Saturday, August 20, 2005

Rural Wi-Fi

Via Christian Science Monitor, India bypasses the wires to bring Wi-Fi to its remote residents.

Good stuff. Yet, some think this is wasteful expenditure.

The biggest challenge may not be technological, but linguistic, and developing services that give rural communities reasons to use the Internet. In Malappuram, for example, a study by professors at the University of California, Berkeley, found that just 5 percent of the traffic from the Akshaya centers related to e-governance or education. Some experts on rural technology, like Anil Gupta, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, question whether the Internet should be a priority, if people don't speak English.

"We find that the Internet is not the technology [through] which we will reach villages in the country in the next five years," Dr. Gupta says. "Look up Google and find the content we have in local languages.... Unless that happens, how can we justify what we are doing?"

We're not sure this is a valid fuss. Even if 95% of internet traffic is not e-governance or education related, it's still a valid interaction our rural folks can now have with the rest of the world. What could possibly be wrong with this?

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