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Kerala builds digital bridge

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov. 18: Kerala scored another first in social development when it launched perhaps the biggest information technology project in the country.

Akshaya, which was formally inaugurated by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today, is aimed at bridging the “digital divide” and taking information technology to the masses.

Under the project, computer literacy will be imparted to at least one member of the 64 lakh households in the state.

M. Sivasankar, director of the project, said Akshaya will be developed from the panchayat level and will enable thousands of ordinary citizens to use computers and access information over the Internet. Close to 9,000 community technology centres will be set up to facilitate this effort.

All public offices will have access to the computer and the Net through these multi-purpose community centres.

A significant volume of content that is relevant to Kerala is being developed in Malayalam as part of the project. All centres will be connected to the Internet so that a network is formed to guide and support e-governance initiatives, e-commerce and information dissemination.

Once the project gets going, there will be at least one community technology centre 2 km from any household, even in the remotest areas of the state, Sivasankar said.

This is a significant effort, state IT minister P.K. Kunhalikutty pointed out, in view of the fact that global penetration of IT in the state is limited to merely 6 per cent of the population. In India, it is close to 0.6 per cent.

Microsoft chief Bill Gates had recently announced that Windows would be Malayalam-enabled and this is bound to benefit Akshaya.

To start with, the project will be implemented in Thiruvananthapuram and the north Kerala district of Malappuram.

The project managers have set themselves a deadline of five months to achieve their target in these two districts and of a year in the remaining 12.

Launching the project, Kalam said it is appropriate that the project is being launched in Kerala because the state is the frontrunner in general literacy, with close to 100% of the population being literate. Several economists, including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, describe Kerala as a model for Third World development in many social sectors .It has a number of superior social indices to its credit in the fields of literacy, primary education and health.

Speaking at the launch, Aruna Sunder Raj, the state IT secretary, said: “Akshaya’s vision is to create a new-generation knowledge-based e-community.”

Akshaya also aims to generate self-employment opportunities for nearly 45,000 state citizens and enhance the income of those who possess basic computing skills. Akshaya is also expected to boost Kerala’s other initiatives in e-education, e-health and e-governance.

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