JUST DIALhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/just-dial/

JUST DIAL

They have innumerable queries but few answers to them. However,a humble three-button box is now acting as their exclusive 'information bureau'...

People in remote areas of Pune can now be updated with the latest happenings,as Question Box comes as the perfect answer to all their questions

They have innumerable queries but few answers to them. However,a humble three-button box is now acting as their exclusive ‘information bureau’,giving them updates on market prices of fruits and vegetables,telling them about train timings and other day-to-day information. Thanks to this out-of-the-box idea,the residents of Ramdara (Loni) and Chandernagar village are now well equipped with information when it comes to being updated about their surroundings.

Question Box,a project undertaken by Europe Asia Business School,in collaboration with Open Mind Foundation,a US based NGO,is an endeavour to increase the awareness levels of people living in remote areas and slums. “It is difficult to counter illiteracy on a large scale,but atleast through this project we can enlighten the rural population on various subjects,” says Nishant Agarwal,one of the members handling the project. The compact metal box has three buttons for making,receiving and ending calls,simple enough to be operated by villagers.

Its recent installation has seen it creating ripples among the villagers. “Since its inception,we have been getting around 15 to 20 calls everyday. In fact,sometimes villagers ask a whole lot of weird questions as well,” chuckles Agarwal. As villagers throng the question box to satiate their inquisitiveness on various issues,the Pune based operators surf the net,churn out and convey the best possible information. In contemporary times,when information and communication channels have grown by leaps and bounds,there are still far-flung and remote areas where facilities like Internet have not yet penetrated. For residents of such areas,the exclusive facility of the question box allows them to enjoy the benefits of the Internet even without actually having access to it.

“I occasionally go to Loni village to visit my relatives. And I need to know about bus timings from Pune to Solapur. With the Question Box facility coming to the village,it becomes easier for people like me to get instant information,” says Swati Mahadev Supekar,a resident of Warki. The facility allows villagers to put forward any query related to farming,trade,market,society,traveling,current affairs and so on. Students also put forth questions related to academics. And while they get their answers,they don’t have to pay even a single penny for it. “Students in villages hardly come to know of latest courses available in the colleges,dates for various competitive exams and admission procedures. Question Box will come handy in all such cases,where they can have all the information at their disposal with just the press of a button,” says Agarwal.

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Today,when a click of the mouse can change destinies,the Question Box comes as an answer to creating awareness among the rural population on myriad subjects. Though not the ultimate source of information,the project is a definite step in the direction. Presently with only two question boxes having been installed in villages,project coordinators are gauging the users’ response and their suggestions are being considered to minimize drawbacks of the facility. “We are trying to make the service more user-friendly and informative. Once the first phase turns out to be successful,more Question Boxes will soon be installed at many other places to bridge the rift between awareness and ignorance,” concludes Agarwal.