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bYtES For aLL: July 2000


July 11, 2000: This message was distributed by Papyrus News, a free e-mail distribution list on the global impact of information technology on language, literacy, and education. Feel free to forward this message to others, preferably with this introduction. For information on Papyrus News, including how to (un)subscribe or access archives, see <>.


From:   Frederick Noronha <>

Subject: bYtES For aLL: JULY 2000 EZINE


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Date:    Tue, 11 Jul 2000 03:14:40 -1000



                         bYtES  For  aLL




_/  B y t e s   F o r   A l l ---

_/  Making  Computing  Relevant to the  People of  South Asia




      Special first anniversary issue. July 1999-July 2000.

      We thank all our many friends and supporters who have

      offered encouragement along every step of the journey



*  SIMPUTER -- SUB-$200 INTERNET DEVICE to help non-literate

*  users: In an effort to bring the Internet to the masses in

*  India and other developing countries, several academics and

*  engineers have used their spare time to design a sub-$200

*  handheld Net appliance, writes Bangalore-based John Ribeiro of

*  IDG News Service (June 23).

*  The Simputer, or SIMple ComPUTER, will enable India's

*  illiterate population (some 48% of the country of one billion)

*  to surf the Web. The device was designed by professors and

*  students at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) at

*  Bangalore, and engineers from Bangalore-based design company

*  Encore Software. A prototype of the appliance will be available in August.

*  The Simputer is built around Intel's StrongARM CPU, with Linux

*  as the operating system. It will have 16 MB of flash memory, a

*  monochrome liquid crystal display (LCD) with a touch panel

*  overlay for pen-based computing, and a local-language

*  interface. The appliance will have Infrared Data Association

*  and Universal Serial Bus interfaces, and will feature Internet

*  access and mail software.

*  Its designers expect the Simputer to be used not only as a

*  personal Internet access device, but also by communities of

*  users at kiosks. A smart-card interface to the device will

*  enable the use of the device for applications such as micro-

*  banking.

*  "We expect to change the model for the proliferation of

*  information technology in India," says Professor Swami Manohar,

*  professor in the computer science and automation department of

*  the IISc. "The current PC-centric model is not sustainable

*  because of the high cost of the PC, and also because we expect

*  that most of the users will not be literate."

*  A subsequent version of the Simputer will also offer speech

*  recognition for basic navigation through the software menus.

*  The speech dictionary will be customizable to support different

*  languages. A text-to-speech system will also be developed to

*  take the technology to India's illiterate population. Later

*  versions will also offer wireless technology.

*  The intellectual property for the device has been transferred

*  free to a non-profit trust, called the Simputer Trust, and both

*  the software and the hardware for the appliance have been

*  offered as open source technology. In the open source model of

*  development, users and developers, often unpaid, work together

*  to update technology. Manohar says that the trust decided to

*  put the technology in Open Source to enable third party

*  software developers and designers to add value to the platform.

*  The technology for the product will be licensed to

*  manufacturers at a nominal fee of $1150, which is to be used to

*  finance upgrades to the Simputer. A number of large

*  manufacturers have shown interest in licensing the technology,

*  though the interest is currently confined to Indian companies,

*  according to Vinay Deshpande, chairman of Encore and a member

*  of the Simputer Trust. He says that the designers have been

*  able to achieve the sub-$200 price point since the electronic

*  components used in the device are all off-the-shelf volume

*  components, and the software is primarily open source software

*  such as Linux.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



DISTANCE LEARNING CENTRES have been approved in 10 major cities of Pakistan by the country's chief executive Gen Pervez Musharraf. This is for the 2000-2001 period, and is aimed at promoting information technology (IT). Sources were quoted saying that the government would spend Rs 220 million for setting up the centres, which would use facilities provided by Allama Iqbal Open University and Pakistan Television in learning technologies.


IN WAR-TORN NORTHERN Sri Lanka, where the only postal service must go by sea to Colombo in the south (taking three weeks or more to deliver), the Internet is being combined with good old- fashioned pen and paper to overcome basic communications struggles.

