Meta launches Instagram Parent’s Guide in Sri Lanka

Meta, in partnership with the the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), National Youth Services Council (NYSC), Sarvodaya Fusion, Hithawathi, and Child Protection Force, has brought Instagram Parents’ Guide to Sri Lanka to provide a better understanding of the features that keep teenagers and youth safe and help them have positive experiences on the platform.
To learn how to keep adolescents safe and help them have a positive experience on Instagram, download the Instagram Parents’ Guide for Sri Lankan parents, available in Sinhala here:<Click to view the guide>

Meta and Sarvodaya-Fusion launches ‘We Think Digital’ with ‘IT Yahamaga’ for the hearing-impaired

‘We Think Digital’ is Meta’s global digital literacy program that aims to develop digital skills to create a positive and safe culture online. In 2020, the program was launched in Sri Lanka by Meta in partnership with Sarvodaya-Fusion’s ‘IT Yahamaga’ initiative, which is supported by the Ministry of Education, and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA). This collaboration helped educate students, youth, and adults with the necessary skills to become responsible digital citizens. 

In 2021, a new program was introduced with the goal of educating school and university students, psycho-social counsellors, youth club members, and women across the country on the effective and ethical use of digital tools while being cautious and conscious of their online safety and teaching them to be confident digital citizens. 

The new pilot is predominantly aimed at increasing inclusivity in the society by focussing on children and youth with hearing impairment and hearing-loss. It will be carried out as a national-level program with the partnership of the Non-formal and Special Needs Unit of the Ministry of Education, ICTA, Meta, and the Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf (SLCFD).

Meta Public Policy Manager for Connectivity and Access Policy Tahani Iqbal said, “In today’s world, it’s crucial to know how to navigate the digital space and make it more inclusive. Through a program like ‘We Think Digital’, we are providing necessary skills and awareness about online behaviour and how to become better digital citizens. It’s truly gratifying to see this program take on a life of its own and help connect people with disabilities to new opportunities.”

‘We Think Digital’ with ‘IT Yahamaga’ is designed to break social and physical barriers and ensure that communities with disabilities are made aware of how technology can be used to improve their quality of life and gain more opportunities while ensuring a safe digital environment. The program content is curated to suit two target audiences; schoolchildren aged 14-18 years and youth aged above 18 years. These programs will be carried out in-person, with sign language interpretation, including visually appealing content and slide decks to maintain interest and engagement.

Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement President Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne commented on the initiative saying, “It is our firm belief at Sarvodaya that technology is the way of the future, not only in creating opportunities for people but also to increase inclusivity and bridge inequality and connect people. It is with a great sense of pride that we introduce the We Think Digital program alongside our IT Yahamaga initiative for people with hearing-impairment, with the goal of not only creating a safe environment online, but also providing a platform for those children and youth who are challenged due to physical ailments, to significantly improve their quality of life.” 

In Sri Lanka, there are approximately 25 actively operating schools for hearing-impaired students, and the students from said schools will be reached out through the partnership of the Non-formal and Special Needs Unit of the Ministry of Education. Those who are above the age of 18 will be reached out through the Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf. 

Sarvodaya-Fusion has a strong belief that technology can be used to bridge the gap between equality and inclusivity in society. It is for this reason that this pilot program aims to start off with this specific segment. The need to educate the vulnerable and often excluded communities on the safe and ethical use of the online world is of paramount importance. It is expected with the outcomes and learnings of this pilot, to reach out to many other disabled communities in the future. 

Sarvodaya-Fusion join hands with Google to launch “Be Internet Awesome” in Sri Lanka

Sarvodaya-Fusion, the ICT for Development arm of Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, is working with Google to bring the ‘Be Internet Awesome’ programme to Sri Lanka. Be Internet Awesome is Google’s free program designed to teach kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety in a fun and engaging format so they can explore the online world with confidence. It also includes resources for educators and families.

The programme is set to be carried out nationally, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA).

Ms. Maithree Malwattegoda, General Manager of Sarvodaya-Fusion said, “With learning moving online during the pandemic, the need for children, parents and teachers to have a better understanding of safe and ways to use the internet is greater than ever. This is why we are thrilled to be able to introduce this global programme to Sri Lankan children, with this collaboration with Google.”

