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<nettime> BytesForAll * Feb 2003
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<nettime> BytesForAll * Feb 2003

_/  B y t e s   F o r   A l l ---  http://www.bytesforall.org
_/  Making  Computing  Relevant to the  People of  South Asia
_/  FEB 2003 * FEB 2003 *  FEB 2003 *  FEB 2003 *  FEB 2003 *   

Helping the blind

Visually impaired students can now learn any language with the help of a new
computer-based technology developed in India. The teacher uses a "talking
keyboard" which talks aloud what is being typed and the print of the text
also appears in Braille on a mini printer given to each student. 


Want to keep abrest with what's happening on the critical water front in
India? Check out a new group (mailing list) called 'waterindia'. Group home
page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waterindia To join send a blank email to
waterindia-subscribe {AT} yahoogroups.com

See also http://www.wotr.org, for WOTR

The Watershed Organisation Trust (or, WOTR as it is aptly called) is a
development support team of professionals, having core competency, and
"committed to motivating and facilitating, rural communities and NGOs,
towards sustainable, integrated watershed development with the help of
local and external resources". It's based in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra.

Software Swatantrata

What's this? It's a  Compact Disc that contains 'swatantra software' for the
various versions of Microsoft® Windows Operating System. 

We're told by its compiler, advocate Mahesh T Pai of Ernakulam North:
"Swatantra, in several Indian languages means the same thing -- freedom --
freedom from dependence; from slavery. It stands for being able to do what
you want to do with / on your computer. Swatantrata - the state of being
free - means being able to chose the software you want to use.

"Your are not enjoying Swatantrata if you have to buy a particular software
because it is used at your workplace or school, or by your business
associates. Swatantrata is about not having to upgrade (and pay for) your
software every time your employer or friends up grade theirs. Swatantrata is
about not having to depend on a monopolist for fixing every little bug in
the software which you paid for. Swatantrata is not only your freedom; it
means the community's freedom and liberties.  It is about being able to help
your friends and neighbours."

Among the packages this CD contains include

Further details from: paivakil {AT} yahoo.co.in Maybe, this CD might be available
for sale at some of the outlets in India that sell low-cost copies of Free
Software (www.linuxplaza.org in Mumbai or www.LinCDs.com in Banglore and
lincdz.2ya.com from Pondicherry. 

Cygwin (simulates the GNU/Linux environment in Windows), database tools
(MySQL, GUI, MySql ODBC for Win9* and WinNT), developer tools (Gtk, or the
Gimp Tool Kit to develop GUI widgets for programs), RPMBrowser, Developer
CPP, Minimalist GNU for Winows,  Prima, Python the programming language),
several tutorials, guides and HOWTOs, and information on "why you should use
Swatantra software". 

There are also editors, ranging from the simple text editors (Yudit, a
unicode tool for many languages including Indian; JEDIT using Java; the
much-famed Stallman's GNU EMACS, ASPELL spell checker, GhostView to view PDF
files, Malayalam TeX, Perl, etc).

Graphics tools, Internet software, langauge support, multimedia and office
tools are thrown in too. Quite a good collection! 


Infrastructure is a major issue any ICT enabling effort - be it the
Simputer, Village Internet, WiFi... About every hamlet among your potential
sites may even have an educated, sometimes computer-aware if not entirely
PC-literate person as your potential user. But the supporting utilities such
as transmitting-receiving networks, land-lines and basic to all these --
reliable mains power at a reasonable voltage -- are often insufficient if
not absent, while the local administration and official figures may point

By way of a solution, microPower promises autonomous power solutions for the
rural / semi-urban beneficiary and says it will soon follow this up with
OEMs in the ICT sector with appropriate built-in solar power and energy
storage devices.

To elaborate on this initiative, a data sheet on microPower solar
photovoltaic battery chargers as well as PDFs on the product range
(35KB) and its underlying concept (115KB) are available on request.

For enquiries: The microPower Initiative c/o Udit Chaudhuri, Unika
Enterprises e-mail: unika {AT} softhome.net Tel - Fax: +91-22-26045595


Kapil Karekar <kapil_karekar {AT} vsnl.net> of Libre Technologies
(www.libretech.com) in Mumbai informs us that he and others are working to
make a customized distribution of Knoppix. Perhaps, he says, even an Indian
language support-bundled version.

What is Knoppix? It's a bootable CD with a wide collection of GNU/Linux
software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many grapics cards,
sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. 

