Search engine giant Google is taking the internet to the hinterland of India by coming out with a unique way of letting people across Tamil Nadu experience the internet through an 'internet mobile bus', equipped with computers with internet connectivity and trained staff to guide rural people to the web world.
As the bus will cover 15 towns in the next one-and-half months, Google aims to reach out to people with limited knowledge and exposure to the net.
The focus will be on four themes, information, communication, entertainment and education, for which the internet bus will have useful and informative content in English and Tamil to give the users an understanding of how the internet can be used for all of these needs.
In addition to basic familiarisation on using services like search, email, social networking, online maps and others the bus will showcase how the internet can make everyday life simple.
"We believe that if we can get people to experience the internet even briefly they will find the means to go back again," says Dr Prasad Ram, head of Google R&D, India.
Dr Ram adds, ''We are passionate about empowering users with information and the internet democratises access to information. With this initiative we want to take the power of this medium to people who will really benefit from it.
"India needs more of such efforts. It is the collective responsibility of the government, the industry and academia to solve the challenges around access, costs and content. Once this is done, the possibilities of use are limitless."
The bus is designed to make the introduction to the internet simple for a user. The message will be shared through interesting videos that talk about how people are using the internet for varied reasons and activities, grandparents using email and video sites to interact with children and grandchildren in another city; a student from a small city using search to find information that is not otherwise physically accessible; a local music group using YouTube to share their talent with the world; a small entrepreneur using the Internet to expand his reach and revenues.
The Internet Bus will also address the challenge around access and language for a lot of users in smaller cities by educating them on how they can access the Internet on their mobiles and use various Google tools to break the language barrier.
Users across India will be able to follow the bus through its journey, see pictures and videos and join online communities by simply visiting http://www.google.com/internetbus.
This initiative is aligned with Google's overall strategy of organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible and useful. In India, Google has been making a significant effort to make the Internet more relevant and accessible to the Indian user.
Search has become more local with useful information like business listings, railways and flight status, cricket scores, movie reviews and more. Google has launched products like Google SMS Search, SMS Channels, Google Voice Local Search service, and Google Map Maker, and has localised many popular Google applications.
It has been overcoming language barriers by offering transliteration in 5 Indian languages, Google News has news service in 4 Indian languages, machine translation for English-to-Hindi (bidirectional), and soft keyboards for a vast majority of Indian languages.
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 aimed at students, parents and teachers to educate them on Internet safety.