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  • India’s rural masses have embraced latest wi-fi technology, say experts

    In the Loni-Shirdi area of western Maharashtra, over 200 villages have formed a cooperative and raised Rs 2 crore to leverage information technology for their benefit. They have set up nearly 50 wireless `hotspots’ to harness the latest wi-fi systems so that villagers can get agricultural access systems right at their doorsteps. The technology to wirelessly connect to the Internet has recently been legalised by the government.

    Although many `mahithi ghars’, or information kiosks, in Goa are right across the road from government offices, where application forms are free, villagers prefer spending Rs 15 to access application forms and dispatch them electronically. They say quicker action is taken this way.

    In Tamil Nadu, an innovative information kiosk operator has installed a Web camera on his PC. He recently took a photograph of some diseased vegetables brought in by a farmer. Within the day, experts at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University had diagnosed the disease and suggested a remedy.

    In Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district, India’s most ‘wired’ rural reach has taken to wi-fi technology in a big way. Now women, shy of going to information ‘dhabas’, are able to access information from their homes.

    An 85 km stretch between Lucknow and Kanpur has become known as the `Digital Gangetic Plain’, thanks to a Media Lab Asia project that has wired the area with wi-fi repeaters.

    Wi-fi technology, which was conceived in the West as a means of short-range communication over 100 metres or less, can be leveraged to provide Internet links of upto 100 km. The technology has helped take Net-based services right into the heart of ‘unconnected India’.

    A national conference on wireless networking, organised in Bangalore recently by the Manufacturers’ Association of Information Technology (MAIT), held a panel discussion on how wi-fi could be used to bridge the digital divide.

    To the surprise of many in the audience the examples cited by the panelists clearly showed that India’s rural masses were perhaps ahead of their more sophisticated urban counterparts in recognising and exploiting the compelling attractions of this new technology.

    However, delegates were told that over 60-70% of the 350,000 km of fibre optic cabling laid throughout the country by BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd) was idle as the ‘last mile’ link to customers was missing. It was suggested that state governments purchase the waste bandwidth at special prices and join hands with private providers to offer final connectivity.

    Source: The Hindu

    May 4, 2003

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