i4d Award 2007 – i4d – September 07, 2008

Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya
Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya
Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya

Nominated By:
Implementor

Implementer Name:EnterpriseTechnologyPvtLtd

State: Western

Address: 65 Braybrooke Place

Pin: 2

City: Colombo

State: Western

Country:SriLanka

Contact Detail: Rehana Wijesinghe

email: rehanaw@enterprisetl.com

Funded By: Information and Communication Agency of Sri Lanka Pan Asia R&D Grants Program

Short Description:
MAHAVILACHCHIYA WAS THE FIRST RURAL VILLAGE IN SRI LANKA TO RECEIVE A FREE WIRELESS MESH NETWORK, CONNECTING 28 HOMES AND 2 PUBLIC SCHOOLS REACHING A TOTAL OF 1000 STUDENTS. ENTERPRISE TECHNOLOGY WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR IMPLEMENTING THIS PROJECT AND PROVIDED TRAINING AND SUPPORT AS A VALUE ADDED SERVICE. THIS PROJECT USED A MODERN COMMUNICATION BACKBONE PROVIDING CONNECTIVITY TO ALL SEGMENTS OF THE RURAL COMMUNITY OF MAHAVILACHCHIYA. IT WAS SUPPORTED BY THE HORIZON LANKA INSTITUTE, A NON PROFIT ORGANIZATION SITUATED IN MAHAVILACHCHIYA THAT PROVIDES EDUCATION INCLUDING ENGLISH, SCIENCE, MATHEMATICS, COMPUTER SCIENCE AND GRAPHICS TO ABOUT 400 VILLAGE KIDS. THIS SCHOOL IS EXCEPTIONAL BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO RECEIVE AID FROM FOREIGN DONORS TO PROVIDE CHILDREN WITH COMPUTERS TO THEIR HOMES. THESE CHILDREN HAVE ZEAL TO LEARN ABOUT COMPUTERS AND HAVE DEVELOPED WEBSITES AFTER STUDYING GRAPHICS AND WEB DESIGN. THE NETWORK HAS BEEN RUNNING SUCCESSFULLY FOR OVER 9 MONTHS NOW AND THE INTEREST IN INTERNET AMONG THE STUDENTS HAVE INCREASED IMMENSELY AS THEY HAVE STARTED TO USE THE INTERNET FOR HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS AND TO COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER AND THEIR SCHOOL. THE CHILDREN WERE EXCITED BEYOND MEASURE AND USE THE INTERNET CONTINUOUSLY FOR THEIR HOMEWORK RESEARCH AND CHAT. THE STUDENT’S PARENTS HAVE STARTED TO SEE THE INTERNET AS A MEANS TO GET AHEAD AND HAVE STARTED TO ENCOURAGE THEIR CHILDREN TO STUDY IT. THE FARMING COMMUNITIES HAS SEEN THE BENEFIT OF CHECKING WEATHER REPORTS ONLINE AND ARE NOW ABLE TO SEARCH FOR MORE ADVANCED METHODS OF FARMING.

Short Bios:
JANESH PATHIRAJA – TEAM LEADER. JANESH RECEIVED HIS BATCHELOR OF SCIENCE DEGREE IN COMPUTER ENGINEERING FROM UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, CANADA. HE IS A CISCO CERTIFIED NETWORK ASSOCIATE (CCNA), AND SUN CERTIFIED SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATOR (SCSA). IN ADDITION TO HIS PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS HE HAS ACQUIRED KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE IN DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF ROUTING & SWITCHING NETWORKS, OPTICAL FIBER NETWORKS AND SUN ENTERPRISE SYSTEMS. VIRANGA JAYARATNE – NETWORK SYSTEMS ENGINEER. VIRANGA OBTAINED HIS BACHELORS’ DEGREE IN COMPUTER SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING FROM UNIVERSITY OF MORATUWA, SRI LANKA. VIRANGA HOLDS THE CISCO CERTIFIED NETWORK ASSOCIATE (CCNA) AND IS A CISCO QUALIFIED SPECIALIST IN WIRELESS NETWORKING (CWLSS). HE HAS KNOWLEDGE IN DESIGNING AND IMPLEMENTING INDOOR/OUTDOOR WIRELESS LANS IN IEEE 802.11A/B/G STANDARDS INCLUDING LARGE SCALE WLAN HOTSPOT DESIGNING AND IMPLEMENTING WIRELESS SECURITY FOR ANY ORGANIZATION.

