Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why We Need for Digital Libraries?

Information-communication technologies (ICT) give society new opportunities for social and economic development as well as cultural and personal development, especially for developing countries like Kyrgyzstan. New technologies provide access to information and knowledge, and can act as an effective tool for the empowerment of various social groups of society.  Digital libraries can be created for different purposes and cover different information needs of the society. So, there are different goals and subjects for creation of digital library: (1) educational and academic content, (2) practical and professional content, and (3), cultural and historic heritage materials.

Digital libraries are one of the best solutions to provide access for educational resources and knowledge for young generation as well as for all society members. For example, creation of educational digital library can provide access to the books for schoolboys and girls in remote areas through mobile internet, and it can partially solve the problem of lack or limited number of books. Students from the different regions can get access and use academic digital libraries to get their bachelor’s or master degrees. Or, farmers can get access to new knowledge and use innovative agriculture solutions.

Development of human resources should be the main priority for every country.  Therefore, it is important to adopt the specific actions to design ICT policy and implement digital literacy increasing activity and provide access to knowledge. If we go back to the history, the US Government started to support this kind of digitalization initiatives in early 1990s, and gain much and valuable experience in this field.

According to Lebert (2005) first initiatives on digital libraries called Project Gutenberg started in 1971 when student of Illinois University wished to digitize US Declaration of Independence. But, importance of digital libraries came in mid 1990s, when US Government announced and distributed more than 20 mln funds among universities for research on digital libraries. So, first digitalization projects were based on six universities, as Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, Michigan, Illinois, UC Santa Barbara and Stanford (Besser, 2003).

In his book “Creating the Digital Library”, Oleck (2012) describes modern initiatives on mass digitization and role of universities on creating of digital libraries. He focused on the following digital libraries initiatives: Hathi Trust Digital Library – shared by partnership of more 60 research institutions and libraries; California Digital Library – created by libraries in the University of California system, and Orbis Cascade Alliaince – with member universities in the Pacific Northwest. These digital library consortiums cooperate with Google Books and Internet Archive, who are the main players in digitalization of books, so they can select what to digitize and to avoid “reinvent the wheel”. Some university based digital libraries focused on newspaper digitization, others working to preserve cultural heritage, historic photographs, videos  and museum collections.

There are big advantages of digital libraries what kind of opportunities it can provide for community members. Mass digitization is conducting by the academic research institutions and their libraries, as well as business companies as Google Ink (Google Books) and Internet Archive (Open Library). Digital libraries promote preservation of cultural and intellectual heritage and provide access to the knowledge for scholars, students and all other stakeholders. Public libraries play a role of community members and digital libraries, helping them search and find necessary information resources. Main challenges for mass digitalization is issues of intellectual property and copyright. There are many cases of copyright violations. My further research papers will focus on copyright issues and its impact for development of digital libraries.   

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Government using YouTube

YouTube is one form of social media that is used widely used.  The United States Government has also begun to use this platform as a way of getting messages out.  For example, the White House posts Presidential weekly addresses, briefings from the administration, and also has unique content created such as "west wing week" where there is a compilation of POTUS highlights from that week.  Google, who owns YouTube has recognized that governments can utilize this platform in other areas as well.  Recently Google launched "YouTube for Government" and provides explanations of how government departments can set up their own YouTube channels.  An example of a channel such as this is the New York City Mayor's office YouTube channel.  This is one of the better organized public official YouTube channels and provides a good deal of content.

Source: YouTube for Government Instructional Page

While it is great that Google is making it easier for governments to set-up YouTube channels (to include explanation videos, examples, etc...), something I feel is missing perhaps is the social interaction aspect.  YouTube is great for pushing information out to the public, but I don't see it as the platform to interact with citizens (whether this is at the Federal, State, or Local level).  YouTube is a great tool for communication; however, it may be more similar to the television metaphor (information out).  Granted, there are discussion boards and links to other social media, but perhaps there is a more intuitive way to set-up bi-directional interaction.  All-in-all this is a great step forward on public and private cooperation in terms of using social media as a tool to engage the public.  What may be needed are different approaches for the interaction aspect of social media in order to continue to increase transparency and active participation.


 Kisan Call Centre

The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC), Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India launched Kisan Call Centers on January 21, 2004 across the country to deliver extension services to the farming community. 

