‘Digital Divide’ describes the demarcation between the haves and have-nots with respect to access to information and communication technologies and its consequent role in ameliorating the general levels of the quality of lives of people. Much of the problem of the digital divide is related not only to availability and access to ICT, but also to the adaptability of these technologies by the society and people across the world.
As in software engineering approach, importance is associated to a process that successfully meets the requirements of the customers and thereby satisfies him, we strongly feel that process is more important for the successful exploitation of new technologies by the rural people.
Process will act as an instrument to gather and analyse interdependencies of providing content to rural communities from various information sources. It would also support in selecting and setting of ICT applications according to the requirement of the beneficiaries.
The adaptability of ICT, especially in developing countries like India gets affected by several factors including that of local needs, cultural factors and language barriers, which compounds the problem.
Content Management System (CMS)
Information in the Internet media, in general is provided through websites. If the website provides new information regularly and upgrades its contents quite frequently, then they require an efficient system for managing those contents. However maintaining and managing content would become a cumbersome task after a point of time. So, people move on to automate these tasks using software. This software is generally called as the Content Management System (CMS).
Content Management Systems are aimed at facilitating the process of uploading, publishing, archiving, searching, and removing of the website’s content in an easier and manageable way. They also facilitate to place the content online in real-time without specialist help.
Currently existing content management systems have the following weaknesses:
- Content collection is an ongoing process and hence needs effective ways to organise, manage and publish them;
- None of the existing content management system address the specific needs of the local community;
- Current solutions are not cost effective
- Lack of processes in place to make CMS more useful;
- Lack of coordination and contribution from public, private and people;
- Lack of personalisation and customisation facilities;
- None of them aim to move the content in a effective way near the user;
- We have developed CMS4C, a Content Management System for community that addresses the above-mentioned weaknesses of the existing solutions. The uniqueness of CMS4C is that it is evolving as a platform to build e-Communities.
Content Management System for community
CMS4C has been developed with the aim to provide user-friendliest system for the management of content, enabling users even without technical knowledge to publish on the Internet and administer it. Figure 1 illustrates the system in brief.
The main goal of CMS4C is to encourage the rural community to contribute, consume, and encash their local knowledge by enabling them to produce, manage, organise, publish, archive and distribute local con
CMS4C aims to provide user-friendliest system for the management of content, enabling users even without technical knowledge to publish on the Internet and administer it.
tent. Rural communities could make use of this system as a dais for information sharing and thereby reaping the benefits of ICT. Any ICT development should have a sustainable model for its continuous existence and hence we have incorporated an optional cost model. As shown in the figure, the content is grouped into two types based on their sources: local and global. The local content sources are identified as governmental offices, local vegetable markets, local commodities trading markets, local transport information, society information like temple festivals, and also radio to some extent. The system, in addition to these sources, also has easy-to-use interface for collecting information through community participation. The global content sources are the radio, television and Internet. General contents of interest are collected from these sources and put up in the system. All these sources of information are pooled and collected by the content collection module. The content classifier module classifies and organises the content collected from various sources. The classification is based on the category to which the content belongs to like, agriculture, health, education etc. This form of organised content makes it easy for retrieval and searching and also to do management activities like publishing of the content and archiving of the contents in the repository.
All the classified contents are then stored up in the repository and are served from there to the user.
CMS4C has been developed using open source platforms tools and technologies. The system runs in Linux environment (also would work fine on Windows environment), and was developed using PHP, uses MySQL database and Apache Web Server for serving up the communities.
Features of CMS4C
CMS4C provides the community user with the following information:
News covers the local community happenings as well as the general headlines. The general information is obtained from daily news papers.
Covers the general public events such as the polio immunisation programme. These are announced to the community members through a special service.
The system has provisions for the community users to contribute to include their own content along with other contents like tomato cultivation, organic farming, women and health care etc.
The system lists out the local and general employment opportunities available. It also has tools for collecting local employment opportunities from the employers.
Community members can start up a debate on topic and/or participate in debates of their interest. At a later stage, we foresee that CMS4C would be hooked on to the Internet and this feature would be of immense use.
This includes the local vegetable market rates information, local commodities trading information like the prices of various cereals, local gold and silver rates.
The system also provides the local bus and train schedules.
The system provides other services like Weather information, Astrology etc.
Simple and easy-to-use interfaces and processes for information collection are devised in order to provide all of the above features. Users can thereby easily contribute contents to the system, thereby making it as an active forum for communication among them. The above are some of the screenshots of the system and the deployment & training photograph.
Users of CMS4C
The users of CMS4C are categorised into four types: Visitor, users (Members of a community), data providers and administrator. There is no limit to the number of users but authority to approve, publish and remove contents lie with the administrator. So, the system attempts to address the needs of all the four types of users.
A visitor is a casual user who browses through the system to know what is happening in the community. That is he can view the community news and events. Users can provide news article, events, upload content and participate in the discussion forum. Data provider provides specific information such as current market price, weather information etc. Any number of data providers can administer the content but each of them is responsible only for their specific contents (for which they had been chosen; for example, Gold market rate data provider is a person who is authentic and is responsible for fixing the market rate for gold at that particular locality. He provides only the information for gold market rates.).
dministrator has to take responsibility for the overall management of the system. He also performs routine management activities like publishing the information uploaded by users, archiving the information etc. CMS4C also serves as a common ground for announcing community events such as Pulse Polio Programme through an easy-to-visualise calendar-based user interface. It also acts as an electronic meeting place where members and experts can share their knowledge.
CMS4C has been pilot tested and as a first step deployed at DHAN Community Centre, Melur, Tamil Nadu, India. The DHAN community members, kiosk operators and administrators are being trained for using the system at varied user roles.
Taking content near the user
Constraints in the available infrastructure for the target group are a handicap. Community-based Content Delivery Network (CCDN) explores solution to address the infrastructure constraints by using a community network. The community network enables access to information by moving the content near the target group.