Tag Archives: Isura Silva

Filters needed now, says Isura Silva!

My friend Isura Silva, writes about topics similar to what you find here. One of his recent posts touches on the death of attention, as a result of our proximity to screens. You should read his post to get his slant on it.

The issues we face as parents and teachers is not just screen addiction, but device distraction. Attention spans are in a serious free-fall. I flippantly wrote about this in an article on ‘FOMO’ (for LMD magazine). But it’s a lot more serious than this.

Which brings me back to Isura. He was on a UNICEF panel on Tuesday, discussing child safety online. The panel discussed the study just released, on how adolescents in Sri Lanka use the Internet. To give you a snapshot of it, the press release states that:

“While digital access exposes children to a wealth of benefits and opportunities, it can also unlock a host of risks including the misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyberbullying …whilst children and adolescents are increasingly going online, they are doing so without adult oversight or supervision.”

Next week is Digital Learning Day across the world. Here at my school, I’m bringing in two speakers to address this dire need for digital literacy. Different cultures, different demographics, all feeling the same need.


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Coir brushes, smart phones – How a small rural community found a market

The human connection, and the grassroots involvement is a preamble to this story which was published this month in LMD Magazine.

A few months ago I interviewed a program manager at a major grass roots organization in Sri Lanka. Isura Silva’s story is fascinating. It’s about a pilot project involving smart phones in a very small village in Kurunegala, about 45 miles from Colombo.

The project, by Sarvodaya Fusion, put 21 Google Nexus phones in the hands of the entrepreneurs, because -despite a very high penetration of mobile phones in Sri Lanka –that village wanted education, and the ability to digitize the information they were generating.

The ‘information’ in this case was details about the coir brushes that they were making on very (very!) small scale. Tweaking the laws of demand and supply effects are not enough for a product to achieve scale. If no one knows you have an awesome product, no one wants to buy, and you could remain a small business forever.

Soon the producers were photographing their coir products and uploading it to a Facebook page, using the smart phones. Within a short time, a major marketing and distribution company, Hayleys Exports (which exports textiles, tea, construction material and coir products) had seen the product and began a conversation. They agreed to buy one million items a month.

Was it the power of a smart phone, or the power of conversations they enabled?

Smart phones are opening up a dialogue with those involved in much more than e-commerce.

In another town, Fusion holds blogging classes, and in another, they show young adults how to use a phone to teach themselves English.

Outside Sri Lanka this model is being tested by grassroots organizations using mobile technologies. UNESCO and Nokia held a Mobile Learning Week in Paris in 2011. Stanford and USAID has a program known as mobile 4 education 4 development.

While all this is going on, Silva is busy trying to find the next big thing for his organization,and how it could further mobilize the grassroots. He accidentally stumbled on Twitter, and has some ideas on that, but that’s a different story.

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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Social Media


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