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PURA will bridge rural, urban divide

Special Correspondent

Kalam backs Mission 2007

  • Village knowledge centres vital to transform society
  • India to make headway in hardware manufacturing also

    — Photo: V.V.Krishnan (REPORT ON PAGE 13)

    CHEERFUL START: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the first convocation of Jamshedji Tata National Virtual Academy and a convention of National Alliance in New Delhi on Monday. The Alliance aims at achieving "Mission 2007" (connecting every village through a network of knowledge centres).

    NEW DELHI: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has said that knowledge of technology was the means for realising sustainable rural prosperity and employment generation. He said the concept of PURA (providing urban facilities in rural areas), if backed with technology, would bridge the rural-urban divide.

    Addressing the convention of the National Alliance and the first convocation of the Jamshedji Tata National Virtual Academy here on Monday, Dr. Kalam said village knowledge centre was one of the essential components for realising the goals of graduating into a knowledge society and lead to the transformation of the nation into a developed country before the year 2020.

    The National Alliance aims to achieve Mission 2007 or to make every village a knowledge centre — an initiative to connect every village in India by 2007 through a network of knowledge centres. Each of these centres would become a centre for knowledge based on livelihoods and income generation for the less privileged sections of society. Initiated by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and One World South Asia in collaboration with Microsoft, the mission plans to create a network of information kiosks in 600,000 villages in India by 2007. In the first phase, the focus is on connecting 2,40,000 panchayats.

    Dr. Kalam said for providing the knowledge connectivity to the PURA complexes, village knowledge centres would act as frontline delivery system. "I visualise establishment of village knowledge centres in these panchayats to empower the villagers with information on agriculture, weather, fishermen, craftsmen, traders, entrepreneurs, unemployed youth and the students."

    Speaking on the occasion, Union Commerce and Information Technology Minister Dayanidhi Maran said it was time to use Information Technology (IT) and software skills to improve the social and economic conditions of the rural population. Technology should be harnessed to change the face of rural India by providing urban amenities to the under-privileged in the rural areas, he said.

    Admitting that the benefits of any innovation or revolution did not reach the poor in any country, more so in developing nations, Mr. Maran said this needed to be changed. He said India had made considerable progress in the IT sector, particularly in the software and telecommunications sectors, and now increasingly in hardware design and research and development. "We are now trying to make headway in hardware manufacturing."

    Later talking to reporters, M.S. Swaminathan of the Swaminathan Foundation said 10,000 village knowledge centres, including 5,000 e-choupals, were already functional and the aim was to connect 2.35 lakh panchayats across the country. As to the financing of this Rs. 1,500 crores project, Mr. Swaminathan said he was hopeful there would be many donors for the cause.

    Replying to questions, Ravi Venkatesan, chairman of Microsoft Corporation of India, said the company was committed to reduce the price of its products for the benefit of the rural people and it would provide hardware, software and networking for Rs. 500 a month under the project. He said Microsoft was already running a scheme on education at Rs. 100 a month and another for office-goers at Rs. 700 a month.

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