16 Aug 2009

E3 - 3: Developing Culture as Foundation for Future Telecenters

The interesting discussions on administration of internet content took my mind in multiple directions on explicit content related to different forms of knowledge and their use by people of different life styles. These life styles may have existed and evolved from explicit architectural and artistic masterpieces of Khajuraho, Konarak, Ellora and Puri in India (see http://india.shilpasayura.org) as well as Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, and anywhere in the world including Diana and heaven's touch from greece and rome. A popular belief is that they are all educational art.

Looking back my experience in internet content, The ISP salesman first sold internet access for homes for explicit content. I know many people who got into internet for curiosity of xrated material. This was around 1997. But when people began to realize the value of internet; their behaviors changed and such content become an option. People did better things like communication, education, business on internet. The next explicit wave was chat rooms, skype and social networks followed. Each delivers user generated live explicit content, which is impossible to be banned. The xrated business followed every evolving internet trend as it may have been a good money spinner for them.

Until around 2004, There was a general feeling among village people in Sri Lanka, that internet was harmful. When Nenasala Telecenters were setup in remote communities, People found that internet has better uses, especially for education. It’s the Educational content like NASA photos, Yahoo Kids and Minicilip Games were popular in most Uva Province Telecenters before Shilpa Sayura moved in.

Scanning back, I can’t remember any serious explicit content case from any of the 587 Telecenters, So called violent shooting games like “Poject IGI” or "Doom" did not do any harm to children at Telecenters. Probably the Kids had only a little time to kill. I didn’t find any youth or child affected by violence games or explicit content. No parent had complained me so far. (This doesn’t mean that people don’t access such content from Telecenters. We sometimes found such content in temporary internet files and in offline hard drives. When we found, we always asked them to remove such content and made them aware of possible harms that can bring to a mind of a child getting exposed to them. Actually none resisted ethical and cultural develpment at Nenasala.) Generally I could say high majority of Nenasala are free from explicit content.


The answer is simple. It's the Village Culture. Over 40% of the Nenasala setup in Temples in Uva Province, creates nenasala a strong cultural and moral binding towards the society. Having setup by govenment created owner responsibility. I think Nenasala are much safer than any cybercafe, home or office connection and a camera phone could be more harmful. In this case Temples are ideal locations for Nenasala.

In Shilpa Sayura e Learning, Nava Goviya e Agriculture and Project E3 for Telecenter Sustainability and Knowledge Society, we always allocated a strong stake for culture. Culture was the triple bottom foundation of each of the initiative. Not only from the outlook, but also from inherent philosophies of design, development and implementation. Culture was a key component, filter and enabler.

In Shilpa Sayura content Local Languages, Art, Dance, Music and History content set the perfect cultural foundation for entertaining education to attract Children to Telecenters. Internet is not prime choice of Children. In E3 we used local culture as the foundation for developing e learning, e business and e leadership at Telecenters.

Culture helped building mutual trust and openness in the network, helped to communicate and network people encourage participation and collaboration, in which E3 content played a major role. We found that explicit content can not harm a society bound with a culture, trust, respect and social ethics. What we need is to create awareness on better uses of internet, offer more interesting content and services like e education and e entertainment so that our youth will develop better taste in e content they use.

This is Sri Lankan context. Global context could be different as we are not the only people sharing internet and this wonderful planet

I refer to recent open ICT4D draft paper when considering global context
By Matthew Smith, Nathan J Engler, Gideon Christian, Kathleen Diga, Ahmed Rashid and Kathleen Flynn-Dapaah of IDRC, possibly shows direction to an evolving doorway leading to a new parallel closely related to our work in Shilpa Sayura and Project E3. The paper initiated a discussion on openness; We are seeing a future of content that could be more open and creative in shaping future social models.

The definition of openness may not only be viewed as the ownership of the content but impact with factors like human rights, freedom of expression --. People may demand generation of content for alternative life styles. There will always be hardliners and softliners and in-betweens. The question is where, how and who will draw the thin red line?

In this discussion, Subash a colleague in my office said “Banning explicit content will create a new government jobs for a Explicit Content Administrators”, (I think he meant a joke). It would be hard for governments to administer morals of citizens in order to create ideal social models by forming more and more new laws.

Instead, we can protect our youth from any harm that can occur from e content as well as e services through awareness, social watchfulness and buiding a trusted, valuble and reliable e content and e services is important. For me, this approach is no differnt from protecting youth from getting into alcohol and tobacco habits.

How ever in Project E3 we have suggested following best practices for Nenasala Operators to avoid child impact from explicit content.

