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Hardware Hacking Technology

The Indian Info-Rickshaws 205

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the internet-to-go dept.
DoomDoom writes "CNN is running a story on how the Indian government is delivering health and educational services on a WiFi equipped rickshaw to the poorest of its citizens. It's a poetical union of a typical third world product with high-tech! Do you still think computing is unnecssary for the poorest of the poor?"
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The Indian Info-Rickshaws

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  • Hard Life (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kmmatthews (779425) * <krism@mailsnare.net> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:02PM (#10018052) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:
    "By using computers, I can improve my knowledge," Sharma, whose parents plan to pull her out of school at 15

    Ouch. I complain that I only was able to go to a technical school [putting myself through college now]; at least I got to finish out high school.

    It amazes me everytime I read about how hard so many people have it, then I look around and see these hideously overweight people driving SUVs, tossing out food, with a ridiculous sense of entitlement (e.g. "society owes me because I'm special") to that effect.

    I wonder if more of us in America will ever wake up and realize how good we have it? Yes, of course, the wealth/technology/etc we have introduces its own set of problems, (e.g. SCO, Microsoft, obeisty, ...) but I'd rather deal with that anyday than lack of education or starvation.

    • Re:Hard Life (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      hideously overweight people driving SUVs, tossing out food, with a ridiculous sense of entitlement

      It's called Capitalism and a free market, and it's sharma's best chance of getting out of poverty. The person driving the SUV made money for some car company that has probably outsourced some of it's IT work to India.

      I wonder if more of us in America will ever wake up and realize how good we have it?

      If the American consumer stops consuming, there will be a more poorer people in the third world, not l

      • Re:Hard Life (Score:2, Insightful)

        by kmmatthews (779425) *
        It's called Capitalism and a free market,
        All I have to say: Nature abhors a glut.
        • Define "glut" (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          To use food for an example:

          Given the imperfections in any distribution system, the only way to make sure the poorest can get enough food to avoid starvation is to make it obscenely cheap.

          Ever notice how the help for the poor is the US has changed "ending starvation" to "stopping malnutrition" to "feeding the hungry".

          Yes, in the last few decades the US has eliminated starvation and undernutrition within its borders.

          Pssst - don't tell the UN....

          • Heh, it's actually not the price of food that is a problem in a lot of the starving areas of the world, it's that there is no way they can get access to food. You can't just "give"(thus making it free) food to people in the poorest parts of Africa. It usually winds up getting diverted from it's intended recipients to warlords who use it to feed their army, or sell it elsewhere etc. The problem of stopping government corruption is probably just as important, if not moreso, than increasing the supply. And
            • And if either of us had a 1 sentence solution to that, we would be in Oslo discussing it, not on /.

              Ripley had one. "Nuke the site from orbit."
            • And if either of us had a 1 sentence solution to that, we would be in Oslo discussing it, not on /.

              You seem to be under the delusion that governments and NGOs care what we think. If you aren't connected or sufficiently wealthy to buy your way into the "connected", they are simply not interested in anything you have to say, though the NGOs wiil be happy to accept your tax-deductible contributions.

              For instance, here's a one sentence solution to the energy crisis and global warming:
              Replace fossil fuel with

        • If America stopped outsourcing from India, India may actually have a chance to develop a sort of technological autarky... at the moment india is just a place with cheap overheads and labour which places such as america (and UK) are exploiting. If left alone to develop, it may actually be able to supply India with technology, rather than the rest of the world.

          It is hard to believe, but a call center near my house in delhi (India) has over 10000 workers in it corresponding to calls from the UK only. The also
          • Re:Hard Life (Score:5, Insightful)

