Indian techie does his bit for knowledge sharing

Sunday, 25 March 2007, 05:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: An Indian techie is contributing to the knowledge-sharing platform with his publications on the theme of information and communication technology for development, or ICT4D, through the Internet.

Ravi Gupta, 36, a civil engineering alumnus of IIT Kanpur, has launched four specialist magazines unique in their slot globally. They are i4d (information for development, founded in May 2003), eGov (on e-governance, January 2005), Digital Learning (December 2005) and e-Health (December 2006).

Gupta says: "If I look back, the one thing which I see that came as amrit (nectar, full of promise) for India, our organization and me too, was the launch of the Internet in the country."

Gupta's Centre for Science Development and Management Studies (CSDMS) is planning a fifth magazine focusing on telecentres. A telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others and build "digital skills".

While ICT4D has become a growing interest among the developmental community globally, CSDMS's magazine is seen as probably the only one of its kind.

"India is itself a huge ICT and ICT4D player globally. It is said 70 percent of the pilot projects in ICT4D are held in India. There's lot of stuff happening in our backyards. That gives us a big advantage, we don't have to travel (all the way) to Africa to learn of ICT4D," Gupta told IANS in an interview.

The magazine on telecentres readies for an August 2007 launch in collaboration with and the Canadian development research organisation IDRC.

"Globally the response has been fantastic," gushes Gupta. "i4d is unique in its space. There's none other like that. It is read across the world and writers too contribute globally. (The Swiss development organisation) SDC, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and IDRC have supported it."

Gupta's base is Noida, near the Indian capital.

Gupta has also been founder-editor of the GIS@Development magazine, now functioning as a separate organisation, called GIS@Development Pvt Ltd. This magazine publishes international editions in the Asia-Pacific, Malaysia, the Middle East and Africa, and holds events outside India.

i4d and CSDMS have two flagship events, e-India and e-Asia. e-India is in its third year and the latter in its second.

In February 2007, e-Asia was organised in Kuala Lumpur in collaboration with the Malaysian government. It attracted 800 people from 57 countries who paid their entry.

"That's the fun part of it. How to do an event for which people come on their own? You need to create some value for the event," says soft-spoken Gupta. This ICT-for-development event had five tracks - egov, digital learning, telecentre forum, ehealth, and mserve.

"Mobile-for-development was discussed in such a large way perhaps for the first time. We had 54 exhibitors," says Gupta.

"We would like to take ICT4D beyond academic debates. The ICT4D market has not yet been created. It's still largely a theory," argues Gupta.

"When we started our first publication GIS@Development in 1997 (now called GISDevelopment) we had a very hazy idea of what are the issues or problems or challenges faced by the GIS community, in India and across the globe. But a lot of our learning happened through the Internet," he says.

"We saw the need for a knowledge-sharing platform. We didn't start with the intention of being a global platform. We are still learning on the way. We are a small humble knowledge networking organization. Whether good or not is for someone else to decide," says Gupta.

Their dream? To take IT to the teacher or doctor in a way that benefits real-life situations, rather than just become something very theoretical.
Source: IANS
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