People of Kannur district in northern Kerala will soon be able to access a range of information - the sale of a cow, job vacancies or even finding brides and grooms - not just at the click of a mouse but even through a phone call.
Akshaya, a statewide ICT project by the Kerala government, has just made operational an innovative initiative for the creation of community portals in the local language, Malayalam.
"Its primary objective is to create content in local language using free and open software at the various local bodies in Kannur district and for the local communities," UNESCO, which supports the project, announced in New Delhi on its UNESCO.org site.
Initially, the project will develop community portals for the district panchayat (village council), one municipality and nine village panchayats from Kannur district.
Kannur is a city, municipality and district. Kannur city is the fourth largest urban agglomeration in Kerala with a population of 498,175. It is popularly known as the city of looms and lores. It is known for its famed performing art of Theyyam and its beautiful beaches.
The portals will cover the entire gamut, including history of the community, places of interest, different services and schemes offered by the local self-government, information on agriculture, business ventures et all, interactive forums and e-newsletters providing information on new technological trends and innovations.
Content will be produced on an ongoing basis by community reporters appointed in each of the chosen panchayats under Akshaya entrepreneurs and facilitated by the Akshaya district office in Kannur.
To address the issue of sustainability, the portals would aim at attracting local advertisements, web-based yellow pages and e-business at the local level.
Besides, an information-over-a-phone call model is envisioned where community members could also call an Akshaya centre to get information.
An Akshaya entrepreneur was quoted saying he is confident that the community will make best use of these services because "community members already approach the (Akshaya) centre without any hesitation for their needs".
Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) methodology is being used to understand issues and information needs of the target communities.
Akshaya Director TK Manzoor has said the project is being implemented with the objective of providing greater amount of information to the citizens using new tools of information technology. The pilot project in Kannur would be extended to the rest of the state if found successful.