            by melkorainur (768297) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:40PM (#10018360)
            > The also get paid less than the UK minimum wage. Very unfair. May I ask why that is unfair? After all, if the pay rate for the Delhi call center workers was set to be the UK minimum wage, then I can't understand why the call center woudn't just be located within the UK? As for your remark about "exploiting". Well, at the end of the day, India has to do what's best for itself. It's not like the US flew in B21 bombers and forced India to be it's call center and software production house. Nor are the lower prices/costs forced onto the Indian businesses. "Left alone to develop"? Wasn't that India's policy in the 1960s? I don't think that led to any major successes? Let's see: 1. Defeated by China. 2. Decrease in effective per capita income by over 300%. The list keeps going. The simple answer is that India will progress as much as it's citizens want too. A rickshaw with a wifi enabled computer on it can inspire it's rural populace to want more out of life. That's a good thing! The fact is that even a callcenter, at a tenth the wage of western countries, can provide these folk with an opportunity for betterment. So why fight that or complain about it. If you'd like to improve it, start a business and provide quality jobs to these folk.
          • Re:Hard Life (Score:4, Insightful)

            by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @07:12PM (#10018585) Journal
            They also get paid less than the UK minimum wage.
            How do their wages compare with wages locally? I'm sure you'll agree that that's a much more interesting and relevant statistic. Studies show that foreign investment in the developing world drives local wages up, not down.
      • Re:Hard Life (Score:3, Interesting)

        American consumers need jobs, or they will stop consuming. Which, as the AC says, will result in a whole lot more poor people in the third world.

        Offshoring puts IT people in the US out of work, permanently (unless they have other skills or the resources to retrain for something that hasn't been offshored yet). Even if they do work again, it is at a lower salary. All that consuming power that IT people had here will be gone. And thus, third world people will be poorer. Not much of a benefit to them, is it?
    • Re:Hard Life (Score:4, Interesting)

      by shokk (187512) <ernieoporto@yaho ... minus physicist> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @08:16PM (#10018901) Homepage Journal
      It took a business trip to India in early 2001 to help me appreciate how good I have it. Then again, India is still striving for space programs, nukes, and armed parity with the Paks, so everyone's blowing a lot of money that could be used to lift up others. But then, that's the same old story, so nothing's new. Some won a genetic lottery, some lived just to die for a headline. 5 billion years from now when the sun blows it all to dust no one will be around to judge it all.
      • Yeah, it's that way....I mean, look at what we spend for nukes, armed parity/domination of the world, etc. Talk about money that could be used to lift up others... after the last 4 years, I could use some "lifting up." Think how good we would have it if we didn't waste that money the way we do..... Wanna do something for the people of this country, while spending the 1B per month?

        I'm really moved by the idea of Rikshaws with mobile information on them. I'm sure that someone here could come up with a ba
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:03PM (#10018063)
    If they need to change a tire, and use the hub to get tech support, will they hear an english speaker? ;)
    • English is a very common language in India. The Times of India, for instance, is an English-language newspaper.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The Indian guys I work with are always talking about "veediables"[1] and whatnot. In print, though, there's no accent, so no problem.

        This is precisely why India is such a bonanza for outsourcing: An incredible number of Indians are well-educated and speak English. Probably more English speakers in India than any of the countries where it's the official first language.

        More power to 'em, I say.


        [1] Variables.

        • But there is an accent, at least in the way words are used. Indians use the word reputed where we would use the word reputable. For American readers of /., it is not unusual to see adverts in Indian newspapers with text like Reputed Engineer Seeks Wife. For Indian readers of /., Americans use the word reputed to mean alledged as in John Gotti is a reputed mobster. One day while reading the Deccan Herald [deccanherald.com] I saw them refer to the New York Times as a reputed newspaper in the United States. Which is either
          • Accents are spoken - you are talking about a dialect or variant of written English. I'm sure most Slashdot readers are smart enough to adapt to minor variations like that, just as the Brits somehow manage to adapt to the way Americans 'use' English...
  • by gerf (532474)
    What are they going to do, play freecell at work? Please, don't let them take up an American work ethic! (/me is American, please laugh)
    • Oh I play Quake3 arena (I have a PC at work that can do better than freecell) ... my accuracy has improved a LOT since I started playing on the office LAN :)

      I'm in office (software firm) from 10 AM to 10 PM , but somewhere in the middle afternoon there comes a time when work is too too hard , and I kick back with a little Quake3 ... Programming is fun , but not for more than 6 hours a day :)

      Work ethic in India is a LOT different ... and yes, I have no life.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:05PM (#10018086)
    I could use a few ex-dotcommers to pull my rickshaw around. They'd be getting a pittence, I'd get transportation and it's clean for the environment. Win Win situation ... who wants to sign up?!
  • by be-fan (61476) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:05PM (#10018088)
    This is awful! Now, these newly uplifted Indian masses will take even more of our programming jobs!

