Taking advantage of the fact that Internet Society’s CEO, Kathy Brown, and I were both in India last month, we visited one of our Wireless for Communities (W4C) sites in Tilonia, located in Rajasthan state.
Located some 380km from Delhi in a rural location, the W4C Tilonia site is based at the Barefoot College campus, and is a self-reliant model village – from generating their own solar electricity to sustainable water harvesting. They also run a community education programme teaching people from around the world skills to help them empower their local communities.
The W4C programme has been running since 2010 and it adopts a holistic approach to empowering rural communities with digital skills and tools. Establishing W4C in Tilonia was a natural meeting of the two programmes.
The impact was plain to see. Both the old and new campuses of Barefoot College in Tilonia are now linked to each other by point-to-point WiFi, and each campus has a local WiFi network that connects everything from schools to community radio stations. The administration of the campus has now gone paperless – with all work being done online. The community education programme uses Internet and ICT technology extensively and it was amazing to see tablet computers and large screen TVs being used to teach electronic kit assembly to the ‘Solar Mamas’. These Solar Mamas keep in touch with family back home using Internet messaging apps. The Internet truly permeates through everything at Barefoot College.
One of the most touching scenes was seeing a classroom full of young girls during their midday break all queuing up in an orderly fashion to get their 10 minutes each at a computer. The wonder and curiosity in their eyes – and their patience waiting for their turn – was truly remarkable. And all the more reason, that we must make the Internet of Opportunity available to everyone, everywhere.