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Care for a ride in Lanka's eTukTuk?

The eTUKTUK is a self-contained mobile telecentre housed within a tuk-tuk, or motorcycle.

india Updated: May 02, 2006 11:35 IST

It's called an eTUKTUK, a project that could help "take Internet and radio to the village" in Sri Lanka.

The eTUKTUK is a self-contained mobile telecentre and radio broadcasting unit housed within a tuk-tuk, or three wheeled motorcycle, a favoured form of transport common throughout South and Southeast Asia.

It is a project of the Kothmale FM Community Radio Station, located in Mawathura, which is about 25 km southwest of Kandy.

Mawathura is primarily a rural region with tea and rice being the dominant plantation crops.

Since 1999, Kothmale Community Radio has been serving as an interface between rural communities in the central hill region of Sri Lanka and new communication technologies.

The eTUKTUK involves a laptop computer located inside the vehicle as is a battery operated printer, camera, telephone and scanner.

Internet is provided via a CDMA-enabled wireless connection and electricity is provided via a generator, which in turn charges a battery that is used to provide additional power for short periods of time.

A roof rack allows the vehicle to carry other equipment such as the Kothmale Community Radio Station's mobile broadcasting unit. Narrowcasting of radio programmes is achieved via two loud speakers mounted to the roof rack.

These are powered via an amplifier and CD player. This system is used to announce the telecentre's presence when it arrives in a village or designated location.

The weekly route of the eTUKTUK is broadcast over the radio station to inform the listeners as to the location and time when it will arrive in their community.

"The mobile design of the eTUKTUK (www.eTUKTUK.net) provides access to the most geographically remote areas of the Kothmale region," project advisor Ben Grubb has been quoted saying.

Kothmale FM began broadcasting in February 1989. Around this time, the regional government authority relocated around 3,000 families for a large dam project. Many people lost crops and farming land.

While they had specialised in various crops such as pepper, cardamom, and rice, the land they were given was established with tea crops.

Therefore, these people had to learn new cultivation methods and adapt to different conditions.

Kothmale FM was established with the objective of giving relevant information to these people, to provide information about self-employment and health, and to create a link between people who were now geographically distanced from one another.

Kothmale FM is seen as playing an important role in relaying information regarding health, agriculture and local news.

It also works with local schools and broadcasts cultural, sporting and social events. Given the lack of access to telephones, the station also plays a vital role in keeping the community informed in emergency situations.