Establishment of Nenasalas

e-Sri Lanka Initiative

The e-Sri Lanka Initiative initiated by the Government of Sri Lanka aims to provide access to “diverse and unrestricted sources of information and means of communication” to all the citizens.

The Government of Sri Lanka in recognizing the great potentials that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can play in:

  • Strengthening the democratic processes in the country,
  • The advancement of the peace process,
  • Improving the quality of life of the people, and
  • Enhancing the social and economic development

ICTA’s 1000 Nenasala (Knowledge Centre) Project

The Nenasala Project is one of the projects implemented under the e-Sri Lanka Initiative. Formally known as the “Vishva Gnana Kendra Project (Nenasala)”, ICTA has incorporated it under the “Nenasala” label to introduce several models of the telecentres or knowledge centres to be established in all parts of Sri-Lanka to spread ICT services to the rural and semi-urban population.

The Project will aim to meet the infrastructure requirements in order to address the information and communication needs of rural areas in all parts of the country through the establishment of Nenasalas, and the provision of ICT based services.

As the diffusion and the use of ICTs in rural areas is limited, it is recognized that the most effective and efficient way to provide access to ICTs for rural areas will be through the establishment of Nenasalas. The main objectives of a Nenasala is to assist communities in:

  • Poverty reduction
  • Social and economic development, and
  • Peace building.

It is important to note that all the services and support to be provided by the Nenasalas are done in such a way as to aim / guarantee long-term sustainability. The lessons learned from the evaluation of the initial Nenasalas will be used in the establishment of the Nenasala Network across the country using the following models.

ICTA will have 3 different types of Nenasalas or Knowledge Centres depending on the complexity and the type of services that will be offered. namely,

Running under the banner of “Vishwa Denuma Gamata” or “global knowledge to the village”, the key objective of this programme is to establish multi-service community information centres which provide access to internet, e-mail, telephones, fax, photocopy, computer training classes and other ICT services as well act as a hub of local, national and global information resources to provide an catalytic effect for the rural communities in poverty reduction, social and economic development and peace building while aiming at providing these services in a long-term, sustainable manner. Section 3(Phase one) of this report onwards explains the complete selection process of the locations and the owners. In the first phase, 100 centres will be created in Grama Niladhari Divisions in the South and North East regions with little or no access to Information Communication Technology by the end of 2005. Another 100 Centres will be implemented by 2007 in other parts of Sri-Lanka.

e-library will be a smaller version of the Rural Knowledge Centres but will follow a community model where some services are provided free with a few paid services to maintain the sustainability of the centre. These centres will have telephones and computers with high speed internet to access national, international and local information. Computer based training (CBT) media is available to use off-line in Sinhala, Tamil and English as well as a large e-library of books and periodicals for the use of students of all ages. These centres are in the process of being established in the centre of village, mainly in places of worship, public libraries and community centers. IT trained clergy will also be used as instructors. 800 of these Nenasala:e-libararies will be opened within the next 2-3 years.

A DeL centre will have distance and e-learning services inclusive of all infrastructure facilities such as video conferencing room, multi-media computer laboratory and a playback room. The overall objective of the DeL Centre project is to provide new information sharing and learning opportunities to a large spectrum of users in the country, through the establishment of an interactive, multi-channel network linking to existing domestic e-learning networks, and global networks for distance and e-learning, such as the Global Development Learning Network. DeL centres will aim at raising the skill levels of a broad spectrum of the population in key urban areas outside the Colombo area. ICTA is currently in the process of implementing 4 DeL centres inclusive of Jaffna University and South Eastern University, Oluvil campus.

As a special project, ICTA has undertaken to provide ICT facilities for tsunami victims by establishing small computer kiosks or Nenasalas in welfare camps where people who have been displaced due to the tsunami. This programme will provide much needed information on health, education, and other relevant content in local languages and create a database of information on residents. All services to the camp residents are provided free of charge.

