No, Google’s Not a Bird: Bringing the Internet to Rural India

TARADAND, India — Babulal Singh Neti was sitting with his uncle on a recent afternoon, trying to persuade him of the merits of the internet.

It was 105 degrees outside, and the sun was beating down on the frazzled croplands. His uncle said he had no use for the internet, since he had never learned to read; furthermore, he wanted to nap. This he made clear by periodically screwing up his face into a huge yawn.

Mr. Neti, 38, pressed on earnestly, suggesting that he could demonstrate the internet’s potential by Googling the history of the Gond tribe, to which they both belonged. Since acquiring a smartphone, Mr. Neti couldn’t stop Googling things: the gods, Hindu and tribal; the relative merits of the Yadav caste and the Gonds; the real story of how the earth was made.

Access to this knowledge so elated him that he decided to give up farming for good, taking a job with a nongovernmental organization whose goals include helping villagers produce and call up online content in their native languages. When he encountered internet skeptics, he tried to impress them by looking up something they really cared about — like Gond history.

His uncle responded with half-closed eyes, delivering a brief but comprehensive oral history of the Gond kings, with the clear implication that his nephew was a bit of a good-for-nothing. “What does it mean, Google?” his uncle said. “Is it a bird?”

And then, theatrically, he yawned.

While India produces some of the world’s best coders and computer engineers, vast multitudes of its people are like Mr. Neti’s neighbors, entering the virtual world with little sense of what lies within it, or how it could be of use to them.

The arrival of the internet in their lives is one of India’s most hopeful narratives.

In the 70 years since Independence, India’s government has done very little to connect Taradand, in Madhya Pradesh State, in central India, to the outside world: The first paved road appeared in 2006. There has never been a single telephone landline. Electricity is available to only half the houses. When Mr. Neti was growing up, if someone in the village needed emergency medical care, farmers tied the patient to a wooden cot and carried it five miles through the forest to the nearest hospital, a journey of four hours.

By comparison, India’s battling telecoms have wired Taradand with breathtaking speed. Two years ago, Mr. Neti counted 1,000 mobile phones in the village, which has a population of 2,500. This tracks with India as a whole; last year it surpassed the United States to become the world’s second-largest market for mobile phones behind only China, according to Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, an industry group known as G.S.M.A.

With the cost of both smartphones and data plummeting, it is fair to assume that Taradand’s next technological leap will be onto the internet.

Those who work in development tend to speak of this moment as a civilizational breakthrough, of particular significance in a country aching to educate its children. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has made expanding internet use a central goal, shifting government services onto digital platforms. When Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, toured India in 2014, he told audiences that for every 10 people who get online, “one person gets lifted out of poverty and one new job gets created.”

So it is instructive to follow Mr. Neti as he tries to drum up a little interest in Taradand. Young men use the internet here, but only young men, and almost exclusively to circulate Bollywood films. Older people view it as a conduit for pornography and other wastes of time.

Women are not allowed access even to simple mobile phones, for fear they will engage in illicit relationships; the internet is out of the question. Illiterate people — almost everyone over 40 — dismiss the internet as not intended for them.

Still, Mr. Neti persists with the zeal of the newly converted.

“You can call me the black sheep. That’s what I am,” he said cheerfully. “I don’t care. It’s the internet age. One day they’ll all come around.”

Mr. Neti is, in some ways, an unlikely harbinger of technological change. His parents pulled him out of school in fifth grade to marry — his wife was 10 — and though he can read and write in Hindi, his school transcript brands him illiterate, foreclosing any opportunity to get a government job.

When he bought his first mobile phone, in 2001, he was so nervous he did not make a call for nearly a week. When he finally did, he blurted out: “Friend, I have bought this mobile. Is this your number and your name? I…

India Makes Moves Toward Sustainability and Less Pollution

Though India currently generates most of its power through coal-powered plants, the country has been making great strides implementing more environmentally-friendly initiatives.

For starters, according to the country’s new Union Budget for 2017, 7000 Indian railway stations are going to be converted to solar power.

In addition to the country operating the first ever airport powered entirely by solar energy, India is also attempting to make

Vogue India cover lands Kendall Jenner in more trouble

Pepsi pulls controversial Kendall Jenner ad

New Delhi (CNN)Barely a month after Kendall Jenner appeared in a Pepsi commercial that drew such a concerted backlash that it was withdrawn, she’s again at the center of controversy.

Vogue India has been blasted online for its decision to feature Jenner, a white American, instead of an Indian model on the cover of its 10th anniversary issue.

Many people have said it’s yet another example of a missed opportunity to celebrate women of color.

A spokeswoman for Vogue declined to comment on the controversy. Representatives for Jenner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A post by Vogue announcing the cover has attracted hundreds of negative comments, many of them expressing disappointment that the magazine did not hire a local model.

