The Sunday Times (Of India) reports in their print edition that Natham, a small village in Tamil Nadu, will be the first experiment in a new WiFi mesh strategy.
The Times reports that a base station has been identified 10kms away, while a rickshaw which is based in Natham will carry a server and antenna – linking the base station to the village. From there anyone with a WiFi device will be able to connect while provision has also been made to house two computers for public use in a shack in the village.
It’s projects like this that start to right the imbalances in a country with as wide a spread of socio-economic groups as India has. While there I was astounded that the largest growth industry would seem to be mobile phones – every street corner carries ads for different phones and services while the markets have become full of mobile stalls – nearly every second shop you come to is phone related. While it’s possible to argue that mobile phone services have enabled people to stay in touch and access information and support – I can’t help but think that cell phone companies can be lumped along with soft-drink and fast-food companies in seeing huge earning potential from third world citizens desperate to become more western – sure they’re filling a demand but there are some negative side-effects to doing so.
Free Internet access for poor villages is different however – it’ll allow people to reach out, see and experience the world and better their lives and the life of the village.