November 2004


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Website for Saskatchewan history

In the city of Saskatoon, the Western Development Museum has launched a new website that documents Saskatchewan's history. The website was originally intended as a resource for students and teachers. The site includes a multimedia gallery with movie and audio clips, more than 600 archival images, a timeline, lesson plans, cur-ricular links and student activities. The idea for the site came as the museum was compiling information for its centennial exhibits, as Saskatchewan turns 100 next year.

Digital divorce

A row has erupted in the Muslim community over the validity of digital divorce. The issue came to the fore when Rahat Iqbal, living in the US, used e-mail to divorce his wife in Bareilly district. This used mode of talaq has raised questions, as triple talaq is very effective in Islam but the authenticity of the communication must be established, as anyone can misuse the method. His wife Rubab, has decided to challenge its authenticity. Sharp differences have erupted among the Ulema (clerics) over the validity of digital divorce, as e-mails did not contain any signatures.

Award for e-Content practices in India

In India, the Digital Empowerment Foundation, a Delhi-based Non-Governmental Organisation, and World Summit Award in partnership with Planet Finance India, launched the Manthan Award on 10th October 2004, to recognise and award the best e-Content practices in India. This award is the first of its kind in India, which emphasises the importance of content in bridging the ever-widening digital divide. This year the award was judged in the categories of e-Learning, e-Culture, e-Science, e-Government, e-Health, e-Business, e-Entertainment and e-Inclusion. The evaluation criteria was based on quality and comprehensiveness of content, ease of use, functionality, navigation and orientation, value added through interactivity and multimedia, attractiveness of design, quality of craftsmanship and strategic importance to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as well as United Nation's World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Staging hi-tech Ramlila in Delhi
Ramlila, based on the Indian epic “Ramcharitmanas'', went hi-tech in Delhi this year. It not only narrated the story of Ram and Sita, but also gave a glimpse of the country's emerging position in the field of computer software and information technology. Computer-aided designs, laser technology and advancements in information technology were all used in the Ramlilas. One of the members' of the organising committee informed that special software was developed to guide the laser arrows and give the impact of missiles hitting each ther with a bang in the sky. One of the Ramlila Committee used special effects to make Hanuman fly in the sky. While electric trolleys would be used for the war between Ram and Ravana, hydraulic trolleys and “special” computer effects would be used to increase the size of the tail of Hanuman.

Selling Durga idol via Internet In India, during this Durga Puja, the clay sculptors of Kolkata's famous Kumartuli quartier counted their e-Profits, as they struck the deals directly with devout idol buyers abroad, through the Internet. Accordingly, business-savvy descendants of renowned clay sculptors in the city took their breathtaking creations (made of lightweight materials such as fibre glass) to destinations in South East Asia this year, beyond Godess Durga's traditional foreign bases in Britain and the US. The Internet was being preferred, as it helps bypass the middlemen. This year, Kumartuli craftsmen increasingly logged onto search engines like Google to find more buyers and getting in touch with Puja organisers all over the world via their websites.

Newly launched website on historic images of Pittsburgh
Photographs of Pittsburgh's diverse workforce, steel industries, civic renaissance, and legendary jazz musicians are among those included in the new Historic Pittsburgh Image Collections website, launched on 13th September 2004, by the University of Pittsburgh's Digital Research Library. The project, accessible at http://images., is a collaboration between Pitt's Archives Service Centre, the Library and Archives at the Heinz History Centre, and Carnegie Museum of Art. Established with a $242,157 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Historic Pittsburgh Image Collections is the single gateway to dozens of the city's most important visual image collections, including the Charles “Teenie” Harris collection at the Carnegie, the Pittsburgh City Photographer collection at Pitt, and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development collection at the History Centre. The site is a treasure trove for genealogists, architects, students, researchers, photo buffs, and anyone seeking a glimpse of the city's rich history. In addition to its photographic collections, Historic Pittsburgh contains hundreds of digitised books relating to the region, an extensive collection of historic property maps, city census data, and a chronology of Pittsburgh's history.

Indian president's plan to have a virtual art gallery

The Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam, has outlined a six-point plan to encourage art and sculpture in the country, specially among the younger generation and creation of a virtual art gallery with a digital walk. The need for a website was suggested so that people from different parts of the country can visit the gallery from their homes and students can draw inspiration from them.

