Experimenting with Internet Access in Rural India

How can rural communities gain access to the internet without the infrastructure required to support an internet connection? Even more importantly, even if rural communities were to have access to the internet, how would the illiterate population avail of these services? What is the use of providing internet access that cannot be used by the community it purports to service? Clearly, either internet services need to be supplemented by literacy classes and computer usage tutorials, or there needs to be another, more innovative solution.
This is precisely what Question Box hopes to do (Through NextBillion):

The Question Box is a project from UC Berkeley’s Rose Shuman to bring some of the benefits of the information on the Internet to places that are too remote or poor to sustain a live Internet link. It works by installing a single-button intercom in the village that is linked to a nearby town where there is a computer with a trained, live operator. Questioners press the intercom, describe their query to the operator, who runs it, reads the search results, and discusses them with the questioner (it’s like those “executive assistant” telephone services, but for people who live in very rural places)

Currently, there are two question boxes in operation in the villages of Ethida and Poolpur, both of which are located outside of Noida, Delhi. To read the entire post on NextBillion, go here.

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4 Responses

  1. Very true! but seriously what great information will a tiny/small farmer(who are the actual majority in any Indian village) require from internet?

    1)Weather information – hugely unpredictable even by the MET Dept in India
    2) Price information of food stuff? – Most of the farmers cultivate Rice,Wheat which have to be sold to govt at govt fixed prices
    3) Google maps for driving? Hahaha –
    4) Book tickets online for cinema? Hahaha

  2. Chandru,

    Quite valid points. Here are my responses:

    1. Weather Info – although the quality of forecasts are bad, still there is no reason why people should not have access to it

    2. Price: Might change if we have private players getting active in procurement

    3. Google Maps – agreed

    4. Movies: I recently read that the poor spend a large percentage of their income on movies and entertainment. I agree online tickets might be a strech, but again, lets not make any assumptions here. The key is access.

  3. […] we wrote about the “Question Box,” which aims to “bring some of the benefits of the information on the Internet to […]

  4. So finally, is there a solution for internet in rural areas? most of the networks both, wired and wireless are not feasible in some areas. these are areas where the affluent have their second and third homes. With the security measures seeping in, most of these farmhouses are getting geared for surveillance (since some owners are in other parts for the rest of the week and visit their homes only on weekends) and internet is definitely required for live-viewing anywhere else.

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