Rural Connectivity: The next challenge and opportunity

23rd June 2009
Rural Connectivity: The next challenge and opportunity

In 18 villages and 15 towns around Chennai in Tamil Nadu,  the Ericsson sponsored Gram jyoti project is harnessing 3G/ HSPA to bridge the urban-rural divide. In  the North Eastern states, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme harnesses   RFID and NFC based smart cards to make timely disbursements as part of a test rollout of technology. 
Developers like  Bangalore based Integra Micro Systems have created micro banking and branchless banking solutions based on these technologies to bring banking to thousands of villages in India. More recently 3i Infotech has launched a range of value added services for rural India under the I-SERV brand in over 12,000 locations.
Smart Telecom is to make its foray in Nepal -- starting with 400 Village Development Commitees or VDCs in remote Western and central regions of the Himalayan republic.
With civil unrest behind it after decades, Sri Lanka’s Information and Communication Technology Authority is full steam ahead in growing its chain of rural nena salas or knowledge centres.
The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi Pakistan has joined   telecom operator Roshan, Cisco, and other medical partners to bring telemedicine for the first time to Afghanistan
The thrust to empower rural communities is emerging as the next big challenge – and opportunity – for  governments and non governmental players alike in the subcontinent.
On Tuesday June 23,   the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO)   launches a 3-day conference in Delhi, , “Connecting Rural Communities Asia 2009”. The agenda includes:

• Step-by-step practical guidance on overcoming the most pressing technical challenges
• Developing a world-class telecentre rural development programme
• Progress on delivering the promise of the United Services Obligation Fund
• Realising the benefits of greater rural connectivity though the delivery of E-services
• Mapping the future need for connectivity: Identifying choke points in the delivery network  
• Training and empowering rural populations to make full use of the potential inherent in greater connectivit
Speakers include Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, CEO, CTO; Anil Prakash, President, Telecom Users Group, India, SR Rao, Additional Secretary, Dept of Telecom, Govt of India, Muhammed Yaseen,  Chairman, Pakistan Telecom Authority; Radha Basu and Dipak Basu ANUDIP , co founders, Foundation for Social Welfare,   and experts from Microsoft, Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm, GSMA, Apollo Telemedicine and other agencies.
To focus on rural   opportunities and priorities on the occasion, we have put together links to relevant reading and documentation: 
(IndiaTechOnline is a supporting organisation of the conference)
3rd Annual Connecting Rural Communities Asia Forum
Malapati Raja Sekhar's rural india blog
NEW! Bringing telecom to rural India: VNL whitepaper
ITC e-choupal's home page
New! Serving the rural market: 3i Infotech
New! Rural BPO centres provide a ray of hope for smaller towns
New! How to convert villages into BPO hubs
New!And now, time for VPOs
3G/HSPA can help bridge urban-rural digital divide
New! Sri Lanka needs a National Broadband Network
India sponsors rural telecentres in Sri Lanka/ Anand Parthasarathy
For the cyber age, a digital thumb impression / Anand Parthasarathy
Sri Lanka’s Nenasala ICT centres:
Rural telecom policy for Pakistan