No matter that I had to drag myself out of a cosy house, drive through pelting rain, the perpetually maddening Colombo traffic , to get to the Cinnamon Grand. It was worth the effort to see the E-Swabhimani awards by the Information Communication Agency (ICTA). As the name Swabhimani means it was certainly a night of “Our Pride,” a night to be a proud Sri Lankan, a night to remember. ICTA lived up to its tag line of Smart People, Smart Island to spring on an unsuspecting audience the creative and innovative talent of Sri Lanka’s digital content developers/producers from its e-Society program. This was even more satisfying for those of us who had listened to much criticism being leveled at ICTA. But that’s another story –this was a night of the winners.
Minister Tissa Vitarana was pleased as Punch. He was unstinting giving credit to the creative talent of the ICTA staff.
There were eight e-categories and 27 winners. They came from near — Colombo University Department of Computing as well as from far away interior places with exotic names — Galenbindunuweva, Sooriyaweva, Tantrimalai.
Here’s some that caught my eye. Please note that this is only a selection and is not a comprehensive list of the winners.
For me the most interesting was the e-inclusion and Participation category where the winners were:
Techkatha (Technical Chats) is really cool and uses cross media and a friendly chatty environment for learning from peers the techi stuff. It is in the Sinhala local language, community driven, podcasted discussion about solutions to technical problems one encounters daily,tech news, new inventions etc. Every Thursday at Sri Lanka time 9:00 pm you can join techkatha.com/chat via real time web chat. Google Group, Skype, SMS, email or phone. So far they have had 40 program chats.
“Watch” the invention of young Secondary school student Ganidu Nanayakkara which features a specialized hardware and software to enable people with disabilities to use a computer with a key pad of only four keys. So a finger, a toe, a head the hand or even the tongue can be used and the software and hardware system can be customized to cater for specific needs of a disabled user.
E-entertainment & Games section had two interesting winners. One was the Ranasara Internet radio from the Balangoda Nenasela ( IT/Knowledge Centre) which partnered with an IT company microimage to set up a commercial quality broadcasting studio in the Nenesela. Using commercial quality broadcasting software and drawing and training announcers from the community they provide an interesting service enabling many working abroad to stay connected with their communities. Other district telecentres too get one hour time slots per week to produce news and programs from their districts.
The other winner in this category, the Toppigala/Jamis Banda, Sri Lanka’s equivalent no doubt of James Bond is a locally developed PC Game by Games Core.
The e-Learning & Education sector had three very useful contributions reaching out to educate through ICT , primary, and tertiary learners and farmers in the agriculture sector.
e-Curriculum Master: Mastering the Primary–an easy to use interactive educationla software for children sitting the Grade 5 Scholarship examination.
Vidupiyasa — the virtual campus for ICT education from the University of Colombo’s School of computing.
Wikigoviya — The Agriculture Wikipedia, an interactive web tool for agriculture development.
Having been a librarian in my previous incarnations I loved the Nenasakmana Mobile ( can be loosley tranlated as “strolling knowledge”) Library of the Sooriyaweva Nenasela from the Hambantota district. It serves remote villages who can not afford internet facilities in a converted “buddy” lorry with four laptop computers powered by a solar panel and with connectivity through a dongle.
“It’s not easy providing this service on rainy days when there is no sun,” says Deepika who runs the service. Then it is only a reading library and we carry newspapers and magazines in addition to books. But on good days in addition to Internet, users can access educational CDs, games. etc.”
The Juror’s special mention is another worthy project. The Centre for Women and Development, Jaffna’s “Violence against Women” website, documenting violence against women. The aggregate anonymous information collected from this website has been shared with other civil society and government organizations to help them better understand the extent of the issue.