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NetAid concerts take aim at world poverty

A mix of music, philanthropy, and technology will greet TV viewers and Net surfers this weekend when the NetAid concerts are broadcast to benefit worldwide anti-poverty efforts.

Rock legend Jimmy Page, musical chameleon David Bowie, and Cisco Systems chief and Internet cheerleader John Chambers on the same stage?

A unique confluence of music, philanthropy, and technology will greet television viewers, radio listeners, and Net surfers this weekend when three concerts are broadcast over both media to benefit worldwide anti-poverty efforts.

At the center of the charitable program, called NetAid, is primary sponsor Cisco, the provider of equipment that sends information across the Internet.

Cisco executives claim that NetAid is one of the largest public and private events organized for the United Nations Development Program. The networking company said it will contribute about $25 million to the effort, which hopes to help fight poverty with the money it raises. The initiative will also unveil a Web site that aspires to connect citizens with organizations on the front lines.

The company said NetAid provides an opportunity to give something back during a prosperous time in Silicon Valley--while those with newfound wealth find themselves under increasing pressure to participate in philanthropic efforts.

Moreover, Cisco executives view NetAid as a way to take technology beyond the realm of business and to showcase the development of the Net as a worldwide phenomenon--in addition to getting some high-profile exposure of their company's brand name, of course.

Cisco will run the NetAid Web site, where surfers can view live video from the concert and make donations to particular organizations. In all, 1,600 to 1,900 computer systems will be dedicated to supporting the site in 50 locations. Of those systems, 350 will be dedicated to streaming video from the concerts in New York, London, and Geneva.

An estimated 125,000 video sessions will be supported, according to Cisco, with the help of technology from multimedia software provider RealNetworks. The system is set up to handle more than 60 million hits per hour and 1,000 transactions per second, according to a Cisco spokeswoman.

"This is an opportunity to demonstrate there's a community with a strong social conscience here," said Don Listwin, executive vice president at the company.

The concerts start at 9 a.m. PT tomorrow and continue until 7 p.m. PT.