World Summit Award
‘E Content Summit, India’
October 18, 2008
“Technology is nowadays outclassing the content and we are facing a widening content gap,” these words by Prof Peter Bruck, Chairman, World Summit Award (WSA), Austria, at the WSA e content summit, India, during Manthan Awards, brought to light a difficult situation that we are facing. He was chairing the session. Prof Bruck opined that quality and depth is lacking in content. He said that we should set-up a mechanism for content development. “Creativity of content is important for India as 70% of the country is under 35 years of age. Another issue is usage of digital media in a sensible way. It should make sense while learning. A person should access information/content at one’s on pace and at one’s own place,” he added.
Mr Ashish Sanyal (DIT, India), who was the moderator for the session, threw light on various points that need to be dealt with. To begin with, there is difficulty in replication of digital content in 32 different languages. A lot of customization has to be done. Accessibility and reach to the masses is an enormous problem in our country, especially because of the large population and illiteracy. A converging platform for such problems is the biggest success at this level- as the objectives of different countries are the same, but their processes to achieve those are only different.
Ms Elizabeth Quat, China; Mr Alexander Felsenberg, Germany; Mr Ahmed Yahya, Egypt; Mr Alfredo Ronchi, Italy; Ms Jan Bieringa, New Zealand; Mr Faouzi Zaghbib, Tunisia; Mr Sushil Pandey, ICIMOD, Nepal; Mr Pial Islam, Global Education Initiative, World Economic Forum were some of the distinguished panelists.
Ms Elizabeth spoke of an e-business programme in China which is becoming very popular. This has been introduced by the Agriculture Foundation while the network provider is China Unicorn. Cyber centres have been established in various villages where the farmers learn from the scientists about the latest techniques of farming. The staff at the centers helps farmers regarding buyer/seller information, demanded product of the market, latest reports on weather conditions and other related issues. They get free cell phones from China Unicorn at very low rentals. The achievement has been that some farmers have become rich and government money is protected as this project is funded by private players like Unicorn who earn through farmers. A similar program has been started by China Mobile in 2005 which in turn helps farmers as competition is emerging.
Another project is on e-culture content in which a website is launched with use of latest multimedia technology which makes it easy to search on any topic and there are over 200 experts working on this. Mr. Sanyal, pointed out a similar site in India named “India.gov.in”.
Mr Alexander Felsenberg from Germany, who won an award for e-governance in last WSA summit, opined that newspapers are vanishing because of increased use of digital content. Even TV is being substituted. User generated content is becoming more popular (Right Blogging is run by Mr. Alexander himself).
Biggest e-commerce for private sector is through advertising as paid sites are loosing their popularity. Private players pay for their content creation so more that 1 million new jobs have opened up. The concern is that in this tremendous use of digital content misuse is also bound to increase and therefore more training programs should be established and stricter laws enforced.
Mr Ahmed Yahya from Egypt said that their slogan has been “Destination Egypt Value Proposition” Big Indian companies like Satyam and Wipro have their research and call centers in the country. Training centers for high tech and higher education have been established.
Mr Alfredo Ronchi from Italy made key statements about his country: 90% of cultural content is self financed and developed by users not institutions; Newspapers in danger- best newspaper’s sale is half of its online readers; Major issue is how to finance high quality content when 85% of revenues go to IPR owners; Mobile phones can be used as it is easy to transfer content. Also people aware of the cost involved and minor part only comes back to operators; 2 important issues are how to deal with IPR content and how to preserve content.
Ms. Jan Bieringa from New Zealand gave key highlights on digital content in her country. Five key projects are being run in her country: Online encyclopedia- 10 year govt. project- written by people in community & not by experts; ICTUS World- learning for young children between ages 2 to 10 and there are 3 interactive online content, puzzles for improving thinking skills; Genomic Research; Technologically advanced van developed for mobile surgery; WSA, 3GIS modeling for development of information (http/www.wsa-awards.org.nz).
Mr. Faouzi Zaghbib from Tunisia: (Chairman ICT Association for Tunisia) gave an idea of Tunisia. There are 4 varieties of technology; Over 90% mobile users; Over 20% internet users; 23 remote centers by private players; 40 venture capitalists who have lot of incentives (Warranty Fund & Industry Promotion Fund); Zero tax for all IT hardware and software; Family PC Funding Project which targets workers who can pay in installments within 2 years; 90% primary schools have access to internet; 25% students following ICT curriculum; Online Clearance can be used via Digital Signatures instead of 15 stations of clearance in manual system. Over 80 partners have been associated with this; Project Health-e-appointment – appointment can be taken over net.
Mr. Sushil Pandey emphasized key developments in Nepal; Countrywide Connectivity – Fibre Network from East to West; IT policy in 2000; Telecom Policy in 2004; E-governance Master Plan in 2008; Electronic Transaction Act; Right to Information Act – at present moving slowly; Since tourism is a key sector – digital content on tourism being developed (www.welcomenepal.org); Nepalblog.org is in the local Nepali language and used by local municipality; E-banking facility – can trade online for stocks etc.; Concept and practice of Community Radio is very successful in Nepal(First in Community Radio in South Asia); 4 Universities – Language mainly English apart from Nepali; Making use of Multimedia in Rural Sector; Nepal trying to convert alternate media to Digital Media.
Mr. Pial Islam from World Economic Forum highlighted key activities of the Forum in ICTD: WEF organize Davos event where top 1000 persons from around the world are invited; WEF Fulfilling projects in India – presently working in Rajasthan; Content creation and sharing – WEF as common platform, highest number of people around the world, portals into global area; WEF working on machine generated content – cost effective to reach masses, manages interactions as well. Mr. Islam stressed the need for serious level of law required at world level. Business should work on increasing the Pie rather than trying to get Largest share of Pie.
Prof Peter Bruck gave the concluding note by making few points.
• To begin with, the network should be open, fair and competitive exchange should take place.
• We should congregate with others to become better equipped.
• Lighthouse events and lighthouse projects for own countries should be created.
• Content gap is human in nature and technology advances much faster than we do, so we need to unite and keep pace.
ICONECS Session on
‘e-Content in Governance and Business’
October 16, 2008
Governance and business go hand in hand and are the two most important driving forces for any country. Therefore, it is inevitable that the ICONECS session on ‘e-Content in Governance and Business’ saw eminent personalities and experts from these fields making presentations and explaining how they were making use of ICT tools and digital content to boost development.
