29 Aug 2011

Telecentres for Innovating Youth Education for 21st Century

The mixed experiences of last 5 Years of engagement of rural education development through Nenasala telecentres has thought me that success of ICT4D depends on dedicated and committed people more than resources or market opportunities. The development of education brings impact directly in the lives of people as evident from Lahugala Nenasala Telecentre located in South east part of Sri Lanka which helped changing the shape of education in their village through Shilpa Sayura.

They wrote to me,

This poem means that

"Shilpa Sayura is the rain came on a dry land faced with the draught"

these words gives us an insights of value we can create through ICT in their lives.
Last decade we had been using ICT as a tool in education, now we find that ICT as a foundation which can be used to build future perspectives that removes disparities to access to national education. It’s clear that every nation in the world will continue to compete in a global economy that demands innovation. In this race where ever in the world poor people are like one nation without access to education.

In an era people are talking of radical re-generation of education, the context of delivery is as important as content. Hence we see Telecentres has a great potential to play a major role in 21st Century national education delivery by thinking beyond informal role played in development. This is demonstrated by Telecentres who changed the shape of the education in their villages using Shilpa Sayura, and become sustainable as a result even without connectivity.

People often say that future can't be predicted as it has more parameters than any scientific equation. Yet we have known that experienced human minds can process complex equations to develop novel ideas for the future. Shilpa Sayura as an ICT4D initiative explored formal education delivery through Telecentres and seems to have found a solution to develop rural education for 21st Century and also for sustaining of telecentres engaging them in mainstream national education development process.

Niranjan Meegammana
Shilpa Sayura Foundation

24 Jul 2011

ICT for Innovating Youth Education for 21st Century Skills

The society we live today was unimaginable 10 Years before. It’s not just examples of facebook, YouTube or mobile phones in every hand. Its the ICT innovations that changed the world. In 1970s we had little Tuition for weak students. It started to grow in 1980s, grew big in 90s and today Tuition has become a defacto where bright students takes most tuition. Societies Innovate when competition and resource limitations are faced. In World Telecentres appeared in 1990s, bubbled in 2005s now we see sustainable Telecentres growing in the in mainstream.

In the ICT4D arena many ideas have been bloomed. Some managed to become mature taking path finding approaches. ICT4D journeys which acquired mixed experiences. Some excelled, some got tired and vanished. The ones which matured, got kept moving, along the vision using the lessons learned from experiences to get further. All the insights may not be fore-sights, but one idea to be successful, it may be worth testing several. Then ICT for sights are become global examples.

From the experiences we understand that future can't be predicted. Future has more parameters than any scientific equation. Yet experienced human minds can process such complex equations to imagine shape of the things to come. Those who can build such scenarios will create novel ideas that would be paid back in future. They will excel when the time comes. Arthur C. Clarke imagined the shape of the new communication, he wrote it and others followed.

Last decade many developing countries had been focusing in using ICT as a tool to develop the society. When we look at experiences gained in a learned perspective, we will find that ICT is more than a tool, but a foundation which can be used to build futures. especially In the area of education, ICT has helped the word to progress much by connecting schools, introducing online education, setting up distance vocational training facilities, and introducing of ICT in to main stream curriculum. Where will we go from here in innovating education?

It’s clear that tomorrow’s world will test youth for 21st century readiness. Every nation will continue to compete in a global economy that demands innovation. As we are learning today's global education approaches seen as outdated and obsolete. People are talking of radical re-generation of education. Educators are more thinking what is more important in education? Whether it’s memorizing of the prime god of Mesapothemia ? or knowing why Messapothemia was demised? The latter knowledge will help a person and world in the efforts for survival?

Hence educators in the world over re-thinking of changing education paradigms to make education more contributing to innovation. Educators are thinking along new perspectives like four Cs, which is an education concept gaining high recognition in developed countries.

The four Cs are
  • 1. Critical thinking and Problem solving

  • 2. Communication

  • 3. Collaboration

  • 4. Creativity and innovation.
In United States leading schools are already following this idea by aligning education curriculum to 4Cs. Looking at 4Cs we can immediately tell that 4Cs are about new media skills like internet, social networks that have become dominant in shaping world. Hence ICT is a core 21st Century skill to align 4Cs for the educational curriculum. We need to train every youth to use ICT to solve problems effectively, and to communicate locally and globally using creative media, and collaborate with others for innovation. If the concept of knowledge society to become real, we need to find new ways to deliver knowledge to people more creatively, more efficiently using new channels like social networks and mobiles.