1. Always watch, if there are any explicit material in temporary catche, specially, if the computers are used by adults, children know how to search images and videos
2. Facilitate Internet and content use by Children in groups, never leave them alone!
3. Keep PC monitors tuned opposite the walls, if computers are shared by children and adults
4. Watch! for any strange/ suspicious behaviors among any user
5. Offer entertaining and educating content and encourage valueble content creation
6. Don’t let children below age 16, to use internet or email alone
7. Dont trust google, wiki or any other website with under age children
8. screen pictures in emails with corner of eye screen, learn which lists they subscribed to (child safety is better than child privacy)
9. Make them aware of dangers of internet communications, spams, chat aliases and total strangers
10. Form your own social network for training on net behaviors

With project E3 Nenasala Telecenters get transformed to community e Schools+village business center + a local leader in Socio – Cultural activities. Talakumbura, Siayambalanduwa, Kandiyapitawewa, Nagala, Haldummulla, Kandegedara, Balagolla, Mahiyangana, Mapakadawewa, Andaulpotha Nenasala are best examples among many more Nenasala in Uva Province, and probably they could be future E3 role models, who use culture as their philosophy of social foundation. There are so much to for us to learn from them.

Their magic is done by building strong cultural foundation to develop a Telecenter model centered around trusted network of content and services. Therefore my conclusion is that

culture builds, binds and sustains Telecenter Networks

Niranjan Meegammana
Shilpa Sayura, NawaGoviya + Project E3

4 Aug 2009

Project E3 Briefing

E3 abstract
E3 designed as a concept, researched on ground to develop a replicable solution that will provide answers to Telecenter sustainability problems. E3 demonstrate that Telecenter Networks are an important development philosophy to shape future rural societies. E3 strengthened Telecenters by developing Telecenter Operators, Improved network wide Telecenter services and developed Telecenter leadership. E3 created impact in rural education, culture, commerce and peace. E3 used ICT4D to catalyze the development of rural societies. Project E3 improved Telecenters social and financial sustainability overcoming challenges in knowledge, resources, structure and change resistance presents a global model and an example of how to build, develop and sustain Telecenter Networks for shaping future knowledge societies


Project E3 is a Public-Private-Community Partnership, innovated an adaptable, scalable and replicable solution for sustaining Telecenter Networks. E3 stands for e learning, e business and e leadership, designed to serve emerging digital knowledge needs of rural societies, develop micro economic networks and to address MDGs through Telecenter leadership.

The framework for E3 Shown below

The PrincipalsProject E3 based on open development principals is owned by collaborative and impact community, provides free training, Telecenter tools, e learning content and advice to community initiatives. Paying electrical bills through internet banking, offline e learning, scholarship programs, and community content projects are examples.

Objectives and Process
Aimed at scaling up to 587 Telecenters in Sri Lanka, In the first year, Project E3 helped improving sustainability of 60 Telecenter network in Uva province by improving e services, visibility and usability. E3 developed Telecenter leadership by building local networks to enable peer support and collaboration to improve Network sustainability E3 M & E process integrated with capacity building, technical assistance, and content and services deployment is an assignment by ICTA which collaborated with Telecenters to transform isolated Telecenters to a Knowledge Network.

Developing a knowledge society

E3 reached isolated Telecenter operators, trained and made them local, regional and national leaders to lead Telecenter movement. Project E3 development is significant as Scientific, Technical and Social achievement as the process involved scientific approach to design of a solution, research and publications, Technical solutions that changed how Telecenters serve communities and development of Telecenter community as a knowledge society.

E3 Methods
E3 created benefits for all who participated. Making continued awareness, motivation and encouragement helped facing above challenges. E3 used mixed methods of informal and formal ways in handling bureaucracy and resistance for change. Open dialogs, bogging, group discussion, awareness, training all helped. Working with government and established institution always required formal approaches and practices.

Telecenter Operator Development

E 3 Developed skilled Telecenter Operators to sustain Telecenters. Implemented e learning to improve 150 rural youth communitiesDeveloped Telecenter leadership forming Telecenter CommunityHelped securing more than $ 80,000 funding for projects for the NetworkCreated a Knowledge network among 150 TelecentersInitiated global collaboration for Telecenter Research in Sri Lanka.

E3 Key Project Activities
- Uniting Telecenter operators for professional development
- Establishing a common portal for sharing knowledge
- Empowerment of grass root Telecenter workers to lead the movement
- Development of Technologies and content for Telecenter operator training
- Introduction of a Telecenter Operator certification examination
- Developing a concerned community on Telecenter Sustainability
- Involving Telecenter operators in the process of sustaining Nenasala Network. - The formation of Telecenter community Association to pave the way to expand and share development in other Regional Telecenter networks.

The E3 Development

E3 developed Youth and empowered Women with equal opportunities in training and leadership opportunities. Hardware, networking, web designing like advanced training developed their technical skills. E3 helped increasing their revenue by securing funds for community projects.

Telecenters faced risk of closing became operational and profitable with e learning services for National curriculum, helped youth to pass examinations and helped parents to save money from distance tuition. Networked Telecenters were able to share knowledge and initiate common projects targeting regional farmers, women, culture, environment, education and government services creating a knowledge network, increasing usage and revenue.

The improvements
The improvement of Telecenters benefited communities with improved ICT literacy, communications, and access to knowledge resulting economic improvements. Nenasala operators, who lacked relevant knowledge and skills, significantly improved their communication, technical, management and leadership skills with E3 capacity building program which increased their motivation, collaboration and performance that helped securing of jobs, increased project opportunities to form an empowered collaborative knowledge network for Telecenter development.

Obtained Results
Achievements of the project Project E3 goal is to achieve a Sustainability Index (SI) of 6.0 by November 2009. SI is a 1 to 10 scale indicator that describes the Telecenter and Network sustainability position in E3 methodology. By June 2009, Uva Telecenter Network SI grew from 2.6 to 5.1. Weak Nenasala reduced from 38% to 18.33%. The average number of users has grown from 28 to 101 (364%) and average income grew from Rs. 7650.00 to Rs. 17597.00 (230%) with in a year. This is viewed as significant increase of performance in the network.

E3 Imapact
The impact of E3 shows that Uva TCN sustainability growth by 96% in an year reducing closing risks from 68.3% to 18.33%. E3 formed a Telecenter Think Tank forming a Telecenter community organization to empower Telecenter Operators, involved them in planning, decision making and managing of the Network development process.

E3 Outcomes
As an outcome of the project E3 a new research framework presented to global ICT4D by presenting it in e-India 2009 as a paper and several papers published in international development conferences, is an indication of the acceptance of E3 methodology in Telecenter Sustainability development.

Project E3 design based on several years of Telecenter and e studies, indicates a new direction for Telecenters who are facing a transitional sustainability issues. E3 building local, regional and National knowledge networks has helped Telecenters to develop a collaborative vision using e learning, e business and e leadership to serve rural societies that will help sustaining the Telecenters and Telecenter Networks.

E3 Challenges and how were they overcome?
- Getting the support of Telecenters and establishing a trusted network.
- Bridging knowledge gaps among Telecenter operators.
- Finding of resources to build capacity of Telecenters.
- Retaining operators in Telecenters for continued contribution to the network.
- Establishing common Network practices and standards.
- Developing standards and tools for e learning and e business.
- Collaborating with the government officials who were bound by various rules.
- Limitations in knowledge and skills of Nenasala operators.
- Implementing social innovations suggested by E3 which were new concepts.
- Resistance from Senior Nenasala who were reluctant to change.

During the E3 project design, we anticipated above challenges, and pre prepared with strategies to overcome them. The prime strategy was openness, communication, inclusion, participation, collaboration and creating partnerships in E3.

The Lessons Learned
Project E3 foundation is openness, inclusion, participation and collaboration aims creating benefits for all Nenasala, ICTA, Service Providers, Local and provincial governments, schools, professional bodies and community to enable sharing of knowledge and resources, co-creation of services and share project ownership for motivation, speedy action and increased impact. Project E3 shows a promising direction how Telecenters could be made sustainable with e learning, e business and e leadership is a global example of open development for a knowledge society.

Cultural integration was one of the important strategies in E3 development; it helped creating a common flat form and respect each other’s views.E3 found that transparency, accountability and good governance of the process can help overcome any issues that hinder development, in which empowerment and participation of impact community (Telecenters) makes an important variable on success. Therefore from the inception E3 shared the project ownership with Telecenters and created social and economic benefits for contribution.

What in Future?
Project E3 Telecenter Network Sustainability model is nation wide replicable. For global replication translation of content and adaptation of method required. Project E3 started replicating in 150 Telecenters in five provinces with ICTA e-SDI assistance. More Research is being planned to expand E3 experiences to other regions from January 2010.

E3 demonstrated that Telecenter movement as one of best ways to shape future societies building a digital knowledge centered economic networks on Telecenter networks.

E3 achievements are local, regional, national and possibly global innovations and eye opener in scientific, technical and social context of Telecenter Sustainability Development Initiatives.

Key People Involved

Niranjan Meegammana
BCS qualified ICT4D activist, involved in grass root Telecenter development with strong experiences in developing e learning, e business in local language technologies. He is a Member of ICTA E-Society focus group, Head of K4D Special Interest Group, Managing Director of E fusion, and the designer of Shilpa Sayura Project which won I4D 2007, GKP 2007 and Stockholm Challenge 2008 & WYSA Global ICT4D awards. Niranjan is the Team Leader for Regional Impact Team for Uva Province Nenasala, appointed by ICTA.

Gavahkar Subramanimum
ICTA Nenasala project manager, responsible for Island wide Nenasala Telecenter Network and qualified in ICT. Involves in Leading Nenasala Team and management of government services for the network and review of RITs and Hardware and Internet service providers.

E3 Research Collaboration Dr. Peter Mozellius & Dr. Henrick Hanson Stockholm University, Sweden

Rasika Sampath
M & E Officer, is an ICT4D activist operating in grass root communities, Regional Impact Team (RIT) for Uva Nenasala, specialized in M & E of Nenasala, Nenasala Operator and qualified in business and ICT, member of Shilpa Sayura National Impact Team and registrar of Telecenter Community Association, Sri Lanka. Murali Khrisna Telecenter Manager, an ICT4D activist, from Haldumulla Nenasala, involved in grass root Telecenter operation with strong experiences in community development through e learning and cultural integration ICT ambassador appointed by ICTA and National organizer for Shilpa Sayura, ICTA e-SDI district consultant and The President of Telecenter Community Association.

Gamini Chamara
Deputy Team leader, Regional Impact Team (RIT) for Uva Nenasala, specialized in content and services qualified in ICT, Director C & S Shilpa Sayura Project.Suranga Sampath - Deputy Team leader, Regional Impact Team (RIT) for Uva Nenasala, specialized in Technology Services, qualified in ICT, Director Mathematics & ICT Shilpa Sayura Project.

V. Murali Khrisna
Telecenter Manager, an ICT4D activist, from Haldumulla Nenasala, involved in grass root Telecenter operation with strong experiences in community development through e learning and cultural integration ICT ambassador appointed by ICTA and National organizer for Shilpa Sayura, ICTA e-SDI district consultant and The President of Telecenter Community Association.

Rasika Muthukuda
General Manager, e fusion, Regional Impact Team (RIT) for Uva Nenasala, responsible for Finance and general management

Yamuna Ratnayaka
President Shilpa Sayura Foundation, National Curriculum Content Expert. Manages content creation process for Shilpa Sayura

Other Members of ICTA Sarath De Silva (Review), Janaka Manjula (Infrastructure), Gayani Perera (Review), Shriyananda Ratnayaka (Content), J K Perera (Review)

Other members of E fusion : Sarath Gunatilaka (Transport), Srimal Iresh (Content), Chulani Jayathilaka (Content), Saliya Randunuge (ICT e learning), Thusitha Randunuge (Web), Gamini Pathirana (Internal Audit), Tissa Senarantha (Communications), Suranga Dharmasena (Help Desk)

Nenasala Operators : Keeragolle Dhammasara Himi, Gayan Pradeep, Narada Asanka, Saman Kumara, Buttala Asela, Yapa Chandralatha, Samptha Eranda, Dilhani Balagolla, Linugala Deshani & Gayathri, Chaminda Mapakadawewa, Nisansala Wekumbura, Siri Udaya Himi, Siri Vipula Himi, Nuwan Bibile, Thaminda Balasoriya, Sajani Dilrukshi, Nandana Madugalle, Handesse Mahinda himi, Sampath Karunanayaka, Duminda Alahakoon, C I Clement , Dilip Kumara, Chaminda Siyambalanduwa, Janaka Srimal, Nalika Priyadharshani

Uva Provincial Council
Mr. Wimalasena (Director Provincial Library), Mr. Sumith Siriwardena (Secretory of Education)

Sinhala Unicode Group : Vishwa Kumara, Dasun Sameera and many more Telecenter operators, professionals and community leaders

For Related and useful information
http://www.telecenter.lk/photos .

Related Projects in E3

Shilpa Sayura Project :
Local Language e Learning Initiative operating in 150 Telecenters in Sri Lanka. Provides Self e learning for National curriculum to over 10,000 students marginalized with lack of educational resources. The project has helped rural students to seek an alternative route to success in National Examinations. Project Won I4D, GK3, Stockholm Challenge, Diskobolos Awards and WYSA runner up (2006-2009).

Navagoviya Project :
Local Language e Agriculture Project to provide e Learning on Sustainable agriculture for Farmers at 60 Telecenters. Intend to develop CSR assisted outgrowing, seeds and plants production for economic development, sustainable environment and farming practices.

Photos :

Find more photos like this on Sri Lanka Telecenter Community Network