Universal Service Obligation Fund Meets Stakeholders
The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF),Department of Telecom, Ministry of C&IT organized a meeting here today with Stakeholders to discuss Pilot Project Scheme for Access to ICTs and ICT Enabled Services for persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in Rural India. Shri Ajay Bhattacharya, Administrator USOF pointed out in his keynote address that while in many other countries, the scope of Universal Service explicitly includes access for PwDs, in India this responsibility is implicit in the definition of Universal Service Obligation. He urged service providers and equipment manufactures to actively participate in this initiative.
On this occasion USOF made a presentation on the Scheme which proposes to invite applications for pilot projects in three categories. These include dedicated ICT centres with Assistive Technologies (ATs) in rural educational, rehabilitation or vocational training centres for PwDs, accessible public access points in villages and special handsets with/without bundled content.
The call for proposals is likely to commence in September 2011 and it is expected that with the selection of eligible projects the scheme would be formally launched by December 2011.
USOF hopes to contribute to the economic empowerment and socio-political inclusion of PwDs through this project for accessible telecommunications. It is also hoped that with a successful demonstration of the positive impact and utility of accessible ICTs to both users and service providers, the scheme would give an impetus to the development of assistive technologies and relevant content in accessible formats and regional languages for PwDs in villages. The success of the scheme would encourage the taking up of such initiatives on a larger scale by stakeholders.
The workshop is being attended by representatives of various organizations dealing with the persons with disabilities. as also service provider associations like COAI, AUSPI, ISPAI, TEMA etc.