How technology can turn a Union Territory like Lakshadweep, facing lack of adequate transport facilities and communication, into an ideal e–governed state, was seen in the presentation made by Mr. B. V. Selvaraj, Administrator of Lakshadweep. Various projects like total digitization of employment services, digitization of electricity department, web-enabled ship ticket reservation system, total digitization of anganwadi centres, video conferencing facilities, e-permit, common integrated police applications (CIPA) have narrowed down the gap between governing and governed. He pointed out how the use of Information and technology has done wonders for Lakshadweep in terms of education, health, and administration.
Another commendable endeavour to improve the lives of the farming community was seen in IIITM- (Kerala) initiative KISSAN. According to Mr Ajith kumar from IIITMK¸ information technology offers immense potential in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of agriculture extension programmes, trade and dissemination of best practices. He explained how this innovative project by the department of agriculture, government of Kerala, has been a unique pilot in implementation of application of information technology through relevant information systems and networking to aggregate, share and disseminate information of importance and interest to farmers, agriculture workers and officials in ways that enhance the total agricultural development.
Similarly, Chattisgarh has set an example of how people living in forest areas were made aware of their rights and the (recognition of forest rights) Act, 2006 was enacted. In this case as well, information technology is being used to make them aware of their rights and what to do incase their rights are infringed upon.
Another glowing example of making use of digital content for bringing about good e-governance was SHUJAN, an initiative of concerned citizens of Bangladesh with the purpose of promoting democracy, decentralization, electoral reforms, clean politics and accountable government. Mr Zia-ul-Habib elaborated the success of SHUJAN, meaning shushanar janniya nagorik in Bangla, which is a website where citizens are informed in their local language about the profile of the contesting candidates. The website is not supported by NGOs but by the citizens themselves.
Mr Murli Krishnan from e-bay explained how their initiative had made use of the Internet to create tremendous opportunities for a layman to become entrepreneurs. Such efforts prove that the Internet is a fabulous market place, connecting buyers and sellers, and more effectively and remove the middleman.
We cannot forget the fact that it is vital in a democracy that the people get chance to ventilate their grievances. For this purpose, technology should be made use of if we desire effective e-governance. In this context, Sonal mishra, an IAS officer from Gujarat, talked about JAN SEVA KENDRA, an innovative e-governance initiative to provide various governments to citizen services to the citizens of Gandhinagar, in a transparent and efficient manner, through an improvised single interface at the district collectorate.
Such endeavours symbolize the fact that the 21st century has to be the period of e governance.
An addition to these examples of making use of ICT for good governance was Sanwad, where Mr Yogesh Sharma told the audience about this online public grievance system.
Dr Sunil Kumar from TCS innovation lab enlightened the audiences about a novel mobile interface to register their complaints. Through the use of mobile technology and the use of local languages in the communication citizens grievances can be redressed more effectively.
Although these initiatives have shown that efforts are being made in the direction of keeping pace with the technologically growing world, ICT tools and digital content still have to touch a large number of populations to change their lives for better via e-governance and business enterprise.
ICONECS session on
‘E-Content for Learning & Education’
October 16, 2008
“Reaching the Unreached”
This session was dedicated to addressing a major challenge before the nation which concerned its growth, ie, the processes of e Learning and e-education. The session was chaired by Mr Tom Burns from Intel and Prof. MC Pant. Ms Ashish Garg from GeSCI moderated the sessions.
Mr Burns rightly explained the meaning of e-learning, “as a type of education where the medium of instruction is computer technology. In some instances, no in-person interaction takes place. e learning is the unifying term to describe the fields of online learning, web-based training, and technology-delivered instruction, the convergence of the Internet and learning, or Internet-enabled learning, the use of network technologies to create, foster, deliver, and facilitate learning, anytime and anywhere. It is about delivery of individualized, comprehensive, dynamic learning content in real time, aiding the development of communities of knowledge, linking learners and practitioners with experts. It is become phenomena delivering accountability, accessibility, and opportunity to allow people and organizations to keep up with the rapid changes that define the Internet world.
Further explaining the need and importance of this process of technological development he said, “e-learning is used to define a specific mode to attend a course or programmes of study where the students rarely, if ever, attend face-to-face on-campus access to educational facilities, because they study online.”
To discuss and tackle the problems involved in e learning and quality education, the session had before it 20 esteemed delegates of various institutions, NGOs, education private parties and self help groups working in this behalf. Presentations were made by these delegates focusing on how ICT and its various tools and platform can facilitate awareness, quality learning and bridge the gaps in quality and quantity of learning.
Professor Uma Kanjilal from the School of Social Sciences, IGNOU, New Delhi, Sumana K. Sumuk from Centre for Child Development & Disabilities, Bengaluru, Dr Ajay Chauhan from Core Projects, Kamal Abdul Nasir of Tech-Ed for Drop Out youth, 21st Century Media, Victor Paul from Education Development Centre, Bengaluru, Somesh Kumar from the Department of Technical Education, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Capt. K.J. Kang, Designmate, Ahmedabad, Dr Neeraj Raj, MEdRC, Hydrabad were some of the main presentors.
The main focus of all the presenters was spreading awareness, increasing interaction with the rural strata of society, and making technology more accessible. The presenters explained how their method of e learning was good for the urban and rural populations and how it affected the people where it was already being implemented.
Prof. Uma Kanjilal described how various social learning programmes like Gyankosh, Sakshat, etc were functioning and how the programmes of Gyanvani and Gyandarshan I & II had been webcasted. Mr Neeraj Raj explained how e learning in the field of medicine and healthcare is an efficient programme undertaken by them. They explained how they have digitized the entire MBBS curriculum and made it available on their websites and CD’s as well. They emphasised on the method of teaching through videos and live demonstrations through the use of net. Mr Ashish Mann of LA Vision Animation Pvt Ltd demonstrated how their EComics were an effective way of learning for children, as they can easily relate to those cartoon characters. His cartoon creation ‘buzzyboy’ was a next door boy, who was neither a super hero, nor did he possess any super powers, but had immense intelligence and performed meditation for the purpose.
At the end of the session, it was unanimously accepted that there is need for new and effective ways of teaching for quality education, especially in the rural areas of the country. Another issue, which those present at the session felt needed attention, was how to channelise the vast untamed talent of the educated youth in our country, which was going waste. It was concluded at the session that there was need for technology to tackle these issues.
Round Table on
‘Information Communication Technology for Drinking Water and Sanitation’
October 16, 2008
Water, water, everywhere, not any drop to drink! When Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote these famous lines in his “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” over two centuries ago, he would not have, in his wildest dreams, have dreamt that these lines would assume such prophetic importance in today’s time. Availability of water has become a matter of concern today and it is not for reasons not known to us.
