ICONECS Session on
‘e-Content in Culture and Entertainment’
October 17, 2008

By Vikas Das

How technology can give a stimulus to efforts in the area of culture and entertainment came as a wonderful eye-opener during the ICONECS session on E-Content in Culture and Entertainment during Manthan Award South Asia Conclave 2008. Various presentations from countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, besides India, showed how ICT tools and digital content have helped promote local culture and also provide entertainment to large sections of society.

There were various examples from Sri Lanka to show how ICT tools and digital content are being made use of for promoting culture.

Mr G L Wiki Wickramrathna from Sri Lanka explained how his organisation is working towards creating content for the cultural and historical heritage of Sri Lanka which is authentic. It is necessary to promote this kind of e-content for the sake of culture because some popular portals like Wikipedia and Google have stored some contradictory facts about various heritage buildings of Sri Lanka. He is also working towards making this e-content available in other local and international languages.

The Jataka Kathayein, or stories from the life of Buddha can be viewed in digitised form on net now. They are even available in CDs for places where Internet is not available. This helps in the spread of message of Buddhism.

Such brilliant efforts leave us wondering whether these kinds of initiatives have been taken in India. There is need to explore. If not, then there is need to encourage the Indian Community to do this kind of work.

Mr. Akhil Suratia of Gujarat introduced his website www.akahiltv.com which contains videos on social and civic issues which comprise are day to day life. Very local in nature, these videos provide content that can make us aware of the shortcomings we have to overcome.

The Akhil TV model could be used for replication in other areas. The duo passion is excellent and the essence of community involvement , localisation and content development is seen so strongly.

Mr. Shashi Pandey of India Podcasting presented a relatively new kind of e-content ‘podcasting’ which is a new concept at the global level. In podcasting, his website www.podbharti.com provides multimedia on the Internet in a simple way in Hindi He spoke about the two challenges which they are facing, firstly, problem in downloading of content from the Internet, generally in small towns. And secondly, quality of production of contents is an issue because it a time consuming process to produce a quality product. Efforts are being made to produce contents in other vernacular languages.

Laxman Singh who is working with Rajasthani folk artists told the session that they were having recorded content of 9000hrs of their art work. They have got permission for community radio.

On certain queries about the training programme for software related to creating content in the field of culture and entertainment, Chairperson Mr Rajan Varada suggested the use of software made available by UNESCO. This software happens to be free of cost.

The following key recommendations have emerged:

The already developed cultural web portals could be shared with UNESCO for possible support and sharing. Since Sri Lanka is not being funded by UNESCO, some cooperation should be sought from UN for the preservation of historical and cultural heritages in the country.

It is now necessary to have a Local Area Portal which can be accessed by all. There should be amalgamation of all contents produced by the participant organisations and individuals for the common purpose of preserving and promoting different cultures.

There is a need to develop a portal wherein the information about all Community Radio programmes at the South Asia level could be uploaded, including the content, so that it can be shared, listened to and modified according to the local needs. The portal will also highlight the common practices, experiences in sustaining the community radio, training modules and other relevant information/knowledge in relation to the CR initiatives.

Local initiatives could be documented and shared across the globe so that the local innovations could be replicated. Manthan is doing the same, but Manthan can provide a platform wherein all these initiatives could be shared on a regular basis.

The involvement of children in the process of gathering information about culture in which they are surrounded by is very important. This is in order to inculcate the sense of preservation in them since childhood. This idea has been very successful in Sri Lanka.

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