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<nettime> BytesForAll * 04012003
Frederick Noronha on Sat, 4 Jan 2003 14:17:02 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> BytesForAll * 04012003


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Field potential
---------------

Sometimes, one comes across those interesting nuggets of information almost
by chance. Someone one knows only as "Besva" <besva {AT} yahoo.com> drew one's
attention to http://dacnet.nic.in/

This is a plan of the  Ministry of Agriculture's  Department of Agriculture
and Cooperation (DAC), Ministry of Agriculture, to take E-Governance to the
directorates, attached offices and subordinate offices and field units. 

Users of the DACNET portal include a whole lot of agri-institutions. For
instance, there's AGMARKNET-Agricultural Marketing Information Network; FMC
- Forward Marketing Commission; FCI - Food Corporation of India; CWC -
Central Warehousing Corporation; NHB - National Horticulture Board; NCDC
- National Cooperative Development Corporation; DGCIS - Directorate
General of Commercial Intellignece & Statistics; APEDA - Agricultural
& Processed Food Products Export Development Authority; MPEDA - Marine
Products Export Development Authority; TRIFED - Tribal Marketing Federation;
NAFED - National Agricultural Marketing Federation; EPCs - Export Promotion
Councils; and others.

Of course, there can be questions. Government IT projects often emphasise
more on spending and less on optimally using the investment. Is this the
case here? Time will tell. But bringing together such synergies come
together, there certainly could be a potential waiting to be tapped.
Specially in the often IT-ignored field of agriculture. 

For health
----------

This comes from Jiva <jiva {AT} jiva.org>, located outside Delhi.  It notes,  in
its education newsletter 'Pragati', that in rural India, there are millions
of people in need of medical help who don't have access to it. Even now,
many suffer or die from diseases that could have been prevented if medical
help had been available.

Jiva (www.jiva.org) is looking to change this scenario. They have developed
a program called Handy Vaid (www.jiva.org/handyvaid) that offers remote
medical support through hand-held computers.
 
In the coming year, they say they're looking "not only to provide healthcare
to 45,000 people, but to provide a sustainable, scalable model that can
achieve numbers many times that". Feel you can help? Check the site above or
contact educational director of the Faridabad-based institute, the young
American volunteer Steve Rudolph <info {AT} jiva.org>

Incidentally, Pragati (meaning "progress" in Sanskrit) is the periodic
education and outreach newsletter from Jiva Institute. It contains updates
on Jiva's activities in the areas of education and sustainable development.

To subscribe to Pragati, send an e-mail to: pragati-subscribe {AT} topica.com

Two projects
------------

Rahul Barkataky <rahulb {AT} mitra.org.in> of MITRA in New Delhi's Lajpat Nagar
recently announced "two interesting happenings" at the centre.

First came India Calls, an online volunteering channel owned and managed by
MITRA, which recently found mention in the UN Secretary General's report
'International Year of Volunteers: outcomes and future perspectives'. See
http://www.unv.org/infobase/articles/2002/02_10_04USA_SG_Report_final.pdf

Besides this, one of Mitra's project 'Handicrafts e-Trade Centre' became
one of 10 selected to participate in this years, Digital Partners' Social
Enterprise Laboratory (SEL) from a group of nearly 140 applicants across the
world. See http://www.digitalpartners.org/sel_progress.html

MITRA can be contacted via F/48 (Ground Floor) Lajpat Nagar I New Delhi 110
024, India Tel: +91 11 6911720 Their website is www.mitra.org.in

Virtual Lab Toolkit 
-------------------

Unesco's first edition of its "Virtual Laboratory Toolkit" has just been
released on the World Wide Web and within UNESCO's Public {AT}  series of
representative "open access" CD-ROMs that are giving access to information
in the public domain or to information provided on a benevolent basis by
rights holders.

The Toolkit provides an extensive set of free person-to-person (P2P)
communication tools (audio and video conference, scientific text chat,
whiteboard, collaborative authorship, portal and mailing list management,
etc.), and also basic advice on person-to-equipment (P2E) tools.

It was developed for UNESCO by a team of specialists working with the
Institute for Informatics of the Technical University of Freiberg (Technical
Coordinator, Germany), the COPINE Centre of the Obafemi Awolowo University
(Ile Ife, Nigeria) and the Shanghai Research Centre for Applied Physics
(China).