Therefore various questions were put forward during the roundtable discussion on issues related to drinking water and sanitation and answers were sought. The participants were from different organizations and NGOs. A few of the participants and the organization they represented were: Mr. Rajesh Shah, P.O. Water Space; Ms. Premila Nazrat from World Bank; Ms. Runalini from Ecological Society; Dr. Megha from World Bank working as freelance consultant; Ms. Meenani from Water Community, India; Mr. Deepak from RBM; representatives from panchayats; Dr. Thapar, Department of Social Welfare(Delhi unit); Mr. Ram Niwas, from Barefoot College, Tilonia; Mr. Pramod, Water Aid (International charity organization).
The first speaker was from a young organization, ITM which has been devoted to work in the water sector since 2005 and manages a fund of Rs.12crore a year for the same. Its sphere is restricted to domestic water sector only. It is spread over some areas of north Bihar, where it is working for rain water harvesting with support from local NGO’s and also in a small place in Tamil Nadu by the name of Grichi for the purpose of sanitation. It has its influence even in Rajasthan. The organization focuses on the increased use of liquid wastes like urine which are better than fertilizers. Also, importance of organizing database in water sector was highlighted. The drawbacks were unclear picture of data and its poor quality. They succeeded in making meteorological data for the entire country for a period of past 100 years. The step forward was based on community collection of data, means for language gap bridging and use of more technology in cell phones which could give forecasts of weather.
Dr. Megha Phansalkar focused on her experience in 80 Gram Panchayats of Maharashtra. The achievements have been that Content Management Software has been developed for data collection in local languages and a learning kit by the name of e-learning has been developed which UNESCO.
Mr. Rajesh Shah pointed out that the managements who plan water projects in certain areas are not completely aware like the locals of the grass root situation which exists in those places and therefore cannot be experts and hence local involvement is must.
Further the failure of various projects is not reported because of fear that the future projects would not get the funds required. Also in villages equal distribution of work should be done i.e. different projects in different villages should be set up which could be done only when a centralized database revealing the information of all projects going on at one point of time is developed. This will bring transparency into the system.
Ms. Lalita Sharma, Barefoot College, Tilonia, Rajasthan, talked about the work done by school students in Neerjal, i.e., collection of sample of water, location for hand pumps, study of type of water and many other things with the help of simple software. They are also working on a project to sweeten the water of Sambar Lake.
Mr. Pramod highlighted that wrong information is being displayed by respective state Governments to give rosy pictures to the outside world. For instance, he pointed out, that there are 604 slums in Indore City itself whereas the state Govt. puts their number at around 300 only. He has worked in 4 cities in Madhya Pradesh and has shortlisted 65 slums for Water sanitation out of 1500 slums mapped in these cities. He has been using GIS applications in 384 Pockets of aforesaid 4 cities for collection of Data. He is working on Water Management. Another NGO have adopted TOT system to train village leaders in 20 Zilas of Haryana to spread awareness among the masses. It started in July, 2006. It consists of 40% theory & 60% field work.
There was at the end of the day, a group discussion wherein 2 important questions were discussed and action plan mooted. The questions were as under:
1. Assessment of ICT training needs for water practitioners and communities. Also innovative ICT applications for water and sanitation sector that can be delivered through ICT kiosks and mobile platforms. What are the challenges is in Field testing?
2. What are the mechanisms for ICT enabled social audit of Govt.’s Water and Sanitation Programme including inputs from citizens?
The above questions were discussed and the following suggestions/ action plan was mooted:
For Question No. 1:
• Use of local language in such areas should be adopted to increase local participation.
• Data collection to be given most importance at the grass root level as this data is the base for macro analysis.
• Knowledge updation is very essential.
• Explaining people that use of technology would not end their work but will only assist them.
• Increase participation of women and children in welfare organizations.
• Improvement in the field of pilot projects required.
• Objectives for which the data is being collected should be predetermined for better data management.
• Use of sign language could be developed in this field.
For Question No. 2 :
• The first issue was to create more computer literates to spread awareness among the masses and provide computer and internet access to various villages.
• The second issue was the quality of water in various places. It was decided that water quality index should be maintained on seasonal basis to make people aware of the quality of water they are using.
• The final issue was to devise a data which compares the government’s reports of work done and ground reality which exists.
• The places for action plan were Sangam in Allahabad in northern region and any village near river Kaveri in Karnataka in the south.
Round Table on
‘Inclusive Governance through Digital Panchayats and Constituencies’
October 17, 2008
In a country where most of the population resides in villages, one cannot ignore the fact that empowering the villagers would lead to a developed India. Digital panchayats could be viable platforms to that end. Therefore, the roundtable on Inclusive governance through digital panchayats and constituencies was a mind striking effort towards discussing better governance through digital panchayats. DEF Director and Manthan Award Chairman Osama Manzar gave the background and informed how DEF visited number of villages in Maharashtra last year and trained villagers in creating and managing their own panchayat portals. Most of the local body representatives participating in the session were enthusiastic about taking the efforts further.
T.R. Raghunandan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, who was chairing the session, started the discussions by venting his ire against the double standard of Corporate Inc. “Corporates have been continuously undermining rural citizens and their capabilities,” he said, and candidly accepted the fact that government officials are less than willing to share power with panchayat bodies at any level.
The joint secretary talked about India’s five thousand-year-old history of the poor being exploited by the elite. “Five thousand MPs and MLAs are heavier over thirty-two lakh panchayat bodies. This has to change and it will happen only through strong assertion by panchayat bodies,” Raghunandan claimed.
“Today, the Indian society is under the double pressure of coping with rising globalization and localization as well. Rural youth, who are receiving education within the villages or outside, are raising fingers at the current power structure. They are now struggling for their legitimate share of power and have started dissenting with their MPs and MLAs,” he added.
What is the improvement?
Self help groups of women have increased their bargaining power. In Bihar, women got 50% reservation in local body elections. Mr Raghunandan added that computerisation has made Information accessible for panchayats. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has allotted each gram panchayat and zila panchayat free cyber space on its official portal.
Although the central government has ninety-nine schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojna Scheme (SGSYS), Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) the panchayat bodies are not getting any information about the spending on these schemes. RTI has not been utilised much.
