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<nettime> bYtES For aLL: AUGUST 2000 EZINE
Frederick Noronha on 16 Aug 2000 13:52:32 -0000


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<nettime> bYtES For aLL: AUGUST 2000 EZINE


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_/                                                                  
_/  B y t e s   F o r   A l l ---  http://www.bytesforall.org 
_/  Making  Computing  Relevant to the  People of  South Asia 
_/                                                                  
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              AUGUST 2000 ISSUE * FOCUS: SOUTH ASIA 
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*        THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND Computer Networks Group 
*        (TeNeT) is a team of dedicated researchers working in 
*        the frontline areas of Telecommunications and Computer 
*        Networking, at the Indian Institute of Technology, 
*        Madras, India. The guiding team is drawn from the 
*        faculties at the departments of Electrical Engineering 
*        and Computer Science & Engineering, while over a hundred 
*        researchers, engineers and other technical staff support 
*        it. Currently, the group works in areas such as 
*        Networking, Digital Systems Architecture and Fibre 
*        Optics, and several emerging avenues like Network 
*        Management Systems and Integrated Voice/ Video Data 
*        Communications. It specially focuses on developing 
*        affordable products for developing countries.
*        Established a decade ago, with the objectives of 
*        developing economical solutions for the emerging era, 
*        pioneering academic research in this confluent field and 
*        nurturing a skilled manpower base in this vibrant 
*        branch, TeNeT collaborates with a number of like-minded 
*        R & D organisations, with many of whom it enjoys 
*        strategic alliances and tie-ups. In addition, the group 
*        also works with many small and medium-size industrial 
*        units. Thanks to such associations, TeNeT has 
*        successfully implemented many enterprising projects and 
*        introduced innovative products in the field of ICTs. In 
*        the years to come, the group hopes to grow into an R & D 
*        consortium, working closely with many companies in 
*        developing versatile, low-cost systems bringing about a 
*        revolution in the world of information and 
*        communication.
*        Details from http://www.tenet.res.in
*        Email Dr. Ashok Jhunjhunwala ashok {AT} tenet.res.in
*
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

THE VILLAGE COMPUTER AND INTERNET PROGRAM (VCIP) of Grameen 
Communications, a member of the Grameen group of companies, was 
started in July 1999. The program is operating at Madhupur in 
Tangail district, which is about 160 kilometers away from Dhaka. 
The main objectives of this program include:
* Familiarize the village people, particularly the young 
generation, with the use of computers and the Internet.
* Provide them computer training at a minimal price, and thus 
help building up a computer literate generation.
* Provide free e-mail services to teachers and students for
educational purposes and to doctors and journalists for emergency.
* Provide e-mail facilities for families having relatives staying
abroad and local.
* Facilitate easier access to relevant market information, e.g. 
prevalent market prices of specific products in different 
locations. This would help the village people to have better 
bargaining capacity in selling their produce.
* Provide computer compose and printing facilities at a low cost 
in rural areas.
* Enable student contact with educational/research institutions 
and libraries abroad.
* Organize IT workshops, seminars and exhibition in rural areas.
* Create IT related job opportunities
http://www.grameen-info.org/vcip/index.html
Or Tariq Alam, Project Coordinator <tariq {AT} grameen.com>

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PAKISTAN'S FIRST national Technology in Education Conference is 
scheduled to be held on November 8, 2000 in Islamabad. Its theme 
is "Redefining Learning Systems".
Open to educators throughout Pakistan, the conference is being 
organized to bring into focus the need to integrate technology 
seamlessly into the nation's school systems and to harness its 
power to strengthen and facilitate the learning process.
Leading international and local authorities in education and 
learning will cover a vital number of issues in this high powered 
knowledge-packed conference which, in addition to the keynote 
addresses, will include technology workshops, demonstrations and 
a panel discussion. A select number of vendors, with a commitment 
to the education sector, are being approached to take part in an 
exhibition and run linked vendor-sessions which highlight 
innovative and cost-effective hardware and software solutions for 
the education sector.
Details from email tie {AT} bitsonline.net
http://www.bitsonline.net/tie 

