Ride on the Internet Bus

Using a mobile bus (such as the Nandini Mobile Van, which focuses on sanitation) is a popular method to do outreach to rural or underexposed areas.  Google India is launching their Internet Bus Project, an initiative that is essentially a mobile exhibition of the Internet.   The bus will provide an introductory look at the Internet and its services.   The project focuses on Tamil Nadu and aims to reach people that are not currently using the Internet.

The Internet Bus Project is an attempt educate people about what the Internet is, and how it may be beneficial to their lives, by taking the Internet experience to them through a customised Internet-enabled bus, which will travel to several towns and cities across India.

As the Google India blog states, there is potential in equalizing many playing fields through the Internet.  Additionally, this project highlights content in both English and Tamil, allowing larger segments of the population to participate and really understand the value of the web.  The video below is used as an introduction – complete with a song in Tamil.  Also be sure to take a look at the Internet Bus Project site, which has photos of the high-tech vehicle and tracks the route as the bus moves around the southern state.

[Guest Post]: Bridging the Digital Divide: More Than Tomorrow Project

Editors Note: Guest Blogger Marshall J. Krinitz is the founder of More Than Tomorrow Project, which has successfully established two computer learning centers in the state of Himachal Pradesh. We here at TC-I were quite thrilled by their work and invited Marshall to write us a guest post.

Many developing nations are aggressively pursuing strategies to increase their access to communication and information technology, motivated by a healthy vision of the future. They envision a future where educators can enhance meager libraries with online texts, where tele-medicine supplements the limited resources of rural hospitals, where local artisans can market their crafts to a global audience, and where the next generation of innovators script computer code for international businesses.

Yet there are a number of significant obstacles impeding this vision. First, while the price of a personal computer has receded remarkably in recent years, PCs still cost more than the average annual income in many developing nations. Second, the Internet is a medium of written text, which makes it inaccessible to those who cannot read. Likewise, as a majority of the content on the internet is disseminated in English many potential users in the developing world are severely limited in what they can access and accomplish online. Lastly, while there is a great deal of content offered online relevant to the information needs of, for example, a wine aficionado or golfing enthusiast, what is available online to help a rural farmer solve the problems she faces everyday?

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InternetSpeech – The New Digital Genie?

In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Muhammad Yunus beautifully articulated his dream of a “Digital Aladdin’s Lamp”, which would provide poor women around the world with access to global markets and trends for local benefit:

“A genie comes out of it and asks, ‘What can I do for you, ma’am?’ And she says ‘I make these baskets but nobody buys them.’ And the lamp says ‘I will find somebody to buy it.’ And the lamp comes back with buyers. She doesn’t know about a keyboard or a computer. She just asks questions of the genie.”

Sound like a fantasy?  Well, it seems we aren’t so far from realizing Yunus’ dream.  How?

Previously, we wrote about the “Question Box,” which aims 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.”  Now, there is another access point for the BoP – audible internet accessible over the phone (developed by InternetSpeech).  Let me say that again – internet access over the phone, no literacy, keyboards, or screens necessary.

It seems that new trends in mobile phone technology are ushering in a new era of connectivity, access, knowledge, and power for the rural and urban poor.  Can you imagine what the future holds?

Imagine a farmer in a remote village using her voice and her $20 People’s Phone (which only works as a phone and doesn’t even have a screen to send or receive text messages) to check market information via Reuters, and then log onto an eBay-like market to offer her crafts.

A few hours later, she could log listen to the bids received and settle a transaction through e-mail.

Sound too good to be true?  Click here to listen to a demo.

Source:  NextBillion