GUWAHATI, Aug 30 � A mother of two children, Jyoti Sarma wants to let her children know about Srimanta Sankardev. She gets connected to the Internet and after a brief spell digs out information from a few websites. The young professional from Guwahati is surprised that one of the more informative entry is from Wikipedia.
Amit Saini, a Central Government employee was seeking information about Guwahati for a visit he had planned for autumn this year. Saini, based in New Delhi, is a bit perturbed because he cannot access a definitive guide to the city, its tourist spots, and connecting flights. He was disappointed with his experience on the Internet.
A businessman based in Guwahati, Imran, was trawling the net to locate information about book publishers in the North-east. Dozens of clicks later he was unable to find reliable information containing address and phone numbers.
All these experiences point to one significant fact � information about Assam and the rest of the North-east is scanty on the World Wide Web. As the world gets increasingly dependent on the Internet, this part of India appears to have missed the bus when it comes to secure a niche in virtual space.
The Assam Government, which has a fully functional Information and Technology Department, has not been able to make much headway in this front. Its initiative has not resulted in any substantive advances in expanding Assam�s footprint on the Internet.
While information about the State, its resources, and its personalities is less compared to that of other States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh or West Bengal, even the available information is quite often inadequate or simply out of date. Together, these act as a handicap for anyone seeking to acquire information or data from places where there are no other options available.
Those acquainted with the scenario say that even the current official website of the Assam Government � www.assam.gov.in � powered by the National Informatics Centre, Assam has not been updated for some time. For instance, the site still mentions the Kamrup (Metro) SP as Pradip Chandra Saloi, and Kamrup SP as Partha Sarathi Mahanta even though the posts have been occupied by other officers for several months. The phone numbers of several key officials are also missing from the site.
�In order to strengthen Assam�s position on the World Wide Web, it is vital that more content is uploaded and also a browser that has language settings is developed. Creating language specific software will be another step forward towards occupying more space in the virtual world,� said KK Sarma, an academic with the Gauhati University.
Sarma, who recently returned from China, said that the country has been extremely successful in developing a model that allows Chinese language users to access the Internet. This model, in his view, can be studied and modified to help Assam and Assamese language get more Internet space.
Others like Sarma, who have monitored the situation, believe that there should be more private initiative to put substantial content on well known websites, some of which also offer free space. Unless that is done, this region and its culture and people will remain below the radar in today�s information hungry world.