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Hello Colleagues,

I take this opportunity to thank Michael Gurstein for sharing
interesting thoughts and the well-written analysis of the so-called
"Digital Divide" at the URL he quoted.  Below is an inspiring tsunami
survival story that I think is an excellent real-life example of what
Michael discussed. The article is also available from

The hero of the story (Vijayakumar Gunasekaran) was a former volunteer
at the Nallavadu village's knowledge centre, one of a dozen information
villages in Pondicherry where <> has set up knowledge
centres, but now works in Singapore.

My own friend, Subbiah Arunachalam of MSSRF, who brought this story to
my attention, also informed me that there is a marked difference in the
way coastal villages coped with the tsunami disaster. In less fortunate
villages, there was very little coordination and considerable chaos,
whereas villagers in the four coastal knowledge-centre villages used
their databases stored in the knowledge centre computers to organise
relief measures and for distributing aid and material received from
government and other sources. In two of the knowledge-centre villages,
including Nallavadu, local people used the public address system not
only before the disaster to warn people to evacuate, but also afterwards
to announce relief measures.

Our colleague Michael will particularly appreciate his statement that:
"Often people criticise these knowledge centres as donor-supported and
unlikely to be sustainable. On the tragic 26th of December, the
knowledge centres proved their great value. Especially, newspaper after
newspaper criticised the government for not having an early warning
system as some of the Pacific rim countries have".

David Sawe

Phone Call Saved Scores Of Indian Villagers From Tsunami
By Chin Saik Yoon in Penang, Malaysia 
December 2004

The tsunami that struck the coastal communities of several Asian
countries on 26 December has been made even more tragic as news begin to
break of how a handful of technicians, monitoring the progress of the
waves across the seas using the latest ICT systems, had found themselves
unable to warn communities standing in harms way.

This was not the case with Vijayakumar Gunasekaran, a 27-year old son of
a fisherman from Nallavadu village, Pondicherry on the eastern coast of
India, who works in Singapore. He had access only to a radio and
television on the morning of 26 December. Vijayakumar followed the news
of the earthquake in Aceh, Indonesia as it unfolded over the radio and
television in Singapore. As the seriousness of the disaster in Aceh sank
in he began to worry about the safety of his family living along the
Indian coastline facing Aceh. He decided to phone home.

Muphazhaqi, his sister answered the phone. She told him that seawater
was seeping into their home when he asked what was happening in
Nallavadu. Vijayakumar realised at once that his worst fears were
rapidly materialising. He asked his sister to quickly leave their home
and to also warn other villagers to evacuate the village. "Run out and
shout the warning to others" he urged his sister.

Her warning reached a couple of quick-thinking villagers who broke down
the doors of the community centre set up by the M S Swaminathan Research
Foundation where a public address system used routinely to announce sea
conditions to the fishermen was housed. The warning from Vijayakumar,
collaborated at this time by a second overseas telephone call from Gopu,
another villager working abroad, was broadcast across the village
using the loud-speaker system. The village's siren was sounded
immediately afterwards for the people to evacuate.

No one was killed in this village as a result of the timely warnings.
Nallavadu is home to 500 families and about 3,630 people. While all
lives were saved, the tsunami destroyed 150 houses and 200 fishing boats
in the village.

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