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Hacktreks Travel 2

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Internet India
Colin Todhunter in India

The internet in particular is clawing its way into rural India.

I had just travelled along the Delhi to Jaipur road. It took an age to get out of the city. Delhi seemingly goes on forever. The bus fought its way through traffic jams, people, urban sprawl and more urban sprawl. As we passed the Indira Gandhi International Airport, I thought "At last - we must be nearly out of the city". Officially, we probably were. But I didn’t account for the new developments. It must have been about another forty minutes before we encountered countryside.

The Delhi-Jaipur route is fascinating.. It is where hi-tech India meets rural India.
The edge of the Delhi conurbation is now scattered with ugly high rise appartment blocks. I can never work out whether it is they that are grey and dismal, or it is the haze that makes them appear that way. They are too far in the distance to provide me with an answer. From the distance, they look as though they were inspired by the urban architects of the former Soviet Union. Maybe from close up they are beautiful. I doubt it. Nearer to the road, however, is hi-tech Delhi. Office blocks gleam in their newness and would not look out of place in Manhattan or Hong Kong.

As we follow the road we eventually hit greenery. Within another hour or so we are in Rajasthan. The contrast with that part of the road which leads out of Delhi cannot be more striking. Village women walk along dirt paths close to the road, dressed in yellow veils. They look as though they have just time travelled forward to 2002 from two hundred ago. They carry pots on their heads and are covered head to toe with clothes and jewellery. Tall, elegant village men dressed in white and wearing traditional head gear cycle and walk along the tarmac. People in the West used to section the world into First, Second and Third world terminology. Those are outdated stereotypes, and even then they were misguided. But in the age we live in, global corporate capitalism is everywhere. Its monuments, the shiny office blocks, are no longer as confined as they were to Western cities. To use the old terminilogies - The "First World" is now firmly entrenched in the "Third". You do not have to look at the office blocks in Delhi or to survey the IT parks near Bangalore of Hyderabad to know this, but it kind of reinforces it.

So what has all of this got to do with the internet? Well, if hi-tech India has now crawled its away along the Delhi-Jaipur road it does not stop there. The internet in particular is clawing its way into rural India. It is already on just about every major street in every town. Internet cafes abound. Some are nothing more than box rooms with three or four machines crammed in. From the outside the building may look like a crumbling shed on a muck strewn street, but inside is the majestic PC. Others are big enterprises, with rows and rows of machines.

These days, the internet and computer technology are no longer confined to middle class urban dwellers. Schemes exist to give slum children access in Mumbai, and agencies such as the Swaminathan Research Foundation supports putting "knowledge centres" into villages in Tamil Nadu, close to Pondycherry. The centres have been effective in empowering rural communities with information in the fields of environment, health, sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, meteorology, markets and prices. For example, in a coastal village inhabited by fisher families, the women download from the internet each evening information on the likely wave heights in the sea adjoining their village at various distances from the shore line. This information is broadcast throughout the village through loudspeakers. The fishermen then have access to accurate information on sea conditions before they set out for fishing in their wooden boats. I am sure there are dozens, maybe hundreds of organisations across India attemping to bridge the digital divide with various projects. Globalisation without ethics or equity may be the logo for the rich and powerful, but seemingly not for everyone.

© Colin Todhunter October 2002

The Point of No Return: Love and Death in India

Four Wheels Good Two Wheels Crazy
Out of Chennai and Into Madness on the Back of an Enfield

- The Madras Diaries
Traveller Tales on the Road in India
a new book by Colin Todhunter
available now
£4.99 or $11.99 CND
To Order Go to Paypal
and pay
Read Colin's Collection of India Stories now available, with new unpublished additions in Hacktreks first work in print.

All Aboard the Tamil Nadu Express: next stop - insanity!
He had met a woman in the hotel, and was totally mad about her.

From Copenhagen to Byron Bay:
A tale of two women
"In India first you get married and then you work these things out", he said with amazing casualness.

Poison Kiss
"There will be a small financial re-numeration" Mr Sunderjee says...
Colin Todhunter finds himself the unexpected 'star' of an Indian movie.

The unique experience of going to the gym in India

Me, God and Jerry Seinfeld: spaced out in India
I got the impression that he thought he was a living God. He was lost in space.

Chennai Tax Office and the Trail of the Banana Pancake
'as people get to where they think they want to be, many realise that they didn’t want to be there in the first place or at least want to be somewhere else - somewhere better'.

Back to the Future on Triplicane High Road
I found women with love in their eyes, and women with flowers in their hair, but not both together.

More Journeys in Hacktreks

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