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A New Era in IT for Rural Communities with Microsoft ‘Gamata IT’


LIP Officially Unveiled


Caption:

Standing from Left to Right: Mr. Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne (Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka), Prof.P.W. Epasinghe (Advisor to the President, Chairman-Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka), Prof. Tissa Vitarana (Hon. Minister of Science and Technology) and Mr. Reshan Dewapura (COO-ICTA) officially unveiling the Language Interface Pack at the event held recently.


Stepping up in a big way to support the need of the hour to take and empower rural Sri Lanka with ICT skills, especially during this Year of English and IT, Microsoft Sri Lanka has launched ‘Gamata IT’ – a series of initiatives that focus on the central goal of taking ICT to the islands’ most remote rural communities.


This far reaching program heralds a new era of hope for the country’s most rural communities as the Gamata IT initiative aims to touch several remote villages and also launch multiple initiatives aimed at the key stakeholders who are engaged in rural development. All of these initiatives will be provided completely free of charge, as part of Microsoft’s contribution towards the enhancement of local IT skills and Microsoft envisions that the next generation of IT Thought Leaders and Developers would emerge from the villages of rural Sri Lanka. The activities lined up under Gamata IT are poised to transform the IT industry in Sri Lanka with the long term goals of helping the people of these areas find sustainable sources of income and better their living standards through the use of modern ICT skills; opening the doors for people in rural communities to learn computers in their local language, and to access the Internet; as well as tackling the fear of, and reluctance to use, computers, due to a lack of proficiency in the English language.


Going a long way to bring about the latter objective, is one of the key initiatives under the Gamata IT umbrella, the groundbreaking Sinhala Language Interface Pack (LIP). The LIP software now available for the Windows Vista Operating System and Microsoft Office 2007, provides a primarily localized user experience with menus, buttons and instructions in Sinhala. Recently introduced by Microsoft Sri Lanka and the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka, LIP is set to revolutionize the local IT landscape. Recently, his Excellency, President Mahinda Rajapaksa accepted a Plaque incorporating the first copy of the Sinhala Language Interface Pack (LIP), from Microsoft and ICTA. commenting on the occasion, His Excellency said “I take this opportunity to congratulate Microsoft Sri Lanka in making IT more accessible to the Rural Community, especially through the launch of the Sinhala LIP for Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista” Microsoft Sri Lanka will make 10,000 copies of the new Sinhala LIP accessible free of charge across various Government institutions, Nenasala and Vidatha Centers, rural community centers and other stakeholders around the island. The company has made the software truly accessible to anyone, anywhere as it can be downloaded free of charge from www.microsoft.com/srilanka.


Along with the launch of this exceptional software, the Gamata IT initiative will also see the company donating 5000 copies of a comprehensive Sinhala Glossary of IT Terms used in Windows Vista & Office 2007 that has been created to accompany the software, along with 20,000 Sinhala keyboard stickers.


Other activities under this grand initiative include reaching the villages through the Nenasala and Vidatha centers, where the Sinhala Interfaces for Office 2007 and Windows Vista will be made accessible through the existing infrastructure at the centers.


Commenting on the introduction of LIP, Chief Guest at the launch ceremony for the software, Minister for Science and Technology Professor Tissa Vitarana congratulated Microsoft Sri Lanka and ICTA saying “My ministry and I look towards working closely with them, in disseminating these Technologies to all parts of Sri Lanka, and towards their effective adoption, and I am appreciative of the initiatives they have planned in this regard”.


In addition Gamata IT includes the launch of an exclusive, locally developed Tamil Input Method Editor (IME) which conforms to the Tamil Unicode Standard, which will be also available for free download from the Microsoft Sri Lanka website www.microsoft.com/srilanka.


The training and technical assistance that representatives from Microsoft and their partner organizations will provide when they visit rural communities includes teaching the residents about the use of a computer using their preferred local language Sinhala or Tamil, introduction to the latest technologies available, the benefits of usage and the opportunities available to them. Microsoft Sri Lanka will play a major role in linking these previously isolated communities with the rest of the world. To enable teaching IT in Sinhala, the Sinhala translation of Microsoft Unlimited Potential curricular will be distributed free of charge to key stakeholder organizations, who could opt to use them for training purposes. Other aspects such as Career guidance, hands on user exposure, and awareness creation sessions would further enhance the programs in these villages.


Microsoft Sri Lanka will also deploy Multipoint technology at a school in each of the 24 districts. Multipoint allows for all the children in a class to use one computer via individual mice – creating an interactive learning environment through the use of the latest technological advances.


Speaking on Gamata IT, which is their latest multi million Rupee CSR initiative Country Manager, Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, said “We chose the theme ‘Gamata IT’ because our objective is to reach out to the really rural areas of Sri Lanka, into those communities that hitherto have received little, or indeed no, aid or development in terms of dissemination of, and education in, Information Technology. This is crucial during this Year of English and IT, and even more important in this era of post conflict in Sri Lanka. While Gamata IT builds on the launch of our Sinhala Language Interface Pack for Windows Vista and Office 2007, which was designed to benefit the entire population and have a wide spread impact, some other objectives of Gamata IT are very specific and targeted and you will see Microsoft Sri Lanka going to the most remote areas of the country and providing access and training to communities who have no access to IT whatsoever. We are expecting to partner very closely with the ICTA, the Government of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Science and Technology, several Community based organization, our Business Partners, and many others in this initiative. My team at Microsoft Sri Lanka is very excited and energized with this initiative and we look forward to making an indelible mark on rural Sri Lanka through these efforts.”