"Fusion has gone the extra mile in making the rural understand the benefits of ICT" - Isura Priyalal Silva, Manager Sarvodaya Fusion
Ashan Kumar met Isura Priyalal Silva, Manager Sarvodaya Fusion to see How ICT Empowers roots of Sri Lanka… Connect with the columnist on www.prwiresl.com/blog
Isura Priyalal Silva, Manager Sarvodaya Fusion
The blend in Sri Lanka
Fusion is the ICT4D umbrella movement of Sarvodaya the largest 50 year old national NGO in Sri Lanka, serving over 15,000 villages.
Fusion’s mission is the ‘e-Empowerment of poor communities’. Programs are delivered through telecentres, Village Information Centres (VIC) and other cross cutting community-development programs targeting children, youth, women and elders. The objective of Sarvodaya Fusion is to improve the computer literacy and the ICT skills of students from rural areas. This will be achieved by implementing the following points and with the help of the following organizations to standardize the assessment of students who sit for these exams in their telecentres.
Fusion is a non-profit making social enterprise and is the ICT4D arm of Sarvodaya, the largest civil service organization in Sri Lanka. Fusion Education is a marketable service offered to Telecentres as a value added service. The service is offered via Sarvodaya Fusion as a revenue generation model to enhance the sustainability of telecentres.
Udubaddawa Nisala Nenasala Tuk Tuk programme
ICT training to Grassrootss communities is a primary income generating avenue of most telecentres in Sri Lanka. However, quality of courses offered varies from telecentre to telecentre in terms of contents of the course, duration of the course, standard of instructors, standard of exams, availability of certificates etc. and lacks or has varying degrees of recognition among public. Fusion Education offered by Sarvodaya Fusion is to standardize and streamline procedures relating to ICT training offered by telecentres and to improve recognition of telecentre based ICT training.
How Youth connect with Fusion
According to Isura, he strongly feels Fusion has gone the extra mile in making the rural understand the benefits of ICT. Speaking about the youth contribution to Sri Lanka, “Before asking them to contribute, they should have few frameworks to log in and contribute. Fusion aspires to be the framework for anyone who envisions a digitally empowered Sri Lanka. And I see many other initiatives coming along from Govt, NGO and private sector. It’s time everybody sits at one table and move forward. Remember youth are more than capable; we have no system to get them engaged. This is the main concern in my eyes”.
An old boy of Mahinda College, Galle Isura’s father is a retired Technical Assistant of Irrigation Department. He retired serving 39 years at the department. His mother is a housewife, to both he appreciates immensely. His childhood dream was to become an Engineer. He says it was moulded through the parents and teachers, as he was good in his mathematics throughout his school days. Describing his experience with IT, young Isura recalls, “Interestingly, when I enrolled to the University of Moratuwa and started doing Chemical and Process Engineering, it hit me, that I have some management gene within me. I pursued CIMA to enhance that quality. I worked in sales, accounting and then landed at Sarvodaya to manage an ICT for development project. It was where my full potential was put to the test”.
Impact of IT in Isura
According to him, IT made, is making and will make the changes in our society and his policy is to be in the wave. Back in 2001, when he was starting his academic stint at the University of Moratuwa, a PC was a luxury and the internet was a scarce resource. Websites were nice to haves, yet not necessary. He added, “In 2011, I see my sister, who’s studying IT at the same University, is an owner of a laptop and uses her phone to access internet. I meet 13 year old kids, having 350+ Facebook friends. I keep in pace with the IT trends. I am an avid connector in Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. With this, he meets high volume of professionals, and shares knowledge with many at the grassroots. This has helped the course of my organization – Sarvodaya-Fusion”.
To be competitive Isura shares a few ideas. Stay agile. Cut the waste at every turn. Evolution of the industry brings about many opportunities to grow and cut waste. Fusion has a core team of about 15, but we work across all the districts in Sri Lanka, leveraging on the creditability of 52 year old social network of Sarvodaya, the mother organization and many more organizations including ICTA, Microsoft, HSBC, Virtusa, and many more donors.
Knowledge economy importance
It’s the most important thing for a country like Sri Lanka. We have less than 21 million people. There is a brain drain within. Why? Other lucrative countries offer better ways to manage their knowledge and thrive. We have a capable HR base running on a discarded infrastructure. Only solution is leapfrogging the IT for development.
In 2003, the government prepared a mandate to set up 1000 telecentres across Sri Lanka in five years and set up the Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) to implement it. ICTA entered into a partnership with Sarvodaya - Fusion owing to their experience in ICTs in Sri Lanka and the Telecentre Family was established in 2006.
Sarvodaya - Fusion sees resource mobilisation as an effort to make their services and Functioning more viable and competitive in the market in order to make it not only self Sustainable but also profitable for their telecentre partners. At present they approximate that the ratio of income to resources from funding is 50:50. They aim to bring that to 60:40 by 2010. They envisage constant product development, fostering strategic partnerships, close market interaction and an extension of services as priority for financial sustainability.