Frederick Noronha on 10 Jul 2000 18:26:25 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] bYtES For aLL: JULY 2000 EZINE

                         bYtES  For  aLL

_/  B y t e s   F o r   A l l --- 
_/  Making  Computing  Relevant to the  People of  South Asia 

      Special first anniversary issue. July 1999-July 2000.
      We thank all our many friends and supporters who have 
      offered encouragement along every step of the journey

*  SIMPUTER -- SUB-$200 INTERNET DEVICE to help non-literate 
*  users: In an effort to bring the Internet to the masses in 
*  India and other developing countries, several academics and 
*  engineers have used their spare time to design a sub-$200 
*  handheld Net appliance, writes Bangalore-based John Ribeiro of 
*  IDG News Service (June 23).
*  The Simputer, or SIMple ComPUTER, will enable India's 
*  illiterate population (some 48% of the country of one billion) 
*  to surf the Web. The device was designed by professors and 
*  students at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) at 
*  Bangalore, and engineers from Bangalore-based design company 
*  Encore Software. A prototype of the appliance will be available 
*  in August.
*  The Simputer is built around Intel's StrongARM CPU, with Linux 
*  as the operating system. It will have 16 MB of flash memory, a 
*  monochrome liquid crystal display (LCD) with a touch panel 
*  overlay for pen-based computing, and a local-language 
*  interface. The appliance will have Infrared Data Association 
*  and Universal Serial Bus interfaces, and will feature Internet 
*  access and mail software.
*  Its designers expect the Simputer to be used not only as a 
*  personal Internet access device, but also by communities of 
*  users at kiosks. A smart-card interface to the device will 
*  enable the use of the device for applications such as micro-
*  banking.
*  "We expect to change the model for the proliferation of 
*  information technology in India," says Professor Swami Manohar, 
*  professor in the computer science and automation department of 
*  the IISc. "The current PC-centric model is not sustainable 
*  because of the high cost of the PC, and also because we expect 
*  that most of the users will not be literate."
*  A subsequent version of the Simputer will also offer speech 
*  recognition for basic navigation through the software menus. 
*  The speech dictionary will be customizable to support different 
*  languages. A text-to-speech system will also be developed to 
*  take the technology to India's illiterate population. Later 
*  versions will also offer wireless technology.
*  The intellectual property for the device has been transferred 
*  free to a non-profit trust, called the Simputer Trust, and both 
*  the software and the hardware for the appliance have been 
*  offered as open source technology. In the open source model of 
*  development, users and developers, often unpaid, work together 
*  to update technology. Manohar says that the trust decided to 
*  put the technology in Open Source to enable third party 
*  software developers and designers to add value to the platform.
*  The technology for the product will be licensed to 
*  manufacturers at a nominal fee of $1150, which is to be used to 
*  finance upgrades to the Simputer. A number of large 
*  manufacturers have shown interest in licensing the technology, 
*  though the interest is currently confined to Indian companies, 
*  according to Vinay Deshpande, chairman of Encore and a member 
*  of the Simputer Trust. He says that the designers have been 
*  able to achieve the sub-$200 price point since the electronic 
*  components used in the device are all off-the-shelf volume 
*  components, and the software is primarily open source software 
*  such as Linux. 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

DISTANCE LEARNING CENTRES have been approved in 10 major cities 
of Pakistan by the country's chief executive Gen Pervez Musharraf. 
This is for the 2000-2001 period, and is aimed at promoting 
information technology (IT). Sources were quoted saying that the 
government would spend Rs 220 million for setting up the centres, 
which would use facilities provided by Allama Iqbal Open 
University and Pakistan Television in learning technologies.