Mr Raghunandan claimed that the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) could be a stumbling block. The state government may have diverted all funds meant for panchayat bodies which are to be given to the panchayats directly. They have created parallel institutions against panchayat bodies. Gram panchayats get direct funds from four schemes only, ie, NREGS, Central Government’s and State Government’s scheme and revenue collected by panchayat themselves. So it is the necessity of panchayats to have its own source of revenue for the purpose of local development and their maintenance. In Maharashtra, the amount collected through local Panchayats was rupees four hundred crore and in Karnataka it was rupees one hundred sixty crore for the last year. Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have abolished local taxes, therefore the panchayats have been made dependant upon state governments for funds.
The path taken and its stumbling blocks
It was also informed that in Maharashtra, there is no District Planning Committee; hence the Central Government does not give funds other than those allocated in planned schemes. Mr Raghunandan also spoke about the Backward Regions Grant Fund that is designed to redress regional imbalances in development. The fund will provide financial resources for supplementing and converging existing developmental inflows into 250 identified districts.
He said that the task of preparing the data base for villages should be done by the villagers themselves. It is the National Informatics Centre (NIC) which prepares the data base for villages. The joint secretary, ministry of Panchayati Raj, further explained ways for implementation of different schemes and told that there are three-levels of intervention viz. through courts, NGOs and civil society.
Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Maharashtra, Varesh Shinde informed that the ministry has made a proposal to the thirteenth Finance Commission to increase the honorarium for Pradhan upto Rs 2000 which is already in practice in Kerela. He gave the example of Kerala and Karnataka, where survey for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families was conducted by gram panchayats and not by any external agency like primary teachers. This has proved more effective, with less chances of corruption. This method should be followed by all state govt, Mr Shinde said.
Emphasis was laid on how connectivity and interaction among panchayats is necessary to share knowledge and experience, and how Internet is the most convenient media. The problem is to enable transaction in regional languages.
Mr. Raghunandan suggested that efforts should be extended to make a wish list for the development projects and making use of available funds with the help of a software PLANPLUS which is available free of cost. A citizen data base should also be prepared for development planning. Here IT would come to help. In this context, he told a story about an NRI couple who created a website www.ragde.com for donation by philanthropies to the poor, stating the role of IT in social sector.
Round Table outcome
The roundtable reaped some sound results. Mr Raghunandan spoke about various points given by him to panchayat representatives on ten-fifteen such schemes, to fight corruption as far as funds allocated for panchayats are concerned. Mr Osama Manzar assured Mr Raghunandan that initiative would be taken on the suggestions given by him.
Mr Manzar said that DEF would take hundred gram panchayats under honorary leadership of social activist Anna Hazare Saheb, the man behind RTI in India. This way it would try to track corruption in various schemes with the help of guidelines given by Mr Raghunandan.
It was Padmashree Anna Hazare’s inspirational speech that gave a concluding note to the discussions. He said that the world has come closer and competition has increased. To keep pace with the rest of the world, we need to make use of the power of IT. Reminding that Gandhiji had advocated decentralisation to strengthen democracy, Shri Hazare explained how IT is now the best tool for enabling decentralisation, eradicating corruption and increasing people’s participation in democracy. It is only with the help of technology that digital panchayats will help in good governance.
ICONECS Session on
‘e-Content in Culture and Entertainment’
October 17, 2008
How technology can give a stimulus to efforts in the area of culture and entertainment came as a wonderful eye-opener during the ICONECS session on E-Content in Culture and Entertainment during Manthan Award South Asia Conclave 2008. Various presentations from countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, besides India, showed how ICT tools and digital content have helped promote local culture and also provide entertainment to large sections of society.
There were various examples from Sri Lanka to show how ICT tools and digital content are being made use of for promoting culture.
Mr G L Wiki Wickramrathna from Sri Lanka explained how his organisation is working towards creating content for the cultural and historical heritage of Sri Lanka which is authentic. It is necessary to promote this kind of e-content for the sake of culture because some popular portals like Wikipedia and Google have stored some contradictory facts about various heritage buildings of Sri Lanka. He is also working towards making this e-content available in other local and international languages.
The Jataka Kathayein, or stories from the life of Buddha can be viewed in digitised form on net now. They are even available in CDs for places where Internet is not available. This helps in the spread of message of Buddhism.
Such brilliant efforts leave us wondering whether these kinds of initiatives have been taken in India. There is need to explore. If not, then there is need to encourage the Indian Community to do this kind of work.
Mr. Akhil Suratia of Gujarat introduced his website www.akahiltv.com which contains videos on social and civic issues which comprise are day to day life. Very local in nature, these videos provide content that can make us aware of the shortcomings we have to overcome.
The Akhil TV model could be used for replication in other areas. The duo passion is excellent and the essence of community involvement , localisation and content development is seen so strongly.
Mr. Shashi Pandey of India Podcasting presented a relatively new kind of e-content ‘podcasting’ which is a new concept at the global level. In podcasting, his website www.podbharti.com provides multimedia on the Internet in a simple way in Hindi He spoke about the two challenges which they are facing, firstly, problem in downloading of content from the Internet, generally in small towns. And secondly, quality of production of contents is an issue because it a time consuming process to produce a quality product. Efforts are being made to produce contents in other vernacular languages.
Laxman Singh who is working with Rajasthani folk artists told the session that they were having recorded content of 9000hrs of their art work. They have got permission for community radio.
On certain queries about the training programme for software related to creating content in the field of culture and entertainment, Chairperson Mr Rajan Varada suggested the use of software made available by UNESCO. This software happens to be free of cost.
The following key recommendations have emerged:
The already developed cultural web portals could be shared with UNESCO for possible support and sharing. Since Sri Lanka is not being funded by UNESCO, some cooperation should be sought from UN for the preservation of historical and cultural heritages in the country.
It is now necessary to have a Local Area Portal which can be accessed by all. There should be amalgamation of all contents produced by the participant organisations and individuals for the common purpose of preserving and promoting different cultures.
There is a need to develop a portal wherein the information about all Community Radio programmes at the South Asia level could be uploaded, including the content, so that it can be shared, listened to and modified according to the local needs. The portal will also highlight the common practices, experiences in sustaining the community radio, training modules and other relevant information/knowledge in relation to the CR initiatives.
Local initiatives could be documented and shared across the globe so that the local innovations could be replicated. Manthan is doing the same, but Manthan can provide a platform wherein all these initiatives could be shared on a regular basis.
The involvement of children in the process of gathering information about culture in which they are surrounded by is very important. This is in order to inculcate the sense of preservation in them since childhood. This idea has been very successful in Sri Lanka.
