Dear Chief Guest, Mr. Lalith Weerathunga, the Chairman of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission and the Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka, all the guests from the President’s Office, officials from ICT Agency of Sri Lanka and Enterprise Technology Pvt Ltd. and Bartleet Group, personnel from police, army and home guards, friends, parents, villagers and the students.
We welcome you all to this historical event. Horizon Lanka Foundation has been creating history for the past 8 years and we are about to launch our latest innovation, the implementation of mesh technology, to provide internet access to 28 households and 2 public schools in Mahavilachchiya.
The non-availability of an internet connection for Horizon Lanka for 6 years could not hamper our growth. But when we were able to get internet from innovative LankaCom, the only Internet Service Provider who had the capability to provide us with Internet, we realized the amazing strength of it.
Thanks to Internet and emails, students started getting A grades for English and the learning process became very exciting and enjoyable for the students and the teaching process became much easier for the teachers. Our website www.horizonlanka.org could be regularly updated and it made our website one of the most visited Sri Lankan sites in the world.
Let me brief you how mesh became a reality. At an e Society exhibition held in Colombo in 2004, Mr Chanuka Wattegama and Mr. Kithsiri Gunasekara sparkled the first flame for mesh. Having heard that Mahavilachchiya is the village with the highest computer density of, they suggested that mesh technology could be easily implemented in Mahavilachchiya. Miss Rehana Wijesinghe’s smart writing saw to the funding aspect, and UNDP and other funding agencies extended their support. We also thank Manju Haththotuwa, then CEO of ICTA for playing an active role in this project.
When everything was well set to start the project, the next hurdle was the problem of getting permission for the frequency. Licensing cost us a huge amount of money and if we have to renew the licenses for the next year too it will be a big blow to the project. We expect that the TRC would take actions to free this frequency enabling us to replicate mesh in other parts of Sri Lanka as well. I have learnt that this particular frequency is free in other countries.
Next big challenge was to increase the existing bandwidth 128 kilo bytes per second to cater to the needs of 30 internet connections. Bandwidth was not sufficient at all as all the students started sharing the same connection as soon as public schools were closed. We thank Lanka Com for increasing bandwidth up to 256 kilo bytes per second on our request even before the agreements were signed. LankaCom promptly increased the bandwidth to enable mesh to be proactive. We have to mention here that we would need at least 1 Mega bytes bandwidth for mesh network as mesh network is likely to expand up to around 100 PCs soon. In some of the students’ houses there are up to five PCs and they are already working on small networks inside their houses to enable Internet access to multiple users in the families. We also provided internet to two public schools and we will ensure both the schools expand their computer projects within the next few months. We have already been able to provide a brand new PCs and peripherals to Saliyamala Public School and we are trying to do the same with Thakshila Public School. We want to ensure that these two schools have computer labs each comprising of 25 PCs . Both the schools cater to about a 1000 students.
We also provided few PCs to Mahavilachchiya police station and the nearby police post. Hundreds of police officers and home guards learn computers fast and there is already a big demand for their PCs to be connected to mesh. So, we hope that ICT Agency will increase our bandwidth up to 1 Mega bytes to cater to this growing demand as they have always done in the past.
Our aim is to produce over a 1000 IT skilled youth from Mahavilachchiya within next three years so that we could use their technical know-how in the Business Process Outsourcing project we are going to start shortly. Hope the donors and well-wishers will help us by providing us PCs for this ambitious plan. Even used PCs are welcome.
In all our projects we always go the extra mile. We are doing a live webcast of this inauguration on an online radio station called Ahamu Online Radio. You can listen to live updates from Mahavilachchiya on http://www.ahamu.com. Two of our students, Ruvini Senevirathna and Ruwan Laksiri are doing the live program, and they hope to work with Ahamu Radio frequently from their homes by updating news from Mahavilachchiya in future too.
We partnered with ICT Agency of Sri Lanka to make Mahavilachchiya an e Village in 2005. We are almost there now with all the innovations coming up. Our next move is to start a BPO project here for the IT skilled youth to work. We are being backed by FARO and ICTA in this venture. But we still have a few barriers to overcome for this.
First challenge is road conditions in Mahavilachchiya. Road to Mahavilachchiya up to Oyamaduwa is excellent but from there onwards it is in a dilapidated condition. We hope His Excellency the President will help the village by repairing the road to Mahavilachchiya via Anuradhapura and Nochchiyagama. Not to mention the roads inside the village too. Our to-be-investors’ main worry was the road conditions here. We get visitors from both Colombo and overseas every week and they find it difficult to travel due to bad road conditions.
Next problem is frequently fluctuating electricity in Mahavilachchiya. We had a problem even this morning and were in a big trouble. Buying a generator would not be an answer as our operations are done at 30 places through mesh now. We need the government attention on this issue as well.
We also have the absence of a mobile phone network within the village but Dialog Telekom is said to be working on covering Mahavilachchiya soon on our request.
We have done what is humanly possible and even impossible for the future of Mahavilachchiya. Now it is the time for the government to play a bigger role in developing infrastructure in and around Mahavilachchiya. If the government helps us doing it, hope we can make Mahavilachchiya another Andra Pradesh or Bangalore using ICT. We also seek the help of the private sector for this.
Nandasiri Wanninayaka – NOVEMBER 04, 2006