The Govi Gnana Service: a unique ICT for development initiative to fight agricultural poverty in Sri Lanka

Posted on November 1, 2004  /  7 Comments

Presentation by Harsha de Silva, CTO Forum 2004: “ICT : Business and Development”

20-21 September, Colombo, Sri Lanka


The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization’s (CTO) second annual forum was held in Colombo this year, on September 20-21. Subtitled ‘the biggest annual Commonwealth ICT event,’ participants included director-level delegations from member countries and representatives of its sector members. The aim of the event was to bring together ICT sector stakeholders and strengthen their ability to ‘go on meeting the challenges of accelerating Universal Access, bridging the international, as well as urban-rural digital divides, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.’ A great deal of emphasis was placed on the increased use of fixed and wireless broadband technologies, such as VSAT to achieve ICT4D objectives.


In this context, the Govi Gnana Service, or GGS an innovative ICT solution to agricultural price volatility and resulting agricultural poverty in Sri Lanka was presented by Harsha de Silva of e-development labs. The Govi Gnana Serviceis one of the ICT Agency’s pilot projects under the umbrella of eSri Lanka. Explaining that a compounding problem faced by Sri Lankan farmers is the lack of information on prices and demand for their produce, resulting in farmers not getting the best spot prices for their produce. Harsha then illustrates how ICTs can, and have been deployed in this situation through GGS, to reduce farmer poverty, by

  • improving crop planning
  • increasing marketing efficiency
  • helping credit facilitation through forward sales contracts


This is achieved through collection and dissemination of accurate and up-to-date price information using cheap emerging technologies at Sri Lanka’s largest wholesale agricultural market.

Presentation slides

sorry for delay in posting.


  1. Just to keep everyone informed that will be back on by 23 November 2004.

  2. Sri Lanka Prime Minister lauds GGS:

    Inaugating the International Information Technology Conference 2004 and International Conference for e-Government on 29 November in Colombo, Hon Mahinda Rajapakse chose to highlight GGS from among all the various e-Sri Lanka pilot projects under way.

    He said “We are most concerned about reducing poverty in our society and therefore placing great importance on harnessing ICT and its capabilities to reduce poverty among our people. Already a pilot project launched by the ICT Agency is becoming very popular among farmers as the project [GGS] provides farmers with going prices for agricultural produce. Similar projects need to be in place for our population to benefit from ICT for development initiatives”.

    [Daily News 30 November 2004].


    P.M. has proved that he picks up and promotes creative and productive concepts of professional with no consideration for party, color, creed etc. GGS as we know was conceptualised and implemented by Dr Harsha De Silva. But unfortunately in Sri Lanka, specially after political changes, every one _ politician, bureacrats and professionals- conciously and conveniently forget the names of projects and those who created them. Mahinda the PM who some what resembles Late President Premadasa seems a different politician.
    What I am trying to point out is that in spite of the fact that the organisers of this ICT Conference have failed even to invite those who conceptualised and implemented e-Sri Lanka project, GGS and VGS concepts PM has valued them. It would have been much more respectable if the organisers at least send and ordinary invitation to the Conference to the pioneers of the e-Sri Lanka Innitiative, such as Milinda Moragoda,Prof Rhan Samarajiva, Dr Harsha De Silva and Eran Wickremaratne. Or else at least mension their names in gratitude. I hope that all Sri Lankans are not INGRATES AS SO-CALLED PROFESSIONALS

  4. Luxman, it is incredible but true; I mean what you say! Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we as a country always play the blame game and never work together [albeit a few exceptions] to take our country forward. I feel Mahinda and Ranil are those few exceptions and should make a change for the better…

  5. I completely agree with Luxman and Harsha about how politics of this country badly affects the progress of many well intentioned projects.

    A minor correction to Luxman’s remarks. Apparently Mr. Eran Wickramaratne seems to have got an invitation to the inaugural ceremony. I saw him sitting one row in front of myself. (I too had a pleasant surprise of getting an invitation! However I have not still worked out who has sent it!!) But Luxman was correct, I too did not see any of the other faces he has mentioned.

    But you need not be surprised. Much bigger names have been forgotten!

    The following para is from the inaugural speech of the 2002 Infotel.

    [Quote] The Infotel Exhibition and Conference was the initiative of Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe in 1992. Following on the tremendous success of Infotel Lanka ’92 the Infotel Lanka Society Ltd., was formed in 1994 to be fully representative of the ICT Industry and relevant government agencies. [Unquote]

    Surprise! Surprise!! The very person who did the inaugural speech this year had mentioned a lot about the efforts of the President in taking ICT forward, but seemed to have entirely forgotten about the initiatives of the ex-PM, Ranil Wickremasinghe!!

    Harsha is correct. Mahinda, Ranil and Milinda are politicians of a different breed, who are not afraid to recognise the good work of others!

  6. Giving the keynote speech of the inaugural session of the IITC/Infotel/ASOCIO, the day before yesterday, Dr. Richard Fuchs of IDRC, highly commended the efforts of Dr. Onno W. Purbo in making the technology more accessible to the poor. Dr. Fuchs even went into the length of describing how Onno did it – by utilising an unused range of the spectrum. He also presented a brief video clip, which showed the highlights of the Harvard seminar on ‘ICT and Poverty’. I was delighted to see some of the familiar faces I met during the Expert forum of Regulation and Investment, in that video.

  7. E-choupal and getting connected in rural India. The author somehow misses the point that e-choupal is part of a much larger private sector led initiative and is tied to wholesale and retial distribution of agricultural products.