Rural Knowledge Centers of Sri Lanka

Mission 2007 confers National Virtual Academy fellowship on 25 international telecentre workers

Amsetji Tata National Virtual Academy (NVA) Fellows 2007
Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy (NVA) fellows with the dignitaries at the Fifth Convocation at Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi

On 1st August 2007, 25 telecentre champions representing different countries, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan were conferred the fellowship of the Jamshetji Tata National Virtual Academy (NVA), along with 600 Indian grassroots leaders, by Prof. MS Swaminathan and Prof. Rajshekharan Pillai, the vice chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in the presence of a number of dignitaries. For most of the international NVA fellows, this was their first exposure to India and the telecentre program going on here. The experience and honour was overwhelming for them.

Before this, on 30th July, the international telecentre champions were given an orientation by Bala (K. Balasubramanian, MSSRF) to understand the concept of NVA fellowship so that they can correlate the objectives of this program to thier respective telecentre contexts. The orientation started in a very interesting way: each fellow was asked to interact with a fellow from another country for five minutes and then introduce him to all others. Here, the introduction went on to describe not only the organisation and work area of the fellow, but also his/her age (might have been embarassing for some!), marital status and children, with one of the bachelors from Philippines showing his interest in finding an Indian bride, preferably Sushmita Sen. This introduction was enough to break the ice and give momentum to the programs to follow. Then, Bala introduced the concept of fellowship. These are local champions, who, regardless of their educational status, have dared to do something different to empower themselves and the community around them.

The concept of fellowship was further substantiated through a short film on 'Eco-entrepreneurship and Development'. The focus of the film was on highlighting ordinary, even illiterate villagers having the will power to learn and improve their surroundings, working as change agents within their own community. Here, the 'insiders' were bringing about transformation in the village community, not 'outsiders'. It also depicted how powerful and effective can be the horizontal transfer of knowledge! Some of these local champions are so knowledgeable that local government bodies are engaging them to provide training to their officials. There were examples of 3rd- 4th standard pass women making bio pesticides in their 'thatched roof laboratories', something that scientists do in a controlled environment in their well equipped laboratories. The film was really inspiring. It taught the fellows that the villagers are not afraid of technology, but they are ready to adopt any technology if it can make any difference in their living conditions, not otherwise.

The film led to some interesting discussions and sharing of experience. One of the fellows, a Nenasala operator from Sri Lanka, informed that his telecentre is accepting Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) work from Delhi, India and their client is satisfied with their output! The participants also explored different ways to make the telecentres sustainable and BPO jobs were a welcome opportunity. They expressed the need to have a global online platform, some kind of a Global Telecentre Academy in line with the NVA, to share best practices, receive training in telecentre management and for simple networking with fellow telecentre operators from different developing and under developed countries.

The international fellows were also briefed about Microsoft's Unlimited Potential program and Intel's World Ahead (Intel Teach and Intel Learn) programs by their respective representatives. It gave them an opportunity to explore the possibility of introducing these programs in their own countries. In short, it was a great opportunity provided by and MSSRF and they thanked everybody wholeheartedly!