Buddhika Prasad Hettiarachchi
Villagers in Mahawilachchiya are very happy to receive Dialog Telekom’s mobile phone coverage to entire village from the night of December 18, 2006. Dialog is the first and only mobile network provider in Mahawilachchiya. Even bigger towns like Mihintale are yet to get Dialog coverage. Dialog provided coverage to Mahawilachchiya to appreciate what we are doing for community development through Horizon Lanka Foundation. The whole village thanks Dialog for covering the village.
Horizon Lanka Foundation was established in 1998. However, the village was suffering without proper communication facilities those days. We just used a mobile phone fixing it to an antenna on the roof of Horizon Lanka computer lab. But it was not enough for us to accomplish our communication needs. As a result, we missed many opportunities that could have come in our way. Lack of communication facilities is not just a problem for Horizon Lanka only. Since many of the villagers are farmers they wanted to maintain constant contact with outside markets. Similarly many other basic requirements are not sufficient or available in Mahawilachchiya. Health and transport can also be included in this group.
But communication stands above all others. Villagers had to travel few kilometers even in emergency to get a phone call. They also had to pay a high price for a call. The land line connection was just up to Pemaduwa town. Many villagers had to wait for several hours for an incoming call from somewhere. It was a frequent scene to see a villager or two in Mahawilachchiya tank bund to get a call or to receive a call on a specified time as it was the only location in the village to have some decent coverage. Tank bund was tall and signals from Anuradhapura town which is 40 km away were received to the tank bund. Telegrams are also going by snail mail up to Anuradhapura.
Mr. Mothilal De Silva, the General Manager of the Dialog Telekom, visited Horizon Lanka in 2002. It was a great occasion for us and it increased our hopes about a proper communication system. He promised to see the feasibility of covering Mahawilachchiya. It was found out that the dialog coverage is 35 km beyond Mahawilachchiya. So we had to wait longer.
Horizon Lanka staff used Dialog mobile phones for communication purposes when they were outside the village and had to pay high charges. As a result a big amount from the annual budget had to be allocated for communication. That cost was an unbearable for a growing Horizon Lanka. In 2003, Dialog Telecom lent a hand to us by providing us with 5 special low cost incoming free packages. This was of immense use to the staff of HLF and could cut down on the communication budget to a considerable extent.
Still no network service provider could cover Mahawilachchiya area. Then Dialog installed a repeater which collected signals from Anuradhapura and distributed within a 50 meter radius around Horizon internet tower. Many people could be seen around the Horizon Lanka premises using their mobile phones to call their friends, relatives and business partners. The repeater was of immense use not only to Horizon Lanka but also to many villagers.
Since December 18, the whole village enjoys the mobile coverage and now the farmers can communicate even from their rice fields to their households. This will make things easy for them. We hope the number of people using mobile phones will increase within next few months remarkable. We also hope that Dialog will enhance their assistance to the village by providing the villagers a special low cost package too.