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Obama reaches out to rural India via video conferencing

By Emily Wax

New Delhi - American presidents visiting India have often made journeys to rural India. Flirty sari-clad women famously showered Bill Clinton with rose petals. George W. Bush played with a pumpkin and Jimmy Carter had a village named after him, "Carterpuri."

But President Obama instead had what the Times of India newspaper called, "an E-Date with Bharat," which means India in Hindi. Obama reached out to old India through the prism of new India, using technology. He interacted with farmers in Rajasthan where the villagers gathered at video conferencing facility.

Less than 5 percent of India has acess to the Internet, but that is slowly changing with more government programs to build teleconferencing centers and computer centers in rural India. Cell phones are also becoming the Internet of the common man, since many Indian IT firms are producing inexpensive phones that can get online for low-fees.

Farmers told Obama how technology has changed their lives, from using cell phones to help with weather predictions to communicating with far away district health officers. Obama was able to see how India was bridging the digital divide by using technology and to skirt earlier criticism that he had skipped rural India, focusing instead on Mumbai, India's financial capital and New Delhi, its political one.

"Voters can get information about candidates by text message. And you're delivering education and health care services to rural communities," Obama said, as part of his 45 minute address to parliament.

By Emily Wax  | November 8, 2010; 9:44 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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