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|June 26, 2000|
Penn students open tech center in Pune
Nitish S Rele
Puente, a student-run community group service, including about 60 students at the University of Pennsylvania, recently sent 14 students over to Pune to open a 2,500 square feet Community Technology Centre.
"This truly has been a magical experience for me," says Rohan Amin, who had just returned from the two-week trip. Amin, chairman of Puente, is a full-time computer and telecommunication engineering student at the University of Pennsylvania.
"We want to bridge the technology gap in needy communities and low-income urban areas locally and internationally," he says.
"Because it is the fastest-growing hub for community development and education in all of India," says Amin. "It is something that will change the city forever. Pune-Penn bandhan gained tremendous support from the community."
Also, he says, India has only one computer for every thousand people, while in the United States the number is 329 per thousand; in Britain, 166; and in Japan, 104.
The Puente initiative took off in summer last year when a teacher from the Pennsylvania School District visited the University of Pennsylvania seeking help on an Ecuador project.
"I worked with him for several months and we Penn students helped install that country's first public elementary school computer lab in Quito," says Amin.
"This year's Pune project has been completely organized by us Penn students. We've also been involved in building CTCs in the Philadelphia area as well."
The lab is available to underprivileged students and not-for-profit, service-based non-governmental organizations. A staff of 2-3 people will keep the lab open daily. A monthly review meeting will also be held.
"I am very happy to be passing ownership of our lab over to the Sukhuroop Foundation," says Amin. "Anil Bora and the rest of the team gave us amazing support and ambition for ensuring the long-term sustainability of this community center."
The entire project has cost Puente well over $ 165,000.
"We received funds from corporations and private donors," says Amin. "The Indian community is very strong and very willing to help out." Donations are still welcome, he says.
Sponsors in the United States include ecomXML director Dennis Mehta, 3COM's Bill Swift, Sierra Atlantic's Raju Reddy, and Ashni Naturaceuticals' Dinesh Patel.
In India, the project has the backing of Anil Bora of Li Taka Pharmaceuticals in Pune, Vijay Thadani and R Sampath of NIIT, Motorola India's Pramod Saxena, and organizations like The Sukhuroop Foundation, The Rotary Club of Pune Central and Maharashtra's Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Joseph S Sun, Penn Engineering's director of academic affairs and Puente adviser, says, "This initiative will allow our students to put their technology training to direct use in serving the needs of a community, especially the youth.
In addition, it will provide a wonderful cross-cultural learning experience for our students. We are certain they will benefit greatly from this experience."
"Puente 2000 has been a great experience, something I shall remember forever," says Amin. "It is more than installing a computer lab. For me, it has been an excellent opportunity to work with a great team. I can't thank them enough. Because of this project, we have all developed great friendships. [That is] what I treasure the most."
Where will Puente go next?
"Who knows," replied Amin. "Guess we will figure that out in fall."
For information, call Amin at (203) 794-0550 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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