Report from the IT and Empowerment conference, India
Freeware, shareware will play key role in bringing Indian non-profit
Can the Internet help empower people - or does it actually reinforce
existing inequities in society? Can the non-profit, academic, government
and private sectors together address, analyze and assess the
socio-economic consequences of IT diffusion in urban and rural societies?
Close to a hundred delegates debated these issues in Bangalore recently at
the two-day conference provocatively titled "IT and Empowerment: The
Greater the Access, The More the Divide?"
Asia Media Association, and the Delhi office of the German NGO Friedrich
Eberhardt Stiftung, the event promises to become an annual affair to
broaden the scope of dialogue and action on the larger context of IT
Publishing of conference proceedings and online discussion will be
coordinated via a group of Web sites including Indian Webzine INOMY.
Earlier conferences in Bangalore - such as BangaloreIT.com - have also
addressed similar issues, and in 1998 the Bangalore Declaration on IT in
Developing Nations was passed, drawing attention to the opportunities and
challenges of the Internet economy.
Plans to bridge the digital divide must address not just basic
connectivity issues, but also local content, affordable infrastructure,
online/offline discussion fora, sustainable business models, user-friendly
interfaces, multi-channel media synergies, local skillsets, and
Center for Education and Documentation in Mumbai and
Bangalore assists NGOs not just via Internet access facilities but also
workshops in Intranet management and the use of freeware and shareware
"The Internet and Intranet are useful for furthering documentation and
information-linking activities as well as quick communication and
coordination among NGOs," said Shubha Chacko, an activist at CED.
"Our Indialink initiative helped link NGOs online and coordinate activism
around environmental, gender and nuclear energy issues," she said.
Coordination of conferences via the Net has helped develop less of a local