Sunday, July 09, 2006

Photos For All?

Fishing Boat
Originally uploaded by chris_wilson.
Can we move from BytesForAll to PhotosForAll? (Alongside is Chris Wilson's photo from Africa, thanks to his page.

Please see PhotosForAll: Looking at the unseen face of our planet... which is at
this URL.

Earlier called PhotosForDevelopment, but now have had it's name changed to reflect wider coverage beyond just India. Please feel free to join this network, share your (suitable) photos there, and copy ones which you would like to from here.

Thanks to all those who offered their early support: Chris Wilson who wrote, "Nice idea, but why only India? I have some photos from the recent Aidworld trip to Ghana at which people
working in development (especially in Africa) might be interested in, all under Creative Commons license."

And also: jeansack2004 who wrote, "This is an excellent initiative for IT in Development. I hope that this site will also welcome photos with adequate metadata labels from the SARC region: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka all have wonderful It initiatives to encourage development in a variety of communities. How are these photos being indexed for searchability? One problem is that professional photographers may not chose to post their pictures for free use. Another huge photo library in health and development is available from Johns Hopkins University Center for Communications Programs. Your group might remind bytesforall readers of this repository that includes communications programmes around the world. Here is the link to their July newsletter: "

There are 56 photos there at the moment, but we hope to scale up. Certainly looks do-able.

Friday, March 10, 2006

BARAMATI 5: Blunt-speak, about Indian agricultur(e), from the planner's perspective

Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia -- the deputy chairman of the Indian Planning Commission, sometimes called by his critics as the World Bank/IMF's man in New Delhi -- threw some hard challenges to the 6th annual Baramati Initiative on ICT & Development, currently underway in this central Indian location, in the heart of rural India. If you thought e-agriculture just meant getting in computers, sticking in a pipe (to the internet) and working out some magic, then you've overlooked a lot, said Dr Ahluwalia. He termed IT (information technology) one of those "defining technologies" that bring about a drastic change. "It's not just something you plug on top of the old. As far as IT goes, the perception is that it has led to a phenomenal increase in productivity in every sector it has been applied to. It's become fashionable to add 'e' to everything. You have e-agriculture, e-business, e-commerce. Even words which began with an 'e' now have two e's added on to them. Like e-economics, and maybe even e-electricity," he said. He pointed to the importance of the agriculture field in India. "Agriculture contributes only 23% of India's GDP, but it still provides a dominant source of income for 60% of our population. We can't think of going ahead without agriculture," Dr Ahluwalia said. "We (in India) have done extraordinarily well as suppliers of IT to the world. India has responded incredibly rapidly, as part of the global supply chain of IT. But our record of applying IT to our own society back home has actually been quite poor. That's the main difference between India and China. This is not a criticism of the IT industry, but a criticism of the rest of us," said Ahluwalia. He said IT had not been optimally applied to most fields in India -- whether agriculture, other sectors, and certainly in government. "Government should have been the first sector (to promote effective IT use because) G2C (its government-to-citizen dealings) and even G2B (government-to-business dealings) require access to information by millions to information controlled by one party. Access to IT should have been a big part, but it hasn't," said Dr Ahulwalia. "Since the mid-eighties, every government office is decorated by a computer. Most senior officers, including myself, started using a computer only when your children got old enough that it was not possible to communicate by them through any ways except by email," said Ahluwalia. "If you send an email to a government officer, hoping for a reply, they get the relevant file and sit in your out office to discuss the issue." "We haven't really done what needs to be done. The first thing government does is buys hardware. There are relevant issues here: Is IT just a case of adding technology to an existing system? It's not an incremental change. The amount of information flowing is only going to be useful if there's a lot of response to the information available. Or else, the equation turns into NT + 00 = EOO. New technology and old organisation equals expensive old organisation. The benefit of IT is only derived when the process re-engineering takes place. Or else it's completely useless." Dr Ahluwalia cited the experience of India during its early stages of computerising banks. Due to union opposition, the central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, came to an understanding with the unions that the "tellers" in the banks would get access to computers, but the computers would not be linked across tellers or to the back office. This was intended to protect the number of tellers in jobs, but killed the utility of computers, or their possiblity of enhancing efficiency in the banks, he said. Ahluwalia called for structural change, together with "bringing in this phenomenal technology". He said: "One of the biggest problem with Indian agriculture is the gap between what the product is sold for and what the farmer gets, is probably the largest in the world. The structure of marketing has to absolutely changed. There's no use if we have the same number of (unnecessary middlemen) between the market and the farmer, but that each one is running around with a laptop!" He criticised the "focus on lines, connections, kiosks". Said Ahluwalia: "If we are serious about IT, we should be spending on a systems analysis (to see what's wrong with the old ways of doing work)." In Pondicherry, on the Indian east coast, Alhuwalia cited the experiment with transmitting information of predicting good fishing fields, based on factors like sea water temperature. "It sounds good. But fish also move around quite a bit. It takes about eight hours to get out there (to where the fish are predicted as being). If you keep getting online information, it would be more useful. But Indian fishing boats being used are designed to go and come back within the 24 hour cycle. You need boats which can go out for 4-5 days. Fishermen who earlier were opposed to this very (big vessel) technology in the past, are now talking about how to form fishermen's associations, and go in for larger boats," he said. Ahluwalia suggested that there are many problems -- which have nothing to do with the IT part of the solution -- which are not being tackled. "We should not talk of agriculture as if we've tackled the sectoral problems, and just need to add on the e-part. Doubling growth rates doesn't happen through business as usual. Make a list of whatever you're doing, and the probablity is that you aren't doing it very well, or that's not the right thing to do," he stressed, explaining the vital need to boost productivity in agriculture, to improve the lifestyles for hundreds of millions in rural India. Said he: "Indian agriculture is not using fully what is known in seeds and more. It also needs to move beyond its earlier obsession with food-grains. No medium-term plan for Indian agriculture can be postulated without the assumption that we will be moving from foodgrians to horticulture, floriculture, livestock, fisheries and so on. The latter are much more perishable, and the importance of post-harvest technologies is far greater than for wheat and paddy." Ahluwalia said the recent US-Indo joint statement signed opened up the possibility of exporting Indian mangoes to the US. But he concluded on a challening note. "We're not managing water properly. We're not managing water where there's irrigation, and we're not managing it properly where there's no irrigation. We're not managing credit properly. The flow of information is very poor when it comes to what's good practice, good seeds, etc. Within the country, yields are one-third to one-half of what they can be using best practices -- using the same seeds, and same weather. We also have to deal with weaknesses in credit, extension, and the knowledge system." Said Ahluwalia: "When we say e-agriculture, we're misreprenting the challenge. There are a lot of other alphabets we need to add. I would prefer the term m-agriculture (modern agriculture). I hope those into e-agriculture don't feel we're shortchanging them. There are a few other alphabets too before you get to 'm'. Don't forget them." He suggested terms like l-agriculture (logistical agriculture) or m-agriculture (marketing agriculture).

Visiting cards in my pocket...