“Tsunami Voices” database will contain information on camp residents, their livelihood, what they lost and what they need to re-start their lives and also medical information on special ailments, treatments, etc. This database will be of immense help to the government during their relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction phase and to donor agencies and well wishers who are looking to provide assistance to these camps. This database could also serve as a single entry point to interested parties who are currently collecting information thus avoiding the creation of multiple databases and inflated figures.

Though the Tsunami Camp Nenasalas, ICTA wishes to create awareness amongst the people about ICT, its benefits and how it can make a difference; to give hope to those who have lost hope. It will provide vocational training to those who may need to look for alternative employment. The Project is to have a 6-month lifespan, but closings will be flexible based upon camp longevity. A special feature of this initiative is that it will tap into human resources available within the camps themselves. It hopes to find the personnel to run the centers from amongst the youth in the camps, tapping into the potential and genius of our rural communities. These young people will be trained by volunteers of Volunteer-Sri Lanka. If these centers are a success, ICTA will consider converting them into permanent Nenasala: e-library centres following the same criteria. Centres have been opened in 20 camps in the affected regions.

The rest of this report will deal with all the activities and the implementation of the Nenasala: Rural Knowledge Centre (Entreprenual or Commerical model)

 Areas covered by the Nenasala Project

Two regions were covered during Phase One: a) the Deep South, and b) the North & East.

The District covered under the Deep South Region include:

Galle (only 4 District Secretariat Divisions – DSU out of a total of 18)
Matara (all 16 DSUs)
Hambantota (all 11 DSUs)
Monoragala (7 DSUs out of a total of 11 DSUs)
Ratnapura (10 DSUs out of a total of 17 DSUs)
Badulla (5 DSUs out of a total of 15 DSUs)

The Districts covered under the North & East Region include:

Jaffna (all DSU)
Kilinochchi (all DSU)
Vavuniya (all DSU)
Mullaitivu (all DSU)
Polonnaruwa (3 DSUs out of a total of 7 DSUs)
Anuradhapura (12 DSUs out of a total of 20 DSUs)
Trincomalee (all DSU)

The areas covered during the Phase One is shown in Figure 1

Figure 1. Nenasala Project – Phase One - Deep South and North & East Region

Main activities related to the Nenasala Project

The main activities that will be implemented under the Nenasala Project include the following:

According to the Census and Statistics Department, there are 319 District Secretariat Divisions (DSUs) in Sri Lanka, which are divided into 14,009 Gramasevaka Niladari (GNs) and 38,259 villages. As the objective of the first phase of the Nenasala Project is to establish 100 Nenasalas in the Deep South and North & East Region, the first activity is to select a number of locations where Nenasala could potentially be established.


The objectives of this activity are:

  • Identify the selection criteria to be used for the location selection
  • Collect the necessary data and information
  • Select potential locations for the establishment of the Nenasalas
Implementation arrangements

In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives, the following arrangements were made:

  • Selection criteria
    Due to time constrains and the resources available it was decided that the unit of analysis for the selection process would be the GN.
    Four key criteria were identified and used for the selection process. These criteria were:
    • Population
    • Presence of a market
    • Presence of electricity
    • Presence of a school
    In order to a GN to be considered as a potential location for the establishment of a Nenasalas it had to have:
    • A population base between 2,000 and 5,000 people
    • A fixed market with at least 15 wholesale vendors within a 5 km radius,
    • Reliable energy, and
    • A Type 2 school with at least 300 students
  • Data collection
    In order to collect the necessary data within the pre-established time frame and budget, two research teams were deployed (one in the Deep South Region and one in the North & East Region).
  • Selection of potential locations
    The data collected by the research teams, were processed and analyzed. In order to achieve the maximum geographical coverage a number of digital and hard copy maps were used.

As the result of the data collection, process, and analysis a list of 90 potential locations was prepared. Out of this number, 50 locations were in the Deep South Region, and 40 locations were in the North & East Region. As the research team covering the North & East could not collect data for two Districts (Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu) at the time when the research was conducted, it was decided to leave ten un-assigned locations for this area.

