Frederick Noronha on Tue, 23 May 2000 20:32:53 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] BytesForAll: May 2000

_/  B y t e s   F o r   A l l --- 
_/  Making Computing Relevant to The Common (Wo)man MAY2000
_/  Editors: Frederick Noronha (India) Partha Sarkar (Bangladesh)

WRITES INDIAN COLUMNIST Praful Bidwai: Nothing qualifies India as 
an IT superpower -- no more than winning a few tacky Miss World 
crowns warrants the title beauty superpower, with India's 
appalling indices of maternal and female health. India is and 
will probably remain a modest global IT power. It is unlikely to 
transform Indian society unless attention is paid to the core 
issues of literacy, education, health and employment, as well as 
agriculture and industry.
The current IT hype is a hot air balloon driven up by reckless 
speculation, in which price-earning ratios of 300 (against an 
average of under 30) are considered natural for IT companies, and 
their market capitalisation can be higher than that of 
established blue-chip brick-and-mortar companies which have 20 
times their turnover and profits. 
This is not to deny that India's IT has burgeoned at a rate five 
times higher than the country's industrial growth as a whole in 
recent years. Software exports have zoomed from $150 million in 
1990 to $4 billion. Computers are making inroads into small 
cities. The number of Internet connections has rocketed from 
under 100,000 four years ago to about 800,000 today. The hardware 
market has crossed the one-million-PCs-a-year mark. There is some 
real IT entrepreneurship too. Most important, computer-based 
services are providing mobility to some young people from 
underprivileged backgrounds. 
However, despite all this, the turnover of the domestic IT 
industry is less than one per cent of India's gross domestic 
product (compared to, say, eight per cent in the U.S.). That is 
not all: Indian software exports are just about 1/70th or less 
than 1.5 per cent of the world software market. India's share is 
growing slowly in a sector which has recorded 15 per cent-plus 
growth worldwide. 
India has just been ranked 54th of 55 countries in an IT survey 
by International Data Corporation-World Times. Its score is 871, 
compared to China's 915 or the U.S.' 5,041. (The highest is 
Sweden's 5,062, the lowest Pakistan's 719.) The penetration of 
Indian households by PCs is under one-fifth the world average. 
Today, it stands at three machines per 1,000 people. 
When it comes to Internet access, India firmly remains a 
backwater -- 0.1 per cent household penetration, or the same as 
sub-Saharan Africa's, as compared to Taiwan's 14 per cent. A 
computer costs the equivalent of the average Indian's income for 
two years, but only a month's American salary. More than 90 per 
cent of India's IT transactions are in English, which is spoken 
by five per cent of the population. 
This IT penetration is extremely uneven, more than two-thirds in 
western and southern India, mainly in the big cities, with the 
Hindi belt hugely lagging behind and with a high gender bias. 
Contact the author:

WRITES IRFAN KHAN <> : Bhutan is one of the 
least "connected" South Asian countries. here  are some URLs from 
a BBC news story
Bhutan home page
Kuensel newspaper web site
Bhutan tourist information

THE INTERNET SOCIETAL Task Force (ISTF) has been set up under the 
auspices of the Internet Society to examine ways in which the 
Internet could be employed to address societal issues, and work 
towards their implementation.
Recognising that considerable useful Internet content, such as 
radio, shareware and newspapers, could be broadcast via satellite 
at very low cost per end user, this group has set itself a short-
term objective of enabling this. Towards this end, this group is 
on the lookout for: 1) existing technologies that allow low-cost 
data broadcasting via satellite 2) companies that make 
appropriate products and provide satellite services 3) experts 
that can put such projects together 4) people/companies 
interested in selecting and managing the flow of content thus 
delivered.  [Courtesy Dr Arun Mehta]
Details at

SAYS PRAKASH ADVANI: "Based on our situation here in India, which 
I believe applies to other developing countries, Linux has a 
tremendous potential and is very cost effective in that it not 
only lowers cost but reduces developing countries' dependence on 
any other country or organisation.
"We are currently developing an Indian version of Linux for 
support of Indian Languages under Linux, so that Linux can be 
made accessible to the masses. The Indian Linux project is at

CLICK! THAT'S THE MAGIC cyber sound that could help you light up 
the alphabet for an illiterate, impoverished child in a Madhya 
Pradesh village. Welcome to, a Web site launched 
by the  state government in the capital today that could help you 
fund an entire primary school, under the famed education 
guarantee scheme (EGS) in Madhya Pradesh, for a mere Rs.16,000 
($400). [Courtesy India Abroad News Service]  