    Grumble, grumble...populism...communism...grumble grumble!
    • Well, the article does say...

      "By using computers, I can improve my knowledge," Sharma, whose parents plan to pull her out of school at 15, said in Hindi, before joining a class on Web cameras. "And that will help me get a job when I grow up. (Emphasis mine)

      Now, she didn't specify whose job she wanted, but...

      • Oh... I guess the title of the class must have been "Remedial Camwhoring 101"
  • effectiveness? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by numist (758954) <spam&numist,net> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:07PM (#10018097) Homepage
    The thing I have to wonder about is:

    How is this really effective?
    With a single rickshaw, even with decent class organization, how are these skills going to help people get better jobs or do their work better? Especially when they are barely completing junior high school years?

    While it is a nice way to spread tech around, I dont see how it makes life better for people than the same amount of money in other educational things (books, teachers, that much money goes a long way).
    • Re:effectiveness? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sevinkey (448480) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:13PM (#10018138)
      you can put a lot of books on one computer... and at walmart.com I can buy a computer for less than the price of one of my calculus books in college... minus the monitor of course.
    • To me this seems like a very trivial and probably ultimately useless pursuit. How about giving the people some running water? Or electricity? Maybe some effective anti-malaria drugs so that they don't die?

      WiFi technology is great... only because we already have our running water and electricity. 3rd World countries lack even the basic infrastructure for a decent standard of living. Until we get that fixed, any cool gizmo is going to be completely lost upon the people.

    • Re:effectiveness? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:31PM (#10018283)
      How is this really effective?

      In the same way as every open door - put yourself in their position and think about it...
    • Re:effectiveness? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by melkorainur (768297)
      I believe it has value in the sense that it inspires the rural populace. It lets them, especially the youth, see that there is more to life than a daily repetition of manual labor and suffering. It lets them see that there is a sunny world out there, with beautiful mountains and vistas, in their own country, even. You might say that providing a better infrastructure should be a higher priority. I agree. But I can see this type of project, done by indian college students (IIT), helps accelerate the process b
    • The very point about this is if it would deliver any benifit to the people. Using email, etc is fancy stuff for the villagers, but its neither powerful(yet) nor communicating because no relative of theirs have an online identity. Ooo, now all they require is Chatting, and they're destroyed, as has happened in semi-urban regions in India.

      Just because you're getting seed prices and fertilizer news over a box, which makes rounds in 10 villages is not effective. You'd rather want the print media, which you can

      • ...why couldn't have they used laptops?
        I'm just guessing here but, maybe laptops are more expensive? When you don't have a load of money to throw around you tend to go for the cheaper option, it's an occupational hazard that comes with not being a rich westerner who takes money for granted.
    • Do YOU benefit from greater access to information? Sure you do. I know *I* do.

      Why shouldn't this guy?
    • But a brush with computers has made Sharma look beyond cooking and washing.
      "I want to work and make a name for myself. I want to see the world," she said, adding that she hopes to get a job in the city and then travel more widely.
      Sharma said she has not disclosed her plans to her parents lest they stop her from attending computer classes, "But I know what I will do."

      Perhaps I am reading more into these 3 paragraphs than I should be, but I think giving somebody like Sharma a hint that she can be somethi

  • Not only is cheap computing vital for the poor of the 3rd world, but for us here in America.
    If you want to build community here in America, where mass media has supplanted our face to face community, cheap wireless broadband might be vital. Otherwise, you get a hollow corporate teevee community, which pushed hollow corporate consumer values into children's heads. When Americans get online, they can rebuild that community. Cheap computers and broadband are needed in order to distribute video entertainment, which need not be produced by large corporations.
    • Which internet are you using? People flock to the populists sites and gab about the shows they watch and products they consume. Either that or they surf for pr0n or warez. Not particularly uplifting in and of itself.
      • When broadband becomes really cheap, and as computers get cheaper, 80% of Americans and many more others will be able to watch a lot of video online. That is when you really get a chance to build minds. Besides, alot of people don't like to read too much.

