Two dozen Sri Lankan telecentre pioneers came away from a recent study tour to India inspired by the pivotal role women are playing in bridging the digital divide.
They were also impressed with mobile health services in rural India that rely on information and communication technologies (ICTs), and with a community-centred approach within the telecentre movement that puts grassroots needs first.
The first facility launched as part of a Sri Lankan government drive to extend the digital revolution to rural and semi-urban areas opened in a temple in Katharagama in the southern part of the island on January 1, 2005. The launch, planned long in advance, was able to proceed despite the Indian Ocean tsunami a few days earlier that had devastated coastal areas.
Since then, more than 500 telecentres have been set up under the “e-Sri Lanka initiative,” enabling villagers scattered around the country to receive computer training and browse the Internet, as well as print, fax, phone, and photocopy.
Sri Lanka hopes to have 1 000 of these nenasalas (“global knowledge centres”) up and running around the country by the end of 2008. The initiative forms part of a government effort to help communities tackle poverty, boost social and economic development, and build peace.
The nenasalas are run by individual villagers and religious or community groups. Prospective operators, who must be able to provide the space for a facility, are given training and all the necessary equipment, which is free of charge for two years. Most of the centres have two to four computers, a photocopy machine, printer, scanner, Web camera, and Internet access.
When the 500th such centre was opened in January 2008, President Mahinda Rajapakshe marked the occasion by announcing a commemorative postage stamp and a special study tour to India. Twenty nenasala operators, accompanied by four officials involved in the e-Sri Lanka initiative, were given the opportunity to visit telecentres in southern India and compare notes with counterparts there. Those selected for the trip run nenasalas in all corners of Sri Lanka, including the troubled northeast.
In February, the Sri Lankan delegation spent a week as guests of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, and the Union Territory of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry). Professor Swaminathan, the father of India’s Green Revolution in agriculture, has spearheaded a campaign in recent years to spread access to modern technology throughout rural India. A pilot project he led in the 1990s, supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre, grew into a nationwide movement that has spawned tens of thousands of “village knowledge centres” around India.
The study tour was organized by the Sri Lankan government’s Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), MSSRF, and telecentre.org – an international network supported by IDRC, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and Microsoft that is committed to increasing the social and economic impact of telecentres.
Trip participant Harsha Wijayawardhana, Assistant Secretary in the Sri Lankan President’s Secretariat, was impressed with the community orientation of India's village knowledge centres. “They provide services beyond computer education,” he said. “For example, they offer market-related information, vocational training, health, fishery, and agriculture-related information."
Wijayawardhana plans to submit a trip report containing recommendations for Sri Lanka. “The participation of women is a must, and we will explore innovative ways to ensure women participate and avail themselves of the benefits of nenasalas," he said. "We will also make nenasalas people-centric, based on a bottom-up approach."
Basheerhamad Shadrach, a senior program officer with telecentre.org, said that although Sri Lanka is a late entrant to the global telecentre movement, the involvement of the President’s office shows the high-level commitment to the endeavour. The study tour gave the Sri Lankan visitors “a new insight into telecentres as a community development tool,” he added. “I could see their excitement and enthusiasm.”
Below, four nenasala operators share their thoughts at the end of the study tour. Please click on the link on the top or bottom of this page to download their pictures.Deepika Gurusinghe Arachchige
This report is based on interviews conducted by IDRC's Prabha Sethuraman and telecentre.org's Vignesh Sornamohan, who is based at the Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies near New Delhi.
Prabha Sethuraman | ResearchSEA
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences