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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 08:41 GMT
Listening to the web on the radio
The radio station has one computer in the studio
The radio station encourages listeners to write or visit
Alfred Hermida

Radio is bringing the internet to people in a mountain village in central Sri Lanka.

Every day for an hour, presenters in the studio translate and read out web pages on topics suggested by the listeners.

The aim of the Kothmale Community Radio project is to provide access to the web to villagers who do not have computers and may not be able to speak English.

The web is an expensive luxury for most in Sri Lanka and many areas have no internet access points at all.

Villagers are introduced to the internet
The project is popular with villagers
"This digital divide we talk of is not something artificial or only academic in Sri Lanka. It's a real problem," said M J R David who helped to set up the project.

"In the cities, children have access to the internet and e-mail, and the use of telephone is increasing.

"But in the countryside, very few people even have telephone connections. And in five or six years, all the same children will be standing in the same queue for employment," he explained.

Hugely popular

The project was started almost three years ago with funding from Unesco.

It has proved a big success, with no shortage of volunteers to help out.

"There's always a queue at the computers," M j R David told the BBC programme Go Digital.

The studio of Kothmale community radio
Villagers write or call into the studio
During the programme, listeners are encouraged to write in or turn up at the station to use the computers there to find out information on the web.

If the sites are in English, the bilingual presenters will translate and read them out over the radio.

To make the villagers get the most out of the internet, the radio station brings doctors, lawyers or teachers into the studio so they can dig out the relevant information from the web and explain it to the listeners.

The internet is also used by other programmes to research stories and incorporate information, news, weather reports and music into their broadcasts

The concept of extending the internet via radio to rural regions in developing countries was devised in 1996 during discussions between Unesco and community radio broadcasters.

The idea was that the two mediums could be integrated to make the internet accessible to a wider audience.

M J R David
Making the internet accessible to villagers
See also:

23 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Internet 'divides society'
21 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
When the web is not world-wide
11 Jul 00 | UK
The world wide what?
19 Mar 01 | dot life
Bridging the digital divide
22 Aug 00 | Business
The losers of the digital divide
10 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Sri Lanka
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