer can well become the power button to prosperity. Reports indicate that the worldwide demand for it has already crossed the one million mark and the reasons are not far to seek.

Simple, portable and affordable

Expected to be priced at less than 200 US dollars per piece, the palm top will be quite affordable. It is aimed to be a shared computing resource for a local community of users - such as the village administrative committee or a kiosk or a shopkeeper. The farmer and the techie can use it alike. It is compatible with everyday PC, helps one check the e-mail, browse the Net for information and keep accounts. What makes it different from other hand-held devices is its smart card reader that enables it to be personalized and used on an individual basis.

Knowledge is undeniably synonymous with power and the advent of Internet has made access to knowledge an important means to power- be it social, economic or political. Little wonder then that the Internet has prompted a change in development thinking and many donor and multilateral lending organisations are radically reshaping their policies for the new information age.

There is no denying then, that developing countries have a lot to gain from the Internet. It can allow businesses to sell goods and services directly to customers across national boundaries and facilitate the delivery of basic services, such as health care and education that have been denied to millions. The Simputer with its low cost technology and access to Internet, is definitely a step towards the realization of this need. In a sense, the Simputer, which will be ready for commercial produce by August this year, sets at rest to some degree, fears of the growing digital divide expressed in many quarters.

The digital divide

Figures indicate that Internet users still account for only five per cent of the world's population. Furthermore, 85 percent of all Internet users live in developed countries where ninety percent of all Internet hosts are located. All this despite the fact that the number of Internet Web users in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern and Central Europe is expected to tide over the 25 million mark this year. In the Asia-Pacific region, Internet growth is projected to be even more - 29.3 million.

The rigmarole of figures and statistics apart, the Simputer points to another welcome development where solutions to access to IT and Internet can come from a developing nation.

The history of development assistance is replete with failed initiatives to transfer technologies to developing countries. There are any numbers of instances where shipments of generously doled out `imported' technology, be it television transmitters, turbines or tractors or even rail coaches, brought in to transform the developing societies have gathered dust in the communities they were meant to benefit. The reasons are obvious and justifiable. Such transfer of technology has seldom been accompanied by proper training of personnel or people in the communities they have been implanted in. The want of adequate spare parts for their upkeep has been another reason. The most important factor however, has clearly been the lack of feeling of ownership and involvement among the end beneficiaries.

The Simputer, an indigenous product of a country that has one of the greatest potential to use the Internet to tackle problems of poverty and illiteracy, steers clear of such inherent limitations.

Futhermore, unlike other technology sharing ventures that are purely driven by profit, the Simputer is driven by the collaborative approach whereby all of the technology is freely available to anybody. Accordingly, a trust has been set up to take the Simputer to the world. Its hardware and software specifications can already be downloaded free from

The trust has liberally borrowed its philosophy from the concept of "free software" propounded by a worldwide group of software developers. The group has created a new paradigm for the development and deployment of such popular software as Linux and also benefited from pioneering work done by the Free Software Foundation.

Simputer and education

The potential of using the Simputer to tackle illiteracy is immense specially since it is the young people who have the aptitude and the enthusiasm to push further advances in new communication technologies.The developing countries have a high population of young people. And yet, little or no access to education and literacy has crippled the potential advantages of this adaptable and potentially productive segment of population.

Limited use of English has acted as another constraint. Despite the increasing multilingual nature of the Net, the predominance of English has made it a barrier to many communities and countries. With its language sensitive interface and easy access to the Internet, the Simputer may well enable developing countries educate their young populations. There is already talk of rural or remote schools being able to access resources and information on the web at a very low cost. It can also leverage the pervasiveness of telephone lines and enable users to enjoy a new level of services from their net service providers.

Of course, the Simputer is not the end solution. Nor is it the only solution. There are other efforts underway as well such as the MIS Media Lab Research scientists work on developing a similar gadget costing half of what the Simputer would. What is heartening then, is not just that solutions to the digital divide are here, but that they are being found in the developing world.



Project Contact Details:

The Simputer Trust

Dr. Swami Manohar (Trustee) & Dr. Vijay Chandru (Trustee)

Computer Science & Automation Management Studies

Indian Institute of Science Bangalore 560 012

Tel: (80) 3092648 Fax: (80) 3602911 ,


Vivek K S (, Ph: +91-80-3618184

PicoPeta Simputers Pvt. Ltd.,       





Pathinettangudi some 35 km from Madurai, which presents the look of just another underprivileged village. However, a silent IT revolution is brewing in the tiny hamlet where the illiterate farm workers use webcams, voice mail and e-mail regularly.

Similar is the communication technology spread in at least 30 other villages around Pathinettangudi, paving the way for the caste-conscious Melur to become the first cyber taluk in the country— courtesy the Sustainable Access in Rural Internet (SARI) project.

Villagers no longer run from pillar to post to get caste, birth and death certificates here. They simply download the application online and forward it through e-mail to the tahsildhar. The acknowledgement is received within hours and the certificate issued in a week.

``Earlier, we had to shell out at least Rs. 250 to get an income certificate or old age pension. Now, the cost is only Rs. 29, which includes a printout of the e-mail acknowledgement from the tahsildhar,'' says 70-year-old Mondi of Pathinettangudi.

`Public Access Internet Kiosks' have been established in 30 villages under the SARI project in association with the ``n-logue''. This government-public-private-institution partnership programme also involves the IIT Chennai, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard University.

Even as a good number of youth in Melur taluk are employed in the Middle East, their dear ones are no longer scared of ISD bills. It's just Rs. 25 an hour to see their wards live on screen through the interactive webcam. This, of course, besides the voice mail, chatting and e-mail.

That is not all. The agricultural labourers get their queries clarified online as well, thanks to the Madurai Agriculture College and the Research Institute of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University which is providing free counselling. The villagers also get close-up colour pictures of their eyes examined by specialists in the Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai and fix up appointments for surgeries.

``We are planning to provide online train, air and bus ticket booking. A free consultancy on veterinary sciences is also on the anvil,'' says S. Prem Anand, deputy manager of the ``n-logue'', who has been doing background work based at Melur for nearly two years now.

The man behind this achievement is Ashok Jhunjhunwala of the IIT Chennai, who developed the Wireless and Local Loop (WLL)-based Chordless Digitally Enhanced Telephony, says Mr. Anand.

The constant support and review of the SARI project by the Collector, S. Ramachandran, instils confidence in the villagers.

The technology provides highspeed Internet wireless access to more than 1,000 systems within a radius of 25 km radius. The kiosks have been established by individuals who took the risk of investing Rs. 50,000 in computer and multi-media and other accessories. Now the owners, who have installed the user-friendly Tamil softwares `Padhami', `Padhakkam' and `Minnal', make an average income of Rs. 2,500 a month and the patronage is growing steadily. As of now, a chunk of villagers in these 30 villages have e-mail identities, which they use for seeking assistance from the Government under various schemes. The SARI project has evoked excellent response from the Government and the public.

The technology is expected to take root all over the State soon, claim officials


Source: A village where IT is a way of life

By S. Vijay Kumar

The Hindu, Monday, Apr 22, 2002


Project Contact

SARI in Madurai, Tamil Nadu

The Telecommunications and Computer Networks Group

Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science & Engineering

IIT-Madras, Chennai 600036

Tel/Fax: (044) 235-2120





Just think of the potential of a software that allows users to create an interactive water-map of the village. This means, villagers would be better equipped to cope with drought. Thanks to IT (information technology).

Called Jal-Chitra, this software has been developed by Jaipur's Ajit Foundation, in close collaboration with the Barefoot College of Tilonia. Says Ajit Foundation's Vikram Vyas: "The advent of Personal Computer together with the development and expansion of Internet has provided us with a unique opportunity to bring the tools of scientific modelling and computation to rural development."

One "immediate area" where such tools can make a tangible contribution, he argues, is in the process of drought-proofing the villages lying in the arid and semi-arid regions of the developing world.

How is this done? An estimate of the monthly water demand and the monthly water availability from various sources is the starting point. Then comes the question of allocation of available water.

Likewise, a water-budget can be created. Solutions can range from water conservation, to the development of new water sources or water storage systems, where possible. Or even getting in water from external sources. Villagers need to balance between underground water and rainwater harvesting systems.

Once done, Jal-Chitra software aims at helping villagers to take advantage of information and communication technologies to exercise their right to manage their own water sources.

Jal-Chitra basically creates an interactive water-map of the village enables the community to keep records of the amount of water available from each water source,can record water quality testing, lists maintenance work done and required, estimates water demand, generates future monthly water budgets (based on past records), and shows the amount of community need met through rainwater harvesting systems.

In an interview with Vikram Vyas says, “I think Jal-Chitra can be used in any village which is in the arid or semi arid region of developing world. The greatest potential is that it will enable local democratic institutions, like panchayats (local village councils in India), to make more informed decisions regarding their own water sources. Jal-Chitra has potentialities of many further developments including use of satellite photographs and more sophisticated in-build models, perhaps based on neural-nets. I am looking for other people, software developers, to help me with this. I have been away from physics for too long and would like to return to it and spend most of my professional time teaching and doing research in physics. So further development of Jal-Chitra has to become a collaborative effort. Also, I am waiting for the response from the actual users.” He thinks that there is a need for the Hindi version of the users manual and software of Jal Chitra along with its incorporation in formal and informal educational systems.


Source: Infochangeindia Features / Frederick Noronha/Third World Network Features

Project Contact:

Vikram Vyas,

The Ajit Foundation,

396 Vasundhara Colony,

Tonk Road,

Jaipur 302 018






In Visakhapatnam, the homeport of the Indian navy’s eastern fleet, a different kind of facility has been making waves. Saukaryam has had the city on the move, perfecting home delivery of civic services and doing away with agonising queues and hungry middlemen. And, this gateway has taken just two years to transform the lives of the city’s residents.

When Sanjay Jaju took over as Visakhapatnam’s municipal commissioner in October 2000, there were the usual complaints -- long queues, an endless wait for birth certificates, building plans or, simply, to lodge a complaint. The civic service delivery system was dismal, no different from those elsewhere in the country.

In a bid to solve the problem, the 34-year-old IAS official, an M Tech from Bhopal’s Barkatullah University, turned to technology and came up with Saukaryam. The facility became operational in January 2001.

Today, Saukaryam is the pride of the city -- a model for e-governance since it guarantees instant delivery of civic services. It has even attracted international acclaim, winning a UNDP award and a nomination for the Stockholm Challenge.

Today, registers two lakh hits a year. People can settle their bills online, check the status of building and water supply plans, receive direct information about births and deaths, track garbage clearance, even scan tender notices.

Saukaryam delivers online, a public-private venture created through broadband leased circuits. Banks, where payments to the corporation can be made, have also been linked to the metro area network.

But Jaju knows this is just the beginning. He has moved to west Godavari as its collector and has donated the $20,000 cash component of the UNDP award to the Saukaryam Foundation, created to take the project to other areas.

In west Godavari, he is busy with e-Seva, Saukaryam’s cousin. “I had planned the project for some time. One of the first things I did after taking charge in Visakhapatnam was to turn my dream into a reality,” says Jaju.

Source:, February 19, 2003

Project Contact:

Sanjay Jaju






The Chief Minister, Prof Prem Kumar Dhumal, today formally launched Lokmitra Yojna, popularly known as e-governance scheme, at a village of the district. He dedicated the scheme to the people at a function held at Tounidevi this morning.

He also inaugurated a fully computerised railway booking counter at the main bus stand here. People of the district will be able to get their seats reserved from here from today onward.

This office has been connected with New Delhi through a computer network and the reservation of seats and their status will be made available within minutes, according to official sources.

Professor Dhumal sent a message from the Tounidevi information centre to Hamirpur through Internet which was immediately received. Ms Anuradha Thakur, Chairperson of the Lokmitra Society, gave details of the scheme to the Chief Minister and other participants.

This yojna is the Himachal version of the Gyandoot Pilot Project already going on in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. Under the Nabard sponsored project, 25 information centres have been opened in various parts of the district.

People of the district, especially those living in interiors, will be able to send their complaints by paying a nominal fee to the owner of the centre. The person managing the centre will send the complaint to the district headquarters. The reply will be given to the complainant within one week.

Through this yojna, market rates of vegetables, fruits and other items will also be made available at all information centres. Moreover, people will also be able to send and receive information regarding their land records, income certificates, caste certificates and other official documents.

The National Informatics Centre of the state has supplied necessary software and hardware to the owners of the centres and they have also been trained to operate computers.

Two main servers and four terminals have been set up in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, nodal agency in the project. Daily mail coming from various information centres will be screened and then sent to respective offices. The reply received will again be sent through Internet to the owners of the centres concerned.

Prof Dhumal said Hamirpur was the first district in the state to have this facility. More centres would be opened in the district on the basis of the reports of the success of the scheme, he said.

He said efforts would also be made to make the state a leader in the field of info-technology network. He said info-tech parks were being opened in the state where hardware and software would be prepared by the youth of state.

Mr Suresh Chandel, MP, Ms Urmila Thakur, Parliamentary Secretary and other BJP leaders and senior officers were also present on the occasion.


Source: The Tribune, May 9, 2001

Project Contact:

National Informatics Centre

Himachal Pradesh state Unit,

H.P. Secretariat, SHIMLA-171002.

Ph. 91-177-224045




Vikas Darpan – GIS based Planning & Decision Support System covers 40000 Tehsils on about 200 demograph and socio-economic indicators.

  1. Rajasthan's Department of Information Technology has developed a state-wide intranet called 'rajSWIFT. This system uses the internet to facilitate online data, text and email communication between the Office of the Chief Minister and the 32 District Collectors.
  2. RajNIDHI, a web-enabled citizen-service information kiosk framework, is a modern, transparent and responsive system. The government aims to provide greater transparency in government-citizen interactions through projects such as 'Aarakshi' (which provides field officers with online information on criminals); computerisation of the Ajmer Collectorate (including grievance monitoring systems); computerisation of hospitals; computerisation of the Registration and Stamps Department; and networking of the Secretariat.
  3. Lokmitra : Electronic service by the state government. This provides access to govt transactions via the internet ( and e-kiosks. It is equipped with five e-counters connected to a central server. Any citizen can avail multiple services of different departments at these counters.

Services available:

Payment of electricity / water bills

Applications for new electricity / water connections

Payment of house tax

Issue of birth/death certificate

Application for trade licenses and payment of relevant fees

Reservation of bus tickets

ATMs of ICICI Bank


Ravi Mathur, Secretary IT, Rajasthan Govt





Two decades ago, the village of Ramanagaram was the setting for the Bollywood action classic "Sholay" and the British Raj epic, "A Passage to India".

Today, it is back in the news but the theme has changed from a feudal vendetta and colonial rule to the power of computer networks to transform centuries-old habits of keeping land records.

Karnataka, which is championing the process to rebut criticism that its software boom is only for thee rich, now plans to guide the rest of India in a plan which is aimed at fighting corruption and boosting transparency.

"It is all low-cost," says Rajeev Chawla, a senior state revenue department official who is spearheading the e-governance initiative.

Amid the mango and coconut groves of Ramanagaram, farmers walk into a state-run " Bhoo Dhakilegala Malige", or land-record shop, and buy certified printouts of land records which help them verify or prove land ownership or tenancy.

In the process, they are nearly free from the whims, inefficiency and corruption associated with village accountants who create, change and supervise handwritten records.

Karnataka has some 6.7 million farmers and 17 million land records spread over 30,000 villages and is spending about 180 million rupees on the land-records project.

An additional bonus is a wealth of easily digestible data on irrigation, soil, crops, rights, tenancy and ownership which officials say will help in development planning.

No Confusion, No Corruption

The accountants, 9,000of them in Karnataka, still generate the records, but won’t be able to use the confusing burden of reams and reams of decades-old handwritten papers as cover for corruption.

Each accountant covers about four villages.

"Sometimes it used to take a week to get a land record copy, " 37-Year-old farmer Sivanna Dasiah, who bought a certificate to get a bank loan, told Reuters. "The Village accountant used to demand 50,100 or even 500 rupees sometimes for one copy,"

Farmers now happily pay 15 rupees for a printout.

Land records have been at the centre of bloody village disputes and legal wrangles in India, which has some 600,000 villages. Nearly 70 percent of the one billion strong population depends on agriculture.

The coffee town of Sakleshpur and the rural centre of Maddur led the way the land-record project earlier this year.

Ramanagaram, some 40 km from Bangalore, joined them in pioneering the practice, which Karnataka has now taken to 45 of its 177 talukas, or sub-districts, despite resistance at the local level.

Officials, who say the cost is easily recovered from the sale of land record copies, are now frenetically training two computer-friendly accounts for every sub-district.

The state plans to cover all sub-districts by March next year, and also link the local area networks over the Internet. The idea is to eventually license the database to Internet service providers who can use the data commercially.


Fingerprint-Based Access

Chawla, 39, is a computer science graduate from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, but unlike many of his schoolmates who flocked to Silicon Valley, he chose to become a modestly paid career civil servant. He says the project’s challenge was to ensure the records were tamper-proof and the system’s authenticity was not challenged.

"A Password hacking of land records means I am gone for a toss," he says.

A team from the state-run National Informatics Centre, software giant Microsoft Corp, computer maker Compaq Corp and Aditi Technologies Ltd has been helping him devise a Solution.

The companies worked for free, and the team evolved a fingerprint-based access to the software application in which land records generated by village accountants are entered. A small fingerprint recognition point is attached to each terminal.

This means that password-based hacking is not possible and those who change records will be identified by fingerprints.

The Computers also store digitally scanned copies of the original paper records approved in handwriting and signed by the accountants.

Once this is done, handwritten records are banned. Chawla said this would ensure that in future, all records could be systematically updated and tracked over computers.

The computers also help in tracking the status of applications involving change of ownership, which in the past has been a source of red tape and corruption.

In the land record shops, villagers have a terminal facing them, where they can watch what officials processing their applications on another terminal are doing.

Karnataka’s neighboring state and technology competitor, Andhra Pradesh, has launched a similar project. A plan to transfer land records to computers is due to be finished in June.



Yahoo News - 31st MAY 2001

Technology Transforms Rural Records in Karnataka.

By Narayanan Madhavan

Project Contact:

Rajeev Chawla, IAS

Additional Secretary Revenue Department

Room No. 630, III Stage, 6th Floor

M.S. Building

Bangalore 560001 INDIA

Tel: +91 (80) 226-2104







On January 1, 2000, Dhar district began the new millennium with installation of low cost, self-sustainable and community owned rural Intranet project. Dhar district is located on the south western corner of the central India and has a population of 1.7 million, with 54% population being tribal ( Bhils, Bhilalas, patleiyas) and 60% population living below poverty line. Computers in 20 village centres in five Blocks of the district were wired through an Intranet network (presently there are 31 such wired village centres). Local rural youth act as entrepreneurs for running cybercafes-cum-cyberoffices on commercial lines without salary or stipend. The computers in the network have been established in Gram Panchayats (Village Committee). They have been called Soochanalayas (Information Kiosks). The Soochanalayas provide user-charge-based services to the rural people. This Intranet system has been named Gyandoot (Messenger of Informat

SOOCHAK ( Manager/owner of the kiosk)

The person operating the Soochanalaya is a local matriculate operator and is called Soochak. A soochak is not an employee but an entrepreneur. Soochak only needs maintenance and numeric data entry skills. He needs very limited typing skills since most of the Intranet software is menu-driven.

