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Malappuram to become India's
first e-literate district

George Iype in Kochi | February 14, 2003 03:25 IST

The sleepy, backward, Muslim-majority Malappuram district in Kerala is all set to become India's first e-literate district with the state government kicking off its ambitious Akshaya project.

For the first time in India, global information technology giants like Microsoft, Intel and AMD and leading Indian computer makers like Wipro, Zenith and BPL Computers have launched a marketing blitz among the mostly rural population of the district to sell computers at the cheapest rates.

The Kerala IT Mission, with support from local village councils, is buying as many as 6,000 computers to be set up in the 600-odd Akshaya telecentres across Malappuram. Nearly 1,000 local youths have been appointed 'Akshaya e-entrepreneurs' to set up the multi-purpose community centres across the district.

These entrepreneurs have been given the power to negotiate with the computer companies to buy the PCs they need for the telecentres. "Each entrepreneur has some 10 orders for PCs and their negotiation skills have forced leading PC makers to slash their prices," Malappuram district council president M Ummer said.

So AMD has announced that it is slashing processor prices by 25 per cent for the Akshaya e-project computers. Branded computers of Wipro, BPL and Zenith are priced as low as Rs 17,000. Microsoft representatives are negotiating with the Akshaya entrepreneurs to sell the company's products at the cheapest rate.

"This is the biggest e-literacy project that is making waves in Malappuram," Kerala IT Mission director M Sivakumar told rediff.com "We will start similar campaigns across all Kerala districts to make the state the country's first truly e-literate state."

According to Sivakumar, the Akshaya e-initiative strives to make Kerala, which was India's first fully literate state, the first state in the country to provide 21st century skills to all its citizens. "Our idea is to teach computers to at least one member of each family in Kerala," he said. "The multi-purpose community telecentres run by the Akshaya entrepreneurs will make every Kerala family computer literate in 100 days."

Sivakumar said the e-literacy project was launched in Malappuram because it is among the most backward districts in Kerala. As part of the campaign, the IT mission has released the CD of the computer literacy programme prepared by C-DIT for imparting 15-hour training to at least one member from each of the 500,000-odd families in the district.

IT companies say they are pitching for the project because when it goes across Kerala in the next few months, there will be a demand for nearly 200,000 computers. "It is a huge market that we want to cash in on," a Wipro representative said. "We are expecting to get orders for some 1,000 computers soon."

Many believe Kerala's ambitious e-literacy project will become a model for other states to follow. For instance, the 600 Akshaya centres set up across Malappuram alone are expected to create about 35,000 job opportunities even as they make rural folk IT-literate.

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