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March 14, 2005

Community in Kuda Oya, Nuwara


Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne travelled to the hilly country of Nuwara Eliya to visit Kuda Oya. This is the site of an IDRC project which studies how the locals use ICTs. This program will be giving a few computers. The community has 3 computers already. To this a few new machines and three staff will be added – One technical person and two field staff. There are also plans to make the community center a WiFi hotspot. The emphasis of this program is on getting knowledge from the community more than anything. It is, fundamentally, a research and not a training project. Before embarking on any blind ICT Development, Sarvodaya seeks to get the real requirements from the community itself. The local community and the village is the foundation upon which all Sarvodaya projects are built.
After the ceremony Dr. Ariyaratne and Professor Samaranayake met with the local community, as Sarvodaya communities all over Sri Lanka meet in family gatherings.
Most of the employment in this area is agricultural, with many government servants and teachers. The youth, however, seek employment and many in the community see Computer Training as a ticket to a job.
Dr. Ariyaratne and Prof Samaranayake tried to explain that computers are not an end in themselves, but can be used to enable other activities – like knowing the best prices for agricultural goods, etc. youth are unemployed. There aren’t very many ops here. mainly veg growing or a govt job.
Another question was on the language issue, why are computers always in English? Prof Ruwan Weerasinghe responded that the computer can be a tool to learn English. Introducing ICTs to small communities could also hopefully lead to the generation of local content in the local languages. In the case of this community in the midst of the hilly tea estates, the main language seemed to be Tamil, with many Sinhala speakers.
Then they asked about hardware. ‘Don’t we all need to have computers? What’s the use of just learning Internet?’ A response was that not everyone needs to own a comp. It can be affordable if it is a resource shared by the community. As the economy improves, then individuals may be able to afford. People then asked if they could get loans to buy a computer, which shows how much value they see in it. Dr. Ariyaratne answered that Sarvodaya’s microcredit organization, SEEDS, offers Type B loans, once you reach a certain level.

Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement for the People in Need.