IN WAR-TORN NORTHERN Sri Lanka, where the only postal service 
must go by sea to Colombo in the south (taking three weeks or 
more to deliver), the Internet is being combined with good old-
fashioned pen and paper to overcome basic communications 
Neither the sender nor the receiver needs access to a computer or 
a phone line, and letters get delivered in a couple of days via 
Pan Lanka Networking. To send mail, the sender simply turns up 
with a handwritten letter with the snail-mail address of the 
recipient. It is then scanned into the computer and sent as an 
attachment to the office in Colombo. From there it is printed and 
sent to its final destination by standard post. Two special e-
mail addresses,  and are used to 
receive the mail.
PAN was set up by IDRC (Canada) to promote the development of 
communications infrastructure in poorer regions of Asia and 
assist the research communities within the region to create and 
share resources. 
One major initiative on its way is a proposed pilot project for a 
multi-purpose community telecentre (MCT). These are centres where 
information and communication technologies are shared by a 
particular community, often in remote or regional areas. 
Contact: Helge Selrod, Colombo
Maria Ng Lee Hoon at Singapore
[Thanks to Touhid Uz Zaman <> for this input.]

assist Tibet to get wider Internet access. PAN-Tibet project aims 
to enable key R&D and government institutions within Tibet to 
access the Internet for communications and to use Internet tools 
for educational, research and development work.
Trainers from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain 
Development (ICIMOD), Tibet University (TU) and Tibet Academy of 
Agriculture and Animal Sciences (TAAAS) conducted an Internet 
Workshop in Lhasa using ITrain materials. 
Participants came from: Tibet Agriculture and Animal Husbandry 
College, Tibet Academy of Social Sciences, Tibet Traditional 
Medicine College, Tibet Science & Technology Commission, 
Government of Lhasa City, Lingzhi Prefecture, Duilong County 
Bureau of Science & Technology.
Details received from Touhid Uz Zaman <>

JOIN A MAILING LIST on learning communities. Send an email to
Or visit

IT DEVELOPMENTS IN PAKISTAN. Do a search at The Global Knowledge 
Partnership site at You will found 
many good discussions on the issues of *IT developments in 
To subscribe to GKD-Digest, send the command:
subscribe gkd-digest
in the body of a message to ""

Information Technology is suggesting steps like tax reductions, 
technology innovation, and importing second hand or refurbished 
PCs. On an average, there are 60 computers for every thousand 
people in the globe, nearly 17 times higher than the current 
Indian average. [Ministry of IT]

FOR AN IMPRESSIVE update of the Internet in Pakistan visit the 
SPIDER webpage. July issue is out at


VISHWABHARAT IS AN INDIAN web-site that has been put up to 
showcase Indian-language and non-English technology. Indian 
language fonts and basic word processing software has been put up 
on this site, and made freely available, in the public domain.

IN INDIA, THE Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) vice chairman FC 
Kohli has long harboured a dream of using IT to solve basic 
social problems in India.  Pushed by Kohli, a TCS team has 
developed a computer-based training system that is designed to 
teach illiterate adults how to read in a much shorter time than 
conventional methods permit, and at lower costs. The beta version 
of the training software developed by TCS has been tested at 
three locations in Andhra Pradesh, and the results have been very 
Between 120 to 160 million Indian adults are illiterate. It now 
takes between six to 18 months to convert an illiterate adult to 
a state of functional literacy, and depends on trained teachers 
who are in short supply. It could take over 30 years to eradicate 
illiteracy going by current trends. If computer-based training 
methods are used, the nation could be made fully literate in 
three to four years.An illiterate adult is capable of reading 
within 10 weeks "at the outer limit" and the system is not 
dependent on trained teachers.
TCS researchers developed a new pedagogy of teaching language to 
adults. The basic learning unit is not an alphabet but a 
syllable. This is based on the theory that adults process both 
pictoral and aural inputs in a contextual and holistic mode, 
before breaking it down into smaller units of information.
The R&D team is -- more importantly -- developing an Indian 
speech recognition engine which will be capable of converting 
spoken words into written text and vice versa. This could free 
the process from the Indian language overlaid keyboard, which is 
a difficult interface to handle even for trainers. 
Once created, TCS plans to patent the software and training 
modules, but offer them for free use to any agency involved in 
eradicating illiteracy. TCS also plans to donate all its 1000 486 
PCs to organisations implementing the computer-based anti-
illiteracy programme. Some 200,000 PCs are needed for a 
countrywide adult literacy programme, and TCS may be able to 
source most of these machines from Tata group companies and its 
large international clients for free. 486 machines may not be 
able to handle speech recognition. So ways have to be found to 
fund Rs 800 crore faster machines. But leaders are are confident 
that money is not going to be a bottleneck to implement a large-
computer aided literacy campaign. 
Express Computer (June 26 issue)

