Report from the IT and Empowerment conference, India
grass-roots NGOs -- begin addressing the challenge and possibilities of IT
and the Net," Sood said.
"Given its mix of good IT skills and yet poor human development indices,
India has a lot of responsibility towards the rest of the developing world
in exploring such new IT frontiers," said Sood.
At a time when over 100 FM radio licenses have been issued in the country,
commercial and community radio can help overcome the "last mile" problem by
facilitating Internet access via facilities at the radio station. Elsewhere
in South Asia, a rural community initiative in Kothmale in Sri Lanka uses
community radio as a bridging device to facilitate online information flow
to rural communities; sites like InterWorldRadio.org also provide online
content for use by radio stations.
"The Net can help NGOs in communicating across borders and time zones, and
also assist in coordinating projects. NGO Web sites can give their funders
direct access to accounting and activity information," said K. Gurumurthy,
consultant at e-finance services company iFlexSolutions.com (formerly
Successful and timely project management for IT ventures will be key
concerns for NGOs, he said.
Everybody is entering villages today with computers - companies, government
agencies, research groups, and NGOs, observed Sunil Abraham of
Bangalore-based Web solutions firm IndiaCares.org, which designs Web sites
for NGOs free of cost.
While providing local training in IT skills will entail significant
resources, several experiments (like NIIT's observation of learned surfing
behavior among slum kids) show that many of these skills can be refined
Device and costs need to come down; donations of older and used PCs by
Indian corporates and software companies could play a significant role
here. "Unfortunately, because of legal loopholes, the Software Technology
Parks of India are not allowed to donate their older machines to NGOs. This
needs to be changed," Abraham urged.
Organizations like WorldComputerExchange.org are playing a prominent role
in this regard, by re-circulating used PCs.
As for citizens' rights to information, the Net can be a democraticising
medium, said Bangalore-based advocate Lawrence Liang, who runs a law site