As part of this six-point plan, it was suggested that the gallery can undertake a project on cost effective preservation and renovation including the application of nano-technology as a means of preserving acquisitions of National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). Kalam said there was need to have periodic seminars with new technology exposure and for creating a platform for the international art agencies, business visit and thus bring out the inherent potential of the nation's artists which can pave the way for export of these artistic items. A proposed new wing with an area of 27,000 sq m, will offer generous display and working space, and will be equipped with state of art high technology support services in the form of central environmental control, CCTV and intrusion alarm system, automatic fire detection and protective system. The gallery has also tied with Hewlett-Packard for a special facility for print-on-demand for art works to be introduced shortly.

Digitising recordings of traditional Chinese music concluded
The famous and unique field recordings of traditional Chinese music held by the Music Research Institute (MRI) of the Chinese Academy of Arts, are now easily accessible online for researchers. This has been made possible by a UNESCO funded project, which concluded recently. Some of the sound recording are already available online. Experts from the Austrian Research Sound Archives provided technical assistance, mainly in the selection and installation of the equipment. Experts from Austria and China worked together to set priorities for the sequence of materials to become digitised.

Now a website for Indian Catholic community
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) is giving visibility to the life and mission of the Church in their country and the world through a new Internet site. The site gathers and diffuses up-to-date information on the Indian Catholic community, as well as on the history, activities, and mission of Catholics of three rites – Latin, Syro-Malabar, and Syro-Malankara, who live here, and the majority of whom are Hindus. A new web page offers links to documents of the Holy See, of the CBCI itself, to a photographic archive and to a list of Catholics in India in the process of canonisation. The new site may be visited at www.theindian

Muslims can now perform e-Prayers during Ramadan
Like all the major world religions, Islam has taken to the web on a massive scale. If many Ramadan rituals have gone unchanged through the centuries, the times are catching up with the world's fastest-growing religion. Now the Muslims can simply log on to their computers and with the click of a mouse, tune into a live or downloaded broadcast of the taraweeh prayers from the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Acting as a virtual cyber pulpit, the Internet today is host to thousands of sites, chat rooms and e-mail lists catering to the faithful, spreading the word to the uninitiated, and providing an accessible forum of religious communication.

Gen Next of Siddi community revives ancient jungle dance,br> The generation next of the Siddi community had Gujarat dancing to a new and more marketable tune. The goma, a folk dance that through its movements recreates the lion hunt, was performed by Siddis. Now the young Siddis have decided to form cultural groups to popularise this dance form. From digital publicity to street shows, they are doing it all. This is the first time the community, which has a literacy rate of 10 per cent is making an effort to make its presence felt. They have prepared two CDs of the performances.

Digital library infrastructure based on Grid technologies
The European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics Building (ERCIM ) has provided the framework for the setting up of an innovative IST (Information Society Technologies) 6FP funded three-year Integrated Project, DILIGENT. This project, which is coordinated scientifically by ISTI-CNR, involves 14 European partners and a number of international observers. These research institutions and companies will work together on the development of a digital library infrastructure, based on Grid-enabled technology, which will allow members of dynamic virtual organisations to collaborate by exploiting shared knowledge and physical resources. DILIGENT will be built by integrating Grid and Digital Library (DL) technologies.

Mobile phones have given boost to music downloads
A growing market exists among mobile phone users for downloading content such as music and video clips. Digital rights management (DRM) is the mechanism for making that happen, not only in the high-profile sense of preventing piracy but also, more importantly, in terms of giving customers a simple way to buy content via their mobile phones. The music industry is increasingly looking for mobile services that enable users to download full-length songs to their mobile phones, and then listen to them on the move, or play them when they get home by transferring to another device such as a PC. Though a few such services are already commercially available around the world today, some more are set for launch.

Course on virtual world cultures for Kashmiri students
ECU (East Carolina University) has partnered with the Azad Jammu and Kashmir University (AJKU) in Pakistan to expand its current Virtual World Cultures course. The course was created to reduce ECU students' misunderstanding toward other cultures. A video communication system was created that works with regular Internet instead of satellite, so it is inexpensive for schools in underdeveloped areas like Kashmir. Classes at AJKU are held through videoconference. Students work for four weeks with video link and must e-mail their partner on a daily basis. At the end of the four weeks, the partners write a paper together on some similarity or difference they found in their cultures. The course is currently working with six international partners, China, Russia, Switzerland, the Gambia in Africa, Poland and Kashmir.

