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IT And Development : Background & Perspective

By Aditya Dev Sood

IT What use can a computer be to someone earning less than a dollar a day? What use is information technology in a country that has a low penetration of telephony and computers, where even electricity is not assured, and where millions are still illiterate? These are standard questions. But diverse social and infrastructural needs must be addressed simultaneously to ensure a nation's future growth and prosperity. Already, several projects in the slums of New Delhi, in the fishermens' communities of Pondicherry and in the villages of Madhya Pradesh have demonstrated that information technology can and does positively impact the lives and livelihoods of the poor and semi-literate.


Analysis

Free culture for a free society

By V Sasi Kumar

 What is it that prompts a group of people in Calicut to start the Chamba Swatantra Cinema Project? How did the world move from copyrights over knowledge, introduced in the 16th-18th centuries and codified as the Statute of Anne, to free software, free knowledge and free culture? And when did this revolution in the way we think and create arrive in India?

On January 31, 2011, there was an unusual meeting at the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, Kerala. The participants were a group of young people, some of them activists of the Free Software movement in Kerala, people who were contributing to free software or to localising free software in Malayalam.

Related Articles

»FOSS for the people By Gurumurthy Kasinathan
Read More

»Say 'No' to software patents By V Sasi Kumar
Read More

»ICT in school education: A flawed policymaking process By Gurumurthy Kasinathan
Read More

Features

Do you want to be watched?

By Sunil Abraham

The new rules for surveillance under the IT Act are an assault on our freedom. They also seem misguided, says Sunil Abraham. How many terrorists or criminals will be arrested in India thanks to the new ID requirements at cybercafés or a ban on public wi-fi? Intelligence work cannot be replaced with blanket surveillance.

Privacy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for security. A bank safe is safe only because the keys are held by a trusted few. No one else can access these keys or has the ability to duplicate them. The 2008 Amendment of the Information Technology (IT) Act and their associated rules notified April 2011 propose to eliminate whatever little privacy Indian netizens have had so far (see box below for a lowdown on the rules).

Read More

Related Articles

»No bar on this front: Technology can aid accountability By Frederick Noronha
Read More

»Dreaming of a peer to peer world By V Sasi Kumar
Read More

»Knowledge for all By Nick Gill
Read More

Changemakers

Computer skills empower Kolkata's youth

By Manjira Majumdar

Uddami Computer Training Centre (UCTC)

A social service project in south Kolkata teaches computer skills to the needy so that they earn while they learn to become truly self-sufficient

To get to Uddami Computer Training Centre (UCTC) on Prince Anwar Shah Road, one has to go past a row of tiny kiosks selling vadas, samosas and the ubiquitous kathi rolls. Past a huge, swanky shopping mall with its adjacent multi-storied buildings that point towards the sky like sharpened pencil tips.

Related Articles

»The long road to another life...via Charity Focus and ProPoor  By Frederick Noronha
Read More

»The sermon of Saint IGNUcias of the Church of GNU/LINUX By Laxmi Murthy
Read More

»Nipun Mehta: 'Compassion is contagious' By Huned Contractor
Read More

Stories of Change

The people's voice

By Sherna Gandhy

 Every citizen in this country has a right to be heard. But what happens when you live in an area where no mainstream media organisation bothers to penetrate, and when you speak a language no media organisation knows or understands? CGNet Swara uses mobile telephony to break through the wall of silence in tribal areas of Chhattisgarh

The trendy young may see the mobile phone as a fashion accessory and use it as a means to yammer endlessly with friends, but in the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh, the technology is being put to a very different and infinitely more meaningful use.  

Read More

Related Articles

»The power of video for change
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»A community radio station for less than Rs 1,000
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»Jan Mitra brings government closer to the people in Rajasthan's hinterland
Read More

News

India turns to ICT for better delivery of welfare schemes

Bihar will become the first state in the country to videograph the distribution of PDS coupons to weed out ineligible recipients. And the Union human resources ministry proposes to use a cheap, indigenously made tablet PC to record BPL and caste data

The poor performance of the public distribution system (PDS) -- whereby below-the-poverty-line (BPL) families in India get subsidised foodgrain and fuel -- has led to calls for the abandonment of this welfare scheme and the giving of money directly to people to allow them to buy food.