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EXPAT SOUTH ASIANS are working to enhance access to computers in 
Indian schools. 
http://www.computersforindia.org

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INDEV: India's Development Information Network. Information 
plays a vital role in developmental processes. The lack of 
adequate facilities in India for accessing development 
information is a major handicap for anyone involved in 
development work -- particularly at the regional level where 
issues of governance depend critically on access to relevant and 
timely information. The project will develop the creation of four 
major databases to hold and disseminate different forms of 
information using the Internet and web technology. The proposed 
databases are: NGO Directory, Project Database, Documents 
Database and Statistics Database. Contents for these databases 
would come from partner organisations, including government 
departments. There will be six types of output from the project, 
in order to reach the target audience with different levels of 
access to information: The INDEV Web site, E-mail digests, 
Printed reports, Exhibitions, CD-ROMs and Discussion lists. A 
three member team, based at the British Council Office in Delhi, 
working closely with OneWorld Online will manage this project.
http://www.indev.org

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JOIN ONE OF THE upcoming country discussion forums on the 
implications of the new technologies for how technical assistance 
is organised and delivered. South Asian countries covered 
include: Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, according to Drum Beat. 
http://www.comminit.com/email_forum2.html

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PAKISTAN GOVERNMENT PLANS to bring computer prices to Rs 8,000. 
Information Technology buffs in Pakistan have reason to celebrate 
with a new government plan to bring down prices of personal 
computers (PCs) under Rs 8,000 only. The current minimum prices 
range around Rs 25,000 for unbranded ones. The move comes in the 
wake of the government's decision to buy computers in bulk for 
educational institutions. The ministry is also trying to further 
reduce the charges for international bandwidth connectivity for 
Internet users, realising that the recent cut in price of the 64 
kbps connectivity from Rs 100,000 a month to Rs 60,000 was not 
enough.  (US $1 = Pakistani RS 52 approximately).
http://search.ft.com/search/multi/globalarchive.jsp?id=000801000163

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NET GROWTH FACES BARRIERS: India, China and other 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. They are also centres of PC production, 
where people can easily assemble their own machines from parts.
http://www.it.fairfax.com.au/e-commerce/20000704/A44781-2000Jun30.html 

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AGA KHAN DEVELOPMENT NETWORK'S new web site. The site outlines in 
detail the many Aga Khan institutions and provides official news 
on the AKDN, the only official site in which to do so. It aims to 
provide information on the activities of the development agencies 
created by the Aga Khan since 1967.
It 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. 
http://www.akdn.org/?sc

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INDIA'S Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a 
consultation paper to see how it could be possible to increase 
rural teledensity to 4 per cent by 2002 from 0.4 per cent at 
present. Village public telephone (VPT) in every village and 
internet at district level should be made available in the given 
time-frame, it has been suggested. Each phone line in the rural 
area costs about Rs 30,000 while the revenue was a meagre Rs 
1,000 annually. "General thumb rule is that 30 to 35 per cent 
return on each line, at least Rs 10,000, would make the line 
financially viable," it was stated. 
Says Dr Arun Mehta: Researchers like Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala 
have for long been pointing out, that even in rural areas, the 
cost per line can easily be brought down to below Rs. 15,000. Why 
then do we stick with the high figure? I'm wondering, a Bluetooth 
device that communicates with a machine connected to the Net 
could at least send and receive voice mail for a fraction of this 
cost per subscriber. Anyone doing this, or planning to?
http://www.expressindia.com/ie/daily/20000706/ibu06008.html

