In Theory v. In Practice: The India Development Gateway

In line with its National E-Governance Plan, the Government of India recently launched the India Development Gateway, which seeks to “foster inclusive growth and empower its rural users through relevant information in six languages – Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali and English.” In addition, the portal aims to provide information on agriculture, health, primary education, rural energy and e-governance, namely in the form of government schemes and other services.

Before I go any further, a primer on the National E-Governance Plan:

The Government of India has formulated the National E-Governance Plan with the vision of providing all government services in an integrated manner at the doorstep of the citizen, at an affordable cost. The NeGP initiatives consist of 26 Central, State and Integrated Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) along with 8 other support components for rapid introduction of e-governance in the country. The NeGP envisions a three pillar model for delivery of “web-enabled Anytime, Anywhere access” to information and services in rural India.

According to President Patil, the gateway has the potential to benefit a large swath of the rural population:

“A space has been created in the virtual world where knowledge and experience transcend geographical distances to benefit citizens at the last mile,” said President Patil in her address.

The portal would help connect panchayats across the country, making them “knowledge hubs” and help inform on various government schemes and their benefits, said the President.

This initiative is yet another attempt to harness the untapped power of information technology for the benefit of the rural poor. Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Thiru Raja, “expressed hope the portal would help synergise different government initiatives by becoming a nerve centre of knowledge for the rural masses.”

The question that remains unanswered is this – what vehicle will the rural poor use to access these services?

Continue reading

Cellphone Company + Fertilizer Company = Cool Idea

IFFCO Kisan Sanchar (IKSL) is a unique partnership between India’s largest mobile operator, Airtel and Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO). According to the brief on iGovernment:

IFFCO Kisan Sanchar (IKSL), would be focusing on communication requirement of rural India, besides providing agriculture related information to enable villagers take right farming decisionsIKSL will offer handsets, co-branded SIM card, and agro development voice messages in regional languages related to farmers

There is a lot of synergy between both these companies. IFFCO has significant access to farmers and farming communities, being a major player in the country’s fertilizer industry. Airtel on the other hand is focused on extending rural connectivity and bundling additional services into cellphones. Of course, cellphones themselves are touted as the next big development success story (talk about unintended consequences), as highlighted in this space before.

Evening Edition

Some table topics as you start preparing for dinner:

  • Humanitarian awardsThe Grameen Foundation reports today that Mohammad Yunus will be awarded the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award.  The award will be bestowed upon Yunus at the Tech Museum of Innovation award ceremony in November (by the way, the nomination deadline for the Tech Museum award has been extended until April 7th!  Watch a video here).
  • TourismThe Times of India reports that the medical tourism industry is booming, with medical tourists increasing by 25% each year.  McKinsey predicts that earnings from medical tourism will reach $2 billion by the year 2012.  In its latest report, the Planning Commission did a performance and price comparison for medical procedures between different countries, and found that India offered “superior quality of medical service coupled with the low cost of surgeries.”
  • Technology/Connectivity:  Nokia Siemens, in partnership with BSNL, will deploy broadband access to an additional 25,000 Indian villages by July of this year.  In a statement, Micael Kuehner, who heads up Nokia Siemen’s sub India region division said, “With a population of 700 million, rural India, without a doubt holds the key to the future growth of the telecommunication industry and the long term economic and social development of the country.”

Midday Newsfeed

Some headlines before you head off to lunch:

  • Technology/Connectivity:  
    • Mobile connectivity will be in the hands of millions of new subscribers thanks to BSNL’s $100 million contract to Nortel for supporting GSM network expansion in the southern part of India.  The plan is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.  
    • On a different note, IBM Research Labs in Bangalore have developed specialized algorithms to “help model and manage natural disasters including wildfire, floods, and diseases.”  The program would also enable policy makers to maximize “resource acquisition and deployment decisions.”  
    • Finally, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the creation of “Information Technology Investment Regions,” which are expected to create employment opportunity and economic growth in the target area.  The government plans to take a public-private partnership route for this scheme.
  • Research:  The Brookings Institution recently published a report entitled, “Index of State Weakness in the Developing World” that evaluates “141 developing nations based on their relative performance in four critical areas: economic, political, security, and social welfare.”  The report has found that there is a very strong correlation between poverty and overall weakness of a state.  India was ranked #67 in the report, and categorized as a “state to watch.” (read more after the break) Continue reading

Market for Wi-Fi will top $744 million by 2012

To piggyback on a recent post by Shital, the aforementioned report on “Wi-fi in India” also forecasted that “the overall Indian Wi-Fi market (including WLAN hardware, systems integration and software services, not including embedded devices, laptops) is predicted to grow from the current $41.57 million to exceed $744 million by 2012 (compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 61.4%).”  

Among the key findings in the paper were the following: 

  • As broadband wireless access grows, the WLAN network gear sector will exceed $275 Million by 2011-12 (not including embedded chips), up from the current $23.1 Million.
  • Dual-mode Wi-Fi / cellular handsets show promise for bringing higher-throughput internet connectivity to numerous Indian citizens who do not own computers.
  • Wi-Fi based solutions have a great opportunity to provide appropriate wireless solution at feasible prices for large tracts of rural India. In combination with long-haul wireless technologies such as WiMAX, Wi-Fi proliferation is bound to multiply and is ideal for quickly connecting rural communities.