The Soochaks for originally started 20 centres were selected interactively by village committees and the local community. Three member panels were selected by the community who received training at their own cost at the District Council. At the end of the training, the best trainees were selected out of a panel of three as Soochaks. He / she runs the Soochanalaya on commercial lines. He has an initial one year agreement with the village committee. He does not receive any salary. He bears the cost of stationery, maintenance and electric and telephone bills. He pays 10% of income as commission to the Zila Panchayat (District Council) for maintaining the net.

The 11 centres started as private enterprise, the Soochak is the owner of the establishment who pays Rs. 5,000 as a license fee for one year to district council. Each Soochak is expected to earn a net income of at least Rs. 36,000 per annum at conservative projections.


During the formation of the project proposal a detailed RRA/PRA exercise was taken up involving the villagers and the community. The selection of the services was a result of this interactive exercise and was based upon the advice and the felt needs of the villagers. In these meetings, it was learnt that due to lack of information regarding the current and prevailing mandi (agriculture produce auction centres) rates, the farmers were unable to get the best price for their agricultural produce. Villagers also informed that copies of land records were difficult to obtain. The villager who requires a copy of the land record had to go out in search of the patwari (village functionary who maintains all land records) who may or may not be available on that particular day at his headquarters. For small complaints or for giving applications, people had to go to district headquarter which resulted in waste of time, money and potential livelihood earnings. The services offered on the Gyandoot network are:

Agriculture Produce Auction Centres Rates:

The variety-wise current and prevailing rates of prominent cereal crops of the district like wheat, gram, soybean, etc. at local and other prominent auction centres of the country are available on-line. Other statistics of the auction centres e.g. the volume of incoming agricultural produce, previous rates etc. are also provided on demand. The facility is available at a nominal charge of Rs. 5. Horticulture crops like tomato, potato, peas, green chillies, guava etc. are also produced in substantial quantity in the district. The rates of these commodities are also available.

On-line Registration of Applications:

So far, the villagers had to go to the local revenue court to file applications for obtaining income / caste / domicile certificates or for getting demarcation done or for obtaining landholder's loan passbook (rin pustika) etc. For this, they would again made repeated visits to the court to enquire about the progress of the application as well as to finally collect the prepared document. Now, through Soochanalayas they may send the application at a cost of only Rs. 10 and thereafter, in a maximum period of 10 days, preferably less, an intimation of the readiness of the certificate is sent back to them through e-mail at the concerned Soochanalaya. Thereafter, they may go to the concerned court to collect the certificate.

On-line Public Grievance Redressal:

Wherever there is some problem in the delivery of services, the villagers travel at the cost of time, money and livelihood to Block, tahsil or district headquarters without any certainty that they would even be able to meet the officer concerned. Now through the Soochanalaya, a villager may send his / her complaint with assurance of reply within a maximum period of seven days, preferably lesser, at a charge of Rs. 10. The reply to his complaint after redressal is sent back at the Soochanalaya through e-mail. Complaints available on the intranet include complaints regarding drinking water, scholarship sanction / disbursement, quality of seed / fertiliser, employee establishment matters (like leave or provident fund sanction) queries, functioning of school, public distribution system, beneficiary oriented schemes, functioning of village committee etc.

Rural e-mail facility:

A fee based e-mailing facility, which is provided in the intranet, and it has all the features and facilities of a state-of-the-art web based e-mail.

Village auction site:

This facility is started since July 2000 where auction facilities are available to farmers and villagers for land, agricultural machinery, bullocks or equipment or other durable commodities. It opens a new horizon of e-transactions in the rural areas. The middlemen involved in the rural commodity transaction market are sought to be eliminated through this facility. One can put one’s commodity on sale for charges of Rs. 25/- for three months. One can browse the list of salable commodities for Rs. 10/-.

On line matrimonial site:

A fee based on-line matrimonial service for the villagers to choose the right match for a prospective bride/groom. Every entry from a Soochanalaya by a villager gets added on to a centralized database with search facility on various criteria. The user charges for service rendered is Rs. 25/- for three months. The program has been designed to suit the requirements of the villagers.

Information regarding government programmes :

Detailed Information regarding over a hundred government programmes is now available on the Gyandoot Intranet. The villagers have an access to the information regarding all government programmes related to rural development.

Sawaliram se puchiye:

This site provides opportunity to schoolchildren to ask inquisitive questions regarding career counseling or any other field from Sawaliram at no cost. A team of experts at the district headquarter provide the answers within three days. The facility is created to promote inquisitiveness, ability to inquire and scrutinize among the school children.

Ask the expert:

This facility is aimed at farmers and villagers who can inquire about latest techniques, advice for their problems, new technologies etc. from a group of experts pertaining to fields of agriculture, animal husbandry, health, or related to legal opinion. The service is provided at Rs 5/- user charge.

Free E-mail facility on social issues:

Free of cost option are available to the villagers to inform regarding child labour, child marriage, illegal possession of land belonging to Scheduled Tribes etc. Besides they can send e-mails to others connected through the net with the help of this facility in Hindi.

Avedan Patra:

This facility provides on-line application formats required by local administration and departments of the state government. Thus, application forms are available at the doorsteps of the villagers and avoid their running from pillar to post for these application forms.

Transparency in government working:

Updated and latest information regarding public distribution system, list of below poverty line families, beneficiaries of social security pension, beneficiaries of rural development schemes, information regarding government grants given to village committees, etc. are available on the intranet which makes the government functioning transparent.

Gaon ka Akhabar (Village Newspaper):

A local web-based newspaper is available to cater to the rural people. The newspaper delivers micro-news about the happening around the villages where Soochaks act as correspondents.

E-education (shiksha gyandoot):

This site contains reading material to supplement and help the students in understanding and learning their subjects in a better way. It contains things like syllabuses of various subjects taught in class X and XII, question banks developed by a team of experts to help in preparation of exams, chithi to help them keep in touch with other schools connected to the intranet etc.

Employment News:

This site contains employment news for semi skilled employees.

Below Poverty line list:

The site contains the whole list of below the poverty line families and anyone can check his her name in the list.


In order to make Soochanalayas economically viable entities and to improve the functioning of the project following steps are being taken:

Additional facilities at Soochanalayas :

To make Soochanalayas economically viable soochaks are given licenses to vendor government judicial stamps and powers of petition writer are also delegated to them. Due to the delegation of above mentioned powers additional incomes are possible and the Soochanalayas are becoming virtual cyber offices. .

On-line linking of all departments with gyandoot server :

A local Area Network (LAN) linking all the major district offices has been installed. As a result, the district heads of various government departments like health, education, tribal development, revenue, food, agriculture, public health engineering, District Council and District Magistrate etc. are connected directly to gyandoot network. This provides backup support and logistics to gyandoot network.

Wireless in Local Loop:

The Gyandoot Samiti is introducing low cost TDMA based Wireless in Local Loop (WiLL) technology in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai. This technology will facilitate large scale multiplication of Soochanlayas in the hinterland where traditional plain old telephone system has not reached. The technology has power to increase access speed and provide reliable connectivity. The technology will also help the kiosk operator to run two connections at a time, e.g. STD PCO (voice connectivity) and Internet/Intranet ( data communication).

E-education initiatives:

The Gyandoot Samiti, with the help from Member of Parliament, has established 34 kiosks at the high schools and higher secondary schools. We are providing them local educational contents through the server. They are also accessing internet for other educational contents. Each school is having Computer Club to promote activities related to IT among rural students.


Some fundamental guidelines were framed for future expansion. They were:

1). Centers to be opened only in the villages where local telephone exchange is having OFC and fair connectivity,

2). New centers to be created through private investment.

3). New services and facilities to be introduced in phased manner.


1. E-News for the district

2. Distance education

3. Registration of property transaction

4. Feedback system on the development programmes

5. “Bare foot doctor”


A comprehensive and integrated multi-media mass campaign concentrating on IEC activities has been launched in the district. The campaign focuses on penetration and propagation of the project in the hinterland of the district. Indian Institute of Management, Indore is collaborating to provide structured inputs for the IEC activities. The steps taken include:

Gyandoot medhavi chhatra (talented students) scholarship:

From the funds available with gyandoot, two scholarships each of Rs. 1,000/- per month for 5 years have been announced. For the scholarship, only those students of the district would be eligible who motivate 10 or more villagers to use gyandoot facilities between the period 1st September to 31st December 2000. The scholarships will be finalised through an on-line test of the eligible students and the result of the test would be declared on 26th January 2001. This scheme uses the services of the students to propagate new technology and its power among the rural masses.

Visit of school children to nearest Soochnalaya :

Students of class IX, X, XI, XII are taken to the nearest Soochanalaya on study tour. These students are given elaborate demonstration on the gyandoot Intranet system and the facilities available at the centre.

ramsabha in the villages in the project area :

Special gramsabhas (Meeting of all villagers) in each village in the project area have been started which will be completed by January, 2001. These specially convened village meetings will deliberate on gyandoot and its services, which are available there at nominal cost.

.Audio-Visual campaign :

Posters and pamphlets have been distributed to all the concerned village committees. TV cable network and cinema halls are being used to popularise gyandoot services. Audiocassettes carrying gyandoot messages are being used in weekly haat bazaars (market places).




Project Contact:

Collectorate Campus, Dhar, M.P. 454001

Tel: (7292) 34709; (7292) 22661

Fax: (7292) 22722






FRIENDS (Fast, Reliable, Instant, Efficient Network for Disbursement of Services) centres offer a one-stop, front-end, IT-enabled payment counter facility to citizens to make all kinds of government payments in the state of Kerala in South India. The centres are a project of the Kerala State IT Mission, an executive agency of the State's Department of Information Technology. The software for the centres was developed with ASP, Windows 2000 and SQL RDBMS. One important feature is a provision for adding more modules and a queue management system. Client/server architecture, consisting of a network of one powerful server (Windows 2000 Server/ MS SQL Server 7.0 – Pentium III 850 MHz or above) and 10 to 20 normal PCs (Windows 98/Me – Celeron 600 MHz or above), is used in each centre.

Application Description

FRIENDS seeks to extend the benefits of fully-fledged computerisation of individual departments to citizens, even before the whole back-end computerisation is completed. The counters are equipped to handle around 1,000 types of payment bills (in various combinations) originating out of various public sector departments/agencies. The payments that citizens can make at the counters include utility payments for electricity and water, revenue taxes, license fees, motor vehicle taxes, university fees, etc.

Firewalls safeguard the data from manipulation and other misappropriations. Print outs of transaction details in a particular counter are done on the printer attached to each terminal, on pre-printed stationery. Printing of a receipt for the citizen is done simultaneously with saving of the transaction on the hard disk. The application has provisions for adding more modules and for rolling back incorrect entries without affecting the database even at the user level. The centres are not networked with the participating departments/agencies and therefore the printouts of all payments made are taken and physically handed over to these organisations for processing.

Application Purpose

As in all Indian states, Kerala has a number of different government and public sector organisations collecting taxes, utility bills, and other fees and payments. Individual citizens have historically been expected to pay at the office of the department or the agency concerned. This means that every citizen has to personally visit at least seven offices and stand in queues waiting their turn to pay the taxes and other payments due to government. Some efforts were earlier made to facilitate payments through the banking network. However, given the fact that many banks and government departments/agencies were not computerised, this effort only led to delayed collections and reconciliation problems. Moreover, only 2 to 5 percent of the population used this facility. It was against this background that the FRIENDS project was conceived, enabling citizens to visit a single location to pay all bills without the requirement for back office computerisation in the involved departments/agencies.

Impact: Costs and Benefits

There are indirect costs and indirect benefits of the project including the aspect of opportunity costs, but it is very difficult to gain evidence on these. Some of the major direct costs and benefits, both financial and otherwise, are provided below, mostly based on a study by the author. The FRIENDS centre in Trivandrum (the state capital) required some US$80,000-worth of capital investment (including software). This was the pilot centre, and has 20 counters. Centres in other locations, which have an average of 10 counters, have required an average investment of US$48,000.

The average monthly recurrent expenditure incurred by each centre comes to US$1,340, which includes hardware maintenance charges and payments on account of rent, electricity, etc. These costs are borne centrally by the Department of IT. The salaries of the Service Officers are an additional recurrent cost, covered by those government departments that collect payments at the centres. FRIENDS centres can also be used for payments to BSNL (a Government of India-owned telecommunications company). BSNL does not provide staff at the centres; instead, it provides a transaction payment of roughly 12 cents per BSNL-related transaction, giving an average monthly income for each centre of US$250.

It has been calculated that, with FRIENDS, citizens need to spend an average of only 35% of the cost involved in making separate payments at department counters. By saving on travel costs, costs of using agents, and related costs, citizens using FRIENDS centres therefore make an average monthly saving of about US$1 per citizen. Moreover, on average, citizens save about 42 minutes of their time every month. On average, each centre deals with around 400 citizen transactions per day.

The level of satisfaction could be gauged from the fact that 97.4 % of users prefer FRIENDS to department counters according to surveys undertaken. The increased participation of women customers is also a positive contribution. Moreover, the project in itself was able to convince 80.1% of the user-citizens of the possibilities of ICTs in providing better citizen services. It has also demonstrated that, with appropriate training, skill upgradation and technology, existing government employees can deliver better services.

Project Contact:

Kerala State Information Technology Mission

E-Sringla: An Information Kiosk Scheme in South India


The application involved setting up a one-stop, Web-enabled portal for information and services relating to the government-citizen interface. The application involved hosting the portal on a Web server with good connectivity and providing a set of information kiosks to access this information and services all over the state of Kerala in South India, thus creating an "e-shringhla" ("electronic chain") of information and e-governance. The project was undertaken by Keltron, the Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd.; a public sector hardware manufacturer and provider of e-governance and other ICT solutions.

Application Description

eShringhla involved collecting information from various government departments regarding the schemes and programmes being implemented by them relating to common citizens and hosting the details on the Web portal. Forms commonly used to apply for government services or assistance were made available for download. Further, the server was connected to back-office applications in the concerned departments, thus permitting online application in some cases, especially processes not requiring original or identification documents. The portal also enabled low-level e-commerce activity for products from rural areas, and specific interaction activities, e.g. counselling on agricultural practices or health practices, creation of rural discussion fora, etc.

Application Purpose

eShringhla was created to bridge the proverbial digital divide and use ICT to make government and government processes/services more accessible and transparent. Apart from the digital divide, the project was also intended to bridge social divides like gender divide, caste and community divide, economic divide etc. in dispensation of government services to its citizens in a social milieu of inequality such as that found in India.

Impact: Costs and Benefits

There were costs involved in setting up the server and connectivity and some kiosks. Additional costs were involved in developing the portal and collection of data from various departments relating to details to be put on the portal. The total costs of these items for the pilot project are estimated to be around around US$100,000. The benefits of the project have been growing awareness of using ICT for providing services in many government departments. While the initial service was started with just one or two government departments, more departments are now coming forward to join the initiative. Village-level local bodies have come forward to invest in the kiosks for their villages. As yet, most information on the portal is in English, but work is progressing on loading material in Malayalam, the main local language.

Enablers/Critical Success Factors

1. Community demand. Given Kerala's large non-resident population (particularly based in the Middle East) combined with low prices for Internet telephony, there has been a natural attraction of citizens in rural areas to the kiosks.


Project Contact: :






SETU or the Citizen Facilitation Centre is a one-stop service centre for citizens who have to visit government offices for certificates, permits, authentication, affidavits and other services. It was set up by the government of Maharashtra state in India in the city of Aurangabad (population c. 1m). In the local language, SETU means a ‘bridge’ to connect the administration with the general public. At present, citizens spend a lot of time moving from one office to another or from one table to another in the same office to submit their application and documents, making enquiries about their case and completing other related formalities. At times, they take the help of local agents who charge some fee and help them in writing and submitting the applications. These agents mostly operate without any legal authority. The Centre therefore attempts to apply ICTs to provide greater transparency, accessibility and efficiency to the procedures in decision making. It also makes use of the Web to make information available to the clients. The Centre has 15 computers, 10 printers and a staff of 28 persons including technical personnel, assistants and clerks. There are 10 counters for citizens to present their applications.

Application Description

The District Collector in India heads the government administration in a district, and acts as the nodal agency for most government schemes and programmes. The general public comes to the Collectorate or office of the District Collector and subordinate offices for a variety of certificates, permits and other important documents. The Citizen Facilitation Centre started in October 2001. A total of 34 types of certificates were identified that are issued by the district and sub-district offices. The most important and frequently issued certificates are the ones related to domicile, nationality, caste, age verification, solvency, character verification, income and occupation. The applicant gives his/her application at the counter where the operator enters key data and makes an initial scrutiny. If the information is complete, the applicant is given a token bearing a unique number and the date of response. The certificate is given after further scrutiny of the application. Service charges are liable to be refunded if the certificate is delayed.

Apulki Seva Sanstha, an NGO, has been given the job of running the Centre, charging a small fee for its services. This organisation also spent US$14,500 out of its own funds to purchase computers and related accessories. The Centre works on holidays and after office hours on a two-shift basis.

Application Purpose

The main objective is the provision of important public services to citizens under a common platform with more efficiency in ‘a non-hostile environment felt necessary to reduce the number of visits’. Another objective is greater transparency in office procedures. Faster decision making and disposal of files relating to the general public is necessary to increase the productivity of public offices. Indirect employment generation has been cited as another goal.


Project Details:





When everyone in India was celebrating birth of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, 1997, Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT Madras was stunned to read in the newspapers that the spectrum (1880-1900 MHz band) granted for his wireless project was no longer available, since it belonged exclusively to the military.

For Jhunjhunwala and his two IIT Madras colleagues in the Telecommunications and Computer Networking (TeNeT) group, this meant that all the money and time invested in the project was lost forever.

"More than the money, we were concerned about the time," says Jhunjhunwala. "We had to get back to the drawing board and start from scratch. It would take at least another two years of effort to come out with a cost-effective wireless solution for this country," he says.

Jhunjhunwala and his colleagues had a tough time convincing key decision-makers to give them the frequency clearance, even though defense authorities were more than eager to do their bit for an indigenously developed wireless system. The professor's team went through many such hardships before the project made headway.



Early Days

Shortly after he began teaching at IIT Madras in 1981, Ashok Jhunjhunwala goaded some of his colleagues to start looking at the wireless industry. "Most of us were very theoretical people. We had not built anything, developed anything," says the professor.

Luckily for him, Chennai-based WS Industries recognized the talent of the IIT team and helped them build multiplexers, which they were importing at the time. "With the large army of students, [and] some project staff, [we] started dabbling things," says Jhunjhunwala.

He realized soon that most of the imported technology was of limited value in India because it was not affordable for most people.


Ask him what his project is all about or how his team is trying to transform the telecom business in this country, he will quickly open his laptop to display a convincing PowerPoint presentation. As he explains his project amid a torrent of figures, his eyes light up.

"A telephone [service] operator today spends around Rs 30,000 per line to provide telecom services to a subscriber," he says, adding, "Taking into account finance charges on the investment, 15 percent, depreciation, 10 percent, and operation and maintenance cost, 10 percent, an operator needs at least 35 percent of the initial investment as yearly revenue just to break even. Add to this the license fees and taxes, and the revenue per subscriber needs to be at least Rs.1,000 per month. Now, what percentage of Indian households can afford to pay this much? Barely 1 to 3 percent.


How does one then dream of 200 million connections?"

"If you bring down the investment needed for a phone line to Rs 10,000," hopes Jhunjhunwala, "affordability of telephones could immediately go up to 30 percent of our population."


