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First Nenasala turned 9 and revamped with dawn of 2014

With the dawn of 2014, the country’s first Nenasala inaugurated by the then Premier President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Kataragama Kirivehera sacred precincts on 1st January, 2005 has been revamped.

In a significant coincidence the President visited  the revamped Nenasala on this New Year eve /dawn  on his way to the Sacred Shrine to participate in religious observances. The presidential visit to the revamped Nenasala occurred simultaneously at the end of the near 10-year e-Sri Lanka initiative and the commencement of the revamped e-initiative, ‘Smart Sri Lanka’. 

The first of the country’s 741 wisdom outlets, this Nenasala has been equipped with modern facilities including WiFi to fulfill also the requirements of pilgrims to the historical sacred city.

Humble beginning

The Kirivehera Nenasala set up five days after tsunami which is modernised today symbolizes movement today of the whole country’s endeavour to move from the current status to great heights.

The Nenasala Telecentres (wisdom outlets) set up island-wide including the Northern (59) and Eastern (88) provinces have yielded remarkable positive results, despite high failure of telecentres in the international arena.

Basheerhamad Shadrach in his book Nenasala, the Sri Lankan experience narrates the humble beginnings of the Kirivehera Nenasala as follows:

Under Tsunami conditions

“On 26 December 2004, when the Tsunami1 struck fourteen Asian countries along the Indian Ocean, there was unprecedented devastation in Sri Lanka. The island nation had never before witnessed destruction of such enormity, especially on its Southern and Eastern coastal lands. The earthquake which caused the Tsunami measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, thereby becoming the third-largest quake ever recorded. The Tsunami’s 30 feet waves hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India the hardest, killing more than 200,000 people. Despite the fact that Sri Lanka was at least 1,700 Kilometres away from the epicentre and the ground did not shake, the entire coastal line was affected two hours after the earthquake. Approximately, 31,000 of the island nation’s 20 million people lost their lives in the event while millions lost properties and their livelihood.

President’s (then Premier’s) unwavering guidance now pays dividens

“Before the Tsunami struck, Sri Lanka’s Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) was poised to establish its first telecentre in Kataragama with the brand name, nenasala which was to be inaugurated on the 1st of January 2005, five days after the disaster. Because Kataragama was among the districts destroyed by the Tsunami, the agency’s first reaction was to delay the centre’s planned inauguration by Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, until the chaos subsided.

When the ICTA officials approached the Prime Minister’s office with the intent of cancelling plans, HE Rajapaksa, however, made it clear that he wanted no delay:

“If nenasalas were meant to assist people in remote locations, those under duress and distress, and the ones in dire need, then the best time and place to inaugurate the first nenasala is exactly where the disaster has struck...Let us turn the despair into opportunity and demonstrate what Information and Communication Technologies should and ought to do to help common people, especially the ones affected. Otherwise, there will be an information black-out as usually happens to people affected by natural disasters.”

Officials inspired by leadership

“Inspired by the Prime Minister’s statement, the officials undertook a harrowing journey to Kataragama, witnessing en route the extensive damage to transportation facilities and rural infrastructure,

including trains, railway lines, roads, ports, fields and homes. From the Moratuwa beach all the way to Weligama, and thereafter on the way to Hambantota, traces of destruction caused by the Tsunami were found everywhere: the low coastline land was inundated, ships were grounded; quay walls were damaged, and most buildings built close to the shore were destroyed. Despite the disarray, the ICTA team succeeded in launching the first nenasala on 1 January 2005 in the Kirivehera Buddhist temple, making a solid and humble beginning for an Information and Communication Technology.

(ICT)-enabled knowledge era in Sri Lanka. Thus was born Sri Lanka’s first nenasala.

Role of success of first Nenasala

“Though the centre launch amidst rubble, devastation, despair and loss of human life was much more sober than the fanfare originally planned, the context of disaster actually helped to communicate

HE Rajapaksa’s vision that well-designed community ICT initiatives can help in responding to population’s basic needs. The centre’s success played a strong role in the future success of the movement.” 

Sri Lankan model, an example to other countries

Sri Lanka’s telecentre model ‘Nenasala’ is a live example of the successful implementation of the telecentre concept. The success of most of the telecentres set up in developing countries is only around 25 per cent. But in Sri Lanka the success of the Nenasala project is more than 68 per cent

Salient dividends of Nenasalas

A brainchild of President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a measure for making the benefits of ICT reach all, the Nenasala project has shown its positive impact on the Sri Lankan society very tangibly. The ICT literacy has leapfrogged from a mere 4 per cent in 2004 to nearly 40 per cent today. Farmers, vegetable vendors, fishermen, students, teachers, to name a few, have made it their habit to check the Nenasala close to their residence to taste the benefits of ICT and follow a comfortable lifestyle.

Local, Regional and international acclaim

According to a survey, monthly more than 200,000 persons benefit from the Nenasalas set up island-wide.

The regional and international community, realizing  the place the Nenasala telecentre project occupies in Sri Lanka as a flagship project has welcomed it as a model for many other countries.

The approach of adopting Nenasala Community Development Task Forces won an award at the Global Innovation Fair held in South Africa in  2010.

Sri Lanka won the ‘Global Best Telecentre Manager’ Award at the Global Telecentre Awards 2013 held in Granda, Spain.

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