Microsofts rural portal in offing

Hyderabad, March 30 | Updated: Mar 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
As part of its commitment to enter the rural sector in a big way, IT major Microsoft Corporation (India) Pvt Ltd is launching a rural portal in the next three to six months. The company is looking at partnerships to develop the portal with relevant information.

The move is part of rural computing strategy to assist 700 million people who are living in rural areas. The company has unveiled a self-sustaining kiosk model initiative aimed at taking IT benefits to rural India.

Explaining about the model, Tarun Malik, head of Rural Computing, said it is a public-private partnership, called Saksham (meaning self-sustaining in Sanskrit), on which the portal is being developed.

We are looking at partnership with independent software vendors, small and regional partners besides other input companies such as fertiliser companies, banks, etc to partner in this programme, Mr Malik said.

The company is now working with Vortex, a Hyderabad-based company, and eyeing other partners. After that it is planning to roll out over 50,000 kiosks in the next three years.

Saksham is expected to be housed on a three-tier structure that includes G2C, B2B and B2C. Besides, market linkages will be strengthened in association with ICRISAT and other institutes. Presently, the company is working on localising information in 13 local languages, which is expected to cover 300 districts in the next three years.

A specific working group has been constituted by the rural computing group for the proposed 50,000 kiosks, Mr Malik said.

The company is looking to set up over 10,000 kiosks in Andhra Pradesh. Though the investments were not disclosed, the whole model is expected to converge with the proposed Rajiv internet kiosks in AP and similar rural models in other states.

Meanwhile, as a pilot project, Microsoft India is taking technology in a different way in Bihar. The company is providing laptops to select Madhubani painters to use it as the background material instead of a cloth. Similar experiments are being conducted for sugarcane in Tamil Nadu, Kanchipuram silk sarees, food processing industry in Gujarat.