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Monday 11 July 2005

India: Tsunami villages reach out, via ICT

Many residents of Veerapattinam along the coast of Pondicherry would not have survived the killer tsunami waves on December 26 had the public address system installed in the lone information centre, located close to the shore, not existed. The information centre, set up to empower the villagers of Veerapattinam with knowledge through communication tools like the internet, turned into the lifeline of residents when the tsunami waves struck.

The villagers who saw the first wave rising rushed to the centre and used the mike to let the village know that they were in danger. Several lives were saved due to this one announcement in a village having a population of about 6,500 persons. The grassroots workers from Pondicherry and other states are here in Delhi to share their experience with communication technology tools at knowledge centres, set up by voluntary organisations in villages across the country. These grassroot workers are here to attend the National Convention on Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre.

Mission 2007 is a nationwide initiative to facilitate setting up of such centres in each of India's 600,000 villages by the year 2007. During the convention, nearly 150 partner organisations of the National Alliance on Mission 2007 led by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation would discuss the issues of connectivity, content, care and management, capacity building and coordination. Even the government of India is a partner in the alliance.

Elaborating on the concept, Prof MS Swaminathan said that knowledge connectivity is fundamental to bridging the urban-rural divide. In a knowledge centre communication tools like the internet are used to put the information in context of the lifestyle and local needs of a particular village. Prof Swaminathan pointed after the tsunami tragedy, it has been felt that information centres need to be set-up in many more villages along the sea coast.

Agrees Ezhumalai, a volunteer at the information centre in Veerapattinam village in Pondichery. "After the tsunami disaster, people were terrified. In those days we collected information through the internet, on the wave height and the weather and inform villagers. These updates helped reduce the anxiety," he said.

(Source: Times Of India)

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