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I took the first photo. That was in April 2008 in an informal telecenter visit. The second one appeared in a Sinhala blog recently. Mangedara Nenasala telecenter at Thulhiriya (less than 2 km from MAS Holdings) is one of the hundreds of defunct Nenasala telecenters. During better times it provided services such as utility bill payments and computer training.
Sustainability is not an issue for this telecenter. It provides all its service, be it Internet surfing, computer training, library facilities or even typesetting and printing services free of charge, treating them as community services. Thondaman Foundation, a non-profit organization, with a ministerial backing, that intends “to make available to the plantation community the wide advantages of the internet and intranet communication technologies” has set up this centre in the middle of the picturesque Glenore estate at Haputale, to serve a population of 5,000 from the surrounding villages. This is one of the 45 such centres in different estates in the Central, Uva and Sabaragamuva provinces. The white dish, gives a sense of remoteness, but it need not be.
Multiple dishes is a common sight at many Nenasalas – the ‘telecentres’ set up under the e-Sri Lanka program, funded by the World Bank. Some of them are huge – with diameters little less than 2m. Having not done a design recently, I cannot tell the prices offhand, but I do know they are expensive – one such dish (with equipment) costs few times more than the aggregate cost of the PCs and peripherals in the centre. Why a telecenter is equipped with multiple dishes? The reason is, sadly, poor planning.
It looks pretty simple. Incoming free. Outgoing Rs. 2 per minute (to any phone) Local SMS Rs. 1.
Recessions are not bad for everybody. Proverbial silver line in the cloud, they bring hope to some. Success of the India BPO industry can partially be attributed to the post 9/11 recession. Tighter the economy, cheaper the solutions business looks for. How far onshore rural BPOs cater to the needs of their clients?
For a country that stood at the bottom of the pyramid in terms of telecom penetration a decade ago, 2008 was a watershed when India’s subscriber base topped 350 million users to make its network the second largest in the world after China, displacing the US. The significant achievement was made possible by the mobile telephony segment of communications, which was once thought to be a gizmo for the rich – what with a tariff of Rs.16.80 per call when the telecom revolution began in the country in the early 1990s. But with tariff falling to 40 paise a call and incoming calls becoming free, mobile telephony began to appeal to the masses.
  On January 16, 2008 a bus bomb went off killing 25 and injuring more than 60, in a remote area of Moneragala, arguably the least connected district in the island. Within less than two hours, the international news channels were up with clips. Nuwan Sameera (inset) FTPed them from his Nenasala telecenter in Bibile town – about one hour journey away. Nuwan operates just within 200 m from a telecom tower (see photo) but bureaucracy is bureaucracy. Spending World Bank money generously, ICTA, the implementation agency of Nenasala telecenter network under the e-Sri Lanka program, first provided a VSAT link from a different operator.
Ambuluwawa, about 1,100 m above sea level, is probably the highest point in the vicinity of Gampola. Not surprisingly, all telecom operators exploit the geography. Transmission stations/towers encircle the summit. (See above) That is what one calls infrastructure. Just 10 km away, Sirimalwatte Ananda thero, a young and energetic Buddhist monk, runs a Nenasala, a telecenter established under the World Bank funded e-Sri Lanka program.
Even as SIM cards have become the focus of investigations to establish the identity of the Mumbai attackers, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has found that at least two lakh mobile phone users, almost 20% of the total vetted connections so far, had provided fake identity papers and their addresses were unverified. In an ongoing audit, ordered by the government to establish the genuineness of customers, DoT found that out of 10 lakh connections verified so far, more than 2 lakh had been issued to customers whose identity could not be established. The extent of fake identities has rattled the government which has started penalising service providers at Rs 1,000 for every fake user found. Sleuths suspect that the Mumbai attackers, like in the past, had obtained SIM cards on fake identity and had used it for communication with their handlers across the border. Though details are yet to be made public, officials have procured details of SIM cards from where they were procured and whose identities were used for the same.
Here are the summarised results from the telecenter operator survey done by LIRNEasia at the weCan workshop in October 2008. Sample was not representative, but large enough to get a general idea about the telecenter operations in Sri Lanka. Out of a total of 147 operators surveyed, the bulk, 101 were from Nenasalas, the 500 odd telecenter network created under the World Bank funded e-Sri Lanka programme. 10 were from Sarvodaya multi-purpose telecenters and 6 from others (eg. public libraries) 30 have not specified the type of the telecenter.
Telecom major Bharti Airtel on Thursday launched a Rs 200-crore (about US$ 40 million) innovation fund for promoting entrepreneurship in the telecom sector. The objective of the fund is to provide opportunities to the entrepreneurs to undertake innovation in the field of telecom with regard to content, software and technologies, Bharti Airtel Joint MD and CEO Manoj Kohli told reporters. This is the first ever telecom innovation fund in the country, he said. Source: The Economics Times
New Delhi: The Indian government is set to begin here Monday the process to e-auction radio frequencies for telecom operators to start third-generation (3G) mobile services across the country and fetch the exchequer over Rs 40000 crore ($10 billion). The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will hold a pre-bid conference here with all the potential consultants – one of whom would oversee the process to e-auction spectrum for next generation mobile applications, officials said. Read the full story in ‘sify.com’ here.
Responding to Rohan Samarajiva’s views on newly implemented Environmental levy in Lankadeepa last week, Central Environmental Authority Chairman Udaya Gammanpila calls it essential and the ‘first progressive tax’ in Sri Lanka. Assuring it does not burden public, he says any tax can be initially unpopular but the impact should be seen in long term. (Lankadeepa, August 19, 2008) These are his points in brief: 1. If not for the Environmental levy, the government has to find money to address environmental issues by increasing either VAT or customs charges. That will raise prices in general.
We all missed the obvious flaw, but not Malinda. The full credit for detecting that you are taxed differently for the same service should go to the eighteen year old from Kurunegala – the ever vigilant consumer. He pointed out in the latest post in his local language blog for a 512/128 kpbs Wi-Max connection you may have to pay about Rs. 675 as tax (30%) but for a 512/128 kpbs ADSL connection you pay only Rs. 337.
Central Environmental Authority Chairman Udaya Gammanpila calls the new ‘Environmental tax’ essential, pro-poor and progressive. Releasing used mobile phones and CFL bulbs to environment is dangerous, he warns, with a long list of hazardous chemicals that would perhaps put a chemistry professor to shame. He wants to collect them for recycling.  The tax money will be used to build recycling plants. Not everybody agrees.
When he built Parakrama Samudraya a millennium ago, King Parakramabahu the great did not have to depend on the Internet. How lucky! Had it been so, he would have achieved few great feats. The pitiable Broadband services at Polonnaruva looked as if we have not made any advances since the days of the Great King. Both SLT and Dialog boast about their island wide networks.