‘Be Internet Awesome’ is an activity-based programme with 5-lessons on being Internet Smart, Internet Alert, Internet Strong, Internet Kind and Internet Brave. The programme will be conducted online and offline due to the uncertainties currently faced by the nation. A web game called ‘Interland’ has also been developed to test the children’s knowledge on the lessons provided in the programme.

Nick Bauer, Government Affairs and Public Policy Manager for Google, said, “At Google, we believe that technology can be a force for good – unlocking creativity, fostering expression, and imparting skills that help children and young people build their futures. But at the same time, we recognize that technology can also create risks. We are happy to partner with organisations like Sarvodaya-Fusion to help protect children while also enabling them to play, express themselves and learn online. We would also like to extend our appreciation to the Ministry of Education and ICTA for their collaboration.”

Now, with the introduction of ‘Be Internet Awesome’, Sarvodaya-Fusion can aim at one of its most important segments, the 7-to-14-year age group who has been introduced to the online world due to the pandemic. The need to educate these children on safe, ethical use of the online world is of paramount importance, and this collaboration and programme is dedicated to pass on that knowledge based on real world scenarios in a very child friendly manner.

Meta and Sarvodaya-Fusion’s IT Yahamaga Program launches a new phase of “We Think Digital” digital literacy training in Sri Lanka

Meta partners with Sarvodaya-Fusion’s “IT යහමග” Program, to launch a new phase of digital skills training program to equip Sri Lankans with the necessary tools to become more aware and responsible digital citizens. 

Continuing the partnership since 2018, Meta and Sarvodaya-Fusion, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) in Sri Lanka, launched We Think Digital in Sri Lanka in 2020, providing the resources to foster responsible digital citizens through program editions targeting schools, universities and families.

Meta and Sarvodaya-Fusion’s collaboration since 2018, enabled them to educate over 35,000 children and youth. This has helped Sri Lankans develop their skills on how to navigate the growing digital space responsibly. 

The Covid pandemic has created a new normal in the country and access and usage of the Internet has increased exponentially. This amplified access and usage brings with it wider scope of opportunities. However, with this comes a need for greater responsibility from its users when consuming these benefits. This collaboration during the new phase in 2021/2022, aims to provide the necessary awareness and guidance to school students, university students, psycho-social counsellors, youth club members, women and girls. The focus will be on strengthening resilience through capacity building; promoting critical thinking and fostering digital citizenship, to create a harmonious and a less harmful digital world.

In his keynote speech, Namal Rajapaksa, Minister of Youth and Sports and State Minister of Digital Technology and Entrepreneur Development said that more Sri Lankans are now seeing the advantages of digitalization. He added, “Meta and Sarvodaya-Fusion, along with their partnership with ICTA, has played a big role in this perception change and I believe we need more initiatives like this to come forward, analyze data, and develop new mechanisms in order for us to successfully implement and fulfill our vision for the nation.”

At the virtual launch, Maithree Malwattegoda – General Manager, Sarvodaya Fusion mentioned that technology can be used to bring equality and inclusivity in learning to the society. She discussed the need to strengthen resilience through capacity building and fostering digital citizenship with the aim of creating a more responsible digital world that has a positive impact on youth and their future.

The event was also graced by Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, President of Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya, and Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, Chairman,LIRNEasia/ Senior Advisor & Board Member, Sarvodaya-Fusion. There was a session where young people who had gone through the training shared their positive experience. 

Other speakers and panelists included Senura Abeywardena, Public Policy Manager, Sri Lanka & Maldives at Meta, Sameera Jayawardena – Director, Capacity Building, ICTA, Vasana Edirisuriya – Deputy Director of Education, ICT branch, Ministry of Education, Nethmini Medawela – Hashtag Generation and Gayani Hurulle, Research Manager,LIRNEasia, Nishshanka De Silva, Technology Advisor and Sanara De Silva, Student Activist,

The event was also attended by special invitees from the partner organizations and industry as well as school principals, teachers, school students and university students.

Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama, Policy Programs Manager, Sri Lanka & Maldives at Meta said, “Meta is committed to develop digital citizenship in Sri Lanka, and also is keen to support digital adoption among Sri Lankans. We will continue to work collaboratively with government and civil society stakeholders to reach more Sri Lankans,”

Sarvodaya-Fusion and HSBC collaborate to educate Sri Lankan women on Personal Financial Literacy

In a concerted attempt to empower Sri Lankan women Sarvodaya-Fusion in partnership with HSBC has launched Personal Financial Literacy Education Program for women starting June 2021.

“In its essence, financial literacy can be defined as the understanding of how money works and this includes generating, investing, spending, and saving money in ways that ensure a person’s financial stability – an essential life-skill that becomes even more significant in challenging times. This knowledge is the basic building block that enables women to become more independent, and lead more fulfilling, secure lives,” said Stuart Rogers, Interim CEO and Head of Wholesale Banking HSBC Sri Lanka and Maldives.

The ongoing crisis in the country, due to the pandemic has affected both working and non-working women. They are currently forced to manage in an extremely challenging environment with wage gaps and gender inequality. Through this programme, non-working women will be educated and made aware of how to manage their household expenses and look for more avenues to earn an extra income apart from the main income received by their spouse. Similarly, working women will learn how to make their way up the financial ladder, with smart investments and savings. Individuals can visit the Sarvodaya-Fusion Facebook Page for more information on registrations.

“We are excited to partner with a leading global financial entity such as HSBC to educate and enable women of Sri Lanka to take stronger control of their finances. We are convinced that these two key segments of the population should have access to not only financial services, but to recognize themselves as economic agents that can make a change in their families and society through their everyday choices,” said Rohan Pandithakorralage, Chairman, Board of Advisors, Sarvodaya-Fusion.

The engaging Zoom based webinars of one and half hours each cover the main aspects of wise spending, managing debts, earning an extra income, saving as a habit, and making smart investments. The sessions are delivered by utilizing appealing elements such as webinar polls, icebreakers, chats, Q & A sessions and online feedback gathering surveys to ensure maximum engagement and interaction.

“We have seen how financial health has significant ramifications in society, particularly during the pandemic. It’s important for us that we provide women across Sri Lanka with access to the right skills, attitude and tools required to manage their finances and make the most of their money. These carefully crafted webinars dispense the practical knowledge needed by women to manage their money with confidence and, grow their economies,” Rogers continued to state.

Sri Lanka’s adult literacy was 92% in 2018, but the country’s financial literacy rate measures at just 35%. Although this is still the highest out of South Asia, the high print literacy rates do not necessarily correlate to financial savviness. Still, the ability to read and write does provide the basis on which one can build, access and use financial services.

Therefore, it is critical to encourage both working women and non-working women to have a stronger grasp of their finances to benefit themselves, their families and society at large, as well as contribute towards reviving the country’s economy, even at an individual level.  Additionally, basic financial literacy among households can also lead to healthier family welfare. Consequently, improving financial literacy and financial capability among all community segments irrespective of age, sectors, and gender would lead to higher levels of economic wellbeing of the individual, their family and the country at large.

With this ethos, the Personal Financial Literacy initiative was launched by Sarvodaya-Fusion as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project under HSBC’s Future Skills charity program. Over the past few years, the programme has targeted low-wage workers, undergraduates and entrepreneurs. The initiative aims to provide different sectors in the community with the necessary awareness on handling their finances, ranging from personal financial management to managing business finance.

Sarvodaya-Fusion in collaboration with ICTA & Facebook Launches #StayHomeStory Competition. On 13th April 2020

Sarvodaya-Fusion with The Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and Facebook, launched today the #StayHomeStory competition on their Facebook and Instagram pages, with the aim of spurring all communities to be creative and productive regardless of their ages during this lockdown period. Social Media users can enter this competition through the hashtag #StayHomeStory by sharing your story of staying at home in a creative manner.  Individuals or family units can select a medium such as paintings, short videos, cartoons, photographs, and animations, and they can post their entries on their own timeline using Facebook and Instagram platforms with any hashtag #stayhomestory/#ගෙදරකතා /#வீட்டில்தங்கும்கதை on or before 15 May 2020.   

All entrants to the competition will be rewarded with a data pack. Entries will be grouped into Art, Video and Photography categories, and gifts will be awarded to the final winners of the best contents from these groups.

