This is a long overdue update from our end! We were awarded a grant in the 2008 News Challenge for developing low-cost technologies for community radio stations in India. We have come a long way since then. Our systems are now in use in 9 stations in India, and growing steadily. But we have also realized that there is a lot more that needs to be done to push the community radio movement in India. Thankfully the Knight Foundation has given us considerable flexibility to tackle various problems as and when they arise. Let me first give you a context,...more »
Idea Lab is a group blog by innovators who are reinventing community news for the Digital Age.
Each Idea Lab blogger is a winner of the Knight News Challenge grant to reshape community news.Learn more about the Knight News Challenge »
I attended an Ashoka conference in New Delhi yesterday on rural innovation and farming. There were so many new things I realized about agriculture's deep rooted connections with culture, society and the economy that I decided to immediately write about it before the memories fade. Plus. I watched Avatar later in the evening, which was perfect icing on the cake! Agriculture and Women Agriculture can be looked upon from many perspectives. Food can be seen as a commodity, where farmers are considered akin to factory workers and we talk about increasing their productivity though machines, technology, etc. Or agriculture can...more »
It has been quite a while since we wrote updates, but a lot has been going on. For one, we were winners in the Indian national Manthan Awards for 2009 for technological innovation for development! Then we did a second release of our broadcast system for community radio integrated with telephony, and deployed it at our pilot location. We are set for two more pilots in the next two weeks, and we will start professional deployments very soon! The community radio movement in India has also been picking up pace steadily, there are now almost fifty community radio stations, and...more »
We are very pleased to announce the second release of GRINS, Gram Vaani's Knight-funded project to create low-cost systems for community radio stations in rural areas. This builds upon the v0.1 release we did in June by adding support for telephony, backup, and log-shipping, plus smoothing out many user interface issues. Having a single console to schedule broadcast, make and receive phone calls, archive live speech and manage content sets GRINS apart from any other commercial or open-source radio broadcast software available so far. Here's a look at some of the features: Telephony: The current support for live telephony allows...more »
Internet penetration in rural areas, especially in developing countries such as India, is generally poor. Telecom companies do not find it economically viable to deploy wired broadband such as DSL; satellite connectivity is expensive and often slow; dial-up (if available) is always flaky; and cellular data services such as GPRS or EDGE are quite costly to use. Newer technologies for wireless broadband such as WiMax do promise higher bandwidth, but infrastructure costs for deployment in rural areas remain high. How then can Internet connectivity be provided in such areas in a robust and low-cost manner? One could, of course, ask...more »
After working countless weekends and days and nights, we are very happy to announce that Gram Vaani's platform for community radio stations is now available for download. We call it GRINS, standing for the Gramin Radio Inter Networking System. GRINS is an enhanced automation system for community radio stations. Built on Gram Vaani's MINP platform, the current release of GRINS allows radio station operators to schedule broadcasts, preview programs, record live transmissions, and maintain an extensive semantically searchable library. In future releases, GRINS will be enhanced to handle telephony calls, sending and receiving SMS messages, and Internet connectivity to...more »
This is a post more for the technology minded, but even others should find it interesting to get an inside view of what goes into designing appropriate technological systems in rural contexts that we are addressing. We've made many design decisions along the way, based on our prior experiences, foresight into expected problems, and observations made while visiting and learning about community radio stations in India. I will first outline some important technological goals that we want to achieve, then describe details of our platform, and finally show how our platform will be able to meet these goals. There will...more »
India has been quite a latecomer to this promising channel of people empowerment through community media. Until late 2006, only educational institutions were allowed to set up campus radio stations having a transmission range of 10-15km. The scope was only recently expanded to also include non-profit agencies, agricultural research institutes, and schools, to set up community radio stations that would involve local communities in the content production process. The progress has been steady since then, although arguably somewhat slow. As of now, there are four stations that are broadcasting, and around six stations that are in advanced stages of their...more »
Moving from ideas to execution is an ultra cool feeling. Gram Vaani is finally on the go and we are all extremely excited to see our dreams taking shape. The garage startup mode I always used to wonder what a Silicon Valley garage startup would feel like. Well, here's what it looks like -- a social entrepreneurial garage startup in India. This is Bala in his pyjamas, with dozens of audio cables and connectors strewn out on his desk in a manner that only he understands. Bala spends part of his day reading Kafka, and the rest of his day...more »
Company background: Gram Vaani is a social entrepreneurial startup focused on building innovative models of media delivery for rural areas of India. Media is an important agency to bring social change and responsible politics, but novel technological and business methods are required to successfully and scalably enable services in the challenging rural environments. Our open-source product line is aimed at low-cost systems co designed with local communities, and has been funded by the Knight Foundation of the US as part of their prestigious global news challenge competition for 2008. Join our young and high powered team for an extremely satisfying,...more »
A new laptop design for the one-laptop-per-child project is being worked out. They have removed the keyboard and replaced it by a touch screen. This turns into a touch sensitive keyboard during normal operation, and the laptop can be used as an e-book reader otherwise. The price is $75, which sounds too good to be true. I used to be very critical of the OLPC project during its earlier stages because I could not understand the rationale behind giving a personal laptop to each child, instead of having them access a shared PC in a kiosk for example. The kiosk...more »
It all started in the Tetherless Computing Lab at the University of Waterloo. Our research group led by Prof. S. Keshav prototyped an extremely low-cost software and hardware platform called KioskNet, for providing Internet connectivity in rural areas. The first pilot deployment was done in May 2006 in the village of Anandpuram in the Vizag district of Andhra Pradesh (India), and has since been followed by deployments in West Bengal (India) and Ghana (Africa). But we soon realized that providing a communication infrastructure to rural areas is not even half of the story. It is useless unless appropriate applications are...more »
I think newspapers, blogs, and magazines should all be doing audio versions. I grew up enjoying and listening to audiobooks and now I don't have the same option for the short form content that I prefer to consume.
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