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TELEMEDICINE IN PAKISTAN: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is 
launching a programme on tele-medicine which will go a long way 
in the betterment of health care system. The PTA has visualized a 
three-stage implementing programme. In phase I (pilot) primary 
centres like THQ Hospital at Fateh Jang and Pindi Gheb and a 
private clinic in Taxila would be linked to Tele-medicine Centre 
at Holy Family Hospital and the PTA headquarters where medical 
experts would give advise/consultation on Internet. These sites 
would be given computer hardware and telecom lines. Staff and 
doctors would be imparted basic computer knowledge. 
In phase II more remote areas like DHQ Hospital Gilgit would be 
linked up to National Telemedicine Centre and services of 
tertiary hospitals like Agha Khan Hospital Karachi and Shaukat 
Khanum Memorial Hospital at Lahore would be acquired. 
In phase III international linkup by satellite would be 
established with hospitals in the USA and elsewhere. 
http://www.dawn.com/2000/07/13/nat4.htm

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INDIA'S PLANNING Commission has recommended the opening of 
Internet telephony, coming out stridently against the existing 
policy, which does not permit transmission of voice over public 
Internet. The liberalisation of the ISP sector is a befitting 
model to prove that unrestricted competition helps expand the 
user base and reduces cost to the customer. 
http://www.economictimes.com/today/06tech01.htm

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PAKISTAN'S Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf has approved the 
setting up of distance learning centres in 10 major cities of the 
country during 2000-2001 to promote information technology (IT). 
Sources said the government would spend Rs220million for setting 
up the centres, which would use facilities provided by Allama 
Iqbal Open University and Pakistan Television in learning 
technologies. 
http://www.dawn.com/2000/07/02/nat1.htm

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PAKISTAN President Rafiq Tarar 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.

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INDIAN CONSUMER PORTAL IN REGIONAL LANGUAGES. India's largest 
private ISP Satyam Infoway has launched two new editions of its 
consumer portal in the regional languages of Malayalam and 
Kannada, reports Steven Schwankert.
http://asia.internet.com/2000/7/0603-satyam.html

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UNDP WINS AWARD for computer training project. The UNDP announced 
that its Asia-Pacific Development Information Program has 
received the Stockholm Challenge Award for excellence in 
information technology. In partnership with Cisco Systems, the 
program offers four semesters of education on designing, building 
and maintaining computer and Internet networks. According to 
UNDP, the program is so highly regarded that students in many of 
its academies are offered employment prior to receiving 
certification. The UNDP program operates in Bangladesh, Bhutan, 
Cambodia, Fiji, India, Nepal, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Sri 
Lanka. Japan pledged $1.5 million last month for the program to 
institute an Africa information technology project.
http://www.indev.org/news/1july2k.html

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THE COVER STORY OF THE June 2000 issue of Humanscape, a Mumbai-
based magazine, is on information technology. 
How much of the benefits really trickle down to the common man?
What does all the Internet hysteria signify in a country like 
India where the penetration of PCs is 1.1 per 1000 people, 
compared to 450 per 1000 in the US? Does a drought-ridden state 
like Andhra Pradesh need portals or potable water? Are we being 
swept away by dotcom delusions? 
This issue of Humanscape explores these questions, and provides 
several first-hand reports of the benefits of information 
technology to the villagers around Pondicherry, to a cowherd in 
Maharashtra's hills, to the women who form part of SEWA, to the 
'mobile ladies' of Bangladesh who are doing brisk business with 
their new cell phones....
Articles include: 
* A wired world for whom? 
* Does AP need portals or potable water? 
* The future according to Naidu 
* How the common man benefits. 
* The new, low-cost information vaccine 
* Global villages 
* The Interactive idiot box 
* 'IT has great potential in alleviating poverty' 
* Cyber fundraising 
* Community radio calling. Anyone listening? 
* 'Cable radio' could be the solution 
* Why AIR has completely ignored community radio 
* Dotcom activism 
* E-campaigns in the real world: The power of mail 
* Here come the mobile ladies 
* It may cost more than a cow, but you still need the modem 
* desiduniya.com 
* Peer-to-peer pedagogy 
* Does information technology really promote knowledge? 
* Dotcom delusions 
http://www.humanscapeindia.org/