It is one of the Free Software demo tools that became immensely popular
within months of its release. Knoppix can be used as a GNU/Linux demo,
educational CD, rescue system or can even be adapted and used as a platform
for commercial software product demos.



We could never emphasise enough on this. Given the enormity of the task, and
the relevance of its work, attempts at IndicComputing need all support. 

Check out the Indic-computing-users mailing list
Indic-computing-users {AT} lists.sourceforge.net

(Other Indic-Computing mailing lists: -devel, -standards, -announce)

Govts for Free Software?

Free Software or proprietary? "While some developing countries such as India
seem to be moving towards proprietary software, a growing number such as
Malaysia are going up the open source path," sais a recent newsletter of the
GKD (Global Knowledge for Development) partnership.


Apart from lower costs, champions of Free/Libre and Open Source Software are
quick to point out that governments have a role in cracking existing
software monopolies, such as Microsoft, giving a chance to other players to

The question raised is: should a government adopt proprietary software, the
requirement for compatibility with proprietary standards makes the system
biased towards specific software vendors, perpetuating a dependency?

This charge is strenuously denied by supporters of proprietary software who
argue that the General Public License model promoted by open source
threatens to destroy commercial software, undermine intellectual property,
stifle innovation, and limit entrepreneurism -- ultimately reducing choice
in the market. 

Their arguments are, of course, premised on the supposition that commercial
organisations tend to have deeper pockets and therefore, the ability to
invest in longer-term-solutions -- unlike cost-conscious supporters of
FLOSS, who may be pushed into creating short-term solutions.

What are basic skills?

In the first of a series of Briefing Papers, the UK-based humanITy called
for a radical debate on basic skills. The paper says that the gap is
widening between ICT development and skills policy so that what we consider
important will soon be economically irrelevant.

Launching the Paper, humanITy Director Kevin Carey said: "I don't doubt the
good faith of the UK Government in wanting to use ICT training to decrease
social exclusion, but we must be careful that the skills that we teach don't
pin people down at the bottom of the heap. The ICT industry is moving faster
than skills policy and we must stop travelling into the future with our
backs to the engine".

Full details of the Paper can be found at:


This is a site dealing with "the most powerful and advanced breathing
program available in Conscious Breathing on the planet". Created with an
introduction and three progressive breathing patterns for synchronous

Conscious Breathing, we are told, is using a circular breath where the
inhale and exhale are connected together with out any gaps in between. The
more circular your breath becomes the more energy you are able to generate,
releasing blockages in the body, negativity, stress, and tension that can be
dissolved by the breath. 

Breathing patterns on this CD were recorded with the most efficient and
natural breath possible by using sound and frequency analyzers to achieve
the waveform that reflects the correct breathing pattern of Conscious

Promoting tourism

India's southern state of Kerala is trying to use IT to promote tourism. It
has put out some slick CDs, on a range of subjects -- Ayurveda, a
picture-book of Kerala, and another called 'Kerala: Temple of Healing,
Watercolours by God'. More details from www.keralatourism.org or via email
deptour {AT} vsnl.com

GKP in Asia

The Global Knowledge Partnership organized a knowledge sharing session on
"Information Society Issues: Asia Pacific Concerns, Challenges and
Solutions" in conjunction with the WSIS Asian Regional Conference in Tokyo,
Japan on 11 January 2003.

Participating for the first time in a GKP activity were 20 representatives
from Pacific island states. A highlight of the session was the spontaneous
offers of intra-regional support and assistance in response to voiced
concerns and needs by various participants, particularly those from the
Pacific Island States. 

One special offer was made by the representative from the M.S. Swaminathan
Foundation (Chennai,India), who indicated the willingness to assist in the
training of development workers from the Pacific Island States on how to set
up and manage effective community access or information centers.


Partners is a monthly newsletter featuring the latest news on ICT for
development.  Currently, its circulation stands at 1,500 subscribers:
reaching GKP members, partners and interested parties around the globe. Each
issue of Partners is emailed to the subscribers as well as uploaded onto the
GKP website. Previous issues of the newsletter can be viewed at

Established in 1997, the GKP aims to facilitate knowledge sharing,
networking and advocacy to promote sustainable development using information
and communication technology. 

