Sri Lanka: Dishes, dishes everywhere…

Posted on March 31, 2009  /  4 Comments




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. ICTA, the implementation agency changes the communication services provider frequently. Few years have elapsed since the services from the initial provider have been discontinued, but he has never bothered to remove the dishes. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. The capital expenditure has been fully included within the Rs. 90 million (US$ 900,000) amount charged to provide VSAT services to then 200 odd Nenasalas for a period of one year.

The sadder part is even with such a substantial expense these centres are not provided broadband. What they receive is 128 kbps – something not too different from dial-up.

That is when some of these centers are already within the 3G coverage areas. Out of the three above two centers receive 3G signals. Not too great, but adequate for a telecenter and certainly better than a 128 kbps link.

We will be glad to learn what Udaya Gammanpila, ex-Chairman Central Environmental Authority, (who was once worried about used mobile phones creating an e-waste issue) thinks about the environmental damage created by these non-functional dishes, even if we ignore the huge sunk cost.


  1. If the vendors do not want their dishes back…can’t they be used with the new service providers ?(or is there ‘vendor lock-in’)
    if possible that could certainly save a substantial cost.
    I guess the use of 3G could easily prove to be much much more cost effective (minimal startup cost) than VSAT

  2. Is there a dengue threat here? Obviously there are negative externalities in terms of aesthetics. But there could be health risks too. If the ICTA put them in, it’s the ICTA’s responsibility to take them out.

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    Network & Communication System Expert
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