Rural Knowledge Centers of Sri Lanka
 

e-Sri Lanka and ICT for all

Rural Knowledge Centres (Nanasalas) to be established throughout Sri Lanka

Colombo Fort Railway Station Nenasala
Colombo Fort Railway Station Nenasala

The Government of Sri Lanka aims to provide access to "diverse and unrestricted sources of information and means of communication" to all citizens through the establishment of Nenasalas. The Nenasala Project is one implemented under the e-Sri Lanka Initiative. ICTA has included it under the "Nenasala" label to introduce several models of the telecentres or knowledge centres to be established in all parts of Sri Lanka to spread ICT services to the rural and semi-urban population.

Through the establishment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) the democratic processes of the country can be strengthened, the quality of life of the people can be improved, there will be an advancement of the peace process as well as enhancing the social and economic development of the nation.

In addition to providing ICT to rural areas, the main objective of a Nenasala is to assist communities in poverty reduction, social and economic development, and peace building. It is important to note that all the services and support to be provided by the Nenasalas are done in such a way as to aim /guarantee long-term sustainability.

There are different types of Nenasalas that offer different services. These are:

  1. Rural Knowledge Centres,
  2. e-Libraries,
  3. Distance & e-Learning centres
  4. Tsunami camp computer kiosks.

In addition to providing ICT to rural areas, the main objective of a Nenasala is to assist communities in poverty reduction, social and economic development and peace building.

1. Rural Knowlege Centres

These are centers which allow people to have access to many ICT services which include e-mail, telephones, fax, photocopy, internet as well as computer training classes. The centers are known as "Vishwa Dcnuma Gamata" whose services are long term and are effective with regard to social and economic development, peace building and poverty reduction in rural areas. 100 centers have been created in Grama Niladhari Divisions in the South and North East regions where there was little or no access to information and more will be established in other parts of Sri Lanka.

2. e-Library Nenasala

e-library is a smaller version of the Rural Knowledge Centres that have telephones and computers with high speed internet to access national, international and local information. Certain services will be free while some are paid so as to maintain the centers sustainability. Computer based training media is available to use off-line in Sinhala, Tamil and English. The center also has a large e-library of books and periodicals for the use of students of all ages. The e- libraries recruit IT trained clergy as instructors and these libraries will be established at the center of villages.

3. Distance & e-learning Centres

These centers will be established in key urban areas outside the Colombo area, the Jaffna University and the South Eastern University, Oluvil campus. This center includes all infrastructure facilities such as a video conferencing room, multimedia computer laboratory and a playback room. The intention of the Centre is to cater to a larger group of users providing new information, sharing and learning opportunities. This is done through the establishment of an interactive, multi-channel network linking to existing domestic e-learning networks, and global networks for distance and e-learning, such as the Global Development Learning Network.

4. Tsunami Camp Nenasala

Small computer kiosks have been established in welfare camps for those displaced as a result of the tsunami. The services are free and vital information on health, education, and other relevant content in local languages are provided. Tsunami Voices" database contains information on the victims of the area thus providing information to donors, the Government and well wishers who want to assist the residents of the camps. The database will have information such as what they require to begin a new life and even medical information and ailments.

The ICTA desires to create awareness amongst the people about ICT through these Tsunami Camp Nanasalas. The people learn about its benefits and how it can make a difference. It will provide vocational training to those who may need to look for alternative employment. Most importantly, this initiative will look into human resources available within the camps themselves and find the personnel to run the centers from amongst the youth in the camps. These young people will be trained by volunteers of Volunteer-Sri Lanka. If these centers are a success, ICTA will consider converting them into permanent Nenasalas.

Areas covered

According to the Census and Statistics Department, there are 319 District Secretariat Divisions in Sri Lanka, which are divided into 14,009 Gramasevaka Niladari (GNs) and 38,259 villages. As the objective of the first phase of the Nanasala Project is to establish 100 Nanasalas in the Deep South and North & East Region. The Districts covered under the Deep South Region include Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Monoragala, Ratnapura and Badulla. The Districts covered under the North & East Region include Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Trincomalee.


Courtesy: Target magazine, August 2007