        Video entertainment is a great way to instill memes in young minds. What has happened in the free software movement will be repeated in the Free Video Movement. Thouands of people all over the world will be able to collaborate on homebrew movies, sitc
  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:13PM (#10018143)
    From the article:
    Clad in orange pants and a pink tunic, Snehalatha [a college student] signs up for Yahoo mail, as an impatient queue lengthens behind her.
    The article fails to mention how many of rickshaws the government has deployed. There probably aren't that many of them, and they are hauled from village to village within India's wireless zone. So, from the perspective of a villager, a single computer that isn't even there most of the time has to be shared by everyone.

    Probably every single one of you reading this post has spent more time in front of your computer today than these people will, at a rickshaw, in a month. And the Indian government wants to "... use technology to improve education, health care and access to agricultural information in India's villages ..."? If they were serious about that they'd create a tiny computer center in each village and instead of sending rickshaws around, send teachers instead.

    • I think they are just trying out different things to spread the knowledge/technology awareness. Some will succeed & others would fail. But one has to try something radical to see what clicks with the people, especially when you have to handle 1 bn. I really appreciate the Institute of Technology, that has taken up this effort (am sure they are part funded by the Govt)
    • If they were serious about that they'd create a tiny computer center in each village and instead of sending rickshaws around, send teachers instead.

      There are a few barriers, from what I understand. One is communications lines, which don't exist in many of the rural areas. The other is that many rural Indians speak only a local dialect which isn't found on the Internet. It is possible that the tech support that goes along with the rickshaw also provides some translation facilities to help people make use

  • cost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by t_allardyce (48447) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:13PM (#10018149) Journal
    What always amazes me is how governments in other countries manage to get IT projects finished with tiny budgets. Here in the UK or in the US the rickshaws would have cost 100s of thousands each and a small fortune to run. Look at eVoting for example - i've heard prices of $10000 per machine! WTF costs $10000 to stick an unsecure crappy computer in a box and put some strung together voting software on it? India they do it with some custom build hardware and it costs nothing!
    • Re:cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kidgenius (704962) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:35PM (#10018323)
      WTF costs $10000 to stick an unsecure crappy computer in a box and put some strung together voting software on it?

      It costs that much because you have to have enough money to pay for the lawyers you employ to go after people that speak out against your product.

    • That's 'cause they outsource it to... Oh crap. I dunno then.
    • It's mainly government projects that are so incredibly inflated in cost. Look at how much it costs to build a public school and compare the cost to a similarly sized and equipped office building. Not even close. In most areas, the law requires that all labor be either unionized or paid the prevailing union rates. Combine this with the inflated bids and sweetheart deals for politically connected contractors and it's difficult to build even a small school for less than $100 million in some places.

      Since this
    • Re:cost (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)
      >Here in the UK or in the US the rickshaws would have cost 100s of thousands each and a small fortune to run.

      Probably, but because richer economies have to produce more robust products to even be considered for funding. If these rickshaws hit the US market, people like you would be complaining how terrible they are, how the range sucks, how painfully heavy they are, how big of flop they will be, etc.

      Also, look at these things, those are full sized PCs in there, not laptops. In an economy where people
      • "Probably, but because richer economies have to produce more robust products to even be considered for funding. "

        Bullshit. People in rich economies as people in poor economies have to produce products that make money. Look at Microsoft and Linux as an example.
        Microsoft is getting a lot of funding to create new products while Linux houses aren't getting as much. Can you tell why since Linux is much more robust?
  • When I first read the title, I thought this was going to be a variation on the carrier pigeon protocol...

    On a more serious note, where does the thing get power? And if there's already a power outlet wherever it travels, why not just put in a low cost PC permanently and save all the pedalling?
    • Personally I'd set it up so that it charged a battery while you were running it around. Of course it would be a lot better to use a laptop to reduce the power consumption. Come to think of it, this is a bitchin' idea anyplace rickshaws or other non-combustion/non-powered (except animal-powered) vehicles are used for transportation - stick a laptop in the thing and power it with a small generator and a battery.
  • by maggeth (793549) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:14PM (#10018154)
    I can finally say that people living in the gutter in India have a better internet connection than I do.