The TeNet Group

For Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala, the challenge was to build a dedicated, core research team at IIT Madras. He had worked with Professor Bhaskar Rammurthi and Professor Timoty A. Ghonsalves on various projects.
The trio formed the "Telecommunications and Computer Networking" (TeNeT) group, and by 1991 Jhunjhunwala and his colleague Ramamurthi were on the lookout for potential research topics.
Newspapers, magazines and technical journals carried articles on "wireless in the local loop" (WiLL) technology. They also heard the then-secretary of telecom talk about the importance of this technology for India.
"We started looking at all the wireless local loop systems available across the world. We were not happy with any of those systems, both in terms of cost and performance. This meant that we [had to] build an indigenous WiLL system," says Rammurthi.

This turned out to be no ordinary task. "Unfortunately there was not too much knowledge in the country to build [these] products. In the beginning, we ourselves didn't believe that we could build products that worked. Very soon, we learned the art of building products [that] worked not only in labs but also out in the field. Then we had to learn to build products [that] could be manufactured in volume and commercialized. We learned the processes step by step," Jhunjhunwala says.

The TeNet group now consists of 12 professors supported by more than 100 researchers, engineers and other technical staff at IIT Madras.


Connectivity Inc.

Building corDECT technology was not the end game for Jhunjhunwala. The TeNet Group has incubated a few companies ¾ Midas Communication Technologies, Banyan Networks, n-Logue Communications. corDECT is central to these companies' business models. They are managed and run by Jhunjhunwala's former students and entrepreneurs who have been inspired by his infectious optimism.
Big telecom operators are reluctant to invest in rural India, since they see no large business opportunity. But another Jhunjhunwala inspired company n-Logue Communications is going against that preconception.
The firm has fashioned a franchise-based business model that puts the farmer-entrepreneur in the driver's seat. n-Logue offers low-priced "kiosk packages" consisting of a corDECT wall set, a computer, printer, telephone and backup battery.

The kiosks essentially function as combination rural Internet cafes and pay-phone booths. A local service provider (LSP) works in tandem with n-Logue and controls individual kiosk operators within a region.

n-Logue is presently moving from its successful pilot phase to commercial ramp-up. It is currently signing up two to three new franchisee per month. P. G. Ponnapa, CEO of n-Logue predicts that most LSPs will find 500 to 700 subscribers within a 25-kilometer radius, making the investment worthwhile.

It is another company - Midas - that provides corDECT WiLL technology to large manufacturers. It has licensed the technology to five companies for commercial production - HFCL, Shyam Telecom, Crompton Greeves, ECIL and ITI Bangalore. Midas has deployed corDECT WiLL technology in parts of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as well as 11 other countries across the world. The company is implementing projects to the tune of 60,000 lines in Madagascar, Fiji, Kenya and Brazil.

Ashok Jhunjhunwala constantly dreams about his "100 million" telephones. Could he be another Sam Pitroda? The professor's dream of all Indian villages being networked with the corDECT technology is moving toward reality. "If we can 't change it then who else will?" he says.



100 Million Telephones

by Pradeep B S, siliconindia , April 2002

Project Contact:

Dr Ashok Jhunjhunwala,

Professor and Head, Department of Electrical Engineering,

IIT-Madras, Chennai.

Email or

Tel: (44) 235 2120 (OF) or 235 3202 / 445 9355 (R)

PG Ponnapa, Chief Executive Officer n-Logue Communications Private Limited,

Adyar Chennai.


Ph 445 5210/12/21/23





This project, named "TARAhaat" after the all-purpose haat (meaning a village bazaar), comprises a commercially viable model for bringing relevant information, products and services via the Internet to the unserved rural market of India from which an estimated 50% of the national income is derived.

The Development Alternatives Group promotes TARAhaat. The DA Group has a staff of more than 400, including 150 professionals with postgraduate degrees in engineering, sociology, marketing, and management. TARAhaat is fortunate to have the entire staff of the DA Group available for the design, implementation and operating management of the portal and its associated services.


Project Description

TARAhaat combines a mother portal,, supported by franchised networks of village cybercafes and delivery systems to provide a full range of services its clients. The subsidiary units include:

TARAdhaba - will provide the villager connectivity and access to a new world.

TARAbazaar - will provide access to products and services needed by rural households, farmers, and industries.

TARAvan - will deliver goods ordered.

TARAdak - will connect the rural families to the daughter married far off and to the son posted on the front.

TARAguru - a decentralized university will provide mentoring and consultancy to village-based mini- enterprises.

TARAscouts / TARAreporter - will collect relevant information for the portal.

TARAvendor - will run the store that will cater to products available at Tarabazaar.
TARAcard - will enable the villager to order goods and services on credit.

In the absence of efficient infrastructure for transport and communication, information is hard to come by and market options are not clearly or widely known. Even if something is available, somewhere, information on where and when and for how much, is not - in effect making it inaccessible. There is no instrument more effective than the Internet for bringing both jobs and information to the rural economy - bringing the buyer and seller together and creating an efficient marketplace.


The look and feel of TARAhaat is carefully designed to attract and retain users of all kinds: farmers, traders, housewives, senior citizens, and children. The primary interface will be both graphic (using specially-designed pictures and icons that are attractive, colorful and animated) and voice-based to ensure that everyone, regardless of their level of literacy, can quickly learn to take advantage of the system. Input will be by mouse click and, for the more literate, from the keyboard. Simple voice recognition software will in due course allow ordinary commands to be given to the computer. Use of headphones will enable users to receive voice mail messages or other information with privacy never before available in village life. In the pilots, to be conducted in MP and UP, the text will be available in Hindi and English. During the rollout, other languages will be added, according to the needs of each region.

The cherry-picking strategy of Indian ISP's has so far left the large rural market almost entirely without Internet connectivity. Where local connectivity is not available, TARAhaat will provide access via C-band satellite. Very Small Aperture Satellite Dishes (VSAT) will be installed at strategic locations in the test area and will function as POPs - especially in those areas where a local telephone service exists. In due course, when GOI allows Ku-band service and as other satellite technologies are deployed, TARAhaat will migrate to the optimal low cost access solution. As part of the beta pilot, Hughes Escorts has committed to provide 5 dishes to be set up at selected locations in the test area.

Payment for the different types of transaction made possible by TARAhaat will be largely by cash (which research over the past 20 years shows to be more easily- though somewhat seasonally - available in rural and peri-urban areas than is commonly supposed). However, the TARAcard, which provides a highly prized photo ID to each villager, will in time become a local credit card, particularly in dealings with the TARAdhaba and TARAvan. As the TARAhaat network expands, the TARAcard can become a more widely used method of payment for goods, services and financial transactions, potentially evolving into a SmartCard with medical and other records resident on it.

The impact of TARAhaat will be felt on several different levels: family, agriculture, and youth.

For the family this venture provides a window to the world, enabling them to connect locally to international information, health, matrimonial, and mailing services. The farmer benefits are through weather forecasting, procurement services, and sales negotiations. The younger generation benefits through career counseling, entertainment, and educational and career opportunities.



Project Contact:

Rakesh Khanna

TARAhaat Information and Marketing Services Ltd.

B-32, Tara Crescent,

Qutab Institutional Area,

New Delhi - 110 016







Knowledge knows no boundaries and there is no set pattern for disseminating it; it could even be through a 'hole in the wall'. This may seem unbelievable, but it's true. Thanks to the educationists of a computer-education company, the poor and unlettered children in Salundi, a modest but most backward village in Mysore taluk, have learnt the basic computer skills and even managed to surf the Internet. The Cognitive Engineering Research Center, a part of NIIT, has undertaken an experiment in the village which is showing amazing findings about the potential of uneducated children to take to computers. The objective: to check if people would be interested in using an unmanned Internet-based kiosk on an outdoor location, sans instructions. As the computer was accessible from outside through an opening in the wall, Sugata Mitra, the man behind the experiment, named it 'Hole-In-The-Wall'. In Karnataka, it is the first experiment. NIIT plans to extend it to Varuna near T Narasipura, Maddur in Mandya, Melkote and two other places, said S Venkat, Director of NIIT, Mysore. The first experiment of teaching computing skills to underprivileged children was conducted at Kalkaji in New Delhi, he said. A hole was made in the boundary wall of NIIT office in Salundi and a kiosk set up. It has been attracting children from 0-18 years from day one, he said. The days begin as early as 5 am for these children. Inquisite children who do not go to school and a few who go to the Government schools that lack resources and good teachers, have made a beeline here. These children are not familiar with the English language. Yet, they took to the computer and began experimenting with various applications and switching from one website to another. The results of the experiment have been astounding. According to Venkat, in just three weeks of setting up the kiosk, the children were found to have achieved certain level of computer skills sans any planned instructional intervention. They were able to browse the Net and work on MS Paint. Interestingly, they have invented their own vocabulary to define terms on the computer. For instance, 'Mullu' (needle) for the cursor, 'pegu' (page) for websites and 'drummu' (drum) for the hourglass symbol. Some school-going children were able to discover and accomplish tasks like creating folders, cutting and pasting, creating shortcuts, moving/resizing Windows and using MS Word to draft short messages. Some parents in the village felt the computer was good for their children. The kiosk is still operational with an average response of 50 children per day, said Venkat. Initially, villagers had no inkling about the purpose of the kiosk built into the wall. "I don't think they quite understood what we wanted to do. Most children thought it was a video game put up for free,'' said Babu, who monitors the unit. Did anyone say you can't master a computer without training?


Source: Logging in through a 'hole in the wall' 17 August 2002, Mysore, India Source: Times of India

Project Contact:

Dr Sugata Mitra

Centre for Research in Cognitive Systems,


Synergy Building,

IIT Campus,

New Delhi 110 016

Telephone: 2658 1002

Fax: 2620 3333






"VoGram," or an application that allows a person to send a voice telegram, could change the communication scene by connecting India's largely rural and illiterate masses.

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have sold the license for the application to a private company that would enable the emotion of voice to be conveyed in a telegram.

"VoGram" would improve connectivity in rural India, where some 85,000 post offices without a telephone connection cater to the needs of the people.

"We still have a long way to go before the costly cellular services and telephone penetration reaches the masses. Until then, people could benefit from this application, the license for which has been given to ILI technologies," K.V.S. Hari of IISc's electrical and communication engineering department told IANS.

India has 115,000 post offices, the largest in the world, but only 25,000 have a telephone connections, making telegrams take that much longer to reach the recipient.

"The application, if accepted by the postal department, would shorten the time significantly," says Sira G. Rao, chairman of ILI technologies, a 15-month-old company in India's tech capital.

"This is not path-breaking technology. It's only an application that we developed after 18 months of work. Instead of the curt, sometimes cold, messages conveyed through a telegram, voice would convey the emotion in multiple languages," adds Hari.

The application is a marriage of speech compression, Internet and store and forward messaging ideas. All a person needs to do is to call up the VoGram call centre, record a voice message using a simple card that compresses the voice message.

The compressed file is sent through the Internet to the post-office close to the recipients' address. The post-office could either take out the print out and deliver the message to the recipient or the receiver could call up a local number free of charge, use an access code given by the postman and hear the VoGram.

Or, better still, if the postman has a Simputer (developed by IISc professors with Encore Software) play the voice message to the recipient at home.

"The postal department has responded favourably to our proposal. This is a niche market where accessibility is a problem. But it is difficult for us to put a figure on the market potential for this," says Rao.

ILI technologies has tied up with the state-owned Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) to market the product.

"The revenue generating potential is tremendous," adds Hari. The institute's society of innovation and development and ILI technologies have signed a memorandum of understanding to work on add-ons.

"The way it works is that we give the license to ILI and, in turn, they pay us royalty which goes directly to the department," adds S. Mohan, chief executive of the society.


Source: 'VoGram' to connect India's rural, illiterate masses

By Imran Qureshi, Indo-Asian News Service

Project Contact

Electrical and communication engineering department,

Indian Institute of Science,








There's miles to go yet. But a beginning has been made. The cyber revolution that already has urban India in its grip, is slowly but surely making its foray into the villages and irrevocably changing lives. If the fishermen of Veerapattinam near Pondicherry were earlier at the mercy of nature each time they set out in their boats, now they know for sure what to expect of the weather, the waves and what it will throw up by way of a catch, courtesy the PC. In tribal Tejgadh, Naginbhai Rathwa is eagerly awaiting the day he can tap the Internet for info on tribal civilisations around the world. Wishful thinking? No more. The promise of connectivity which has already shrunk the world is at long last ringing true in the countryside.

Hooked to the Net

It is no longer a case of 'access denied' for eight villages around Pondicherry

Partheeban picks his way through the early morning darkness of Veerapattinam, a coastal village 15 km from Pondicherry city, and heads towards the local panchayat office. It's the start of another day of catching fish on the high seas. As the fisherman shuffles along, he is joined by his mates. Together they file into the panchayat office, where virtually the entire community of fisherfolk has already congregated around a computer.

Since 1998, thanks to the Chennai-based M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), and its Information Village Research Project (IVRP), Partheeban and his friends venture out to sea armed with more than just their nets and the odd first-aid kit. An operator at the information centre which is housed in the panchayat office, works the keyboard and mouse to keep them supplied with data pertaining to the weather, fish density, wave height and turbulence. The information has done wonders for business. "Now we can get to the right place at the right time, and get a good catch," says Partheeban.
The fisherfolk of Veerapattinam and seven other villages in and around PondicherryÑVillianur, Thiru- kanchipet, Kizhur, Embalam, Kalitheerthalkupam, Pillayarkupam, and PooranamkuppamÑare all praise for IVRP, which is funded by the International Development Research Centre in Canada. Each village has an information centre, with Villianur acting as the hub, connected to the MSSRF Centre via Intranet. The MSSRF funds the equipment and supplies expert guidance, while the villagers provide office space and four volunteers to man a centre.

In most of the villages, information received from Villianur by voice mail is broadcast over a public address system. Villagers have grown used to hearing the market price of paddy come booming over loudspeakers. And they never forget to scribble down the names of approved pesticides and fertilisers being announced. The speakers also crackle to life with information that employment opportunitiesÑdownloaded from the Pondicherry Employment Exchange siteÑare available at the village information centre. "This is great," says Boopalan, who along with 18-year-old Sivashakti are the volunteers at MSSRF's centre in Thirukanchipet, a Dalit village. "Most often, we missed out on opportunities only because we did not know they existed. Not anymore." He cited the case of 15 youth from Veerapattinam who applied in the police services after hearing the announcement of a recruitment drive.
From providing lists of veterinarians and doctors, to bus timings, locations of various hospitals and news of goods for barter or sale, IVRP has irrevocably changed villagers' lifestyles. While some like K. Jagadeesan drop in at the centre "only to find out what computers are all about," there are an increasing number of women who come with health-related queries, and students who want to check an exam result, browse through educational CDs or learn to design slides on Power Point.
Kalaichelvi, a farmer's wife from Kizhur, recalls the time when their sugarcane crop was struck by a disease. All they had to do was trudge up to their information centre where an entomologist came online to identify the disease and suggest remedial steps. "Similarly when our cattle fell ill during the monsoon, we were guided by a specialist [a vet]," says Kalaichelvi.

MSSRF also helps those interested in starting a business. It was through their backing that Lakshmi and five women from Kizhur began Nesam, an incense manufacturing unit.

As in the case of most such wired village projects, lack of telephone lines and an erratic power supply do play spoilsport. However, MSSRF has been able to work around these difficulties. "Wireless sets connect the villages, so that solves the telephone problem," explains R. Rajasekarapandy, a social scientist who coordinates operations from the MSSRF hub in Villianur. The impact of power failures, including a daily 98-minute power cut, is minimised because 60 per cent of the project work is fuelled by solar power with a back-up provision of 11 hours.

Companies like Motorola have supported the project by donating two-way radio despatch equipment to improve connectivity. Motorola also presented its Dispatch Solution Award for innovative applications of two-way radios to Prof. Swaminathan who conceived IVRP as part of MSSRF's larger BioVillage project.
By all accounts, from fishermen and farmers to pigtailed schoolgirls and their uneducated mothers it is no longer a case of "access denied".


Source: The Week, Dec 31, 2000

Project Contact:

Mr Senthilkumaran

Associate Director

Informatics Division / Information Village Research Project

M S Swaminathan Research Foundation

3rd Cross Road, Institutional Area, Taramani, Chennai 600 113

Fax: 044 - 2541319






Ushering in the IT revolution to villages where more than 70 per cent of the Indian population lives, is a dream that has come true at Warna in the Kolhapur District of Maharashtra. The special IT Task force set up by the Prime Minister recommended modernising the cooperative movement through use of state-of-the-art Information technology. This led to the "Wired Village" project initiated by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The key objective of the project is to demonstrate the effective contribution of an IT infrastructure to the socioeconomic development of a cluster of 70 contiguous villages around Warna Nagar in the Kolhapur and Sangli Districts of Maharashtra.


The project aims to:

Utilise IT to increase the efficiency and productivity of the existing cooperative enterprise by setting up a state-of-the-art computer communication network.

Provide agricultural, medical, and educational information to villages at Facilitation Booths in their villages.

Provide communication facilities at the booths to link villages to the Warana cooperative complex.
Bring the world’s knowledge at the doorstep of villagers through the Internet via the National Informatics Centre Network.

Provide distance education to both primary and higher educational institutes; and
Establish a Geographic Information System (GIS) of the surrounding 70 villages leading to greater transparency in administration especially in matters related to land.


For centuries farmers here have cultivated sugar cane, and the cane fields dominate the countryside, feeding the sweet tooth of one billion Indians. Farmers pride themselves on producing more sugar per acre than anywhere else in India.

By participating in the government project to plug 70 villages into the Internet, Warna's sugar cane farmers are among the first in the country to embrace the
high-tech wave.


'Really wired!

With computers in all the villages, the farmers are linked to a central network. Suddenly, connectivity is changing a centuries-old way of life.

"Computers are not just decorative items. They are useful for the farmer," says a farmer. "We check ... details, sitting in the village. Earlier we used to go to the factory to check for the bill."
Through the network, farmers get a daily weather report, learn what fertilizer to use, and access the sale price of several other crops, which helps them decide what to plant next.
Soon, they will be able to use the network to diagnose crop diseases.

Life has changed dramatically in recent months for Jagannath Jadhav. A sugarcane farmer from Bahirewadi village in Panchala taluk of Kolhapur district, he would start worrying when his crop was ready for cutting. And like his fellow farmers in this sugar bowl of Maharashtra, he would wait restlessly for the day when the nearby sugar cooperative collected it. No longer.
All that the 50-something man has to do now is walk over to the village booth and inform the computer operator that his crop is ready. The rest will be taken care of by the Information Technology revolution that is sweeping across the lush valley of the Warna river.

Warna's farmers relish their role as high-tech pioneers. In Jhadav's village alone, 450 farmers are accessing computers, using them to save time, avoid mistakes, boost productivity.

Most of the village-level operators are either local residents or from Kolhapur. Recalls Karan Gatade, a software engineer and resident of Satave village: "I studied at Aptech, and later on went to Mumbai. I worked there for nearly four years. But as soon as I came to know about the project, I felt this sudden urge to return to my roots and share my knowledge with my fellow brethren."

Now the farmers of Warna have no desire to keep the advancements secret; they want the 700 million Indians who live in the countryside to also have access to computers, believing it will help raise living standards across India as others discover the economic benefits of high-speed information.



