Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sustainability of Telecentres

Note: My intention is not to promote any product, brand or company, but to promote sustainability of Telecentres.

On my way to Hambantota (A district in the deep south of Sri Lanka), I could see many Telecentres (Nenasalas). Out of those Telecentres some of them were with billboard as shown in the above image. Some others, which did not have those kinds of billboards, were closed and not operational.

I don’t try to come to the conclusion that those were closed simply because they did not have billboards provided by a private company.

But those billboards show us how far they have got integrated with other systems, for their own sustainability. Most of the Telecentres initiated with public funds or with funding from development organizations could be sustained through the involvement of the private sector.

Fortunately in Sri Lanka, the macro level policy decisions also have contributed towards the sustainability. Making a competitive environment within the telecommunication industry, adoption of new technologies such as Wi-MAX and HSPA are favorable for sustainability of Telecentres.


Friday, October 17, 2008

The Role of a Telecom Operator in Poverty Alleviation (-in Sri Lanka)

“A 10% increase of mobile phone penetration in a country will contribute to the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) growth by 1.2%” – Dr. Hamdoun Toure, Secretay General, International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Poverty can be described as the inability of enjoying the minimal standards of living. Poverty has many dimensions to it and one way it can be explained is by using the following diagram, the ‘deprivation trap’ (Chambers, 1983).

All the aspects (pentagons) are tightly interconnected and any development initiative can address one or more aspects of it depending on the programme as well as the core competencies of the institution implementing the programme. A telecom operator can mainly focus on the isolation section and drive their development initiatives as part of their business expansion.

Due to Isolation,
- Little participation (not part of the mainstream)
- Less informed (not aware)
- Few contacts with important people/institutions (such as markets, other services and extension workers)

Though the approach is with more focus on isolation, there will be positive impact on other dimensions too. People will be empowered with information such as on micro credit facilities, markets and public services, allowing them to make decisions that are better informed. Physical weakness will be countered with more awareness on diseases and health problems, preventive actions, etc.

Most of the poor communities are living in disaster prone areas, and more vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. Communication facilities will make them more resistant and minimize the negative impact of those. Powerlessness always leads to exploitation, but a more connected community is harder to exploit and will have the power to negotiate on terms such as labour and production.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Sri Lankan Knowledge Economy

Economic System vs Free Education System

Throughout the last five decades the welfare oriented policies have helped Sri Lanka to leapfrog in terms of education and health sectors when compared with other developing countries in the region. Good health facilities and health indicators, very high literacy rate (over 90%) are can be shown as good examples.

But other countries in the region who might not have achieved those but have gone far beyond us in terms of economic performance seems to be doing better than us. Countries like Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand are good examples.

So us to build and knowledge economy we need a fair balance of all the pillars, specially the good economic engine and good wheel set, human resources to take the country forward.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Role of Wireless Technologies in ICT4D

When we try to apply Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the complex development process, one main challenge we face is the development of the necessary ICT infrastructure, especially in remote areas. Most of the ICT for Development (ICT4D) initiatives face the issue of sustainability due to the high cost of "last-mile connections".

As an example the Nenasala (Telecentre) initiative implemented under the e-Sri Lanka, ICT4D master plan in the country is facing many challenges of sustainability due to the connectivity cost as high as 30,000 LKR per month (for expensive wireless satellite connection). Newly introduced wireless last mile technologies such as Wi-MAX and HSPA can provide the same connectivity for a cost as low as 4,000 LKR. Dialog Broadband extended it services by providing low cost Wi-MAX wireless connections to some selected Nenasalas in different parts of the country.

When compared with wired connections, wireless is cheaper to implement and maintain specially in remote areas. So developing countries like Sri Lanka can get benefits of new wireless technologies and that would trickle down to all the citizens of the country. The fact that setting up wireless systems is so cheap has meant that its use has grown exponentially. As a result of this many have pinned their hopes on the wireless delivery of voice and data across Asia and other remote locations worldwide.

Mobiles Phones per 100 People in Sri Lanka (Source: TRC)

Wireless technologies play an important role in extending access to voice and data communications services to marginalized groups in society, especially remote areas in the country. The present rates of growth and levels of connectivity could not have been achieved without wireless in the access networks, for mobile as well as for fixed, and in the backbone networks. As per the World Information Technology Report, Sri Lanka has been positioned at the 66th place in the Network Readiness Index.

It is our hope that wireless technologies will continue to support uplifting Sri Lanka’s network infrastructure and allow people in the country to really reap the benefit of ICT and make national initiatives like e-Sri Lanka a successes.


Friday, July 4, 2008

OLPC Sri Lanka

One Laptop Per Child in Sri Lanka

OLPC has become a hot topic, olpc initiatives are under way around the globe. It is always good to see what this OLPC is and what are the benifits Sri Lanka can gain, basically how it can be used for sutainable development.

Following are some thoughts about the OLPC, positive and negative, without going for radical "YES" or "NO".

Some positive aspects;

  • Can reach five children with OLPC when we reach one child with normal PC.
  • Inbuilt Wi-Fi mesh network capability is ideal for an eVillage.
  • Minimal power consumption (<2w)>
  • Rugged encasement and rubber sealed keyboard make OLPC resistant to water, dirt and hardy use by kids.
  • Can be used for peer learning within a homogeneous children’s group in a village or a children’s home, etc.
  • Good teaching and learning assistant

Some negative aspects;

  • Specifically designed for kids, so have to target only that age group (normal PC for everyone)
  • Cost of ownership is higher, initiatives like Nanasala tries to reduce the cost of ownership by promoting common/shared access.
  • Does not promote the sharing of resources
  • Does Sri Lankan every child need a his/her own laptop, can our economy bare it?


Monday, January 21, 2008

(500 - X)th Telecentre Launch (Nanasala)

"One of ICTA’s top priorities includes completing the 1000-strong Nenasala network along with the support of the Presidential Secretariat." - ICTA

The Telecentre (Nanasala) is a very good way of taking the dividends of ICT to rural poor to bridge the digital chasm. We all should appreciate the efforts put in by ICTA to make it happen.

Have we achieved the expected results? How many of them are operating right now? That is why I called it 500 minus Xth launch instead of 500th launch. This is the high time ICTA should look back to see where things went wrong.

We are still in the process of learning "how best we can use ICT in the process of development", so we are not too late to get our self corrected. Let's make use the lessons we learnt and try do something more productive than running behind numbers.

Then, end of the day we will be able to achieve the ultimate objective the “knowledge society”.