Circle of light
September 30, 2005 § Leave a comment
Moratuwa, Sri Lanka – September 26 + 27, 2005
Looking around Sri Lanka, it seems like a telecentre movement has popped up overnight.
A year ago, Sarvodaya – a grassroots movement focused on community development – was the only group with telecentres up and running. Now, there are also dozens of new ‘Nanasalas‘ in place, entrepreneurial and temple-based telecentres sponsored by eSriLanka. Small NGOs are also getting into the telecentre game, some of them with support from the recently set up Microsoft Unlimited Potential program. And, there is rumour that almost a hundred school computer centres supported by the Asian Development Bank will be turned into publicly accessible ‘community resource centres’ over the coming year.
The most amazing thing (unsurprisingly) about this Sri Lankan telecentre buzz is the people behind it. People like Ravi Ariyawickrama from Sarvodaya and Dil Piyaratna from eSriLanka have been tirelessly working to establish and expand the telecentre programs of their respective organizations. More importantly, hundreds of people across the country have stepped forward over the past year or two to get directly involved in the work of brining computers and the Internet into their villages.
Earlier this week, I meet with 120 of these people at Sarvodaya’s Moratuwa headquarters. Made up primarily of frontline village telecentre operators, the meeting was a mix of the emerging telecentre.org style and Sarvodaya’s 50-year old community organizing acumen. Participants clapped, laughed, ran around the hall, drew pictures of the challenges they face and speedgeeked ideas for programs that could help out all of Sri Lanka’s telecentre operators. The result was truly energizing!
This energy partly came from the fact so many ideas and learning were flying around. Everyone said they learned a lot. However, equally important was the sense of no longer being alone. There are new telecentres popping up quickly all over Sri Lanka, but this doesn’t make the work of running up a village computing centre any less lonely. With two days amongst 120 new friends and colleagues, many participants were saying that they’d found a sense of family.
As the meeting closed, the Sarvodaya facilitators handed out candles to everyone in the circle. One person lit their candle, and then the next, and the next … until there was a circle of light filling the room. As we left the room, it felt like 120 people had embarked on a journey to carry this circle of light across Sri Lanka.