Microsoft Sri Lanka in partnership with the Sri Lanka Anti-Narcotics Association
(SLANA) and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) under the patronage
of the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Ministry announced a grant
aimed at supporting the migrant worker community in Sri Lanka. The occasion was
graced by Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, Hon. Dilan Perera
MP and saw the renewal of the organizations’ pledge towards empowering migrant workers
through ICT. The grant will see the opening up of Eighteen Centres in Ten Districts
across the country to benefit thousands of migrant workers who plan to go overseas.
The program also includes the training of master trainers who will in turn train
the other instructors at the centers. One key highlight of the entire program is
that the training will not be limited only to the migrant workers, but will also
include one member of his or her family, who will be given the same training on
how they can use ICT as a simple and faster tool for communication.
In 2009, Microsoft Sri Lanka partnered with SLANA and the Foreign Employment Bureau
(SLBFE) in an effort to empower the migrant worker community via ICT with the launch
of a multi-faceted training process inclusive of basic IT skill development, provision
of information and mentoring to enhance the workers’ employability and economic
security. Microsoft Sri Lanka provides both the funds (including the most recent
grant renewal), and the necessary software and teaching material for this project
which is carried out at the SLBFE training centers around the island while SLANA
came on board as chief facilitator and trainers. The project launched with three
centers dedicated towards this cause and has since expanded across the island, with
the most recent center opening in Badulla earlier this month, empowering over 10,000
migrant workers in the region.
The migrant worker community in Sri Lanka is currently at 1.6 million individuals
who generate the largest foreign income towards the Sri Lankan economy. With a majority
of this group hailing from rural, impoverished backgrounds with minimal exposure
to IT and scarce access to technology, literacy and the knowledge of English Language,
SLANA identified a dire need for equipping them with these skills and the project,
together with the Sri Lankan government’s mission of upgrading the quality of the
migrant worker population in several different aspects will be providing the migrant
workers with additional skills to be utilized during employment and upon re-integration;
adding value and dignity via the provision of risk resiliency skills and referral
needs and facilitating more efficient channels for communication to minimize dysfunctions
within family units.
"While the migrant worker community brings in the largest share of foreign income
towards the Sri Lankan economy at present, this initiative to provide them with
an increased skill set is extremely beneficial towards increasing their employability.
In addition, it's extremely helpful in maintaining proper communications within
their families. The results we've seen have been tremendous and I'm confident that
this second grant from Microsoft and the renewed pledge will see be enormouslybeneficial
to the migrant worker community," stated Hon. Dilan Perera, Minister of Foreign
Employment Promotion and Welfare.
One of the key elements of the IT component within these programmes is ensuring
that migrant workers and their families have pre-established communication channels
to ensure that no disruption to their families are caused by their long absences
from the children's day-to-day lives. In particular, SLANA believes that one of
the leading problems among the families left behind which is the high risk of substance
abuse by the spouse left behind can be combated by proper communication access.
"It has been our experience that the majority of the trainees participating at this
five day course have had no experience whatsoever with computers since most of the
migrant community workers come from extremely rural areas. This project doesn't
just add to their skill set but it deals with one of the biggest concerns we've
dealt with over the years - poor communication options within families with spouses
working overseas. One of the biggest problems we've identified is the imbalance
and problems created within the family left behind when a parent goes abroad and
we've seen great results since we implemented the IT component into these training
programmes because these workers are able to use an internet café or some form of
public resource for quick contact with their families. At SLANA, we address the
prevention angle on a human resources development platform, and this program will
be yet another milestone activity of ours for supporting the development process
of Sri Lanka, by protecting its most valuable asset, our workers and their children,"
said Dharshinie Guniyangoda, Director SLANA.
Microsoft Sri Lanka has been involved in many community service projects since their
establishment in Sri Lanka seven years ago, including the donation of free software
to all IT students around the island and NGOs, and the Gamata IT programme which
carries IT to rural schools around the island. This partnership with SLANA and SLBFE
provided yet another way for Microsoft to better the lives of Sri Lankan individuals,
elaborated Sriyan de Silva Wijeyaratne, Country Manager Microsoft Sri Lanka. "One
of the key goals that Microsoft works towards is using IT to improve lives in as
many ways possible and this project is yet another opportunity for us to help the
Sri Lankan community. By renewing our grant towards sustaining this project we want
to make sure that we impact additional migrant workers and their families in the
future and help this project grow in the next couple of years. IT is fast becoming
not just an additional skill set but a expected requirement in many parts of the
world and we simply want to make sure that the Sri Lankan workers traveling overseas
have the necessary skills to compete in international markets," he added.
The programme consists of a specially designed accelerated five-day programme focusing
on basic computer literacy including an abridged of the Microsoft UP Curriculum,
components of emailing and browsing the net, sending and receiving pictures and
SMS messages through mobile phones, using the Sinhala and Tamil Language Packs (introduced
by Microsoft Sri Lanka in 2009) to help develop communication skills in local languages
and a general overview of excel to provide an introduction into money management.
This programme is a component of the compulsory two week training programme conducted
by the Foreign Employment Bureau for all migrant workers.
The IT component of the programme is also targeted towards the families of the migrant
workers, with local Nenasala branches enabling both basic IT training to these families
and providing work spaces for practice, thereby ensuring that the project not only
establishes communication channels for the migrant workers but also their families.