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BANGLADESH PASSES IT copyright law: Under the new Copyright Law 
2000, a student or researcher could freely use a software 
programme or chunk of a novel without infringing copyright or 
asking for permission. Computer experts say the new law was meant 
to protect the creative work of writers, singers and software 
developers alike. 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/newsid_826000/826331.stm

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INDIA-NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of Software and Service Companies 
(Nasscom)'s website is at http://www.nasscom.org/ . Check 
Internet & E-Commerce Scenario in India.
http://www.nasscom.org/template/inetec.htm

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A LIST OF INDIAN ISPs is at http://www.rekha.com/search/ISPs/

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READ PROF. SADAGOPAN's article "Internet Diffusion in India" 
at http://www.askallindia.com/infotechdesk/art2.htm  

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INDIA: IT climbs down from skyscrapers to the common man
Efforts are on across the country to make the benefits of 
information technology relevant to the common man by 
incorporating it to improve civic amenities, make blood banks 
effective and let non-English speakers get a taste of the 
"virtual" revolution. 
http://www.economictimes.com/today/10tech03.htm

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eGurucool.com calls itself India's first and most comprehensive 
portal site on learning and education. 
http://www.egurucool.com

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SOME SEATTLE-BASED techies are dreaming up an ambitious 
initiative to fight global poverty. And they plan to use the 
Internet to do it. Digital Partners  says it wants to  change the 
definition of philanthropy. The group will not give food,  
clothing, or shelter to the poor. It will offer them online 
content instead. 
One of the main reasons Digital Partners picked India as its 
first target country is the presence of a large Indian community 
in the United States. It's a community that is closely knit, 
highly skilled, and financially sound reports Lakshmi Chaudhary 
for WIRED.  http://www.digitaldivide.org/

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SOPHIA OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL of Bangalore in South India announced 
the opening of their computer centre. Sophia Opportunity School 
has been running a program for mentally challenged children. In 
the pilot program in which computers were used to train these 
children they observed a tremendous improvement in response if 
the child was introduced to interactive multimedia for learning. 
Their endeavor is to introduce this kind of an education, for the 
0-3 years age group, at the Infant Stimulation Centre.  The 
institution believes that early intervention could lead to better 
prognosis, thus increasing the chances of correction.
http://www.sophiaopp.org

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50,000 BETA USERS EVALUATE Indian language e-mail service. 
Although Internet users primarily use English, there is a popular 
need for using Indian languages. 
Mailjol.com is designed to work with any existing or future 
software for Indian languages, depending on the standards 
adopted. The e-mail service works in Assamese, Bengali, Hindi, 
Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, 
Telugu and English making it possible for people to exchange 
messages in more than one language.
http://www.mailjol.com

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PTCL, THE PAKISTANI internet regulatory authority, recently 
decided to set up a "national access point". A  PTCL 
advertisement of a tender notice (request for proposal & 
quotations) for the supply, installation and operation of a 
"National Access Point" (NAP) for the Internet. According to the 
tender notice, NAP will also be used to "monitor", and "blocking 
of voice". It will also facilitate "routing of ISP traffic in 
Pakistan", etc. all of these have clear implications for Internet 
users in Pakistan. 
Comments, opinion, and feedback have been sought by Irfan Khan to 
be posted to the mailing-list s-asia-it {AT} apnic.net
LATER REPORTS SAID Science and Technology Minister Prof Attaur 
Rehman suspended the Pakistan Telecommunication's proposal to 
establish 'National Access Points'. The information and telecom 
division considered the proposal detrimental to the flow of 
Internet traffic. 

