ConnectKentucky Forges Partnership With Rural Technology Group in India
October 11, 2005 – Technology advocates bringing high-speed Internet to rural communities across Kentucky will soon be helping to establish high-tech community centers in rural villages in India.
ConnectKentucky, a non-profit organization that promotes technology in the Commonwealth, has agreed to assist IRMA-India with a pilot project designed to provide knowledge and job skills to poor, rural families, particularly women.
The project involves setting up 26 Community Information Centers in small villages outside Bhubaneswar, India. Each community center would include several computers with Internet connections, a printer, a digital camera, a small library of books and other materials. The centers would be designed to provide information on subjects ranging from government health programs to local wave heights for fishermen.
Although India has the fifth largest telecommunications network in the world, including highly sophisticated call centers, most rural areas have been left out of the information explosion, said Dillip Pattanaik, director of IRMA-India, a non-profit group that promotes rural technology. More than 100,000 Indian villages lack electricity, and few have Internet access, he said.
Kentucky’s rural areas have also lagged behind in technology. A quarter of the state does not have access to high-speed Internet, and overall Kentucky ranks near last among the 50 states in its proportion of high-tech companies, household computer use, and Internet use.
ConnectKentucky is addressing these issues by bringing together government, universities and private partners to promote economic development through information technology. ConnectKentucky is recognized nationally as a model for accelerating technology-based development in rural areas, and the FCC recently recognized Kentucky as the nation’s leader in terms of broadband growth rates.
Brian Mefford, chief executive officer and president of ConnectKentucky, said it was natural for the two organizations to work together because they have similar goals.
“Information technology has the power to transform communities all the way from Kentucky to India,” Mefford said. “Rural areas have been slow to join the global economy, but now we have an opportunity to latch onto new technologies and accelerate faster than other places.”
Pattanaik said he discovered ConnectKentucky on the Web and decided to approach the group, whose public/private partnership concept is being viewed as a model nationwide. He and Mefford communicate regularly over the Internet – just one example of how technology is breaking down barriers and making international collaboration easier than ever before.
“The partnership with ConnectKentucky will provide opportunities for sharing knowledge and experience, as well as generating new concepts for connecting the unconnected in rural areas,” Pattanaik said.
ConnectKentucky has provided a scholarship for Pattanaik to attend the 9th annual convention of the Rural Telecommunications Congress, Oct. 9-12 in Lexington, Ky. Mefford said that ConnectKentucky hopes to help IRMA-India find partners for the pilot program. In addition, Mefford plans to attend IRMA-India’s rural technology conference in India next year.
For more information on IRMA-India, see www.irma-india.org.
For more information on ConnectKentucky, see www.connectkentucky.org
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