Wanni

Ashoka Fellow
Sri Lanka,
Fellow Since 2007
Horizon Lanka

Citation

This profile was prepared when Nandasiri Wanninayaka was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Students in rural Sri Lanka are at a competitive disadvantage in today’s economy for two reasons: They lack the training and English skills typically provided by urban schools, and the low levels of infrastructure throughout rural areas discourage business investment. Recognizing that the educational system in Sri Lanka is failing to keep pace with the requirements of the job market, Wanni has created a parallel system to better prepare rural children to face the competitive world. His model relies on innovative teaching methods that combine English with computer-skills training, and the simultaneous development of community-wide Internet connectivity.

English skills serve little purpose if jobs remain unavailable. Wanni thus supplements his teaching efforts with the development of a technological infrastructure designed to attract communication, training, and employment opportunities that would otherwise exist only in cities. He is turning his village into an “e-village,” equipping it with household computers and Internet access. Using a combination of soft loans, subsidies, and gifts, he has provided over fifty computers to families and public schools in the area. Of these, thirty are connected to the Internet via an affordable “mesh” network technology provided by a popular mobile phone company.

Thanks to these efforts, Wanni convinced a leading company to start a Business Process Operation (BPO) in the area, which will employ 1,000 youth in the coming years. His teaching methods have already spread to adjoining villages, and he hopes to negotiate similar business contracts in the future. Wanni is creating a powerful model that is attracting the attention of local communities, the national government, the national and international business community, and multi-lateral institutions.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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