The purpose of these call centers is to respond to issues raised by farmers, instantly, in the local language. There are a call centers for every state which are expected to handle traffic from any part of the country. Queries related to agriculture and allied sectors are being addressed through these call centers. At present 25 Kisan Call Centres are functioning throughout different States of the Country and answering the farmers queries in 22 local dialects from 6 am to 10 pm on all 7 days a week..

A farmer from any part of the State can contact the Kisan Call Centre by dialing the toll free Telephone No. 1551 or 1800-180-1551 and present their problems/queries related to farming. The calls are picked up at KCCs located in 25 locations across the country by agricultural graduates (at Level–I, KCC) who after a short welcome message take down the basic information about the farmer and the details of the query.  The caller’s details, the query and the reply are fed simultaneously into the computer database maintained on a server, which is used to generate Management Information System (MIS) reports.  This database is made available to the policy makers at the national and state level at regular interval. Current records speak that 98 percent calls are answered at Level I. In case the Level – I expert is not able to answer the question, he forwards the call to the concerned Level-II experts through call conferencing mode. 

The Level–II experts are the Subject Matter Specialists (SMSs), located in State Agricultural University/ ICAR Institutes/Departments like Agriculture, Horticulture, and Animal Husbandry etc. Level-II experts are available on all working days during working hours. If the calls are related to policy matters and/ or could not be answered by neither L-I or L-II, then the questions are forwarded to Level III through e-mail and the answers are passed on to the farmers by post or through a return call.

Monitoring And Review

For successful functioning of Kisan Call Centers, there is a need to monitor and review the various activities of the KCC by the Nodal Institution on regular basis. The Nodal Institution is responsible for documenting the daily activities of the Kisan Call Center at various levels on farmers’ queries and their resolution, availability of Subject Matter Specialists, call dropouts and their transfer to Level-III and response to the farmers within 72 hours. The Nodal Institution will also organize fortnightly meetings with the Heads of Departments of Response Centers for first 6 months to ensure the proper identification and placement and changes if necessary of Level-II functionaries and resolution of the queries shared with Subject Matter Specialists and their documentation. Subsequently, these meetings will be held every month in Response Centers on rotation.

The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC), Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Govt. of India will review the functioning of all the Kisan Call Centers with the Heads of Nodal Institutions every month to start with for first six months and subsequently for every quarter in each of the Nodal Institution on rotation basis.

Documentation And Reporting

The Nodal Institution is responsible for documentation and reporting. The Officer In-charge of the Nodal Institution will gather the reports from the Kisan Call Center / Response Centers and prepare a consolidated statement on farmers’ queries and answers, crop / enterprise-wise, along with the resolutions given at Level-III and report to the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC), Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Govt. of India through e-mail on fortnightly basis.

All the proceedings of the Kisan Call Center will be documented by each of the Nodal Institution and shared with other Kisan Call Centers for preparing a database on crop / enterprise-wise and also to prepare Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

IKSL- Encouraged by the popularities of Kisan Call Centres , a Company IFFCO KISAN SANCHAR LIMITED was formed in April 2007 by the Indian Formers Fertilizer Corporation Limited (IFFCO) in joint venture with Telecom provider Bharti Airtel and a NBFC, Star Banking Company with a purpose to promote rural communication with value added services, in which Agriculture graduates from Rural areas encouraged to establish call centres through which IKSL used to educate farmers and provide useful information and provide livelihood to the unemployed youth through selling fertiliser/telecom product through these centres. In this model, IFFCO provide content support, Telecom Company Bharti Air Tel provide telecom infrastructure and NBFC used to extend financial support to farmers is required. As per IKSL annual report, the company broadcast 86096 message to active1,00,783 VAS users, answered 76573 queries, arranged 504 phone in expert program, 653 quizz program and also generated revenue of 2313 million with a profit of 106.8 million.  

The Department of Agriculture entrusted to operate the Kisan Call centres to IKSL wef from 10th February 2012. The IKSL further upgraded the Kisan Kall Centres infrastructure and same was re-launched wef 1st May 2013. The restructure KCC are now more professional  with following  technology innovations-

i)                    Voice/media Gateway (IPPAX based  decentralised system)

ii)                  Dedicated MPLS leased lines network with dedicated bandwidth.

iii)                SMS to farmers providing a gist of advisories given to them on phones.

iv)                Voice mail system for recording farmers queries during idle time of KCC or during  call lines busy, with provision for call back to callers.

