Report from the IT and Empowerment conference, India
bias and include more participation from different parts of the country,
she observed; for instance, conferences held in the capital city can become
"We are strongly in favor of Linux. The basic open philosophy of Linux
resonates with the outlook of NGOs as well," Chacko observed. CED uses
freeware to manage document systems as well as email archives.
Linux is good for low-budget organizations; it is very easy to get support
online from the Linux user community for problems you may encounter, Chacko
added. CED has been popularizing Linux among NGOs via educational workshops
Getting low cost software and content is also a concern for voluntary
training organizations like Each One, Teach One. Based in Bangalore, it has
10 computers for training underprivileged children.
Freeware and shareware can play a key role here as well, such as Linux,
Apache, Star Office, and iLeap (for Indian language tools). The
Mumbai-based site FreeOS.com is attempting to popularize local flavors of
Linux in India, among corporates as well as NGOs.
Work is being done in India on visual (non-textual) interfaces to the Web,
as well as on translating content between English and various Indian
languages so as to bridge language and literacy gaps.
Non-resident Indians successful in Silicon Valley are plowing money and
expertise back into IT ventures in their home country. For instance, B.V.
Jagadeesh, CTO of Web hosting pioneer Exodus Communications, has invested
angel funds in Bangalore-based Enablers.net, which is launching a low cost
email reading device called iConnect.
"The future is in networking. NGOs need to actively work towards making
their voices heard in cyberspace," Chacko urged.
"It is important for us to benchmark regional knowledge-driven
initiatives," said Aditya Dev Sood, a graduate student at the University
of Chicago and founder of the Bangalore Centre for Knowledge Societies.
Various hardware and mediation options are emerging for local Internet
access, said Sood, such as low-cost e-kiosks (or e-iosks) and simple
devices like loudspeakers to disseminate online messages.
"While the state and corporate sector have begun working together to build
telecom infrastructure, these efforts will not significantly improve the
lives of rural citizen-consumers unless the NGO sector -- particularly