ICT4B is an interdisciplinary collaboration of UC Berkeley's schools of Business, Public Health and Information Management and the University's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), with backing from Hewlett Packard Labs India in Bangalore, Intel, Grameen Bank, the Markle Foundation, India Institute of Technology Delhi, Microsoft and the United Nations Development Programme. The National Science Foundation has earmarked $3 million for the project. In the summer of 2004, an ICT4B team of social and computer scientists began field studies of the first installations of their custom wireless technologies in India to prepare for wider deployments in 2005 and beyond. The technologies themselves were provided by ICT4B's sister project Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions.
India abounds in rural and urban infostructure projects of both the top-down and grassroots-up variety. The wireless pony express of Daknet uses thousands of buses equipped with Wi-Fi transceivers to pick up and deliver e-mail wirelessly from village kiosks. The Cambodian "Motoman" project uses Wi-Fi equipped motorcycles and a satellite connection to deliver e-mail to remote villages. Malappuram, India's "first e-literate district," provides basic knowledge of computer and Internet usage to more than 600,000 people. Madhya Pradesh State Initiative built an intranet to give villagers direct access to government documents: in the past, farmers had to pay $100 to officials for a copy of a land title. Now, the same titles can be ordered online for less than a dollar. Deeshaa Network uses the same Drupal software that the Howard Dean campaign used so effectively as a groupblog and information portal dedicated to "bring about greater participation in the economic development of India by providing a platform to collaborate and cooperate." Nabanna, a Unesco-implemented project, provides ICT access and training for women in rural communities in West Bengal. Peoplelink and CatGen help rural artisans increase their profits by eliminating middlemen and selling their products directly over the Internet.
Worldchanging.com blogger Jamais Cascio has written about the part that rural wireless infrastructure can play in a broader economic development effort: "Rather than following the already-developed nations in the same course of 'progress,' leapfrogging means that developing regions can experiment with emerging tools, models and ideas for building their societies. Leapfrogging can happen accidentally (such as when the only systems around for adoption are better than legacy systems elsewhere), situationally (such as the adoption of decentralized communication for a sprawling, rural countryside) or intentionally (such as policies promoting the installation of Wi-Fi and free computers in poor urban areas). The best-known example of leapfrogging is the adoption of mobile phones in the developing world. It's easier and faster to put in cellular towers in rural and remote areas than to put in land lines, and as a result, cellular use is exploding."