Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Empowering the Lives of Migrant Workers through ICT

Posted by Seuwandi Yapa on July 31, 2009 at 7:47am
View Seuwandi Yapa's blog
1.6 million of Sri Lankan migrant workers serve in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. There are more than 300,000 are in Kuwait, over 75,000 are in Jordan, and 45,000 are in Bahrain as house-maids. A recent Central Bank report reveals that migrant workers have earned over US$ 2.91 billion during the year 2008. Therefore, Sri Lankan migrant worker population, which draws in 27.5% of the country’s much needed foreign exchange inflow, is known as the highest foreign earning sector in the country. Of these migrant workers, a vast majority of them are drawn from marginalized and underprivileged backgrounds. Their standard of living is typically characterized by poverty, low literacy levels and language barriers. Struggling to make their living and to support their families, with the constantly rising cost of living and inflation, amid political and economic instability, many Lankans have had to look for potential job prospects in the middle-east – mostly blue collar jobs.
(Source: Bureau of Foreign Employment)As the majority of the migrant worker population is computer illiterate, it is paramount that those with basic technological skills should be able to enhance their employability and access to better jobs, improve their communication and overall quality of life. Under such circumstances, Microsoft Sri Lanka together with Sri Lanka Anti Narcotics Association (SLANA) and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment had launched a project to train Migrant workers on the use and understanding of Computers and latest Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and enhancing their soft skills and entrepreneurship talents prior to their departure on employment. Five to six day IT training sessions were planned to enhance the lives of migrant workers through IT skills training and to impart basic IT skills in them so they can develop their competency levels via a multi pronged training process. This process includes IT skills development, provision of information and mentoring towards enhancing their employability and thus, economic security.
Through this IT training session, Migrant Workers (MW) are provided with the following benefits. To establish effective communication links between the MW overseas and their families in Sri Lanka. To impart computer & IT knowledge to both MW and family and take away the fright in them To have MW appreciate and understand Technology used in their work place and equipment used To develop entrepreneur skills in the MW and advocate wise investment of hard-earned monies To use the Returnee as a catalyst of economic development in their immediate communities/ villagesSupport envisage from NENASALA centersInformation & Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) joined hands with Microsoft Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Anti Narcotics Association (SLANA) and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) to facilitate this series of IT Training sessions for migrant workers and their families.With an idea to extend the services of this project, ICTA has opened Nenasalas as a low cost communication point for migrant workers and their families. The main objective of this is to provide migrant workers and their families’ easy usage facilities and access to Nenasalas. By this, they will be able to regularly practice their skills at a low cost, and be better able to communicate and keep in touch with their loved ones overseas. All Nenasala operators will be trained in the same curriculum being taught to the migrant workers and their families, and an identification card will be issued by SLANA from a list issued by the SLBFE as proof of ID to access the facilities at these Nenasalas.The Nenasala will provide services to Migrant workers and their family for the following benefits1)Avoid the person from going away from the village for services2)Can provide services at times most convenient to the users and even after working hours –(In major Towns where people only come for employment, all facilities will close after office hours)3)The user would establish the particular Nenasala as his/her point of contact for communicationlocally and internationally.4)The Nenasala could be the trusted & preferred service provider in the village for the migrant worker’sfamily in the village.5)On their return the migrant worker may establish small scale economic activities and could use theNenasala services for commerce.6)The Nenasala could built further training programs in computer and IT for the migrant worker and thefamily member who has just being introduced to computers and IT and looking for opportunities toexpand on the very basics they have learnt.7)The Nenasala could also provide agency services to the migrant worker for carrying out transactionswith local authorities, such as settlement of bills for water, electricity and rates.

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