There are a number of cyber cafes and communication shops across the country and the majority of them are situated mainly in urban and semi-urban areas.


The objectives of the survey were to:

  • Understand who are the users of these centres,
  • Identify the services being presently offered
  • Understand the limitations, constrains and issues that the telecentres are presently facing, and
  • Understand the patterns of demand and supply for the telecommunication services offered by these centres.
Implementation arrangements
  • Areas covered by the survey
    In order to collect information from the same areas where Nenasalas were be established, it was agreed that the survey be conducted in the same Districts that were covered by the Project area.
  • Instruments used to collect information
    Two different instruments were prepared to be used during the survey. One was a questionnaire administered by the researchers with a randomly selected sample of the users, and the second one was a structure interview guide that was used to collect information from owners and managers of the centres visited.

Based on the data collected, a number of reports were prepared. These reports provided information on who are the users of the centres (including age, gender, and income level), the type of services used the most, the type and number of equipment present at these centres, the types of Internet connectivity that the centres have, and the barriers and challenges that the centres face.

As there is no previous experience in Sri Lanka about the presence of telecentres in the rural areas, and at the same time as the project is going to financially support the establishment of the telecentres, it was decided to identify a number of viable telecentre models.


The main objectives of this activity were to:

  • Identify a number of viable telecentre models that will “fit” the realities of rural Sri Lanka,
  • Guide the ICTA in the amount of financial support to be provided to each type of Nenasala, and
  • Guide the ICTA in relation to the number and type of equipment necessary for providing the minimum required services to be provided by the Nenasalas.
Implementation arrangements

The financial and other data collected through the communication shops / cyber cafes survey were used to prepare a number of viable models.


Based on the information collected, a list including the number and types of equipment to be provided to the Nenasala was prepared, and at the same time a financial model including costs and revenues was prepared.

While people in rural Sri Lanka have experience in conducting and managing different types of businesses, in order to increase their business capabilities, and to improve the changes for a successful implementation and long term sustainability of the Nenasalas, the Nenasalas will need managerial, logistical and technical support.


The main objectives of this activity were to:

  • Identify the number of Support Institutions necessary for the implementation of the Nenasala project, and
  • Select the Support Institutions
Implementation arrangements
  • Invitation for proposals
    ICTA requested proposals from organisations that wish to establish themselves as Nenasala SIs. Newspapers were utilized as the main media channel for this purpose. A mandatory criterion for a Full Service Nenasala SI was to submit a sub-proposal on how to set-up a pilot Nenasala.
  • Identification of the evaluation criteria
    Before the evaluation of the received proposals was done, an evaluation framework was prepared, and the number of the Support Institutions to be selected was decided.

As the result of the evaluation process, eight Support Institutions were selected representing both the private sector and the civil society.


The main objectives for this activity were to decide on the type and number of the modules to be prepared and to prepare a number of modules to be used for the training of the facilitators and the Nenasala operators on a number of topics.

Implementation arrangements

A number of experts were hired by ICTA to prepare the different modules.


As the result of this activity, eight modules and eight reference manual were prepared.

As part of their support to the Nenasalas, the Support Institutions will have to provide a number of facilitators, whom once trained will be the trainers for the Nenasala operators, and at the same time start an awareness campaign in the areas where Nenasala will be established.

  • Identify the number of facilitators needed for the implementation of the project,
  • Identify the requirements for the facilitators
  • In cooperation with Support Institutions select the facilitators
Implementation arrangements
  • Number of facilitators
    In order to complete the planned activities within the time frame of the Nenasala project, it was decided that a total of 16 facilitators to be selected, and trained (two facilitators for each of the eight Support Institutions)
  • Identification of requirements
    Based on the job description of the facilitators, a list of requirements was prepared including level of education and language skills.
  • Selection of facilitators
    The requirements list was provided to the eight selected Support Institutions and they were asked to identify and select the facilitators.

A total of 16 facilitators were identified and selected by the Support Institutions.


The main objectives of the training was to:

  • Provide the facilitators a good understanding of the e-Sri Lanka Initiative and the Nenasala Project, and
  • Update and upgrade the facilitators’ knowledge in a number of selected topics.
Implementation arrangements
  • Location and duration of training
    The training was organized and conducted at the premises of ICTA and SLIDA during a two-week period.
  • Instructors
    The same people that prepared the training modules served as instructors during the whole training session.
  • Training effectiveness
    In order to measure the effectiveness of the training session, and in order to improve the following training sessions, a self-assessment tool was used prior and after the completion of each module.

Based on the comments made by the facilitators and the results from the self-assessment, the facilitators were confident on their level of knowledge.

The individuals or organizations that would like to prepare proposals for becoming Nenasala owners and operators will have to prepare a business plan as part of their proposal. In order to help the potential proponents with the necessary information for the preparation of the business plan, a demand analysis / needs assessment was decided to be conducted.


The main objectives of the demand analysis / needs assessment were to:

  • Better understand the information and communication needs of the people living in the communities where Nenasala will be established,
  • Better understand the usage patters of existing ICT tools,
  • Better understand who are the present users of existing ICT tools,
  • Better understand the types of ICT based services needed by the people living in the areas where Nenasalas will be established, and
  • Estimate the willingness and ability to pay for the needed ICT based services.
Implementation arrangements
  • Unit of analysis and sample size
    In consultation with Nenasala Working Group members, it was decided that the unit of analysis for this activity be the household, and that all the members of the randomly selected households who are 12 years old and above will be interviewed.

    On Region basis, the level of confidence was decided to be 95%, and the margin of error was set at 5%.
  • Instruments used and research teams
    Two research teams were deployed to administer the survey and collect the necessary information. One team was deployed in the North & East Region, and the other one in the Deep South Region. A questionnaire was prepared and pre-tested. The questionnaire was translated into both local languages.

Based on the information collected during the administration of the survey, two reports (one for each Region) were prepared. Both report will be translated into local languages, and then published on the ICTA’s web site and made available to the public.

A series of meetings in each of the selected location will be organized and conducted by the facilitators.


The main objectives of the village awareness meetings are:

  • Provide more information to the communities about the e-Sri Lanka and the Nenasala Project,
  • Make communities aware of the possibilities that the Nenasala project offers,
  • Start the awareness creation campaign,
  • Provide communities a change to provide input and suggestion regarding the Nenasalas, and
  • Explain the continuation of the Nenasala project
Implementation arrangements
  • Organizing and conducting meetings
    A team composed of two facilitators, will organize and conduct the village awareness meetings. The facilitators will cooperate with the local government in each of the communities.
  • Materials to be used during the meetings
    The materials to be used during the village meetings were prepared by the Capacity Building Team in cooperation with a number of NGOs and with input from the Support Institutions and the facilitators. Materials were prepared both in English and in local languages.
Expected outputs

Residents in the villages where the meetings will be organized will have a better understanding of what Nenasala Project can offer to them, how the rest of the project will be implemented, and be more informed about the use of ICT based services for the betterment of their lives.


The main objectives of the voucher scheme are to:

  • Stimulate the use of ICT based services by the residents of the communities where the Nenasalas will be established,
  • Provide access to ICT based services at affordable cost to vulnerable groups, and
  • Provide an additional source of revenues for the Nenasalas.
Implementation arrangements
  • Pilot scheme
    As this is the first time that such a scheme will be implanted in Sri Lanka, a pilot voucher scheme will be designed and tested in a selected number of locations. The lessons learned from this pilot scheme will be used to improve the final voucher scheme that will be used in all the Nenasalas that are supported by the Project.
Expected outputs

It is expected that through the implementation of the voucher scheme the residents in the communities where the Nenasala are established, will progressively become more aware and knowledgeable in the use of ICT based services for the development of their communities and the betterment of their lives.

As mentioned before, part of the support that the Nenasala Project will provide in the establishment of the Nenasalas is the provision of the IT related equipment.