    (By reading this post you agree to not take the previous sentence seriously. This agreement takes effect the instant your eyes meet the words in this post. No, you can not reject this agreement! Too late!)

  • by usefool (798755) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:14PM (#10018156) Homepage
    It's good to see the Indian government is taking the initiatives to bring modern technology to within reach of the rural community.

    In the article, it mentions many Indian villages are poorly wired, telephone lines can go dead for weeks at a time, making wireless technology the most reliable Web connection.

    However, what it takes is a willing government to find an alternative, rather than giving promises to improve telephone lines.
  • None benefit from technology until they can sustain their own health and living conditions. India needs better housing and agriculture first. To my current knowledge, there are also children starving at India and we can't send our process foods to help because not even rich/processed food will stay in a starving child's stomach.

    Does India not know that patience will bring technology to them in least expense? Please wait, let the people and corporations at these united States of America pay for the R
    • Development in a 3rd world should somewhat mimic what happened in the 1st quite some time ago. First you build houses that keep people dry, use books to teach people, and grow food that people can eat. Of course, modern technology can help some. Our work with genetically engineered crops is one answer to feeding hundreds of millions of people.

      Hint- growing "organic" food without any benefit of modern science results in sickly, poor producing crops. So they'd be best not to ask Hollywood for gardening
  • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:15PM (#10018164) Homepage Journal

    I'll bet it's even poetic, which is how most normal people would have put it since "poetical" is an extremely uncommon word and the more proper usage is, indeed, "poetic".

    ... oh wait, terribly sorry. Forgot where I was for a second. Stupid me.

    • 'Poetical?' Sounds like a Bushism.
      • Oh, it's a real word, it's just a stupid one. It's become a sort of informal synonym of 'poetic' through common misuse (the same way 'virii' came into existance). It's still not the generally accepted word, 'poetic' is still the "normal" way of saying it.

        But, of course, with Malda leading the downhill charge in communications skills here on Slashdot, I suppose this isn't the least bit surprising...

    • Re:Poetical? (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      That word is almost as annoying as "graphical".
  • Gamers complain when their latency exceeds 50 ms- if this system was what I thought it was (a WiFi server making the rounds by bicycle to villages that have no Internet access, instead of a single computer with a Satelite Connection) what would they say about the latency exceeding one week (or whatever it took for the server to come back and fullfill their requests)?
    • They probably won't say "this is just like when I was a UUCP node!" But I would :) Actually UUCP would be an excellent way to handle this stuff, although it wouldn't be necessary. You could come up with a UUCP protocol which handled one-way transmissions so you could receive the day's batches via some kind of cheap satellite system, and then use a two-way protocol (nothing wrong with g) to send when the rickshaw rolled by.
  • I mean, what will we call it? It' isn't wardriving, and is sounds stupid to say 'warrickshawing'. Nope, nope. It will have to go.

    (Alternate challenge to Slashdotters: What is the correct verb for 'pulling a rickshaw'? I bet that Jepoardy punk would know...)
  • Do you still think computing is unnecssary for the poorest of the poor?

    I asked. They'd like some housing, food, maybe some clothes and some medical help first. But thanks for asking!

    • I asked. They'd like some housing, food, maybe some clothes and some medical help first.

      Somehow, I don't think you asked at all, or read TFA.

      So here we go again. "The people of [insert non-white foreign country here] need food and shelter before they start trying to earn money doing all the things that us smart white folks do.... blah blah blah [insert rest of half-baked /. mantra here]"

      Here is the news. There is no famine underway in India right now. In India there is a middle class and there is also

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I asked. They'd like some housing, food, maybe some clothes and some medical help first. But thanks for asking!

      Liar.

      Most poor in the 3d world are, and have been, scraping by with barely enough housing, food, clothing and medical for generations. They're quite familiar with how to get by that way, thank you very much.

      The ones that aren't stupid, which is remarkably many of them, know that the only way out of this multi-generational rut is by learning a skilled trade.

