|Iresha Dilhani from the remote village of Mahavillachchiya in North Central Sri Lanka is one of the beneficiaries of taking Internet into rural areas in Sri Lanka. She works in her parents mud and wattle house on the laptop she bought from money she earned working on line for business company.|
Communicate your right to shape the world.
Say what you want to say, look at what others are saying; learn, network, communicate and shape the world you are going to live in. This is the message going out to youth as the World Bank Colombo office launches its Say it! Look@ program on the 1st May on channel ETV at 8:00 to 8:30 P.M.
The program is a convergence of new social media and the established old media of television and newspapers. The rationale is to provide an interactive space on the Web, as well as through an introductory monthly TV documentary a virtual Youth Commons where Youth can express their opinions, join in discussions, interact and build networks.
The Specific Objectives are to:
• create awareness of social media
• Provide a dialogue space for youth to discuss among themselves and with professionals key issues that have an effect on their lives.
• Develop skills as “I reporters”
• Provide an opportunity to link with peers worldwide, network, and expand their horizons.
The Say it! Look@ blog is the pivotal link combining the old media – the once a month TV program to the new media blog where youth are invited to participate by writing blog pieces, and short responses via SMS etc. The best of the blog entries as well as a summary of activities will be featured as an article on the print edition of the blog aggregate Kottu  and the Sunday Leader  newspaper.
We live in an interconnected world where growth is exponential. Social media and the growth in telecommunication technologies are brining changes that we in developing countries need to explore and take advantage of. We are told that very soon the chip on your mobile phone will be more powerful than the one in your desktop computer now. Sri Lanka has already some ongoing initiatives to use social media for development like the e-Sri Lanka project. (See links below) However there is room for us to do more.
But what else can we use it for? Can we use it to improve English writing skills through blogs? Can the diaspora act as mentors to help students to improve their English skills by responding and correcting blog posts? Can people who are very concerned about poverty in developing countries make an individual contribution to make development more inclusive? Will communications between students along with developed and less developed strengthen the learning process?
Arjunan, a young medical student of Jaffna University told me last September about the dearth of text books for their studies. He however, as many of the youth are Facebook fans. Could he or his fellow undergraduate link up with peers to discuss online medical case studies or seek advice from the many Sri Lankan doctors working abroad? Will the expatriates be willing to share their knowledge and extend a hand to these young undergraduates?
In the early 2000’s when Sri Lanka tried to take the Internet to rural users we asked “Why only TV for the rural users, why not Internet?” The same argument we made then still holds true for Social Media.
• Provides access to vast information resources
• Evidence of interest exists – people are blogging, on Facebook, tweeting
• A means to communicate information to the outside world
• A means to build networks among like-minded individuals/groups.
I strongly believe that the power is with us as individuals to make life what we want it to be. This invitation is to you the youth, as well as those young at heart, and other interested organizations to participate, be guest bloggers, share your knowledge and use this space and help Sri Lanka leap frog into the future.
For more information, please see:
Iresha Dilhani’s Blog  -- The girl at the computer in the first photograph
- Sri Lanka 
- South Asia 
- Social Development 
- Science and Technology Development 
- Information and Communication Technologies 
- Education 
- Culture and Development 
- Communities and Human Settlements 
- SMS 
- Say It! Look @ 
- Post Conflict 
- mobile 
- Jaffna 
- internet 
- Doctors 
- Disapora