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Telecentre on Wheels: A new way to access information in rural India

18-12-2007 (New Delhi)
Telecentre on Wheels: A new way to access information in rural India
Telecentre on Wheels in use.
© UNESCO
"Telecentre on Wheels" is the name of a six-month experimental project for remote villages in West Bengal, India. It was recently launched by the Change Initiatives, a rural Indian NGO, with support from UNESCO and the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA).
Change Initiatives has been working with rural communities in the field of ICT for development in the Indian state of West Bengal for the past 5 years. It started its journey with the Nabanna Information Network which was initially supported by UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). It had for objective to develop knowledge network amongst rural women to share information that can bring change in the quality of their life. The research undertaken by Change Initiatives demonstrated that better access to ICT tools could speed up development. But lack of electricity and connectivity in the remote areas of India makes it impossible for people to access ICT.

As a first step, Change Initiatives started using laptops in two villages, Ghoragacha and Madandanga, on a regular basis, to disseminate information. After that a mobile information kiosk that would travel from one village to another was developed. But the problem of electricity and connectivity remained unsolved.

In mid-2007, Change Initiatives established the contact with WBREDA, which had developed a solar-rickshaw van for selling diesel in villages. This solar van opened up an avenue for mobile telecentres - it was possible to take ICT tools to villages, without any concern for continuous availability of power. This is how the concept of Telecentre on Wheels (TOW) was born. TOW is a customised tricycle (rickshaw) equipped with a solar panel and necessary hardware, such as laptop computer, printer, power panels, etc. After customisation and testing, TOW was formally launched in November 2007.

TOW now covers four villages, Ghoragacha, Madandanga, Kantabelia and Teligacha, and travels from one village to another on a regular basis. A resource person and selected community members from each village have already received training on the use of TOW. Trained volunteers now help villagers to access public information on health and hygiene, literacy, adult education, agriculture, human rights and civil laws in the local language, Bengali.

TOW aims to develop a financially sustainable model by providing various ICT-enabled services and by helping local women to sell their products. The initiative also builds up a digital archive of local content on the issues concerning women, youth and rural livelihoods that allows villagers to access relevant information at their door step. Using Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) techniques, this project determines local needs and examines the transformation in village life through ICT.
Telecentre on Wheels: A new way to access information in rural India Telecentre on Wheels.
© UNESCO

Telecentre on Wheels: A new way to access information in rural India Opening of Telecentre on Wheels at Ghoragacha village.
© UNESCO
Related themes/countries

      · India
      · Community Media: News Archives 2007
      · Access to Information: News Archives 2007
      · News Archives: 2007
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