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Wi-fi buses drive rural web use in developing countries

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Hum    6,931

Buses equipped with wi-fi are being used to deliver web content to remote rural villages in the developing world.

In rural India and parts of Rwanda, Cambodia and Paraguay, the vehicles offer web content to computers with no internet connection.

The buses and a fleet of motorcycles update their pages in cities before visiting the hard-to-reach communities. As well as offering popular pages, the United Villages project also allows users to request specific information.

A small box, with an antenna, onboard the buses and motorcycles communicates with the rural computers.

In many parts of the developing world it is too expensive to lay the fibres and copper cable to deliver a standard internet connection. Wireless technologies also do not reach many remote places.

The founder of the United Villages initiative Amir Hassan said the company had been set up to give those people in these areas a slice of the web for a fee.

The wi-fi vehicles also deliver and collect e-mails from the villagers.

The system also made it easier for villagers to buy essential products such as fertilisers, pesticides, books and medicines, Mr Hassan added.

"What we've done is created a catalogue of those products that they can order at the kiosk and get them delivered the next day via the bus," he said.

"We're bringing e-commerce to rural India."

Because many people in rural communities cannot read, and because the majority of the web is in English, villagers often rely on the person who operates the local computer to help them.

Raj Kishor Swain, who runs the computer in the village of Satasankha, said he is now a popular man.

"Right now, more and more people are asking me about what can be done on the PC and internet," he said.

"My objective is to show to the village youth that having a PC with connectivity is a viable business so that more and more unemployed youth can take up this as a self-employment opportunity."


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