OPEN SOURCE DEMOCRACY: A Dutch-led research consortium has put in 
a bid for European funding to develop non-proprietary, open-
source software for large-scale democratic debate, potentially 
supporting discussion by more than a million participants at a 
The ISSUE consortium, led by the Dutch new media company Spirit, 
has entered the proposal under the European Commission's 5th 
Framework for research and technological development, which 
includes a specific programme for a user-friendly information 
The proposal includes plans for industry-led technical research 
and development combined with research by social psychologists 
and political scientists; test beds in Rotterdam, Belfast 
(supporting the peace process), Nuremberg and Vienna, with a 
working prototype planed by year two of the project; and all 
research to be 'open source' and Linux-based (although some 
business prospects are also expected).
A spokesman told E-Government Bulletin: "We feel that there is 
mileage to be had from getting people sharing ideas, experiences 
and software to counter the inevitable attempts by proprietary 
software developers to control this market. ISSUE will have an 
impact on professional lobbyists, on pressure groups (one is 
never certain if they have the public backing they claim to 
have), and on the discussion about referenda." See: [Courtesy Dan Jellinek <> ]

EXILED TO CYBERIA? "Knowledge" is the new buzzword in some 
development circles, applauded as a weapon to fight poverty. But, 
warns Kunda Dixit, there is a danger that this jargon will just 
deflect attention from the persistent economic problems which 
prop up global inequality. [Courtesy]

THE PROGRESSIVE TECHNOLOGY Project (PTP) is a new collaboration
that seeks to raise the scope and scale of technology resources
available to grassroots organizing groups working for
environmental, economic, and social justice. PTP provides
technical assistance and makes grants to develop the capacity of
grassroots organizing groups to use information technology to
strengthen their social change efforts.
[Courtesy: Zubair Faisal Abbasi <> ]

WORLD VIEW Information System (WVIS) is for basic education 
organisations in Africa and South Asia. 
A user-friendly information system for local non governmental
organisations (NGOs) involved in basic education in Africa and South
Asia has been developed by World View Literacy Information Research
(WVLIR). WVLIR's broad objectives are to reinforce evaluations and
research among NGOs. Its founding members come from the market and
opinion research industry. During the Annual Conference of European
Society for Opinion and Market Research (ESOMAR) at Davos in September
1994, WVLIR's constituting meeting focused on providing information
systems to basic education NGOs to initially share existing research.
WVLIR is poised to connect all individuals and organisations, involved in
spreading literacy in the form of basic education and/or primary
education. World View Information System (WVIS) is a process based around
Databases which integrates details about Organisations, Materials,
Projects & Individuals on most aspects about literacy and basic education.
WVIS Edition 1 is available for MS Access 97. Please download it from the
internet on or ask for its distributable
CD-ROM version, available at a token price. Further suggestions welcome.
Contact the Delhi office: Kalyan Mitra, Database Coordinator, World View
Delhi Office, F-2, Maharani Bagh, New Delhi - 110065, India

WRITES UNDP IT FOR DEVELOPMENT Programme director Dr Hans d'Orville:
ONE RECENT N.U.A. Internet survey offers a glimpse of the 
magnitude: in January 1999, there were worldwide 153.25 million 
people online, ie. with Internet access. Of these, a mere 1.14 
million were Africans, 26.55 million were in Asia and the 
Pacific, 4.5 million in South America, 33.39 million in Europe 
and in North America 87 million. What a skewed distribution!
What can and should development co-operation do in such circumstances? To
delineate the key areas for action and intervention, I suggest a simple
formula: A+6C. The A stands for awareness and advocacy. The Cs stand for
connectivity, capacity, content, creativity, communications and cash. More
information at UNDP's INFO 21 Website
which contains also a wealth of information on the programmes of other
organisations and sectoral and regional needs as well as dedicated sites
on Y2K, electronic commerce and human rights. [Courtesy Hasan A. Rizvi ]

FOR A WHOLE LOT OF LINKS of official Bangladeshi web sites, visit [Courtesy]

LINUX IS BEING favoured by some of Asia's Third World nations, 
said a report in IDG News Service in early April. David Legard 
reported that the open-source Linux operating system is being 
enthusiastically looked at by companies in Asia's developing 
nations like India, China, Korea and Malaysia, but is less 
popular in wealthier countries such as Japan and Singapore.
In a presentation at Comdex Asia Lau picked out India and 
Malaysia as two countries especially keen to take advantage of 
the potential cost benefits of using Linux.
"With Linux, you can save $500 Singapore ($290) per seat when you  
consider all the server and client licenses you would otherwise 
pay," he said. "Linux has been proved to be stable, its ease of 
use is improving very quickly, and all the major industry players 
except Microsoft have endorsed it."