Project Contact:

Ramchandra Mahuli at Warana in Maharashtra:


Amitabh Dev at National Informatics Centre, Pune:

020- 5534832



Among the NGOs, the Bangalore-based VOICES has taken a leading role in advocating a legislation which will pave the way for independent community broadcasting in India. These efforts received a major boost in February 1995, when the Supreme Court made a landmark judgment on broadcasting. The highest court of India declared that the airwaves should be regarded as "a public good". Thus, they should not be subjected neither to a government monopoly, nor to exclusive use by commercial enterprises. The Supreme Court recommended that an independent, autonomous, public authority should be established to regulate the use of frequencies.


VOICES received UNESCO support to introduce a regular community radio programme through the local AIR radio station.



VOICES website

Project Contact:

Ashish Sen :





In Palamau, a part of the new state of Jharkhand, Leelawati is among a handful of unlettered adults preparing for a new life ahead. Taking time off her daily grind of household chores, she is one of three rural women in a group of 14 village reporters working for Palamau's community radio project. And she's performing rather well. During the past, diarrhoea had taken a toll of 50 lives in the district. So, today, Leelawati is quizzing the doctor on preventive measures the villagers should adopt. These are early days for community radio in the 45 villages of Palamau. In August 2001, two local NGOs - Alternatives for India Development (AID) and Manthan Yuva Sangathan- joined hands to launch Chala Ho Gaon Mein, a half- hour community broadcast on All India Radio. An NGO, AID, and city-slick journalists lend technical support to the programme Manthan. The National Foundation for India (NFI), a grant- making organisation, strategically and financially backs the initiative. NFI's foray into community radio comes at a time when radio broadcasting is still state-managed. But it sees a tremendous scope for harnessing radio broadcasting technology for grassroots development and community empowerment. A majority of the population on the district lives on the edge of poverty. Less than a third of the women folk do know how to read and write. Most of the menfolk migrate to the cities in search of manual labour. Developmental infrastructure hardly exists in the area, and wherever it does, it is in a shambles: the roads are damaged, power supply erratic, state-sponsored food distribution schemes ill-managed and hand-pumps are the only source of water. Socially too, Palamau is India's badland. Naxal guerrillas like MCC and PWG rule by the gun. Before the programme went on air, NFI, with its partners, scouted the villages for volunteers. It also conducted a series of workshops to educate villagers. The search ended with 14 volunteers offering their services as rural reporters. The community threw up issues that concerned them the most - children. It was tough to involve children in the programme when a majority of them felt inhibited to speak on a microphone, or articulate their views in the open. So, what has NFI's community radio project achieved? And what has been its experience in partnering state-owned radio? In the past six months, hundreds of letters have poured in. And many more listeners have even written to take the programme to their villages that fall beyond the targeted 45. As for partnering the state-managed All India Radio, in the absence of freedom to set up independent radio stations, NFI has attempted to use the state-owned infrastructure and show how radio can be imaginatively used for social development and empower communities. Chala Ho Gaon Mein has been on air for six months now. There is a lot of excitement among the villagers and a curiosity to know what comes next. For the first time, villagers from this area are participating in a community initiative and are getting to hear their own voices on the radio. This is a whole new experience for them. These villages go dark after sunset as they have no access to electricity, telephone lines are yet to roll out, children have not seen a blackboard. Now, the only link with the outside world is a radio set. A recent internal impact study across 374 villages reveal that 98 per cent of the village folk listen to the programme regularly, 81 per cent of the listeners feel the programme is very good and maximum number of listeners appreciate the social dramas and folk songs through which they would like to discuss their problems. Several others want the duration and frequency to be increased from its present 7:20 pm Sunday slot. Really, that's a sound beginning.



Project Contact:

Mr.Ramraj/ Sanjay Kumar

Alternative For India Development

High School Road

Lesliganj, Palamau district

Jharkhand 822 118

Phone :06562-82631

E-mail :-





AAAAIIIIIIIIII! A scream rents the air! One more bride burnt to death. Another dowry death in another village. The listeners shake their heads in resignation. The situation is all too familiar. But it has never been discussed openly before, much less broadcast in the village.

The radio play they’re listening to, part of ‘Mana Radio’s’ first broadcast, provokes a debate among the villagers. They discuss their personal experiences with dowry deaths and clearly relate to the characters and the elegy. It is obvious that the broadcast will not stop these killings overnight, but at least it has brought the issue into the open for a public debate.


Mana Radio is a community radio station run by members of the women’s Self Help Groups (SHG) in Orvakal village, Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh, India. The SHG members actively involved in running the station are all from rural poor families, mostly Dalits and minorities. Many of these women are minimally educated and have had no media production exposure whatsoever. They, however, are now capable of producing varied radio content. The women hope that the radio will help them better deal with the issues facing them and in spreading awareness.

Realizing the role that Community Media can play in development, empowerment and the right to information, SERP (Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty) decided to setup community broadcast centers under the World Bank funded ‘Velugu’ program.

“Community Media is a tool that can be used to strengthen cultural rights, especially the rights of marginalized communities. It is an important tool for those who are traditionally un-represented by mainstream media, providing them access to the means of communication,” believes CEO, SERP, K. Raju.

The women that make up the membership of Orvakal’s Mandal Samakhya (MS) are very dynamic. Many of them have courageously battled their poverty situation to rise to a level of self-sustenance. They had all taken control of their lives in a less than conducive environment. Many had set the agenda for development by taking strong stands against the issues that were holding them back--gender and caste discrimination, alcoholism, illiteracy, child-labor and debilitating poverty. It was only natural for them to move one step further and produce their own media rather than blindly consume everything that mainstream media pushes onto them. The programming is done in the local idiom, using local, voices, artists, situations and images, making it more recognizable to the community. The local community identifies with this local flavor and is motivated to discuss the issues presented in the programs.


Tajunisa Bi, member Orvakal VO (Village Organization), feels that “the programs will make people pay attention to local problems and might help solve them faster. Rather than going from door to door to talk to the people individually, we can cover the entire village with only one broadcast. And the format makes listening more interesting too.”

When the women of the Orvakal MS found out they would be getting their own radio station they were very excited. They still talk about how they gathered to discuss what the station would broadcast, what people would expect and how they would make it work. They had a lot of questions. “Can we listen to it on any radio? Will we be able to hear it throughout the village? How can we make programs about the groups and conduct trainings using the radio? Is it possible to use it to tell (SHG) members about (SHG) meetings?” They seem to have affirmatively answered their own queries quite effectively.


Trying to grasp the basics of radio programming was a daunting task for the SHG members. It is difficult enough for an educated, urban dweller, let alone people who had spent most of their lives without electricity. The women took on the challenge anyway. With the help of CALA (Cultural Action for Literacy and Awareness) an NGO, SERP organized a three-day workshop on issue identification, confidence building, voice modulation, and scripting for radio. At the end of the workshop the women wrote and recorded their first program.

The first program had a message by the Velugu minister and the SERP CEO and was followed by the various sections-- News, Play, Interviews, Songs and a Documentary. The program even had a song from a group of Meghalayans, who were in Orvakal learning to form and sustain SHGs and VOs. Another highlight of the program was an interview with the students from the Bhavita School--the child-labor bridge school. The interviewer dwelt on their experiences as laborers, their transition to student life and their plans for the future. After the interview the girls sang a motivational song that they had learnt from a group from Nellore. Proving that songs educate and inspire collective action, many of the listeners started singing along with their radios the moment they heard the first few bars.


The topics the women plan to cover are diverse--education, gender and caste sensitization, agriculture, health, history and culture. And they plan to use various methods to convey their messages--documentaries, plays, songs, jokes, humor and interviews.

Local happenings and news; localized news on health; local agricultural news and weather updates; local commodity prices; folk songs, myths, stories: commercial media broadcasters would never air this content, dealing specifically with a particular village. But all these topics would find a place on Mana Radio. The information, being region specific, would therefore be more reliable and accurate.

Mana Radio has already received many messages of support and encouragement. Letters came from around the state and emails from Bangalore, Bombay, the USA and Canada, hailing the effort as a step ahead for development, women’s empowerment and the community radio movement. Lakshmi Prasanna, the youngest budding broadcaster, feels very gratified with all the good wishes and encouragement. “When we started I was not very confident,” she admits, “but hearing that so many people believe in us and receiving all these messages has made me feel more confident.”

As a tool the women immediately recognized the uses they can put the radio station to. They sit excitedly discussing all the programs that they will make and the impact that these will have on the village. Zubeida Bi wants to interview various Government officials. “I want to ask them about their pro-poor initiatives and the successes of these programs, if any. Tajunisa wants to make her next program on watersheds and Lakshmi Prasanna is preparing to document folk songs and stories from the mandal.

This community broadcast center gives the villagers the means to control the information that they receive, a tool that has traditionally been in the hands of the rich. Using the radio the women hope to be able to spread information about the issues faced by the rural poor in programs made by those who know the problems best…the rural poor.



Project Contact:

Ms Meera Shenoy

Advisor, Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty, Hyderabad




DDS and Community Radio

A short introduction by P V Satheesh, Director, Deccan Development Society


Under the Regular Programme special project "Women speaking to women community radio" the Deccan Development Society (DDS) was supported with funds and technical expertise to establish a community radio station in Pashtapur, 100 kilometres south of Hydrabad, the provincial capital of Andrapradesh. Deccan Development Society is an NGO entrusted with the implementation of the elements of UNESCO's Learning without Frontiers Programme and is expected to utilise the women managed community radio station to be a part of the LWF programme. DDS has involved around 70 women organisations, most of which are organised by low cast Dalit women, in managing and production of programmes for this radio station. Currently the studio facilities are being used to produce and distribute audiocassettes on numerous issues related to women empowerment.


However, the actual radio broadcasting at the station, in spite of its long time readiness to go on air, has been hampered because the Central Government has not approved DDS request for a community broadcasting licence. The government is currently discussing the new broadcasting legislation under which it might be possible to issue a licence to Pashtapur Women's radio.


Many global examples demonstrate the potential and viability of community radio. Apart from India’s own experiences in rural broadcasting, many of these could also serve as models for similar initiatives in India outside the state framework. The Supreme Court’s reaffirmation in 1995 that the airwaves are public property has re-energized the movement towards a media based on community participation in a non-profit mode.


The Bangalore Declaration on Radio of September, 1996 has stressed how community radio would: “besides educating and entertaining people, connect people with people through participatory or circular communication, connect with organizations and communities, and finally, connect people with government and public service agencies”.


The recent decision of the Government of India to auction FM radio frequencies in different parts of the country to the private sector has while opening up the available media space, does not address the issue of offering licenses to non-governmental, non-corporate community radio stations. It is in anticipation of the expansion of this policy to include community organizations, the Deccan Development Society (DDS) in Zaheerabad (Medak dist), Andhra Pradesh proposes the setting up of a community radio station. The UNESCO has recognized the long services rendered by the DDS in the region with regard to empowerment and education of the poorest of the poor women and facilitated funding for establishing a radio station in Machnoor village.


The DDS project to establish a community radio is perfectly in accordance with the global recognition of the need to democratise the media of communication. The Milan Declaration on Communication and Human Rights passed at the 7 th World Congress of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters held in Milan, Italy in 1998 called for International recognition of the community broadcasting sector as an essential form of public service broadcasting and a vital contributor to media pluralism and freedom of expression and information.


Deccan Development Society (DDS) is a grassroots organization working with Sangams (village level groups) of poor women, most of who are Dalits. The Society has a vision of consolidating these village groups into vibrant organs of primary local governance and federate them into a strong pressure lobby for women, poor and Dalits. The Society facilitates a host of continuing dialogues and debates with the public, educational and training programmes to try to translate this vision into reality.


Women Speak to Women: DDS Community FM Radio

The poor dalit women who are members of the DDS sangams have their own expectations from a radio of their own. Their arguments are extraordinarily original and are unmatched for their logic. They have suggested that a radio of their own would provide more effectively a medium for articulating locally relevant issues, in their own language, and in their own time. For instance, many have felt that mainstream media have marginalized information specific to certain crops such as millets and other minor grain that are central to their food security and dietary requirements. For the women who are equipped with extraordinary oral narrative skills, radio is a natural medium. The rich cultural traditions of Telengana could be better sustained through a radio station that caters specially to the needs of the region.


Based on these felt needs and UNESCO’s interest in women’s development and democratisation of communication media, DDS was identified as a suitable partner for UNESCO’s “Women Speak to Women” project. As part of this, DDS has initiated necessary steps for establishing a radio station.


It is proposed to operationalise a low-cost radio station, subject to issuance of a license by the Government of India. The FM station is designed to work on the audio cassette technology. It has a 100 watts transmitter, which can reach a radius of 30 kms, which is roughly, the coverage area of DDS.

Once the station is in operation dalit women from 75 villages will own and operate it. They will bring their form and content into it and make it a tool for their horizontal communication with their communities as well as to reach out to the outside world. They have already recorded over 150 hours of programmes and are also editing them into one hour broadcast modules.

Programming content of the station seeks to serve the information, education, and cultural needs of the region. Programmes would promote the following:

Information specific to agricultural needs of semi-arid regions

Education and literacy – both formal and non-formal

Public health and hygiene

Environmental and ecological issues

Biodiversity and food security

Gender justice

Local/indigenous knowledge systems

Local cultures, with emphasis on the narrative traditions of song and drama

The DDS is currently being assisted by development and communication experts from universities in the region, such as the Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, the University of Hyderabad, Osmania University, the National Institute of Rural Development, and the B.R. Ambedkar Open University. Discussions are in progress about the possibility of linking with the Open University for broadcasting their educational material over the community radio station.


As the women get equipped with the capacities to express their thoughts, their knowledge and their vision for the future, a major breakthrough would have been made in providing a low cost communication technology for the education of deprived rural communities.



Project Contact:

Dr P V Satheesh

Deccan Development Society

Flat No.101, Kishan Residency,

1-11-242/1, Street No. 5,

Shyamlal Buildings Area


Hyderabad - 500 016

Andhra Pradesh

Telephone: 040-27764577, 040-27764744

Telefax: 040-27764722





 The radio serial Kunjal Paanje Kutchji [Sarus Crane of our Kutch] produced by Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan(KMVS) has been awarded the Chameli Devi Jain Award 2000 by the Media Foundation in New Delhi on March 29, 2001.

This weekly serial was the result of a highly rewarding collaboration between several persons and organizations. Scripted by Paresh Naik and mounted with the direction support of Drishti Media Collective in Ahmedabad, the serial was probably the first sustained effort at the use of radio for development by a voluntary organization in our country. Though scripted and directed with outside professional support, the program sought to provide a platform for local expression and dialogue - through participation by local communities in the drama, song, and news-reporting.

The Centre for Educational Innovation, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, supported KMVS in conducting village-based surveys to assess the impact of the radio program on the ground. The first survey conducted three months after broadcast indicated a dedicated listenership of 6%. After 10 months of broadcast, this figure had grown to 50% of surveyed Kutchis and 80% of the radio-owning population of Kutch.

After completing 53 episodes in December 2000, KMVS continues its intervention in radio through a new bi-weekly 15-minute radio program called "Tu Jiyaro Ain" (Tu Zinda Hai!) in March 2001 in the aftermath of the earthquake, once again with the support of Drishti Media Collective. The program is in a magazine format, featuring a range of interviews, songs and profiles, and is conceived as a platform for the eq-affected to air and share their concerns about rehabilitation.

For both these programs, broadcast from All India Radio-Bhuj, KMVS is financially supported by UNDP-GOI, including the cost of commercial airtime.




Project Contact:

Preeti Soni




Telemedicine Service in Pune Primary Health Centers


Those living in interior Pune villages will now be able to avail expert medical council well within their means, thanks to a unique telemedicine program.

The Pune district administration has teamed up with and Tata Council for Community Initiatives (TCCI) to launch a telemedicine service from a government primary healthcare center (PHC).

The service, says the Chief Executive Officer of Pune district administration V. Radha, will reduce the traveling time and expenditure of the poor villagers.

The villagers rush to big cities to meet specialist doctors. Since their relatives often accompany the patients, the cost mounts up. The service launched at three primary health centers is targeted at the rural masses, Radha told IANS.

There are 88 PHC's in Pune district, each manning five to six sub-centers. The PHC's are manned by two doctors each and equipped with basic medical facilities, including operation theatres, laboratory and a pharmacy. The staff consists of 15 personnel who travel to the sub-centers to implement government programs on primary health, vaccinations, leprosy and AIDS.

The telemedicine project, she said, will ultimately connect all the PHC's in the district. In the first phase, three PHC's in Wagholi, Chakan and Paud regions would be linked with the district administration of Pune and the specialists.

"If we have the headquarters connected with these PHC's, we can respond immediately. If there is an emergency, we can at least rush medicines. There are at least five to six doctors always present at the headquarters who can respond even if there are no specialists."

As part of the project, a two-day training program was conducted recently for 12 doctors. According to Chetan Shetty of, "These doctors along with the doctoranywhere team will train the key users of the computer and impart training about the software provided for telemedicine at each health center. A supervisor and nurse will also be trained," he told

IANS. He added that internet connectivity was not a problem in most districts of Maharashtra.

Suresh Ramu of said most PHC's were operational from the premises of the district administration run schools and most schools had computers that could be used to provide this service

Ten specialists (two each from each category) have been chosen from dermatology, nephrology, neurology, cardiology and gastroentrology. Doctors at the PHC's will refer complicated cases to the specialists in major cities who in turn will give their advice within 24 hours.

The TCCI has donated three Pentium computers for the pilot project. The district administration will provide computers to other PHC's.

The service will be started at the PHC's at Hole in Baramati tehsil, Otur in Junnar tehsil and Nirgudsar in Ambegaon tehsil within a month and in another 40 PHC's within a year, said Radha.



Bytes for All/India Abroad News Service

Project Contact:

A1, Hermes Vishal, Meera Nagar,

North Main Road, Koregaon Park,

Pune 411001, India.

Ph: 020-4001251, 6055393 .




Apollo Hospitals Telemedicine project, started in 2000 in a sleepy village in Andhra Pradesh, is now present in over 11 remote locations in India, connecting them to centres of medical excellence in Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai. The project has already benefited over 3749 patients. In a move that will strengthen the reach of medical excellence to the North-East region of the country, Apollo Hospitals Group recently launched its telemedicine link between Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals at Delhi and Naga Hospital at Kohima (Nagaland), the third consecutive link by the group to the region.

The Telemedicine Center at Nagaland has been set up by Apollo in collaboration with Marubeni India Pvt. Ltd. and the active support of the Ministry of Information and Technology.

The link will enable medical practitioners of the state to access expert advice from specialists at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, allowing for live and real time discussions of cases, ready transferability of medical records and images and even real time assistance from Delhi for complex procedures being undertaken at Kohima.

The Delhi-Kohima Telemedicine Link was inaugurated from Delhi by Pramod Mahajan, minister for Parliamentary affairs, Communications and Information Technology with S C Jamir, chief minister, Nagaland who presided at the inauguration from Kohima. Also present at Delhi were Rajeev Ratna Shah, secretary, Department of Information Technology and Dr Prathap C Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group.

Speaking at the launch, Mahajan said, “The need for quality healthcare is today emerging as one of the most fundamental issues for the nation. With medical centres of excellence located only at the major metros, it is imperative for the development of the nation that concepts such as telemedicine, that bridge these critical healthcare divides must succeed. I congratulate Apollo Hospitals Group in taking the lead, yet again, in bringing the international quality healthcare within the reach of our people and addressing this critical need of even our most distant fellow countrymen.”