Read More

Related Articles

»Hyderabad uses cell phones and GPRS to improve civic services
Read More

»Developing countries use mobile phones to fight poverty
Read More

»Healthcare just an SMS away, in Kerala
Read More

Digital Divides

Ambivalent internet: Freedoms and fears

Read More

Urban poor marginalised in policy for internet inclusion?

Read More

‘Design-reality gaps’ in municipal reforms

Read More

Digital inequality in the Global South

Read More

IT And Development : Background & Perspective

By Aditya Dev Sood

What use can a computer be to someone earning less than a dollar a day? What use is information technology in a country that has a low penetration of telephony and computers, where even electricity is not assured, and where millions are still illiterate? These are standard questions. But diverse social and infrastructural needs must be addressed simultaneously to ensure a nation's future growth and prosperity. Already, several projects in the slums of New Delhi, in the fishermens' communities of Pondicherry and in the villages of Madhya Pradesh have demonstrated that information technology can and does positively impact the lives and livelihoods of the poor and semi-literate.

Read more...

Free culture for a free society

By V Sasi Kumar

What is it that prompts a group of people in Calicut to start the Chamba Swatantra Cinema Project? How did the world move from copyrights over knowledge, introduced in the 16th-18th centuries and codified as the Statute of Anne, to free software, free knowledge and free culture? And when did this revolution in the way we think and create arrive in India?

Read more...

FOSS for the people

By Gurumurthy Kasinathan

The Kerala government employs free and open source software. Even the BJP and CPM have announced their support of FOSS. But the Maharashtra government recently announced an MOU with Microsoft for teacher training using Microsoft programs. Wouldn’t it have been better to train the teachers in FOSS applications that are available to everyone and signify equity and democracy in society?

Read more...

Say 'No' to software patents

The Indian government is thinking about introducing software patents in the country. But software patents are bad for everyone except large software companies, says V Sasi Kumar

Read more...

ICT in school education: A flawed policymaking process

The government has proposed a six-fold increase in spending on incorporating ICTs in school education. Government has also formed a group to draft a National Policy on ICT in School Education. Strangely, there are more representatives of IT majors in the group than educationists, says Gurumurthy Kasinathan

Read more...

India must adopt free standards

By V Sasi Kumar

India should not make the mistake of being pressured to adopt a non-free standard for computer applications or we could have big problems in the future

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Google-opoly: The wonder search engine's days of innocence are over

By Sanjay Iyer

On the World Wide Web, Google is God. It is incredibly efficient at analysing web information and serving up the most relevant pages. But increasingly, there are whispers of Google's arbitrariness, its inherent bias towards big players, its arch-conservatism and its monopoly over Internet information dissemination

Read more...

Can Information Technology bring about the long awaited Revolution?

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Times have changed for the media. The IT revolution has meant that your message can go to the four corners of the earth in minutes. This has been proved in Iraq, in Gujarat and most recently in Cancun. Can the media turn to the most pressing issues that need attention in our society, to bring about that radical change which has eluded us for so many decades? This article suggests it can

Read more...

Do you want to be watched?

The new rules for surveillance under the IT Act are an assault on our freedom. They also seem misguided, says Sunil Abraham. How many terrorists or criminals will be arrested in India thanks to the new ID requirements at cybercafés or a ban on public wi-fi? Intelligence work cannot be replaced with blanket surveillance

Read more...

No bar on this front: Technology can aid accountability

By Frederick Noronha

A BarCamp held in Gurgaon recently showcased a number of new initiatives focused on technology, transparency and accountability, from ways to minimise corruption in dealings with government to ways to track power cuts

Read more...

Dreaming of a peer to peer world

By V Sasi Kumar

Michel Bauwens, founder of the Peer to Peer Foundation, is one of those who believe in open spaces and creation without incentive. In this interview he talks about the Free Software and Wikipedia movements as pointers to a genuine change in the way we think, create and distribute goods. He believes that we have never before had such real-time possibilities for human cooperation and collective intelligence on a global scale

Read more...

Knowledge for all

By Nick Gill

In a backlash to the skyrocketing prices of academic journals, academics worldwide are seeking ways to wrest knowledge back from the corporations and open access to all. Following the lead of major universities in Europe and USA, IMSc Chennai launched its open-access repository last month

Read more...