Poject Purpose:
MAHAVILACHCHIYA IS A RURAL TOWN IN SRI LANKA THAT IS SURROUNDED BY THICK JUNGLE. COMMUNICATION WITHIN THE VILLAGE WAS LIMITED AS THERE WAS NO CELLULAR COVERAGE AND FEW TELEPHONE LINES. MAHAVILACHCHIYA IS EXCEPTIONAL AS IT ALREADY HAS A COMPUTER CENTER THAT HAS REACHED OVER 400 STUDENTS IN THE AREA AND ENABLED THEM TO BE IT KNOWLEDGEABLE. THE HORIZON LANKA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY AND CREATIVE ARTS IS A NON PROFIT ORGANISATION SITUATED IN MAHAVILACHCHIYA. THE FOUNDER OF THIS INSTITUTE HAS PROVIDED COMPUTERS TO 30 STUDENTS HOMES, HOWEVER NONE HAD INTERNET ACCESS. THIS PROJECT AIMED AT PROVIDING A FREE COMMUNITY MESH NETWORK TO CONNECT ALL 30 HOUSEHOLDS. THE FOLLOWING WERE THE OBJECTIVES: PROMOTING THE USE OF COMPUTERS IN SCHOOL AND IN TRAINING, FACILITATING THE SEARCH FOR EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES, COMMUNITY CHAT, DISSEMINATION OF HEALTH AND EDUCATIONALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION, SPREADING INFORMATION ON HOW TO FACE CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS.

Challenges You Faced:
ONE OF THE BIGGEST BARRIERS FACED WAS RECEIVING APPROVAL FOR FREQUENCY LICENCES FROM THE TELECOMMUNICATION AND REGULATORY COMMISSION OF SRI LANKA (TRC) AND IMPORT CLEARANCE FROM THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE. THIS TOOK MUCH LONGER THAN WE EXPECTED AND CAUSED A MAJOR DELAY IN THE START OF IMPLEMENTATION. CHANGES IN DESIGN AROSE AS SOME OF THE RECIPIENT HOUSEHOLDS HAD CHANGED LOCATION AND THE SCOPE OF THE PROJECT WAS ALTERED TO REACH HOMES OUTSIDE THE IDENTIFIED SUBNETS. IN ORDER TO ACCOMMODATE TO THIS CHANGE THE NEW DESIGN WOULD REQUIRE 7 NODES, 6 TOWERS AND EXPENSIVE ANTENNAS TO REACH THE FAR DISTANCES THROUGH THE JUNGLE TERRAIN. THE DESIGN OF THE NETWORK CHANGED TO REACH 28 STUDENTS HOMES OUTSIDE THE ORIGINAL COVERAGE AREA AND WE WERE ABLE TO CONNECT TWO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, INCREASING INTENDED CLIENTS TO OVER 1000.

The First Model e-Village in Sri Lanka Paves the Way for 24-Hour Connectivity in Other Rural Communities – Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme – November 2006

Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya
Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya
Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya

Sri Lanka’s first outdoor wireless computer network is now up and running. Surprisingly, it is not in Colombo. It is not even in any of the other key places. It was installed in Mahawilachchiya, a little known village, 40 km from the nearest town Anuradhapura, and surrounded three sides by the Wilpattu jungle.

A student in the rural areas of Sri Lanka has to pay an average of Rs. 150 for 30 minutes as Internet surfing charges mainly because service is scarce in these areas. This amount does not include transportation costs and the time spent to reach the Internet café. High capital and operating costs have limited Internet access in rural Sri Lanka.

In 2005, the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka, Horizon Lanka Foundation and Enterprise Technology (Pvt) Ltd was awarded a grant by the Pan Asia ICT R&D Grants Programme to develop a low-cost wireless broadband architecture for providing high-speed Internet access services in Mahavilachchiya, Sri Lanka.

