Rural Knowledge Centers of Sri Lanka

Connecting Villages through ICT

The Times of India, Monday 6 August 2007
by Manash Pratim Gohain/TNN

The Fourth Convention of the 'National Alliance for Mission 2007 (NAM '07): Every village a knowledge centre' saw ICT experts, academics, researchers, social activists and government officials, join hands to foster a knowledge revolution in rural India, led by M.S. Swaminathan, member of the Rajya Sabha, chairman of the 400-member strong NAM '07, and father of the Green Revolution.

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

The three-day event began with the Fifth Convocation of the Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy (NVA), and V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University, A.W. Khan, Assistant Director General for Communication and Information, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and Swaminathan, felicitated the fellows.

Under the theme 'Social inclusion in access to the benefits of digital technology', participants deliberated on issues such as convergence and synergy of ICT for financial inclusion, livelihood enhancement, education for all, and inclusive services for the poor, through a roadmap towards building a rural knowledge society by 2010. The role of public-private partnerships and gram panchayats in rural knowledge revolution was also discussed.

In his address, Khan quoted UNESCO visionaries as saying that "the importance of factual knowledge will decrease, and the ability to find one's way in complex systems and to judge, organize and creatively use relevant information, as well as the capability to learn, will become vital." He iterated, "Knowledge is the key to escape marginalization, and increasingly defines the line between wealth and poverty; capability and powerlessness; and human fulfillment and frustration."

The event also witnessed the launch of:

  • K4D, a voice-based service for grassroots communities
  • A national platform for extending knowledge connectivity to rural India
  • Grameen Gyaan Abhiyan (Rural Knowledge Movement)
  • Technology pavilion, with a demonstration of fisher friend mobile application

Mission 2007

Elaborating on Mission 2007, Swaminathan said:

"It was initiated by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in 1997, to use access to information as the key to holistic rural development. In 1998, the Information Village Research Project was established with financial support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, in three villages in Pondicherry. Both the MSSRF and volunteers from local communities learnt from the experience and helped expand the network to 12 villages."

"From Independence Day 2007, the Mission will grow into Grameen Gyaan Abhiyan, a national movement for knowledge empowerment of rural families."

"We hope that by 2010, this initiative will reach every village in the country. 'Last mile and last person connectivity' will be achieved through an integrated Internet-community radio or Internet-cell phone synergy. We have already trained fishermen to use cell phones for locating fish shoals, and determining wave heights at different distances from the shore."

The National Alliance for Mission 2007 now comprises 400 members drawn from Union/state governments, industry, social organisations, academic institutions, and international organisations.