Because of the unseasonal rains (which lashed central India after midnight, accompanied by lightning and power failures) most of the participants at Baramati VI [1] arrived late at the venue. At the dinner table, at starting time, there were just three other participants who had flown in from abroad, via Mumbai. Frida Youssel, a Lebanese lady based in Geneva, is coordinator for UNCTAD (the UN's Conference on Trade and Development) [2] finance and risk management commodities branch. We shared ideas on Lebanon's senseless civil war, its site to keep villages in touch with the outside world including the large number of expats from the country [3] and the impact of Lebanese food in the most unlikely places of the globe including six kms away from my village! Dr Youssef, who has visited other parts of India in the past, is keen to look at successful attempts of ICT in agriculture. PJAM (Peter) Smeets, drs. is from Alterra Landscape Centre in the Wageningen UR in the Netherlands [4]. He spoke on e-agroparks in the Netherlands, somewhat hi-tech stuff with more interest on the business side. Edwin Moyo of Zimbabwe, the CEO of the Trans Zambezi Industries Ltd, was also present early, having come in via the Kenya Airlines flight (one of the few from that continent that connects Africa with India, apart from South Africa and Ethiopian airlines). But he didn't have a card on hand, so that will have to wait. Gopi N Ghosh was a known face. We've been in touch through BytesForAll. He's currently the assistant FAO representative and resource person (for food and nutrition security) at New Delhi.He heads FAO's knowledge management network and is part of the Solutions Exchange that shares useful agri info.[5] Later, on the bus home, this expert with a long experience in agriculture (including the G B Pant University), spoke about growing areas for concern about agriculture in India. Ghosh has had long experience in this field. Together with him wer ehis colleagues Bidisha Pillai (research associate, food and nutrition security community) and Shailza Kapani (operations assistant, knowledge management partnership project). Both have the link for the Solutions Exchange prominently mentioned on their visiting cards. Another familiar face was that of sai sreekanth m (who spells his name in lower case on his cards). [6] sai was one of those bright young men we met at [7] 2005, the Free/Libre and Open Source Software network conference held last December in Bangalore. There, he was talking on Free Software tools in the world of education. sai works for Yahoo! [8]. His designation is senior product manager for emerging markets. But he's passionate about ICT in development, is a member of the BytesForAll [9] mailing list (now, am I bragging?) He was earlier with HP, looking at how all the silicon and software could make sense to the Indian commonman. sai sees India as among the top ten emerging internet markets globally, and expects a lot of attention and things to happen on this front. As some of us were discussing over dinner, there are a lot of interesting small projects coming up all over the place, in a country like India. But given our size and poor communication, the left hand doesn't seem to know what the right hand is doing. If anyone can bring all these together, that would be magic! On Friday morning, one met up with some press people too. Hemant P Mardia, associate editor of [10]. B B Bansal is the commercial advisor to the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands [11]. He mentioned Dutch interest in port dredging, logistics, and the like. T L Sankar is a honorary visiting professor at the Administrative Staff College of India at Hyderabad [12] while K R Padmanabha Rao is deputy general manager and member of the faculty at the Reserve Bank of India's [13] college of Agricultural Banking. In between, I also caught up with Mathew Sangma, who comes in from the remote North-Eastern Indian state of Meghalaya, and is with unitus-accion, the Indian microfinance centre. He mentioned they have a software called 'porta credit' but I couldn't locate it after a hasty search on their site [14]. Or did one look at the wrong place? [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] saisreek at [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] bom-ea at [12] [13] [14] and

BARAMATI 3: The setting: in the heart of rural, central India

Vidya Prathisthan is an educational campus built in the middle of rural India, amidst some barren terrain and in the midst of what used to be desolate villages areas. It aims to be "an institution in which knowledge resides as the most ineresting building block", as organisers of the organising panel put it.

"In 1992, (prominent Indian politician who's often credited with this success story) Sharad Pawar dared to dream of translating 128 acres of barren land into a prominent centre of education. We're always aimed at taking technology to the grassroots of society. VIIT (Vidya Pratishthan's Institute of Informatoin Techology, the local engineering college) was established in February 2000, six years ago, with an aim to provide quality education in information technology and computer science," said VIIT governing council chairman Sharad Kulkarni.

He mentioned some of the initiatives taken by this institution in terms of IT-enabled "affordable" services, interactive-voice recording based bazaar bhav (market prices information), telebanking, WiLL (or wireless in local loop) to access the internet, smart cards for rural settings, computer on wheels, and the local government's e-services network called Setu.

(Setu is a single window system, which processes the applications received at the facility center, verifies them and generates certificates or affidavits. The operator can punch in all details of the applicant, whenever he receives an application for a certificate or affidavit.)

Kulkarni narrated that the Baramati Initiatives evolved out of a World Bank meeting between the Indian politician and strongman of the Baramati area Sharad Pawar and the then World Bank's Watanabe, who was keen on harnessing the power of ICTs for development.

Kulkarni also gave an update of earlier conferences at Baramati. This series of annual meets, he said, have served as meeting point for four sets of stake-holders: grassroot workers, the development community, IT entrepreneurs with technical skills (entrepreneurs and researchers), and government officials.

In May 2001, the theme of connectivity for the rural poor in India. Baramati II came about from May 31 to June 2, 2002, and had among its partners the Digital Partners and Media Lab Asia. May 2003 saw the third initiative. It's focus was ways in which ICTs are being used to empower the power in a more sustainable manner. There were presentation of social entrepreneurs. In May 2004, the focus went onto info-kiosks. For the Fifth Baramati Initiative in March 2005, the theme was delivering opportunity -- education through technology.

