Say It! Look@: A Virtual Youth Commons for Sri Lanka

Iresha Dilhani of Mahavillachiya, North Central Province one of the beneficiaries of taking Internet to rural Sri Lanka. Photograph (c) Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World/WB

Communicate it’s your right to shape your world  

Say what you want to say, look at what others are saying; learn, network, communicate and shape the world you are going to live in. This is the message going out to youth as the World Bank Colombo office launches its Say it! Look@ program on 1 May on Channel ETV  8:00 to 8:30 p.m. 

The program is a convergence of new social media and the established old media of television and newspapers. The rationale is to provide an interactive space on the Web, as well as through an introductory monthly TV documentary a virtual Youth Commons where Youth can express their opinions, join in discussions, interact and build networks. 

The Specific Objectives are to: 

  • create awareness of social media
  • Provide a dialogue space for youth to discuss among themselves and with professionals key issues that have an effect on their lives.
  • Develop skills as “I reporters”
  • Provide an opportunity to link with peers worldwide, network and expand their horizons.

The  Say It! Look@ blog is the pivotal link combining the old media – the once a month TV program to the new media blog where youth are invited to participate by writing blog pieces, and short responses via SMS etc. The best of the blog entries as well as a summary of activities will be featured as an article on the print edition of the blog aggregate Kottu and the Sunday Leader newspaper. 

Three friends at the World Bank supported IT lab at the Advanced Technological Institute Jaffna. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

We live in an interconnected world where growth is exponential. Social media and the growth in telecommunication technologies are brining changes that we in developing countries need to explore and take advantage of. We are told that very soon the chip on your mobile phone will be more powerful than the one in your desktop computer now. Sri Lanka has already some ongoing initiatives to use social media for development like the e-Sri Lanka project. (See links below) However there is room for us to do more.But what else can we use it for? Can we use it to improve English writing skills through blogs? Can the diaspora act as mentors to help students to improve their English skills by responding and correcting blog posts? Can people who are very concerned about poverty in developing countries make an individual contribution to make development more inclusive? Will communications between students along with developed and less developed strengthen the learning process? 

Arjunan, a young medical student of Jaffna University told me last September about the dearth of text books for their studies. He however, as many of the youth are  Facebook fans. Could he or his fellow undergraduate link up with peers to discuss online medical case studies or seek advice from the many Sri Lankan doctors working abroad? Will the expatriates be willing to share their knowledge and extend a hand to these young undergraduates? 

In the early 2000’s when Sri Lanka tried to take the Internet to rural users we asked “Why only TV for the rural users, why not Internet?” The same argument we made then still holds true for Social Media. 

• Provides access to vast information resources
• Evidence of interest exists – people are blogging, on Facebook, tweeting
• A means to communicate information to the outside world
• A means to build networks among like-minded individuals/groups. 

I strongly believe that the power is with us as individuals to make life what we want it to be. This invitation is to you the youth, as well as those young at heart, and other interested organizations to participate, be guest bloggers, share your knowledge and use this space and help Sri Lanka leap frog into the future.  

If you would like to participate in this program and be a guest blogger write to: 

For more information, please see:  

Iresha Dilhani’s Blog 

Meshing Up Mahavilachchiya. Horizon Lanka Foundation, Sri Lanka 

e-Sri Lanka transforming a nation through ICT  

e-Swabhimani awards: giving life to digital creativity in Sri Lanka  

Sri Lanka’s e-Society Program shines at World Bank’s Innovation Fair  

2 thoughts on “Say It! Look@: A Virtual Youth Commons for Sri Lanka

  1. I watched parts of the first show last night – it clashed directly with Knight Rider on another channel, and the Digital Native in my house opted for that. So my viewing of your show was only during KN breaks…

    From what I saw, good attempt, but it can get better.

    Shamindra Kulamannage did good anchoring. Indi and Dushyanthini were good interviewees — spoke in simple, practical terms. But the crusty academics weighed the show down! And the narration was far too technical for a general audience.

    It all depends on the audience you are trying to reach. If you are happy staying within the geeky circles, the current level is ok. But if you want to reach out to more people outside geek circles, you really got to ease up — and leave the academics behind!

    And think of another time slot, too…

  2. Thanks very much Nalaka. Yes, I agree plenty of space to improve in the next program and make it more youth centred.

    You can watch a repeat next Saturday 8 May at 2 pm.

    Welcome you comments to improve the program.

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