      It sounds like the bulk of the

  • I think we now know what happened to those Microsoft Port-a-potty iLoos that might have been a hoax. [snopes.com] After the laughter died down, MS probably dumped them in India where someone added wheels.
    • I didn't make much of that article the first time around but having reread it I decided that it WAS a real product and Microsoft killed it after their failed attempts to communicate internally because if it came out it would forever remembered in terms of their failure to keep their hands coordinated.
  • The article did not mention what the platform is, but I wonder if the Windows XP stripped to DOS edition is going to be used here or if a better alternative will be used?
    • Here's what appears to be a product spec. But no mention of OS choice. Looks like it's about USD$250. I hope they picked Linux. http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:tsAmaxcp7KIJ: www.iitk.ac.in/MLAsia/allppt/AllPPTs/Infothela.ppt +infothela&hl=en [google cache]
  • by Embedded Geek (532893) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @06:51PM (#10018456) Homepage
    Do you still think computing is unnecssary for the poorest of the poor?

    As to who thinks there are better places to put resources, none other than Bill and Melinda Gates [gatesfoundation.org] think so. Two of the high profile efforts are and AIDS vaccine [rubella.net] and TB efforts [healthylivingeating.com], although there's plenty more fronts they're throwing financing at.

    I remember an interview with him (can't find it online) where he recalled being at a meeting with dozens of people pitching high tech solutions to Third World problems and him rejecting almost all of them in favor of vaccines. He said it was silly to start laying down fiber optic cable (this was a few years before WiFi) in an area where you couldn't draw clean water from a well.

    Now, don't get me wrong. Any effort that conveys health information or basic education to people who need it is, by definition, a Good Thing (TM). Also, this is an indigenous effort of Indians (presumably the Indian government) helping their own, not someone outside trying to find the best place to spend their money. One would assume (and the photos of healthy people in TFA certainly imply) they've already got their vaccination, clean water, and hunger plans already in place, so they might as well experiment with alternate education efforts.

    Still, I have to wonder about the long term viability of this project. With India's struggling masses, you have to wonder if the money might be better spent elsewhere.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I remember an interview with him (can't find it online) where he recalled being at a meeting with dozens of people pitching high tech solutions to Third World problems and him rejecting almost all of them in favor of vaccines. He said it was silly to start laying down fiber optic cable (this was a few years before WiFi) in an area where you couldn't draw clean water from a well.

      That's all well and good, but we're not talking about drawing fiber between villages.

      We're talking about simply dragging some

      • Look, this isn't exactly a high-cost project. If you want to complain about something, complain about Indias Nuclear Arms program instead and leave the PC-in-a-rickshaw guys alone!

        Good point, although I want to make sure you understand I do not object to the Infothela effort. It's well worth throwing some money around and try new things, especially in areas that have all the basics (water, vaccines, etc) already handled. As I said, I'm a little dubious about the long term prospects for this, but it's gre

    • you have to wonder if the money might be better spent elsewhere

      There was a guy lying on the street this morning by the freeway entrance. He'd slept on the sidewalk all night under a mound of brown-stained rags. People like that are all over San Francisco. Meanwhile, there's a big row over who's going to pay for the reconstruction of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, and someone was getting a wirless network installed in his apartment somewhere else in the city. What will we do? Abandon all of human

    • I have to wonder about the long term viability of this project. With India's struggling masses, you have to wonder if the money might be better spent elsewhere.

      With equal access to education, maybe they could learn to do a lot more stuff for themselves. Perhaps they could learn enough to be able to contribute something valuable to society, and then have the ability to buy vaccines on their own.

      This same defense against providing equal access to educational resources always comes up in these discussion

      • First, I can't believe I'm defending Bill Gates (maybe I should go get a CAT scan or something), but...

