In India, local markets teem with activity, bursting with the bright colors of fresh fruits and vegetables, the enticing smells of flowers and spices, and the sounds of shoppers hunting for bargains. Villagers visit the market looking for all manner of items from groceries, to clothing, to household goods—and more and more often these days—Internet access.
India faces a massive challenge in providing Internet access to its billion-plus population, as well as training the workforce required to sustain its rapid economic growth. To help meet this challenge, Hughes India in 2006 developed what has turned out to be a highly successful franchise-based model called HughesNet® Fusion kiosks to bring affordable broadband by satellite to the millions of people in villages and towns across this diverse country.
The grass roots concept is simple enough. Shop owners located in market districts that are easily accessible to the local community make a relatively modest investment in acquiring HughesNet satellite broadband service and at least two laptop computers; some larger, district-level kiosks are equipped with five or more workstations. And as in a typical Internet café, customers can drop in anytime to surf the Web, buy train and bus tickets, download e-training courseware, and make VoIP phone calls—all on a pay-as-you-go basis. Many shop owners have reported profits from operating a kiosk that soon exceeded those earned from the goods they sold.
Indeed, the model proved so successful that in 2007 the government expanded on it to create a National e-Governance Plan, enabling direct, accessible G2C (Government to Citizen) and B2C (Business to Citizen) services, such as obtaining birth certificates, land records and driver’s licenses. This national initiative has been organized by tenders to select qualified providers who bid on operating so-called Common Service Centers (CSC) in designated rural districts. To date over 100,000 broadband kiosks have been set up in rural villages and towns, with the goal to reach 250,000.
Hughes India has connected more than 8,000 kiosks throughout the country, including both its HughesNet Fusion centers and governmentinitiated CSCs. By the end of the year, it plans to connect several thousand more in some of the most remote areas of the country utilizing the nationwide HughesNet broadband satellite service.
Education that Goes the Distance
Equally important, HughesNet Fusion kiosks open the door to satellite-based distance education, providing India’s vast youth population the opportunity to attend top universities without leaving their home villages. Linked to studios built by Hughes in key educational institutions, the kiosks act as virtual classrooms, enabling students to interact directly with professors and access the same quality of educational content as urban students.
Broadband Means Business Everywhere
Beyond providing a convenient service and educational tool, the kiosks represent an excellent example of how broadband can seed new businesses. Requiring only a small investment, these new-world kiosks enable entrepreneurs throughout the country to sell valuable services to people in the region, while at the same time earning a profit for their own businesses and creating jobs. “Broadband is recognized today as an economic and social imperative by governments worldwide,” said Dharmendra Singh, director of Business Development, Hughes Communications India Ltd. (HCIL). “That’s why using our satellite technology to provide affordable broadband connectivity and other e-services via HughesNet Fusion centers and CSCs is so important to the people of India, and sets an excellent example for other developing economies worldwide.”