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InfoLab21 Enables Live Telecast From “Chernobyl” town

03/27/2009 11:08:11

Headteacher Jon Wright with pupils during the live link up
Headteacher Jon Wright with pupils during the live link up

The first ever live telecast from the Chernobyl area has taken place to mark the culmination of an InfoLab21 project to install wireless broadband in the town of Slavutych in the Ukraine.

Representatives from the Ukrainian and UK Governments along with schoolchildren from Lancaster all took part in the webcast to mark the official launch of the Slavutych Town Information Network, which will enable the whole town to benefit from wireless broadband, installed as part of a UK Government scheme to regenerate the area.

Professor Garik Markarian of the Department of Communication Systems at Infolab21 led the wireless broadband project.

“Part of our role is to investigate how technology can improve people’s lives. Every indication is that providing high speed access to the web and creating new, information based services, will advance the standard of living for all Slavutych residents and, more importantly, help to attract new businesses.”

The webcast began with a link up between the UK Government Minister of State at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Mike O’Brien in Whitehall and the town square of Slavutych, where Ukrainian government representatives joined local townspeople in welcoming the handover of the network.

Mr O’Brien said: “I hope that this high speed system will help to attract new hi-tech business – nuclear and others – to make productive use of the highly qualified and skilled people in Slavutych.”

Slavutych was built after the accident to house evacuated workers from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the abandoned town of Pripyat, but a lack of internet access has hampered economic growth. The town’s population is expected to double as businesses take advantage of connectivity to create jobs.

Following the Minister’s address, children from Central Lancaster High School used the live telecast to see and speak to pupils from Slavutych Lyceum.

Bethan Shaw, who is 13, said: “It was great to be able to talk and see people in a different country and they seem really happy despite what happened with Chernobyl.”

The headteacher of Central Lancaster High School Jon Wright said he intended to continue the link with the school in the Ukraine.

He said: “It’s fantastic for the students to be able to talk with students in the Ukraine and it has a huge impact on them to hear direct from students of a similar age what life is like there.”

The Mayor of Slavutych, Volodymyr Udovychenko, said: “Slavutych might be Ukraine’s youngest City but we are learning fast! We have a vision for the future which will see our town transformed into a ground breaking 21st century e-city.”

Before the creation of the internet network, there was a limited dial up connection and difficulty connecting internationally. Staff had to post CDs of documents abroad or physically carry them between offices in Slavutych. Now the new Town Information Network will link up to 54 municipal buildings and revolutionise the way businesses and educational organisations operate.

The installation of wireless broadband is part of the UK Government funded programme to address the “Social and Economic Consequences of Nuclear Power Plant Closure Programme”. This programme forms part of a much larger UK government funded programme to address the nuclear, chemical and biological legacies of the Former Soviet Union.