The main objectives of this activity are to:

  • Use the advantage of the economies of scale, and
  • Complying with procurement procedures set up by the Government of Sri Lanka and the donors.
Implementation arrangements
  • Number and type of equipment
    Based on the preparatory work done previously (through the communication shops / cyber café survey, the demand analysis, etc), the number and the type of the equipment to be provided to each Nenasala is established.
  • Technical specifications
    The ICTA will prepare the technical specifications for each of the equipment to be provided to the Nenasalas.
  • Procurement
    In order to be transparent and open, the procurement process will follow the procurement requirements set up by the Government of Sri Lanka and the donors.
Expected outputs

It is expected that the equipment necessary for the establishment of the Nenasala will be provided in a timely manner to all the Nenasalas according to the implementation plan.

After the village awareness meetings will be organized and conducted, a series of other meetings will be held in. While everyone will be invited to attend to these meetings, the main audience will be the potential proponents for the Nenasala ownership and operation.


The main objectives of the pre-bidders meetings are to:

  • Inform potential proponents about the opportunities that exist under the e-Sri Lanka
  • Initiative for establishing, operating, and owning a Visva Gnana Kendra,
  • Explain how to prepare and submit a proposal,
  • Explain the selection process, and
  • Explain the roles and responsibilities of all the parties involved.
Implementation arrangements
  • Organizing and conducting the pre-bidders meetings
    ICTA will organize and conduct the pre-bidders meetings in close collaboration with the local government officials in the areas where the Nenasala will be established. The ICTA will use a combination of newspaper, radio, and TV advertisements in order to inform all the interested parties about the location and time of the pre-bidders meetings.
  • Materials to be used
    During the pre-bidders meetings, the components of the proposal for the ownership of a Nenasala will be discussed together with the roles and responsibilities of all the parties involved in the implementation of the Nenasala Project. Draft contracts that will be signed with the winners will be discussed and distributed as part of the materials to be provided to all the people intending to prepare a proposal.
Expected outputs

It is expected that the pre-bidders meetings will help the potential proponents to better understand the requirements for the preparation of a proposal, the selection process, and what is expected from the winners once they have been selected.


The main objective of this activity is to select the best proposals that will be prepared by different proponents.

Implementation arrangements
  • Evaluation committee
    An evaluation committee will be created for the evaluation of the proposals that will be received for the establishment of the Nenasalas. The number of people sitting in the evaluation committee and their affiliation will be decided based on the rules and regulations set up by the Government of Sri Lanka, the donor, and in consultation with key stakeholders.
  • Transparency and openness
    In order to be transparent and open, the evaluation criteria will be the ones that were described to the potential proponents during the pre-bidders meetings.
Expected outputs

It is expected that the best proposals will be selected within the timeframe set for the completion of this activity.


The objectives of the training will include:

  • Update and upgrade the knowledge level of the Nenasala operators, and
  • Provide a forum for Nenasala operators to meet and start creating a network of Nenasala operators.
Implementation arrangements

The training of the Nenasala operators will be conducted by the facilitators using the resources made available by the Capacity Building Team.

Expected outputs

The operators of the Nenasalas will have a better understanding on a number of topics that are related to the successful operation of a Nenasala.


The main objectives of the Monitoring and Evaluation include the following:

  • Assess the effectiveness, efficiency, and impacts of the program / project, ensure accountability,
  • Measure progress, and ensure that the implementation of the project / program is going according to plans, and
  • Enhance learning and capacity building for all the parties involved in the implementation process.
Implementation arrangements

In order to maintain the objectivity of the monitoring and evaluation process, the ICTA will outsource this activity to an independent organization.

Expected outputs

It is expected that through the feedback that will be received from the M&E Unit, the necessary financial and management decisions will be taken for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Nenasalas and the achievement of the objectives of the Nenasala Project.

While this activity might be seen as the last one in relation to the first phase of the Nenasala Project, it is the first step in making the Nenasalas an engine for the development of the communities where they are established and for improving the lives of the people, while aiming for long term sustainability.

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