Round Table on
“Content, Connectivity & Accessibility in Education”
October 17, 2008
NIOS Chairperson Professor M C Pant set the tone for discussion as he put forward his point of view that the country is facing the challenge of less number of educational institutions in addition to the issue of creditability and quality of education. He recommended that in such a situation, ICT solutions can make educational content accessible.
But there are various questions that need to be answered as far as ICT education is concerned, taking into account India’s illiterate population, power availability. Very importantly, it will be very difficult to fix a common standard of education for 35 different states in this country.
Two kinds of literacy were talked about–Functional Literacy and Basic Literacy. It was also pointed out that content development is more towards training workers rather than citizens. It was also emphasized that educational parameters should be broader so that people can adjust with change. For example, in case of a job change, one should be able to adjust to a new environment and their education should not go waste.
Mr. Ramesh Verma from Reliance opined that standards should lead to meeting of various educators at one level. He also stated that quality is focused at a stage where completion of training ends rather than where it starts.
Delegates from Nagaland spoke about their challenges which were different from rest of India because of tribal differences and the fact that although ICT education tools are available to be assessed by teachers, but there is no inclination to adopt these measures. Besides, development of ICT education is very slow. Another delegate emphasized that quality content is related to multiple intelligence theory in which every child is divided into one of the eight types and accordingly the content is designed for him.
Mr Pant further elaborated that learning abilities of the child should be assessed. The content should be such that it tests a student’s knowledge, abilities and creativity.
The above views of different speakers were highly appreciated but two major drawbacks were highlighted, one that ICT applications could not be used because of lack of power, and secondly, wherever they are provided, the people concerned are not inclined to adopt these.
On the basis of the views presented by different speakers, the following recommendations were evolved.
Standards for developing e-content
The participants agreed on benchmarking and to determine the threshold points for ICT based content that would further help in defining standards for quality content. The following set of recommendations has emerged out of the discussion:
1) Standards of contents are well defined in state curriculum. Content should be presented in such a way so as to empower, engage and excite the teachers; content should be rigorously aligned with the curriculum and should be easy to understand. Content should be developed after audience analysis, should be cross medium and available anytime, anywhere.
2) Learning outcome and objectives to be defined and evaluated. Evaluating the content will require validating /evaluating the technology. There needs to have a scope for research in development and delivery of content.
3) ICT based content has to be capable of being LAN enabled, suitable to be TV broadcast, suitable for ITV and other new and emerging technologies with a stereovision.
4) Content should be child/ student friendly, scalable, culture specific, flexible, empowering the teachers, based on Indian context, and cost effective. Digital contents shall be taken from the local surrounding, should be interactive. One computer to be made available to at least 20 teachers. There has to be localisation of the voice over of the content. There should be a definite link between community (parents), teachers, and students. Content should be made for rural population, be based on multiple intelligence and shall cater to all segments of students.
5) Content needs to be interoperable, there has to be some mechanism of interaction between teachers and student on the digital content.
6) Standards should be defined taking the slow learners and students with special needs into consideration; e g W3g content is compliant for people with disabilities.
7) Learning is complex process; therefore atomised learning outcome is not feasible. There is a need to focus on creating additional contents that would enable the teachers to engage with students and learning effectively.
8) Following the constructivist approach, digital content should, be absorbing and, engage students and teachers to create their own lesson plans.
9) Content should be an enabler in vocational education, open software should be available to be dubbed in regional language. Skill reinforcement should be reflected in the content and its usages.
10) Content should be made bilingual- a common language and regional language.
11) National Council of Teachers of Mathematics or International Society for Technology in Education can be referred to define standards for ICT based contents.
1. Assessment needs to be evolved; therefore it should be continuous, frequent and comprehensive. Assessment should be as non-threatening as possible.
2. While determining the assessment standards, various innovative tools should be employed e.g. portfolio based assessment, self assessment, peer assessment, etc.
3. Assigning homework to the students is a critical part of learning. Therefore, learning and assessment need to be integrated. Additionally, there has to be a mechanism by which the students of different ability can be assessed equally/ at par with students with natural ability.
4. Assessment should check for concepts clarity, understanding, application and comprehension of the subjects and topics, etc.
5. Classification of the classes to be done followed by an assessment of the students, e g class for the gifted learners, average learners and slow learners, etc.
6. Assessment should be rubric based- formative, summative and diagnostic (student assessing himself/herself, teacher assessing student).
7. There is a need to create a question bank. Assessment tool can be created along side the content development. Further, contents can be divided into smaller units with lot of assessment components, which will help in building the content repository.
8. Assessment can be based on Learning Management System (LMS) – a) Parent and teacher centric; b) Child Centric. Parents and teachers can communicate through ICT tools instead of only face to face.
9. ICTs can be used for assessment of competencies and skills beyond schools and curriculum.
10. Employability skills assessment to be embedded into the contents. Indicators for assessment are to be based on skills. Assessment should be aligned with the competencies of the students. Assessment tool developed by state of Jharkhand is a good example.
ICONECS Session on
‘E-Content in Localisation and Inclusion’
October 17, 2008
Technology cannot claim to have solved its purpose if it is unable to reach the local level and include as many in its fold as it can. Therefore, it has to break barriers which block its path of reaching out to as many as possible.
There are many who are working towards the goal of making technology accessible to as many. Such efforts were presented at the ICONECS session on e content in localisation and inclusion during Manthan Awards, and the challenges in the field of technology’s spread for development were discussed. Various contries are involved in this process.
One such effort is being made by Afghanistan Computer Science Association, which is developing Sea Monkey in Pashto language as a community effort for quite some time. The website is pashtotracks.com. In Afghanistan, localization of windows XP and office XP 2005 is being done and the organisation is helping in availing ICT services to all Afghans. ICT will help in pushing Afghanistan towards becoming a developed economy. Localisation has become a priority for the government and e-governance initiatives and ICT in school curriculum are under way.
In Sri Lanka, a country where Singhala is the most popular language, followed by Tamil, efforts are directed towards dispensing education to physically handicap through recorded cassettes. Similarly, there is desire to make e content accessible to everyone. The presentation by Dais, Sri Lanka, showed what efforts are being made in this direction. Computer training is conducted for college students. Software called sicrona has been developed. This software helps in producing content in Singhala language.
In India, Lipikaar is an organization that has set an example by trying to make e content available to many sections. This website is creating e-content in languages other than English because there are large populations that do not understand English. There are more than 2000 dialects and more than 40 million Internet users in India. There are various methods of creating e-content in local languages.
Even the concept of donation has been given a new meaning in India through technology by giveindia.org. Started seven years back, it is an online platform for any person who wants to donate for a social cause. 50000 donors have already donated for social cause under this website.
