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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting to know George Town

TO be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the site in question must posses “outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity”.

A lofty definition to fill indeed but in July 2008 George Town, Penang, was awarded World Heritage Status, along with Malacca.

Enter iGeorgeTown Penang (iGP) (, a portal created with the aim of telling people more about Penang and its capital.

For the team behind this venture, in addition to its recognition as a site of cultural and historical

importance, its preservation and awareness within the consciousness of the people is most crucial
to its survival.

“Even in its present neglected form, George Town offers a lot surprises to visitors. There is much
to discover in the city which has a history of over 200 years,” writes iGP assistant manager for projects, Sheetal Sharda.

“A lot of people from all over the world have made their mark there. Apart from various groups of Malays, Chinese and Indians, there were (and, in some cases, are) Armenians, Acehnese, Burmese,
British, Eurasians, Germans, Japanese, Jews, Portuguese and Thais with sizeable communities there at one time or another,” she says.

So for the uninitiated and the curious, head over to iGP for an introduction or refresher on a vibrant
and enduring piece of this nation's historical roots.

How and when did iGeorge-Town Penang start?

We started in December 2008, when we launched the project in conjunction with the first Penang
Cultural Fest.

What were the reasons?

Culture and heritage are two invaluable assets of Penang. However, there is a lack of integrated and
comprehensive information about them. So we thought we would try and do that. The site is still in its infancy and we will constantly develop it to include more facets to further benefit its intended audience. We welcome suggestions and comment.

What would the site really like to achieve through Cyberspace communication?

New media is the way to go in publishing. We are embarking on a new adventure in communications that is multi-channelled. iGeorge-Town has done print, website and audio-visuals. We intend to go into mobile too.

Any regrets?

No. It has only been four months. It is hoped that the site it will help make George Town and Penang more accessible to people in terms of information.

We are happy with the response so far and would like now to build a bigger readership.

Therefore we appeal to all Penang lovers out there to register with us so that they can get a bimonthly e-newsletter called iGT Connect.

The “Blogosphere”. What does it mean?

A medium that gives even the most common person a voice, from expressing the most mundane everyday story to reporting news-altering events. It has also created a “public sphere”, where views, opinions and beliefs are openly aired.

Absolute favourite blogger?

As a team, we read all blogs related to George Town and Penang.

Some Penang food blogs are really great and we link our readers to them. There is even a podcast
that is dedicated solely to speaking Penang Hokkien (

Foremost feature of cyberspace?

Two things irritate/disgust us: Lies and the cyber-assassination of people and organisations by
ruthless people. With freedom comes responsibility, but many people on the Net are utterly irresponsible.

If there were someone who should take up blogging, who would it be?

The many living heritage keepers of Penang should blog more, start websites for various places
of interest, get themselves interviewed by newspapers, TV stations, websites, etc, so that content
on the State can be enriched further.

Otherwise, it would start disappearing. For example, there are many octogenarians who played a
big part in Penang’s development.

Can you imagine the stories that they would have for us? If only... Any memorable incidents?

We had to work very hard (almost round-the-clock) to launch on Dec 4, 2008, at the E&O Hotel
in Penang. Apart from the site, we produced a booklet called “George Town World Heritage Site”, a video called “We are our heritage”, which is available on YouTube via our site, and a sideshow on a plasma screen. And, yes, we would do it all over again if we had to. It was a great rush.

Additional thoughts?

Two things. Firstly that iGeorgeTown is privately-funded and privately-driven so we need all the support we can get from advertisers, sponsors and our audience.

Secondly, we have a Facebook cause, “Why George Town, Penang, needs our attention”. So
please join and take part. George Town needs all the proper attention it deserves.


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