Lucknow, Apr 16: IT major Microsoft has set up 1,000 internet kiosks in villages across the country to provide localised content and customised applications to the Indian rural hinterland.
The company is targetting 50,000 such kiosks in the next three years in every nook and corner of the country.
The self-sustaining kiosk model initiative titled 'Saksham' is aimed at taking the IT benefits to rural areas, Group Director, Consumer Business, Microsoft, Ranjivjit Singh told UNI here.
Microsoft has developed a special portal powered with content and applications aimed specifically for the rural segment by working with regional and local ISVs (Independent Software Vendors).
The portal can also be accessed in the off-line mode and offers affordable services such as e-learing, web browsing, entertainment, job searches, matrimonial, astrology, agri-newspaper, insurance, online consultation, chatting, online telephony, email, typing, printing and designing and computer education.
In the coming days, Microsoft plans to offer other services such as land records, birth and death certificates and health services.
Mr Singh observed unless the IT revolution impacted the rural areas -- where almost 70 per cent of India lives -- society as a whole cannot develop on expected lines.
''We have already set up 1,000 kiosks since the programme was launched on February 1, 2006. Uttar Pradesh alone accounts for 200 of these cyber-enabled outlets,'' he added.
Under the programme, Microsoft plans to introduce 7,000, 20,000 and 23,000 kiosks in the first, second and third year respectively.
''We want the entrepreneurs -- who run these kiosks -- to be cash flow positive in three to six months by offerring a variety of rural-centric services,'' Mr Singh informed.
The kiosks run Windows Operating Systems or its lower cost and stripped-down version, since the e-applications are simple and uncomplicated. The terrain where telephone connectivity is unavailable, the company would provide VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) internet connectivity through its partner company in the region.
''Rural users with disposable income are willing to pay for a variety of services, if they are relevant and available in the local languages,'' the Microsoft official claimed.
He said 'Saksham' could also come handy for the central and various state governments in their quest for e-governance and making the people e-literates.
Mr Singh was here in connection with the 'UP IT Expo Infocom 2K6' recently, which was inaugurated by UP Development Council (UPDC) chairman Amar Singh.
Microsoft in association with leading chip maker Intel have already announced a multi-dimensional partnership with the UP government to help accelerate IT usage in the state.
The strategic areas identified for the partnership include joint efforts for delivering affordable personal computer (PC) options, ushering in e-governance, accelerating IT literacy and enabling access to technology in UP rural areas.