“Through this campaign we are hoping that the creative process will spread positivity, reduce people’s stress levels and lead them to be more productive,” said Ms. Maithree Malwattegoda, General Manager, Sarvodaya-Fusion.  It will also give an opportunity for people to engage and express their solutions and activities that they have adopted at home, to overcome difficulties faced by them.”

Sri Lanka, as well as the world is currently undergoing an unprecedented crisis battling to control the deadly virus Covid19.  We have learned that here in our island, lifestyles of people including children have become disruptive and frustrating, as they are confined to their homes with little or no social contact.  “It is true that there is physical distancing under the ongoing curfew, but we hope the social interactions online will make them feel less isolated,” Malwattegoda said

The other aim of this campaign, is to reach the offline community and encourage them to become familiar with the use of digital means to communicate by sharing their stay-at-home experiences,” said Mr. Sameera Jayawardena, Head of Transformation, ICTA. “The ultimate goal being to create a more digitalized community of Sri Lankans, competent in using digital technologies to carry out their daily tasks.”

In addition, Sarvodaya-Fusion and ICTA intend to make use of these public engagement platforms to educate communities and address concerns people have on the epidemic.

කොරෝනා ආපදාව අතරේ අන්තර්ජාල හැකර්ලා ඔබවද ඉලක්ක කල හැක!

කොරෝනා ආපදාව අතරේ අන්තර්ජාල හැකර්ලා ඔබවද ඉලක්ක කල හැක! ඔබ මේ ගැන දැනුවත්ද?
Cyber crimes have not diminished amidst the rapid spread of the #Coronavirus. Be alert, do not open attachments or open links unless they are from reliable sources as they could be malware.
#නොමගනොයමු #SriLanka

Sarvodaya-Fusion’s ThinkFirst Campaign Wins Top Honor at the SLT Zero One Awards

Sarvodaya-Fusion’s #ThinkFirst Campaign, launched after the Easter Sunday Bomb attacks to minimize hate speech, misinformation and fake news, won the coveted first prize in the Best Digital Integrated Campaign of Sri Lanka Telecoms Zero one Awards, held in Colombo on 4 March 2020.

“The Campaign reached over 700,000 people within 12 weeks, educating and informing them of key issues through a series of trilingual picture posts and was able to spread positivity at a time when the country needed all ethnic groups to stand united,” said Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, President, Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement.

The creative visual content was new on Sarvodaya-Fusion’s Facebook page and was something novel to the online community too. Even at the start of the campaign user engagement increased from 3800 to 9500 users per day.

“We as an organization felt compelled to carry out this campaign to educate users and to stem the online hate speech and fake news,” said Ms. Maithree Malwattegoda, Campaign Manager, and General Manager at Sarvodaya Fusion. “The Team gave much thought to designing and wording the picture posts to have maximum impact.”

With the success of the first phase, the second phase of the campaign focused on educating users on how best to safeguard their own security and privacy, from varied risks that are rampant on social media platforms.

The attention in the third and final phase shifted to minimizing the hate posts circulating at the time of the Presidential elections. Here the imperative was to educate and empower youth voters and to alert online users on the circulation of misinformation and fake news. Sarvodaya-Fusion’s aim to spread positive messages and raise awareness was successful with Page views increasing by over 216% compared to the previous month. Further, post engagement rate remained high and reached nearly 200,000 youth, with the majority in the 18-34 age groups. Users viewed posts daily around 15,000 times. Some posts were popular and was viewed by nearly 50,000 online users.

“The evolving digital sphere presented a challenging opportunity for Sarvodaya-Fusion to carry out this campaign to educate our users at a critical time,” said Malwattegoda. “We are both honoured and humbled to receive this award and will continue to keep training our users to be digitally savvy.”

Currently, Sarvodaya-Fusion has an expanding engagement with Sri Lankan youth. Data gathered during the campaign reveal that majority of users are Sri Lankan Sinhala and Tamil speaking youth in the 18-34 age group.

