Rural Knowledge Centers of Sri Lanka

CDMA Telecom Livelihood Scheme

Objective: Empower Hill Country handicapped families by setting up a small scale self-sustaining digital voice communications network to enable group communications among the disabled and employ the handicapped as self-employed telecom entrepreneurs serving their isolated communities by providing them (or their families in cases of severe disability) with CDMA digital wireless phones.

Prema of Hill Country Disability Group, Koslanda

Location: Initially in Haldummulla Division of Badulla District

Rationale: Handicapped people living in hill areas suffer two-fold deprivation: both from social-geographical isolation and from lack of livelihood opportunities. CDMA fixed wireless phones are inexpensive and work well in isolated rural communities that lack fixed line connections. Families of the handicapped, provided with subsidized Lanka Bell CDMA phones, can serve remote communities as the local telecom facility, generating a modest income meeting the cost of their own calls so they can break their isolation through a self-sustaining phone network transforming widely scattered handicapped families into a 21st Century ICT-linked and empowered self-help society.

Description: Handicapped youths can become young entrepreneurs operating a small public telecom service out of their homes using affordable CDMA phones. Family members may also be trained so responsibilities may be shared. Isolated hill communities (like tea estates) that have no fixed line phone service will have convenient telecom service at inexpensive fixed line rates. Project rapidly deploys a self sustaining phone network for the handicapped who can easily contact one another, promoting group communications among the disabled, lifting the veil of isolation to give the handicapped members broader mental horizons, and promoting a sense of full citizenship in their community and in the world.

Members' social status can change overnight from being information deprived community liabilities to being self employed telecom proprietors serving isolated communities by providing affordable telecom facilities. The phones also support text messaging, conference calls, Internet access at 230 kbps, and other digital features.

Donors: To be identified. Project is available for sponsorship.

April 2006: first formulation of project concept presented to ICTA
May 2007: Director, National Secretariat for Persons with Disabilities, pledges NSPD support.
August 2008: Submit updated proposal to Kiwanis International, Lanka Bell Pvt. Ltd. and other potential project sponsors.
September 2008-October 2008: Deploy first six phones to selected handicapped families in Badulla District; train them to use phone and keep accounts; help handicapped families to network with each other using phones for conference calls, etc.

Remarks: This project is simple, scalable, and involves only small inputs since the CDMA phones themselves are cheap. Ironically, it is also so novel and without precedent, and so small as a pilot project, that sourcing the start up funds has been problematic. We hope to rectify this very soon.