These endeavours make us realize the energy with which ICT tools are trying to build bridges to overcome the digital divide. We need so many efforts in this direction. It is highly recommended that in a country like ours, with large percentage of uneducated population and such cultural and ethnic diversity, organisations and bodies try to break the barriers which prevent proliferation of technology.
‘Community broadcasting for addressing grass root informational gaps’
October 18, 2008
The workshop session was chaired by Dr R. Sreedhar, Director, Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), Commonwealth of Learning (CoL), New Delhi and Mr Alonso Aznar, Consultant, Communication and Information, UNESCO. The moderators for the session were Mr Rajan Varada and Mr. Sajan Venniyoor. Mr Alonso from UNESCO explained the meaning of community radio and also its importance in the society. He described community radio as a type of radio service that caters to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting material that is popular to a local audience but is overlooked by more powerful broadcast groups.
Further explaining the position, he said that a community radio is a technological conversion to promote democracy and transparency in the administrative system. According to him, it was a plight that till now community radios is run by NGOs and they produce programmes with only handful of experts and it is the much felt need of the hour that the involvement of local people must be done in this process. The vast talent that the youth possess should be utilised in this channel my means of campus community radios. The first step in this regard will be to identify a community for which community radio broadcasting should be done. Identification of core groups for working, production and management should be identified from the youths.
UNESCO has devised a methodology called ‘cooperation of intellectual policy maker’ methodology in this behalf. The content over the community radio should be clear and interactive. It should not be an income generating activity. Content on economic and social oriental activities, agricultural, business and marketing of local products should be encouraged.
Dr. Sreedhar of CEMCA explained three fields where community radios are successfully running: Campus community radio, Agricultural Institutions, and Civil Society.
He informed that the Government of India is planning to have more than 4000 community radios in India. According to him Community Radio is a voice for the voiceless. He pointed out many examples of countries where community radios are successfully running, namely Africa, Latin America, Canada, etc. In these countries the community radios are taken over by the community itself and they even manage the finances of the radio station.
A question was raised about the sustainability of the Community radio since it was not an income generating activity. The answer came from the chairperson that people should come forward within community to invest in the community radios. The Indian situation was explained by Dr. Sreedhar. As on 16 November 2006, the Government of India notified a new Community Radio Policy which permits NGOs and other civil society organizations to own and operate community radio stations. About 6,000 community radio licenses are on offer across India. Under the new policy, any not-for-profit ‘legal entity’ – except individuals, political parties and their affiliates, criminal and banned organizations – can apply for a Community Radio license. Central funding is not available for such stations, and there are stringent restrictions on fundraising from other sources. Only organisations that have been registered for a minimum of three years and with a ‘proven’ track record of local community service can apply. License conditions implicitly favour well-funded stations as against inexpensive low power operations, several of which (e.g. Mana Radio in Andhra and Raghav FM in Bihar) ran successfully on shoe-string budgets before the imposition of any community radio policy. Community radio stations are expected to produce at least 50% of their programmes locally, as far as possible in the local language or dialect. The stress is on developmental programming, though there is no explicit ban on entertainment.
Mr Pawan Prakash Upreti of Equal Access, Nepal, demonstrated how his efforts have enabled him to start a local community radio in Nepal. The motto of his organization is ‘bridging the gap between poverty and opportunity’. The Equal Access Mission is to create positive change for millions of underserved people in the developing world by providing critically needed information and education. One can truly say that radio has come ahead of any other source of entertainment or information gathering device in Nepal.
Mr Mustafa Zaki from Netbetar.com, Bangladesh, explained how his project is working as an internet based community radio channel in Bangladesh where presently no single community radio channel is functioning. Netbetar.com, the first Bangladeshi net cast radio channel hopes to reach all corners of the Bangladesh through thousands of telecentres sprinkled across rural areas. It is a youth community radio that is Internet based. Development focused entertainment through radio can help bring issues closer to the poor, feels the team behind the initiative.
The presentation by Mrs Ratna Devi of Barefoot College Tilonia in Rajasthan showed what social awakening of a class is. Barefoot College is located in Tilonia, 100 km from Jaipur, Rajasthan, India; the project covers 82,349 sq km with 110 villages and 100,000 inhabitants. Barefoot College1, the centre has trained two generations of villagers without any formal paper qualifications to become health-care workers, solar engineers, hand-pump mechanics and teachers in their communities. Thanks largely to its efforts, over 100,000 people in 110 villages now have access to safe drinking water, education, health and employment. Rural youth once regarded as “unemployable” install and maintain solar electricity systems, hand pumps and tanks for drinking water. The project’s achievement includes provision of quality water for human and livestock – 1,317 hand pumps, 184 underground storage tanks, piped water in six districts, deepening of 175 ponds; effective training, installation and use of solar energy units for night schools and for lighting homes; promotion of literacy – establishment of 83 night schools and 48 day schools; establishment of Village Education Committees; over 3,000 school children exposed to environmental awareness through the school curriculum; poverty alleviation – job creation for close to 7,000 people including youth, women, technicians and artisans; provision of new markets for rural women and artisans; income generated from sales of fodder and fuel wood from reclaimed wastelands. Questions were raised about the sustainability of the project to which she replied that Barefoot was funded 40% by the State Government, 40% by international donors and 20% by its own activities.
The presentations and discussions over them led to various recommendations. They are as follows:
Keeping the recorded content in the libraries for open access to all the people
Emergency community radio schemes in times of natural disasters.
Technology to be user friendly
Accessibility over the content for people with disabilities.
ICONECS Session on
‘E-Content in News and M Content’
October 17, 2008
“By reasoning retail is being connected to e-tail. There is very beautiful concept named web 2 store. Reasoning aims to bridge the gap between the consumers and retailers by redefining the channels of their business, thus enabling them to take informed buying and selling decisions powered by Internet & mobile technology.” The presentation by Ms. Bindu Rathod from reasoning web based mobile services, was an example of how digital content has changed the face of business.
Efforts by organizations like hers, that have the core vision of providing real time information to customers & build a strong communication network between customers & sellers through the use of internet and mobile, explain the relevance of such innovative technologies.
In the realm of news, Voice of the Youth, a viewspaper, a web based portal left a deep impression on peoples mind. Those representing them said that content on blogs must be relevant and must be capable of being understood by the layman in his language.
