By Priya Iyer
AirJaldi is a social enterprise currently operational mostly in North India aimed at providing affordable broadband connectivity to the remote parts of the country where internet access is a rarity. Establishing the infrastructure in the rural hilly areas of India is a tedious process owing to difficult terrains, unfavorable weather, lack of uninterrupted power, supply and transport costs and lack of awareness about Internet usage among the rural residents.
"To develop and implement economically and technically sound connectivity packages and related services for local partners (entrepreneurs, businesses, or franchisees) who will share its risk and rewards”
One of the primary objectives of AirJaldi is to implement a “para poor” business model in a way that the local entrepreneurs are empowered and can run self-sustainable businesses. AirJaldi sets up the rural network infrastructure through its own resources and does not outsource any work. Local ISPs (Internet Service Providers) then purchase the network capabilities and bandwidth from AirJaldi to distribute Internet services to the people in nearby villages. AirJaldi operates in two wings: the social enterprise, AirJaldi.com, which caters to the commercial clients and the non-profit, AirJaldi.org, which focuses on R&D disseminating knowledge and training through conferences.
|Students in a village school accessing the internet through AirJaldi enabled networks|
|An AirJaldi employee setting up the network|
AirJaldi has provided its services to the following places, each of which posed its own challenge in terms of weather conditions, terrains and lack of proper network infrastructure.
- Brought broadband connectivity to Dharamkot Government School in the mountainous region of McLeod Ganj where no other internet provider exists.
- Provided a steady wireless link to Bodh Gaya Bihar where the teachings by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama are streamed live.
- Brought internet connectivity to an isolated village school in a place with extremely unfavorable weather conditions; an AirJaldi employee hiked for 6 hours up and down the mountains in order to establish network connectivity.
- Internet connectivity in the remote Kumaon region of India by two AirJaldi fieldworkers who travelled from New Delhi to Kumaon (~196 miles) on their motorcycles to set up the infrastructure.
"Internet as Freedom” - Measuring the impact of AirJaldi
In a paper published in 2012 by one of the founders Yahel Ben-David, Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, UC Berkeley and Yael Perez, Department of Architecture, UC Berkeley, the impact of the AirJaldi network is measured through Sen’s perspectives on freedom. They evaluate the AirJaldi impact on people’s lives through usage logs on the network and focus on broader development goals rather than focused development goals. Web-traffic logs were collected from September 2007 to April 2008 from the whole AirJaldi network, including more than 2100 computers serving an estimated number of 10,000 users in schools, monasteries, nunneries, medical clinics, and various NGOs. The evaluation of the data found that the AirJaldi network enhanced the communication, social, education and political freedoms of the users to a great extent.
AirJaldi stands for a successful ICTD project initiative that has not only been able to meet its development goals and but has also been able to achieve its mission to enable local social entrepreneurs to develop sustainable models for rural Internet networks.
Perez, Yael Valerie, and Yahel Ben-David. "Internet as freedom–does the internet enhance the freedoms people enjoy?." Information Technology for Development 18.4 (2012): 293-310.