The Diplomatic Courier November 2013, Global South Summit : Page-60

dev digital ExpLoiTing cLouD coMpuTing: MoDErn coMMunicATionS For rurAL EMpowErMEnT comPuTing FoR RuRAl EmPoWERmEnT The goal to increase global economic citizenship and educational exposure, and to promote global health and wellness, can be achieved through the power of sharing knowledge, technology, and resources. Computing and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services can play an important role in disseminating such knowledge around the world. But there exists a strong digital divide between urban and rural/ remote areas, where urban areas have access to the latest technologies and resources which do not reach rural areas, thereby resulting in economic and social disparities across these regions. Kennedy. Sorensen, Ted. “Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History.” New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. Print. Page 227. The use of technology for purposes surrounding ideation, innovation, and collaboration serve to truly raise the tide for all boats Computing technologies and services can potentially reach large populations faster in emerging economies. Especially with the advent of the cloud-computing paradigm, there is a lot of scope for rural users to exploit today’s technologies– cloud computing and storage–where the resources required and the prices at the user site to access these services are relatively low today using devices such as Smartphone. For example, online education using computing resources such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and other video-conference-based remote education programs empower stakeholders by educating them and by creating global awareness and knowledge. Telemedicine services can be provided with proper computing infrastructure and network resources. Computing services can be used to provide rural users access to information (e.g., tracking medical records, agricultural advice, commodity price comparison, weather information and effects on agriculture, etc.) and to develop innovative and practical applications. These services can be provided by governmental and private organizations for empowerment in rural areas. Computing resources and services enable availability of information as well as allow in-field data collection and tracking using Smartphone and other mobile devices. Combining the power of cloud computing with existing and emerging web services will pave the way for bridging the digital divide and can bootstrap the rural economy and quality of life. lAST-milE RuRAl TElEcommunicATion nETWoRkS Modern telecommunication networks play a crucial role in connecting rural users to the cloud and the rest of the Internet. They act as a common platform to connect stakeholders from science, technology, higher education, healthcare, agriculture, private-sector/industry partners, service providers, rural and remote areas, and governments. However, rural/remote areas are characteristically influenced by factors such as scattered user base, resistance to adopt new technology, and affordability. These factors result in limited or non-existent last-mile connectivity infrastructure. This adds to the digital divide between urban and rural areas, leading to the lack of access to computing services. Reducing the divide by developing suitable last-mile telecommunication technologies, however, will provide opportunities to bring millions of stakeholders in the rural/remote areas globally into the digital age. Network operators, service providers, and researchers continue to address challenging issues to accommodate higher bandwidth requirements with increasing traffic. But an important challenge yet to be addressed is how to provide cost-effective last-mile connectivity to rural areas for enabling computing services. With respect to technology adoption in rural areas and emerging economies, a detailed economic analysis on cellphone and Internet penetration vs. income levels of 50 nations was conducted by one of our team members in 2012, and it was found that the Internet penetration today is tightly correlated to the average income levels, with only 31% penetration in developing nations. Cellphone penetration, on the other hand, is widely observed throughout the world with 96% global penetration (89% in developing nations). This is a strong example showing how a technology penetrates into a society and people will adopt it, irrespective of their economic status, if it is made affordable and user-friendly with compelling use cases. The goal of providing network connectivity to rural areas also should be to make the technology affordable and user-friendly, and develop compelling applications and use cases. chAllEngES Service Providers’ inertia. Rural areas are characterized by sparse population density and limited or non-existent network infrastructure. Thus, fig. 1. technology options and deployment trends for last-mile telecommunication in rural areas. please see [1] for details. 60 DIPLOMATIC COURIER

Exploiting Cloud Computing: Modern Communications For Rural Empowerment

ComPuTing FoR RuRAl EmPoWERmEnT

The goal to increase global economic citizenship and educational exposure, and to promote global health and wellness, can be achieved through the power of sharing knowledge, technology, and resources. Computing and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services can play an important role in disseminating such knowledge around the world. But there exists a strong digital divide between urban and rural/ remote areas, where urban areas have access to the latest technologies and resources which do not reach rural areas, thereby resulting in economic and social disparities across these regions. Kennedy. Sorensen, Ted. “Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History.” New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. Print. Page 227. The use of technology for purposes surrounding ideation, innovation, and collaboration serve to truly raise the tide for all boats

