Monday, April 02, 2007

Getting Internet to Rural India

Heard of United Villages? No?. Well your rural counterpart might have. For United Villages is bringing Internet and WWW to the rural areas of the developing world. Not through copper or optical fibre cables or WiMax. Rather through buses and motorcycles.


In rural India and parts of Rwanda, Cambodia and Paraguay, these vehicles offer web content to computers with no internet connection. They are equipped with an antenna and WiFi. The buses and a fleet of motorcycles update their pages in cities before visiting the hard-to-reach communities. As these vehicles pass through the villages which is upto 6 times a day, the WiFi enabled rural computers get their content updated from the content on board the bus using the WiFi connection. Click here to watch a short video

The founder of the United Villages initiative Amir Hasson, a MIT Sloan graduate, said the company had been set up to give those people in these areas a slice of the web for a fee. He recently on a BBC interview mentioned, "There's only 0.003% percent of the web that rural India cares about. They want to know the cricket scores, they want to see the new Aishwarya Rai photos, and they want to hear sample of the latest Bollywood tunes." “We're becoming the glue that sticks together those areas that have mobile connectivity and those that don't,” Mr. Hasson explains

As well as this regular content users can make special requests for a few additional rupees. For example, if there was no information about Britney Spears on the village computer, a fee could be paid to get hold of such information. The bus would then go back to the city and communicate with an internet server. The box on the bus would be updated with the requested information and, a few hours later, the bus would arrive back at the village to zap the Britney Spears pages to the computer.

The service is currently being run in the state of Orissa under the name DakNet.


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