Presently 8-9 lakh calls are handled by the Kisan Call Centres in a Year.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Digital Government Comparisons by Country

As Digital Government is such a prominent issue in today's society, it is important to take a look not just domestically in the United States, but to see what other countries are doing with regards to Digital Government internationally.  In an Accenture 2014 Digital Government report, the consulting firm divided categories into three main areas:

1) Cutters: Countries who have well developed infrastructure and use digital government to help reduce costs.
2) Builders: Countries trying to lean forward in development of infrastructure to offer more services.
3) Enhancers: Countries using digital government to help boost their economy.

Surprising to some, the United States ended up in the first grouping of those mentioned above.  According to the same Accenture report, the United States does not do well in cross-governmental services.  And overall, based on a variety of rankings, the U.S. ranked lower in terms of digital government performance, as depicted in Accenture's graph below where the comparison is between 10 countries globally.

Source: Accenture: Digital Government Pathways Report, January 2014 

Interestingly enough, according to a United Nations E-Government survey from that same year, the United States is considered one of the world's e-government leaders.  It is also noted in this report that United States has promoted the use of API/self-developed applications as part of the open government initiative.  An interesting note in this U.N. report is the difference between demand-side services and supply-services.  This point may help if you find yourself wondering if the United States is a leader in e-government why does it rank low comparatively to some other countries in the first report mentioned above.  

Both reports speak to efficiencies in e-government/digital government.  The distinction may be found in the fact that America is a leader in the e-government arena as with many other areas globally; however, the specific services (let's call these e-services for lack of a better term) that are offered may or may not be centered on the citizen.  I believe this is a key takeaway when speaking about digital government.  There are services offered for a variety of reasons (economic and otherwise); however, where improvement may needed is in terms of centering a service around the citizen to whom that service is being developed for.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


 Japanese government data catalog site, “DATA.GO.JP” was launched on October 1, 2014. It is provided by the Strategic Headquarters for the Promotion of an Advanced Information and Telecommunications Network Society (IT Strategic Headquarters) in Cabinet Secretariat. 

 The Japanese government is promoting the Open Data initiative, in which the government widely discloses public data in machine-readable formats and allows secondary use of the public data for profit-making or other purposes. This initiative has the goals of improving people's lives and stimulating corporate activities, thereby contributing to social and economic development of Japan.
   This website serves as a catalog of this Open Data, and is intended to provide information about public data available for secondary use. The website provides extensive search capabilities.

   In this site, people can search government data from top page. Main contents of this page are the following:

<Main Contents>
l  Data (21 government organization, 12347 datasets)
l   Terms of use
l  Open Data Initiatives (Policies and Decisions about Open Data)
l   Communication (Requests & Feedback)
l   Developers
l   Statistics

   In DATA.GOV.JP, 40.6% of all datasets are in PDF format, and second largest format is in HTML which is 33.6%. Most PDF datasets are documents of government budget and final accounts and procurement, and most HTML datasets are white papers and annual report.  There is a table of comparison of the government open data format between Japan and USA.

Data Formats
(number of data)
 From the perspective of covering a large volume of data, this site includes past data in non-machine-readable formats. However, from the perspective of using secondary data, Japanese datasets are expected to be CSV, XML, and JSON instead of PDF because datasets that have their data in PDF are not readable and cannot be edited easily.
  In statistics page, we can see visitors from other countries for the current month. Today(2014/10/15), the largest visitors’ country is Japan, second is USA, third is unidentified(!), forth is China. 
 In addition, according to Japanese government IT dashboard that provides statistics information about DATA.GO.JP, 96.9% of data in “DATA.GO.JP” are provided in Japanese.

  About communication, there are no comments and feedbacks. One reason is that it has been only 15days since it was launched.

Case of using public data in Japan
<Book search service “Calil”>(Sorry, It has only Japanese page)
 This is the searching service of books across 5,200 libraries in Japan. Using this service, the users can see the status of the books whether the books are available or not. Additional information about the book posted on “” and link to the online bookstore are also displayed in the same page. In case the books are not available in any libraries, the user can go to online bookstore by clicking the link displayed.

 I hope that this open government data will be used for creating new services and new value.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

E-Government for the future we want

UN E-Government survey 2014 : The Republic of Korea has retained the top spot in 2014 with its continued leadership and focus on e-government innovation. Australia (2nd) and Singapore (3rd)
have both improved their rankings considerably over their 2012 performance.