Neither the sender nor the receiver needs access to a computer or a phone line, and letters get delivered in a couple of days via Pan Lanka Networking. To send mail, the sender simply turns up with a handwritten letter with the snail-mail address of the recipient. It is then scanned into the computer and sent as an attachment to the office in Colombo. From there it is printed and sent to its final destination by standard post. Two special e- mail addresses,  and are used to receive the mail.

PAN was set up by IDRC (Canada) to promote the development of communications infrastructure in poorer regions of Asia and assist the research communities within the region to create and share resources.

One major initiative on its way is a proposed pilot project for a multi-purpose community telecentre (MCT). These are centres where information and communication technologies are shared by a particular community, often in remote or regional areas.

Contact: Helge Selrod, Colombo

Maria Ng Lee Hoon at Singapore

[Thanks to Touhid Uz Zaman <> for this input.]



assist Tibet to get wider Internet access. PAN-Tibet project aims to enable key R&D and government institutions within Tibet to access the Internet for communications and to use Internet tools for educational, research and development work. Trainers from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Tibet University (TU) and Tibet Academy of Agriculture and Animal Sciences (TAAAS) conducted an Internet Workshop in Lhasa using ITrain materials.

Participants came from: Tibet Agriculture and Animal Husbandry College, Tibet Academy of Social Sciences, Tibet Traditional Medicine College, Tibet Science & Technology Commission, Government of Lhasa City, Lingzhi Prefecture, Duilong County Bureau of Science & Technology.

Details received from Touhid Uz Zaman <>


JOIN A MAILING LIST on learning communities. Send an email to

Or visit


IT DEVELOPMENTS IN PAKISTAN. Do a search at The Global Knowledge Partnership site at You will found many good discussions on the issues of *IT developments in Pakistan.

To subscribe to GKD-Digest, send the command:

subscribe gkd-digest

in the body of a message to ""


TO MAKE PCs AFFORDABLE TO MORE INDIANS, the Ministry of Information Technology is suggesting steps like tax reductions, technology innovation, and importing second hand or refurbished PCs. On an average, there are 60 computers for every thousand people in the globe, nearly 17 times higher than the current Indian average. [Ministry of IT]


FOR AN IMPRESSIVE update of the Internet in Pakistan visit the SPIDER webpage. July issue is out at




VISHWABHARAT IS AN INDIAN web-site that has been put up to showcase Indian-language and non-English technology. Indian language fonts and basic word processing software has been put up on this site, and made freely available, in the public domain.


IN INDIA, THE Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) vice chairman FC Kohli has long harboured a dream of using IT to solve basic social problems in India.  Pushed by Kohli, a TCS team has developed a computer-based training system that is designed to teach illiterate adults how to read in a much shorter time than conventional methods permit, and at lower costs. The beta version of the training software developed by TCS has been tested at three locations in Andhra Pradesh, and the results have been very encouraging.

Between 120 to 160 million Indian adults are illiterate. It now takes between six to 18 months to convert an illiterate adult to a state of functional literacy, and depends on trained teachers who are in short supply. It could take over 30 years to eradicate illiteracy going by current trends. If computer-based training methods are used, the nation could be made fully literate in three to four years.An illiterate adult is capable of reading within 10 weeks "at the outer limit" and the system is not dependent on trained teachers.

TCS researchers developed a new pedagogy of teaching language to adults. The basic learning unit is not an alphabet but a syllable. This is based on the theory that adults process both pictoral and aural inputs in a contextual and holistic mode, before breaking it down into smaller units of information. The R&D team is -- more importantly -- developing an Indian speech recognition engine which will be capable of converting spoken words into written text and vice versa. This could free the process from the Indian language overlaid keyboard, which is a difficult interface to handle even for trainers.

Once created, TCS plans to patent the software and training modules, but offer them for free use to any agency involved in eradicating illiteracy. TCS also plans to donate all its 1000 486 PCs to organisations implementing the computer-based anti- illiteracy programme. Some 200,000 PCs are needed for a countrywide adult literacy programme, and TCS may be able to source most of these machines from Tata group companies and its large international clients for free. 486 machines may not be able to handle speech recognition. So ways have to be found to fund Rs 800 crore faster machines. But leaders are are confident that money is not going to be a bottleneck to implement a large- computer aided literacy campaign.