This year, the conference is focussing on ICTs in agriculture. VIIT governing council chairman Sharad Kulkarni said: "We're exploring avenues through which governments, NGOs, and entrepreneurs can focus on e-agriculture. Some 65% of India lives in the rural sector, mostly working in agriculture. But agriculture accounts for hardly 23% of the GDP (gross domestic product). We need to assist India's remaining 650 million to augment their own purchasing power. Indian farmers are sustaining themselves on archaic practicses, like their counterparts in various parts of the globe. It's essential that they get access to info on weather, production techniques, availability of seed, cultivation techniques, water usage, new techniques like biotechnics, and market infrastructure like warehousing."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

BARAMATI 2: Rain gods in charge...

"All flights are delayed by two hours," the director of the VIIT announced to volunteers, and the mood sunk. Even the Baramati skies appear overcast. Earlier, while I sat through a sandlewood-paste flavoured beard-trim (Rs 15) at the local roadside makeshift haircutting saloon, the TV spoke of rainy weather warnings. That means a delay in getting started. But the hosts here are hospitable to a fault. I don't know what it is, but have often encountered the hospitality of our neighbouring states, though often, like "good neighbours" huge Maharashtra and tiny Goa also have our tiffs over political and other issues. A few of the early arrivals, mainly the organisers from YES _/ Bank and the college, and ICRISAT's international faculty Dr SP Wani, joined in for an interesting, vegetarian Maharashtrian meal. Their food is interesting, and given the diversity of India, food changes every few hundred kilometres that you travel. Like it. In any case, am (impure) veg myself. After that, a brief chat saw one land up at the CC -- or the community centre. On the top of the building, a newish board announces this year-old station "Vasundhara Vahini, 90.4 FM". Vasundhara is one of the names of the earth. There are many names in South Asia with an earthy feel to them: "Achala, Avani, Bhoopesh, Bhupendra, Bhupati, Bhoodevi, Bhuvana, Bhuvaneswari, Dharani, Dharavi, Ela, Ela Devi, Ibrahim, Ila, Ila Devi, Mahipal, Pruthvi, Pruthviraj, Urvi." After all, as the announcer who worked at Satara, a neighbouring state-run All India Radio station as a casual announcer said, it was because of the earth that man sustains himself. And this point is felt strongly in this part of agrarian India. VIIT director Dr Amol Goje thinks it would help to hand over the radio to the students to run. Others rued the fact that the number of restrictions placed by the Indian government on what it calls "community radio" (actually a form of 'campus radio') make it tough to sustain. One can broadcast just four minutes of advertising in a day, or that's what one was told! There are restrictions on rebroadcasts of entertainment-oriented music, others complained. But the announcer at the station, who demoed how he read out the announcements (broadcast is four hours in the morning, with a repeat session in the evenings) termed this the first agriculture-oriented radio station in Asia. It's located in three rooms, and is run with the minimal staff to keep it viable. Waiting to tune in to this network, when I have the time and an FM radio on hand, at the right moment. Waiting for the action to start. --FN in Baramati 7:49 pm March 9, 2006.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Baramati 10:29 March 9, 2006

I've lost all sense of time, but my mobile phone (which fortunately works 800 kms away from home) tells me it's 10:29 am on March 9, 2006. Have reached Baramati... after many years.

Later today, the 6th Annual Baramati Initiative on ICT and Development (focussing on The Potential of e-Agriculture) gets underway at this rural, but education-oriented island two hours away from Pune in Central India.

On reaching, I couldn't recognise the place. It has been a return to Baramati after five (or is it six?) years. The place has greened in the meanwhile... while this diarist has greyed ;-) Another change: bandwidth has improved considerably here. I could have been in some part of metropolitan India at these speeds. And so has the Baramati knowledge of GNU/Linux and free software. When I was struggling to get onto the wireless network (I'm no techie, as you know) a staff member from the institute helped me in a few minutes to get online. Despite the fact that they're more into Red Hat and this is Mandrake. (I prefer the volunteer-crafted Debian, but the student supporting me has installed Mandrake on my laptop, and there's no arguing with him!)