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, a global consensus was reached that to achieve our sustainable development goals we need institutions at all levels that are effective, transparent, accountable and democratic.
E-government holds tremendous potential to improve the way that governments deliver public services and enhance broad stakeholder involvement in public service. The 2014 edition of the United Nations E-Government Survey, coming on the heels of a ten-year period of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action line implementation, asserts that information and communication technologies are potent enablers of the effective, transparent and accountable institutions envisaged by world leaders at Rio. Countries in all regions of the world and at all levelsof development continue to make significant investments in public sector ICT for these reasons.

Such efforts are vital to achieving broad public participation in decision-making, enhancing access to information and removing barriers to public service—all essential if we are to assure a future of equitable economic growth and sustainable development that are free of poverty and hunger. UN commend this report to policy-makers, leading officials and analysts considering the contribution that e-government can make to the future we want and the place of effective public management in good governance in the post-2015 era.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Privacy and Security of Data : A Quick Look to Other Side of The Coin
We know that new information and communication technologies (ICT) offer governments a new world which is full of opportunities to serve its people efficiently. Presedent Obama’s open government initative is one of the best examples. His words to Mr. Kundra are very explanatory: “Ensure public trust, establish a system of transperancy, public participation and collaboration.” Government activities should be more visible to public so that they can check them, question them, contribute in preparation and implimentation stages of policies”. In order to achieve these goals, information in the government’s hands should be accessible in a usable format to people anytime and anywhere they want. One of the key question here is of course “What kind of information should be provided to public?” The bureaucracy traditionally tends to reveal only tip of the iceberg. There may be some fair reasons for that hesitation such as national security, personal privacy, copyrights, legal issues or practical ones like need of backround information to interpret data. But at the end in one way or another it is possible to find a way to distinguish which is classified and which is not. However, if we want people to participate to government activities and eventually aim to increase our democratic standarts, there is another obstacle we need to overcome in terms of privacy and security.
Concidering they are are more vulnerable than government, people’s security and privacy concerns are as important as government’s. When we jump into digital world and start to use facebook, twitter etc. we begin to share something about us. We can try to take measures although it’s not realistic to expect every person can do that effectively. But even after those measures have been taken, some personel information would go on leaking. Beginning from stepping into this world we are inevitably a part of the big data and preys of the hunters of this land who are using advance techniques to process all that information about us. Apart from commercial and the like examples, this might be a real problem in terms of public participation to government policies. The danger I want to explain here might not posing a real or severe threat to mature democracies where check and balances are working. But if democratic system is already vulnerable and prone to work improperly, there should be real problem. Recent developments in Turkey regarding this argument would be useful to understand the situation.
The Turkish government has been struggling with allegations of corruption and some other political abuses for 10 months. Regardless of the accuracy of claims we can say that they are serious enough to send the government to jail for years. In the begining, the government acted like other western governments for a short time. But after understanding how serious the concequences might be, the government banned media to publish or broadcast the allegations, using the “principle of privacy of indictment until it will be accepted by judge” as an exuse. Social media stepped into scene when traditional media was prohibited. Then allegations and voice records of government members were started be published in an anonymous way and whole country begun to follow live broadcast of allegations in twitter, facebook and youtube. At first the goverment tried to be silent, hoping that not so many more people use the social media tools and learn the story. But statistics showed otherwise. In the meantime the newspapers and TVs went around the ban as if they were mentioning rumours in twitter and youtube not the indictment.
At this stage the government tried to refute claims by government spokesmen, underlying that those are unproven claims. Then the government understood that its strategy serves only spreading of accusation and the more they try to explain the more secrets reveal. The situation were getting dangerous for them since there is an election ahead which may cause them to lose control if they can not win. At this point goverment was so desparate that thay banned youtube and twitter, risking their country to be considered in the same category with North Korea, China and Iran. Yet, the mos problematic part of the story just begun. The government passed a new legislation which made impossible for members of national intelligence service (MIT) to be brought to court without permission of prime minister, even they commit an obvious crime in a live broadcast.
After that following legislations came which allow MIT to monitor, record every kind of media and send reports to prosecutors. Obviously activities which are among people’s natural rights, are no more legal by new laws, these reports became real threats to people who voiced against government in social media. Then they reorganized Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication (TIB) which is responsible for the determination of the communication that are made by telecommunication, listening, evaluation of the signal information and recordings”. Second top director of MIT was assigned as president of this very important institution which enable them to record evrything in the country. (Remember no one can touch him without Prime Minister’s permission). With a recent regulation president of TIB has personally privileged to shut down any web site or page in four hours without any permisson or court order. Now they have every chance to behave arbitrary. Then they tried to force Twitter to give them account holders personel information, threatening them never allow them to open Twitter again. At the and Twitter didn’t agree to give information but they started to blur sites, names of which were given by government (chilling effect). The World only showed some weak reactions, conniving and encouaging them.   
There are some problems which are different than routine issues and considering their importance to society, participation of their preparing and implimentation process. But they also have the potential to cause serious concequences for a government. Imagine that you are person living in a such environment and expected to participate these kind of government activities, how come you participate under such circumtances, knowing that every word you say is recorded and stored somewhere to be used against you if desired. And we are talking about being isolated whithin people, marked as enemy of country, to be fired so easily or sent to jail. They are not some stories from old times. There are real peoples experiencing each of these examples right now in the country. 2 milion government employees, their relatives (who are afraid of cousing harm them by speaking), businessmen who are easily can be subject to public sanctions and all people who wants to express themselves in social media are out of game as long as such circumstances persist. You may have fancy new mobile gadgets, twitter accounts etc. but can you participate about explosive matters? How can another government find a way to gain public confidence and convince them to touch significant but burning issues of public and to improve and enrich the democracy. Of course history of mature democracies are full of struggles. There were always ups and downs. An improved democracy is not something that one can has with a snap of his fingers. I hope this a temporary madness or paranthesis in our history like other negative periods. Since crises come with opportunities, I believe that there is no need to be hopeless for the Turkey as long as a significant part of the society is committed to protect their rights.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Discussing e-Government Globally