In time to come, nations will be measured how innovative they would be and what new knowledge they process and how they communicate such knowledge and collaborate creating solutions to problems. If we are to develop our youth to take 21st century challenges and win, we need to make them more innovative. We know that, Innovation is an output of creativity which can be enabled by ICT. Hence skills of using ICT for creativity matters as much as ICT literacy for daily life.

Adobe Youth Voices Program designed to supports young people to use of cutting-edge multimedia tools to communicate and share their ideas, demonstrate their potential, and create a positive social impact in where they live. In this initiative 2 educators were trained from Sri Lanka. Following is one of the creations of Adobe educator from Sri Lanka. Adobe Youth Voices Program will be initiated in Sri Lanka in 5 Schools, 3 Telecentres, a disabled school and a orphanage to train 100+ Youth and expand further to train creative media educators and youth more next year.

This media peice was created during Adobe Youth Voices Training conducted by Thinking IT Global 2011. This experimental video done as a digital story involved writing a poem, creating a story board, field photography, photo editing and video editing process, used a nikon professional camera, photoshop elements 9, premiere elements 9 and audacity software. The whole production was done in electronic medium including exhibition.

Niranjan Meegammana
Adobe Youth Voices - Educator

Unsung Poem of Youth

I created this media peice during Adobe Youth Voices Training conducted by Thinking IT Global 2011. This experimenta; video involved writing a poem, creating a story board, photography, photo editing snf video editing using a nikon camera, photo shop elements 9 and premiere elements 9.

19 Mar 2011

Youth Empowerment Soceity : Open New Doors to Future

Youth empowerment is an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority, and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people in a positive manner, thus include parents, teachers and professionals who would provide support, secure and safe environments for them to flourish

How do we encourage young people to do their BEST?

If we are able to create an environment to evolve their leadership and ensure that they can safely experiment and succeed in developing stronger skills and confidence in future?

Youth problems are not just youth problems,
they are community problems  which requires us to work with parents, teachers, schools, corporates, media and community organisations to address the problems faced by our youth today.

What Youth need to FLOURISH

1. Developing leadership skills
2. Effective communication skills
3. Learn to relax and manage stress
4. Deal with emotions and doubts
5. Increase focus and clarity
6. Better fitness, health and nutrition
7. Understand power and responsibility
8. Develop self confidence and inner strength
9. Develop trust and better interpersonal relationships
10. Problem solving and community building skills

What creates Youth Problems?

Today's competitive educational environment and lifestyles puts youth under pressures which were not experienced by previous generations. Academic competition, peer pressure, family problems and high expectations of parents including increased media exposure create stress and anxiety at an age when youth are undergoing physical and mental changes.  

As a result, stress and depression are widespread in today's youth, preventing them from realising their full potential and putting them at risk of a wide range of problems in the long run.

Our Challange ?
To develop a new empowerment model for youth to develops their academic, technical, personal and social skills including critical thinking and problem solving skills so that they can meet global standards required for success in post secondary education and quality employment in KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY evolving today - faster than NANO.

What many people
don't know about young people ?

1. They like to be cared

o They like to be cared and loved.

o They need to feel safe and secure.

o The more they are cared for, the more secure they feel.

o They need to be surrounded by people who care for, appreciate and accept them unconditionally.

o They need the positive influences of peers and adults to encourage them to do their best.

o They need to be encouraged to appreciate that they are more likely to reach their potential with clear targets they can reach

2. They like to be valued
o The more they are valued the more positive self-worth they experience.

o They need to be encouraged to feel they have some control over things that happen to them.

o Empowering them will be proof that they are valued, respected, liked and are regarded as valuable resources.

o They need fun time to interact with peers and adults, which involves the development of social skills.

o To know that life has meaning and purpose

o Their lives have significance.

o The more they understand that there is a reason for their existence, the more significant they will feel.

o They need encouragement to explore opportunities within and outside of school to learn and develop new skills and interests.

o They are encouraged to acquire a commitment to learning: education success and the long-term value of learning will enhance their self-worth as they discover their gifts and talents.

o They need to appreciate and understand how to make the tough decisions and choices; how to cope with new situations.

o They need guidance to develop a positive view of the future.

What else ?Simply ask them ...

What is needed?To motivate, inspire and encourage young people to reach their full potential.

How ?

Let us bring young people together; create a supportive and secure environment; enable peer to peer collaboration; provide encouragement and mentoring with guidance to realize their full potential in the society

The quality of our future will be the youth we develop today...