On 4 November 2006, Mahavilachchiya, a little known village 40km from the nearest town of Anuradhapura and surrounded three sides by the Vilpattu jungle with no terrestrial or mobile phone networks, became the first village in Sri Lanka with 24-hour Internet access. Over 400 rural students also received ICT education as part of the project.

Mahavilachchiya now has more than 50 PCs and a sophisticated multimedia lab. The majority of the computers are located at the houses of the children attending the Horizon Lanka Academy. These PCs are now connected by using the “Mesh Wireless Technology”giving families direct Internet and email facilities.

Mesh networking comprises of a series of smart digital routers (Meshboxes) that are designed to carry high performance wireless Internet over a wide area using infrared or radio waves. Mesh networking is unique because instead of having a central server which determines how data is passed between computers, the mesh creates a network of equals, so individual computers find the best way to communicate with each other. All the computers are connected together to form a resilient network in such a way that the more devices there are on a network, the more routes there are through it. It can grow organically and will automatically organize itself. The ad hoc nature of the mesh makes it easy to start small and expand where necessary, without the complex reprogramming involved with adding to a traditional, top-down network. If one node were to fail, the network will automatically redirect data through an alternative route.

This unique project sends an important message to marginal communities all over the world. ICTA’s Programme Manager – eSociety Development Initiative, Chitranganie Mubarak commented, “Mahawilachchiya is an outstanding example of promoting inclusion through the use of ICTs. This latest project, which has given Internet access to poor rural families through a mesh network, will certainly be an impetus to other villages.”

At the launch of the e-Village, Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka and Chairman, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission commented that it is the government’s intention to launch similar projects in another 300 villages in remote areas of Sri Lanka.

In a related development on 16 November 2006 when Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse, President of Sri Lanka, delivered the annual budget speech in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, proposed to allocate USD 1 million in the year 2007 for the implementation of e-Villages replicating the Mahawilachchiya project. It is expected that international donors and private sector will make further contributions.

The ICT R&D Grants Programme is directed at encouraging original and innovative information and communications technology (ICT) solutions to development problems. Grants for suitable research and development (R&D) projects are awarded to Asia-Pacific-based organizations on a competitive basis.

It is a joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme’s Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme (UNDP-APDIP), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), of Canada, and the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC). The Programme is administered by the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) and is overseen by a Committee established by all Programme partners.

Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya
Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya

news-srilanka-evillage-2

Sri Lanka’s First e-Village Paves the Way for 24 Hour Internet Connectivity – i4D – November 27, 2006

Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya
Meshed up village of Mahawilachchiya

Sri Lanka’s first outdoor wireless computer network has been installed in a small village named, Mahawilachchiya, 40 km far from the nearest town Anuradhapura.

Mahawilachchiya became the first village in Sri Lanka with 24-hour Internet access. Over 400 rural students will also receive ICT education as part of the project. Now the village has more than 50 PCs and a sophisticated multimedia lab. Most of the computers are located at the houses of the children attending the Horizon Lanka Academy. These PCs are connected by using Mesh Wireless Technology and providing direct Internet and e-mail facilities to the families of the village. Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka and Chairman, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, Lalith Weeratunga, told that government is planning to launch similar projects in another 30 villages of Sri Lanka during the launching of e-Village project. Students in the rural areas of Sri Lanka have to pay INR 150 for 30 minutes Internet surfing in Colombo. According to ICTA’s Programme Manager, e-Society Development Initiative, Chitranganie Mubarak, Mahawilachchiya is giving the best example for the use of ICTs, which will provide Internet access to poor rural families through mesh networking technology. The e-Village project is joint initiative programme of the United Nations Development Programme’s Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme (UNDP-APDIP), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), of Canada, and the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC). The Programme is administered by the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) and is overseen by a Committee established by all Programme partners.

“e-Villages”: The future of development – Financial Times – Daily Mirror – November 09, 2006

daily-mirror-logoThe Mesh Network Project in Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura was launched recently at the Horizon Lanka Foundation.

In January 2005, Horizon Lanka Foundation and Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) received a grant from the Pan Asia R&D Grants Program for the deployment of a community mesh network for 30 homes in the village of Mahavilachchiya. Enterprise Technology (Pvt) Ltd (ETPL) was responsible for the implementation of the project.

Mesh networking consists of a series of smart digital devices called routers or ‘Meshboxes’, which use infrared or radio waves, to carry high speed wireless connection over a wide area. This type of networking is unique, and is currently used by local financial institutions such as banks to transfer data between their branches.

The Mahawilachchiya project signified the pilot project for ICTA’s e-Village concept. A small village in the North Central Province, with limited access to resources and few opportunities for its youth, benefited greatly through the introduction of ICT facilities. Through dedicated teachers, individuals and organizations working in partnership, the village youth were empowered with the knowledge and skills needed to access means for a better quality of life. As a result of these efforts the village secondary level students of the village are now being commissioned to design websites and currently earn more than their parents who are mostly farmers.

Establishing the Mahawilachchiya e-Village with its high density of computers marks a significant chapter in the ICT for development (ICT4D) field in the country. Over 400 rural students receive ICT education and it is the only rural Sri Lankan village with ICT connectivity 24 hours a day. This unique environment thus resounds an important message to marginal level communities all over the world. ICTA’s Programme Manager “eSociety Development Initiative, Chitranganie Mubarak commented, “Mahawilachchiya is an outstanding example of promoting inclusion through the use of ICTs. This latest project, which has given Internet access to poor rural families through a mesh network, will certainly be an impetus to other villages.”

Internet access is largely perceived as a way to reduce isolation, provide educational and economic opportunities, and ultimately improve the quality of life. Common challenges such as high capital and operating costs have limited rural access to ICTs to a handful of heavily subsidized and supported projects in Sri Lanka. This innovative integrated strategy, based on existing technology and rural social structures, addresses a variety of challenges and could ultimately aid large numbers of villagers to gain this vital access to information and knowledge.

Prof. V. K. Samaranayake, Chairman, ICTA said, “In keeping with His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s efforts to utilise technology to rapidly develop and empower rural communities, ICTA is keen on replicating this successful model in other villages across the country. Villages with limited resources and opportunities for their youth will be identified, and provided with ICT facilities for e-learning, e-commerce, and other services. ICTA will work in collaboration with partners to bring in a greater resource pool of expertise and services, to develop the village and allow for innovative social mobility amongst the members of the community. ICTA congratulates Horizon Lanka Foundation and its founder Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka for their continuous efforts in realizing the e-Sri Lanka vision.”

Mahawilachchiya Mesh Network Launched Today – The Island – November 03, 2006

A farming family using meh network from home
A farming family using meh network from home
A farming family using meh network from home

The Mesh Network Project in Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura will be launched today at the Horizon Lanka Foundation.

In January 2005, Horizon Lanka Foundation received a grant from the Pan Asia R&D Grants Program for the deployment of a community mesh network for 30 children’s homes in Mahawilachchiya. Enterprise Technology (Pvt) Ltd (ETPL) was responsible for the implementation of the project.

Mesh networking consists a series of smart digital devices called routers or ‘Meshboxes’, which use infrared or radio waves, to carry high speed wireless connection over a wide area. This type of networking is unique, and is currently being used by local financial institutions like banks to transfer data between branches.

The e-Village concept took off with a pilot project in Mahawilachchiya, a small village in the North Central Province. The village, with limited access to resources and few opportunities for its youth benefited greatly through the introduction of ICT. Through dedicated teachers, individuals and organizations, the village youth were empowered with the knowledge and skills needed to access the means for a better quality life.

An example of the impact the partners’ contribution and efforts have made on the village is how secondary level students are now commissioned to design websites and are currently earning more than their parents who are mostly farmers.

The Mahawilachchiya e-Village with its high density of computers is a significant chapter in ICT development in the country. Over 400 rural students receive ICT education and it is the only rural Sri Lankan village with 24 hours ICT connectivity. This is symbolic and a message for marginal level communities all over the world.

Internet access is largely perceived as a way to reduce isolation, provide educational and economic opportunities, and ultimately improve the quality of life. Unfortunately, high capital and operating costs have limited rural access to a handful of heavily subsidized and supported demonstration projects in Sri Lanka. This innovative integrated strategy, based on existing technology and rural social structures, addresses a variety of barriers and could ultimately help large numbers of villagers to become ICT literate.