The second Microsoft ‘Gamata IT’ town storming event was held in Pallama, a remote area in the Puttalam district, on the 14th of November 2009. Continuing the pioneering series of activities directed at taking Information Technology to the most remote villages in Sri Lanka, Microsoft Sri Lanka’s futuristic endeavor is aimed at enhancing the availability of Information Technology to every citizen in Sri Lanka.
The event featured the ceremonial launch of the day’s activities by Ms. Manoji Samararatne, Marketing Director, Microsoft Sri Lanka at the Pallama Nenasala Centre graced by Mr. Garunayake, Secretary to Mr. Priyankara Jayaratne - Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mrs. S.M.L.P. Kumari - Provincial Secretary, Mr. B.M. Asoka Jayasinghe - Former Director of Education North Western Province, Mr. Gamini Kumarasinghe, Anamaduwa Teacher Training Centre Manager, In Service Advisor for Information Technology Mr. M.I.M. Naushad and other local government and Ministry of Education representatives. The Gamata IT programme is designed to provide the greatest benefit to the residents of the village it touches. The people of the Pallama village including students, youth and professionals from the public and private sector were given IT training, exposure in usage and benefits of IT as well as assistance in expanding their future prospects through the use of Information Technology.
Mr. Garunayake, Secretary to Mr. Priyankara Jayaratne - Deputy Speaker of Parliament endorsing the initiative said, “We are happy to be a part of an initiative with a vision to empower rural communities in our country, an initiative that is directly in line with His Excellency the President’s vision for the Year of English and IT. We take this opportunity to thank Microsoft Sri Lanka and ICTA for choosing the right villages like Pallama, where this kind of investment and attention is needed and appreciated by a community that possesses a great resource of untapped potential that can be used to uplift the livelihoods as well as to take an active role in energizing the national economy. We believe that through the development of villages like Pallama, the rural communities of Sri Lanka will grow to increase their contribution to the national economy and thereby contribute expansively to the development of Sri Lanka”.
An ‘IT Club’ catering to the IT savvy youth in the village, was also launched as yet another milestone of the Gamata IT initiative. The IT club was installed to empower its members, especially the youth in Pallama with the objective of enhancing their knowledge and exposure to IT, thus bridging the digital divide existent between rural communities and the rest of the world. The club aims to create a positive interest in the field of IT and educate the youth of Pallama about new developments that will help them keep abreast of the latest in the field of IT. The club will keep the community informed on the developments of technology relevant to local industry and new processes and techniques that will enhance productivity and ensure a more secure income thereby guaranteeing the growth of the village economy.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Manoji Samararatne, Marketing Director of Microsoft Sri Lanka, was enthusiastic about the ripple effect the Gamata IT initiative would have on the rural economy. “Our efforts are to bring every village to the same IT platform as the rest of the country. Through breaking the digital divide Microsoft Sri Lanka aims to empower communities to face the 21st century with confidence. We believe that through the continued empowerment of rural communities like Pallama, we are providing the residents with a means to uplift themselves. With a small, yet far-sighted thrust in the right direction by initiatives of this nature, we can witness the spread of Information Technology not only across villages, but also across towns and cities and finally across our entire country fueled by the enthusiasm of the community itself. Through the training courses on computer fundamentals, provided by Microsoft to the Nenasala operators as well as Government servants, teachers and doctors in Pallama, we believe that the trend toward sustainable economic development through the use of technology will spread throughout the community. We were encouraged by the positive response we received for our 1st Gamata IT program in Nivithigala in the Ratnapura District and this 2nd phase in Pallama promises even greater things; it promises an enthusiasm that will sustain the results of this initiative for future generations”.
Another Gamata IT trademark – the installation of a MultiPoint enabled classroom at the Thamarakkulama Kanishta Vidyalaya, will enable as many as 30 students at a time to experience the use of IT through multiple mice. In addition to enhancing the IT curriculum available at the school, 20 teachers of the Thamarakkulama Kanishta Vidyalaya have been trained not only in the use of MultiPoint technology but also the use of IT in general, making them a fount of information for their students and ensuring development through the transfer of knowledge.
Mr. W.W.L. Nandana Wanigasinghe, Nenasala Manager in Pallama said, “I sincerely thank Microsoft in selecting Pallama for the Gamata IT second phase. The Pallama Nenasala Centre is also proud to be a part of this program. We are now empowered to fulfill His Excellency the President’s vision for the Year of English and IT and enhance our own community as well as contribute to the education of our children and the future of both our community as well as that of the whole country. We could now take an active role in uplifting the English and IT knowledge of residents in Pallama, as well as ensuring a more secure future for our village through the enhancement now made available through the MultiPoint technology which will give our children the confidence and experience necessary to compete on an international level someday. Moreover, Microsoft Sri Lanka and ICTA, with the introduction of the Sinhala Language Interface Pack for Windows Vista and Office 2007 has enabled people to use IT in Sinhala, which is a great initiative that will help village communities like Pallama to move forward. Through the use of Sinhala LIP, Nenasala will now be able to help the residents in Pallama to use the computer in our mother language and use IT tools in their day-to-day activities”.
The state of the art Computer Bus provided by Singer Sri Lanka, a special feature of the Gamata IT programme, was at Pallama during the entire day, providing residents the chance to experience Microsoft’s latest software first-hand as well as further their knowledge on the use of computers. In addition, residents were exposed to computing in their preferred local language – Sinhala or Tamil, with the use of the Local Language Interface Packs introduced by Microsoft, for Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007. The bus provided the citizens of Pallama with hands-on experience on new technology available to them through the programme with the aim of creating interest and motivating the community to further their IT education and thereby broaden their horizons. Microsoft also carried out a mini-quiz inside the bus making it an enjoyable and interactive experience. The residents of Pallama were instilled with a lasting impression of technology and the benefits it would provide them through the demonstrations carried out throughout the day and the ability to actually use technology and experience a future that to some, was a distant ideal.
In addition to these activities, the Gamata IT campaign attributed to the training of over 120 Government servants and doctors, as part of the belief that an IT empowered community has a greater chance of development and growth and that a large potion of this growth would come from the public servants who’s selfless aims of benefiting the community they live and work in, would be aided by the ability to utilize technology to find new means and avenues of development. The computers at the Pallama Nenasalas were also equipped with the latest Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 software and upgraded to top industry standards. The Sinhala Language Interface Pack was also installed on all the machines in the Nenasala while LIP software CDs were distributed free of charge among those who were present at the occasion. The Nenasala Centre was also provided with the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Curriculum, free of charge for the future training of any member of the community. The world recognized UP curricular, now available in both English and Sinhala mediums, offer the youth of Pallama the opportunity to learn IT in their preferred language.
The Pallama leg of the Gamata IT campaign was an outstanding success, with over 500 individuals including students, parents and young enthusiasts coming forward to receive training and take part in the various activities carried out, making it a definite step in realizing Microsoft Sri Lanka’s vision to transform the IT landscape of the country by granting access to IT to the island’s rural communities. Through this initiative, the village of Pallama is now better able to visualize and strive for a future empowered by technology.