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Telecentre Family project

Project year : 2005

Total no. of beneficiaries:
Objective: To expose rural communities to ICT through skill development and application of ICT to their development work

Telecentres act as a shared space, located in rural landscapes. Thus enables the rural community to interact with digital equipment, usually with the assistance of the trained staff. There are multiple models in terms of information being channelled from telecentres to the rural communities. Direct community interaction with telecentres is the most common form. Although such interaction is widely popular with the children and young people of the target populations, many different models have emerged to build the missing link: the interaction of rural adult communities. This project allowed to assess how an individual or a community travels through the journey of e-empowerment.
Telecentre Family project
Project Year : 2005
Objective : To expose rural communities to ICT through skill development and application of ICT to their development work
Telecentres act as a shared space, located in rural landscapes. Thus enables the rural community to interact with digital equipment, usually with the assistance of the trained staff. There are multiple models in terms of information being channelled from telecentres to the rural communities. Direct community interaction with telecentres is the most common form. Although such interaction is widely popular with the children and young people of the target populations, many different models have emerged to build the missing link: the interaction of rural adult communities. This project allowed to assess how an individual or a community travels through the journey of e-empowerment.

Sarvodaya-Fusion partners with Open University of Sri Lanka and NIBM to offer advanced ICT education to rural children

In line with its mission to offer valuable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) education opportunities to rural youth, Sarvodaya-Fusion recently partnered with the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) and National Institute of Business Management (NIBM) to facilitate advanced ICT learning opportunities to students across the island. The Letter of consent with NIBM and the Partnership Agreement with OUSL was signed and exchanged ceremoniously in Colombo with the patronage of the heads of the two institutes Prof. S. A. Ariadurai, Vice Chancellor of the Open University of Sri Lanka and Dr. D. M. A. Kulasooriya, Director General of National Institute of Business Management.

The Guest of Honour at the occasion was Professor Rohan Samarajiva, Chairman of LIRNEAsia and Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), while the keynote speaker of the evening was Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, President of the Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya. Among the other invitees were the academics and senior members of OUSL, NIBM, Industry and Ground partners.

Sarvodaya-Fusion partners with the Open University of Sri Lanka with the mutual interest in expanding the occupational skills of the youth through vocational and tertiary courses using Open Education Resources (OER) developed and made available under Commonwealth of Learning (CoL).

“Since inception we’ve been able to make momentous changes in the way the ICT education and digital literacy help rural children to develop skills necessary for the 21st century. In the year 2008, at a time when ICT literacy was relatively low in Sri Lanka, we introduced ‘Fusion Education’ as the Sarvodaya-Fusion education unit, mainly targeting marginalized youth and providing them basic computer education. Today we offer them advanced academic and vocational training opportunities to be gainfully employed and achieve sustainable development”, commented Ms. Maithree Malwattegoda, General Manager of Sarvodaya-Fusion, in her opening remarks.

The partnership with NIBM opens up a pathway to those students who have completed the Diploma in Computer Science offered by Fusion Education to pursue a range of Graduate programmes related to multiple fields in ICT, at a discounted rate.

Delivering the key note address Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, President – Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangmaya, said, “While urban children have begun to hone their digital skills in readiness to be part of the fourth industrial revolution, children in rural area are still lagging behind. This status quo is the result of lack of opportunities. Our new partnerships with these reputed educational institutes will pave the way for children across the nation to perfect their innate talent and pursue success in the ICT field.”

Having developed a well proven model for educating and training rural & Semi-urban student masses and establishing a sustainable Grassroots educator network, the organization strongly feels that these two strategic partnerships will pave the way to many youth to obtain industry recognized qualifications and certification which will lead to direct employment opportunities. It will further enable them to gain access to higher learning opportunities attached to these renowned educational bodies going up to graduate and post graduate programmes in varied disciplines as per one’s choice.

“Sarvodaya-Fusion is doing valuable work in helping the future generation of Sri Lanka to discover their innate talent and become digital leaders. Our country is blessed with talented youth. Sarvodaya-Fusion is involved in building bridges to help youth in rural areas to reach the global IT arena,” commented Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, Chairman of LIRNEAsia and ICTA.

With its undying efforts, Sarvodaya-Fusion will continue to venture into newer opportunities and partnerships to empower communities with supplementary knowledge, skills and resources on par with industry standards, which bring in economic and social uplift keeping in line with national development goals.