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Microsoft Gamata IT Reaches Beliatta
Partners “TharunayataHetak” to Bring ICT to the Village

Microsoft Gamata IT Reaches Beliatta

Microsoft Gamata IT Reaches Beliatta

Microsoft Sri Lanka continues in their quest of taking ICT to rural communities under its Gamata IT programme, with the latest town storming activity taking place in Beliatta, Hambantota. The Beliatta chapter of the Gamata IT campaign is a collaboration between Microsoft Sri Lanka, the TharunayataHetak movement, ICTA, the Ministry of Education and Singer Sri Lanka. It was conducted under the auspices of the Hon. MP NamalRajapakse, who is also the driving force behind the TharunayataHetak movement. In joining hands with TharunayataHetak for the BeliattaGamata IT initiative, Microsoft aims to reach and impact the lives of as many young people as possible in the Hambantota district.

The activities of the Gamata IT programme are directed at giving IT access to those in rural areas who have hitherto been untouched by the digital revolution. To achieve this goal, Gamata IT brings to life a range of activities that enable people living in the remotest villages in the country to experience the latest developments in IT. These activities include the installation of genuine software at the village community center which already has basic computer facilities, the donation of Sinhala or Tamil Language Interface Packs for Windows and Office that gives users the option to use computers in their preferred local language, and the installation of a MultiPoint enabled classroom at a selected village school giving students access to IT technology at an early age. Other activities involve providing training in basic IT skills to youth, teachers, Government and Samurdhi employees.

When Gamata IT reaches its selected rural village, the programme takes the form of a ‘Town Storming’ campaign, where Microsoft makes every effort to create a significant impact by involving as many people as possible in order to penetrate deep into the community. This creates awareness an interest about the positive and efficient ways in which they can make use of technology in their daily lives, which will, in turn broaden their horizons.

Speaking on the benefits of the Gamata IT campaign, Mr. Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka said, “Microsoft Sri Lanka is committed to improving the lives of the Sri Lankan people. We are certain that our efforts to spread ICT knowledge and increase access to technology in rural communities is a major contribution to the development of the country. Although the activities we conduct as part of the town storming are directed at drawing attention to the village we impact and the generation of mass awareness about the unlimited potential of IT, we believe that the ultimate outcome of Gamata IT is long lasting because we provide encouragement and support for people to develop their skills and use technology to become more efficient and productive.”

The KahawattaMahaVidyalaya in Beliatta was selected by the Ministry of Education to receive a fully equipped MultiPoint classroom from Microsoft. MultiPoint is a technology that enables a classroom of 30 or more students to access a single computer with multiple mice. As a result, it is possible for a large group of students to use one computer simultaneously within the classroom. MultiPoint was developed for the needs of developing countries such as Sri Lanka to provide IT access to more and more children despite resource limitations.

The KahawattaMahaVidyalaya has approximately 500 students. These students, like many of their counterparts, are eager and enthusiastic to learn, but have very limited resources. As a result they cannot adapt to the changes taking place around them and be prepared to face the world when they complete their education. This is a vital reason for Microsoft to give them the chance to develop their skills so that they will have equal opportunities when they try to find employment.

By providing children with the relevant training on MultiPoint technology from a young age, Microsoft hopes that they will become confident in using IT as they grow older. The teachers of the school also benefit greatly from this initiative because they can incorporate technology into their curriculum and develop innovative and exciting teaching methods to keep children interested and motivated to learn. It is only when the young people of the community are comfortable and confident in using technology that the rest of the social group will also be eager to adopt technology to complete daily functions.

Mr. DayaratneGunawardena, Principal of KahawattaMahaVidyalaya said, “We are very grateful to have been singled out to receive this lab from the Ministry of Education and Microsoft Sri Lanka. Our students now have the opportunity to develop their IT skills so that they can be better equipped to handle the demands of the 21st century.”

As part of this campaign, Microsoft also conducted a training programme for teachers, youth and all Government and Samurdhi employees in Beliatta in order to enhance their IT skills. The training would enable them to pass on the benefits of using technology to complete daily tasks throughout the community. The objective of training as many individuals in the village is to ensure that exposure and experience in IT will go on to empower many others in the community. Teachers will pass on their learning to their students, Government employees will better serve their communities because of the efficiencies of technology and the youth are given guidance to enhance their employability and discover the many possibilities and opportunities beyond the confines of their villages.

Furthermore, Microsoft distributed the Sinhala Language Interface Packs (LIP) for Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista, as well as a glossary of Sinhala terms used in computing and a Sinhala key board sticker, enabling the participants to operate a computer in their mother tongue. These Sinhala Language Interface Packs are expected to be popular because it cuts through the language barrier and makes IT more accessible to people who may have otherwise been skeptical about using it before. Microsoft gifted the BeliattaNenasala Centre with original Microsoft software and the Sinhala translation of the world recognized Microsoft Unlimited Potential (UP) curricular that can be used by the Nenasala operator to conduct computer trainings in Sinhala at the facility.

Additionally, at this Gamata IT town storming event, Microsoft assisted the youth in Beliatta to form an IT Club in the village with guidance from the TharunayataHetak movement. Along with establishing and furnishing the IT club with books, CD’s and other technological tools, the Microsoft team from Colombo will continue to engage with the club in order to guarantee its success. It is believed that the club will spark enthusiasm among the youth in Beliatta to explore and experience the exciting world of IT and ensure that they will continue to benefit from the Gamata IT programme in the future.

The Singer Sri Lanka ‘Knowledge Bus’ also played a huge role in the Beliatta town storming campaign. The Knowledge Bus gave young people the opportunity to explore and experience interesting avenues of learning and also in the use of computers. A popular attraction was the quiz programme for the children and youth of the area, sparking their interest in IT.

The Gamata IT initiative, which was launched in the year 2009 to commemorate the Year of English and ICT by His Excellency, The President, has so far touched the lives of many students and teachers in remote villages such as Nivithigala (Ratanapura District), Pallama (Puttlam District), Sevanagala (Monaragala District) and most recently Hatton (NuwaraEliya District). The communities in each of these villages benefited greatly from the various activities carried out under the Gamata IT flagship. The youth in these villages along with the students of the schools where MultiPoint classrooms was established now engage with IT on a daily basis and are more comfortable and confident about using computers. The youth IT club in these villages are flourishing as the young people are enthusiastic about having the resources that make it possible for them to develop their IT skills and are hopeful about their future, thanks to the new avenues that have opened up due to their engagement with IT.

Taking technology to every part of Sri Lanka is one of the commitments of Microsoft Sri Lanka to our country. The most impactful out of the many projects initiated to reach this goal by Microsoft is Gamata IT, which covers a broad spectrum of elements ensuring that the initiative is not simply a one day event, but a programme that will spark a lifetime of development and a brighter future for an entire community. The most recent town storming campaign conducted by Microsoft Sri Lanka, the BeliattaGamata IT campaign is yet another step forward in the groundbreaking revolution that holds the promise of a noteworthy contribution to the dispersion of ICT knowledge and facilities to rural communities. These communities can now emerge from the most remote village and step into a future full of possibilities while becoming active participants of the Sri Lankan knowledge economy.