As we drive down the potholed approach to Karenda, a Rajasthani village, barely three hours from Delhi, I am unsure of how a renewable telecom project can add hope to the lives of this backward area. With a population of around 800, the village is primarily made up of marginal farmers and factory labour. Then between the fields and semi pucca village structures, on the land of a relatively well-to-do farmer, all eyes fall on the massive 21 feet tower hugging the sky above, powered below by six large solar panels of 270 watts each. This is a showcase of the green telecom initiative of Shyam Group’s Vihaan Networks Ltd along with State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, “It is designed to run seamless even if there is no sun for three days,” explains Manoj Bhan, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs & Communications, VNL. The company’s WorldGSM BTS solution is an attempt to turn Karenda into what has been officially conceived as a ‘Digital Village’ where telecommunications, ICT and renewable energy converge to provide a host of services to the villagers.
The objective is to provide integrated mobile, broadband, broadcast and surveillance services to the village. The site also connects three other villages nearby to provide high speed broadband, along with a digital classroom for the only government school in the vicinity. “There is a 5 km radius of voice telephony available using GSM,” Bhan points out. But the youth in the village are clearly not interested in these technology details. For them the excitement stops at internet which is now available. “Since the tower has come up, life has changed for me. Before this I had no idea about the internet,” says 20 year old Ashif Khan. “Now I access Facebook, Whatsapp and we even do video calling with our relatives in Saudi Arabia.”
A significant impact of the tower can be seen at the government secondary school here. VNL has installed an e-learning system through broadband services. There is now a digital classroom with a whiteboard and pre-installed audio-visual content. Mahima Pandya, the Principal, says that the smart class project has enhanced interest in the students and increased attendance. Beyond the borders VNL has found takers for its solar green telecom technology innovations in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Africa and Latin America. This means sunny prospects in the offing.