Call centres for farmers

By Neeta Lal

Eighty-four call centres across the country are answering farmers' queries related to everything from fungus on brinjals to kisan credit cards and prices of insecticides

Read more...

Mouthpiece of change

By Malvika Kaul

The recently announced community radio policy will change the landscape of grassroots media, giving a voice to the voiceless and providing a viable alternative to the mainstream media's monopolistic and trivial interpretation of news

Read more...

Radio days in Indian villages

By Sandip Das

In villages across nine Indian states listeners are getting hooked on to radio shows featuring women sarpanches and journalists fighting social and economic inequities through panchayati raj institutions. In the process, listeners are spurred on to participate in local institutions of self-governance themselves

Read more...

This is Radio Budikote....

By Elisa Patnaik

The villagers of Budikote in Karnataka are making and narrowcasting their own cable radio programmes on issues of local interest. Thirty-five neighbouring villages also tune in to the cable radio network for two hours everyday. With legislation on community radio broadcasting still a long way off in India, cable radio could be the best way forward

Read more...

Flaws in Bhoomi, India's model e-governance project

By Keya Acharya

Karnataka's Bhoomi project, which computerised 20 million rural land records, was designed as an instrument of equity. But is IT also reinforcing inequality, with men benefiting more than women and the rich benefiting more than the poor?

Read more...

Dollars versus idealism: It's a Gates-versus-GNU/Linux tug-of-war in India

By Frederick Noronha

The world's richest man, Bill Gates, is pouring money into India. Is it largely because of the challenge posed by the GNU/Linux computer operating system? And what really are the benefits of Free Software?

Read more...

Enabling airwaves

By Lalitha Sridhar

It's been a long time coming, but India's first radio programme for the disabled is finally being broadcast every week from All India Radio Madras. If the response is anything to go by, this could be the beginning of a revolution for India's 70 million disabled

Read more...

Indian-language computing: The long road ahead

By Frederick Noronha

If government-to-citizen initiatives are to succeed, Indian local language computing is a must. But with almost three dozen major languages and hundreds of dialects, the task is complex. Some headway is being made however, with the debut of a 'total Tamil' computer

Read more...

Digital library: Another tool for biopiracy

By Devinder Sharma

The proposed digital library will offer thousands of pages of traditional Indian knowledge on a platter. But it will also enable private companies to manipulate what is already known and project it as an invention or a novelty

Read more...

Computer education for rural kids riddled with obstacles

By Frederick Noronha

There are plans afoot to computerise thousands of rural schools across India, attended mainly by poor children. But where is the software that is suitable for use in these schools

Read more...

Computer skills empower Kolkata's youth

By Manjira Majumdar

A social service project in south Kolkata teaches computer skills to the needy so that they earn while they learn to become truly self-sufficient

Read more...

The long road to another life...via Charity Focus and ProPoor

By Frederick Noronha

Assisted by over 7,000 volunteers from around the world, Charity Focus and its ProPoor network offers an impressive database of news, information and job searches on the Internet

Read more...

The sermon of Saint IGNUcias of the Church of GNU/LINUX

By Laxmi Murthy

Copy, Reproduce and Modify is the dictum of Richard Stallman, the world's best-known guru of the free software movement

Read more...

Nipun Mehta: 'Compassion is contagious'

By Huned Contractor

Operating on the voluntary strength of 1,800 members around the world, Nipun Mehta's CharityFocus empowers non-profit organisations with Web-based technological solutions. The idea is to help those who help others

Read more...

`Social motivation without sustainability has no value': Akhtar Badshah

By Frederick Noronha

Akhtar Badshah, executive director and co-founder of Digital Partners Global - a development organisation that showcases, assists and brings in funding to support good ventures -- sees "enormous potential" in digital technologies and the digital economy helping poor communities leapfrog out of poverty

Read more...

Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala: To every man (and woman) a Net connection

By Frederick Noronha

That is Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala's dream. Will he be able to pull off this dream to make the Internet accessible to every Indian? Will he be able to do for the Internet in India what Sam Pitroda did with the telephone?

Read more...

The people's voice

By Sherna Gandhy

Every citizen in this country has a right to be heard. But what happens when you live in an area where no mainstream media organisation bothers to penetrate, and when you speak a language no media organisation knows or understands? CGNet Swara uses mobile telephony to break through the wall of silence in tribal areas of Chhattisgarh

Read more...