It sees itself as the first broad based multistakeholder partnership that
operates at the global level.  Our members hail from all levels, from grass
roots to international organizations; all sectors, from governments and
their agencies to private sector organizations, civil society groups and
think tanks; and all countries, from those that are 'least developed' to
those that are fully industrialized. For more information, please email
gkps {AT} gkpsecretariat.org.my or visit www.globalknowledge.org

$2.5B on e-learning

Is this realistic, or is this just another set of soon-to-be-forgotten

The Indian government, PTI reports, announced a plan to spend 120 billion
rupees (USD $2.5 billion) to bring e-learning to 600,000 schools across the
country. The project, to be funded by the government as well as private
industry, would set up computer labs in schools over the next four years.

Terming India's population of one billion as both "a digital opportunity and
digital challenge," Shah called on the IT industry to explore new ways to
tap into the national market. She also announced plans to set up "citizens
portals" in each of India's states to help facilitate e-government

Open Source Network

Isa Seow <isa {AT} apdip.net> informs us that the Asia-Pacific Development
Information Programme (APDIP) has launched the International Open Source
Network (IOSN), which will serve as a Centre of Excellence on Open Source
technologies and applications. 

It will aid countries in sharing information on Open Source (OS), assist
with the development of needed toolkits and resource materials, support
"localization" efforts and, generally, help facilitate and co-ordinate OS
programmes and initiatives through networking. 

Let's hope many from South Asia too can take advantage of this.

For more information, please see http://www.apdip.net/iosn/default.asp A
dedicated IOSN web portal http://www.iosn.net is to go online soon.

Mallapuram plans

There's an ambitious project that seeks to provide computer education to
make Mallapuram district in southern India's Kerala state the country's
first totally e-literate district. 

See http://www.propoor.org/news/xar0210.asp#8

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh is talking of extending the fruits of IT to
farmers and village women with upgrading of 5,000 telephone booths into
Interent kiosks. http://www.propoor.com/news/xar0206.asp#5


The INDIA-DRUG discussion group is a partnership between SATELLIFE
(www.healthnet.org), WHO Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy (www.who.ch),
and the Delhi Society for the Promotion of the Rational Use of Drugs
(DSPRUD) in India.

To send a message to india-drug, write to: india-drug {AT} usa.healthnet.org

To subscribe or unsubscribe, write to: majordomo {AT} usa.healthnet.org in the
body of the message type: subscribe india-drug OR unsubscribe india-drug

To contact a person, send a message to: india-drug-help {AT} usa.healthnet.org

Farmers via HAM

SridharL <SridharL {AT} murugappa.co.in>, a long-time friend looking for
solutions that work in ICT4D (information and communication technologies
for development front) writes in to say:

"I found some interesting article in which they have used HAM radio as a
tool for agri extension. I have always wondered why we always go for a high
end tools like computers for agricultural extension. The project was funded
by Inetrnational rice research institute in Philippines. I think it is an
excellent idea and also a low cost technology facilitating two way
communication with mobility. See the Rice Towards Optimal Productivity (RTOP
bulletin 1/2002)."

(This explains the use of HAM radio for agricultural extension in Tamil
Nadu, India. Farmers in South India are now provided with a means to
interact with scientists and extension officers involved in different
aspects of agriculture via an interactive delivery system, amateur radio or

The IRRI-COL-TNAU-CER project aims to enhance the value of the HAM radio by
recording, editing and disseminating useful conversations through local
radio stations for the benefit of farmers at large.

The recording can cover farmers' local knowledge or wisdom expressed through
conversations with researchers, and comments and responses from the
scientific community. The idea is to enrich scientific research through
including farmers' local experience and wisdom, and at the same time
providing up-to-date scientific knowledge to the rural populace for their
information and education.

This is believed to be the first and pioneering attempt in the whole of Asia
to link farmers with researchers and extension staff through HAM radio
network. More information from V Balasubramanian, IRRI email
v.balasubramanian {AT} cgiar.org )

Sign language

INB Education & Science <INB_Education_&_Science {AT} internetnewsbureau.com> had
this story on how there could be a drastic way in which people learn

It said Signing Online, LLC has launched a "revolutionary new learning web
site", http://www.signingonline.com. The web site brings sign language
education to anyone with an Internet connection, 24 hours a day, 7 days a

"Thirty million Americans have some degree of hearing loss," said David
Stewart, CEO of Signing Online and a prolific author/educator of the deaf
and hard of hearing. "Many people have complained in the past that they have
no time to take a sign language course, or no courses are offered where they
live, or they feel intimidated sitting in a classroom. Signing Online
addresses these concerns."

