Mumbai: An IIT Bombay (IIT-B) project facilitating broadband access in rural India has won a worldwide Mozilla innovation challenge.
As part of the prize, the premier technical institute has won $125,000 (₹82 lakh) in project funding.
The non-profit tech company unveiled its contest, titled, ‘Equal rating Innovation Challenge’ in October last year. With 100 project entries from 27 countries across the world, the challenge focused on creating innovative and scalable ideas to make the internet available to all.
The IIT-B project, ‘Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband’, along with four other projects from different countries, made it to the semi-finals in January. The final results were based on an online community voting in Brussels on Wednesday.
Gram Marg, which translates to ‘rural roadmap’, is the brainchild of Prof. Abhay Karandikar, Dean of Faculty Affairs and Dr. Sarbani Banerjee, Institute Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering at IIT-B. The project seeks to bring over 6 lakh Indian villages online, and involves using unused white space in the television spectrum.
The judges appreciated the IIT-B team for its innovation. “What impressed me particularly about Gram Marg was the fact that they were able to bring the cost of the technology for delivering broadband over the TV white space spectrum down to a fraction of the cost,” said Nikhil Pahwa, one of the judges and co-founder of Savetheinternet.in.
Mr. Karandikar, with a team of five members, has been working on the project for over three years. The solution has been piloted in 25 villages so far, by using simple household items and rugged transmitters and receivers to connect villages in hilly areas. According to the researchers, Gram Marg can be used to make “frugal” 5G connections in rural India.
Prof. Karandikar said the team now has its sights set on improving the project’s efficiency. He said the solution now has to be decentralised for a greater reach. “We’ve created a platform, and proved with our experiments that this technology can launch services like e-governance and education. It is now up to policy makers to take this forward.”