The Toolkit is available for testing and application by scientists and other
researchers, particularly in Third World countries, who are interested in
creating or participating in virtual laboratories. 

To begin, it's being tested by an informatics support group within the
UNESCO "cross-cutting" project Virtual Laboratories for Drying Lakes (Lake
Chad, the Dead Sea, the Aral Sea). If all goes well, based on the
experiences and suggestions of users, a second version could come out by
2003.

See http://virtuallab.tu-freiberg.de/

Info-access
-----------

Twenty one participants including researchers and project managers from
eight sites of a UNESCO project on "Using ICTs for poverty reduction" met in
November in Chennai. Their goal: to determine the research approach and to
review the beta version of special software interface "eNRICH". This
software was developed to facilitate information-access based on the "life
events of poor".

This project has sites in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Sri Lank. It is
trying is to determine to what extent ICTs can be utilised by the poor
people to empower themselves. The different sites have developed their own
technological and organizational approaches to put ICTs into the hands of
poor.

The last two day of the workshop was devoted to review the beta version of
"eNRICH", a software interface jointly developed by UNESCO and the National
Informatics Center of India. This software solution will be used in all the
project sites and also will be made available for other similar projects.

"eNRICH" enables easy generation of websites which encapsulate both
information and communication needs in a single homepage. 

Users will be able  to browse and use authenticated websites relevant to
their daily life events; users can vote on various community issues, use
bulletin boards, e-mail, chat and voice messages to express exchange and
communicate concerns and information. It also has a Learning Zone for users
to follow skill based modules on various occupations. 

"eNRICH" has the option to capture all user patterns for designated research
purposes. The multilingual version of "eNRICH" is being developed and will
be introduced at the beginning of 2003.

'Akshaya' project
-----------------

Reports in the mainstream press say India's 'Akshaya' project plans to set
up some 9,000 community information centres across Kerala as part of a
campaign to bridge the digital divide. 

These centres are to be established through private initiative, with the
objective of having one centre within two km of each household. The project
would commence in Malappuram and Thiruvananthapuram in January 2003 and the
entire State is proposed to be covered by May 2004.

Stinging critique
-----------------

If you disagree with the policy direction a cash-strapped government is
taking on computerising schools, what does one do? Simple, draft an 'open
letter' and splatter it all over cyberspace.

That's exactly what the members of Kochi's Free Software User Group did,
regarding the choice of software and syllabus prescribed for the IT {AT} School
project:

"[W]e submit that implementation of the scheme as it is would harm the long
term interests of our State, the general public and the country. There would
be very serious violation of our citizens' basic legal and constitutional
rights. ... We wish, by this letter, to bring to your kind attention, the
following issues and request you to remedy them without further delay," they
wrote.

Their memo did the rounds across the globe, probably many times over. It
attracted wide attention. See the details at
http://www.symonds.net/~fsug-kochi/mass-memo.html ]

Farmer's data
-------------

There was this interesting story. One man has been trying almost single-
handedly for the last five years to collect information on various aspects
of farming from diverse sources and explore a path for the state to emerge
unscathed out of the WTO maze.

For 42-year- old A.V. Narayanaswami, a coffee planter in Wayanad, it has
been a labour of love -- to his vocation as a farmer and as a Keralite
concerned about the woes of the state's farm sector. His huge data
collection currently runs into over 150,000 Web pages in more than 300
modules. The database covers the state's farm potential, the new norms of
production, packaging, marketing and certification taking effect at the
global level, the major players in the area of multilateral negotiations,
the kind of expert services that are and that could be available to farmers
and the manner in which the state's farming activities could be reoriented
towards higher production.

Collecting and digitising such huge volumes of data has been very strenuous.
But the work is divided within the family. Narayana Swamy, his wife Prabha
and 15-year-old son, Vishnu, and 13-year-old daughter, Veda, learnt Web
technologies and persistently improved their skills. 

They together collected over 1,000 varieties of plants, identified and
indexed them and then measured the light, temperature and the relative
humidity four times a day. The voluminous data thus generated were
digitised. A lot of information has been collected on calendar of
operations, the maximum residue limits of chemical, phyto-sanitary
standards, legal aspects of farming and commodity market derivatives,
according to reports reaching here. (ENDS)

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