Bringing news to the people is not an easy task. This fact came into prominence during the ICONECS session on news and m content when groundviews.com from Sri Lanka made its presentation. Sri Lanka is the third most dangerous country for journalists. A journalist was charged under prevention of terrorism act by attorney general. Groundviews is Sri Lanka’s first and only award winning citizens journalism website and features an unparalleled range of ideas, opinions and analyses on humanitarian issues, media freedom, human rights, peace, democratic governance and constitutional reform.
Groundviews was set up under the voices of the reconciliation project conducted in Sri Lanka through the leadership of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) from 2005 – 2006 and funded by CIDA and AusAID. The VOR Project was also instrumental in setting up VOR radio- which complements the content on this site through podcasts on peace, democracy and reconciliation.
Since February 2007 Groundviews has not received any funding from any national or international sources. Therefore there are various stumbling blocks in the path of making information reach the masses and bridge the digital divide.
An eye opening ICT practice was seen in the form of spoken web. This is an initiative to use the World Wide Web in the telecom sector. Service delivery is done to the rural population through a phone. The initiative voice website has been started because audio does not suffer from the bias of literacy.
Efforts by companies like Mobis, a company that tries to break communication barriers between the government and citizens explained how important communication between the two in a democracy is.
Technology, if used in the right way, will not just provide news and information to large populations, but create a situation where people will have unlimited scope for being informed anywhere, anytime. We just need to make use of the high level of mobile penetration and make content through computers more accessible.
ICONECS Session on
‘E-Content in Health and Environment’
October 17, 2008
The session on ‘E Content in Health and Environment’ was dedicated to the importance of ICT and digital content in health services delivery with affordable quality and accessible content and services, at the same time, overcoming time, geographical, economic and social limitations. The focus was on how ICT and digital content can facilitate promotion and sustenance of the environment with larger attention on local ecosystem.
Addressing the importance of this new technology and its effectiveness, Mr Ravi Agarwal from Toxics Link explained how Information Technology has the potential to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care in today’s times. “Although nowadays there is less diffusion of IT in the health care sector, but surveys indicate that providers plan to increase their investment,” he said.
Dr. Ashok Patil from PRI University, rightly commented that IT is a tool of immense capability. “IT can help in accomplishing tasks that people cannot do physically and by conventional methods. It provides so many services over a vast area at a much lower expenditure,” he added.
Delegates of various organisations from all over India and neighbouring countries, who were also the nominees for the Manthan Awards, working in this respect, had taken part in this platform to discuss the needs and goals that have to be achieved and also the barriers that are hampering quality health services to be disseminated to the urban as well as rural community through the medium of IT.
Mr. Balaji Utla from HMRI, Hyderabad; Dr Ritu Joseph Biyani from Project HighWays Infinite, Pune; Monish Chopra from Web Health Centre, TCS, Tamil Nadu; Prof. Luftur Rahman from Association for Advancement of Information Technology, Dhaka, Bangladesh; Srividya Sen from Babycentre , New Delhi; Ahmad Babu from Implementation of Rajiv Arogya’s Community Health Insurance Scheme, Aarogyastri Health Care Trust, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh; Dr NB Dholakia from Department of Health & Family Welfare, Gujarat were some of the prominent participants.
They explained the ventures undertaken by them to provide efficient health facilities, information and solutions over the net to the people, especially those in rural areas.
Speaking for the Health Management and Research Institute (HMRI) Hyderabad, Mr. Balaji Utla described how HMRI being a non-profit organization is working in the field of disseminating health services by focusing on augmenting public health delivery systems and leveraging Information and Communication Technologies and modern management practices. HMRI envisages supporting public health systems run by government to provide and improve access and the quality of services to the vulnerable sections of the society. HMRI and Government of Andhra Pradesh have come together under a public private partnership (PPP) to augment the health delivery systems in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Satyam is providing the technical support to the organization. Presently HMRI is providing facilities such as child care, mother care, counselling, paramedics, information pertaining to various diseases and health providers such as doctors, nursing homes, tertiary care hospitals, blood banks, diagnostic services providers etc. This endeavour can be seen as a good example which can be replicated in other states to focus on health services provided, especially to the rural people, HMRI endeavours to enable the rural people through the medium of its website, to obtain the services provided by them.
We need to overcome fear and take things in the right spirit. This was a very important lesson learnt at the session when Dr Ritu Biyani spoke about her victorious battle with cancer and how she is helping those suffering with it, especially the ones in remote areas, with the help of innovative use of ICT. Dr Biyani was a dental surgeon in the Indian Army and a professional paratrooper. Her project ‘Highways Infinite’ is primarily based on cancer awareness and specially breast cancer among women.
Mr. Monish Chopra of Web Health Centre, TCS, Tamil Nadu, talked about how the Web Health Centre provides e-Health service to the people through web. Services such as online consultation, health news, information about alternative medicine, women’s health information, symptom checker, student centre, etc. are provided by Web Health Centre. With the help of TCS, they have developed a disease surveillance system that keeps them informed about new diseases that people will report to them.
Interestingly, health care through ICT tools and digital content are not limited to conventional illness, it can enfold new arenas like pregnancy and bringing up babies.
Srividya Sen of BabyCentre India explained her website, which is all about pregnancy mother’s health, and also parenting till the child attains the age of five. The portal gives information about everything that a woman should know about pregnancy and parenting, right from the day of getting pregnant till the baby attains the age of five. Other services over the website include birth clubs, pregnancy calendars, ovulation calculator and also a bloggers community where new mothers can share their experiences and get help from other members of the site. She desired that with the help of ICT, the programme can be taken to the grass roots in the country.
For all the talk on health, we have to remember that a healthy environment and taking care of nature is as important for a good life.
For the protection of environment, representative of ICIMOD from Nepal, Mr. Sushil Pandey explained how they have developed books and DVD’s on the issues relating to mountain people and environment. They lay emphasis on the improvement of livelihood of the mountain people at the same time protect the environment. The increased number of visitors on their website and number of downloads reflect the increasing awareness about the issue.
A discussion on the work being done by these organisations, and their results experiences led to various recommendations which would improve the overall state of affairs in these fields. They are as following-
1) There should be sharing of database to enhance the functioning of the various organizations
2) Government’s funds can be saved by questioning the organizations on their working and informing the government about the progress in the work.
3) Expenditure gets doubled when different organizations are working on the same problems. There can be some co-ordination to organise the working in a better way
4) Money should be spent on creating awareness about health issues and a better environment
5) There should be copyright of the data of the hospitals
6) Very importantly, there should be negotiation with the vendor (in these cases corporate) to reduce implementation cost.
