E-Governance for Conservation

IT for Social Change

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 08, 2006

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‘IT for Social Change’ (IT4SC), a network idea by Anil Shaligram who used to run a DTP centre in Maharashtra, is being implemented by him in the State.

His strategy is to conduct community IT literacy campaigns, set up IT Centers in localities. Through village network he plans to collect basic relevant data and contents on various issues, computerize these and use it for analysis, dissemination and broadcasting.

The first Social Process Software that uses these data for analysis and resolution of community problems has been developed called Domestic Women Workers’ Software Tool and it is being used by domestic worker's unions. In addition to employment issues and domestic women workers from cities and towns, they have also taken up the issues of sanitation and water conservation in villages, public distribution system, public health, poverty related issues, destitute people's pensions etc.in the next software application.

Anil also writes about how the grass root movement is being led by youth. In Beed District youth lead IT driven rainwater harvesting and water management. In Parbhani they use IT to guarantee employment to communities. In New Mumbai, they are exercising right to information and communication using internet to win a participation in developmental process. In Satara, IT has become integral part of their education and cultural activism.

 Anil envisages that the concept of IT for Social Change (IT4SC) will become a major Social Sectoral concept and 21st century is going to be a Networking Society and Knowledge Society. This IT enabled community based concept is going to play a major role in the formation and constitution of that society. It can also be a CONVERGING SOCIETY in which organizational solutions like IT4SC will emerge by which backward communities can catch up with the advanced communities by using advance knowledge and technologies to usher into an egalitarian world community.

Anil can be contacted at anilshaligram@yahoo.com

E-Governance for Conservation

Participation of villagers in shifting due to dam construction

Posted by Susan Sharma on January 26, 2006

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“Participatory Rule Appraisal” (PRA) appears to be paying dividends to the West Godavari district administration in  implementing the relief and rehabilitation package meant for the people of 29 villages who had to be displaced due to the construction of Polavaram project.

Under PRA, the role of district administration will be minimal. The concept, the brainchild of West Godavari district Collector Luv Agarwal sounds interesting. In case of Devaragondi and Mamidigondi villages, the district administration limited its role to explaining the salient features of the package and identified several places suitable for rehabilitating the displaced. The villagers visited all the places and themselves chose where they wished to stay.

“Now, we will ask the people to choose the plots where they want their houses to be constructed. Once, all the villagers identify the plots, construction of houses will be handed over to the NGOs,” says West Godavari district Collector Luv Agarwal .

As per the project schedule, people of seven villages have to be first rehabilitated in the new villages within three years. By the time, all this is over, the people will develop some attachment too to their new habitations, the Collector said. Though PAR is a time consuming process, its sustainability is more and the chances of irregularities are less, the Collector added. According to him, the State government has already cleared the proposals pertaining to Devaragondi and Mamidigondi villages and the process is on for the remaining habitations.

E-Governance for Conservation

Iniernet kiosks in rural areas

Posted by Susan Sharma on January 26, 2006

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n-Logue  was established to serve the information and communications needs of people living in small towns and rural areas of India.

To rapidly scale its operations, the company employs a three-tiered business model based on the belief that delivery and management of Internet services should devolve to the level of the supply chain that comes closest to the user of the service. This decentralised model of operation draws, in large part, from the success of cable TV operations in India.

At the top level is n-Logue, which provides equipment, training and support to the LSPs(Local Service Providers) and kiosks, and also takes care of regulatory and connectivity issues.

At the second level, n-Logue identifies and partners with a local entrepreneur (also called a Local Service Provider or LSP) in every area it wishes to operate. These LSPs find subscribers, provide services and collect payments.

At the bottom level are the village kiosks, which provide services and information aimed at the rural market. With the help of n-Logue, the LSPs recruits the local entrepreneurs who set up the kiosks.

Thus there are up to three business entities involved in the operation - n-Logue, the LSP and a kiosk operator. All three must thrive for the operation to succeed.

Prof. Jhunjhunwallah of IIT Madras who is behind making available an Internet kiosk for just Rs 40,000 (around US$830) that could link up thousands of villages in the country has this to say

” Since we're talking about low investments we can create an army of rural entrepreneurs. They could avail of small loans to set up their own rural STD phone-cum-Internet centres," These small rural businessmen will be 50 per cent partners, and since they will be from the local areas in which they operate they will have far better contact with those with whom they work. In a 25km radius, they expect to find buyers for 500 to 700 connections. These may be individuals, government offices, schools and, most importantly, Internet kiosks that allow access to everyone. This level of operation should make a LSP viable, says Dr Jhunjhunwala.

