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Can’t Get Online? If You’re in India Just Call the Question Box

សំបុត្រអគ្គិសនី បោះពុម្ព PDF
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Download   For those with access, being online has changed their lives.

The internet gives farmers current crop prices, students research without setting foot in a library and job seekers the latest in employment options.

But for most of the world getting that information isn't possible.

Over five billion people are in a knowledge vacuum, living without the internet.

It is a disadvantage which can make their daily life more difficult.

The Question Box is being touted as a unique solution.

It is bringing the internet to India's rural poor.

Michael Atkin went to Poonah to find out how it works.


I'm in the small village of Shirur, where a new Question Box is being installed.

Nestled between sugar cane farms and modest houses is Maher's ashram for women and children.

A crowd is listening to instructions about how to use the Question Box.

The Question Box is a simple rectangular device with a mobile phone inside.

The user presses a button and is connected to a local operator who is sitting at a computer with an internet connection.   

Now the user is free to ask whatever they want, in their local language of Marathi.

The first question is about the population of Poonah, the local region.

The answer is met with a round of applause.

However, the crowd doesn't like the next answer. India is getting thrashed by South Africa in the cricket and the score is met with a groan.

Sister Lucy Kurien is the founder of the ashram. The 54 year old provides food and shelter for 180 women and children.

She says the Question Box will be useful for school kids who need help with homework and want to find out about jobs and exam results.

All that information is available online but they had no way to access it.

"It has been very difficult for them, unless they get it (the information) from the newspaper or the radio and we have a simple tv program, but we don't have a tv cable connection. It has been very difficult for our children."

Sister Lucy says the older children and some women may also use it to gain sexual health information.

"Now AIDS is spreading rapidly so what I feel is questions around that they feel very shy to ask us. This box is going to be a great help because they can ask whatever is within them."

Question Box has been operating in India since 2007 and there are now boxes at 10 locations from rural villages to urban slums.

Dr Nikhil Agarwal, the Chairman of Open Mind Trust, India, oversees the operation.

"Even though you may be seeing Indians as the second largest mobile phone users in the world, we have more than 490 million users but that does not mean they have access to information all the time so there is a great digital divide. Still there are a lot of people who do not have access to basic information which is available to the educated, urban class. We are trying to bridge that gap."

In a country of 1.1 billion people, just 81 million Indians are online. Many of the Question Box users are also illiterate.   

Gawri Bapusaheb Dhokle from Poonah couldn't get online until today.

The 12 year old student has been reading in the local newspaper about swine flu. She asked Question Box to help her fill in the gaps in her knowledge.

"I asked, 'How many people were detected with Swine Flu in Poonah?'"

Q. What was the answer?

"46 people died and 864 people are living with swine flu."

Gawri says she will now go to Question Box if she wants more information.

But the rollout hasn't been problem free. Some users found it daunting being able to ask about any subject and didn't know where to start.

Dr Nikhil Agarwal also found another unexpected problem. In one village rival political parties claimed they were responsible for its installation.

"One political group has said to the villagers, 'We have brought this technology,' and a fight broke out between two political groups. They were trying to tell the villagers, 'We are developmental in nature and we care about you,' but the truth was not there. We had chosen the village at random, so I would say the Question Box became infamous through that incident."

Q. Surely Question Box should have been able to answer which political party was responsible?

"I'm sure that Google cannot answer this question."

Currently Question Box is in a pilot phase in both India and Uganda, where it specialises in helping farmers.

The Indian operation is funded by the Indian government and private donations. In the future, Question Box is likely to shift away from general knowledge to specific areas like mental health and animal husbandry.

But right now it’s helping Poonah school kids with their homework and depressing them with the cricket score.


Questions :

1)  What is a Question Box?
2)  Who uses it?
3)  In which areas in India has it been installed?
4)  How does the device work? 
5)  Why do people in the rural areas in India need the Question Box?
6)  Around how many  Indians can get information online? 


Vocabluary :                                                                                                                        

crop : hasil panen                                                                                                     

job seekers : pencari pekerjaan                                                                              

disadvantage : keadaan yang merugikan                                                                

rural : pedesaan                                                                                                         

installed : dipasang                                                                                                  

rectangular device  : alat yang berbentuk empat persegi panjang

round of applause : tepukan tangan

region : daerah, wilayah

groan : mengerang kesal

slum : daerah kumuh

daunting: menakutkan

illiterate : buta huruf

rollout: peluncuran produk baru

random : acak

funded : didanai

animal husbandry : peternakan hewan

cricket : olahraga asal Inggris yang dimainkan oleh kesebelasan dengan bola  dan alat pemukul


បាន​បន្ទាន់​សម័យ​ចុង​ក្រោយ​បំផុត ( ថ្ងៃពុធ ទី12ខែ​ឧសភាឆ្នាំ2010ម៉ោង14:28 )