UNESCO's digital arts award 2004 bagged by Sarai Media Lab
Indian Sarai Media Lab and their winning project Network of No Des, were the winners of this year's UNESCO Digital Arts Award. This year, with an aim to promote digital creation as an innovative artistic reflection on information and knowledge society, the UNESCO Digital Arts Award was bestowed in association with the 12th International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA 2004), organised on a Baltic Sea cruise and in the cities of Helsinki and Tallinn respectively (14-22 August 2004). On this occasion, Sarai Media Lab received 7000 US dollars, along with a three-month artistic residency in association with the Helsinki International Artist-in-residence Programme, HIAP.


Digital makeover of the Indian postal services

The Indian post offices have reinvented themselves and offer a host of services to keep the postal department's deficit under check. Its newly started services range from buying Nokia cell phones to electronic money transfers and even receiving prasad from a far-off temple. As regards its core business, the department has initiated new services like e-Post and business post. The e-Post service allows people to send letters to any part of the country via electronic mail for just Rs 10 a page. There are about 650 e-Post centres across the country where letters are scanned and sent via Internet. Electronic money transfer is another area in which the department is playing a role.

Indian e-Governance spend at Rs 2,200 cr
As per an assessment made by Skoch Consultancy Services, of Indian projects, e-Governance spend is on the rise, at around 23 per cent per annum. From Rs 1,500 crore at the end of 2002, the spend on e-Governance has risen to Rs 2,200 crore. According to Skoch, Uttaranchal tops the list of projects with its 'Aarohi' computer-aided education programme in government schools.

TRAI's attempt to boost rural telephony in India

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), releasing its consultation paper on 'Growth of telecom services in rural India', has termed the coverage of rural telephony services as 'not satisfactory.' The authority also highlighted that despite several attempts over the last 10 years, the gap between penetration of telephony in rural (1.7 per cent) and urban (19.7 per cent) areas is widening, and thus measures need to be taken to reduce this gap. The authority is exploring the possibility of either drastically reducing the spectrum charges in rural areas or completely removing it, to push the growth of telecommunication services. The paper recommends adoption of broadband kiosks (like the STD/ISD kiosks) for voice telephony with support for input costs from the USO fund for a period of two to three years. Moreover, it was recommended that the government could run e-Education, e-Health, e-Agriculture, etc programmes through these kiosks. TRAI emphasised that more coverage of wireless services in rural areas and small towns was the key for future growth of the telecom sector.

Now, SMS in Indian regional language

In an attempt to target the 45-crore Hindi-speaking population in India, Finnish telecom major Nokia, has launched out content and short message service (SMS) in Hindi on its range of 24 mobile handsets. The company is soon expected to launch the localisation initiative to other Indian regional languages. The company also announced the launch of its Hindi content portal, 'Mera Nokia', from which users can download news, astrology, ringtones, jokes and wallpapers from next week onwards.

Kimono-makers go digital in Japan

In Japan, Kimono designer Yuko Iwakuma, is using some up-to-date tools, a computer and an ink-jet printer for making Kimonos. She designer relies on computers to make kimonos, with new designs, and then sells them on the Internet. The designs go far beyond the flower and bird designs of tradition, abounding with keyboards, playing-card kings and queens, puppies and apples. Moreover, the biggest attraction is their low cost of production. Digital design and ink-jet printing allow kimono makers to avoid excess inventory and relieve growing concerns about a shortage of skilled hand-dyers, thus bringing the price down.

Education in S.Africa to focus on ICT
In South Africa, new models of learning that are incorporating ICT, are changing the concept of education in the country. Such an initiative will help in creating both better job opportunities for students, as well as lead to enhancement of their technical skills. In addition, ICT could enhance the management and administrative capacity of schools. It is the goal of the Department of Education, that by 2013, every South African manager, teachers and students will be ICT capable.

Zambia's disadvantaged communities reap ICT benefit


Zambia is the first country in the world to get support from the International Institute for Communication Development (IICD)'s Small Initiative Fund (SIF), for enhancement of livelihoods of disadvantaged communities through use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). The IICD has been mandated to support initiatives in its focal countries pertinent to Catalysing the Creation of Local Content through ICTs (CCELC) programme of the Open Knowledge Network. The initial fund is the first of its kind where IICD is partnering with a private firm to manage grassroots projects. The initiatives will use basic ICTs such as computers, e-mail, Internet and digital cameras to create information products, capturing local knowledge and expertise, as well as exchange it and network with relevant actors to enhance and extend their current activities.

Rs.600 cro

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