A TRUE KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY is like a perfect system where the 
knowledge gets recognised and valued and also ends up benefiting 
the society from where it originates. So, it is not just a 
question of people accessing information but also about 
information finding its way to the probable users and that is 
exactly what is lacking before we can call a society as a perfect 
knowledge society. The
problem with many developing countries so far has been their inability to
recognize the knowledge they possess, put a value to it and use the power
of knowledge to their growth. Ironically, the value of the vernacular
knowledge gets noticed in developing countries only after its value is
recognized and put to use in the developed nations. Further, there are a
lot of other barriers which impede the transformation to perfect knowledge
societies such as Northern- centric content, linguistic barriers, and lack
of skills. An abridged version of the paper in form of an editorial has
been placed by One World Europe Think Tank at their website at [Courtesy Vikas Nath 
Programme Officer, SDNP India] E-mail: URL :

RECYCLING COMPUTERS:  A Simple Solution for a Complex Problem. By 
Sonia Jurich, this article describes ways by which outdated 
computers in government and business offices can be recycled into 
schools. The issue, however, is that most computers that are 
being discarded no longer have software installed, and newer 
software packages do not work on them. The article describes 
software that restores the core functionality of old computers.

GREENSTAR WORLD Development Library is developing a core library 
of software reference and instruction programs for use in 
education programs in rural communities worldwide. Greenstar will 
fund a qualified individual or group, with qualifications in 
international education, to identify existing educational tools 
which exist as tutorials, interactive lessons, game-based 
learning, graphics, databases and Website extracts of articles 
and manuals. All materials must be in digital form, or 
convertible to digital form, and easily usable with standard 
tools on a Windows 95 computer system. Audiocassettes and 
videocassettes will also be accepted into the Library.
By way of background: Greenstar is placing self-contained, solar-
powered community centers in remote locations around the world. 
Each center has health facilities, including telemedicine, a 
classroom complete with distance learning equipment, and a 
business center, through which we will operate ecommerce in 
native cultural products. The solar array powers the unit and 
also purifies water for up to 2,200 people.
[Courtesy Paul Swider <> ] 

UK DEPARTMENT FOR International Development (DFID) and OneWorld 
are having an online consultation on information technology and 
knowledge for development. You're welcome to join in. 
Consultation website is live at
Q1. Is there any evidence of ICTs actually reducing poverty?
To join this discussion email 
with the word 'subscribe' in the subject line
Q2. How can the Internet and increased globalisation enhance the 
value of traditional media for development? To join this 
discussion email with the word 
'subscribe' in the subject line
Q3. How can the international community help to harness the power 
of knowledge to meet its development targets? To join this 
discussion email with the word 
'subscribe' in the subject line
Q4. How can e-commerce and other new forms of commercial 
interaction facilitated by ICTs be used to promote sustainable 
development? To join this discussion email dfid4- with the word 'subscribe' in the 
subject line [Courtesy media@ONEWORLD.NET]

READINESS FOR THE Networked World: A Guide for Developing 
Countries from the Information Technologies Group is aimed at 
spurring dialogue and cooperative action in addressing Digital 
Divide issues in the developing world. Visit it at
Interested in localizing the printed version and website into 
your language? Contact Tariq_Mohammed/FS/ 
Or [Courtesy]

BRITAIN'S SOCIAL EXLCLUSION UNIT has published a consultation 
framework for a National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal. 
Proposals include improving IT in deprived neighbourhoods by 
ensuring at least one publicly-accessible, community-based 
facility in each deprived neighbourhood by 2002; and encouraging 
people to use them by employing local champions and offering 
user-friendly courses. [Courtesy Colin J Williams]

PAKISTAN'S DRAFT "Software Protection Ordinance" is available on 
the  Pakistan Computer Bureau's website
Comments may be sent within one week to 
from May 11 [Courtesy Irfan Khan, S-Asia-IT]

ANOTHER POLICY: The Information Technology Commission 
[ ;] of Government of 
Pakistan has posted the draft IT Policy at for feedback and comments. 
Comments may be sent to [Courtesy s-asia-it]

ISPs IN INDIA ARE planning to come together to set up an Internet 
exchange that will help them interchange data directly. 
Presently,  ISPs in India are having to route data through 
international gateways and depend on servers located outside the 
country. For instance, an e-mail sent from one ISP to another is 
currently routed through the US through an international gateway 
and is routed back through another gateway. [Courtesy: India ISP 
News Weekly, May 9; S-Asia-IT mailing list]  

KARNATAKA, THE SOUTH INDIAN province, has launched a new IT 
policy called 'Mahiti'. It includes the issue of bonds worth Rs. 
3 billion to finance people-friendly IT-enabled services, 
generating jobs and building state- and district-level databases.
Incubation centres for start-up companies, computerisation of 
land records, land registration and promotion of the local 
language Kannada in IT are part of the plan. [Courtesy: IANS]

                       Contact the Editors             

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