Teaching English to the poor through sat-communication
Digital talking books for the visually handicapped, reducing gender based violence through ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and teaching English to the rural populace through satellite technology are some of the programmes that are underway through the Partnership Assistance Programme (PAP) of the Information and Communications Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA).
The PAP and the Community Assistance Programme (CAP) are the programmes which operate under the e-Society Development Initiative (e-SDI) whereby the gap between the development of the urban and rural areas would be minimized. The objective of the e-SDI programme is to pilot innovative ideas to spread the benefits of ICT to all members of Sri Lankan society. The PAP recognizes the significant role that could be played by the private sector, public sector and NGOs in developing innovative ICT.
Grants are given by the ICTA to private sector organizations to come up with ideas to help the rural communities and for those ideas to be carried out. The CAP is specially intended to help rural and disadvantaged communities finance and implement projects aimed at improving their daily lives through the use of ICT. The CAP is a demand driven development programme where decisions are taken by the community themselves and the funds are allocated according to priority decided on by the community.
“Through the CAP, the grants are made to the community to identify problems that they have and then develop ICT solutions that would help them resolve their problem and improve their day to day life” explained Chitranganie Mubarak, Programme Head of the (e-SDI), at the second presentation of PAP awards in Colombo. Through the PAP the ICTA expects to partner with private sector participants in implementing innovative ICT projects, “the kind of projects community organizations don’t have the expertise to implement,” said Mubarak.
Under the CAP, 140 projects each are given US$ 5000 to community-based organizations and so far 72 have been given out. There are 30 grants under the PAP, of US$ 50,000 each, given to any organization, private or state sector or NGO, which has been in operation for at least 3 years.
Prof P. W. Epasinghe, acting chairman of the ICTA, said that, “The response to this (CAP) programme has been surprisingly positive. We have been quite impressed with the enthusiasm shown by rural and disadvantaged communities,” but he went on to add, “Unfortunately though, the participation of the ICT private sector in the e-Society Development Initiative has been somewhat disappointing.”
Mubarak spoke about other projects under the PAP programme. Through one programme under the PAP, English would be taught through satellite technology to the rural populace. Two centres are to be set up - in a temple in Hambantota and a church in Batticaloa. A one-year English course will be carried out for adults. The course will be broadcast from Colombo via satellite to the centres, while students could ask questions from the master-teacher in Colombo through speaker phone. At the end of the project the students will sit for the Edexcel exam and the two centres would be handed over to the community in the future and would be managed and operated by the communities themselves.
Among the recipients of grants on that day were Providence Network and Solutions, DMS Software Engineering and Informatics under the Company Quality Certification Grants. Also, 22 communities from areas such as Matara, Buttala, Opatha, Kiriella, Hambantota, Badulla and many more were awarded grants. (LP)