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Backgrounders

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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Digital Divides

Ambivalent internet: Freedoms and fears

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Urban poor marginalised in policy for internet inclusion?

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‘Design-reality gaps’ in municipal reforms

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Digital inequality in the Global South

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