Bytes For All discussion in April was as exciting as ever with discussions ranging from educational reforms, ICT4D and FOSS. Have fun reading!
India's education reforms
India's National Knowledge Commission has made far-reaching recommendations for tertiary education reforms. Dr. D.C. Misra writes that the commission's website http://www.knowledg ecommission.org/aboutNKCPage.aspx is silent about these recommendations. In the age of 'good governance,' 'e-Governance,' `transparency' and `right to information,' et.al., is it too much to ask India's Knowledge Commission to at least post its recommendations on its website, leave alone ask comments from the public on specific issues, affecting us all? More importantly, the Commission appears to have overlooked the two important issues facing the education sector in India, namely, problem of the educated unemployed and second, barriers to entry to government and academic world.
How IT is changing rural India?
Surajeet Das Gupta writes: Farmers in a remote village in Honavar, 600 km away from Bangalore, are using ATM machines to open a bank account. An ATM machine loaded on a van winds its way through the dusty roads of over five villages offering 22,000-odd farmers perhaps their first experience with a bank – they can open an account, request for a loan and be able to deposit as well as withdraw cash at will in the near future.
Says S. S. Satchidananda, professor in Indian Institute of Information Technology who piloted the project with funds from a consortium lead by Microsoft: “What we wanted to demonstrate is a cost saving solution for banks that are seeking to expand their rural reach but have no other choice but to set up a branch which is expensive and unviable”.
For the last few years state governments, NGOs and some pioneering companies have tried to crack the technology barrier – by developing pilot projects to showcase the marvels of IT in a rural setting. The phenomenon is better known as 'Bridging the Digital Divide'.
The name of the game is clear: how to scale up and still be viable. Microsoft, for instance, has set up an ambitious target. It hopes to set up over 50,000 broadband connected kiosks across villages covering over 50 percent of the rural population in the next three years under the 'Saksham' scheme. Not to be left behind, Intel recently joined the club announcing a new programme 'Jagruti' whereby it will offer PC makers an innovative platform developed exclusively for the rural market. Points out Bill M Sui, vice president, Intel: “The requirement for rural India is not cheap PCs, but PCs which work in that setting.”
Ajit Maru expressed interest in providing ATM based services for rural communities and suggested that the next step is to use the debit cards on the ATM to provide credit through overdraft facilities, such as to a limit of Rs. 5000, to all rural debit card holders. This will achieve two purposes. First is providing access to micro credit to small farmers and small rural entrepreneurs which will enable them to participate in local markets as a prelude to participating in other markets. The second is that it will help pump financial investment into rural development.
Linux – a big hit in India
It has been over a year since UTI bank set up its call centre that handles over 7,000 calls per day. The bank was looking for a robust platform that could guarantee it 'high availability of services and uninterrupted call traffic'. It had options but finally decided on Linux for its core business applications. UTI is not the lone player to swear by Linux. Eveready, a leading manufacturer of dry cell batteries and flashlights in India, has built a mission-critical resource system to automate all functionalities of its daily business using the oracle e-Business suite running on a Linux platform. Central Bank of India has implemented Linux in nearly 3000 branches.
The Penguin (official mascot of Linux), it appears, has finally marched into enterprises like IDBI Bank, Canara Bank, New India Assurance, LIC, BSNL, IRCTC, ABN Amro, Airtel and even the governments of Maharashtra and West Bengal. The list, of course, is not exhaustive. “Linux has become prettly stable. We never considered Windows because of the perception that it has a lot of vulnerabilities. Hence, we adopted the Linux route and are satisfied with the results,” says Tejinderpal Singh Miglani, CTO, Indiabulls. Gartner predicts that by 2008, 95 per cent of Global 2000 organisations will have formal open-source acquisition and management strategies. The Penguin, it appears, will give its competitors an icy path to walk on.
Read the complete article at: http://in.rediff.com/money/2006/apr/08spec.htm
Fredrick Noronha informs about K-Yan which is a low-cost new-media product for community learning that aims to bring the benefits of information age to the masses across the country.
