Cross-ethnic collaboration in Sri Lankan E-learning - problems and possibilities for telecentres in Rural Regions
Sri Lanka has a tradition of being a multi-ethnic nation and in the post war Sri Lanka there is still a big social and economical gap between different population groups. English has been suggested as the official common language for Singalese, Tamils, Muslims and other Sri Lankan citizens. But at telecentres in rural areas the challenge today is more about how to provide content in local languages. The main research question in this article is to analyse and discuss which factors are important in the management of a telecentre in a poor non urban region with a multicultural and multilingual population. This article is based on observations, group discussions and interviews with different stakeholders at the Haldemulla telecentre and some other neighbour telecentres between 2008 and 2011. Findings show that the cross-ethnical collaboration between the Sinhalese owner, the Tamil manager and the telecentre visitors works well and is not the crucial problem. At the Haldemmulla Nenasala telecentre the prime problems are more about the current lack of Internet access and how to keep the best employees when the salaries are far below the standard income for staff in the urban ICT industry. However the Nenasala telecentre in Haldemmulla has found a model that seems to be sustainable and with or without Internet access they have their regular visitors and provide appreciated services to the local community. This telecentre has since its inauguration been one of the best performing in the island-wide Sri Lankan Nenasala network. But the rate off regular visitors has decreased when we compare with the situation at our first visit in 2008. Since teachers as well as teaching sessions have improved we find the lack of Internet access to be the factor that has had an impact on the number of monthly visitors. Internet is today an important source for information in poor rural areas as well as in richer enge for a multicultural telecentre is how to provide high quality digital content in the various local languages.
Keywords: ICT4D, Telecentres, Nenasala, Tamil, Singalese, Ethnicity, Sri Lanka