The power of video for change

For the poor illiterate women of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), Video SEWA has become a tool for change. What started as a sensitisation programme soon turned into a mechanism for protest and marshalling public opinion

Read more...

A community radio station for less than Rs 1,000

Indian engineer-activist Arun Mehta discusses the innovative uses of low-powered FM

Read more...

Jan Mitra brings government closer to the people in Rajasthan's hinterland

A UNDP-Rajasthan government ICT partnership in backward and chronically underserved Jhalawar is providing teeth to the state's commitment to the right to information

Read more...

eChoupal initiative wins 2005 Development Gateway Award

ITC's pioneering eChoupal initiative wins the 2005 Development Gateway Award from among 135 nominees, for enabling millions of Indian farmers to improve their livelihoods by accessing information on how best to grow and market their produce

Read more...

Cybercafes in the Thar desert

Computer training centres are sprouting all over rural India. A momentous transformation of India's rural economy is imminent.

Read more...

Educational games for disprivileged students

Learning with Heroji at Pratham's Computer-Aided Learning Centres.

Read more...

Oh, give us a phone!

TeNet is taking telephone and Internet connectivity to tiny villages across India.

Read more...

Programming with regional languages

Chennai IIT has created a linux-based operating system that works in a range of Indian languages. These tools will allow a new generation of students from disadvantaged rural backgrounds to enter the world of code on their own terms.

Read more...

Netsurfing in a Dhar village

An intranet network brings the administration closer to village India.

Read more...

Computerising land records

Bhoomi, a project in Karnataka to computerise all land records in the state, will streamline operations and eliminate corruption at several different levels.

Read more...

Social research and planning for the knowledge society

The Centre for Knowledge Societies, Bangalore, enables the State, private sector and civil society organisations to collaborate in ensuring that ICTs have a maximally enabling and inclusive developmental impact.

Read more...

Kunjal and the women of Kutch

A hugely popular Sarus Crane featured on a radio serial educates the women of Kutch on maternal mortality, political processes, female foeticide and more.

Read more...

A hole in the wall goes a long way

NIIT's experiment with computers in Delhi's slums has now been extended to coastal Maharashtra and a village in UP. Amazingly, completely unschooled children are learning to use computers and surf the Net all on their own

Read more...

Fishing for information

Information Shops are becoming indispensable to the fishermen and farmers in the villages around Villianur, Pondicherry.

Read more...

The Simputer challenges the PC

Hailed as one of the ten technological innovations that could help the poor get rich, the low-cost Bangalore invention which should be in the markets soon could be the alternative to the PC in the developing world

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Wired villages of Warana

Agrarian India re-packages its schedules, thanks to a silent IT revolution.

Read more...

Software to the rescue of parched Indian villagers

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).

Read more...

From Kannada to keyboards

Dr U B Pavanaja gives regional language computing a boost by taking Kannada into the cyberage

Read more...

The penguin goes to school: Linux to debut in Goa classrooms

An innovative plan, using the Linux operating system, aims at speeding up computerisation in Goa's schools

Read more...

India turns to ICT for better delivery of welfare schemes

Bihar will become the first state in the country to videograph the distribution of PDS coupons to weed out ineligible recipients. And the Union human resources ministry proposes to use a cheap, indigenously made tablet PC to record BPL and caste data

Read more...

Hyderabad uses cell phones and GPRS to improve civic services

Using easily available technology to improve governance may be the way out of the quagmire of corruption and bad governance

Read more...

Developing countries use mobile phones to fight poverty

Given the high penetration of mobile telephony in developing countries like India, using it to deliver scarce banking services in rural areas is one way of fulfilling the government’s financial inclusion programme

Read more...

Healthcare just an SMS away, in Kerala

Using technology to improve healthcare, Dr SMS provides users with instant health-related information

Read more...

Gates to promote health projects in Bihar

Microsoft chief Bill Gates has signed a memorandum of cooperation on behalf of his foundation with the Bihar government to work on health projects to eradicate polio, kala azar and tuberculosis in the state

Read more...

IT industry joins global initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions

Leading companies and industry bodies pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tonnes over the next three years

Read more...