United Nations Global E-Government Forum brought together 700 participants from all around the world. It took place in Astana, Kazakhstan in 7-8 October 2014 under the theme of “Smart Governance for Sustainable Development”.

Due to its importance for the development of societies and international interaction opportunities, e-government is one of the serious points in UN’s agenda. To bring it on an international round table, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) organized two Global e-Government Forums cooperatively with the Government of Republic of Korea. The first Forum was in 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. In the following year, the second Forum also took place in South Korea. 

As it was stated in the information about the Forum released by the UNDESA, “to continue its global initiative to promote e-government development”, the UNDESA collaborated with the Government of Kazakhstan for the third Global Forum on e-Government. When we look at the themes of the previous Forums, it can be seen that “Smart Government for a Better Future” and then “Smart Government and Smart Society: Openness, Sharing, Communication and Collaboration” is followed by this year’s “Smart Government for Sustainable Development: New Opportunities for Partnership in the Networked Society”. UNDESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo said that smart government could “broaden public participation in decision making and service delivery”. The participants discussed a number of important topics such as Citizen Involvement for Smart Government, Bridging Digital Divide, The Evolution of E-Services during two days. The Winners of the United Nations e-Government Survey were also presented and awarded in the first day of the Forum.

Here is the list of UN e-Government Survey Special Awardees

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Open Internet

There has been much talk in recent months about Open Internet, Net Neutrality, and the re-emergence on the discussion of the Digital Divide. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in May 2014, opened the discussion for public comment on how to advance the idea of an Open Internet.  Additionally, there is a current "Fast Lane" proposal - meaning if certain companies have greater content (as detailed in graph below), they may be charged more by the ISPs to provide their content at speeds that consumers have grown to expect.  This may mean consumers end up paying more in the end for services. The analogy here is the carpool lane on the highway (but in this scenario, you have to pay for the use of the lane).

One option considered, is if the FCC made ISPs a utility; that may prevent them charging certain companies more to provide services based on their use of bandwidth, thus giving the Government greater oversight (similar to gas, electric, etc...) One town, Chattanooga, Tenn. has offered an alternative model.  They have a city-owned department, running their own high speed broadband for the city.  Municipality-managed internet access is a clear example of the how some cities are working to bridge the digital divide.

Some things to consider based on this information:  Is this something new to the digital divide theory?  Is access in itself acceptable, or is equal access for all (in the functions of speed and availability) what is necessary as we progress as a society?  Does the digital divide work only at the individual level, or our corporations a consideration as well?  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

e- Choupal

ITC's Agri Business Division, one of India's largest exporters of agricultural commodities, has conceived e-Choupal as a more efficient supply chain aimed at delivering value to its customers around the world on a sustainable basis.

The e-Choupal model has been specifically designed to tackle the challenges posed by the unique features of Indian agriculture, characterised by fragmented farms, weak infrastructure and the involvement of numerous intermediaries, among others.

