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E-connecting villages in western India


29 December 2008

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For its ambitious e-Gram project, the Gujarat government has roped in IT giants Google, Microsoft and Cisco to provide satellite-based broadband connectivity to the state's village panchayats. Google has already developed a website in local language Gujarati on agriculture, education and health.

Gandhinagar, Gujarat: Information and communication technology giants Google, Microsoft, Intel and Cisco are being roped in by Gujarat government to power its ambitious e-gram project providing satellite-based broadband connectivity to 13,693 village panchayats.

The e-gram project is already being run by village computer entrepreneurs (VCEs) with technical support from a control room set up by Airtel in Gandhinagar.

While Google has inked an agreement with the state government to run the e-gram site, Microsoft has agreed to work out an e-learning curriculum for digital literacy training for VCEs. This even as negotiations with Intel and Cisco are underway.

Google has already created a site www.e-gram.co.in, which one can surf in Gujarati, thanks to a Gujarati language keyboard provided on the site.

The site provides links to each village web-page that will host rural digital content on agriculture, education and health, and provide Geo-Wiki driven directory services, including information on government offices and their contact details.

e-gram project in Gujarat
Image credits: Google Images / e-gram project in Gujarat

"Villagers can create e-mail addresses to send mails in Gujarati as an alternative to post cards using this site. The VCE, sitting in a separate office of the panchayat building, can take a printout of the email and deliver it the same day to the person for whom it is meant," a senior state government official said.

According to government officials, Intel would be roped in to train children of 8-16 years and Cisco would be engaged to provide ICT-based agricultural services, including soil health card, commodity exchange platform, SMS-based alert to farmers and agri-resource directory.

The state government has also tied up with State Bank of India to provide e-banking services across 2,000 rural branches in the state and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) for web-based ticketing facilities.

 
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