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ELECTRONIC SEMINAR on poverty in the Indian province of Bihar. 
http://www.bihartimes.com, the first online daily newspaper from 
Bihar, launched an electronic seminar on the theme of poverty in 
the state. The state chapter of UNICEF has sponsored the seminar 
which will continue for a period of three months. The seminar 
will offer an opportunity to everyone to express his views on 
different facets of poverty in the state. It will initiate an 
open dialogue among the policy makers, experts, NGOs and social 
activists. This initiative has an obvious advantage over 
traditional seminar as it provides round-the-clock global 
platform to all those who have keen interest in the affairs of 
the state, without any formality of invitation.  
http://www.bihartimes.com/poverty1.htm

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SOUTH ASIA HAS EMERGED as the most promising region for sourcing 
information technology expertise, but this is an achievement that 
is of use only to the rich nations, say critics. A report by 
Ranjit Devraj of IPS.
Says New Delhi-based education expert, Kirti Jayaraman: "The 
Internet is very much a big-city phenomenon and confined to the 
elite classes who may as well be living on a different planet 
with access to the Internet from their homes, offices and 
schools." 
http://www.dawn.com/2000/07/23/int8.htm

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TWO-HOUR SLOT ON PTV for IT education agreed: A multi-media 
Virtual IT university will be established within the next three 
months to provide quality courses and degree programs through 
distance learning to over 100,000 students. The first phase of 
the Virtual IT university will be launched on PTV and the second 
phase through intranet. 

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THE WORLDWIDE OPEN SOURCE Movement will receive a boost with 
Indian IT industry veteran Dr. Arvind Shah making an equity 
investment in FreeOS.com, a leading Web site providing 
information and resources on all free Operating Systems, like 
Linux. 
Free Operating Systems are the result of code developed and 
updated by thousands of programmers around the world on a 
voluntary basis. FreeOS.com aims to bring these free operating 
systems, some unknown of, to the people by providing news, 
information, software and resource links etc. Their focus also 
lies in professional services such as consultancy, support and 
software development for free operating systems.
Founded in 1998, FreeOS.com caters to individuals interested in 
free operating systems (like Linux, FreeBSD etc). They are a 
leading provider of news, information, resource links, software 
etc. relating to free operating systems. FreeOS.com (I) Pvt. 
Ltd., maintains the web site and specializes in providing 
customized solutions, consulting, training and distribution in 
free operating systems such as Linux.
Contacts: Prakash Advani, CEO prakash {AT} freeos.com
http://www.freeos.com

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INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR Eradication of Poverty of Canada in 
cooperation with Africa Canada Development Initiative and other 
NGOs, will be observing the International Day For the Eradication 
of Poverty on 17 and 18 of October 2000 at Metro-Toronto City 
Hall. Although poverty affects people from all over the world, 
its intensity and extensity is more pronounced in developing 
countries than others for variety of reasons. Chief among them is 
lack of human resources development as pointed out by Nobel 
Laureate Professor A.K. Sen. In order to speed up the process of 
their development, we have decided to hold a two day conference 
on How to integrate Information and Communication Technologies 
into Eradication of Poverty in Developing Countries.
Programme includes: October 17, 2000 -- Morning:   Opening 
session, Topics for plenary session:  (i) Overview of IT and 
poverty eradication in developing countries; (ii) how to set up 
IT; what resources are required; how to obtain those resources; 
(iii) role of multi-lateral agencies and multinational 
corporations; (iv) role of local governments and local community 
groups; and (v) CIT and gender related issues.
Afternoon:  Three sessions, either three workshops or three 
plenary sessions. Topics: (i) How to use IT for agriculture and 
rural development, (ii) How to use IT for educational and skills 
development, and (iii) How to use IT in the areas of health.
Morning: Workshops--Case studies Use of IT in India (in 
agriculture, rural development, education & health); in Africa; 
and in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Contact: Dr. Bhausaheb Ubale <bubale {AT} pathcom.com>
Website: http://www.eradicatepoverty.com or 

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ON BHUTAN, THE SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS (July 22, 2000) reports that 
just one year after the Internet was introduced by royal decree 
in this isolated Himalayan kingdom, a few entrepreneurs are 
trying to spin long-term benefits from the embryonic information 
technology (IT) revolution. While the government hopes to use 
high technology to eventually transform the nation, Bhutan lacks 
enough trained teachers and sufficiently powerful computers to 
put itself on the high-tech map.
"People in Bhutan understand the opportunities and have high 
expectations for computer technology," said Kinley D. Dorji, head 
of the new information-technology department of Bhutan's ministry 
of communications. "We need to achieve some real progress in IT, 
simply because of our remoteness".
  
