DELHI, INDIA – November 01, 2010 – The Internet Society, in partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) today announced a joint initiative; “Empowering Communities through Wireless Connectivity” designed to get India’s rural communities connected. The programme includes wireless connectivity workshops and the deployment of wireless mesh networks in 4 states.
The aim of the programme is to reduce the digital divide in India by enabling Internet access in rural areas. In addition, it is designed to stimulate the creation content, product and services originating from rural areas. This will enhance linguistic and cultural diversity, help build the rural economy and bring the next billion online.
Despite its 700 Million fixed and mobile phone subscribers, there is a significant difference between urban and rural areas in India. The Internet divide between the haves and the have-nots is even wider, to some extent because deploying a traditional communications infrastructure is often not economically viable for either service providers or subscribers. However, wireless technologies have much to offer in delivering cost-effective connectivity down to the last house in a village.
“The Internet Society is built on the belief that access to the Internet drives innovation, opportunities for education and economic prosperity, “ commented Jon McNerney, Internet Society Chief Operating Officer. “Through this initiative, even villages where houses do not have connecting roads can have access to the Internet. The Internet Society approach is to create a sustainable environment by simultaneously deploying infrastructure and training the communities to use it.”
The initiative will deploy five wireless mesh based community networks in rural locations across India, starting with Chanderi (Madhya Pradesh), followed by Tura in Garo Hills (Meghalaya), Tilonia in Ajmer (Rajasthan), Kolhapur (Maharashtra) and Tehri (Uttarakhand) over the next twelve months. Wireless Mesh Networks are well suited for this environment as each node in the network is configured to connect with other nearby nodes in a mesh arrangement. This allows a higher up-time for the network as network traffic is routed automatically around non functioning nodes. This arrangement also allows the networks to achieve extended reach.
Communities are empowered by means of a structured “Train the Trainer” programme that equips participants with the information they need to design, deploy and operate wireless networks, and to train community members in their deployment and operation.
“Internet connectivity is a basic need of the citizens of India,” added Mr. Jyotiraditya Scindia, Member of Parliament, Guna, Madhya Pradesh and Minister of State, Ministry of Commerce and Industry for India when he was informed of the developmental initiative. “The establishment of a wireless Internet infrastructure in Chanderi is a great step forwards and I am happy to extend all support for its sustainability as member of Parliament of the area.”
The Internet Society is an international organisation dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of people throughout the world. DEF works in the domain of ICT and Digital Content enablement at the grassroots level. DEF and the Internet Society, in association with NIXI (National Internet Exchange of India), are also working at the Panchayat level in India to bring digital inclusion to the last mile governance level where citizens are directly linked with the government.