We need to identify what Sri Lanka needs to get connected and the milestones that need to be achieved to reach connectivity. A lot of people in Sri Lanka would benefit from an email address.
“…offering a free email account to every citizen in Sri Lanka through our Nenasalas. Of course it is a beginning of a journey. We have still many challenges ahead of us, especially with improving the ease of use in Sinhala for ordinary people.”
…what would make the general population want to have email? Mobile phones have rapidly caught up and cost much more. Ease of access and instant connectivity make the mobile phone a better choice. Our present commercial setup and infrastructure has promoted the development of mobile telecommunication faster than any other medium.
While everyone talks about penetration and last mile connectivity why not use whats available? Why not use gprs, edge or EV-DO modems for connectivity in there areas ? One could use their present mobile phone sim with these modems. Of course you wouldn’t do huge downloads but one could facilitate E commerce transactions such as ordering spare parts, up loading pictures of products or even checking their bank balance. Maybe I’m being naive but if its there why not use it, right ?
While I don’t think Sri Lanka has even begun to think of EV-DO – a technology increasingly prevelant in the US and other countries – we do have limited 3G deployment through Dialog and almost coast-to-coast mobile network footprints, underscoring the ideas of Virtual Island on how best to use the existing infrastructure, in tandem with ICTA’s vision for an email account for every citizen of Sri Lanka through the Gnanasela’s they’ve set up.
I’ve written extensively about the need to look at mobile architectures for peacebuilding, their use in defeating repressive regimes and possible future scenarios of mobile use in humanitarian operations.
I also keep coming back to the issue of content – creating vast access footprints is in a sense the easy part. Creating the content necessary for the grassroots and the hitherto marginalised communities best use network infrastructure meaningfully is quite another task. My fear is that while ideas that seek to promote ICT to the grassroots in Sri Lanka oftentimes take the form of technology provision (through hardware and software solutions), there is little interest in the creation of content that specifically makes use of the broad spectrum of access technologies (from PC’s in Gnanasela’s to mobiles and PDAs) in support of existing peacebuilding initiatives conducted by civil society, NGOs and the government.
An earlier post of mine explores these issues in more detail.