Were the original e Sri Lanka telecenters urban or rural?

Posted on July 4, 2009  /  0 Comments

Politicians are not known for strict adherence to truth, but I personally thought the Minister of Science and Technology Tissa Vitarana being a man of science was cut from different cloth. The first time he stated that the original telecenters set up under e Sri Lanka (Vishva Gnana Kendra or VGKs) were in urban areas and that after the government changed in 2004, the decision was taken to take them to rural areas (renamed as Nenasala), I blamed not him, but the flunkies at the ICT Agency who did not give him the true facts. None of the VGKs were in major urban centers, while some Nenasalas are in the centers of major cities (e.g., one inside the Dalada Maligawa premises and another inside the Natha Devalaya, in the heart of Kandy).

The VGKs were to be in areas where traffic patterns allowed for sustainability. Just because people live in villages, it does not mean that they never come to market or that their children do not go to school or tuition classes in rural nodal points. Careful studies were commissioned to identify places where there would be enough foot traffic to make telecenters sustainable. All this was thrown to the wind and telecenters were given to temples primarily at the behest of the President. Obviously, they are unsustainable. No amount of assistance from the computer technician at the local Vidatha center is going to bring foot traffic to fundamentally unsustainable locations. That answer given by the Minister in the interview linked here is a non sequitur. A technician can keep the computers operational, he/she can’t bring customers. And the Minister seems to thinks that charging fees increases the digital divide and that not charging fees and having the center close down narrows it. He makes no mention of the vouchers that were designed and implemented under e Sri Lanka to address the issue without making the centers unsustainable.

Sadly, Professor Vitarana repeats falsehoods and lies by omission. Now we are compelled to blame the former man of science. He is, we now understand, a common or garden politician who cares nothing for evidence.

If he wants evidence, there is plenty. You see, we do not give up hope. All he has to do is get a list of VGKs and Nenasalas from ICTA and check their locations to see who is serving urban areas and who is serving rural. The vouchers were operational, the last time we asked. All he has to do is ask.

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