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.
Thalakumbura is 17 km off Hali-Ela, in Badulla District, Uva province – one of the least connected in Sri Lanka. Strictly speaking, the village, just 10 km from the famous ‘Bogoda Bridge’, is connected – not to one but three mobile networks. However, the signal strength is not adequate to carry out a continuous conversation except when at the second floor of the three storey temple building. (See photo) So the villagers’ frequent visits to temple may not be with strictly spiritual objectives. Despite this, more than 50% houses now have at least one mobile, confirms the chief incumbent priest.
Old habits die hard. When you have been a member of a tiny Trotskyite left political party for the longer period of your life and seen the World Bank as your arch enemy, you may forget that you are on the same side now. This seems to be what happens to Sri Lanka’s Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Tissa Vitharana, once in a while. His latest holler, as reported by ‘The Catalyst’ – the newsletter of the Information and Communication Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), the apex body of ICTs that spearhead the e-Sri Lanka program, funded by the World Bank, goes as follows: “At a time when the ‘world funding bodies’ proposed the setting of Internet cafes in cities of Sri Lanka in a manner that would only cater only to the rich elite, President Mahinda Rajapaksa decided that Nenasalas or wisdom outlets should be setup instead island-wide to cater to the poor rural folk.