At the end of the day, the jury may be still out on whether these approaches from the heartland of rural India can be scaled-up and replicated across less-influential political constituencies. But what’s happening in Baramati is definitely worth a closer look.
In a vast country the size of India, the left hand doesn’t quite know what the right hand is doing in the ICT4D fi. Also, very little of India’s vast Free Software potential has actually been channelised into this field. Musings from Baramati… home to a recent, ambitious e-agriculture conference.
Welcome to what is being called here Asia’s first broadcaster dedicated to the farm
and the field. Farmers are keen on the information radiating via this invisible airwaves, from one of those stations being opened up under India’s new drive to license campus-based radio stations.
Because of the unseasonal rains (which lashed central India after midnight, accompanied by lightning and power failures) most of the participants at Baramati VI  arrived late at the venue. At the dinner table, at starting time, there were just three other participants who had flown in from abroad, via Mumbai.
"All flights are delayed by two hours," the director of the VIIT to volunteers, and the mood sunk. Even the Baramati skies appear overcast. Earlier, while I sat through a sandlewood-paste flavoured beard-trim (Rs 15) at the local roadside makeshift haircutting saloon, the TV spoke of rainy weather warnings.
Just four days before the WSF starts in Karachi on 24th March, it is common knowledge that leading women rights organizations in Pakistan have detached themselves from the WSF and will not participate in any event.
Major South African weekly, the "Mail and Guardian", reports from the APC-organised conference on EASSy, the East African submarine cable. The good news is that excessively high international bandwidth prices in Africa are to be challenged says the M&G but the benefits can be curtailed if operators maintain monopoly control.
IT for change, an NGO figthing alongside APC during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) has published "WSIS: The beginning of a global information society discourse" on March 11 in the Economic and Political Weekly. The piece attempts to place WSIS in the present geopolitical context and discusses its outcomes. It concludes that "WSIS may need to be judged more from the processes that it has set into motion than what it has achieved substantively."
A BBC News article published on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s online edition on Wednesday March 15 reports on the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and APC’s reluctance to the way it’s expected to be implemented. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has made its concerns and reservations about the new optical cable project for East Africa loud and clear at a consultation conference taking place a couple of days prior to the article’s release. BBC readers from Ethiopia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Namibia and many other countries are presently commenting on the BBC article which highlighted that "campaigners [such as the APC] fear that the cable might not actually make much difference to consumers because of high prices."
I’ve lost all sense of time, but my mobile phone (which fortunately works 800 kms away from home) tells me it’s 10:29 am on March 9, 2006. Later today, the 6th Annual Baramati Initiative on ICT and Development (focussing on The Potential of e-Agriculture) gets underway at this rural, but education-oriented island two hours away from Pune in Central India.