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WINGS INFONET unveils multilingual accounting software. The 
accounting software company based in Hyderabad today unveiled 
what it claims is the first of its kind multilingual accounting 
software, Wings 2000 IL, in English and 12 Indian languages. 
The languages covered are Hindi, Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi, 
Assamese, Bangla, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Rajasthani, Punjabi 
and Tamil. The software has used the WERI (Write English Read 
Indian) technology. "The user can switch from one language to 
another at the press of a button," says the company. The software 
has been priced at Rs. 3,000. Wings Infonet is confident of
finding a few thousand subscribers in the next few months. 
Email info {AT} wings2000.com  http://www.wings2000.com

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SHOULD PAKISTAN START A VIRTUAL UNIVERSITY? This article appeared 
on July 24, 2000 on The News Opinion page. It was on the day that 
the Ministry of Science and Tech and the Ministry of Information 
discussed the idea of setting up such an institution in Pakistan. 
Isa Daudpota <daudpota {AT} huic.edu.pk>

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IT has, as yet, failed to touch the lives of the average citizen 
and India is nowhere close to being a knowledge economy or 
society. As per the International Data Corporation (IDC), in a 
survey of 55 countries, India ranks 54th on its Information 
Society Index. The 2000 World Times/IDC index measures the global 
impact of IT and Internet adoption and establishes a standard by 
which all nations are measured according to their ability to 
assess and absorb information and IT, reads the introduction to 
the survey. India's software industry is a poor employment 
generator. In the mid-Nineties, some 20,000 people were actively 
employed in software export services. In contrast, there were 
three million registered unemployed graduates in the Nineties. 
http://www.hindustantimes.com/nonfram/290600/detOPI03.htm

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Planwel University in Pakistan is a not for profit organization 
operating in Pakistan in the field of education, health, and 
population for the last decade.
It is currently in the process of upgrading and modernizing its 
educational delivery system, in order to gradually convert this 
Institute to a Distance Learning/Virtual University POP (Point of 
Presence). 
It is currently working on the technical issues of delivery for 
distance learning (satellite, TV, IP Web based, optical fibre, 
etc.); running an immediate month-long pilot based on Pakistan 
Television Channel 2 and Internet chat back channel for 'Web 
design'. This is to prove that the concept works as well as 
giving exposure to the Virtual University project
Details: Shahab Khan, Director, Planwel University,
Planwel Institute of Science and Technology (PLANWEL), Karachi
Email: Afroz {AT} khi.compol.com, afroz {AT} planwel.edu
http://www.planwel.com  http://www.planwel.edu 
http://www.itcomm.gov.pk/
http://www.planwel.edu/Research/tampere.html

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INDIAN WOMEN ONLINE offers info about career opportunities, help 
in designing your webstore, an online shopping mall, personal 
tips, information related to Indian women. 
Contact: Mridula, Editor editor {AT} indianwomenonline.com
http://www.indianwomenonline.com

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TEACHING IN TAMIL, VIA SATELLITES (Papri Sri Raman/IANS reports): 
Children and adult learners can now have educational information 
beamed direct into their homes. This is due to an educational TV 
channel in Tamil started by the Indira Gandhi National Open 
University (IGNOU) in early August, targetting 100,000 homes on 
the outskirts of Chennai with the help of local cable operators.
Gyan Darshan channel is produced by IGNOU in collaboration with 
national broadcaster Doordarshan, is a free-to-air channel. It is 
uplinked from an earth station on the IGNOU campus in Delhi and 
can be accessed on INSAT 2B on the C band. 
The project is a joint venture of the ministry, IGNOU and Prasar 
Bharati,  the autonomous body governing state-owned media. It was 
officially launched on Jan 26, 2000 but this is the first time 
that it is being  implemented on the ground on this large a 
scale. The connectivity with homes was made possible by a cable 
network in Chennai, Saimira Access Technologies, which 
volunteered to be a partner in the project.