At its launch, http://www.signingonline.com contains a series of four
American Sign Language (ASL) courses that teaches the basic skills to become
fluent in signing. 

"Once people have successfully completed the Signing Online ASL courses,
they will have made a solid entry into the world of sign language. They will
be able to carry on a conversation, understand the basics of ASL grammar,
and be in a good position to decide whether they wish to pursue further
their interest in learning sign language," said Stewart.

Debate on this issue via the BytesForAll_Readers mailing list however
suggested that the US$49.95 price for a six-month enrolment could exclude
those who didn't have the dollars to pay. 

Health Internetwork India  

India was selected as the first HIN pilot country. The pilot is intended to
develop best practices, determine the best use of resources and parterships,
and demonstrate impact. 

According to this website, "the Health InterNetwork aims to support and
strengthen public health services and to provide access to high quality,
relevant and timely health information". 

It further aims to improve communication and networking among public health
care workers, researchers and policy makers. The cornerstone of the project
is an electronic/Internet-based Health InterNetwork (HIN) portal which will
provide access to this information and to networks of policy makers,
researchers, and health service providers. 

As part of the HIN, connectivity and training will be also be provided at
over 10,000 information access points across developing countries. (Thanks
to Irfan Khan's excellent s-asia-it {AT} apnic.net mailing list for this and a
number of other inputs.)


SACHET, from Pakistan

Zubair Faisal Abbasi" <zfa {AT} comsats.net.pk> reports on SACHET, what is
believed to be the first Pakistani ICT-for-development model.

SACHET, one among very few Pakistani Non Profit Organizations is ambitiously
working on a Pakistani model of ICT for Development. The model envisages a
sustainable, home grown, self-reliant Information & Communication Technology
for Development strategy based on result oriented components of capacity
building, research and development of innovative e-commerce solution for
rural crafts marketing.

It is  divided into different phases is currently offering capacity building
opportunities for the rural youth of Rawalpindi/Islamabad districts. 
Equipped with latest hardware/software material and audiovisual aids the
rural community is being imparted skills of demand at these Centers.

Other activities under SACHET's ICT for Development initiative are
development of an online documentation center (with an offline presence as
well) envisioned to serve as a comprehensive searching facility for
researchers interested in issues of socio economic importance. 

SACHET's newly designed corporate web site that now contains more
information and research material on gender, health, education and poverty
alleviation cum income generation. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) of its
own kind is also on cards and is expected to be launched later during the

"Using a sophisticated LAN and intranet applications at its corporate
offices has helped SACHET gain a competitive edge on other players in terms
of quality of services, smooth, swift and result driven decision making and
realization of mandated goals of human development of the disadvantaged in
Pakistan," say its promoters.

>From the Philippines

This is an interesting idea, coming from someone in the faraway Philippines,
who's work one has often admired from a distance

Roberto Verzola <rverzola {AT} gn.apc.org> has recently taken on a new job as
coordinator of the sustainable agriculture program of a national
confederation of farmers called PAKISAMA.

"We are just starting to learn to use video technology ($30 VCD players,
VHS-to-VCD conversion, etc.) to do information work among farmers," says he,
and explains that he is also looking for funding to set up a pilot
micro-power radio station for a farmers' organization.


Twenty-one year old Ajay Sinai Cuncolienkar of Goa came up with this
interesting idea of sharing software. You just visit his SoftwareForAll site
http://sofall.vze.com and punch in the titles of distributions you're
willing to share with others. Interesting concept. 


bYtES For aLL is a voluntary, unfunded venture. CopyLeft, 2003. bYtES
For aLL e-zine volunteers team includes: Frederick Noronha in Goa,
Partha Sarkar in Dhaka, Zunaira Durrani in Karachi, Zubair Abbasi in
Islamabad, Archana Nagvenkar in Goa, Arun-Kumar Tripathi in Darmstatd,
Shivkumar in Mumbai, Sangeeta Pandey in Nepal, Rajkumar Buyya in
Melbourne, Mahrukh Mohiuddin in Dhaka and Deepa Rai in Kathmandu, among
others. If you'd like to volunteer in any way, please get in touch.

BytesForAll's website www.bytesforall.org is maintained by Partha
Sarkar, with inputs from other members of the volunteers' team and
supporters. To subscribe to our main mailing list, send a blank email to
bytesforall_readers-subscribe {AT} yahoogroups.com If you've missed out
recent debates, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bytesforall_readers


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