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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 11:58 GMT
Web without wires reaches out
Rural Bangladesh, BBC
Many rural areas in Bangladesh lack net access
The BBC's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka reports on a project to use a wireless network to extend internet net access to rural areas of Bangladesh.

Until now the students and staff of the Bangladesh Agricultural University have used a modem and unreliable phone lines to connect to the net, making it difficult for them to keep abreast of developments in their specialist fields.

Using the net involved a long-distance phone call to the capital Dhaka.

But, from today, they will enjoy fast internet access via a wireless link to Dhaka, thanks to a project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Costly calls

The Agricultural University sits on the outskirts of Mymensingh, a thriving district town about 100 kilometres north of the capital Dhaka.

Until now the country's largest agricultural institution, along with the town, has had no local internet service provider.

We hope to provide low-cost connections to local hospitals, schools and non-profits groups

Hakikur Rahman
As a result everyone in Mymensingh used net service providers in Dhaka, but this meant hefty telephone bills to get online.

To cut the cost of net access in places such as Mymensingh, the UN agency has provided about $1.5m to launch the Sustainable Development Network Project (SDNP).

This project will give the University a 2megabits connection to the net that will be significantly cheaper to use than the existing system because it removes the need to make long distance calls.

The project manager, Hakikur Rahman, told the BBC that educational institutions in five other towns - Rajshahi, Sylhet, Khulna, Barisal and Chittagong - will also be connected under the project.

Linking all these institutions through a national wireless network, he says, will help students access and share information.

Rural link

"In the future, we hope to provide low-cost connections to local hospitals, schools and non-profits groups as well," he says.

Mr Rahman says the project also provides data-based services which are available free of cost.

Bangladesh is relatively new to the field of information technology because net service providers were only permitted from the mid-1990s. Even now net facilities are concentrated in big cities such as Dhaka.

Mr Rahman says the wireless technology will be hugely beneficial for the people who live in rural areas and on remote islands that have no telephone facilities.

The project officials are also optimistic about the future prospects for their efforts, even if the donor funds dry up.

Mr Rahman says measures have already been taken to ensure that the project can run without any foreign funding.


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31 Oct 02 | South Asia
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