'Akshaya' for rural India
The Akshaya project, the country's largest rural wireless network,
helps bring the benefits of e-governance and utility services like basic
connectivity to individual households in Kerala. A look at how it was
managed in stages. by Akhtar Pasha
The state government of Kerala, not only content with administering the
most literate state in India, wanted to extend literacy efforts to the
Web, through e-literacy. And it fulfilled this desire through the
project 'Akshaya', which is now driven by the gram panchayats. Akshaya is
the country's largest rural wireless network.
Delivery of Internet services to rural communities was one of the
biggest challenges in bringing IT to the masses. Project Akshaya accepted
this challenge head-on, and brought Internet services to the rural
residents of Kerala.
Infrastructure related to Akshaya has already been deployed in the
Malappuram district where 250 centers are on the network. Each Akshaya
center caters to between 1,000 and 1,500 households.
By the end of March
2004, all 630 Akshaya centers will be online to help citizens guide and
support e-governance initiatives; intervene in community development;
buy and sell online; and to get relevant information. This will make it
the largest rural wireless network in India.
Linking difficult terrain
Early attempts at using dial-ups between locations had failed, because
bad quality connections allowed less than 10 percent of the centers to
go online. Always-on connectivity was the need of the hour.
Wiring up the entire district spread across 3,550 square km would have
been a daunting task. The geography comprised the Nilgiris in the east,
the Arabian Sea in the west, evergreen forests, ravines, hills, rivers,
and palm fringed coasts. The state government decided that rolling out
a wired infrastructure in the vast state would be impractical and
expensive. Wireless solution providers were...