“Yes, it’s pretty, but we’re not celebrating…

World’s Hottest Market: Air Conditioners For India And Hundreds Of New Electric Plants To Power Them

Putin Says Russia To Join OPEC Production Cut

An Indian man sits under the cascading water of a fountain in a decorative shallow pool adorning the gardens surrounding the India Gate monument on a hot Indian summer afternoon in New Delhi on May 20, 2016. (Photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

An Indian man sits under the cascading water of a fountain in a decorative shallow pool adorning the gardens surrounding the India Gate monument on a hot Indian summer afternoon in New Delhi on May 20, 2016. (Photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

India is poised for an explosion in room air conditioning that may require as many as 300 new electric power plants in the next 10 to 15 years, according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory specialist in international energy.

The country is likewise poised to avoid the costs of such an explosion—including billions of tons of carbon pollution—by deploying new air conditioners that are super efficient, that use refrigerants friendly to the climate, and that are powered by renewable energy, said Nikit Abhyankar, a senior scientific engineering associate at LBL.

“All the cities are very hot and very populous, which means that going forward, as people get richer, the demand for room air conditioning is going to be increasing,” said Abhyankar said in an April seminar hosted by the Stanford Precourt Institute of Energy. Stanford released video of the seminar Friday.

“ACs are the first appliance people want to buy when they cross a certain income threshold.”

Millions of Indians are expected to cross that threshold in the next 10-15 years, so analysts expect demand foer room air-conditioner demand akin to the surge in China around the turn of the millennium. Urban Chinese purchased 200 million room air conditioners in 15 years, creating—with just one appliance—300 GW of electric demand, the equivalent of six Californias.

In India, air conditioning is expected to double the country’s electricity demand in 15 years, requiring 200-300 new electric plants for…

Moonfrog taps FarmVille creator to build epic Baahubali mobile game

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, a major film from Indian director S.S. Rajamouli, debuted this week. And it is accompanied by a new mobile game from Moonfrog Labs, dubbed S.S. Rajamouli’s Baahubali: The Game.

The mobile game is a major release on Google Play and the Apple App Store. To create it, the Bangalore, India-based mobile game publisher Moonfrog Labs turned to Mark Skaggs, co-creator of FarmVille, who moved to India in 2016 to work on games for the Indian market at Moonfrog Labs. Skaggs is betting that India’s game market will be the next China, which is now the world’s largest game market.

Moonfrog created the real-time strategy game in partnership with filmmakers Arka Mediaworks and Rajamouli’s Baahubali, with support from Graphic India. You could call it a major transmedia creation, Indian style.

This game is based on Rajamouli’s two-part Indian epic historical film, Baahubali, with an all-star Indian cast. The game is not a recreation of the film. Baahubali: The Game takes place in the Baahubali extended universe, where the player gets to be a part of the epic. The game was released this week in four languages: Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu.

Above: Mark Skaggs, speaking at GamesBeat 2015.

Image Credit: Michael O’Donnell/VentureBeat

With Baahubali: The Game, the players act as Senapatis (generals or commanders) who serve the kingdom of Mahishmati. They train an army, build defenses and join forces with Baahubali, Kattappa and the other heroes of Mahishmati to push back the ruthless Kalakeya. The game gives the Baahubali fan a new entry point into the film’s universe as a player, where the fan can experience the challenge of being a general with the command of an army.

The end goal is for the player to prove their skills by building the strongest army, the best defended Rajya (outpost), and a working economy with food and gold to protect the kingdom of Mahishmati from the Kalakeya.

Above: Moonfrog’s Baahubali: The Game is a mobile strategy game.

Image Credit: Moonfrog

Skaggs led the design at Moonfrog Labs, where he is a director and board member. He previously led teams that created some of the world’s most popular social games – such as FarmVille, Empire & Allies, CityVille, Treasure Isle, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth, and Command & Conquer Generals. His games have reached 365 million people.

“We’re using our expertise as game makers to give Indian players the opportunity to experience the characters, environments, and battles in the Baahubali universe up close and personal,” said Skaggs, in a statement. “Great film franchises like Star Wars live on in the minds of players even after the film ends on the big screen. This game will let people live, play and experience the universe of Baahubali in new ways.”

He added, “God is in the details. And as you upgrade the game to various levels, you see the details on your own Rajya in the Baahubali universe. The challenge of bringing the epic world of Baahubali into a small screen was met by the art team watching the film over 100 times to recreate the extended universe with nuances such as iconography, colours, architectural styles, weaponry and clothing styles into one game board. From concept sketches to 3D models and paint overs, every detail of the game went through a labored process of creation, development, and building.”

Above: Moonfrog’s Baahubali: The Game runs on…