Thursday, June 11, 2009

Google and Intel use power of 'internet buses' Correspondent

Some call them "internet buses", and they are turning out to be a powerful medium to educate folks in smaller towns about the power of the computer and the internet. The bus is a specially designed one that travels across selected schools and crowded market places, parking itself for a few hours. The bus typically is equipped with plasma screens connected to keyboards, having 24 hours internet connectivity, headphones and mobile devices for visitors to experience the internet.

After a successful trip around Tamil Nadu, an internet bus sponsored by Google is now doing the rounds of Karnataka. It will cover 15 towns, including Kolar, Mandya, Mysore, Hassan, Shimoga and Tumkur, in the next 50 days. The internet bus is looking to familiarise people with the use of search, email, social networking, online maps and mobile, the content of which is available both in English and Kannada. An initiative on similar lines, Net Yatra, was launched by Intel last year. The initiative has covered more than 53 cities across India, reaching the internet experience to 85,000 Indians. The Intel bus is present for 2 to 3 days in each city. In Karnataka it was in Hubli, Belgaum and Tumkur in October last year.

"A vast majority of the people did not have access to the internet. We also conducted pilots with women users who were excited to get information about online education, because they realised they could go for further education with correspondence courses," says Prakash Bagri, marketing director, Intel - South Asia. Prasad Ram, head of Google R&D India, says the response has exceeded the company's expectations. "As a first step we will look to create awareness about popular services like email, search and videos," he says. The Google internet bus also has mobiles connected to the internet as people in tier 2 and 3 cities are well versed with mobile phones. "Moreover, content is available in the local language which makes the experience richer," says Ram.

Intel started off with demonstrations of applications that simplify day-to-day life, such as booking a train or bus ticket online, visiting Indian language news sites and online education for school students and teachers. Google has seen professionals, housewives, students, job-seekers, senior citizens all visiting the bus. A local artist visited the bus and was impressed after being taught how to upload pictures and advertise it. "The artist was keen to visit a cyber cafe and upload his paintings to sell them online across the country," Ram says. A student of Devaraj Urs Medical College (dental) used search to locate job listings, which suited his profile, while an owner of a printing press was said to have been surprised to read information about printing machines online. "Such initiatives have definitely increased internet awareness even in tier 3 and remote towns. Indians comprise almost a fifth of the world's population but only a minuscule section are connected to the internet." says Bagri.

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