Instead of spending the day at Pune, I thought of bussing it down to Baramati, in the rugged, rough but fairly efficient and functional bus service that connects this state of 96 million (Indian sizes tend to be huge, except perhaps that of my home state, Goa, 1.4 million!). And as I look at the Wikipedia for the background figure on Baramati, I find that Kerala, another Indian state not far from Goa to the south, is featured on the home-page at today.

The actual event opens tomorrow, Friday, March 10. Among other things, there's a report launch on 'e-Agriculture: Empowering India', talks, a field trip to a sugar-cooperative (this is the heart of Indian sugarland), and more. Given bandwidth, I hope to keep you updated with inputs. Let's see how it goes.

As the students talk about organising (mainly) the event and technology (a bit, amidst all the bustle today) in Marathi (the local language) and Hindi (India's national language, but not uniformly understood across the country), it's nice that we had to learn a bit of either in school -- so one can understand what's going on... and even converse. What's also interesting is the high rate of women participation among students here. But will they be able to break the glass ceiling over time? -- ---------------------------------------------------------- Frederick 'FN' Noronha | Yahoomessenger: fredericknoronha | Independent Journalist | +91(832)2409490 Cell 9822122436 Currently blogging from Baramati on the 6th Annual Baramati Initiative ICT&Development "The Potential of e-Agriculture" See ----------------------------------------------------------

Friday, March 03, 2006

Baramati chalo...

This note is from the organisers of the event...

Sixth Annual Baramati Initiative on ICT and Development. Baramati, Maharashtra, India – March 9 - 11, 2006. Co-Organized by: Vidya Pratishthan's Institute of Information & Technology YES BANK.

The Potential of E-Agriculture: This is the sixth in a series of conferences organized by Vidya Pratishthan’s Institute of Technology (VIIT) in Baramati, Maharashtra, India. This year, the conference will focus on the use of Information and Communication Technology in Agriculture (e-Agriculture), exploring avenues through which governments, NGO’s, development agencies and corporates can work to successfully promote e-agriculture to benefit the rural economy.

Though over 65 percent of India’s population resides in rural areas, with majority working in agriculture and allied areas, it contributes to a mere 23 percent of total GDP. Meanwhile, the services sector has raced ahead on the back of the phenomenal growth in the IT and ITES sectors. The agents that funneled their growth – technology, information, and efficient processes – now need to be chanelised into the agriculture sector and assist India’s remaining six fifty million to augment their earning power.

Rural areas are predominately under-developed with poor infrastructure, electricity and roads and Indian farmers – like many of their counterparts across the world – are sustaining themselves on archaic methods and processes. To achieve a sustainable level of food production it is necessary that they have seamless access to: * Information on weather, production and cultivation * techniques, seeds and fertilizers, plant nutrients and water usage * Funds and liability coverage through agri-finance and * agri-insurance

Assistance from universities on new techniques (such as biotechnology) used to increase production yield Market infrastructure like warehouses and Cold-chain management

Thus, creative delivery of information and other resources to farmers becomes vital. E-agriculture aims to harness the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) to enhance the dissemination of vital information on agriculture to the rural population. Various agencies – including government, corporates and NGO’s – have utilized ICT to implement innovative solutions and facilitate the access to knowledge.

The Baramati Initiative seeks to synergize these learnings through presentations and panel discussions involving not only experts and practitioners from NGOs, corporations and government agencies, but also the grassroots partners, the ultimate beneficiaries.

Panels include:

Innovative Practices showcasing the benefits of ICT for the Agriculture Sector

Role of ICT in facilitating Agri-Finance and Agri-Insurance

Research on use of ICT in Agriculture

Government and E-Agriculture: Government’s Support for


Corporate experiences – Trade facilitation through ICT

The Power of Collaboration: Success stories

The Future of E-Agriculture and Critical success factors

Further, the annual conference will continue to act as a platform for information exchange, exploring ways in which information and communication technology is being used as a tool to empower the poor. The event is a learning opportunity for participants allowing them to:

Interact directly with grassroots partners i.e. people who are using this technology, and to learn from them the difference that ICT has made a difference in their lives

Meet and interact with individuals and organizations that are financing these efforts

Learn about new trends via exhibits and demonstration booths

The Baramati Concept: The basic concept behind this event is to highlight the enormous potential of digital technologies and digital economy to help poor communities.

