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WorldTel In $100 M Community Initiative For Indian State

London-based WorldTel has submitted a $100 million business plan to the government of Tamil Nadu in India for a project creating 1,500 Internet community access centers throughout the state.

WorldTel chairman Sam Pitroda, a telecom pioneer from India, said the project would be funded over the next five years by international investors, the state government, local ISPs and other infrastructure and content companies.

WorldTel is a private company created by the United Nations International Telecommunications Union to foster the growth of telecom infrastructures in developing nations.

The announcement was made at the recently concluded TamilNet 99 conference held in Chennai, where the government recommended usage of standardized keyboards and encoding schemes for the Tamil language.

The movement towards such standardization for desktop and Web-based publishing of Tamil is expected to gain further momentum during Microsofts Windows 2000 developers conference to be held here later this month.

Windows 2000 will provide Unicode support for Indian fonts in Devnagiri, Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Marathi and Konkani.

"The Tamil Nadu leadership has recognized the role of IT, Internet infrastructure and local content for the next generation," said Pitroda.

To take the Net beyond the English-speaking population to the public at large, there will need to be major support for local language content and publishing tools, he said.

Pitroda said the Internet community access centers, each with several computers for accessing the Net, are a key starting point for a lot of local Internet projects. Local content can enhance training materials, local business, government services and educational offerings.

WorldTel has received calls from six chief ministers in other Indian states for such projects, said Pitroda.

The company has also launched such Internet projects in Latin America, where 25 Internet access centers are being run by the RCP networking organization in Peru.