Express Computer (June 26 issue)


JONATHAN PEIZER IS CIO of Soros Foundations, one the funders of Award-winning site ( records 180K-250K hits monthly. For further comment on the role of governments and multi-laterals in remedying the digital divide and other related issues, e-mail


HEALTH INFORMATION FOR DEVELOPMENT project aims to compile a Global Directory of Health Information Resource Centres by August 2000, working with a wide range of partners throughout the world. Planned next is a much-larger, $45 m Information Waystations and Staging Posts project, which aims to establish a global network of 1,000 health information resource centres that will provide locally appropriate content on health issues.

An Information Waystation is a local point of access to health information received electronically. It has a PC, CD-ROM & databases, printer, modem, reliable satellite or land telephone, and prepaid broadband Internet access. If you want to send these questionnaires out to your friends in any kind of health centre or network, contact





UNRISD INFOTECH WEBSITE is being updated. Details from Matthias Rosenberg, Research Project on Information Technologies and Social Development, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


PAKISTAN HAS PROMULGATED AN ordinance for the establishment of the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences in the federal capital. It will be a multi-campus university with its principal seat in Islamabad, reports APP.


THE WORLD COMPUTER EXCHANGE acts "as a broker in bridging the international digital divide, promoting cultural understanding between students in the U.S. and developing countries, and facilitating the use of technology and experiential education in education reform." It is a non-profit organization established to ship donated new and used, working Internet-accessible computers to formal and informal schools in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Students in these schools are partnered on- line with interested schools in industrialized countries. It works via Ministers of Education, Non-Governmental Organizations, and Universities.

Details from: Timothy Anderson, President, World Computer Exchange, 936 Nantasket Ave., Hull, MA 02045



THE WIRED WORLD is also nudging forward India's battle against corruption. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) gave its services to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). Citizens can lodge 'vigilance' complaints through the CVC's site at  Instructions, circulations and notes issued by the CVC are available for all to read from the site.

JOURNALIST RESOURCE CENTRE of Pakistan was founded in April 1997 and seeks to uphold "every citizen's right to know and express". Says the centre's Mohammad Tanveer: JRC believes that our media industry's grasp to technology does not tantamount to produce positive results in social capital building, rather in many cases we have witnessed in reverse. We see media's becoming an actor and instrument of power in growing sectarian and ethnic tensions, discrimination against women, rising of violence as resort and high levels of illiteracy. JRC insists upon keeping the full picture of media politics in our minds and action. This role demands journalists to extend beyond fulfilling their professional duties to taking care of their social responsibilities.


FOUNDATION DU DEVENIR is seeking persons willing to contribute to the CD-Rom it is preparing called "Internet: Bridges to Development". Says the foundation: "We want to present the best achievements in the area of Internet in order to disseminate the most efficient experiences and methodologies so that the Internet will be usefull for development."

Contact: Marie Thorndahl, Geneva


SEE AN initiative to make computers available to Indian school students at


TAKING IT SOLUTIONS TO the doorstep of the farming community is what tobacco giant ITC Ltd plans. It is starting with the launch of a new Web site for soyabean farmers it has launched in this city.  The Web site,, is billed as the first of its kind in Hindi, and will give soyabean farmers access the latest information about the weather, crop position, arrivals in markets and crop prices. Besides functioning as an information bank, the site also has an interactive element where farmers' queries would be answered within 24 hours.

There are plans for developing Web sites on the lines of for wheat and rice growing farmers.


INFODEV IS A GLOBAL PROGRAM managed by the World Bank to promote innovative projects on the use of information and communication technologies for economic and social development, with a special emphasis on the needs of the poor in developing countries. infoDev's June edition of the infoDev bulletin can also be found at


BENTON FOUNDATION, ATTEMPTING to bridge the digital divide.



THE UNITED NATIONS, WHICH HAS BEEN OFTEN criticized for not making the best use of its own Web site, said it would host a conference in July on speeding up worldwide economic development through Internet technology. An ECOSOC study released last month said, "There are more hosts (Internet sites) in New York than on continental Africa, more hosts in Finland than Latin America and the Caribbean, and, notwithstanding the remarkable progress in the application of information and communication technology in India, many of its villages still lack a working telephone."


