Partners “Tharunayata Hetak” to bring ICT to the village
Microsoft Sri Lanka continues in its quest of taking ICT to rural communities under its Gamata IT programme, with the latest town storming activity taking place in Beliatta, Hambantota.
The Beliatta chapter of the Gamata IT campaign is a collaboration between Microsoft Sri Lanka, the Tharunayata Hetak movement, ICTA, the Ministry of Education and Singer Sri Lanka. It was conducted under the auspices of the MP Namal Rajapaksa, who is also the driving force behind the Tharunayata Hetak movement. In joining hands with Tharunayata Hetak for the Beliatta Gamata IT initiative, Microsoft aims to reach and impact the lives of as many young people as possible in the Hambantota District.
Gamata IT activities
The activities of the Gamata IT programme are directed at giving IT access to those in rural areas who have hitherto been untouched by the digital revolution. To achieve this goal, Gamata IT brings to life a range of activities that enable people living in the remotest villages in the country to experience the latest developments in IT. These activities include the installation of genuine software at the village community centre which already has basic computer facilities, the donation of Sinhala or Tamil Language Interface Packs for Windows and Office that give users the option to use computers in their preferred local language, and the installation of a MultiPoint enabled classroom at a selected village school giving students access to IT technology at an early age. Other activities involve providing training in basic IT skills to youth, teachers, Government and Samurdhi employees.
When Gamata IT reaches its selected rural village, the programme takes the form of a ‘Town storming’ campaign, where Microsoft makes every effort to create a significant impact by involving as many people as possible in order to penetrate deep into the community. This creates awareness and interest about the positive and efficient ways in which they can make use of technology in their daily lives, which will, in turn broaden their horizons.
Speaking on the benefits of the Gamata IT campaign, Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka said, “Microsoft Sri Lanka is committed to improving the lives of the Sri Lankan people. We are certain that our efforts to spread ICT knowledge and increase access to technology in rural communities is a major contribution to the development of the country. Although the activities we conduct as part of the town storming are directed at drawing attention to the village we impact and the generation of mass awareness about the unlimited potential of IT, we believe that the ultimate outcome of Gamata IT is long lasting because we provide encouragement and support for people to develop their skills and use technology to become more efficient and productive.”
Technology for students
The Kahawatta Maha Vidyalaya in Beliatta was selected by the Ministry of Education to receive a fully equipped MultiPoint classroom from Microsoft. MultiPoint is a technology that enables a classroom of 30 or more students to access a single computer with multiple mice. As a result, it is possible for a large group of students to use one computer simultaneously within the classroom. MultiPoint was developed for the needs of developing countries such as Sri Lanka to provide IT access to more and more children despite resource limitations. The Kahawatta Maha Vidyalaya has approximately 500 students. These students, like many of their counterparts, are eager and enthusiastic to learn, but have very limited resources. As a result they cannot adapt to the changes taking place around them and be prepared to face the world when they complete their education. This is a vital reason for Microsoft to give them the chance to develop their skills so that they will have equal opportunities when they try to find employment.
By providing children with the relevant training on MultiPoint technology from a young age, Microsoft hopes that they will become confident in using IT as they grow older. The teachers of the school also benefit greatly from this initiative because they can incorporate technology into their curriculum and develop innovative and exciting teaching methods to keep children interested and motivated to learn. It is only when the young people of the community are comfortable and confident in using technology that the rest of the social group will also be eager to adopt technology to complete daily functions.
Dayaratne Gunawardena, Principal of Kahawatta Maha Vidyalaya said, “We are very grateful to have been singled out to receive this lab from the Ministry of Education and Microsoft Sri Lanka. Our students now have the opportunity to develop their IT skills so that they can be better equipped to handle the demands of the 21st century.”
As part of this campaign, Microsoft also conducted a training programme for teachers, youth and all Government and Samurdhi employees in Beliatta in order to enhance their IT skills. The training would enable them to pass on the benefits of using technology to complete daily tasks throughout the community. The objective of training as many individuals in the village is to ensure that exposure and experience in IT will go on to empower many others in the community. Teachers will pass on their learning to their students, Government employees will better serve their communities because of the efficiencies of technology and the youth are given guidance to enhance their employability and discover the many possibilities and opportunities beyond the confines of their villages.
Furthermore, Microsoft distributed the Sinhala Language Interface Packs (LIP) for Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista, as well as a glossary of Sinhala terms used in computing and a Sinhala key board sticker, enabling the participants to operate a computer in their mother tongue. These Sinhala Language Interface Packs are expected to be popular because it cuts through the language barrier and makes IT more accessible to people who may have otherwise been skeptical about using it before.