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September 7, 1998


The Tamil Nadu government today signed a memorandum of understanding with World Tel, a global telecommunication company, for the setting up of 'community Internet centres' throughout the state.

Email this story to a friend. State Chief Secretary A P Muthusamy and World Tel Chairman and former Communication Technology Mission chief Sam Pitroda signed the MoU in the presence of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi at the secretariat here.

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Pitroda said the project, to be set up at a cost of $50 million to $60 million within a year, would enable the people to have access to information and ensure easy communication facilities.

It would also help the state government disseminate information relating to various programmes being implemented by it in the field of education, health and public distribution system, he added.

He said World Tel would bear the entire cost of the project and the state government would only play the role of a facilitator.

Expressing happiness over the new venture, Karunanidhi said this is a step towards mass application of information technology in a bid to take the state to the 21st century.

Assuring full co-operation for the implementation of the project, he said "I am a stickler for completing a task in time or before time." He requested Pitroda to complete the initial task soon so that the next phase of the project could be taken up at the earliest.

Making a brief speech after signing the MoU, Pitroda said World Tel is associated with 185 countries, of which 85 per cent are developing countries.

A project to provide wireless loops in Mexico at a cost of $100 million is one of the several projects undertaken by World Tel, he said.

To improve the basic telecom services in the country, the company, after studies in West Bengal, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh, had submitted a proposal to the central government, but unfortunately, there has been no response even after one and half years, he complained.

On the proposed project in Tamil Nadu, he said the company had decided not to adopt the American model in setting up the Internet centres but a new model keeping in mind the needs of the local situation and the cost.

The cost for using the Internet would be reduced at least by 50 per cent in these centres, he added.

World Tel is planning to set up 10 to 20 terminals in each of the about 1,000 centres. However, the success of the project would solely depended on the state government, he added.

Later in a chat with news reporters, Pitroda said World Tel is yet to identify local partners. The company would hold the majority of equity shares.

Replying to a question, he said each of the Internet centres would be set up at a cost of Rs 1 million to Rs 1.5 million. World Tel is holding talks with the Kerala and West Bengal governments to set up similar centres.

The proposed centres could be utilised by the public on payment of a nominal fee. It would also provide business services like fax, PCO, photo copying, email and e-commerce.

On behalf of the state government, it was stated that the centres would facilitate two-way communication between the government and the people and also improve the transparency of government functioning.

When the project is fully implemented, it would generate employment for about 50,000 people in the state.

Tamil Nadu would be the first state where World Tel would be setting up centres. In order to make it accessible to ordinary people, efforts have been made to develop Tamil fonts simultaneously.


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