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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lafarge mahaweli cement & Microsoft partners sarvodaya To improve ict skills amongst youth

Lafarge Mahaweli Cement+Microsoft Sri Lanka
Lafarge Mahaweli Cement+Microsoft Sri Lanka

Lafarge Mahaweli Cement+Microsoft Sri Lanka

Two premier companies operating in the country, Lafarge Mahaweli Cement and Microsoft Sri Lanka, joined hands with Sarvodaya, one of Sri Lanka’s foremost non-governmental organizations, to establish an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Centre in Gampaha.The Centre aims to improve ICT skills among youth in the Gampaha district,Sri Lanka.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with regard to the establishment of this Centre was signed at the Lafarge Head Office in Orugodawatte, between Anurag Kak, Managing Director of Lafarge Mahaweli Cement (Pvt) Ltd, Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka & Bangladesh and Dr. Vinya S. Ariyarathne, General Secretary of Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Sangamaya. Jamie Harper, President, Microsoft South East Asia New Markets who was on a visit to Sri Lanka also graced the event.

Elaborating on the reasons that prompted Lafarge Mahaweli Cement to launch the ICT Centre project, Anurag Kak said that ICT is a key area in terms of development. “We realized that there was still a lot of room for ICT education in Sri Lanka to penetrate into grassroots level. This project was launched with the aim of increasing opportunities for local youth to improve their ICT skills. To fulfill this task, we partnered with Microsoft and Sarvodaya, one of the foremost local nongovernmental organizations, which has a proven track record. Sarvodaya has successfully reached out to the grassroots level through its various endeavours and therefore will add great value to the ICT Centre project.” 

Dr. Ariyarathna explaining why Gampaha was chosen as the location for the project, said “Gampaha is a district where you can find both urban and rural areas. Being adjacent to Colombo –the commercial hub of the country, Gampaha has enormous potential as far as the country’s economy is concerned. Therefore, we believe, an area like Gampaha is ideal for a project of this nature. It will empower the youth in the area, enhance opportunities and show them the correct path.”

Sarvodaya-Fusion, the ICT education arm of Sarvodaya, would be handling the implementation process of the project. Isura Silva, Manager of Sarvodaya Fusion said that the enrollment process for this Centre will be carried out in a manner that would provide more opportunities for the less-privileged youth in the area. “They are the ones who need guidance and empowerment. We will adopt a unique mechanism to identify them and reach out to them. Our network in Gampaha will assist us in identifying less-privileged students in the area,” he added.

In addition, Sarvodaya-Fusion will provide necessary administrative guidance and instructions to the ICT centre for project operations at field level. It will also handle the smooth functioning of budgets and disburse project funds to respective ends as guided by the project plan.

Microsoft Sri Lanka will facilitate the program with their experience in carrying out a range of similar initiatives across the country that is aimed at bridging the digital divide. Microsoft will also contribute by providing the globally recognized Unlimited Potential curricular, which will be used for the IT training courses conducted at the Center. Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka & Bangladesh, said “It is important that technology is made accessible to rural youth, which will open new avenues for them. In all our partnerships we aim to make technology accessible to as many people as possible. This project works towards that goal and through this initiative, we can offer something of value to the youth of Gampaha district and help them improve their IT skills and leverage the knowledge gained for better career opportunities. In this instance we have been able to make a greater impact by partnering with an organization such as Lafarge who has the same commitment and passion as we do, to make a noteworthy difference in the lives of our people. And with our long standing relationship with Sarvodaya we are confident that all of us will be able to make this shared vision a reality.” Jamie Harper, President, Microsoft South East Asia New Markets also said that a Lafarge - Microsoft partnership was not an unfamiliar one since the Companies have joined hands on a number of CSR projects in other parts of the world.

The collaborators of the project are also of the view that this is another small step towards the government’s vision of making Sri Lanka an IT hub, which is crystallized in the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ manifesto. For that, IT facilities should be provided to the next generation - particularly to those who live in less privileged areas. This project will also be a ground breaker for Lafarge Mahaweli to go into similar partnerships in the future. 

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