Sunday, February 08, 2009

Telecom Village Project

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

Introspection is quite personal. While continuing to write regular perspective on Indian telecom, its governing agencies and its major players, the time has come to make a project on brining the benefits of telecom to a village.

My personal telecom project is to try and bring present day network to my own village in Andhra Pradesh. It is in Kadapa district near the town of Proddutur and known as Korrapadu. There are about 2,000 to 2,200 total homes in my village with about 6,000 people living there. The local education stops at 10th standard in the village. The high school has about 300 students, which is a number that is vastly improved number from may be 10 years ago. The school is well maintained and well organized. The village folks contribute to the school by being generous with donating to children who come first in school, and also to children who do well in various subjects. There are approximately 100 fixed lines connections in the village. There is no internet connection available yet.

It is a typical South Indian village with a small school, hospital, temple, a bus station and families who have lived there for several generations. It is surrounded with wonderful agricultural lands, and has reasonable irrigation facilities and in good monsoon doesn’t have problems with water. Over and above it has my people, and thus very special to me and my personal interest in my Telecom Village Project.

There is no grand new scheme being for my village. For a couple of years this has been taking shape, and once this initial step of publishing the plan is complete, recruiting the support of the school and the village will commence. We need to make sure that the villagers support the project, and the already educated and computer literate folks of the village will help building this project. No financial support will be sought from anyone in the village so the project will be embraced for what it intends to, rather then a burden to them.

A simple plan is to fund the following:

1. Computer Center – The high school is within a small little compound, and can accommodate a computer room. If not a new room will be built to house four to six computer stations, have a sitting area for reading or having a discussion group, and if needed convert the room into a training or viewing room. This room can be used in the evening for adult education programs, training people of enterprise or agricultural programs, women’s education and family planning.
2. Computers – Once the village and the high school approve of the plan for establishing the computer room, we will purchase new computers with latest speed and technology to become the property of the high school. Six machines will be networked together, and will have at least one large screen. They will be able to be on www, and also available for education programs and even entertainment.
As a part of the project we will request the high school to allow all students access to the computers on a scheduled basis. The plan is to have the already computer literate people of the village to volunteer for training the students and teachers and make them self sufficient to use the computers and internet.
3. Internet Connectivity – Next to the purchase of the computers is bringing internet connectivity into the village. The nearest town is about 7 miles away, and there is a cellular tower nearby the village. Whatever needs to be done, internet will be made available to the computer center. The hope is every student, teacher and anyone else in the village who wish to be on the internet will be able to for free, and make themselves a part of the www community. Many have mobile phones in the village, and it is very likely some will purchase their own internet connectivity once this plan takes shape.
4. Licensed Software – Everything installed in the computer center infrastructure and software will be legally acquired. Software for learning word, excel, photo shop, simple software and other interne tools, and any other training or learning material will be purchased or made available through donations. The kids need to start to learn the value of licensing from the beginning.
5. Local area network – There are computer trained youngsters in the village or from the village. They will be recruited to help volunteer to setup the local area network within the computer center.
6. Solar Lamp and Back-up Power – The village is in same situation as rest of the rural India and has its share of power outages. A quality solar lamp and a backup system that can sustain the use of computers if power fails will be part of the budget to make sure that there will be minimal or no interruption to the planned use of the computer center.

The biggest hurdle may be to get high quality and high speed internet on an uninterrupted basis into the village. If for whatever reason acquiring internet becomes a problem, we will probably build a cellular power to bring in wireless internet. There are quite a few villages around a 10 mile radius, and it might be great to get a tower around the village. This might even become a revenue generator to support all the ongoing costs of the project.

Before I write my last column for 2009, I intend to not just fund this but also see this succeed, and make it a part of every child in my village to have access to a computer and the internet, along with the benefits of www. In the next 11 months this will be implemented with the support of my village and the blessing of the headmaster and teaching staff in the village.

Many other benefits and perhaps issues will for sure surface once we bring this project to light. Once we secure the blessings of the villagers, we will press on with the implementation.

There is no ideological initiative with this small project for Korrapadu. It is simply to make an effort to further implore the value of communications. There will be an immediate and everlasting value for the children by having access to computers and internet. When they go off to junior college they will have the tools to do research and learn quickly and more importantly without the burden of purchasing a lot of books, or travelling to the town to get to the library. There will be benefit to the adults in understanding the use of immediate and instant access to information; be it neither the weather or the news. Who knows they might watch a movie with their family on the computers and do something that they normally will not do with their entire families. It will be connected and informed, and that is the payback.

February 7th 2009
Vasu Reddy
Optus Technologies, Inc.

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