Church puts faith in Web 2.0 for World Youth Day

Catholic Church rolls out social networking, video streaming, multimedia services.

Giant video screens, hundreds of kilometres of super fast fibre links, and SMSes sent by the Pope will be part of the technology makeup of World Youth Day 2008 (WYD) to be held in Sydney this July.

Event managers expect over 255,000 pilgrims to attend from around the world -- more than the 2000 Olympic Games -- to some 700 WYD locations around greater Sydney. A further 8000 volunteers, 2000 clergy and 3000 media will attend.

A Facebook-style social networking Web site, dubbed XT3 (Christ for The Third Millennium) is in live alpha testing with about 200 subscribers. The application connects pilgrims and families, and can cater for several hundred thousand users.

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, said in a Telstra interview that it is the first time Web 2.0 technologies have been used at WYD.

"It will be a new legacy [because] previous WYDs haven't been as involved," Cardinal Pell said.

"We have an ancient message that has to be explained in terms comprehensible to [younger] generations.

"Thousands will use XT3; those who have met for the first time and have struck up friendships."

Pope Benedict XVI will send inspirational SMSes to pilgrims in a world first.

Telstra will lay more than 540km of fibre and 450km of copper cables across WYD sites, providing ADSL and fixed phone services at speeds between 512Kbps and 500Mbps.

Nine temporary base stations will complement upgrades to existing facilities.

Wireless Internet (WIP2) will be operational at main event sites, while a special Digital Video Network will connect seven event sites to the International Broadcast Centre and domestic and international broadcasters.

About 1800 CustomerNet services will operate on the networks, along with 90 fax and 20 data services.

Pilgrims will be able to send messages to a fleet of 10m Digital Prayer Walls across main sites.

Telstra interactive centres will provide attendees with free Internet access via the Next G network where they can e-mail photo messages created in on-site green screen studios.

Pilgrims will even get a chance to sing hymns with celebrity, including Guy Sebastian, using the green screens and a karaoke setup.

WYD sites include Hyde Park, Randwick Race Course, Darling Harbour, Sydney Opera House and Centennial Park.

Telstra could not disclose sponsorship arrangement costs.

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