Computing technologies and services can potentially reach large populations faster in emerging economies. Especially with the advent of the cloud-computing paradigm, there is a lot of scope for rural users to exploit today’s technologies– cloud computing and storage–where the resources required and the prices at the user site to access these services are relatively low today using devices such as Smartphone. For example, online education using computing resources such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and other videoconference- based remote education Programs empower stakeholders by educating them and by creating global awareness and knowledge. Telemedicine services can be provided with proper computing infrastructure and network resources. Computing services can be used to provide rural users access to information (e.g., tracking medical records, agricultural advice, commodity price comparison, weather information and effects on agriculture, etc.) and to develop innovative and practical applications. These services can be provided by governmental and private organizations for empowerment in rural areas. Computing resources and services enable availability of information as well as allow in-field data collection and tracking using Smartphone and other mobile devices. Combining the power of cloud computing with existing and emerging web services will pave the way for bridging the digital divide and can bootstrap the rural economy and quality of life.

LAST-milE RuRAl TelEcommunicATion nETWoRkS

Modern telecommunication networks play a crucial role in connecting rural users to the cloud and the rest of the Internet. They act as a common platform to connect stakeholders from science, technology, higher education, healthcare, agriculture, private-sector/industry partners, service providers, rural and remote areas, and governments. However, rural/remote areas are characteristically influenced by factors such as scattered user base, resistance to adopt new technology, and affordability. These factors result in limited or non-existent last-mile connectivity infrastructure. This adds to the digital divide between urban and rural areas, leading to the lack of access to computing services. Reducing the divide by developing suitable lastmile telecommunication technologies, however, will provide opportunities to bring millions of stakeholders in the rural/remote areas globally into the digital age. Network operators, service providers, and researchers continue to address challenging issues to accommodate higher bandwidth requirements with increasing traffic. But an important challenge yet to be addressed is how to provide cost-effective last-mile connectivity to rural areas for enabling computing services.

With respect to technology adoption in rural areas and emerging economies, a detailed economic analysis on cellphone and Internet penetration vs. income levels of 50 nations was conducted by one of our team members in 2012, and it was found that the Internet penetration today is tightly correlated to the average income levels, with only 31% penetration in developing nations. Cellphone penetration, on the other hand, is widely observed throughout the world with 96% global penetration (89% in developing nations). This is a strong example showing how a technology penetrates into a society and people will adopt it, irrespective of their economic status, if it is made affordable and user-friendly with compelling use cases. The goal of providing network connectivity to rural areas also should be to make the technology affordable and user-friendly, and develop compelling applications and use cases.

ChAllEngES

Service Providers’ inertia. Rural areas are characterized by sparse population density and limited or nonexistent network infrastructure. Thus, It is not financially attractive for service providers to establish connectivity in rural areas.

Responsibility. Since established service providers are not proactive in setting up rural telecommunication networks, it is important to identify (possibly small-scale) entrepreneurs in rural areas to setup the network connectivity access with a business model, (e.g., the monthly subscriptionbased and installment-based business models successfully adopted by local satellite-television service providers in emerging economies such as India), and to manage the network and troubleshoot it by recruiting skilled personnel. Hence, it is important to identify people/ organizations to take the responsibility of managing a last-mile telecommunication network. Therefore, business and management models need to be defined for providing computing and communication services in rural areas.

Choice of Technology. Rural telecommunication networks should be robust, flexible, scalable, affordable, and user-friendly. The choice of technology for a network solution addressing the above requirements has to be different for different scenarios because there are several conflicting factors, such as geography/terrain, infrastructure, motivations/incentives, users’ economic conditions, availability of skilled personnel, etc., that constrain/determine the choice of a network solution.

A single “fit-for-all” solution does not exist for telecommunication in rural areas. The network solution needs to be chosen based on the scenario and the factors to meet the requirements.