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NORTH INDIA'S remote Nangal Chaudhary village has become the 
first in the province of Haryana to get a rural cyber cafe. It's 
an area known more for its sand dunes and deserts lands, and 
which faces an acute shortage of drinking water. The opening of 
the cyber cafe brings a whiff of high technology to residents of 
the village. It has been made possible by laying a fibre optic 
link to the nearest telephone exchange, located 26 km away in the 
district headquarter town of Narnaul. Funds for the two computer 
terminals, which cost Rs. 70,000 were provided by the District 
Computer Society. Sixty students have been enrolled in the cafe 
and will each be given 20 hours  of hands-on experience of 
computer basics and logging on to the Internet. "We had to make a 
beginning somewhere. We have a hospital but no doctor wants to 
serve in backward areas. We have a school in the village where 
teachers do not want to come because of the backwardness of the 
area," say villagers. [India Abroad News Service]

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F E E D B A C K 
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ROBERTO VERZOLA (The Philippines) responds to the SIMPUTER, the 
plan for a sub-$200 Internet device to help the non-literate user:
"Congratulations to the Indian academics and engineers who 
developed this. They are in the right direction.
"However, there are already sub-$100 dedicated VCD players 
(Taiwan-made ones are selling in the Philippines for around $85-
90). It should be possible, within this same cost range, to add a 
built-in browser (which is mostly software plus some additional 
video circuitry) to these players, so they can also browse html 
files on CDROMs.
"Then we can put most of the world's storehouse of knowledge on 
development on CDROMs and let them loose on the Third World for 
copying. Put a CD-Writer on a slightly more expensive device and 
that would be just great for poor communities and countries, who 
can now select themselves what to put on CDROMs.
"This low-cost approach will, furthermore, not require the high 
recurring connectivity costs that an Internet connection requires 
-- and will therefore be much more affordable to the poor. 
Sharing knowledge freely: that's the real spirit of the Internet."
In another mail, he added the following points: 
"After reading about the Indian Simputer, I had a chance to 
browse around our local electronic shops once more. I found VCD 
players selling for as low as US$ 65 and saw at least one 12-volt 
monochrome TV receiver selling for $35.
"If the VCD player can be made to browse html files on CDROM, 
here's the possibility of a truly low-cost (sub-$100), stand-
alone (no recurring connectivity charges) information appliance 
that can even run on 12-volt car batteries. Any Taiwan, Indian, 
or Korean manufacturer listening?
"The Philippines has 40,000 villages (and 73 million people). 
Providing each village with this appliance, for a 100% reach, 
would cost US$4 million. Some of our past presidents have 
probably spent this much on a single junket abroad. We have spent 
many times this amount just to host one image-building APEC 
meeting, which is of course another junket.
With such an appliance, all that would be needed are the VCDs and 
CDROMs. I have no doubt that these will simply materialize out of 
nowhere, as if by miracle. My worry is that, like "pirate" radio 
stations, such an appliance might be prevented from being fully 
deployed, and we will be pushed and pulled right back into the 
maw of the Internet. How come a high-cost medium like the 
Internet is foisted on us, but once truly low-cost approaches 
like low-power radio and CDs are discovered by the poor, they are 
hounded like pirates?
"My other worry is the law of unintended consequences: that our 
villages would be flooded with VCDs of Hollywood junk and few 
CDROMs, in which case this suggestion will come back to haunt me 
-- unless the government, NGOs, and development agencies step in 
to provide the CDs with development info and educational content."

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