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Webcasting a cultural fiesta

By R. Madhavan Nair

KOZHIKODE, JAN. 15. The 45th edition of the Kerala State Schools Youth Festival, a vibrant annual cultural event that seeks to showcase young talent from across the State, now on at Tirur in Malappuram district, is this year attracting attention also for reasons technological. It is being webcast live.

"This is the first time in India that a wireless rural network is webcasting such an event,'' says the Malappuram District Collector, M. Sivasankaran. It is available at www.akshayamail.net — click on "Live Events for Internet Users.''

Some 5,500 children from the 14 districts of the State are participating in what is billed as Asia's biggest cultural event for schoolchildren.

The District Akshaya Project in Malappuram is webcasting the event with the help of Tulip IT services Ltd., Delhi, through a network using high-speed broadband wi-fi (wireless fidelity) connectivity. It is thus possible for anyone anywhere to watch the programmes at the various venues.

The Akshaya project was launched on November 18, 2002 by the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, in Malappuram district. That project initiated by the State IT Mission headed by Aruna Sundara Rajan, an enthusiastic woman IAS officer who is the IT Secretary in Kerala for some years now, was meant to make the backward Malappuram district IT-savvy. There are 600 Akshaya centres in Malappuram district today. The development project that has attracted international attention is about to be extended to seven more districts. The Akshaya centres use wireless connectivity in a cost-effective manner — for Rs. 1,000 a month. It costs Rs. 33 for 24-hour unlimited Internet usage.

The webcasting of the Youth Festival is the network's latest project. The district coordinator of the State IT Mission, T.P. Ravindran, said it was preceded by an experimental webcasting of the "Nilambur Paattu'' festival. The IT Mission is planning next a live webcast of a football tournament. Football is all the rage in Malabar.

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