A bicycle rickshaw that carries a computer with a high-speed, wireless Internet connection is the center of a project called “Infothela,” or info-cart, which aims to use technology to improve education, health care and access to agricultural information in India’s villages.
Conceived in 2003 by the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, the project provides free computer classes in six villages in Uttar Pradesh state, teaching the basics of computing, word processing, spreadsheets, Internet browsing and Web cameras. Once they learn own to use a webcam the villagers can take part in online classes, something the info-cart organizers hope to implement later.
Another computer on a pedicab is being used to help doctors in Lucknow, the state capital, provide consultation to villagers through video-conferencing in nearby Saroha village. A project to disseminate the latest crop prices and farming methods is also being developed.
With only 12 computers and four Internet connections per 1,000 people, India has one of the world’s lowest Internet usage rates and much of rural India are just forgotten by technology. But the villages involved in Infothela all lie within a 50-mile wireless corridor created by the Institute of Technology and linked by high-rise Wi-Fi antennae and amplifiers along the highway.
The service is free for now, but fees will eventually be charged.