Even if the numbers don't come in immediately, they will in a year's time when people start realising how new communication technologies empower them. Work towards this end is already underway at Cuddalore district, in India's southernmost province of Tamil Nadu. The technology is also being successfully implemented in Madurai (also in Tamil Nadu) and Dhar in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Likewise, the project is taking hold in Bagru of Rajasthan and Sangrur in north India. "We could have a million subscribers in three to four years. It's possible." Simultaneously, Jhunjhunwala is inspiring youngsters to work on rural Internet applications.

And also on offer is word-processing in the local Tamil language, a mail-client in Tamil, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) or voice-mail in the local language and an agricultural portal in the regional language. "We're adopting two key elements. Affordability, since everything is very low cost, and involving a local person in providing the solutions," says Professor Jhunjhunwala, explaining his model.

Thus far n-Logue has implemented the project in four centres. "The first-level feedback has been extremely encouraging. We have kiosks running in the middle of Madhya Pradesh where the average revenue a kiosk man makes is Rs 4,500 per month. Net of expenses, he makes Rs 3,000 per month, which makes him a rich man in that village,"

E-Governance for Conservation

West Bengal Grameen Sanchar Sewak Scheme

Posted by Susan Sharma on January 08, 2006

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The Grameen Sanchar Sewak (GSS) scheme, kickstarted by BSNL and the Department of Posts in 2002, is ready to be regularised and go national.

The GSS scheme, which began with the idea of employing rural postmen to carry mobile phones from door-to-door in 12,001 villages, has tapped into the 7,000-strong network of self-employed people that Grasso( Grameen Sanchar Society)-a non-governmental organization -uses to carry phones to far-flung locations. 

Grasso-subsidized by BSNL for the gSS scheme- has provided mobile reach to 93% of West Bengal's 34 blocks.  They are now planning Common Service Centres(CSCs) in the State's 3,357 gram panchayats.  The CSCs are to be a hu for about 20 services, ranging from electriity bill payment, tea and coffee to commodity trading, warehousing and cold storage. 

E-Governance for Conservation

Every Village a Knowledge Centre, etc

Posted by Amin Adatia on December 12, 2005

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Susan

I am not sure I would be in favour of reducing the number of people "dependent" on the Farm. One thing about a Farm is that it provides for the ability to grow "personal use" crops and hence the required nutrition and a very high degree of self-esteem. I would not want to be in the situation of my grandfather who had to see his family disperse because the Farm could not support the family.

You can get the GDP and the Per Capita figures to be whatever you want. I am not sure if there is a value in the GDP for "3 meals a day for the family" as opposed to homeless existence in the "City".

Multi-Media enabled cyber-cafe in a village sounds like a good idea for providing the environment for knowledge transfer. Instead of just looking for cyber-cafe entrepreneurs, perhaps we should also look at small trades people who would support the "machineary of the Farm and village".

Regards

E-Governance for Conservation

Every village a knowledge centre

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 10, 2005

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Amin: They say the world has a digital divide. In the digital world, there is a further divide-the users and the techies. Take the case of cyber cafes which are the places from where most Indians access the e-mail. The cafe owner takes care of PC upkeep, viruses etc ( He is a techie in his own right!) so the user is free to reap the benfits only- of emails-at a small price for the connect time. It is this user I had in mind when I was talking of empowerment.

I cannot agree more with you about the impact of the moving picture in spreading any kind of awareness. I am a film maker myself. I make films when I feel a strong need to communicate - like some would write articles or books. So, the knowledge centre at the village must be a multimedia machine, capable of showing films, apart from storing data, communicating etc.

Coming back to our original topic of creating entrepreneurs at the village centre through e-governance. Allow me to quote Mr. Narayanmurthy, Chairman Infosys

“ About 650 million people live in the villages, and agriculture accounts for 26% of India’s GDP, which is about $162 billion. Divide $162 billion by 650 million, you get about $250 each. That is one-third the per capita income of India, which is about $700. You could try increasing the productivity of India’s farm sector so it shoots up to about $ 1 trillion, but that’s a really tough task. Conversely, we could reduce the number of people dependent on agriculture, let’s say make it 450 million, and simultaneously raise farm output to around $350 billion. This too would significantly raise per capita income, and it is far more manageable.”

