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Bihar, Orissa villages log on to WWW


Nilanjana Bose,CNN-IBN
Jun 01, 2008 at 12:30am IST

Saurath (Bihar): A five-hour drive from Patna is one of the India's first BPOs being run out of a village, by the village, and for a large part, for the village.

The people who live in Saurath village in Bihar had never heard of a computer, let alone use one just a few years ago.

But now, they are busily tapping away on their keyboards and an entire area, cut off from urban centres, is connected.

Just a year ago, Saurath was like any other village that had come to terms with it's geography - that they could never easily get what they wanted - be it a top-up card for their mobile phones or a life insurance policy.

It was a two to three hour drive to the nearest district town.

That's when a tech company stepped in and offered them the chance to help themselves.

And Saurath agreed. At the cost of Rs 7,000 per head for six months to learn how to use computers that they had earlier seen only in Hindi films.

"Earlier I would feel scared. Now I feel proud that being a village boy, I can work on the computer," Bauajee Paswan, a BPO worker, says.

Today the people of Saurath, who put in their hard earned money, are part of a revolution. The confidence levels are so palpable that one can almost see the kind of respect they have earned for themselves.

Thirty-eight year old Asha Jha was just a housewife who spent the entire day in the kitchen with her pallu (part of saree) draped over her head looking after her family.

But when she found out about the training course that empowered people like her, she didn't have to work too hard convincing her in-laws to lend her the money for her classes.

Now Asha earns about Rs 17 an hour, which come to a little more than Rs 4,000 a month. That has brought smiles on the faces of her in-laws.

And like any other woman balancing the work place with a family life - Asha seems to be pulling it off brilliantly.

"Even I wanted to do some thing. Now I manage my house and office," says Asha.

The process is simple. If a man, for example, wants to buy a mobile phone in the next village, he goes to a kiosk in his village, chooses the phone he wants and places an order.

The kiosk owner then calls up the BPO and tells the person on the other side about the order. They, in turn inform the tech company that runs the BPO who then send over the product, which is then delivered to the man who placed the order.

"Earlier we had to travel really far away to order for the things we needed. Now it has become so much simpler for us," Ram Sewak Pandit, a customer, says.

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For a group of villages in Bihar's Madhubani district IT has shown them a different life. It’s a life that they were terrified of embracing earlier.

But this isn't about do-gooder NGOs giving villagers money and equipment - or about social organisations thrusting empowerment into the hands of people not ready for it.

It's about people in backward India who want to be a part of the e-revolution that's painting India with the big WWW.

E-revolution in Orissa

The e-revolution is ringing itself into Orissa as well.

Jyotiranjan Nayak is a modern day dakia (postman). As he cycles into his village, he is greeted expectantly as their good old postman for he has brought letters for them.

Except that the letters are in the form of e-mails on his laptop that he picked up from a village Internet kiosk close by.

It's a unique service that is available to the people of Sanapadar village in Orissa's Khurda district for just Rs 50. Each e-mail they receive cost just Rs three.

"We are getting very good response from the villagers. People are very interested to know more about the Internet, its benefits and our services," says Jyotiranjan.

So how does a remote village without a telephone connection, antennas or computers - connect to the World Wide Web?

Well, where there's wi-fi, there's a way!

Postmen like Jyotiranjan type in e-mails villagers want to send. Then, he simply goes to a local cyber cafe that has wireless enabled PCs.

Buses fitted with Mobile Access Point (MAP) - basically a wireless device picks up the e-mails from the PCs in the cyber cafe and drops them off to the city hub when it reaches an urban centre.

And the e-mails are sent off via the Internet. The same system works for incoming e-mails. This way e-mail has replaced letters and postcards..

For young men like Sourabh Nayak, it couldn't have gotten any better than this.

An unemployed graduate, he would travel 60 kilometres to Bhubaneshwar to look for a job. Today, he searches for jobs on the Internet - sitting in his village.

"Now I send my CV through the DakNet and within one day I get the response. Earlier it used to be a long tedious and expensive task for me to apply for a job through through the Internet," Sourabh Nayak says.

With the DakNet Service now available to as many as a 100 villages in Orissa, wi-fi is changing lives and times in this remote corner of India.

Ironically, in a village where there is no electricity to power computers, it's computers that have made Sanapadar take a giant leap in e-technology.

From Bengal to Rajasthan; from Orissa to Bihar: this is India tomorrow. Where villages want to be included in the change. Where voices want to be heard. Where small is beautiful.

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