RecommEnDATionS

Deployment of a Suitable Technology Solution. Different telecommunication technology options are available for last-mile rural networks for providing computing services. They include wired, wireless, and hybrid technologies. Wired technologies include copper or fiberbased telecommunication technologies. They provide higher data rates; and, unlike wireless technologies, they are less susceptible to external factors such as interference, signal loss, line-of-sight requirements, etc.

Wireless technologies include IEEE 802. 11 (WiFi), IEEE 802.16 (WiMAX), cellular (3G, 4G/LTE, and beyond), and very small aperture terminal (VSAT) (using satellite communication). For providing last-mile broadband access in rural areas, generally the solutions are based on wireless technologies due to their cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and ease of installation, especially in challenging terrains. However, the backhaul connection from the wireless terminal to the backbone network generally uses wired (fiber or copper) connectivity. Hybrid technologies leverage the advantages of wired and wireless technologies, bringing the best of both worlds.

Based on the available technology options and deployment trends, a network solution can be chosen and deployed for a given rural/remote scenario. For instance, some members of our team have proposed and deployed a network infrastructure to provide education and healthcare services in a remote village without even proper road access in the Sundarbans area of Bengal, India, called Chhoto Sehara, where a WiMAX base station is used to provide blanket network coverage in the region, and an outdoor customer premises equipment (CPE) device is used to connect to the WiMAX base station (see Fig. 2). The deployed solution is cost-effective, due to the availability of WiMAX infrastructure in the area. Video conferencing and related applications could be provided for low cost with bandwidths as low as 301 kbps.

Smartphone Adoption. Smartphones can play a major role in rural computing and empowerment as they provide both cellular and Internet connectivity. Even if Smartphones are not yet used widely in some rural areas in emerging economies, their penetration will increase in the next few years, similar to cellphones, especially with their prices dropping fast. Hence, it is important to develop rural applications and technology solutions that can be used with Smartphones.

Technological innovations. New technological innovations aimed towards rural last-mile network connectivity are important. Leveraging existing infrastructure to provide rural network access needs to be explored as this can minimize the infrastructure cost significantly, particularly in locations where there is limited incentive to create telecommunication solutions in rural Areas. Network solutions need to provide reliable and consistent connectivity with good quality of service, to grow a healthy and sustaining customer base.

Autonomous Solutions and business models. Rural areas are typically characterized by lack of skilled personnel, sparse population distribution, limited resources, and difficult terrains to transport equipment, for establishment, maintenance, and troubleshooting of the network. A common observation on rural computing projects is that they are not managed or maintained after the research groups which setup the project leaves the site. In some cases, the projects are discontinued due to lack of funds to run the infrastructure.

To prevent such incidents/ disruptions, rural computing services and telecommunication networks need to be designed and deployed to be autonomous. The network should require minimal human intervention or should have options for remote management. It should have low cost of operation with minimal dependence on external resources such as electricity produced and distributed from distant thermal/hydro/other generating stations, etc. The fewer the dependencies, the easier the deployment, and the higher will be the adoption and sustainability of such projects.

Therefore, developing and utilizing modern technologies for cloud computing and telecommunications and using sustainable business models can enable computing services reducing the digital divide. This is an appropriate time for groups and partners to step up by developing infrastructure and support using an integrated approach, to provide computing services and guiding rural areas towards empowerment, one village at a time.

Fig. 1. Technology options and deployment trends for last-mile telecommunication in rural areas. Please see [1] for details.

The education and healthcare center in chhoto sehara, bengal, india equipped with a wimax-based last-mile telecommunication solution developed by members of our team.

About the Authors: Dr. Biswanath Mukherjee is Chair of the Computer Science Department at UC Davis; Dr. Somen Nandi currently serves as Managing Director of Global HealthShare® initiative. Saigopal Thota is currently pursuing his Ph.D. degree in computer science. Authors are members of the Global HealthShare Initiative.

Read the full article at http://onlinedigeditions.com/article/Exploiting+Cloud+Computing%3A+Modern+Communications+For+Rural+Empowerment/1549484/181626/article.html.

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