Kartha's house has just logged in to the information superhighway. Navigating the maze of commands and menus is taxing for this computer-illiterate tribal woman. As she struggles with the mouse, her husband offers a few tips on how to surf the worldwide web. But difficult as it may be, Kartha loves this new experience.
It may seem unthinkable that a tribal household in a farflung Kerala village is connected to the Net but it is all thanks to the state government's 'Akshaya' project, which to bridge the digital divide.
The computer is all the rage in Kartha's village, Kambhari — which has a population of just 150 and is deep inside the Sreekanthapuram forest of Kannur district. Villagers here ferry power from a place 600 metres from their homes to power their machines. Kambhari may not have access to the basic necessities of life but all 150 tribals here know the ropes when it comes to computers.
Initially, they resisted the entry of computers to their village, wondering how it would benefit them. But a little counselling made all the difference. "All of them — fishermen, labourers, even prisoners — are now enjoying the fruits of this special project," says Akshaya project director TK Manzoor.
So what do the tribals look for after they log in? Mainly locally-relevant content in their mother tongue.
"Though the literacy level is low, they show great enthusiasm in learning different applications. We have several plans up our sleeves to make their daily grind easier with the help of e-power," Manzoor says.
Muslim-dominated Malappuram has become the first fully e-literate district in the country under the programme. Akshaya is being implemented in eight districts of the state.