Poverty-alleviation organizations, social entrepreneurs, government institutions, corporate enterprises and even uneducated, village entrepreneurs are continuously developing technological solutions to serve the often-overlooked customers at the bottom of the pyramid.

These solutions are bringing the benefits of the digital age

—increased access to markets, education, environmental information, and government services

– to communities around the world. In doing so, they are helping to build the business, economic and social cases for investing in systems and infrastructure needed to serve the poorest of the poor. Together, they are helping to empower hundreds and millions of the world’s underprivileged to become agents of their own development.

The purpose of Baramati initiative is to showcase how ICT is being employed to provide sustainable solutions to the needs of poor communities. The conference takes place in Baramati, a village located in rural Maharashtra where an ecosystem using ICT to aid the rural economy has been successfully created.

This conference attracts over 150 participants each year with over 30-40 foreign participants. Over the last 5 years, the Baramati Initiative has become one of the key forums for people to exchange information on innovative efforts in the field of ICT and Development.

About VIIT

Vidya Pratishthan’s Institute of Information Technology was established in February 2000 at Baramati with an aim to provide quality education in the field of Information Technology and Computer Science. VIIT is a progressive institution equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure and committed to human resource development.

Conference Website:


YES BANK, India’s new age private sector Bank, is the outcome of the professional commitment of its Indian promoters, Rana Kapoor and Ashok Kapur, to establish a high quality, customer centric, service driven, private Indian Bank catering to “Emerging India”.

YES BANK has adopted international best practices, the highest standards of service quality and operational excellence, and offers comprehensive banking and financial solutions to all its valued customers. A key strength and differentiating feature of YES BANK is its knowledge driven approach to banking. The Bank has formed a specialized ‘Development and Knowledge Banking Division’ focusing on key sunrise growth sectors with predominant focus on Food and Agriculture.

The Bank’s constant endeavor is to provide a delightful banking experience expressed with simplicity, empathy and totality.

AGENDA: Thursday, March 9, 2006

5:00 pm Participants assemble in Pune at Blue Diamond Hotel and leave for Baramati (Buses will be arranged to transport all participants)

7:30 pm Hotel Check-In

8:00 pm Reception and Dinner (Welcome)

Mr. Sharad Kulkarni – Chairman, Governing Council, VIIT

Mr. Sadanand Sule – Member Governing Council, VIIT ommissioner - Agriculture GOM - Potential of E-Agriculture

Friday, March 10, 2006

10:00 am Inauguration & Inaugural Address Mr. Rana Patil, Minister of State for Agriculture, GOM

Guests of Honor & Key Note Address:

Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, GOI

12:15 pm Lunch

1:00 pm Innovative Practices showcasing the benefits of ICT for the Agriculture Sector

Dr. Kirthi Ramamrutham - IIT , Powai

Dr. Goje – Principal, VIIT

Dr. Peter Smetes – Wageningen, Netherlands

Mr.Helmut Drewes, Agrista, Zambia

Mr. Michael F.Carter* – World Bank

Mr. Johannes Keizer* - FAO

2.30 pm Tea Break

2.45 pm Role of ICT in facilitating Agri-Finance and



Mr. G. Chandrashekar – Deputy Editor of Business Line


Mr.Edwin Moyo, CEO, Trans Zambezi Industries Ltd, Mr. Prashanth , Insurance Expert, BASIX Group Mr. Kalyan Chakravarthy - YES BANK Ms. Paul Asel* – IFC Mr. Sonu Agrawal– MD, Weather Risk Management Services Pvt.Ltd. Mr. Vineet Rai – CEO, Aavishkar

4.15 p.m. Tea break

4.30 pm Research on use of ICT in Agriculture: Dr. Jayanth Chatterjee, Prof IIT Kanpur Mr. Sudhir Ahluwalia, Tata Consultancy Services Mr.T.V.Prabhakar, Prof IIT Kanpur Dr.V P Sharma, Director, MANAGE Dr. S.S. Magar , Vice Chancellor , Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli

6:00 pm Summarizing the day 1 – Dr. Amol Goje

6:30 pm Cultural Program & Dinner

9:00 pm End of Day 1

Saturday, March 11, 2006

9:00 am Field-trip to KVK and Sugar Cooperative

11:15 am Break

11:30 am Government and E-Agriculture: Government’s Support for E-Agriculture : Moderator Ms. Radha Singh*, Secretary - Ministry of Agriculture, GOI Speakers: Ms. Suryakanta Patil, Minster of State for Rural Development, GOI Dr.M.Moni, Deputy Director General, NIC Dr. P.D. Kaushik, Director- Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Dr. A.K. Chakravarthy, Advisor, GOI, Dept of IT Mr. Sanjiv Chopra, Principal Secretary - IT, GOUt Mr. G.D. Gautama – Secretary IT, GOWB Mr. J.S. Saharia* – Principal Secretary – Agriculture & Horticulture, GOM Mr.Graham Walker, Managing Director Gov3, UK Mr. Askar Abubakirov, Department of Strategic Development and International Cooperation, Kazakhstan

1:30 pm Lunch

2:15 pm Corporate experiences – Trade facilitation through ICT Moderator Dr. Frida.Youssef - UNCTAD Speakers Mr. Siva Kumar –CEO, ITC -IBD Mr. Raul Montemayor, National Business Manager, Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives, Inc , Philippines Mr. Narayanan Head Agri business, SPIC Mr. Kapil Mehan – COO, TATA Chemicals

3:45 pm The Power of Collaboration: Success stories

Mr. Rashid Kidwai – SEWA Swaminathan Foundation Mr. Sunil Kairnar - CEO, Agriwatch Mr. Swetank Gupta – CEO, Gramdoot Seva Kendra Mr. Apurva Mehta – Trade Advisor, Canadian Delegation, Canada Mr. Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya - ekGaon

5:15 pm Break

5:30 pm The Future of E-Agriculture: Special Plenary Moderated by Mr. G. Chandrashekar – Deputy Editor of Business Line Mr. P. Chidambaram Minister for Finance, GOI Mr.Sharad Pawar, Minister for Agriculture, Food & Civil Supplies, Consumer affairs and Public distribution, GOI Mr. Prasad Chandran, Chairman & Managing Director, BASF Mr. Rana Kapoor, Managing Director & CEO, YES BANK Mr.Vijay Mahajan, CEO, BASIX Mr. Yogi C. Deveshwar* – Chairman, ITC Mr. Sunil Mittal* – Chairman & Managing Director, Bharti Group Mr. A.C. Muthiah*, Chairman & Managing Director, SPIC Mr. S. Ramadorai*, CEO & Managing Director, Tata Consultancy Services Mr. A.K.Purwar*, Chairman, State Bank of India Dr. Y.S.P. Thorat*, Managing Director, NABARD

7:00 pm Valedictory Address – Dr. Kamal Taori, Chairman, National Productivity Council

7.30 pm Dinner

Sunday, March 12, 2006

9:00 am Breakfast & Departure

* Confirmation Awaited

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Casting the Net wider... harvesting eGranary ideas

Cliff Missen <> wrote from Tunis, during the recent WSIS, asking queried whether I was there. I wasn't. But he took time off to share with me some interesting information via email, about the eGranary.

What's that?

As Cliff explains: "An eGranary Digital Library at each could save millions in Internet connectivity costs, giving patrons the capacity to determine how they spend their communication funds (accessing local documents for free and then deciding which resources they are willing to spend Internet connectivity to retrieve.)"

He also wrote: "There's a lot of ways to spread eGranaries, but my personal favorite involves us training technicians who will train technicians who will build eGranaries and train librarians and students all over."

Other options can be found at:

He says he "understands" that there are some efforts underway to build information centers around India.

Cliff Missen is Director of the The WiderNet Project at the University of Iowa. Phone 319-335-2200 or

He says their eGranary Digital Library is now installed in "over 60 institutions in the developing world". He's keen to connect with those interested in using this technology "to deliver a wealth of information to scholars with little or no Internet connectivity".

For some background: The eGranary Digital Library provides over 2.5 million digital resources to institutions lacking adequate Internet access. Through a process of copying Web sites and delivering them to intranet Web servers inside partner institutions in 'developing' countries, this digital library delivers educational materials for instant access over local area networks.