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Prathap Reddy said, “Telemedicine as a technology has not only emerged as a tool to expand the reach of medical facilities to the lengths and breadths of the nation, it has emerged as a driver of societal change, bringing traditionally distant communities closer to each other. We believe that telemedicine, as a concept, will go the distance in bringing the people of the country closer together while furthering our mission here at Apollo of bringing healthcare of international quality within easy reach of every Indian.”

The Delhi-Kohima telemedicine link will enable the transfer of valuable opinion and interpretations to complex medical cases, and also the transfer of Patient data and images using the telemedicine software MedIntegra. It will also enable specialists from Delhi to view, in real time, images such as Color Doppler, Ultrasound, PFT, TMT, ECG, Digital Stethoscope, Digital Microscope, among others. In addition to these, facilities such as Color Doppler, Ultrasound, PFT, TMT, ECG, X-ray have also been provided at the center at Kohima.

It is expected that the telemedicine facility will do away with the cost of travelling from Kohima to bigger cities for medical treatment as well as improve the quality of medical expertise available at Kohima itself. The telemedicine facility will also be used for Continuing Medical Education (CME) for the local doctors of Nagaland, enabling them to upgrade their skills by attending video-conferencing based medical programmes offered by Apollo specialists.

The Apollo Hospitals Group is an acknowledged leader in telemedicine in India. Under the aegis of its division called The Apollo Telemedicine Enterprises Ltd., the group has already set up over 10 telemedicine link ups between the Apollo Institutions at Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai and distant locations across the country. The group also partners with government organisations such as ISRO to provide telemedicine facilities to the far-flung areas of India.


Source: /

Project Contact: Apollo Telemedicine at 703.288.1474





Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has planned to build a dedicated health satellite which will take telemedicine to the remote areas of the country. It is evaluating the necessary systems and the feasibility of having one such, according to the ISRO Chairman and Department of Space Secretary, Dr K. Kasturirangan.

The satellite will be the first of its kind in the world and may take 36-42 months to be realised. Meanwhile, the organisation has begun working with hospitals, medical and engineering students and assessing the ground systems across the country.

Dr Kasturirangan was speaking here on Monday at the launch of Karnataka's first telemedicine project put up jointly by ISRO and Narayana Hrudayalaya of Bangalore.

The healthsat would tentatively have 12-14 transponders and a simple ground system that could be operated on minimum cost. It would provide telemedicine and tele-education for paramedics.

Dr Kasturirangan said ISRO planned to have one telemedicine project in each State. It already supports the Apollo-SHAR project in Aragonda near Chittoor (Andhra Pradesh) with Apollo Hospitals, Chennai. It is working with SRMC, Chennai, to connect Andaman & Nicobar Islands, while exploring projects for Ladakh and the North East. The other ISRO projects cover Tripura, Assam, Lakshadweep and Orissa.

The Karnataka State Remote Sensing Applications Centre which is co-ordinating the project plans to expand the telemedicine network by including more hospitals.

Telemedicine would save costs and needless commuting for patients. Establishing ground systems may cost around Rs 17.5 lakh. With volumes, the cost would significantly come down.

The Karnataka Telemedicine Project which was inaugurated by the Chief Minister, Mr S.M. Krishna, on Monday, links the 70-bed Chamarajanagar District Hospital and the NGO-run Vivekananda Memorial Hospital at Sargur in HD Kote with Bangalore's super speciality cardiac care centre, Narayana Hrudayalaya.

ISRO had provided bandwidth on Insat 3B while Hrudayalaya had supplied medical equipment.

The images were being transmitted within two minutes against the standard of six to eight hours, Dr Deviprasad Shetty, cardiothoracic surgeon and Managing Director of Hrudayalaya, said.

The twin pilot projects cover a population of nine lakh within a radius of some 300 km, according to Dr H. Sudarshan, State Health Task Force Chairman, who runs the NGO Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra for tribals in B.R.Hills.

The Sargur unit has seven doctors treating tribals from around and is adding a 40-bed hospital soon. The telemedicine service is free for the poor while others will be charged a user fee of Rs 100 a day.



The Hindu Business Line

Apr 09, 2002

Project Contact:

Dr Devi Shetty,

Narayan Hrudayalaya




THERE’s every chance that you would miss his single-storied house-cum-office in Mendki village. Except for the nondescript 2’x1’ ft signboard placed above the entrance with a cryptic `Soya choupal, Mendki’ written on it, there’s little evidence of what’s inside. In fact, till the end of 2000, few of his neighbours knew about Yugalkishore’s latest endeavour. But now, at least 800-1,000 farmers in the village have joined Yugalkishore’s e-choupal community. And for ITC’s International Business Division (IBD), which began the initiative in June 2000, Mendki is one among 2,500-odd villages in Madhya Pradesh (MP) where a quiet digital revolution is reshaping the lives of farmers.

So has ITC jumped onto the Internet bandwagon too? Well, not exactly. ITC, which exports Rs700 crore worth of agricultural commodities (and hopes to increase this to Rs2,000 crore by 2005), has discovered a way to bypass the age-old mandi system and buy directly from farmers. Till the end of last year, it picked up almost Rs50 crore worth of soyabean crop from farmers in MP. In the next couple of years, it expects the offtake to pick up to about Rs150-200 crore. By buying directly from farmers, ITC derives two primary benefits. It can source produce of a far better quality. This commands a higher price in the international market. That’s because most farmers tend not to mix impurities the way a middleman would. Besides, by avoiding the intermediaries, ITC is able to save an estimated Rs250 a tonne. The farmer, too, stands to gain much more than he would if he sold through the mandi. For a long time, farmers had no other option but to hit the local mandis, where they realised only 70-75% of the end prices. But now they can hope to do better. For India’s antiquated agricultural system, that’s a big deal.

On the face of it, it didn’t take much. Inside Yugalkishore’s house, all that ITC set up was a battery-powered Internet-enabled Pentium desktop computer along with a printer. It takes him long to log on – connections are just as bad in Mendki as they are in the cities or even worse. But eventually the screen flickers into life with the portal.

The portal carries the mandi prices across the state, which is fed in daily by each of the mandi commission agents who have joined the ITC system. It also offers the prices that ITC hopes to buy at. So, once the farmers of e-choupal know the prevailing prices at the mandi as well as at the choupal, they can choose to either go to the mandi or take their produce directly to ITC’s processing plant 25 km away. Last year, Yugalkishore, who is designated as a sanchalak or lead farmer, persuaded a few to try the latter.

Since then, Yugalkishore’s make-shift Internet cafe has been humming with activity. The reason? It isn’t as if they get better prices. On the contrary, most of the time, ITC’s prices are almost the same as those prevailing in the mandi.

Sohan, a young 30-year old farmer, tells us why he prefers to stick to the e-choupal. "At the mandi, we are made to wait for hours on end and treated very shabbily". If the mandi is crowded, it takes him two days to dispose off his produce. So he has to spend money to stay the night. Then he has to pay for the cost of bagging his produce (Rs15 a tonne), transportation (another Rs15), and on loading and unloading (Rs3 per tonne). "Besides, as the commission agent at the mandi uses a small tol kata (weighing balance), very often I end up getting paid far less. I also lose a fair deal because the agents tend to throw a lot of my beans away while evaluating quality," says Sohan.

So are the tangible savings in the choupal model significant? Mohit Arora, ITC’s manager of the e-choupal initiative in Indore, says savings range between Rs400 and Rs500 a tonne for an average farmer depending on how far he is from the nearest processing centre or storage point. At ITC’s huge processing centre in Devas, the motto is customer relationship management. The layout at the factory has been designed so that waiting times are reduced to two hours. Material handling systems ensure that tractors, trolleys or trucks can directly unload their produce without spilling a single grain, a modern weighbridge ensures precise weighing and cash is paid to the farmer in less than 10 minutes.

That’s not all. Based on the tests done on the produce in the plant, ITC is quickly able to assess quality standards across the various choupals. "We then advise the sanchalak, who, in turn, is able to get the farmers in his community to improve their yield and quality standards", says Arora. Through the same portal, ITC also provides information on weather, soil conditions, online diagnostics of pests and diseases, information on the crop status across different districts and a few advisory services, such as what fertilisers are best.

"Very often, the farmer is unable to figure out price movements. So, by the time he reaches the mandi, the price may have come down," Arora says. Through the choupal, that uncertainty is removed. And due to the improved realisations, the farmer can now invest in better inputs like seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. IBD CEO S. Sivakumar says he hopes to provide more customised information soon so that individual farmers have greater incentives to log on.

When ITC began experimenting with the model, the masterstroke was to appoint a lead farmer as the community leader for each choupal. This way, ITC did not have to invest in separate kiosks; farmers accepted the concept better if the coordination was done by `one of them’. Sivakumar says: "Of course, we had to choose the sanchalak very carefully. He couldn’t be too big a farmer. Otherwise, his interest levels in making the choupal work would be low. If it was a small farmer, he wouldn’t be accepted by the rest". Now, ITC invests Rs60,000 – 80,000 on the IT infrastructure, while the sanchalak pays for the operations (telephone and power), and the local canvassing. For the sale of soyabeans, he earns a 0.5% commission.

Of course, there has been the issue of the role of the mandi commission agents. Once the asymmetry of information was knocked out, his power in the channel would reduce. "We were clear from the outset that intermediaries had a role to play and that e-biz couldn’t disintermediate them", says Sivakumar. So a new role was envisaged for them: they would be samayojaks, or coordinators. Not only would they use their ties in the villages to nominate sanchalaks, they would also be responsible for the relevant mandi documentation. In far-flung villages, situated miles from ITC’s processing centres, the samayojak would also aggregate the grain and bring it to ITC. For this, he would get a 1% commission. Initially, most commission agents were understandably apprehensive. Just about a dozen agents among the 150-odd agreed to join the system, while about 100 said that they would prefer to wait and watch. But, over time, they too began to see that the change was inevitable. "We told them that if they were doing five units of profit on five units of transactions, that would come down to one unit of profit. The upside was that he would now do as many as 50 transactions".

After the network was put in place, ITC began exploring how to tap into the farm inputs market through it. In late 2000, it tied up with Monsanto to sell seeds directly. This year, it has looked at gas lanterns and other assorted items. The sanchalak collects the money from farmers and places firm orders. The relevant company then ensures delivery. For this service the sanchalak earns about 2-3% commission. The samayojak, in turn, receives around 1-3% depending on the product sold.

For ITC, this is an important revenue stream (it gets 2-3% commission from each transaction). The participating company gets a direct channel to the customer that is entirely pull-based. As one farmer told us, he is now aware of what to buy and when, and not depend on the dealer, who is prone to giving incorrect information that sometimes ruins the crop. But the key for ITC is to preserve the integrity of the relationship with the farmer and carefully monitor the products that flow through the channel.

Sivakumar says he is treading carefully. "We won’t do anything to damage our relationship with these farmers." That explains why the placard ITC has put up just above the entrance to Yugalkishore’s house almost meshes with the rest of the rustic surrounding.



Businessworld, February 04, 2002

Project Contact:


Foundation of Occupational Development (FOOD India)


Eight years ago, Loyola Joseph of the Foundation of Occupational Development (FOOD India), began asking himself: "How do we leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs) for development?" FOOD India, a nongovernmental organization based in Chennai, South India, has 102 project sites and conducts activities, experimentation, and research related to information and communication technologies for development (ICTs), employment generation, and other aspects of sustainable development.

Last year, Joseph’s search for a way to harness technology to improve the lives of local people led to the creation of India Shop, an e-commerce site through which local e-marketers sell the work of Chennai-area artisans to customers around the world.

Creating employment, supporting artisans

Joseph recognized the potential of e-commerce to create employment and generate income for young people living in the vicinity of Chennai — particularly to improve the lives of young families. "People spend up to half their salaries on transportation to work, and paying for their meals while at work," says Joseph. "At the same time, their children often come back from school to empty homes because both parents are at work when school is over. If the parents can work from home, they will not only save money, but can also care for their children."

In addition to improving the living conditions of the e-marketers, India Shop generates money for the artisans who work in hundreds of villages surrounding Chennai by promoting their products. This keeps centuries-old traditions alive — the handcrafting of saris and the sculpting of Hindu deities, for example.

Getting the project off the ground

Joseph, who has a master’s degree in social work and ran his own manufacturing firm before founding FOOD India 20 years ago, worked with Santosh Narayanan, FOOD India’s ICTs coordinator for the past seven years, to create India Shop.

"I first got the idea of setting up an e-commerce site when I attended a Pan Asia Networking (PAN) workshop," remembers Narayanan. Held in Singapore in 1999, it introduced participants to various aspects of e-commerce, from the technicalities of building a Web site to the legalities of intellectual property.

India Shop became a reality with a $60,000 grant from the International Development Research Centre’s (IDRC) PAN program initiative. PAN supports applied research in ICTs carried out by Asian developing nations. In addition, FOOD India contributed $40,000.

The funds were used to cover the cost of staff salaries, 15 personal computers, a digital camera, a wireless router, training for 100 e-marketers, research expenses including reference material (such as guidelines for e-marketers that FOOD India developed), and participation in e-commerce conferences.

Training e-marketers to make sales

FOOD India recruits young unemployed or underemployed college graduates as e-marketers, trains them, and encourages them to work from home using a computer and an Internet connection. Some e-marketers work individually, while others organize in small groups to share equipment.

FOOD India’s e-marketers are trained to provide online customers with detailed information about their potential purchases — sometimes even visiting artisans to take photos of the texture and embroidery designs of saris, for example, then emailing the images to customers. They also learn the importance of consistent follow-ups to close sales, and how to seek out new customers by visiting chat-rooms and discussion groups about Indian culture. They even pack and ship out the orders.

E-marketers earn a sales commission of 10 % of the value of all the goods they help to sell, or between 2,000 to 10,000 Indian Rupees a month (CA $65 to $326). To date, India Shop has trained and employed 100 people aged 22 to 30, 40 % of whom are women. The site has 1,800 products crafted by 40 artisans available for sale, and brings in an average of nearly $3,200 a month, mostly from customers who live beyond India’s borders.

In future, India Shop plans to revise its business model to become self-supporting. It will increase prices and start charging a margin for transactions to finance its continuation and growth.

A model for other businesses

India Shop’s success has resulted in a number of spin-offs. The site attracted the attention of the Government of India, which awarded FOOD India a five-year contract to establish and manage Internet Bazaar, a cyber shopping mall dedicated to promoting artisans and crafts throughout India.

India Shop is also the model for a new home-based merchandising business that will provide income and employment for women. Under this initiative, local women will manage a virtual supermarket. Each will receive a CD-ROM containing a list of basic household necessities, such as sugar, tea, soap, and laundry detergent. They will then take orders from their neighbours, consolidate the purchases using applications on the CD-ROM, e-mail the bulk orders to a local warehouse, sort the delivered orders, and distribute them to customers.

Project Contact:

Foundation of Occupational Development

63-C Block, 1st. Floor, Bharathiyar Complex

Jawaharlal Nehru Road


Chennai - 600 026.





Leprosy still remains a public health problem in India—contributing approx. 400,000 new cases to the global pool of lepers. WHO estimates there are about 1.3-1.5 million leprosy patients with grade-2 disability in the world.

Bombay Leprosy Project (BLP) is a NGO that has been engaged in leprosy control work in the slums of Mumbai for more than two decades. BLP is the first NGO to demonstrate that the leprosy services can be carried our along with general health care services in an integrated manner—applying physical, surgical and vocational rehabilitation-- in urban areas with enormous cost savings to the donors. Besides providing free medical relief to leprosy patients, BLP has been providing disability services to a large number of patients coming from all parts of the city, its suburbs and even from the neighboring districts.

BLP has undertaken several clinical trials with newer drugs, which are of great significance in today’s context for achieving the goal of leprosy elimination and ultimately reaching a state of a "World Without Leprosy". The deformed leprosy patients receiving disability services at their door-step need to be followed up to ensure service compliance and to evaluate the progress of disability status. Hence, these patients need to be monitored for a long time, even for as long as 8 to 10 years, using a team of community volunteers (CVs) trained by the paramedical workers (PMWs) of BLP. These CVs, involved in suspecting new leprosy cases among the slum population by door-to-door survey, also provide domiciliary medical treatment, monitor the progress of nerve damage, offer field based disability care and identify clinical problems occurring in some of the patients who have already completed the prescribed course of treatment. While performing these activities, they come across several medical problems in the field for which they need to seek advice from the doctors available in the Central Monitoring cell for instant consultation on the management.

The advent of modern telecommunication equipment such as ‘Mobile phones" and "Pagers" has come to BLP’s rescue to overcome the communication barrier. These gadgets enable the workers to establish contact with the Central Monitoring cell even from the depths of the congested slums and rural areas as the communication network has wide coverage (roaming facility). BLP is the first project to use these instruments in leprosy management since 1998 to establish contact with the CVs working in the slums as well as remote areas and thereafter give specific advice or instructions on the management of complications that might be encountered by them. The PMWs & CVs working in the field are equipped with mobile phones and pagers which have made a breakthrough in providing instant medical consultation to leprosy patients thereby preventing the occurrence of consequences such as reactions / neuritis and development of new disability, by providing instant (on the spot) decisions on the immediate treatment with steroids. This technology has been found useful in improving patient care and also in avoiding delay in communication.



Project contact:

Dr. R. Ganapati,


Bpmbay Leprosy Project (BLP),

11, VN Purav Marg, Sion-Chunabhatti,

Mumbai – 400 022.

Tel:022-5220608 / 5223040; Fax:022-5296486


Internet Kiosk for Slum Kids – A Delhi Govt Effort


The project has been conducted in the Ambedkar Nagar colony of the capital. In these huge ghettos, live hundreds of thousands of untouchables even now in abject penury; working on menial jobs such as cleaning of roads, offices, working in private homes (usually for cleaning the toilets), setting up little hand-carts selling odd fruits or vegetables. The average income in Ambedkar Nagar does not exceed US$80-90 per month. To make matters worse, the families are big – there is no concept of family planning here due to lack of literacy.

To help improve the conditions of these slums as well as to spread computer awareness; the Govt. of Delhi initiated a "slum-computer kiosk" project in November 2000.

The kiosk has been pulling a record crowd of kids. They want to spend hours and hours simply surfing sites in English, which they understand very little, and those in Hindi. Quizzes, interactive puzzles excite them. They go over the puzzles again and again; surf the sites they like for long hours. A computer-literate attendant keeps a careful eye on the kids. Sometimes the jostling of the kids, wild cries and rejoicing as well as fighting becomes too much even for the attendant to handle; however he always has the residents of Ambedkar Nagar around him; so they are happy to spring to his assistance. Together they discipline the kids; even threaten them at times that they would take away the machines and close down the kiosk. This has an immediate sobering effect. And they go back to their positions in the queue, waiting for their turns or the kids simply bunch up with other kids and learn together. They feel sad whenever the Internet is down; or the machines malfunction. In sheer frustration & anger, choicest abuses are reserved for the authorities as to why they cannot have uninterrupted Internet access; and why the UPS does not support power-backup for longer hours.

The mothers willingly send the kids away to the kiosk for self-learning and for self-training. They feel overwhelmed after their kids started going to the kiosk; their grades have improved in Math as well as in Sciences. After December, the schoolteachers of the kids are happy with their increasing concentration and discipline. Besides they are managing to learn English all by themselves. Mothers are demanding separate hours for their daughters and have already written to the authorities requesting for separate time slots for the girls. The mothers are pressing the authorities for more and more content on the Net as well as more and more of multimedia based self-paced educational material.


