Microsoft Corp. and Hughes announced Sept. 28 a plan to roll out 5,000 broadband-enabled kiosks across India.
The two companies plan to deploy information and communications-technology kiosks in an estimated 200 small towns and rural regions throughout the country to provide budding entrepreneurs the ability to utilize e-commerce, education and e-governance services.
The project is part of Microsoft's Project Saksham, and the kiosks will be operated on a franchisee-based model.
The initiative will deliver a variety of digital services nationwide, Pranav Roach, president and CEO of Hughes Network Systems India, said in a written statement, and "empowers people and affects the way people live, work and communicate. The ICT kiosks will not only provide a platform for exchange of information and knowledge, but also serve as a platform to create more than 15,000 jobs and self-employment opportunities."
The Project Saksham initiative is intended to create an engagement model with kiosks service providers and various governments for delivering e-government and other business- to-business services. As an effort to impact the sustainability of each kiosk owner, Microsoft will offer a 12-day, IT-literacy program for kiosks operators aimed at helping those operators become sufficiently IT literate so as to enable each to promote further IT-literacy programs within his community. The training will be provided free to the kiosk operators and be conducted in more than 60 locations throughout India.
Rohit Kumar, Microsoft's country head for the public sector, said, "connectivity is a key challenge in creating a digitally inclusive society, and this partnership is a step toward our aim of providing a holistic ecosystem under Project Saksham at the ground level."
For its part, Hughes plans to provide a comprehensive business model enabling successful penetration for the kiosks to provide business-to-business and business-to-consumer services throughout rural India. Toward that end, Hughes will leverage its satellite broadband platform to the remotest pockets of India in order to offer various broadband services, Internet access, value-added services, prepaid top ups, international voice calling and education services through the Hughes Fusion centers.
Powered by the Hughesnet satellite broadband network and Microsoft's platform, the kiosks will be operated by local entrepreneurs providing enough content and services to consumers to sufficiently ensure a sustainable return on investment.
-- J.J. McCoy