JONATHAN PEIZER IS CIO of Soros Foundations, one the funders of Award-winning site ( 
records 180K-250K hits monthly. For further comment on the role 
of governments and multi-laterals in remedying the digital divide 
and other related issues, e-mail

Global Directory of Health Information Resource Centres by August 
2000, working with a wide range of partners throughout
the world. Planned next is a much-larger, $45 m Information 
Waystations and Staging Posts project, which aims to establish a 
global network of 1,000 health information resource centres that 
will provide locally appropriate content on health issues. 
An Information Waystation is a local point of access to health 
information received electronically. It has a PC, CD-ROM & 
databases, printer, modem, reliable satellite or land telephone, 
and prepaid broadband Internet access. 
If you want to send these questionnaires out to your friends in 
any kind of health centre or network, contact 

UNRISD INFOTECH WEBSITE is being updated. Details from Matthias 
Rosenberg, Research Project on Information Technologies and 
Social Development, United Nations Research Institute for Social 
Development (UNRISD), Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, 

PAKISTAN HAS PROMULGATED AN ordinance for the establishment of 
the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences in the 
federal capital. It will be a multi-campus university with its 
principal seat in Islamabad, reports APP.

THE WORLD COMPUTER EXCHANGE acts "as a broker in bridging the 
international digital divide, promoting cultural understanding 
between students in the U.S. and developing countries, and 
facilitating the use of technology and experiential education in 
education reform." It is a non-profit organization established to 
ship donated new and used, working Internet-accessible computers 
to formal and informal schools in Africa, Asia, Latin America, 
and Eastern Europe. Students in these schools are partnered on-
line with interested schools in industrialized countries. It 
works via Ministers of Education, Non-Governmental Organizations, 
and Universities.
Details from: Timothy Anderson, President, World Computer 
Exchange, 936 Nantasket Ave., Hull, MA 02045 

THE WIRED WORLD is also nudging forward India's battle against 
corruption. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) gave its 
services to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). Citizens can 
lodge 'vigilance' complaints through the CVC's site at  Instructions, circulations and notes 
issued by the CVC are available for all to read from the site. 

JOURNALIST RESOURCE CENTRE of Pakistan was founded in April 1997 
and seeks to uphold "every citizen's right to know and express". 
Says the centre's Mohammad Tanveer: JRC believes that our media 
industry's grasp to technology does not tantamount to produce 
positive results in social capital building, rather in many cases 
we have witnessed in reverse. We see media's becoming an actor 
and instrument of power in growing sectarian and ethnic tensions, 
discrimination against women, rising of violence as resort and 
high levels of illiteracy. JRC insists upon keeping the full 
picture of media politics in our minds and action. This role 
demands journalists to extend beyond fulfilling their 
professional duties to taking care of their social 

FOUNDATION DU DEVENIR is seeking persons willing to contribute to 
the CD-Rom it is preparing called "Internet: Bridges to 
Development". Says the foundation: "We want to present the best 
achievements in the area of Internet in order to disseminate the 
most efficient experiences and methodologies so that the Internet 
will be usefull for development." 
Contact: Marie Thorndahl, Geneva

SEE AN initiative to make computers available to Indian school 
students at

TAKING IT SOLUTIONS TO the doorstep of the farming community is 
what tobacco giant ITC Ltd plans. It is starting with the launch 
of a new Web site for soyabean farmers it has launched in this 
city.  The Web site,, is billed as the 
first of its kind in Hindi, and will give soyabean farmers access 
the latest information about the weather, crop position, arrivals 
in markets and crop prices. Besides functioning as an information 
bank, the site also has an interactive element where farmers' 
queries would be answered within 24 hours.
There are plans for developing Web sites on the lines of for wheat and rice growing farmers. 

INFODEV IS A GLOBAL PROGRAM managed by the World Bank to promote 
innovative projects on the use of information and communication 
technologies for economic and social development, with a special 
emphasis on the needs of the poor in developing countries.
infoDev's June edition of the infoDev bulletin can also be found 

BENTON FOUNDATION, ATTEMPTING to bridge the digital divide.

making the best use of its own Web site, said it would host a 
conference in July on speeding up worldwide economic development 
through Internet technology. An ECOSOC study released last month 
said, "There are more hosts (Internet sites) in New York than on 
continental Africa, more hosts in Finland than Latin America and 
the Caribbean, and, notwithstanding the remarkable progress in 
the application of information and communication technology in 
India, many of its villages still lack a working telephone."

THE DRUM BEAT is the email and web network from The Communication 
Initiative partnership involving The Rockefeller Foundation, 
Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs, The 
European Union, Soul City, The Panos Institute, UNAIDS.  
Information, ideas, linkages and dialogue on communication, 
development and change. Director: Warren Feek

large populations may be slow to come on to the Net, but use is 
already exploding in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan -- 
countries with young populations, AND are also centres of PC 
production, where people can easily assemble their own machines 
from parts.

challenges: Half the world's workers are self-employed or work in 
small family enterprises in the informal sector. Many are barely 
subsistent. By providing access to learning experiences designed 
to broaden skills, TVET programmes can increase productivity and 
significantly improve the fortunes of this large group of people. 
The social consequences of not meeting this demand are enormous.

intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of 
Government to encourage the development and sharing of open 
learning and distance education knowledge, resources and 
technologies. Email:

list or review the headlines about distance education published 
each weekday from around the world.

DISTANCE-EDUCATOR.COM is a newsletter which includes updated 
headlines recently added to its site.

UN PLEDGES TO FIGHT DIGITAL DIVIDE: The Internet has given Ivory 
Coast villagers instant access to the market prices of their 
cocoa and coffee crops, Ethiopian herders the chance to sell 
their goats, and Indian children a first glimpse of the Disney 
Channel. To make sure these don't remain just isolated cases, the 
World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade 
Organization joined the United Nations on Wednesday in pledging 
to spread information technology and the vast profits of E-
commerce to the developing world, reports the Associated Press.
The statistics tell the story: The World Bank says it has more 
telephones than Rwanda, and only 5 percent of the world 
population has access to the Internet, according to a U.N.-
appointed panel of experts who studied the issue.

ETHNOTRENDS IS AN ATTEMPT to balance your reading diet with a 
dash of minority opinion.  Based in Canada, its tentative line up 
of stories will cover press opinions from the Chinese, Italian, 
Punjabi, Tamil and Ukrainian communities.
Andrew Machalski, Publisher

AKDN.ORG PROVIDES INFORMATION on the Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga 
Khan University, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, the 
Aga Khan Health Services, the Aga Khan Education Services, the 
Aga Khan Planning and Building Services and the Aga Khan Trust 
for Culture. It covers activities in Central and South Asia, in 
various parts of Africa, and in Europe and North America.
The Aga Khan Development Network is non-denominational and is 
dedicated to improving the well-being and prospects of people in 
some of the poorest regions of the world,  irrespective of their 
gender, ethnicity, race or religion. 
For more information, visit

format makes UNICEF field situation reports, thematic reviews, 
appeals, & references easily available.  Comments & information 
requests can be emailed to

TO BYPASS THE "SYSTEMATIC DISTORTION" of history on both sides of 
the (Indo-Pakistan) border, three projects are being attempted by 
Dr Mubarak Ali and Mr Isa Daudpota, a physicist by training --  
publishing anthologies of the writings of Pakistani and Indian 
historians for the Ancient, Medieval and Modern periods; trying 
to write a history of the subcontinent with an Indian counterpart 
and a  project for collectively writing a school text-book of the 
history of the subcontinent on the net.  
Details from: Isa Daudpota <> a consultant  
with Hamdard University in Islamabad.

DAUDPOTA SAYS THAT HE GOT the idea of  such a project from an 
Israeli site on the net where Arab and Jewish school kids 
interacted with  each other. He initially thought of creating a 
similar site for Indians and Pakistanis to  communicate with each 
other through moderators on both sides: "I realised that this 
would only  become a chat site. And then was 
already there, though that is a slightly highbrow discussion group." 

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