K-Yan, the VEHICLE of KNOWLEDGE is a joint effort of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai and IL&FS ETS. K-Yan combines the computing power of a computer with an appropriate high luminosity, high resolution and large screen projection system. K-Yan provides: High speed Intel based, Pentium IV, processing capabilities DVD/ VCD/ ACD/ MP3 facility CD writer Audio amplifier and built-in speakers, large data storage facility (120 GB) and 512 MB RAM Internet connectivity, TV cable connectivity,1800 Lumens LCD projection system capable of projecting images of up to 300 inches and ability to connect to multiple peripheral devices such as web-camera, printer, scanner, graphic tablet etc.
Fred's honest opinion about K-Yan, I don't know how effective this is or isn't, as a solution. But my dream has been to set up a computer club at my village school. If we can meet even once a month, we could probably plant a seed of knowledge and skills in the future generation.
For more information about K-Yan, please visit: http://www.schoolnetindia.com/ky an_intro.htm
Laptops running on human power Rediff One-on-one with Professor Nicholas Negroponte
How have you managed to cut costs so dramatically?
We are not commercialising the $100 Laptop. Typically, that accounts for 60 per cent of the cost of a laptop. In the case of the display, we have reduced the price to about $40. We lower the cost of everything else by running the laptop on Linux. It is by no means a network computer or dumb terminal. FAT operating systems spend most of their energy supporting their own fat.
Who are the main supporters of the project? Who will manufacture the product?
The nine companies supporting OLPC are: Google, Quanta, AMD, 3M, RedHat, Nortel, NewsCorp, Brightstar and Marvell.
How is the response for the project from India? Is there a key market for such a laptop? Have you had discussions with the Indian government and looking at having trial runs here?
Again, we are a non-profit venture hence do not think in terms of 'markets'. We think in terms of children and working as an NGO and humanitarian effort with the ministry of education. Of the seven countries we hope to have in the launch, the trial run would be one million units in 2007.
Read more at: http://inhome.rediff.com/money/2006/apr/07laptop.htm
Events and Announcements:
FOSSFP-Free and Open Source Software Professional Skills Development Literacy
FOSSFP is accepting application for its Free and Open Source Software Professional Skills Development Literacy Program for the public in the region of Lahore. The program is open for everyone interested in gaining FOSS related professional ICT skills. FOSSFP will provide hands on training on Ubuntu-Linux. You may contact FOSSFP at firstname.lastname@example.org for registration.
Manthan Award 2006
Manthan-AIF Award is a first-of-its-kind initiative in India to recognize the best practices in e-Content and Creativity. It was launched on 10th October 2004, by Digital Empowerment Foundation in partnership with World Summit Award, American India Foundation and PlaNet Finance India.
Award categories include; e-Business, e-Culture, e-Entertainment, e-Science, e-Health, e-Government, e-Learning, e-Inclusion & Livelihood, e-Education, e-News and e Localization.
For more information please visit: http://www.manthanaward.com/
Semapedia introduced to Africa
The Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT introduced the Semacode technology and the Semapedia application to a segment of the Ghanaian public in a presentation delivered by Guido Sohne, Developer-In-Residence at the Kofi Annan ICT Centre for Excellence and Chief Software Architect of CoreNett Ltd, a Ghanaian electronic transaction processing company.
Introduced for the first time in Africa, the Semapedia is an application of the vast information available on the Wikipedia and the simple yet practical URL barcode, called the Semacode. A physical entry is made into the Semapedia when a real world object or location is tagged with a high capacity, two dimensional, error correcting bar code technology called Semacode.
Expose Urban Solutions! photo contest by IDRC
On the occasion of the World Urban Forum, we are organising a photo competition seeking photos that show us the thousands of creative ways people living in cities of the South or the developed world are tackling the challenges of urban living. We are looking for the best digital photos that fit under these four themes: