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ISOC and DEF launch Wireless for Communities Project

The Internet Society, in partnership with the Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) launched a joint initiative; “Empowering Communities through Wireless Connectivity” designed to get India’s rural communities connected. The programme includes wireless connectivity workshops and the deployment of wireless mesh networks in 4 states.

The aim of the programme is to reduce the digital divide in India by enabling Internet access in rural areas. In addition, it is designed to stimulate the creation content, product and services originating from rural areas. This will enhance linguistic and cultural diversity, help build the rural economy and bring the next billion online.

As the first stage of the project, a very successful Training of Trainers workshop was held in Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh in Central India. A local community wireless mesh network was also deployed which covers the Chanderi valley.

Eleven participants were trained on how to design, deploy and operate community wireless networks, and much of the instruction and discussion during the workshops were in the Hindi language (as was most of the workshop manual) in line with community needs.

On-going activities with the project include further community workshops in rural areas and the lead partner in the project has also indicated they will likely fund the deployment of wireless networks infrastructure as part of these workshops. A conference has also been scheduled for December 2010 in Delhi on the theme of empowering rural communities through wireless and broadband.

Details on the workshop, some local press coverage and pictures can be found online here

Future plans also include the setting up of a project website and translation of course content into other local languages. Phase 2 of the project will include more rural locations in India by DEF (the lead partner). Target locations include Uttrakhand (Himalaya region), Baran (Desert), Kohlapur (West India).