Intel thwarted $ 100 laptop, claims OLPC programme's chief

A project that aimed to bridge the digital divide between rich, industrialised nations and the developing world by providing affordable laptops to poor children has been allegedly jeopardised by the business imperatives of its chief funding partner

Read more...

Social networking sites take up just causes

From Mumbai Unplug to car-free days, a social consciousness comes to networking sites such as Facebook

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India to collect and upload data on villages

Mooted in the 1980s but delayed because of an alleged cash crunch, officials say the exercise will help organise and augment information on the thousands of villages in India  

Read more...

Karnataka to launch 'E-Halli' info kiosks for villages

In the project’s first phase, E-Halli centres will be set up in the 10 districts of Davangere, Chitradurga, Shimoga, Chikmagalur, Haveri, Gadag, Dharwad, Belgaum, Koppal and Bellary

Read more...

Dang tribals learn of their rights through community radio

At a fraction of the cost that the government incurs in disseminating information, community radio Aaykar is both raising the level of awareness about rights among Gujarat's Dang tribals, among the poorest in the country, and, through RTI, uncovering irregularities in the system

Read more...

Ambivalent internet: Freedoms and fears

The internet is not a gender-neutral space. Women from patriarchal backgrounds especially need to be empowered to negotiate the sexism and misogyny they encounter online

Read more...

Urban poor marginalised in policy for internet inclusion?

The internet user base in the country is projected to touch 243 million by June 2014, a year-on-year growth of 28%, according to the Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). It is mobile internet that is responsible for much of this growth. IAMAI predicts that we will have 165 million mobile internet users by March 2015.

Read more...

‘Design-reality gaps’ in municipal reforms

“E-governance is about using ICTs to improve government processes themselves, making them more efficient, and about transforming the relationship between governments and citizens by enabling more direct interaction and fostering inclusive development”

Read more...

Digital inequality in the Global South

Studies which focus on information and communication technologies (ICTs)  as tools for new forms of instrumental communication and information processing take a technocratic view of technology, providing a perspective that understands notions such as  ‘efficiency’ or productivity as the essence of technology (Bertot, Jaeger & Grimes, 2010a; Bertot, Jaeger & Grimes, 2010b; Lea, 2004). Generalisations about the imperatives of technology appear prominently in this approach.

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Caste concerns in landmark e-governance projects

Many e-governance programmes in developing countries reach into the furthest regions of the rural countryside. These programmes intend to bring governance services, via digital means, to citizens who have little access to modern governance mechanisms. This technology ‘contact’ brings with it new assumptions and new relations of governance; it emerges in a field that is already dense with social relations that are both historically defined and changing and re-forming in response to the onslaught of modernity.

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Internet ‘magic’ in Indian slums

As mobiles, PCs and web 2.0 technologies reach the poor, technology plays out in their everyday reality in creative new ways. The global poor are usually characterised as passive consumers. We need to shift this perspective of the poor and see them as active producers and innovators. As Heeks (2010) argues, disbursing ICT-enabled incentives for new incomes and jobs will require ‘a new view of the world’s poor’: one that sees them as innovative producers and agile agents of ICT products and services.

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Sam Pitroda: Re-engineering the nation

Dr Sam Pitroda, who was instrumental in shaping the telecom revolution in the country, is presently adviser to the prime minister on public information, infrastructure and innovations. He is also chairman of the National Innovation Council.

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A brief history of the internet in India

1986: ERNET project starts up; email exchange using UUCP protocol established between National Centre for Software Technology, Bombay, and IIT Bombay (Bombay was renamed Mumbai in 1995)

 

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The gendered internet

Bhavana Upadhyaya

She was always a homemaker, keeping her home clean and family happy. Spoke Telugu and a smattering of English. When her sons were ready to leave home, they set up a Facebook account for her. Over the months and then years, she became an avid user of social media. She read news articles and blogposts on her newsfeed, followed up on civil society movements, checked speeches on YouTube, and reflected on opinions on current affairs. Gradually she began to express her own views on various subjects and took a public stance on trending topics.

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Right to internet

"The right to communicate cannot be ignored," Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies, told BBC News in March 2010. "The Internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created... (Governments must) regard the Internet as basic infrastructure -- just like roads, waste and water. We have entered the knowledge society and everyone must have access to participate."

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