But is it really manageable if we let “natural forces” to take charge? Faced by failed agriculture incomes, people are migrating to nearby cities in uncontrolled and mismanaged numbers. Creating knowledge centres in the villages will tempt the new job seekers to stay back and become cyber entrepreneurs.

E-Governance for Conservation

Village Empowerment

Posted by Amin Adatia on December 07, 2005

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Susan I am not sure about the empowering impact of an e-mail becuase the reality these days is the spam that comes with an e-mail access. Empowerment would come from seeing and watching how other people in the world do the same things. I remember a story where a person was trying to show the value of a brrom with a long handle as opposed to the hand-held bunch of "twigs". It was only by seeing the "advantage" of the broom did the change happen.

E-Governance for Conservation

Every village a knowledge centre

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 07, 2005

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Amin: You are very correct about what sustainable development means at the village level. Namely, that the village has an assured supply of good food and water, has "jobs" that give a sense of achievement, has safety for its people (as opposed to being subjected to "mafia style" terror) and the absence of the sterotypical landlord :), access to education and freedom to study, etc.

You asked “Do you think having a computer will provide that? Well , provided we have the power back ups in place, a computer can provide knowledge and movies. Knowledge in the village context is certainly not programming knowledge-but market quotes, weather forecasts, local news etc.

The small act of being able to send an email to a distant relative empowers the villager. It is the very basic services a computer can provide that can make a difference. The villager is capable of finding his own water and food, as long as the exploiters are kept at bay. E-governance in India has to mean e-democracy- that is inclusive governance. Many of us here believe it can happen.

E-Governance for Conservation

Re:Every Village a Knowledge Centre

Posted by Amin Adatia on December 02, 2005

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Susan

It all depends on what you mean by a knowledge centre in a village. The computer can facilitate the "deployment" of a knowledge centre but having one is not really necessary. The keyword is Knowledge and the focus seems to be the mechanism with no assurance that "knowledge" will be available.

Ability to write virus/worms and then deploying these is demonstration of programming skills but is it making use of the programming knowledge?

I am still wondering, sitting here in Canada, if the promise, I had heard when I was living in Uganda, of a well (or was it running water) in every village has been fulfilled. I know that by 1991 April, there was no sewer system in every village.

Sustainable development. How do we achieve that? Besides what does it really mean at the village level? The village has an assured supply of good food and water, has "jobs" that give a sense of achievement, has safety for its people (as opposed to being subjected to "mafia style" terror) and the absence of the sterotypical landlord :), access to education and freedom to study, etc. Do you think having a computer will provide that?

What might work better, for knowledge transfer, is the old style weekly village movie/newsreel in the field (or was it under the mango tree?).

Even though I work in IT, I do not think that IT will actually solve societal problems or actually is useful in transfering knowledge to "everyone". So far it has failed in improving much of what ails society and has actually made things worse. There is lots of data available but knowledge comes from being able to interpret which needs an ability (and freedom) to think. So to actually put a computer in every village and maybe create a centre would be possible by 2007. Just divert some of the money from the Nuclear weapons program  for maybe two weeks and you will have it.

600,000 computers at $500 = $300 million if I were to buy them here in Canada. The Canadian Government just spent $250 million on an inquiry on corruption in Government. I do not know the cost of the building the facility in each village but you do not need a "CEO of Tata office" for this. Maybe a valuable by-product of this endeavour would be provision of reliable electricity supply to support the knowledge centre -- and perhaps to the rest of the village.

E-Governance for Conservation

Every village a knowledge centre

Posted by Susan Sharma on November 25, 2005

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Amin: Gandhi advocated sustainable development. His "charkha" was a symbol of self-sustenance and self-empowerment.

In today's knowledge society can the computer take the place of the charkha? I believe it can. Government of India has plans to take the benefit of ICT-led development to every village by creating village knowledge centres in over 6,00,000 villages in India by August, 2007 which marks the 60th year of Indian independence. Ambitious? May be. But we are talking Gandhi's language. Every Indian did not take to spinning on a charkha. But the computer appeals to every Indian.

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