Says the project proponents: "For schools that are spending enormous amounts of money for their slow and unreliable internet connections, the eGranary Digital Library slips seamlessly into the network and delivers its Web pages up to 5,000 times faster. At the same time, such schools can save tens of thousands of dollars in bandwidth costs every year. For those schools, clinics, and libraries WITHOUT an Internet connection, the eGranary Digital Library is a phenomenon!"

It is working in more than 60 institutions in Africa, Bangladesh and Haiti, and the eGranary Digital Library says it provides lightning fast access to a wide variety of educational materials including video, audio, books, journals, and Web sites, even where no Internet access exists.

Incidentally, this library represents the collective contributions of hundreds of authors, publishers, programmers, librarians, instructors and students around the globe. Some of the many authors and publishers who have granted permission to distribute their works via the eGranary Digital Library include: U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Columbia University, Cornell University, MIT's OpenCourseware, UNESCO, Wikipedia, the Virtual Hospital, World Bank and WHO.

It was founded in 2001. And the eGranary Digital Library was created by the WiderNet Project, a non-profit organization based at the University of Iowa. This project is now looking for more authors and publishers to help grow its collection to 10 million documents, volunteers to help collect and categorize new materials, and librarians and teachers to help get the library installed in thousands of schools, hospital and universities.

In brief, websites with rich educational content are identified, the author's or publishers' permission is obtained by email. Between 50-90% agree, depending on their content area. Permitted material are copied to a hard-drive. Sometimes, an entire website is copied. Copies are distributed using large hard disks. WiderNet Project has also worked on ways to deliver incremental updates using other transport mechanisms (IP, satellite digital radio, CD-Rom, etc).

Tongue to Fingers: Colonizing IT in a Postcolonial World

Sayamindu Dasgupta <> of Kolkata recently announced that he had updated a PDF version of this lecture with an unusual title -- Tongue to Fingers: Colonizing IT in a Postcolonial World.

It was a lecture given to the Refresher Course for teachers of Applied Psychology in Calcutta University by Dipankar Das

You can download it from

A quote: "Not that there is no way out. GNU/Linux is there. That gives a totally fully-armed laboratory to go on experimenting and working, and thus knowing what a computer actually is. But so few takers remain there. Because, as we said, the enemy resides within. It is a culture of dwarfs that is deliberately generated. A culutre that is pursued by the parents: that is us, dwarfing our own children. The process of dwarfing starts with the replacement of language on the Command Prompt by a picture and a mouse-click. It goes on. Take away the shell, the Operating System. And then take away all the programming languages. Just job-doing remains. It serves the postcolonial project.Closequote.


It started off with a brief email, which read: "What are the prospects of TTS in India? Which are the leading companies?"

At first, I didn't quite understand what this was all about. Prof M. A. Pai <> then shot-back another email, and pointed to [Quote: "Voice is amongst the most powerful and evident manifestations of human behavior."]

One such product, he says, was released in the Free Software CD launched by Sonia Gandhi. Says Pai: "As I see it is needed for applications like teaching Hindi, e-governance, for deaf/blind people etc."

Prof Pai says it would be nice if this issue could be mentioned on BytesForAll. It was developed jointly with IITK which is where he taught from 1963-81. Incidentally, Prof Pai ran the interesting website (it's an science and technology portal for India which, he hinted, he might be compelled to give up) and is professor emeritus at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the Univ of Illinois (Urbana, IIL)

Phone 217-333-6790(o) 217-344-0977(R)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Teaching programming... to the blind

Arun Mehta <arun at> has announced via the Africa Source list that he teaches programming to blind students at the National Association for the Blind in New Delhi (says he, "from this Sunday, we plan to take the workshop online, snipurl/ks65 for those interested, since we now have interest from Pakistan in this activity"). Incidentally, his current passions include village/community radio and technology for the disabled. Websites:,

Links: Africa Source

From Debian...

Debian Weekly News, an interesting compiliation, says Simon Bienlein[1], a German Debian contributor has received the BIENE award [2]. Simon contributes to the [3]Debian installer and helped to make it fit for use with a braille terminal. He received the award for his [4]website (German) on GNU/Linux for blind people. The BIENE award is given annually to websites whose accessibility is exemplary. Simon even received a special award.

1. 2. 3. 4.