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ICTs enriching coastal regions in India

06 October 2009

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An information hub set up by an NGO in south India is aiding fishing communities with alert messages on maritime changes, availability and trade of fish. Integrating community radio to the public announcement system has enabled the rural villagers to address health and socio-economic related concerns.

Any technology or device has its own plus and minuses. However its efficacy depends on how much of its plus points we could turn to our advantage. That means it is for us to make the technology to serve us, not the other way round.

Image credits: Google/ Coastal region in India

This is just what Pondicherry Multipurpose Social Service Society (PMSSS), an NGO, has done quite successfully.

The society has virtually turned the tides in favour of the fishing community in Pondicherry and districts of Cuddalore and Villupuram in Tamil Nadu, by making best use of Information & Communication Technologies to reshape the daily life of fishing folk.

"The hub relays information to Village Information Centres (VICs) located in the villages"

It all started with the setting up of a main information hub, supported by ISRO, at the headquarters of the society at Pondicherry.

The hub relays information to Village Information Centres (VICs) located in the villages. The identified villages are nine in Pondicherry, eight and three in Cuddalore and Karaikal respectively.

The villagers in these 20 coastal hamlets are being provided information and knowledge that enrich their day-to-day life.

Besides routine information, alert messages are flashed in case there is a possibility of imminent disaster. It was a pioneering effort by PMSSS to take technology to people in the area that bore the brunt of tsunami five years ago.

The setup is designed to make announcements through Public Address(PA) system thrice a day on weather, wave heights, wind speed, potential areas where fish could be found and the daily market price of fish.

This information is also displayed on boards in each of these villages. However the reach of PA system is limited to one kilometer. This limitation too was overcome by the never-dying spirit of those at the helm of PMSSS.

Community radio for better living

The society tied up with the Pondicherry station of All India Radio to air ‘Pudhu Yugam Padaipom” (Let us strive for a new dawn), a programme targeting the fishing folk.

This communication mode was thought of on the request of fishermen to know the weather conditions while in deep sea. In collaboration with AIR, Puducherry, another special programme, “Information for Rural Folk”, is also broadcast thrice daily.

PMSSS has its own well-equipped studio to record programmes on weather forecast, - an Automated Weather Station (AWS) has also been established at PMSSS Headquarters - wave height, community-based disaster preparedness, Right to Information Act, child rights, women empowerment, child trafficking and other community-based valuable information.

Training and disaster preparedness

The rural community, including women from Self Help Groups and youth, eagerly participates in the programmes with lot of resources. They are trained to conduct the programme which are recorded in their own voice and broadcast through AIR Puducherry Station.

The Hyderabad-based Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, and the Chennai-based Indian Meteorological Department provide information on weather forecast and wave height.

A digital display system has been set up at PMSSS’ Headquarters in Puducherry with the help of ISRO that provides all details relating to ocean, to the fisher folk.

This NGO has also deployed its own Wave Rider Buoy at Bay of Bengal, Chinnaveerampattinam, Puducherry in 2007 [Latitude: 11052.442’N, Longitude: 79050.573’E] to measure the wave height, for the safety of the fishermen of these villages.

NASSCOM (National Association of Software Services Companies) has also chipped in to provide e-literacy and adult education in these villages through these 20 Village Knowledge Centres, besides computer education to those desirous of learning. E-education is provided through BSNL’s broadband service for 10th and 12th standard students. Such a facility is also provided through the private TV channel Rainbow in Puducherry.

Survival needs

Another cost-effective ICT facility, E-medicine, has also been established to provide quality health/medical care to the rural people, through a tie-up with Pondicherry Institute of Medical Science (PIMS).

Through the E-agriculture service, all relevant information relating to agriculture, like fertilisers, seeds, prices of agri- products, etc., are provided. Wherever possible, the E-governance facility of the Government is made use of to provide access to the government services/ schemes/ information, like downloading of application forms, online applications, etc.

"The goals of the training include people’s awakening, education, organisation, power and action"

In total, the initiatives of PMSSS have proved to be a very successful public-private partnership.

Besides, PMSSS has been emphasising on Education and Training of people for Total Integral Human Development.

The goals of the training include people’s awakening, education, organisation, power and action. Over the years, many have been trained in leadership qualities, in agriculture and allied activities like sanitation, environment & ecology and also in various skills to enhance their socio-economic status and empowerment.

PMSSS has also initiated efforts to transform these villages into organic villages, to increase green cover, including mangroves, the mainstay of coastal ecology.

De-silting of water bodies, which has the twin benefits of mitigating sufferings due to floods and drought, has also been taken up.

Pondicherry Multipurpose Social Service Society [PMSSS] is the registered social service agency of the Archdiocese of Puducherry and Cuddalore. Headquartered in the heart of Pondicherry, PMSSS has been re-shaping the socio-economic destiny of numerous people in the Union Territory of Puducherry and its Karaikal region, and in the districts of Cuddalore and Villupuram in Tamil Nadu, for the past 32 years.

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