Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Google's Internet bus rolls into Karnataka

How to browse the net, search, e-mail, social networking, browse maps or track stock market trends - this is what global web-based search engine Google is going to teach people as its custom-built Internet bus drives through 15 towns of Karnataka to expose the people to the digital world.

The bus, which began its journey Monday, will course through the state for the next 50 days.

After a successful two-month tour of 17 towns across Tamil Nadu from December to February, the Google bus began its Karnataka leg Monday from Kolar, a backward district, about 100 km from India's tech hub.

"The Internet bus project is an attempt to educate the people, especially the younger generation about the worldwide web and how Internet serves as a platform to step into the digital world for information, communication, entertainment and education," Google India research and development (R&D) head Prasad Ram told IANS.

The Interent-enabled bus has a video-driven content to showcase how people can make their everyday life simpler by accessing information in multiple formats - data, audio and video through English or local language (Kannada).

The content is tailored to familiarise the common folk with the basics of Internet. The online tool facilitates access to multiple services such as search, e-mail, social networking and browsing maps.

Among the Karnataka towns the Google bus will travel through over the weeks are Mandya, Mysore, Hassan, Shimoga, Chikmagalur, Chitradurga, Davanagere, Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum, Hospet and Tumkur.

"Tamil Nadu was a big learning for us. It was inspiring to see the people wanted to know about the Internet and share their needs with us. The experience has reinforced our belief that awareness is the key challenge in the growth of the Internet in India," Ram recalled.

In this phase, Google will focus on how mobile phones can be used to access even local information without data plans. Access to the Internet in local language will be its thrust area.

The benefit of the bus project is evident from a couple of instances during its sojourn in Tamil Nadu. A short tour of the Google bus made elderly parents at Krishnagiri to buy a computer for chatting and emailing with their son working overseas.

Similarly, a young businessman at Cuddalore, once a school dropout, learnt to track the stock market movements by browsing the relevant information or data links through the Internet.

"In Coimbatore, a boy who sold flowers for a living and had no exposure to the Internet learnt about Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Search in his native language (Tamil) by stepping into the bus," Ram noted.

The project is in line with Google's global strategy to make access to information, education and entertainment universal and relevant to end-user in English or multiple languages.

"Search has become more local with useful information on business listings, railways and flight status, cricket scores, movie review and et al. Our applications like SMS search, SMS channels and map maker have made Google the most sought after vehicle (engine) for millions in India and the world over," Ram claimed.

Access to information over mobile devices has become easier with mobile maps, mobile search, and mobile Orkut.

Google has also created platforms like the 'Be NetSmart' campaign to educate students, parents and teachers on Internet safety.

After travelling through Karnataka towns, the Internet bus will drive into other states across the country for similar exposure over the ensuing months.

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