“I will sit down with the BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd) to improve connectivity in the country.” This statement by Shri Arun Shourie was perhaps the finest outcome of the third Baramati initiative on ICT for Development 2003. The third Baramati initiative showcased ICT initiatives that were taking place all across the globe to empower the poor. Information and Communication Technologies can exacerbate the divide between the haves and the have-nots of the world, if not brought to the common man.
However, these very technologies also hold tremendous potential to bridge this divide by empowering the poor and the underprivileged of developing countries if used effectively on their behalf. The Third Annual Baramati Initiative on ICT and Development, held betweenMay 30 and June 2, 2003 and organised jointly by the Vidya Pratisthan’s Institute of Information and Technology (VIIT), Baramati, and the American non-profit organisation, Digital Partners was a platform for grassroots entrepreneurs to share experiences of how ICT has made a difference in their lives and that of their communities. It brought to the forefront the important contribution made by the youth of today in bridging the digital divide by e-enabling those less fortunate than themselves.
The conference was a meeting ground for social entrepreneurs from various parts of the country and the world, and a celebration of inspired individuals, governments and NGOs that have dedicated themselves to the cause of e-enabling the poor and the underprivileged.
Sri Arun Shourie and Sri Sharad Pawar, launching i4d
It saw the convergence of more than 175 participants from more than a dozen countries. Social entrepreneurs from various developing nations as far as Latin America, Africa and Asia joined to share their experiences on ICT. It also ignited the discussion on new innovative models devised for easy technology access for the masses.
Day 1 started off with Dr. Akhtar Badshah, Executive Director, Digital Partners setting the motto of the conference by stating that, “I don’t know a thing about the technology and it is not important what I know. It is these social entrepreneurs and the young lives who will make a difference to the mankind.” That day’s discussion focused on finding options to make village information kiosks/telecentres economically viable. Prof Ken raised a relevant point stating that “No ICT project has done cost analysis to find the revenue source except Drishtee. We need to find out the real cost of running kiosks and sustainability.”
Anand Tawker, Director, Emerging Markets, Hewlett Packard shared the experience of Hewlett Packard’s Kuppam project