Round Table on
‘ICT @ Health for the masses’
October 17, 2008
Health has always been a cause of primary concern in our country, especially in a scenario where large populations do not have access to proper health care facilities. The roundtable conference on ‘ICT @ Health for the Masses’ discussed issues pertaining to problems in health sector and how they can be solved with the use of information and technology and delivery of digital content. The health sector is the largest growing sector in the country.
Chairperson Dr. Ashok Patil mentioned listed out key crucial points relating to health sector, emphasizing that health and development are inseparable. Literacy rate should be increased to create awareness about health and sanitation. He mentioned the fact that only 3% of India’s GDP is spent on the health sector, whereas in developed countries, this percentage is 9 to 11 %, so there is need to increase budget allocation in this sector. Government has initiated many projects to improve health conditions in the country; NRHM (National Rural Health Mission) is one of them.
One participant opined that lack of health facilities in the country is not a problem, but has become an opportunity for many, so the mindset needs to be changed. Sustained efforts are needed by the medical and patient fraternity.
Dr Ritu Biyani of High>>> Ways beyond cancer said that people should first know the realities of rural areas and then preach. Technology should reach the grass root levels for its effective usage. Dr Biyani, a cancer survivor herself, gave an example where the doctor made the mistake of asking a patient to go for cancer operation without proper diagnosis. However, the patient was given a clean chit by a reputed diagnostic center. This is the plight of our so called doctors in rural areas.
Dr. Patil highlighted that Pravash Medical Trust is one website which is looking after the basic needs of the rural people. It gradually shifts it focus to health because people with no food and water cannot think about issues of health. He opined that in majority of the cases, doctors are not required. On Pravash Medical Trust website, farmers get to know about the village’s climate for the entire week. This helps him in planning accordingly. Newspapers do not provide information for a particular village. Each childbirth in that particular village is uploaded on the website. The organization believes that health problems should be viewed from a socio-economic angle. A poor rural woman who is pregnant cannot think of procuring iron tablets because she cannot afford it.
In fact, the problem of malnutrition is widespread in our country. Gujarat is an ideal example of how ICT can be used in solving the problems of health, sanitation, and malnutrition. One panelist put forward the view that there is lack of a uniform policy in the country. Each state government formulates its own policy which leads to clash of interest and lack of understanding.
The entire country might not have been able to formulate a uniform action plan, but the sarpanch of a village explained how he had given his village a facelift with the help of ICT as far as health and hygiene are concerned. Basic information on hygiene was provided through computers.
The chairperson explained that there are basically three issues as far as ICT @ health for the masses is concerned.
Firstly, how to reach to the people living in rural areas.
Secondly, how to empower medical staff, including nurses and midwives.
And thirdly, there has to be effective implementation of government policies like NHRM etc.
He said that the role of public- private partnership should be admired. Efforts should be made towards leveraging the potential in the private sector in our country. Ultimately people in rural areas will have to go to government hospitals. Therefore, there is need to improve services over there. The problem concerns the implementation of technology. In this regard, the concept of telemedicine is very attractive.
Resistance at many levels hampers the application of technology. Technology now has become easily available for the masses but how to harness this technology is the question. For example, BSNL can provide connectivity to many villages which are situated on the sides of the railway line because broadband is used for railway signals.
One member emphasized the need of effective legislation in order to make people realise that they have no other option but to follow the command of the law. Law can be a very powerful tool in making the use of technology mandatory for people.
This is because there is an immense need for health in development, as only a healthy citizen can be productive in their performance.
‘ICT @ Social Entrepreneurship’
October 18, 2008
A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Since there is no dirth of social problems in India, the workshop on Social Entrepreneurship during the three day Manthan gala was a good platform for viewing different endeavours undertaken in this direction and analyise what entrepreneurial initiatives can be taken for real development. Prof Anil Gupta from IIM Ahmedabad and Ms. Neelam Chibber from Industree were the chairpersons for the session.
Jeeon-ikb, an offline content database developed in Bangla, set up a good example of how rural people, even those who are unable to read and write, can get response to their daily queries with the help of an ‘infomediary’. It provides information regarding health, education, agriculture, etc. It also provides low cost solution to many problems.
Prof Anil Gupta made a suggestion that to authenticate the credibility of the employees in an organization information regarding them should be pasted on the Internet.
Mr. Rajveer Singh made a presentation which concerned improving the competitiveness of medium and small enterprises in manufacturing clusters through ICT apex cluster development. He informed that experimentation has been done in the Craft sector with the partnership of the Canadian government. “Information technology can be used in designing of bangles, sarees etc. The issue is that the use of information technology should be in harmony with eco system,” Singh said.
Hand in Hand, an NGO from Tamil Nadu in India spoke about its five main objectives, namely, child labour elimination, dispensing education, encouraging self-help groups and microfinance for enterprise and job creation, creating citizens’ centres to strengthen grassroots democracy and protecting the environment via solid waste management and water shed projects. The NGO follows certain principles like pro poor and bottom up approach, participatory learning, mainstreaming gender in all activities, transparency and accountability in all actions and working in coordination with local institution to achieve these objectives.
In a country where agriculture is the primary sector, Shah Nawazul Islam presented ‘expert system’, which can be called a revolution in the field of agriculture. Expert system is a computer based software that uses artificial intelligence techniques to solve problems that ordinarily require a knowledgeable human expert. Agriculture faces many challenges and this is a path breaking move to solve those hurdles. Use of technology in this fashion can help India get rid of its agricultural woes.
Prof Gupta informed that although the government is waiving a loan of Rs 60000 crore for farmers, but it forgets to lay stress on the use of natural pesticides like bitter plants as a better alternative, which can considerably bring down the cost entailed in agricultural process.
Moving from agriculture to transport, the ticketwala.com initiative has enabled people to book their bus tickets through online. Although there were many challenges like internet connectivity, power supply cuts etc in the start, presently there are more than 400 operators, over 400 routes, Jammu to Thiruvantpuram and Mumbai to kolkata.
E-bay, a platform which can help a layman turn into an entrepreneur with the help the Internet, Cell Bazaar from Bangladesh, where the millions of users of mobile phone can purchase and sell even their old products just by using the mobile, and ngpay.com, India’s largest mall on the mobile came as social entrepreneurial eye openers.
How technology can revolutionise lives by putting to use our entrepreneurial abilities in combination with serving social causes, were motivating enough to set our minds thinking to start working in the direction. These product presentations also made it clear that technology has left no barriers for anybody, be it a housewife, a retired person, student or anyone else, to have a career as a social entrepreneur.