Project Contact:

Secretary (IT),

Govt. of NCT of Delhi

3rd floor, Bikri Kar Bhavan,

I.P. Estate,

New Delhi -110 002


Freedom Foundation: Using the Net to Help HIV-positive children

The Freedom Foundation is a Bangalore-based voluntary group that offers treatment programs for alcoholic, drug-addict and HIV positive people.

Currently the Foundation supports 141 HIV positive kids apart from several hundred HIV positive adults; and offers them a home away from their homes. The Foundation also offers anti-retroviral medication.

The foundation is headed by Dr Ashok Rau, who waged a relentless battle to persuade several schools to admit their children; before he could convince a Missionary Charity School to admit their HIV positive kids.

Gradually, these kids have started learning English apart from Kannada. The school teachers have also been very helpful in their assimilation process. The Foundation allocated the computers that they previously used for maintaining their accounts for the education of these children. The machines were upgraded and made net enabled, the kids were given basic training to use computers and the net. They were provided details of bulletin boards and URLs of other HIV positive organisations; so that they could chat with their compatriots elsewhere.

The kids started using the machines for long hours simply chatting with other HIV positive kids from other countries. The chats present a very fascinating perspective into the minds of HIV positive kids and this may be novel experiment first of its type in India whereby technology has been deployed for restoring self-esteem and confidence in a group of kids who had nothing but despair and fear in their hearts.

Ten year old Mahesh asked his HIV positive friend, a much older & wiser boy from South Africa "How long are you going to live? I want to meet you, but may not get the chance at all. I am too weak to travel to South Africa. No one will take me there. My friends here tell me I may not live to see this Diwali. Can you come down to Bangalore and meet me and my other friends?". With utmost wisdom and care for his long-distance friend in his heart; the South-African kid tried to counsel Mahesh. He said "Don't be afraid. Even if you are not there, all of us will meet in the heaven and celebrate Diwali & Christmas together. Don't despair; you may get well. Our Doctors were telling us we now have a good chance of recovery".

Twelve year old Ramaiah mailed his Thai friend a colored scanned picture of his favourite star Shahrukh Khan. His friend sent him a thank you e-mail from Bangkok and asked him if he wanted the picture of his favourite hero who happens to be a Thai basket ball player. Ramaiah was thrilled to know and narrated the e-mail to his HIV positive parents seeped in India's film-culture; that basket ball players could be celebrities as well.

Rau says that the greatest contribution of this experiment has been that now these kids don’t’ think about death all the time.

Project Contact:

Ashok Rau

Freedom Foundation Trust

180 Hennur Cross, Bangalore-560 043


TCS – Using Computers for Adult Literacy Programs

TCS has used the primers made by National Literacy Mission/State Literacy Missions to develop a multimedia program for adult literacy.

400-450 commonly used words are selected and are woven into a multi-media based learning program using 'puppet show method', stories, music, and pictures, to make the content interesting for adult learners. Starting from simple words, the program moves on to reading sentences.

The program focuses on people in the age group of 20-50 years, who have missed schooling and are speaking some dialect of their mother tongue. The program is also running in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. Programs in Marathi, Bengali and Kannada are also being developed.

It has been observed that gradually the learners begin to take an interest in learning how to write their name or put signatures. In about 40-50 hours of learning, people start reading posters, their ration card or children's report cards, bus routes, cinema posters and (basic) newspapers.

The project has made use of the company's used computers, and more than 400 PCs have been donated.


Project Contact:

Maj. Gen. B. G. Shively

Consulting Advisor, TCS,

54B Hadapsar Industrial Area,  Pune 411 013

Tel: 020-6871058

Fax: 020-6810921



Smart Cards by SKS


Swayam Krishi Sangam (SKS) is a Grameen Bank replication MFI that serves very poor women in highly drought-prone Deccan region in India, where inhabitants dot a sparsely populated rural landscape. As of February 2001, SKS served 1,790 customers, for whom agricultural work, including horticulture and livestock rearing, is the main economic activity. SKS operates four branches in 102 villages. Since its inception in 1998, the total disbursement had been $116,000 and the repayment rate has been 100 percent on income generating loans (a fifty week term and twenty percent flat interest), seasonal loans (a twenty-five week term with twenty percent flat interest), and emergency loans (interest-free, with a four to twenty week term).

From the onset, SKS intended to base lending operations on a highly specialized Grameen ("village") banking model adapted to customer needs. Before offering services they organized participatory rural appraisals with villagers to conduct market analysis. The analysis showed villagers wanted flexible products with small repayments that would be commensurate with their low incomes of under a dollar a day. Also, since they spent their entire day working in the fields, they could only spend a minimal amount of time to obtain those products. The challenge then was to deliver very small loans and accept very small deposits, in a sustainable manner, to villagers who lived quite a distance from one another.

SKS implemented common efficiency-building methods such as streamlining products and introducing a computerized MIS, to make their operations most cost-effective. But, as with many other MFIs, eventually these methods hit the "efficiency wall". Since SKS delivers very small loans to poorest of the poor, and since loan officers face high travel costs to reach remote villagers, SKS needed to operate at higher levels of efficiency than other MFIs in order to reach sustainability.

Management explored other options for increasing efficiency, and found that the biggest gains could be realized by streamlining the 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. field meetings between loan officers and customers. Customers can only meet during these morning hours as they spend rest of the day working in the fields. Since loan officers only have about two and a half hours to meet with groups residing at great distances from the branch office, the officers could only visit two centers each morning, 80 customers per day. Loan officers spend greatest portion of their meeting time simply recording transactions in collection sheets and customer passbooks. In response, management devised the Smart card method to increase loan officer productivity - increasing number of group meetings loan officers could hold each morning, thereby increasing customer load and improving the bottom line.

How It Works

Smart cards offer a way for loan officers to dramatically reduce the time they spend with each client, reducing the center meeting from 60 to 30 minutes. It would further allow loan officers to see one or two extra centers on a given day (depending on the population of the village). With a small hand-held computer allocated to each loan officer, and a Smart card in the possession of each customer, loan officers reduce meeting times and increase productivity significantly.

Before Smart cards

Customers gather one morning each week for their center meeting. Each meeting lasts about an hour, with approximately one minute dedicated to each of the maximum of forty customers, comprising of up to eight solidarity groups of five women. A loan officer spends up to an hour traveling to the meeting place in time for his first meeting of the day, which begins at 7:00 a.m. and ends at 8:00 a.m. He meets with each customer and updates payments manually, once in her passbook and once in her own records. After the first meeting, the loan officer must travel to the next village, which can take up to a half hour, to arrive at the next meeting by 8:30. With the remaining 60 minutes before customers must go to work, the officer can conduct only one additional meeting.

After Smart cards

With the new technology, the loan officer downloads borrower information from the main computer terminal into his hand-held PC each morning before his first group meeting. At this meeting, each group member gives the loan officer her Smart card in place of a passbook, which the loan officer inserts into a special reader on his handheld computer . Using a custom-designed interface, the computer displays information from Smart card. Both, handheld device and Smart card then record the transaction, whether with a single button-press if the customer makes her payment in full for all loans (as is typical in Grameen methodology), or with an entry representing that she is a few rupees short. Loan officer then repeats the process for deposits and loan disbursals. He then returns the Smart card to the customer and continues with next. Transactions that usually take a minute each can be done in half the time. After he has finished meeting with all his groups, he returns to the branch office and with press of a button uploads all information into the main system. A read-only computer is left in the village for customers to check their balances.

The Technology

The environment of the Deccan region, where SKS operates, ranges from hot and dusty in dry season to monsoons in rainy season, management chose the sturdiest hand-held technology available. Instead of PDAs (though small and sensitive to adverse conditions), SKS chose the slightly larger and better protected hand-held computers (costing $670), which have a bigger terminal and a more protective shell. Though sensitive to dust and humidity, they are slightly sturdier than the PDAs. As majority of transaction/loan information is held either in Smart card (which costs about $3.30 each) or in main computer terminal, memory capacity of hand-held computers need not have to be as large as that of a typical PDA. Reduction of staff time at each village and increased travel time leads to decrease in operational expenses (see Table 2), despite the prohibitive capital expenditure.

Although some practitioners worry how customers will react to new technology and whether they will trust and embrace it, the founder of SKS notes that for customers SKS serves, an original passbook is just as foreign to them as is new Smart card. Ability to accept and work with new products and technologies is a requisite for any villager who wants access to financial services from SKS. However, during the first year when customers have inhibitions and lack confidence in Smart card, SKS hand-held computers will be equipped with a printer to issue receipts. This will be phased out eventually, lowering hardware and stationery costs.

Added Efficiency

Operating costs of SKS increased with investment in hardware, software, and training. SKS forecasts an increase of 50 to 100 percent in loan officer productivity and 200 percent in load capacity, and a savings of at least 18% in operating costs. Further, SKS forecasts savings accrued at $5,000 per year per branch, which translates into $250,000 per year for an institution with 50 branches, or $5 million per year for an institution with 1000 branches.

Enhanced Financial Control

By automating nearly 200,000 transactions, processed manually earlier by loan officers, Smart card reduces fraud and error. When using Smart cards and hand held computers any errors in recording a transaction are shown in real-time so that the correction can be made immediately. Potential for manual errors is further eliminated as recording a full on-time payment requires the push of only one button on a hand-held device and another keystroke uploads data onto main computer terminal. Accounts can be reviewed daily as they are directly transferred to the main computer/database literally hours after group meetings, thereby eliminating fraud and error. Smart cards will enhance information to be updated on real-time basis and consequently allow management and stakeholders to monitor operations and respond to problems at the earliest. Strong financial controls foster trust from customers as well as from investors.

Scalable Financial Services

Smart cards can manage numerous and diverse products. SKS foresees upcoming opportunities for the product. For instance, customers who need emergency loans, for hospitalization etc., have access to cash advances 24 hours at a branch ATM rather than wait for weekly meetings. A customer who consistently makes timely repayments may be rewarded special privileges with a "gold" card. Additional services may include credit linkages with local merchants, pre-approved lines of credit, and ATMs in market towns. Groups with excellent repayment histories may be able to skip group meetings altogether and carry out all their business with an ATM. SKS expects that it will discover even more uses for the Smart card in the future.



Project Contact:

Vikram Byanna Akula

CEO, Swayam Krishi Sangam




JAWS – Software for the Visually Impaired

A project to impart computer education to blind school children has been launched on a pilot mode in Andhra Pradesh. Karishma Enterprises, Mumbai; Freedom Scientific Inc, US; the Devnar Foundation for the Blind; and the State Government's Office of the Commissioner for the Welfare of the Disabled, here have come together in this initiative.

Called the India IT Freedom Project, the initiative aimed at imparting computer training to blind students from class VIII, with the curricula being the same as that taught to children in regular schools, said Dr A. Saibaba Goud, ophthalmologist and founder-trustee of the Devnar Foundation.

The Florida-based Freedom Scientific has donated $50,000, including its screen reading software named JAWS, while Karishma Enterprises has helped in the design of the teaching curriculum with the software. Devnar Foundation has provided facilities for training school teachers on the software and the State Government has given the hardware support, which includes multimedia computers, UPS, course material etc.

The pilot project would cover 10 schools for the blind, covering 300 students in Andhra Pradesh, he told newspersons on Monday.

The requirements to make the entire project operational are a computer with multimedia, JAWS software which converts a normal PC into a talking computer, an open book OCR reading software, braille printer for providing course materials in braille and access to printed computer manuals and books.

The first batch of 10 teachers from 20 schools for the blind in the State has been trained on these software and hardware tools. There are nearly 2,500 visually impaired students in these schools.

Mr Charles Mullins, Vice-President, Freedom Scientific, said, "I visited six/seven schools for the blind in four States during February 2002 and chose Hyderabad to formulate this collaborative project. We want to extend this project to other parts of the country in a phased manner, depending on the progress here."

He said the software and the training would help the visually-impaired children access computers, send and receive e-mails and surf the Internet, read printed text or documents, access information, read classics and also independently write their exams and thus eliminate the need for a scribe.

The JAWS software had provided such empowerment in the US and in many European nations, Mr Mullins said.

Mr Ram Agarwal of the Karishma Enterprises, the distributor of the software in the country, said students in higher classes starting from VIII were best suited to take up computer training so that they could be on par with other children in regular schools.

An exhibition of the new technology devices developed worldwide for the blind and the visually impaired has also been organised at the National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, an institute under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.



Hindu Business Line

Aug 06, 2002





This project was conceptualized more than four years ago, when IT awareness in the country was limited to big urban centers only. The fact that illiterate and semi-literate farmers accepted the system and are operating it confidently, is an achievement by itself.

Computers are being used for a very basic activity like collection of milk for the past so many years and rural masses are comfortable with it and have reposed their confidence in it. Local entrepreneurs could spot the latent potential and have spread the system in the remote areas, through diligent work and timely support. They kept their system, without any monetary compensation for weeks together, for the DCS to try out and feel comfortable with it.

The popular and widespread usage of AKASHGANGA breaks the myth that ICT will not help in solving the day-to-day problems of the rural masses. On the contrary, the farmers are very open to adopting new technologies (without being granted any kind of subsidies!), provided it delivers tangible benefits.
In this case the benefits can be summarized as: * Speedier collection of milk (shorter queues!) and timely disbursement of payment. * Lower prevalence of corrupt practices. * Maintenance of DCS accounts is regularized and on time.

AKASHGANGA (meaning ‘The Milky Way’) is being used at the Dairy Cooperative Society (DCS), which is a farmer-owned, grass-root level unit in the cooperative structure. All the farmers (members) of the DCS congregate twice a day at its premises to sell milk.

Before AKASHGANGA, all the milk collection activities were performed manually. Due to the climatic conditions, milk would often get spoilt, as producers had to wait in long queues. Secondly, the payment for the milk sold would get held up. The simple technology used in this product has enabled the timely collection of milk and thus, generated higher profits for the producer, now paid well in time.
A basic milk collection transaction done by AKASHGANGA comprises:
* Measuring weight of milk with Electronic Weighing Scale

* Fat testing using Milko Tester

*Capture of unique member ID by the PC software

*Printing of pay slip, with all this data and the amount to be paid.

The MSDOS based system offers scalability for an information-kiosk like service. Thus, the Dairy Information Services Kiosk (DISK - currently being tested at a pilot site) has been added as an enhancement, which offers a multitude of animal husbandry related services, besides maintaining databases and offering Internet connectivity at the DCS (Dairy Cooperative Society).
The key success factor in the cooperative movement is the ease and efficiency of the milk collection system, whether done manually or with IT. The elimination of the middleman, accurate fat measure of milk, thereby enabling the producer to get a higher profit are the basic pillars on which the design of the cooperative movement stands.

AKASHGANGA has been implemented at more than 400 locations. At each and every location, it is being used 365 days in a year, and for more than 6 hours in a day.



Project Contact:

Mr Ujval Parghi

Shree Kamdhenu Electronics Pvt Ltd

102, Shivam Complex, Nanabazar, 388120

Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand

Ph: 2692 - 35390



Baatchit – Simple IT for Rural Masses


ONCE UPON a time, villages had their own centres of information-exchange. These were the 'chaupals' (meeting centers and talking-points), as they're described in North India. But then, along came TV, and broke down society into individual members, each caught up before their own idiot box.

This may be a somewhat simplistic explanation of things. But Anirudh Pathak (27) and his team is working to build up options that give the villager information -- that he or she needs. Not the irrelevant information from thousands of kilometres away that the television provides at the click of a remote-control device.

This is essential, says Pathak (27), more so with the eclipse of the 'chaupals', which served as a place both for information exchange and micro-business dealings. "We felt the need for a place for people to come together, interact, dialogue and find solutions to their own economic development," says Pathak.

Tikawali was the village chosen for this experiment. It is located some 10 kms from the north Indian town of Faridabad in Haryana (about 40 kms from Delhi). This is primarily agricultural land. It's peopled by villagers who lack the information of market prices, or about jobs available, and where to find better prices for their produce. They grope around for details on what options are on offer for their educated youth.

In January 2002, Jiva Institute partnered with Media Lab Asia to launch its first ICT initiative for sustainable development titled 'Baatchit' (

(Media Lab Asia or MLA is a network of R&D institutions working to bring the benefits of new technologies to everyone. To meet this goal, it is working in partnerships with research institutions, industry and NGOs. Mumbai-based Media Lab Asia has been set up as a not-for-profit company with seed-funding from the Government of India.)

Baatchit means "chitchat" in Hindi. Jiva Outreach says it wants to "enhance socio-economic development of rural communities by making innovative use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)".

From the North Indian town of Faridabad, Jiva -- which itself runs an innovative website called, and undertakes various activities including publishing creatively-done books on computing -- has been working on this project since early 2002.

Now, it also runs a 'local' television outfit called 'Baatchit TV'. This offers training to youngsters on how to become videographers. Each day, it puts out 'Tikawali news'. Other non-television 'channels' offer information on health, development, or employment. There is also a small amount of wholly-local advertising, and some potential of entertainment.

"This whole project is based on the principle of ICEO -- information exchange, community-building, entertainment, and opportunities (of an economic kind)," says Pathak.

Tikawali is the pilot village for the project. Interactive sessions and workshops have been organized at the Baatchit center to raise awareness about local issues, to inspire dialogue and to facilitate networking and collaborative efforts that enhance the socio-economic development process.

A prototype for the audio-visual Baatchit Community Software has been prepared in collaboration with the villagers of Tikawali and experts from Media Lab Asia.

Currently, it includes modules on employment (Rozgar), a video message board (Aapka Manch) and an iconic search (Jankari) with a facility to add new modules as the software evolves with time and usage.

The software's iconic interface has been specially designed to cater to those who are not literate.

Baatchit's mission is "to establish a nationwide network of Baatchit centers which provide methodologies to enable sustainable development of villages."

It says once the Baatchit centre is successful at Tikawali, it could be replicated in other villages. The goa is to assist villagers in establishing a "continuously developing economy within the village".

In doing so, the project wants to "identify human systems" as they exist within the village, and find out ways these could be enhanced by using ICTs. It also wants to develop a visual community software system to support the existing human systems which contribute to the area's socio-economic growth and development.

Big dreams? Yes, and challenging too...

Villagers, feels Jiva, could gain from creating local video content -- including news and entertainment shows -- that would go on to raise awareness about the needs of their own community, and the solutions for problems they face.

Not that this project is just fazed by the new technologies. Simpler and age-old communication tools -- like a physical messaging board, on which notices are simply stuck -- are also put up on display.

There is a 'rozgar-board' (employment board) linked up with three private placement agencies that offer jobs from the nearby town and even Delhi. This is not too far a distance for villagers to go to if the job is suitable.

"One of the first thing people needed was jobs. There were tenth, twelfth standard students and graduates who simply didn't know what to do with themselves on getting through the exams. Now they're beginning to find work. If someone needed an errand boy in Delhi, he could as well get him from the village rather than from the city itself," says Pathak. Of course, skill upgradation and getting more creative jobs will be a long-term concern.

This experiment brought in officials to the village, where they interacted with locals and replied to their questions. These interactions were video-taped. The aim? To keep a record, to explain to others of what was possible, and also to build the confidence-levels of villagers.

A group of ten village youth were trained to be videographers. Each evening, they broadcast a 20-minute long programme through cable TV. This reaches some 16 villages in the area and is called 'Baatchit TV'. "The idea is to have local content generation. We're also doing (video-based) documentation on social issues," says Pathak.

"Conceputalisation, story-boarding, casting, scripting and editing is all being done by the village youth themselves," says he, as he displays examples of their work stored on a notebook he's carrying. "People thus begin to realise their own issues and their own solutions," he adds.

