In a groundbreaking new project, led by Rafiq Dossani and Henry S. Rowen, researchers are exploring means by which rural India -- where there is less than one telephone on average per one hundred inhabitants (compared with over twenty in urban areas) -- can obtain the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICT). Undertaken jointly with the Indian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, researchers have studied several private, NGO, and state providers through site visits. There is substantial demand for ICT services, primarily for eGovernance services, such as records (e.g., land records and birth certificates) and entitlements (e.g., health information and social welfare services). However, existing services focus on email and Internet-based information and entertainment, which have do not generally promote self-sufficiency.
To accommodate ICT demand at the rural level in India, researchers have proposed a network of "kiosks," or information centers, linked by wireless to the regional headquarters (or "block," in local parlance), and connected by fiber from the block to the national telecom grid. The regulatory, ownership, and financing structure of the network has also been laid out and presented to the ministry in a formal report. Subject to ministry approval, the next step will be to create such a network as a pilot project, in collaboration with companies in Silicon Valley and India. Shorenstein APARC researchers will be involved in helping to clarify the structural issues.