BytesForAll: Can IT be relevant to the poor?
Friday, March 10, 2006
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
Wednesday, March 08, 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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page 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 http://fn.goa-india.org | firstname.lastname@example.org 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 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bytesforall_readers ----------------------------------------------------------
Friday, March 03, 2006
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.
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 http://www.viitindia.org
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: http://www.baramatiinitiatives.org
About YES BANK http://www.yesbank.in
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