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Sunday, 24 August 2014

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e-Library Nenasala program clinches award

Sri Lanka's e-Library Nenasala Program (eLNP) won the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's 2014 Access to Learning award of $1 million at a ceremony in Lyon, France recently.


Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, ICTA Chairman Professor P. W. Epasinghe and CEO Reshan Dewapura with the award. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Director Deborah Jacobs looks on.

The award was in recognition of eLNP's thrust for providing free access to computers and the internet to underserved Sri Lankans living in remote and rural areas. The Government launched the program to boost digital literacy and encourage economic development throughout the country based on its national development policy - Mahinda Chinthana.

The eLNP centres, known as Nenasalas (wisdom outlets), have helped Sri Lanka increase its computer usage and IT literacy rate from below 10 percent in 2004 to almost 40 percent today.

The centres in rural areas give residents increased access to quality equipment, training and locally tailor-made information to help them improve their lives.

Microsoft, a foundation partner, will donate software to eLNP as part of its commitment to bring the benefits of information technology to local communities around the world.

The majority of the Nenasalas are located in religious institutions, which have served as community centres and places of learning for centuries.

This strategy has helped the Government earn the confidence and trust of rural people, who had little access to technology. Whether housed in a temple, kovil, mosque or church, each e-Library Nenasala is free and open to people of all religions and income levels.

"The Government believes that free and easy access to computers and the internet is essential to help the most vulnerable people improve their lives. Such access to computers will make their lives more comfortable, through education, entrepreneurship, communication and Government services," said ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) CEO Reshan Dewapura.

"Having the Nenasalas in religious places that are at the heart of every village, encourages the community to use and sustain them," he said.

The centres provide training to help people acquire basic computer and internet skills and the know-how to use email and social media platforms. Local youth often become volunteer computer trainers at the Nenasalas and are a given basic training at the beginning of their service. Their skills are further enhanced through refresher courses, online training programs and peer to peer learning opportunities.

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