Groups of women took up the opportunity to start micro-entrepreneurship activities; some went into pickle-making, others started a sewing centre. Jiva worked on attempts to teach basic economic and business-related concepts to the 'barefoot entrepreneurs'.

Likewise, a Tikawali Bazaar is being set up. To give it a 'branded' identity, shops in the locality are being painted a distinctive yellow, each carrying the name of the village bazaar!

"Every shop will carry the template. The idea is to draw people from the nearby towns and cities to buy in their supplies from here. Not only they get a better price, but the vegetable is plucked from a nearby field just half-an-hour away from the town," says Pathak.

Villagers are being helped to get into fields that would have a local market. One person is working on setting up a battery-charging system that could cater to villagers running tractors in this agricultural-area.

"Earlier, villagers just continued living as they were. They were not thinking of bettering themselves. This dialogue-making process brought their problems forward, and helped achieve a sharper understanding of this. We said, we would not do anything ourselves (and the villagers would have to take the initiative)," explains Pathak.

To work-around their way past problems like illiteracy, the interfaces of the ICT programmes use less of text. There are icon-based interfaces, and a lot of multilanguage solutions. Using ICT, the villager is sought to be given information on jobs available. Searches for information brings forth audio-visual results.

"We're presenting this center as an incubator for socio-economic development. Once our videographers get trained, we will be asking them to move out, so that their place can be taken by a fresh lot," says Pathak.

Jiva Institute's chairman is Dr Satya Narayana Dasa, who has been working on the goal of aligning traditional Indian knowledge systems with modern sciences and technologes. Dr Dasa graduated from the prestigious IIT (Delhi) with a Masters' degree in Induatrial Engineering in 1976, and holds a doctorate in Sanskrit besides either other degrees in various subjects.



Project Contact:

Anirudh Pathak

Jiva Institute

Sector 21-B

Faridabad 121001

Phone: 0129-5431198, 5429640

Tel/Fax: 0129-5295547





In pursuit of the ‘technology at your doorstep’ mantra, scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh, have developed a battery-powered `infothela’ or `IT kiosk’ equipped with an assortment of Internet and telecom facilities to impart the benefits of information technology to people in remote areas.

According to professor Prashant Kumar of the IIT’s mechanical engineering and design department, a prototype of the infothela was ready and would work with the help of BSNL’s cable network.

In the first phase, experts plan to conduct the services of this appliance between Kanpur and Lucknow, covering about 50 villages.

The all-weather infothela has been designed keeping in mind the outdoor services that it will provide. It is shock-and dust-resistant and will offer the user 17-colour display.

The 200 kg, Rs 70,000 wireless infothela, developed under the IIT’s Media Lab Asia Project, will enable the common man to access information about education, health, the weather, agriculture and employment and keep him abreast of new developments.

It will also come in handy in checking land records. The most attractive feature about the infothela is the `digital mandi’ (digital market), which will provide an electronic platform for the business of agro-commodities.

Professor Prashant said: “We envisage that application of the infothela will touch the roots of the village economy. This task can be accomplished by enabling digital marketplaces for agro-commodities. This will also alleviate the cash crunch faced by farmers through the active participation of various banking and para-banking nstitutions.”


Source: Times News Network, November 16, 2002

Project Contact:


Dean, Research & Development,

Dept. of Chemical Engineering,

IIT, Kanpur -  208016

Telephone: 0512-597578(off); 597193(dept.), 598780; 590636(home)

Fax : 0512-590104; 590134




Agri-info portal by NIC


The Indian farmer has always suffered for lack of knowledge about prevailing agricultural prices and demand at the Mandis. The long chains of vested interests and the sheer spread of the markets not only makes it difficult for them to take decisions regarding produce mix, but also deprives them of whatever little bargaining power they may have had. 

In a recent initiative to correct this anomaly, various state agricultural marketing boards (APMCs) have come together to form an Agricultural marketing information network (Agmarknet), hosting a portal called This project has a budget of Rs 10 crore. 

The website has links to various APMCs and mandis across the country, as well as a few live links to major mandis like the Navi Mumbai APMC. 

It’s possible to check out at this site the delivery positions and prices of various commodities and vegetables at practically every mandi in India. 

Commodities are divided into seven groups here — cereals, pulses, fibres, spices, fruits, vegetables and oilseeds. Surfers can search mandi-wise for commodity, or commodity-wise in each mandi. Presently, Agmarknet reports information from 73 markets across India. 

Agmarknet’s proposed aim to create a ‘nationwide network for speedy collection and dissemination of market information’, could potentially reduce prices paid to intermediaries and bring benefits to a wide cross section of farmers and consumers. 

Secondly, Agmarknet also aims to computerise data about market fees and charges, arrivals, dispatches, sales transport, losses and wastage and various issues like APMC infrastructure and taxes. 

It envisages connecting, eventually, 670 mandis and 40 agricultural boards across India. At 75, Maharashtra has the maximum number of wholesale markets, or nodes connected, followed by Andhra Pradesh (65) and Uttar Pradesh (64). 

The National Informatics Centre of the Government of India says that it will procure, maintain and install the hardware and software for the sites and train the operators to upload and uplink. Each wholesale market or node that is connected to Agmarknet will pay Rs 2,750 per year as internet access charges. 



Mr Moni,


Phone: 4362790




Fully Computerised Gram Panchayat


Situated about 25 km from Bangalore, Belandur gram panchayat is the first in Karnataka to computerise its administration. What makes this project unique is that it is an independent initiative funded by the village development committee (VDC).

 Belandur is a comparatively well off panchayat, which is assured of year-round irrigation from the Belandur lake. (Rice cultivation and vegetable farming are the mainstay.) However, this prime water source is being polluted by the large-scale dumping of sewage from Bangalore city, an issue of major concern here. The main industry in Belandur, which is garment manufacture, employs a large section of women from middle-class households. There are also a large number of government employees living here, who commute to the city.

Belandur's e-governance project started with a single computer that was brought to the village in 1998 to replace the panchayat's old typewriter. This brought Belandur to the notice of Compusol, an IBM and Microsoft joint venture company, which is currently involved in research and development of e-governance software packages to suit the Indian context. At present the panchayat office has three computers, one for each of the bill collectors.

Working closely with the panchayat members and village residents, Compusol managed to devise software packages to suit the needs of panchayat administration, handling the recording of property details, tax collection, data management and so on. Since this was the company's maiden venture, the packages were provided free of cost. The only investment made by the panchayat was towards the purchase of hardware, a total of around Rs.70,000.


Property-related records such as land revenue details and land dimensions are now stored in the computer. Records of bills paid are made available to members of the public. Since the software uses the local language, ordinary residents have experienced no problem with getting involved. In addition to speeding up processes such as tax collection and property transfer and reducing the workload of the three bill collectors, the e-governance project has set off other developments. Following the computerisation of tax collection, the panchayat has recovered huge outstandings. This has allowed the panchayat to channel funds for development projects such as macadamising roads and digging borewells. Now every household has daily water supply and pays Rs.25 a month as water tax.


Project Contact:

K Jagannath,

Panchayat President

Ph: 080-8439888 (Off), 080-8439301 (Res)




Rural Relations: Spreading Computer Literacy in Schools


Call him a walking talking encyclopaedia of rural India or just a lover of Indian villages. No matter how you describe him, the fact remains that Pradeep Lokhande has personally visited over 4,000 villages in India, recorded their populations, markets, education systems, consumer habits, and can rattle off these figures just like that.

That's creditable. But more so is the fact that he hasn't stopped at just travelling or documentation. He has used his travels to learn about the great digital divide between rural and urban India and is working towards taking computers to 28,000 village schools. Since February 2000, he has already installed 102 used computers, the first one being at the Mandardev village school in Maharashtra.

All this under the aegis of "Rural Relations", a rural consumer relations organisation that he runs in Pune. Its activities span 28,000 villages in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and giants like P&G and HLL have hired his services. It was during his market research and regular communication with the rural communities of students, teachers and parents that he began to understand the urgent need to eradicate computer illiteracy and inculcate a scientific temperament among rural children. He realised that a mere introduction to the computer - the epitome of a modern lifestyle - can do wonders for the confidence of these children.

"When these village children go to cities for employment or further study, they often get baffled at the sight of computers," says Lokhande. "One cannot imagine life without computers and yet such a large segment of our students have never even seen one, forget worked on one. It is possible that this can lead to a low self-confidence." Which is why, Lokhande's primary aim is to make rural children aware of a computer and its functions. "I want them to touch, try out and feel the PC," he says. Toward this end, Lokhande and his team have gone about collecting used computers from donors and gifting them to schools free of cost. The initial cost incurred by them is Rs. 1000 or so, and that comes out of Lokhande's pocket.

But the computers are not randomly distributed to just about anybody. The team first reviews the request from the school. It then checks if the school has (preferably) a student population of at least 200, at least one teacher who has received computer training at a government workshop and that the school does not already own a computer. It then provides the computer for its secondary students, believing that children in this age group are more open to new information.

The team works on the premise that after this initial introduction, the school will try and harness enough funds on its own to either upgrade the existing computer or then buy a new one and initiate computer education in the school. The current figures show that 37 of the 102 schools have been pushed into buying new computers or upgrading the systems by the students.

Lokhande has a reason for the use of second-hand computers. He says, "Even at home, we see that nobody lets kids touch brand new items. They are kept as display items, and that's precisely what we don't want. Moreover the cost factor is crucial." About 10 % of the computers have come from a leading research organisation and the remaining from other private firms or individuals, whom he is especially grateful to. Unfortunately, the corporate industry has not been too generous in its support.

But lack of enthusiasm is not new to Lokhande. He remembers the launch of this project in 1998, when he had asked children from the rural schools he had visited to write letters and seek assistance from 28 public personalities. "These were luminaries from diverse fields like IT, media, business and even politics. I asked the kids to write to them and tell them that with the coming of the 21st century, they wished to be computer literate too and sought their support." Needless to add, he did not receive a single positive response. That was when he started off on his own, beginning with Mumbai and requesting citizens there to donate their used PCs.

"However, the response of the students is unbelievable. The day we take the computer to a school is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for many of them. The way their eyes light up makes it all worthwhile," says Lokhande, with visible emotion. This particular project has been detailed with the "non-resident villager" as his target. His reasoning is that each of us has our roots somewhere in some village and to honour those roots, we must come together and give something back to the rural societies.

For that matter, his entire rural relations outfit functions on a similar philosophy. In his objective to market concepts and not products, he begins by introducing subjects such as oral care and hygiene and then bringing in toothpastes and soaps. Following that, he ensures sustained communication with the villagers, continuously sending them health care and other tips and inviting their feedback. The result being that hundreds of letters pour into his office and the communication chain is never broken.

It's not surprising that Lokhande has been able to relate so well to the rural sector. He himself hails from Wai, a town about 140 kms from Pune. Having gone through the rigours of small-town life himself, he wishes to bring about a change, either through his profession of rural marketing or then through his vocation of community service.



Project Contact:

Pradeep Lokhande/ Ambar Adhav

Rural Relations

Tel : 91 – 20 - 6811526






Professor Brij Kothari, associate professor in Ravi J Mathai Center for Educational Innovation at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad conceived a project that made literacy a sort of entertainment feature. He believes that adult literacy programs failed because of their poor implementation. Kothari’s program has a quiz interface called Kaun Banshe Aksharpati (Who will become literary rich). It is computer software that will run on touch screen kiosks to be installed in rural areas. It will basically test the literacy level of the user and will generate a report in a field where the user has failed.

A Web camera will record the user’s picture which will be displayed on the kiosk screen where an anchor guides him or her through some pre-recorded helpline messages. Characters will be displayed at the center of the screen and four options at the four corners of the screen will ask you to identify the right word. The user can then proceed to answer the next question out of a total of 55. After every five correct answers, a social message will be displayed and the user will have the option to choose any song out of a jukebox, which will be played with subtitles. The subtitles, Prof Kothari maintains, will reinforce the relationship between what a user hears and what he can read. At the end, the user gets a certificate, which he can print and maintain as a record. The certificate will also reflect the areas of improvement in characters as well as consonants. It also gives a critical feedback to the user as well as the government as far as the level of literacy is concerned. The user can benchmark his level and try for a better level next time till he achieves his target.

Prof Kothari, a PhD in developmental communication, says his model will generate revenue and can be sustained for long. "The penetration will be enormous and companies can take this opportunity to advertise their products through these kiosks.

This will also help generate revenues to run the kiosks," Prof Kothari informs.

The government has already introduced computers in schools and almost all the schools have PCs at their command. With no software to measure the level of children’s education or the literacy level of the people in the area, the computers have not given any real proof of their potential. Prof Kothari believes that it should be either the government or an NGO could run the program in the rural Indian populace. The software trial run is already over and the interface is expected to be launched this year.

"Besides, nobody will have to spend anything at all. A village entrepreneur will install the kiosk and earn money from advertising. What the government or the NGO need to do is bridge the gap between a potential advertiser and a kiosk owner," he says. Taking the same concept as a base, Prof Kothari also plans to explore the medium of TV, which has a larger penetration. The government spends millions in producing UGC programs and airing them at a time when no one watches them. But Prof Kothari plans to buy prime time slots from Doordarshan to air a special kind of Chitrahar, with same language subtitling (SLS) running below the screen from June this year. SSL costs a mere 1 paise per person per year.



Project Contact:

Brij Kothari

Wing 14, Indian Institute of Management

Vastrapur, Ahmedabad -380015, Gujarat.




GIS for Local-Level Development Planning

The UNDP-assisted project on GIS-Based Technology For Local-level Development Planning was executed and implemented by the Union Department of Science and Technology during November 1996 and December 2000, in association with leading academic institutions, data generating agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the country.

Some of the tools and techniques developed under the UNDP-assisted initiative include the Geo-referenced Area Management or the GRAM++ GIS package and Decision Support Modules for selected sectors of local level planning. Water resources management, land use planning, energy budgeting and infrastructure development were identified as the key focal themes under the project.

The pre-cursor to this initiative was a UNDP-assisted project with the Survey of India that focused on setting up a digital cartographic facility at the Modern Cartographic Centre, Dehradun.

Through the efforts of this centre, a digital cartographic database was established in the country. Prior to this the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) was assisted by UNDP to establish facilities for remote sensing technology for land development at the All India Soil and Land Use Survey Organisation.



Project Contact:

P S Acharya

Scientist, Ministry of Science & Technology

Ph: 011 – 6567373


GIS-Based Decision Support System in Kutch, Gujarat


In order to achieve fast and efficient Decision Support System, UNDP has employed Geographic Information System for the Kutch district. The system is useful in the processing of the survey data. Geodatabase is prepared by laying the various databases on the district, taluka and village maps of the district.


Project Contact:

Mausami Soni

Gujarat Disaster Management Authority

Ph: 9825095139



IT-based Networks for Citizens Groups for Access to Information

This initiative aims at capacity building of public authorities for improving citizens' access to information for achieving transparency and accountability in governance at all levels. It will demonstrate the use of IT for efficient information management and dissemination to strengthen the supply side of information and at the same time it will use ICT based initiatives to strengthen the demand side of information (through mass media campaigns, networking of decentralised institutions etc) that is pertinent to a broad array of services citizens expect of government departments, including performance of poverty reduction programs.



Project Contact:

O P Agarwal

Jt Secy, Dept of Personnel & Training

Ph: 011- 6106314


S&T Applied to Rural Transformation (START)


The program provides an opportunity to test, refine and demonstrate projected models which seek to bring technology and people together. One technology-based institution each in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand, a CSIR laboratory (RRL Bhopal) and an NGO (SRI Ranchi) act as pivots and mother centres and support a network of twenty block level technology resource and dissemination centres.

These centres in turn, provide interface for communities, SHGs and NGOs to acquire and utilise technologies relevant to their needs. Cementing this interface is the use of IT which facilitates and enables rapid exchange of information within the network and upstream between the TDCs and the wider scientific establishment of laboratory and institutions.

Under each TDC, there will be ten Technology Resource Centres each, which will all be interconnected through the internet. The activities per se of the TDCs and TRCs are not likely to be IT-related but the IT connectivity will help to exchange and disseminate information.



Project Contact:

Dr MVRL Murthy

Technical Development & Application Centre,


Ph: 0755 – 48901



S&T Entrepreneurship Parks (STEPS) & Technology Business Incubators (TBIS)


Under this sub-programme, UNDP will support two of the 13 STEPS already established by the Department of Science & Technology in different parts of the country. These are the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and the PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore. There will also be two TBIS, one at IIT Delhi and one possibly at Annamalai University, Chennai (not finalised as yet). The TBI at IIT Delhi will be heavily IT oriented. Also, all the 13 STEPS, the two TBIS, DST and APCTT will be linked on the internet. APCTT, which implements the sub-programme will create a web site for this purpose. Two NUNVs have been recruited to operate this S&T database.



Project Contact:

Dr PKB Menon

Jt Advisor, Dept of Science & Technology

Ph: 011 – 6517186


UNITeS Volunteer


After the super cyclone in 1999, every rumor of a new cyclone makes the village people more than worried. It was like that in the year 2000, one year after the catastrophe that affected the coastal area of Orissa and killed more than ten thousand people. Having this in mind, the villagers from Balikuda district started to abandon their houses when they heard that a new cyclone was going to affect the area. It was just a rumor, but they were traumatized and reacted instinctively trying to escape to a safer region.

The villagers were desperate to get accurate and reliable information. The IT Kiosks established that year by United Nations Information Technology Services (UNITeS) helped the communities on disaster preparedness, as part of the project Bridging Digital Divide in Disaster Prone Areas of Orissa. From these IT kiosks, the community could access the Internet to get information about weather and Disaster Preparedness.

The Block Development Officer (BDO) and United Nations Volunteers were trying to convince the villagers that the cyclone, that was actually forming, would not affect the district. The people didn’t believe and kept leaving their houses. “They were afraid of loosing everything again: family members, house, properties, etc. They were in panic because they had suffered it just one year ago, it was very recent”, comments the project coordinator, Sujit Mohanty.

The computer, which is usually used as a source of information, at that time was used also as a proof. The BDO and UN Volunteers gathered a group of villagers in the IT Kiosk and showed them the US Navy website, where they found the path of the cyclone that was going to affect the country. In fact, Balikuda was not going to be affected, and that was the necessary evidence to calm the community. After this exposure they stopped leaving the village and the life was restored to normal.

“If they had received a phone call or just an explanation, they would not have trusted it. But seeing it with their own eyes, they started to believe. The computer helped as a testimony, maybe in a way we have not imagine before”, concludes the project officer.

Project Contact:

Sujit Mohanty

Ph: 0674 – 534755 / 534850 / 534851




One Village One Computer (1V1C)


The project ‘One Village One Computer’ is for introducing IT solutions in backward areas of Maharashtra, a state in India. The title is suggestive and it aims at setting up of information centers for a group of villages around each center. This center will act as an information + communication + education center for that region. The center will be run by the local youth, will collect information relevant to the local population and have local participation at every step. All the information, contents will be in the local language Marathi, owned and used by the local population. All such centers will connect with each other voluntarily, pull together information, help each other on equal footings. In developing this model primary importance is given for information & knowledge, the human capital, training a large number of cadres step by step in necessary IT tools and secondary importance is given for large investments in hardware, connectivity etc. Hence any dedicated group can start with almost nil investment locally and then grow step by step. This cost effectiveness at the initial stage is important for a rapid and spontaneous spread of the model. More resources needed can be added at a later stage. The model is based on the principles of knowledge economics, particularly on the Endogenous Growth Theory. The model also supports the efforts at creating appropriate ICT technologies for backward areas like Simputer, WLL communication technologies, Akruti Multilingual Software for Indian Languages etc. Collection of useful and relevant information and drawing masses locally in the project forms the first stage. The model is adaptable to the local conditions of different locations. It can sustain itself and generate small employment for the local youth. Over a period a database of natural and human resources can be generated which will be vital for the local economic development. The local educated youth will gain in IT education to begin with and then provided with other e-educational resources for their further development. Ultimately at the highest stage the model should lead to generation of innovations at the local level. The innovations will be locally relevant and suitable for backward situations and will not only technical in nature but also in the fields of education, economy, culture and local administration etc. It is not important to benefit people only materially without empowering them in real sense. If confined to that, the local population may get marginalised in spite being appeared to have progressed. With adequate and appropriate databases at hand collected through their own efforts, grass root level motivated groups can themselves analyse the data, draw proper conclusions and orient their efforts towards desirable solutions through agitation, if and whenever necessary. The model will seek for collective solutions as against individualised solutions. No closed blueprint of this plan is drawn and the model is kept open for experimentation and emergence. Many times good experiments at the local level stagnate or die down. If the people are empowered with IT tools, and IT developmental models, the innovations and valuable experiments can be digitised and transmitted everywhere. Thus the cutting age technology is to be introduced in the most backward areas. To implement this project, these solutions are provided to the existing social movements, grass root social organisations already working for many years. These organisations are socially more aware and socially responsible in their lives, aware about the developmental issues of backward areas in India. A dedicated fresh local group of youth can also start. With more experience such groups can be guided properly. If such cadres are made aware of the powers of IT tools, are provided with appropriate technologies of IT, modern analytical tools and appropriate developmental models for backward areas, greater impact on the situation can be achieved. In essence: 1. IT and IT tools should not be looked upon as external agents but should be integrated in the development process itself. 2. The essence of Knowledge Economy and IT is in its price and resource cost reduction and should be taken advantage of fully in the developmental process. 3. Human knowledge assets, technology, knowledge become critical in the Knowledge Era rather than traditional capital. 4. In the human history there were many path breaking technologies. People always got benefited by the way of availability of the products of these technologies. But the technologies themselves remained essentially out of their reach. With the emergence of IT, now the technology itself becomes available to the common man. 5. With IT, floodgates of knowledge have opened to the most backward areas. 6. Women and ethnic groups world over are always kept away from technology. For example in India women are not allowed to plough by customs. Now it is time for them to get hold of the technology in their own hands. 7. Many of the points mentioned above are the NECESSARY conditions available in the situation and are by no means the SUFFICIENT conditions. Towards that lot of work need to be done. 8. Technology is not something given but can be shaped for the benefit of society. The same can be said of the social sciences. With these pointers in mind we have made some experimentation in the state of Maharashtra in four districts. In these we have identified people’s issues, collected databases for that and focussed the issues as far as possible. In the process we have used IT and empowered people in using the IT tools. We have planned to focus women’s issues in the same way throughout the state of Maharashtra in the coming months.


Project Contact:

Anil Shaligram

Project Co-ordinater

Phone number: (022) 5363122


Shaligram House Opposite Old Municipal Building Station Road (Subhash Road)

Thane – 400601






A website called `Gramsampark’ has been developed in the state of Madhya Pradesh. A complete database of available resources, basic amenities, beneficiaries of government programmes and public grievances in all the 51,000 villages of Madhya Pradesh can be obtained by accessing the website

With this, Madhya Pradesh has become the first state in the country to make such information public and transparent, thereby making the system more accountable to the people. Information is now just a mouse click away for anybody interested in the development of Madhya Pradesh’s villages.

Gramsampark has three sections -- Gram Paridrashya (village scenario), Samasya Nivaran (grievance redressal) and Gram Prahari (village sentinel). An 11-point monitoring system has been put in place where programmes are monitored village-wise every month.

The state government has decided to add four more programmes under the monitoring system, which includes untouchability-eradication, women’s empowerment, water conservation and campaigns for sanitation. The programmes include ensuring the proper functioning of hand pumps in villages, ensuring the repair of defective transformers within a week, ensuring regular teaching and distribution of mid-day meals and regular payment of salaries to schoolteachers.

The Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh announced that the site would be made public from October 2, allowing people to lodge their complaints and check the authenticity of the information. He said that the chief secretary himself would monitor all complaints and take the appropriate action. District collectors could use the information to redress grievances.

Referring to the website, Singh said that during the past few months, a wealth of data, which was not available even with the concerned departments, had been collected. He added that a separate software was being developed for cities whereby all the information would be available on-line. People could lodge their complaints on the website and there would also be facilities for on-line payments.

Source: UNI, September 24, 2002

Project Contact:

National Informatics Centre (NIC),

M.P. State Unit,

C-wing Basement, Vindhyachal Bhawan, Bhopal.


Karnataka schools use computers to enhance learning


The Karnataka government is launching 55 more community learning centres across the state after the success of a project where computers were set up in 35 rural government schools. Independent research commissioned to assess the impact of the project indicates that there has been a marked increase in learning achievement, following the introduction of computers.

The project, a joint initiative between the government of Karnataka and the Azim Premji Foundation, was set up on a pilot basis, in mid-2001. Its aim was to demonstrate that technology initiatives, such as the use of software to reinforce certain aspects of mathematics, geography, environmental sciences and Kannada, have a positive impact on the interest levels of children and increase their learning achievement levels. In this case, computers for education also aimed at increasing attendance and enrolment rates.

The new centres will be set up in the Chitradurga, Kodagu, Bangalore Rural, Chikmagalur, Shimoga, Hassan, Davanagere, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Uttara Kannada and Tumkur districts.

Children from Hemmanahalli village, in Maddur Taluk, 70 km from Bangalore, are representative of the change that has taken place.

Twelve-year-old Pratap wants to become a police inspector. His father, Shankar, is illiterate and makes a living from one acre of land. Pratap wants to graduate and this is driving him to study well. He is conscious that he is a first-generation literate and is proud that he has taught his father the alphabet and also how to sign his name.

Nandini, also a class 7 student, wants to become a doctor. Her parents have studied upto middle school. Her father, Mahadevappa, is a bus driver and the family lives a frugal life. They are proud of Nandini. Nandini’s mother keenly follows up her daughter’s progress in school.

These children are completely at ease with computers. They enjoy learning and are making the most of the opportunity offered to them. Though they operate in Kannada, they now aspire to learn English.


Source: Deccan Herald, November 24, 2002

Project Contact:

Azim Premji Foundation

Head - Advocacy and Research,

Azim Premji Foundation

5, Papanna Street, St.Marks Road Cross,

Bangalore - 560 001

Telephone : 91- 80 - 2272264 / 2273665

Fax : 91 - 80 – 2291869





The telephone is no longer a rarity, at least in some villages in Andhra Pradesh, thanks to a unique experiment to make this modern gadget accessible to the poor at a rate that is well within their reach

About 70 per cent of households in Kalleda village, in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, roughly 200 km from Hyderabad, have phones in their homes. About 50 per cent of Dalit homes are also connected thanks to an initiative by a Hyderabad-based NGO, the Rural Telecom Foundation (RTF).

The experiment involves the sharing a single phone line by four households, a concept that was used in the West in the initial days of the telephone, to improve access and familiarise users with the advantages of the telephone.

The International Telecom Union, a specialised wing of the UN recommends using party lines to bridge the digital divide. Although the concept of a `party line’ was incorporated in the Indian Telegraph Act, it was never tried out.

A party line is `a telephone connection where two or more parties share a common line to a departmental exchange’. The party line, renamed `gram phone’ by the RTF, is extremely cost effective: it costs a mere Rs 12.50 per month for an individual household. The user gets 30 free outgoing calls and an unlimited number of incoming calls.

The instrument with the outgoing call facility is placed in the group leader’s house from where the outgoing call has to be placed. The installation charges, of about Rs 800, were borne by the RTF for the 350-odd connections in the village.

The facility has become so popular that in the three months since it was installed, more than 1,520 clients have queued up for it in the cluster of villages where it is proposed to be introduced after Kalleda.

A succinct comment on the utility of an easily-accessible phone line comes from one of the villagers: whether for patti (cotton) or sampatti (wealth) or aapatti (a crisis situation), a phone is helpful! Nakka Sailu, a daily-wage earner, explained how, thanks to a phone call, he was able to reach a relative who was waylaid by miscreants and left on the roadside near Shyampet, 20 km away.

The facility is also economical, since earlier not only would news of relatives in other places reach the villagers late, but, in cases of emergency, they had to visit them, thereby losing a day’s wages and spending an additional amount on bus fare.

Madan Mohan Rao of the RTF, one of the brains behind the project, said that for the common man, the phone is a real tool of empowerment. “Next to death, information is a leveller. The cost of accessing that information perpetuates inequality,” he said.

Besides, Madan added, the common or party line can help blur divisions in a caste-ridden, unequal society. “Everything is a call away, from a doctor to a politician to a government official. It also leads to a more responsive system,” he said.

According to the International Telecom Union, a one per cent increase in tele-density (phones per 100 people) leads to a three per cent increase in GDP. Thanks to the installation of the 300-odd party lines in Kalleda, this village is almost on a par with the district headquarters of Warangal and the Andhra Pradesh capital of Hyderabad. While tele-density in Warangal is 10.27 per cent, and in Hyderabad 10.43 per cent, in Kalleda it is 9.59 per cent.

RTF board member Anita Manwani says that every state government should consider the gram phone scheme as a tool for creating basic infrastructure in villages. Other members of the group, telecom expert Joseph Perneyezi and Uday Kumar (an IIT Kanpur graduate), both USA-based, have jointly developed the know-how of the low-cost party line. They donated their intellectual property to the RTF.

The good news for potential phone service providers is that 95 per cent of gram phone subscribers have paid up their bills. The poor, as numerous studies have shown, are ideal customers, whether of small loans or as small entrepreneurs. They merely want price-sensitive and efficient products and services.

Source: Deccan Herald, September 29, 2002

Project Contact:

Sashi M. Kumar

Network Deployment, Business Modeling, and Planning

Tel. 040-756-3831, 756-6655, 374-1067




Kuppam: An ‘i-community’ in the making


Even as the Andhra Pradesh government is working to provide broadband connectivity of one megabyte per second in each of the five mandals that make up the Kuppam constituency, browser-based Web services to access government benefits, agricultural information, educational resources and healthcare records, are being test-run. With assistance from a global community leadership training voluntary agency, World Corps, and the chief minister’s schemes for unemployed youth, a new breed of Kuppam’s young entrepreneurs has come forward to set up a chain of Community Information Centres (CICs). These local cyber dhabas also serve as copier shops, telephone booths and dissemination points for a variety of government welfare schemes.

A correspondent from The Hindu, who visited the ‘intelligent community’ in the making, as part of a media group, saw tangible signs that the Andhra government’s thrust to harness IT as a socio-economic driver was bearing fruit. Auxiliary medical personnel like midwives, who make door-to-door calls to the 64,000 houses in the five villages that make up this southern mandal in Chittoor district, routinely enter data about births, deaths, immunisations done, family planning measures adopted, etc, into a personal computer at the nearest Primary Health Centre (PHC). As the second phase of the AP-HP effort takes off this week -- to last one year in a total experiment planned for three years – personnel will be provided hand-held computing devices where they can directly log their entries in the field and put them into a base computer at the end of a field trip.

Even in the hitherto most ‘backward’ of the five villages -- Gudipally -- where literacy is currently around 24 per cent, a single-PC CIC has sprung up. The three young men who jointly run it supplement the income from browsers and e-mailers, by selling stationery and fancy goods. “We get farmers coming in to ascertain the vegetable wholesale prices in Chittoor and Bangalore, by STD calls,” explains S Subramoni, who shared a Rs 3 lakh bank loan with two friends to set up the cyber dhaba. “But many locals come here to e-mail their relatives and our youth surf the job employment sites.”

World Corps coordinator, Deepa Pravin, explained that the agency provides rigorous training in responsible entrepreneurship to local applicants and assists them in identifying socially relevant local business opportunities. Anand Tawker, director of HP’s India i-community project and convener of the joint committee that steers the AP-HP initiative, explained that the major objectives of the Kuppam experiment were planned for completion in the coming 24 months. And, that a few large private sector Indian companies were likely to help in achieving some of the goals. HP will provide technology inputs like voice-activated systems for interactive local services and solar-backed photography and printing services as a self-employment package. It has taken the help of Indian software agencies to realise Telegu language interfaces and create literacy-testing systems.

Project workers felt that Kuppam, which is only 90 minutes away by train from Bangalore, has the potential of becoming a major vegetable and fruit supplier if its reach to the urban centre could be e-enabled.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister, N Chandrababu Naidu, who is the legislative representative from Kuppam, has promised his 275,000-strong electorate that his target is to make the constituency 100 per cent literate within the project period.

The US printer giant hopes to replicate this first-of-its-kind experiment in China, as part of its announced `e-inclusion’ initiative to deploy part of its global workforce in bridging the developing world’s digital divide. However, its role in the Kuppam project has been low-key, if sustained. None of the villagers recognised the letters `HP’ or associated the mostly Indian taskforce with the American company.


Source: The Hindu, October 10, 2002

Project Contact:

(India) Headquarters Hewlett-Packard (India) Ltd.

Chandiwala Estate

Maa Anand Mai Marg

New Delhi - 110019

Phone: 91 - 011 - 6826000

Fax: 91 - 011 - 6826030




Same Language Subtitling (SLS) of film songs is an extremely simple and ridiculously economical concept that capitalises on the powerful conjunction of music and television to infuse everyday entertainment with reading practice. In Same Language Subtitling, the lyrics of film songs shown on television appear as subtitles in the same language as the audio.

This simplest of additions to popularly watched song programmes in every state and every language, could contribute to colossal gains in the literacy levels of millions of Indians. Literacy levels of millions of those whom we consider literate are abysmally low presently. Yet television increasingly commands an overwhelming share of media presence in an average Indian household. The dominance of television is matched in programming only by the insatiable appetite for film-based entertainment.

Gujarat Experience

Same Language Subtitling is more than just an idea with potential. Gujarat is the first and only state where it has become a reality, thanks to the efforts of three collaborating institutions in Ahmedabad - the Indian Institute of Management (Ravi J. Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation or RJMCEI), ISRO (Development and Educational Communication Unit or DECU) and Doordarshan Kendra (State TV for Gujarat).


'The subtitled words change colour to exactly match the audio'

Since May 1999, the weekly telecasts of 'Chitrageet' - a programme of Gujarati film songs - are being subtitled in Gujarati. The subtitled words change colour to exactly match the audio, making it easy for neo-literates to follow along with the song. Over two thousand postcards received from literate and neo-literate viewers alike have almost unanimously been in favour of subtitling. Generally, people enjoy Same Language Subtitling because it helps them to sing along, to get to know the song lyrics, even to write down parts of the song. Due to the complementary effect of sound and subtitles, many claim to 'hear' the songs better. "A partially deaf member in my family started dancing while watching this programme," wrote Rameshbhai Naik, a painter from Kadi village in Mehsana district.

The power of Same Language Subtitling lies in the fact that it is covertly educational. On the surface it enhances the entertainment value of popular song programmes and simultaneously makes reading practice an incidental, automatic and subconscious process. Same Language Subtitling weaves lifelong literacy transactions in a home environment at a ridiculously low cost per person, compared with what the National Literacy Mission and individual states are spending on Post-Literacy.

Currently in Gujarat the combined centre and state expenditure is approximately two US dollars per neo-literate per annum. Less than 5 per cent of the neo-literate population is covered. With Same Language Subtitling of one weekly episode of Chitrageet, at least 25 per cent of the neo-literates (3.5 million persons) can get 30 minutes of reading practice per week for one year. For Gujarat, the yearly cost of Same Language Subtitling per person comes to only 0.0066 US$.

The economics of Same Language Subtitling become even more attractive in states with larger populations. In the Hindi belt (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh), which accounts for almost half the country's illiterates and neo-literates, Same Language Subtitling of one weekly episode of Chitrahaar would give weekly reading practice to over 120 million neo-literates at a lowly 0.0001 US$ per person per annum.

Same Language Subtitling's presence in everyday television viewing makes it a lifelong strategy of regular and incremental impact on the reading skills of millions and it becomes so without compromising entertainment.


The target viewership of Same Language Subtitling on television is broad. It includes school-going children who can get out-of-school reinforcement, school drop-outs who can relearn eroded skills and millions of adults who enthusiastically pick up basic skills under the literacy campaigns but have had few opportunities or perhaps have lacked personal motivation to engage in regular practice. A major advantage of Same Language Subtitling is that it invites reading without depending on personal motivation for literacy practice.



Project Contact:

Brij Kothari,

Indian Institute of Management,

Ravi J. Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation,

Wing 14, Vastrapur, Ahmedabad-380015,






I.  Sisu Samarakshak: Integrated Information for Early Childhood Development (I2ECD)

The Hyderabad Field Office, in co-operation with the state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, with the IT firm CoOptions Technologies Ltd., has initiated Sisu Samrakshak; a pilot project to harness information and communication technologies (ICTs) to accomplish the following:

Provide access to rapid, accurate and up-to-date information on matters of human development, including child health, maternal care, HIV/AIDS, water supply and sanitation and other time-sensitive information to families and communities;

Provide information and on the job training support to front line functionaries such as Anganwadis, ANMs, teachers and other workers; and

Augment current programmes supported by the state governments and UNICEF (i.e. integrated border district health programme, integrated programming in health, children’s development/nutrition and water supply-sanitation) to accelerate achievement of goals pertaining to children’s and women’s development.


II.  Collaboration with Bridges to the Future (BFI)/Intentional Literacy Institute


UNICEF, with the World Bank and JP Morgan Chase, is supporting Bridges for the Future of the International Literacy Institute/University of Pennsylvania and the Government of Andhra Pradesh to implement a project harnessing IT to enhance education outcomes of out-of-school children.  Associated partners include World-Links, Educomp Datamatics and the Azim Premji Foundation.


III.  Data Collection and Research


UNICEF HFO has been undertaking research in the following since 2002 and which will continue into 2003:


  • Survey and database of ICT Projects in South India Relevant to UNICEF Objectives: This studies surveys agencies and projects working in the area of ICTs and child rights. ICT4K:  Information and Communications Technology for Kids:  An Exploration of IT Lessons Learned in India.  The piece explores ICT applications in the areas of:   child protection, rights, health, nutrition, education and development.   It is anticipated that this database will eventually be translated into a dynamic search engine in co-operation with the International Institute of Technology (based in Hyderabad).   This database will provide contact information as well as evaluative information that would supplement the survey documents.


  • UNICEF Strategic Policy Paper on ICTs for Child-Oriented Development:  This document will outline the ways in which UNICEF policy and programming can facilitate the effective use of ICTs to achieve child-oriented developmental and management objectives.


UNICEF Strategic Policy Paper on Biotechnology for Child-Oriented Development:  This document will seek to outline the ways in which UNICEF policy and programming could facilitate the effective use of Biotechnology resources to achieve child-oriented developmental objectives. This document will examine recent and pending applications in health, nutrition, agricultural biotechnology, and other areas of relevance as they emerge from interviews with leading Indian and international biologists, human rights advocates, and others working in the field of bio-ethics. 


Source: UNICEF

Project Contact:

William Thompson