        You really should go and take a peek at the Gates foundation website. They really are going off and trying to put some of that money to good use and with very little fanfare, too. I agree that you can't simply prop up impovrished populations with aid and ignore higher issues, but the simple fact is that in an environment with massive infant mortality, starvation, or AIDs inspired civil wars, no one is g

  • People in poverty will never get out of poverty unless they try something different. Its a way of life. People in india who are old need help with their chores, what's the best way of getting it done, keep your kid home and make her do it instead of hiring someone else and paying them. Because of this type of child labor abuse, the cycle continues, the only way to make the kid be rich is for her to get married, usually its to someone who is also poor, uneducated and also the same class.
  • From TFA:

    The mobility of a cycle rickshaw, which is light enough to cross muddy, potholed roads, ensures that the same computer and Internet connection can be used by people in several neighboring villages. ... "The mobile platform is necessary to reduce cost of ownership because the resources are shared by a larger population. It is also necessary to push information to women and elderly people who can't travel outside their village," said Manoj Kumar, a project manager.

    Only when it's benefiting Indians

  • by carn1fex (613593) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @07:49PM (#10018781)
    This is so perfectly out of a william gibson novel i want to hurl :)
  • So now the out-sourcers are telecommuting?
  • I work for the Australian arm of a large Indian software company. As part of the community projects run by the company, we fund the improvement of sanitation infrastructure in some of the poorest parts of India. As these places do not receive much information about software development, these projects are the only way my company is known in these areas.

    When people from my company travel to rural India and mention who they work for, people immediately assume they build toilets!
  • Still have doubts!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thewalled (626165)
    read this http://in.rediff.com/money/2004/aug/19spec.htm
  • Token Effort (Score:3, Insightful)

    by travellerjohn (772758) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @11:22PM (#10019713) Journal
    I was working in the NGO tech sector in Cambodia for a while and came across a similar project, which also made it to CNN. See Digital Home Mag [digitalhomemag.com]
    Rumor has it that this project only ever sent and received a handful of emails before everyone lost interest.

    It turned out that internet is pretty irrelevant to the locals. The only people who got anything out of it were the aid workers who got covered on CNN.

    An email connection that is only available once a week at best when the rickshaw comes round is not much value to anyone, especially if you dont know anyone else who has an email address. Teaching spreadsheets and MS Word is not much value in a community which has no computers the rest of the week. If you are reliant on subsistence agriculture like I suspect most of these villages are, you are likely more worried about digging your fields by hand than calculating crop yields. Telemedicine is all very well but irrelevant if you cant afford the drugs or surgery required. There is very little internet content relevant to a rural farmer. Any grand talk of eGovernment are pointless if your local government is not on line.

    The best you can hope for is a couple of kids get a glimpse of the outside world and get the ambition and drive to get out and make something of themselves.

    The people who set up these projects on the other hand get to pat each other on the back, fly off to nice conferences in expensive hotels where they tell each other about how valuable their work is, and of course appear on CNN.

    In my experience as soon as there is a community has a purpose for an internet connection, the free market kicks in and internet cafes spring up like mushrooms. As any traveler will tell you most moderately prosperous 3rd world towns are full of internet cafes full of local kids IMing each other.

    A better use of government time would be laying copper (or even fiber) to these villages so they could start with a phone connection, and then use government policy to keep internet connection costs down.

    A better use of our resources would be to stop subsidizing our farmers so that the 3rd world poor can compete fairly and work themselves out of poverty.
  • by manavendra (688020) on Friday August 20, 2004 @04:23AM (#10020760) Homepage Journal
    First of all, lets not turn this into yet another outsourcing related to flame war

    Secondly, being an Indian, I can tell you this (and similar technology related efforts) make a big difference. In a lot of different ways. While these projects may or may not fulfill their key goal (whatever this may be), what it does provide is a sense of confidence to the people. A feeling of being cared for by the government. A sense of being looked after. And then, all such gadgets/advancements still generate a sense of wonder in the people. There is a sense of novelty associated to such devices/initiatives.

    The point I'm trying to convey is, in the more developed world, such devices or initiatives happen far too often (and maybe even at a faster pace). For a big, poor country, that broke out of the shackles not too long ago (we have been independent only 60 years now), such initiatives bring about lot of self belief and confidence.

  • http://psand.net/itrike/ [psand.net]

    Strictly speaking a hand-pulled version of this machine is a Rickshaw (or Jinrikisha - Japanese for Man propelled vehicle) and one pulled by a bike - i.e. a trike is a Velotaxi.

The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.

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