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The Amrita Center for Wireless Networks and Applications, recognized for its deployment of the first-ever wireless network system for predicting landslides, is now extending its developmental activities into yet another highly topical field. This time, the origin of the calamity to be prevented, is not in the world outside but inside. Inside our own minds. The growing number of cultural and ethnic tensions, resulting from social prejudices and preconceived notions.

Sanskar, an interactive Android app, developed by Mr. Rahul Krishnan from the Amrita Center for Wireless Networks and Applications under the guidance of Dr. Maneesha Ramesh was shortlisted among the top five finalist applications in the 2012 Create UNAOC Challenge, an international competition for app developers that sought to introduce new avenues for intercultural dialogue.

The challenge was sponsored by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in collaboration with the MIT Education Arcade. The names of the finalists were announced at the UNAOC Global Forum in Vienna, Austria during February 27-28, 2013.

An initiative of the United Nations, UNAOC was begun in 2005 with the aim to improving mutual understanding between nations, cultures and religions and countering forces lead to polarization and its extreme form, terrorism. Among the priority areas of the Alliance are education, youth, media and migration.

Accordingly, as part of the challenge, developers around the world were encouraged to create new apps and games in support of issues such as gender equality, youth development, migrant integration, religious pluralism, better understanding among individuals of different cultural and religious backgrounds and biased media representation of cultures and religions.

“Our app Amrita Sanskar helps one explore new cultures promoting harmony through acceptance. The app uses magazine-style presentation and animated videos to demonstrate understanding and acceptance in eighteen different cultures from around the globe. Each unit is followed up with quizzes to assess the amount of material covered and measure newfound respect for the culture. Users are also invited to share their intercultural experiences and stories via the app, to collaboratively build a database of cultural knowledge,” explained the app creator.

Broadly defined, the Sanskrit term Sanskar means culture. It refers also to a process, which transforms a person into an ideal, conscious personality through inculcating human values and controlling negative mental tendencies.

“We were inspired to develop this app by our Chancellor Amma, the world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. During her address at the UNAOC forum in Shanghai, China, last year, Amma emphasized the importance of respecting, understanding and accepting other cultures as the basis for bringing harmony among all world civilizations,” explained Dr. Maneesha Ramesh.

“When we engage others with respect, understanding and acceptance, then we will be able to communicate at the level of the heart,” Amma had said in her Shanghai address. Amma also warned that efforts at coexistence fail when we claim ‘We are all one,’ but disrespect each other’s ancient customs and traditions.

She, who also supports the use of new technologies for education, had added, “coexistence is possible only when culture and modernization are in balance.”

March 28, 2013
Amritapuri Campus

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