Give Youth
the Skills and Tools
and They'll Change the World

8 Feb 2011

Shilpa Sayura is a Social Change Maker at Telecentres

Local language e learning at rural Telecentres
An imperative of ICT for increasing access to education

Niranjan Meegammana, Shilpa Sayura Foundation
Keeragolle Dhammasara, Talakumabura Nenasala
Chaminda Samarawikrama, Siyambalanduwa Nenasala
Saman Sisira Kumara, Madagama Telecentre

In the face of emerging global challenges, from climatic change, heath, economic crisis and cultural issues, education remains the foundation for innovation for the advancement of human kind. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) help us to find new ways to teach people and improve the quality of education to initiate social changes through life long learning. Hence it is important to know the future imperatives of ICT that can be used in developing people to face the 21st century challenges and to respond to crucial problems in access to education with scalable and replicable ICT innovations.

This research is done in rural areas of Sri Lanka where early school drop-off rates after secondary education ranges from 51.6% -66.9% creating an adverse effect in rural societies increasing unemployment and unrest among youth. The research studies cases of local language e learning at Telecentres in rural Sri Lanka, implemented by Shilpa Sayura – rural e learning project. This initiative created open learning environments in rural Telecentres by catalyzing the power of ICT for enabling of self and group learning of the national curriculum to increase access to education by the marginalized rural youth whose education has been hampered with lack education resources. Shilpa Sayura by creating a new means of access to education helped improving of quality and performance in rural education. This research involves four case studies of local language e learning at rural Telecentres and a survey done among rural youth to understand how local language e learning was deployed in rural Telecentres of Sri Lanka, the approaches for development, resulting social change, innovative uses of ICT, obstacles, challenges and mitigation measures in the process to initiate a learned discussion on how “local language e learning at Telecentres” can be used as an effective development instrument for social change of rural societies in the developing world

In conclusion, the research finds that Shilpa Sayura and Telecentre local language e learning model as an innovation emerged through information and communication for development for increasing access to education by marginalized rural youth which can hope to improve examination performances and reduce school drop-offs. The scaling up of this innovation can help us to bridge gaps created by disparities in access to education in rural communities to transform them as “learning societies” for engaging them with life long learning to face the challenges of the 21st century. In this context “local language e learning at Telecentres” is seen as an effective development instrument which can significantly catalyze the social change with increased access, improved quality and performance in rural societies of the developing world, hence suggest as a future imperative of information and communication for development for social change.

Keywords: Shilpa Sayura, Telecentres, education, development, social change

This paper on Shilpa Sayura Impact was presented at "Future Imparatives of Informtion and Communication for Social Change" conference held at UNESCO Conference Center in Bangkok, Thailand on 22nd December 2010.

Part I

Part II

17 Jan 2011

ICT in dissater response and recovery

Simple use of ICT , Social Media , Telecentres can help creating support networks that helps the disaster relief process. . ICT  brought a great capability in responding with infomation in Sri Lanka Floods 2011. When a disasters happen, people need information from top to bottom. The infomation needs comes from the policy, operational and ground relief actions.

Needs assesment, relief, recovery, resource allocation can't be done without adequate and corect information. Major policy decisions can be made on correct information recived from ground. Traditional media are more market driven and covers incidents that create suspence and thrillar. Hence there are many gaps left in dissaster communication. ICT and Social media can make a big difference in disaster rocovery and re-building as it comes from nuetral souces and community who are on ground close to the victims.

The first action is creating media to make awareness of the scale and impact of disaster. Providing large amounts of information on  gound condtions assesment can only be  done by visits and talking to the victims. Photos, videos, voice cuts are best information peices, including text. 3G and moibile connectivity help communicate through internet when all transpotation is distrupted. SMS and dual sim mobile phones are greatest tools. Making local contacts and connecting support directly can be done sharing information and enabling peer to peer communicartion. ICT can be used to initiate relief collecting processes, and telecentres could become nationa wide collecting centers.

A Simple example of ICT in dissater response and recovery is
which provides Field Reports from Sri Lanka Floods 2011

This web site using social media and web 2.0 connected many soicial workers and support organizations in Sri Lanka Floods 2011 can be good case of ICT in Disasaster Communication, yet we have to wait to learn how it progress and impact crearted in dissater recovery and re-building.

12 Jan 2011

Responding to Disasters: Telecentres can h elp?

