April 03, 2020
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In Praise Of Bultoo

Enabling rural people in one of India’s poorest states to use mobile handsets to broadcast issues in their own language.

In Praise Of Bultoo
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Bultoo is not a person; it is how local adivasis in Chhattisgarh pronounce Bluetooth. It refers to the ‘Bultoo’ radio, a scheme launched by the Raman Singh government, which enables rural people in one of India’s poorest states to use mobile handsets to broadcast issues in their own language. These are converted to Internet-based radio programmes and transmitted to all gram panchayats with broadband facilities. Each morning, one representative of each village visits their gram panchayat office to download those radio programmes onto their Bluetooth-enabled mobile handsets, and carries them back to their village to share through Bluetooth, free of charge, with other villagers. All programmes recorded in the district over the day reach every villager via ‘bultoo’. Since many of these are to do with local problems, the message reaches government officials, leading to a noticeable improvement in administrative work. In the smartphone era this may not mean much to urban Indians, but it is a sign of the aspirations of their rural brethren. And an indication of the path Digital India must take if it is to make sense to vast, unconnected millions. Bultoo is the way forward, not Free Basics and its empty promises.

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