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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Villagers try out net on wheels
Market scene in India
Villagers able to check crop prices on the net

Villagers in rural India who have never even seen a computer or even made a telephone call are getting their first taste of the internet thanks to an innovative project.

For the Computer on Wheels trials, a technician visits villages on a motorcycle, carrying a laptop computer.

The villagers can then look at pages which have been downloaded from the internet.

"Much like the post office, where the postman delivers letters once or twice a day, we are delivering the internet to people once or twice a day," explained Satish Jha of the development organisation, Digital Partners.

Web on demand

The pilot project to create a mobile internet service has just started in the Telangana region of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

The trial will run for a year. If it is successful, it could be extended to cover the whole state.

The funding is coming from a small seed grant from Digital Partners.

This Seattle-based non-profit organisation sees it as a possible way of involving India's millions of rural dwellers in the internet revolution.


As soon as they hear the sound of the motorbike and know the laptop is coming, between 50 and 100 people will collect around it

Satish Jha, Digital Partners
"Why should a whole section of population who don't have telephones, who don't have electricity, be left behind," Mr Jha told the BBC programme Go Digital.

"70% of villagers do not have access to telephones or electricity so how can they use computers? We need to find ways of taking the computer to them."

Since there are no net connections in the villages, any relevant webpages are first downloaded on to a laptop. A technician then drives out on a motorcycle, perhaps twice a day.

Villagers are able to ask for services, like government forms or check current information such as crop prices in regional markets or the latest news from their area.

Early days

So far, the Cow project has generated a lot of interest among villagers.

Women in Indian village
Aim to take the net to rural villagers
"There is an element of curiosity," said Mr Jha. "As soon as they hear the sound of the motorbike and know the laptop is coming, between 50 and 100 people will collect around it."

Mr Jha said this was the way technology had often reached villagers and likened it to the early days of cinema, when villagers would crowd around a screen to catch a peek of the moving pictures.

The project is still in its early days, but the organisers are hopeful it could prove one way of overcoming the lack of a communications infrastructure in the countryside.

See also:

24 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
24 Sep 01 | Science/Nature
25 Jun 02 | South Asia
17 Jun 02 | South Asia
14 Jun 02 | South Asia
23 Apr 02 | South Asia
01 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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