News sources report that the floods and earth slips have displaced over 830,000 people in the Eastern, North central and Central provinces of Sri Lanka and destroyed over 132,000 acres of agriculture land. Government requested public support to assist over 800,000 flood victims needing drinking water, clothing, mats and milk food for the children.

During tsunami we saw how people helped victims; It took several years to recover from after effects. These floods are much worse than we thought it would be. At least 300,000 children are displaced. Right now the children are hungry and need clean water; their health would be in danger staying in camps. When floods recede more problems will emerge. Their houses are damaged; their parents farms destroyed and their books and cloths are washed away. Their schools destroyed furniture and records washed away.
Their education will be effected long term basis.

At this moment Sri Lanka needs help. ICT and Telecentre networks can be an immense value by

- Taking the message to communities
- For creating and sharing social media
- Advocating support from contacts
- Becoming local collection centers
- Becoming distributing, supporting and information centers in disaster areas

If Telecentres can create a value for community, in this national disaster, their purpose would be justified demonstrating their value in society.

Teachers of Shilpa Sayura have initiated a drive for supporting children education rebuilding. Our Team is visiting disaster locations to collect information and asses needs of children for planning support during and after floods.

Our team will report from field on


Telecentres deep rooted in communities can help managing disasters in a collective manner.

3 Jan 2011

FaceBook and Google : A Valuble Lesson for Telecentre Movement

Wish You all a Happy New Year!

Facebook has become most visited website in 2010 as well as most searched keyword of the year. The "facebook" search term has accounted for 3.48% of all searches, according to Hitwise. And it's a 207% increase of facebook search position from 2009. In US facebook with 8.93% user visits from US alone has beaten Google( 7.10%), Yahoo (6.82%), and YouTube (2.65%).

However, Facebook didn’t beat the traffic garnered by all of Google’s properties combined (9.85%). There are rumors that Facebook is planning to launch their own email and map services. The trend is for facebook to grow much stronger. There is also a trend for Google engineers to join facebook team. However Google who set new standards on web would not give up. It would be interesting to see their battle for supremacy on web. With the fast growing Asian internet users, we can expect more to join facebook membership. The question is how it will affect the members of both Google and facebook. Facebook announced that they have reached 500 million users mark. Google has only 180 million members. Where did rest come from? This mean most of the internet users are in facebook.

Facebook is not only the only rival of Google. Soho is planning to take more Google users with its killer office applications and cloud services. It would be interesting to see how Google will approach this internet war by changing its business plans. Google is already phasing out Google wave and restructuring Google Groups. One thing clear from this case, that there is no permanent king on web. Simple ideas and innovations are shifting balance of power.

When Telecentres were started there was no access to ICT in rural communities. Now individual ownership of computers has grown much. People have opened small one to two computer communication centers. There are new networks of ICT centers are blooming. The model of "Technology for the village" may not hold Telecentres in this growing competition. It’s still a question with 500 million users on facebook, why Telecentres are not becoming rich like facebook? Is this 500 million users does not represent much villagers? We need to findout! Even at telecentre.org we have less than 3000 members of 500 million of those on facebook. In e India Telecentre forum 2010 we had less than 20 members and Only one Telecentre operator who had to make it there with all difficulties.

The new blossoming of business oriented communication and ICT centers seem much sustainable due to their entrepreneurship spirit. But they lack social component of ICT. Hence they will not fulfill the needs of underserved which we are aiming through Telecentres. The current content and services model seems traditional when we compare new services potential in Telecentres. Telecentres would be challenged by their rivals emerging in corners of villages. It is a good scenario in terms of ICT capacity growth, however will not be quite productive in social change, bridging of the social and knowledge gaps and developing the society. Therefore taking an example of Facebook and Google case, Telecentres need to consider newer business and operating model becoming a strong network of social enterprises that provides attractive and valuable content and services to improve quality of human life.

If the Telecentre model that we are enjoying to last long. Telecentres need to change, transforming new challanges to opportunities through Social Innovations to create wealth for Telecentres. Social innovation does not come easy. It’s a spin off process of innovation, research and leadership having practical approaches that works well in rural communities. We have to find a new means of inclusion and engagement of grass roots in the conversation for development. I think that we don’t listen adequately. During several years working with Telecentres, I have found that Telecentre based development is a people driven process. The real champians are those on ground. We need to bring in high moral values and encouraging grassroots leaderships, recognition of good works, creating equal opportunities and transparency as essence of development. Telecentres hence needs to approach the process of development with practical strategies that serves the needs grass root Telecentres and such a development processes to be driven by brain rather than heart.

~ Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing ~