Nanda Wanninayaka’s Presentation on “ICT and Automation for Rural Development.”

Nanda Wanninayaka’s Presentation on “ICT and Automation for Rural Development.”

Nanda Wanninayaka – Chairman of the Horizon Lanka Foundation

Following is the succinct transcription of the presentation on ICT & Automation for Rural Development made by me (Nanda Wanninayaka),  at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo on December 22, 2018 at the International Conference on Information and Automation for Sustainability (ICIAfS) – 2018.

Nanda Wanninayaka

 “Good evening everybody. I am not certain as to why Dr. Thrishantha Nanayakkara invited me to do a presentation at an Engineers Symposium as I am not an engineer but only an artist.

I usually do not do my presentations with Microsoft PowerPoint because
Edward Tufte said, “Power corrupts and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.” Therefore, let us watch this video made by volunteer Pakistani artists who visited the Horizon Lanka Foundation in 2015 as it is played in the background, with a reduced soundtrack while my speech goes on.

We started Horizon Academy in Mahawilachchiya 20 years ago and now, we have branched out to 5 villages in Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya and Jaffna districts providing English (and other languages), ICT (and other technologies) while entertaining extracurricular activities such as playschool, fine arts, and sports.

We utilize local and foreign volunteers’ contributions extensively in our teaching. Local university students, young professionals from the IT industry and other areas of interest teach the students free of charge during weekends and also, scores of foreign volunteers teach the students during weekdays. These are still largely untapped talent that has enormous potential to take education in Sri Lanka to the next level.

At Horizon Academies we offer “edutainment” rather than the boring teaching methods used in traditional classroom-based education offered at public schools and at private tuition institutes. There is no point in repeating the public-school syllabuses, textbooks and past examination papers targeting term tests and national level exams which are once again repeated at a faster pace at private tuition classes all over again. We do not even touch those at Horizon Academies. We don’t assign homework to the students. We teach in a natural environment outside classrooms. Kids play, walk around the village, go bathing/swimming in rivers and lakes, go shopping, watch movies, go on field trips & so forth with the teachers and they learn languages and technology while doing such entertaining and exciting activities. Horizon Academy’s tagline is “The Edutainment Academy of Sri Lanka.”

Thanks to these non-conventional methods, the sons and daughters of farmers, laborers, fishermen & traders ended up being software & network engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers and professionals in other fields. Now I am very happy to hear them speak better English than I do. They have built houses, purchased vehicles and have married early (unlike waiting till the mid-30s like me), they have become totally independent at a younger age.

We at Horizon Lanka, use a lot of modern technologies for teaching. We use the internet, emailing, Instant Messenger (IM) programs, smartphones for teaching in innovative ways. We covered Mahawilachchiya with a village-wide free unlimited Wi-Fi mesh network way back in 2006, 10 years before the present government introduced limited free Wi-Fi to some hotspots in cities in Sri Lanka.

Wi-Fi Mesh Network in Mahawilachchiya – English

Wi-Fi Mesh Network in Mahawilachchiya – Sinhala

We invited Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, the then Secretary to the President, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) since he helped getting the permission to deploy the network in Mahawilachchiya during the war time and in addition, he was a well-wisher of Horizon Lanka for a long time.

Lalith Weeratunga at Horizon Lanka Foundation, Mahawilachchiya

When he visited Mahawilachchiya to officially commission the free Wi-Fi network, we trained 3 girls & 3 boys who were 11-year-olds to do the presentation in English by utilizing laptops and slides. Mr. Weeratunga was pleasantly surprised and reported this to the then President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa about how effective & progressive Horizon Lanka Foundation was in education and technology in Mahawilachchiya. President Rajapaksa, in his capacity of the Finance Minister, included a proposal into the national budget of 2007 to allocate 100 million LKR to replicate Horizon Lanka model academies in each 300 + Divisional Secretariat Divisions in Sri Lanka. The budget was passed with a heavy majority but alas! Not a single cent came our way to Mahawilachchiya or elsewhere as a very obnoxious Sri Lankan IT professor exercised his despicable powers over the President and sabotaged the whole plan. This odious man died a few months later but did enough damage before exiting the planet.

We did not ask for the government’s help. But I know Mr. Weeratunga, in all honesty, & sincerity, desired to help and this was the reason he influenced the President. But what happened was a total tragedy for Horizon Lanka, when the government and media published this “100-million-LKR allocation” story all our regular donors came under the impression that Horizon Lanka was now well funded & taken care of, hence they diverted their help to other organizations and we were the ultimate losers.

When I was absolutely convinced that the “100-million-LKR” promise was false   (like many similar ones) and we had already lost our regular donors, I spoke to one of the officers at the Presidential Office and inquired whether I could publish a story on our website about the broken promise so that the rest of the world & our former donors would become aware of what exactly took place. But he stated something to the effect that if I did that, I would be considered as a “persona non grata” who discredits the government and will be dealt with. Well, we all know what this meant during those times.

The end result of all this being; Horizon Lanka Foundation’s funding dried up and all the good work was downgraded, eventually having to close for 3 years before we resumed it in 2014 with hardly any money in the bank account.

That, my dear friends, reminded me of one of the most famous quotes by the late American President Mr. Ronald Reagan. He said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Therefore friends, if you want to do anything for this country, do it before the government messes it up. 
Thank you very much for your attention.”

Ronald Reagan
Dr. Thrishantha Nanayakkara
A part of the audience at International Conference on Information and Automation for Sustainability (ICIAfS) – 2018

Pramodhya Gunarathna – Profile

Pramodhya Gunarathna – Profile

Pramodhya is just 14 but has already traveled to India to take part in a karate competition two years ago. Being a genius in martial arts did not affect her artistic talents. She is a good singer, dancer and an electronic organ player. She did not have professional teachers for any of these disciplines but the young all-rounder doesn’t take “no” as an answer. Whatever she ventures into, she does it to perfection.

Prabodha, a proud winner of many a karate medal

Pramodhya hails from Mahawilachchiya, a rural village in Anuradhapura where academic opportunities are less even though there are a few public schools. This is why she joined Horizon Academy in Mahawilachchiya run by the Horizon Lanka Foundation as she knew well her aesthetic and sporting talents would be recognized there.

Pramodhya trying a selfie

Pramodhya is the second daughter of a family of three children and both her parents are farmers. Father took a gamble in going to work in Iraq for some time to ensure that his family has a better opportunity to survive but what he got in turn was not enough with what he sacrificed, being away from the family in an extremely dangerous environment. Once he returned to the family, he had already lost his job as a Civil Security Force member and toiling with hostile land was the only option he and his wife had.

A dancer-cum-super model to be

But Pramodhya thinks otherwise. She believes that she could become a professional sportswoman while keeping her aesthetic talents as a hobby to enjoy and entertain others. So, she thinks studying in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, (formerly known as Kalinga) – the Sports Capital of India – will change her fate and that of her family. With the invitation already extended to her from Odisha, India, she is very keen to go there after her high school finals and become a sport star. She wants to learn the discipline academically in a university in Odisha so that she could be a coach one day once she retires from competitive sports. She dreams to start a sports academy for the young children who do not get the opportunities she is to get and groom them as professional sportsmen and women.

Pramodhya in action

Pramodhya is of the view that a lasting link between Kalinga, her ancestral patriarchy and Sri Lanka would mutually benefit as cultural, touristic, aesthetic and sporting arenas of the two states could be taken to a new level of solidarity at a time the Indo-Lanka relationships were strained due to political reasons beyond her control. She believes sports can do wonders and make great friends.

Prabodha Kalotuwawa – Profile

Prabodha Kalotuwawa

Sixteen-year-old Prabodha Kalotuwawa is from the rural village of Mahawilachchiya in Anuradhapura. Prabodha is the youngest daughter of parents who are farmers. Her parents are anxious for Prabodha to pursue an education at an innovative supplementary educational institute, Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya which provided education free of charge to the children in the village as the local public school did not provide what she craved for; an education in the English language, ICT, theatre arts – singing and dancing, which she loved and excelled in.

She joined the Horizon Academy, the educational arm of the Horizon Lanka Foundation at a tender age of 11, she excelled in dancing and singing even though the Horizon Academy is not a dedicated academy for theatre arts, but done as extra-curricular subjects.

Prabodha showed her prowess as an artist by choreographing dancing to a varied range of music, to the surprise of the adults, although she was not trained by a professional in dancing or theatre arts. It appears that her talents are innate and she has a natural affinity in any type of dancing, be it folk, classical, oriental, opera or subcontinental. She has this ability to create the steps according to the music and to the meaning of any type of songs from the local languages, subcontinental to western languages.

Prabodha wants to study in Arts Stream for the Advanced Level during the 2020-2022 academic years. She wants to study Sinhala, English and Hindi Languages and her pet subject, Dancing for the AL. She has been already given a chance to enter an Indian University to study dancing and music once she completes her Advanced Level.

Having seen Prabodha’s talents on YouTube and heard about her from us, a Sri Lankan professional living in the United States, Mr. Anura Hewagama sponsored Prabodha’s English course at the British Way English Academy in Anuradhapura with a donation of 23,500 LKR (130 USD | 118 EUR) last week as her full course fee.

Prabodha’s own choreographed dance for Madonna’s hit song “Frozen.”

Present-day Odisha (of Kalinga fame of Ashokan era), is rich in culture and tradition and has nurtured art in different forms, well depicted in its architecture, sculpture, dance, song, music and arts. Tracing back the cultural linkage of both Sri Lanka and Kalinga in the distant past, her dream is to learn dance, music, theatre and the culture of the ancient land. Prabodha’s dream is to become a professional singer, dancer, musician and an actress.

To help her reach her goals, Prabodha has to study the English language (a three-month crash course from January to March,) Hindi (a three-month crash course from December to February) and continue her artistic talents as well. Presently, she is sitting for the GCE Ordinary Level examination, a national level exam Sri Lankan students sit for before entering GCE Advanced Level

Prabodha has been invited to perform at an annual cultural event in Kalinga (present-day Odisha) in India, mid-year 2020. She is preparing for that now. In the future, Prabodha hopes to start a Theater Arts academy to teach young children who do not have access to professional aesthetic education. To realize this dream, having an all-round aesthetic education in Kalinga-Odisha State in India would be the best way she could pursue her dream and she is determined to achieve this.

Prabodha wishes to strengthen the aesthetic and cultural heritage between Kalinga and Sri Lanka and to rekindle & resurrect the 2500-year-old historical relationship between the two nations. Prabodha believes that the children and the youth can become the ambassadors of peace and friendship if guided properly between neighboring countries in the future.

You can see Prabodha performing a dance item with her friends in 2016 when she was just 13 below.

Contribute to Prabodha and Pramodhya’s Tour to Odisha, India to Perform at the Mystic Kalinga Music Festival

Contribute to Prabodha and Pramodhya’s Tour to Odisha, India to Perform at the Mystic Kalinga Music Festival

Nanda Wanninayaka, the Chairman of Horizon Lanka Foundation.

Prakash Chandra Nayak from Odisha, India became a friend of mine over a decade ago. Our friendship was strengthened once we discovered that Odisha (Ancient name Kalinga) and Sri Lanka have a historical link which runs back 2,500 years. 

Prabodha Kalotuwawa
Prabodha Kalotuwawa
Pramodhya Gunarathna

This friendship has resulted in Prakash granting benefits to the students of Horizon Lanka Foundation during the last couple of years.

  1. Prakash arranged a fully funded trip for a female student,
    Shanika Sudarshanage to make a presentation at an event held in New Delhi, India on November 30, 2014. Please read the teenage student Shanika’s tour report at
  • In 2017, another teenage girl, Tharushika Rathnayaka was invited to make a similar presentation in Cape Town, South Africa. Even though the trip was fully funded. Unfortunately, due to a problem of obtaining visa approval on time resulted in a last-minute cancellation of her tour.

Having seen our YouTube Channel for aesthetic expressions, Horizon Extravaganza, Prakash invited two of our best teenage girls, Prabodha Kalotuwawa and Pramodhya Gunarathna, who are extremely good at singing and dancing to grace the Mystic Kalinga Music Festival in Odisha, India to be held on January 5, 6, in 2019, where performers from each Indian State gather to perform. To get an invitation to such a big event itself is a privilege. Since the tour was arranged in a hurry, Prakash will not be able to get the organizers to cover the expenses for flight tickets this time, however, the rest of the expenses would be taken care of during the event.

Prabodha’s dance for Madonna’s song “Frozen.
Pramodhya’s dance for Shreya Ghoshal’s “Barso Re Megha Megha”

Prabodha and Pramodhya will be performing one Sri Lankan traditional dance, will sing one Odia language duet together and a Hindi dance at the event. They have already completed the training for these singing & dancing acts and will upload these video clips to this page in a few days. 

This is a humble request & appeal to everyone who follows activities of Horizon Lanka to contribute financially to the travel expenses, to make it possible for these two young girls to partake in this festival.  We have already received some donations from a few donors. Every single contribution however small will be much appreciated. Please contact me at on how to make a contribution. Once the event is over, I will send a detailed report on how your hard-earned money was spent.

Prakash has already made arrangements for both these girls to study at a university in Odisha, India once the two girls complete their high school (Advanced Level.) examinations.  Prabodha & Pramodhya are 15 & 14 years old respectively.  A private school in Anuradhapura has offered tuition-free education at the school for both girls beginning January 2019, for their ‘Advanced Level’ examinations in the English medium as part of preparing the two girls for an English language education at an Indian university. If any of you kindly wish to contact Prakash, just send me an email through and I will connect you with him.

Till that see their performances with other students of Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya at the “Rainbow of Cultures – Horizon Lanka Mega Concert – 2016” held in November, 2016. Prabodha was 13 and Pramodhya was 12 when this show was staged.

Prabodha choreographed all the dance items here herself, sometimes taking some steps from the original music videos or creating her own in most cases. Each dance item was videoed from three video cameras and we will edit this soon and have one edition from each item.

All the Western dance items below were co-choreographed by Probodha and Mr. Chandler Meek-Owens, the volunteer from the USA.

Nimanditha Disanayaka – Profile

Nimanditha Disanayaka – Profile

Sixteen-year-old Nimanditha Disanayaka is a young girl who grew up in the rural village of Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura.  She is the eldest child of a family of three girls, which means she has many responsibilities on her shoulders. Her parents are farmers and they try their best to provide the best education they can afford, but her chances of higher education will depend mainly on her ability to improve and perfect her English language skills. Nimanditha has set her sights on becoming a Graphic and Web Designer in the future. At present, she is sitting for the GCE Ordinary Level examination, a national level exam Sri Lankan students sit for before entering GCE Advanced Level.

Nimanditha when she was 13

Nimanditha was the first student to join Horizon Academy in Mahawilachchiya after it resumed its academic activities in July 2014 where she studied English language, ICT and enjoyed being part of the singing and dancing teams as well. Apart from this, she was good at sports too. She joined the Horizon Academy at the tender age of 11. Since the Horizon Academy in Mahawilachchiya closed its chapter in August 2018 (seven Horizon Academies are in operation in other districts), she missed her English and ICT education for the past 16 months. But she is determined to make it up by following a 2-month ‘crash course’ in English language studies in early January 2020 and then an ICT course thereafter.

Nimanditha wants to do Languages in Arts Stream for the Advanced Level for 2020-2022 academic years including English, Hindi, and Japanese languages. According to her, the main inspiration for her to study Japanese was the Japanese volunteer Mr. Yoshihiro Uemura who stayed at her home when she was a kid. She plans to live and work in Japan someday. Her love to learn Hindi came from the fun she had danced to Hindi songs. She also can sing in Hindi.

Having seen Nimanditha’s talents on YouTube and heard about her from us, a Sri Lankan professional living in Australia sponsored Nimanditha’s English course at the British Way English Academy in Anuradhapura with a donation of 25,000 LKR (138 USD | 125 EUR) today as her full course fee.

Nimanditha dancing with Chandler from the USA for the dance Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”

Nimanditha and the friends dancing to the song “Marina” by Rocco Granata

Nimanditha and friends dancing for the song “Gangnam Style” by PSY

Nimanditha and friends dancing for the song “Waka Waka” by Shakira

Nimanditha and Chandler from USA dancing for the song “Lambada” by Kaoma

Nimanditha, Chandler, and friends dancing for the song “Livin La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin 

Nimanditha and her friends dancing for the song “Surangana Wes Wala” by Clarence Wijewardena

Nimanditha and her friends dancing for the song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini” by Brian Hyland.

Nimanditha and her friends dancing for the song “Taal Se Taal Mila” from the Bollywood movie Taal.

Nimanditha and her friends are dancing for the song “Macarena” by Los Del Rio.

Nimanditha and her friends dancing for the song “Barso Re Megha Megha” from the Bollywood movie Guru.

Nimanditha and her friends dancing for the song “Dethata Walalu” by Neela Wickramasinghe.

Nimanditha and her friends dancing for the song “Mr. Boombastic” by Shaggy.

Nimanditha and her friends dancing for the song “Ran Pokunen” by Priyankara Perera.

Nimanditha and her friends dancing the Welcome Dance.