Tradition Value Chain- From Farm to Factory(Producer 
The Indian farmers has been trapped in a vicious cycle of low risk taking ability>low investment>low productivity > weak market orientation > low value addition>low margin>low risk taking ability. This made them and Indian agribusiness sector globally uncompetitive, despite rich & abundant natural resources.


e-Choupal  Model

Appreciating the imperative of intermediaries in the Indian context, 'e-Choupal' leverages Information Technology to virtually cluster all the value chain participants, delivering the same benefits as vertical integration does in mature agricultural economies like the USA.

e-Choupal’ makes use of the physical transmission capabilities of current intermediaries- aggregation, logistics, counter-party risk and bridge financing-while dis-intermediating them from the chain of information flow and market signals.

With a judicious blend of click & mortar capabilities, village internet kiosks managed by farmers - called sanchalaks - themselves, enable the agricultural community access ready information in their local language on the weather & market prices, disseminate knowledge on scientific farm practices & risk management, facilitate the sale of farm inputs (now with embedded knowledge) and purchase farm produce from the farmers' doorsteps (decision making is now information-based).

Real-time information and customised knowledge provided by 'e-Choupal' enhance the ability of farmers to take decisions and align their farm output with market demand and secure quality & productivity. The aggregation of the demand for farm inputs from individual farmers gives them access to high quality inputs from established and reputed manufacturers at fair prices. As a direct marketing channel, virtually linked to the 'mandi' system for price discovery, 'e-Choupal' eliminates wasteful intermediation and multiple handling. Thereby it significantly reduces transaction costs.

'e-Choupal' ensures world-class quality in delivering all these goods & services through several product / service specific partnerships with the leaders in the respective fields, in addition to ITC's own expertise.

While the farmers benefit through enhanced farm productivity and higher farm gate prices, ITC benefits from the lower net cost of procurement (despite offering better prices to the farmer) having eliminated costs in the supply chain that do not add value
e- Choupal Execution Status

Launched in June 2000, 'e-Choupal', has already become the largest initiative among all Internet-based interventions in rural India. 'e-Choupal' services today reach out to over 4 million farmers growing a range of crops - soyabean, coffee, wheat, rice, pulses, shrimp - in over 40,000 villages through 6500 kiosks across ten states (Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerela and Tamil Nadu).

The problems encountered while setting up and managing these 'e-Choupals' are primarily of infrastructural inadequacies, including power supply, telecom connectivity and bandwidth, apart from the challenge of imparting skills to the first time internet users in remote and inaccessible areas of rural India

Several alternative and innovative solutions-some of them expensive-are being deployed to overcome these challenges eg Power back-up through batteries charged by Solar panels, upgrading BSNL exchanges with RNS kits, installation of VSAT, Mobile Choupals, local caching of static contents on website to stream in dynamic content more efficiently, 24x7 helpdesk etc.                                                    

Going forward, the roadmap includes plans to integrate bulk storage, handling & transportation facilities to improve logistics efficiencies.

As India's 'kissan' Company, ITC has taken care to involve farmers in the designing and management of the entire 'e-Choupal' initiative. The active participation of farmers in this rural initiative has created a sense of ownership in the project among the farmers. They see the 'e-Choupal' as the new age cooperative for all practical purposes.

This enthusiastic response from farmers has encouraged ITC to plan for the extension of the 'e-Choupal' initiative to altogether 15 states across India over the next few years. On the anvil are plans to channelise other services related to micro-credit, health and education through the same 'e-Choupal' infrastructure.

Another path-breaking initiative - the 'Choupal Pradarshan Khet', brings the benefits of agricultural best practices to small and marginal farmers. Backed by intensive research and knowledge, this initiative provides Agri-extension services which are qualitatively superior and involves pro-active handholding of farmers to ensure productivity gains. The services are customised to meet local conditions, ensure timely availability of farm inputs including credit, and provide a cluster of farmer schools for capturing indigenous knowledge. This initiative, which has covered over 70,000 hectares, has a multiplier impact and reaches out to over 1.6 million farmers.

ITC's e-Choupal has won numerous awards:
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Award at the international conference on Sharing Innovative Agribusiness Solutions 2008 at Cairo for ITC's exemplary initiatives in agri business through the e-Choupal.
  • The Ashoka - Changemakers 'Health For All' Award 2006 for the Rural Health Services model for delivery of health services through the e-Choupals.
  • The Stockholm Challenge 2006. This award is for using information technology for the economic development of rural communities.