THE DRUM BEAT is the email and web network from The Communication Initiative partnership involving The Rockefeller Foundation, UNICEF, USAID, CHANGE, WHO, BBC World Service, CIDA, Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs, The European Union, Soul City, The Panos Institute, UNAIDS. Information, ideas, linkages and dialogue on communication, development and change. Director: Warren Feek


NET GROWTH FACES LANGUAGE, OTHER BARRIERS: India, China and other large populations may be slow to come on to the Net, but use is already exploding in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan -- countries with young populations, AND are also centres of PC production, where people can easily assemble their own machines from parts.



ADDRESSING TECHNICAL/VOCATIONAL EDUCATION and training challenges: Half the world's workers are self-employed or work in small family enterprises in the informal sector. Many are barely subsistent. By providing access to learning experiences designed to broaden skills, TVET programmes can increase productivity and significantly improve the fortunes of this large group of people. The social consequences of not meeting this demand are enormous.


THE COMMONWEALTH OF LEARNING (COL) of Canada is an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. Email:


DISTANCE EDUCATION HEADLINES ON YOUR DESKTOP: Sign up on a free list or review the headlines about distance education published each weekday from around the world.


DISTANCE-EDUCATOR.COM is a newsletter which includes updated headlines recently added to its site.


UN PLEDGES TO FIGHT DIGITAL DIVIDE: The Internet has given Ivory Coast villagers instant access to the market prices of their cocoa and coffee crops, Ethiopian herders the chance to sell their goats, and Indian children a first glimpse of the Disney Channel. To make sure these don't remain just isolated cases, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization joined the United Nations on Wednesday in pledging to spread information technology and the vast profits of E- commerce to the developing world, reports the Associated Press. The statistics tell the story: The World Bank says it has more telephones than Rwanda, and only 5 percent of the world population has access to the Internet, according to a U.N.- appointed panel of experts who studied the issue.


ETHNOTRENDS IS AN ATTEMPT to balance your reading diet with a dash of minority opinion.  Based in Canada, its tentative line up of stories will cover press opinions from the Chinese, Italian, Punjabi, Tamil and Ukrainian communities. Andrew Machalski, Publisher



AKDN.ORG PROVIDES INFORMATION on the Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan University, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, the Aga Khan Health Services, the Aga Khan Education Services, the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. It covers activities in Central and South Asia, in various parts of Africa, and in Europe and North America. The Aga Khan Development Network is non-denominational and is dedicated to improving the well-being and prospects of people in some of the poorest regions of the world,  irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, race or religion.

For more information, visit


UNICEF'S EMERGENCY WEBSITE (REVAMPED) NOW ON-LINE:   The new format makes UNICEF field situation reports, thematic reviews, appeals, & references easily available.  Comments & information requests can be emailed to


TO BYPASS THE "SYSTEMATIC DISTORTION" of history on both sides of the (Indo-Pakistan) border, three projects are being attempted by Dr Mubarak Ali and Mr Isa Daudpota, a physicist by training -- publishing anthologies of the writings of Pakistani and Indian historians for the Ancient, Medieval and Modern periods; trying to write a history of the subcontinent with an Indian counterpart and a  project for collectively writing a school text-book of the history of the subcontinent on the net.

Details from: Isa Daudpota <> a consultant with Hamdard University in Islamabad.

DAUDPOTA SAYS THAT HE GOT the idea of  such a project from an Israeli site on the net where Arab and Jewish school kids interacted with  each other. He initially thought of creating a similar site for Indians and Pakistanis to communicate with each other through moderators on both sides: "I realised that this would only  become a chat site. And then was already there, though that is a slightly highbrow discussion group."


bYtES For aLL is a voluntary, unfunded venture that, for the purpose of spreading its ideals, seeks the involvement and support of all who agree with its goals. Contact us at * Compiled in public interest * CopyLeft bYtES For aLL volunteers team includes: Frederick in Goa, Partha in Dhaka, Zubair in Karachi, Archana in Goa, Arun-Kumar in Dortmund, Shivkumar in Mumbai, and Daryl in Chicago. To contact them mail

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Last updated: July 15, 2000 in Word 2000