Daily Archives: October 12, 2006

Mahinda invites UNP to join Cabinet

  • MoU likely to be signed on Oct. 23
  • UNP to support Budget and attend APC
  • President also invites other parties to join Government

Opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe raises a closed hand in a characteristic gesture as he makes a point to President Mahinda Rajapaksa who escorts him out after the successful conclusion of bi-partisan talks at Temple Trees yesterday. Pic by Sudath Silva

By Yohan Perera

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday formally invited the main opposition UNP to join his Cabinet, while the two parties decided to enter into a landmark Memorandum of Understanding soon.

The MoU, reflecting the agreement reached on the six points on which discussions took place between the two parties, is likely to be signed on October 23, informed sources said.

“President Rajapaksa invited the UNP to join the Cabinet of Ministers to effectively carry out the agreed programme of work,” the President’s office said in a statement yesterday.

“The invitation had been extended when delegations of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by President Rajapaksa and the UNP led by its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe met at the President’s Office yesterday to pursue a national consensus. The signing of the MoU is to be expedited,” it said.

President Rajapaksa emphasized the importance of each party safeguarding its individuality while working together on a common programme. The President also said there was an opportunity for other political parties to join hands with the Government to help overcome the challenges faced by the country and for the greater welfare of the people, the statement said.

Both leaders thanked the delegates of the two parties for the successful conclusion of the negotiations. The SLFP delegation at yesterday’s meeting comprised Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, House Leader Nimal Siripala de Silva and Minister Susil Premajayantha.

The UNP delegation included Mr. Wickremesinghe, Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya, party chairman Rukman Senanayake, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Milinda Moragoda, John Amaratunga, Ravi Karunanayake and former Chairman Malik Samarawickrema.

UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya who led the committee-level talks with the SLFP team told the Daily Mirror that personally he was extremely happy with the spirit of co-operation between the two parties.

“Such a co-operation is what the nation has been dreaming of for many decades. I am confident that if both parties sincerely work together the resultant consensual politics can help improve governance, development and quality of life of the people,” he said.

Meanwhile President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday also assured that they would not accept individual UNP crossovers to Government in the future because the two parties had already reached consensus.

The President made this assurance in response to a point raised by UNP MP John Amaratunga during talks with the UNP delegation led by its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday.

“There is no use my accepting such crossovers if you are supporting me as a party,” he told the UNP delegation.

Apart from the talksbetween the two delegations, a separate meeting was held between President Rajapaksa and Opposition Leader Wickremesinghe too, the president’s office said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Wickremesinghe said his party would support the upcoming Budget and appoint two members to the Consultative Committee of the All Party Conference following fruitful discussions he had with President Rajapaksa yesterday.

Mr. Wickremesinghe told journalists that an implementation committee would also be set up to ensure proper execution of the common programme agreed to by the two parties .

Mr. Wickremesinghe said though the President had offered cabinet port folios to the UNP, a decision would be made only after consulting the party Working Committee and the Parliamentary Group next week.

“Both parties will focus mainly on the national issue given the urgency to resolve it ” he said.

He said the agreements had been reached on areas like the ethnic issue, nation building, economy, good governance, electoral reforms, social development and the joint mechanism.

Referring to good governance he said both parties had agreed to reactivate the independent Commissions provided for by the 17th amendment.

“TheUNP is a party which works for the betterment of the county and we will ensure that our exercise would bring results,” Mr. Wickresmeinghe assured.

The delegations from the parties also met last morning for further discussions on the MOU.

via… Daily Mirror

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Education Ministry, Microsoft partners to launch Teacher PC

A special initiative exclusively for teachers to improve ICT literacy

The Ministry of Education and Microsoft this week announced an initiative calculated to transform the lives of teachers across Sri Lanka, with the introduction of its new ‘Teacher PC’ – a breakthrough in boosting ICT knowledge among teachers.

The ‘Teacher PC’ is an offer that is exclusively available to teachers, giving them an opportunity to own their very own personal computer at a subsidised price along with three year’s service warranty. The initiative which is a joint effort between Microsoft, and the Ministry of Education (MoE), will essentially benefit teachers with the availability of installment schemes for purchases; provided by the ministry and original software; provided by Microsoft.

The initiative will bring together several hardware partners, to ensure that there is sufficient geographic coverage and availability of the PC, thus ensuring that teachers do not have to travel far to purchase a computer. The pay-as-you-go model enabled by the Ministry of Education to all teachers employed by schools falling within the Ministry’s purview, will make PCs more accessible, by reducing the initial cost and enabling teachers to pay for computers through installments as they use them. This milestone initiative will equip thousands of new users with the power of low-cost, fully-featured PCs through a tailored financing model that fits their lives and budgets.
The offer encompasses several models of personal computers and laptops which will be made available to teachers at subsidized rates through appointed PC vendors – PC House (Pvt) Ltd. and E-W Information Systems Ltd. (E-Wis). Each PC will include Microsoft Office Standard (Faculty and Student Edition) as well as Windows XP Starter Edition or Windows XP Home Edition depending on the PC model.

The programme also offers the first batch of 1,250 teachers who purchase the PC a valuable gift worth Rs. 3,500. Significantly, each PC will be customized for Teachers with learning material such as "Integrating ICT into Teaching and Learning". The licensed software made available with the ‘Teacher PC’ will ensure that teachers are exposed to original software – and do not need to resort to the unethical use of unlicensed, sub-standard software. Genuine Microsoft Windows and Office software which have been installed in the ‘Teacher PC’ will ensure safety and hassle-free running. Through the provision of bespoke software for teachers, Microsoft aims to help local educators use technology to improve teaching and learning.

The Ministry of Education and Microsoft have also made a joint commitment to provide each teacher who purchases a PC with ICDL training worth Rs 15,000. The training will enable teachers to learn the possibilities offered by ICT in a digital world – and how ICT can be used to create a more vibrant and effective learning environment.

Speaking on the initiative, Education Minister Susil Premajayantha said “The ‘Teacher PC’ Programme is launched island-wide today to coincide with World Teachers Day, combining the efforts of the Ministry of Education and Microsoft Sri Lanka. My heartfelt thanks go out to all who made this programme possible. Our statistics indicate that computer literacy in Sri Lanka is at 10%, while the use of personal computers in households remains at 4%. However, our investments in the field of education aims to increase computer literacy in the island to 50% by the year 2010. I firmly believe that the ‘Teacher PC Programme’, launched today, with the firm backing of Microsoft, will be instrumental in taking our students towards this vision. It is the firm responsibility of our teachers to empower themselves technologically, so that they may show the correct path to Sri Lankan students, who are poised to take on the techno-centric world of tomorrow. Through this initiative we will guide our students to overcome tomorrow’s challenges using the power of technology.”

ICT can only be woven into the classroom if Sri Lankan teachers are comfortable and familiar in the use of computers and thus, equipping teachers with a PC is critical in the country’s ICT drive. The ‘Teacher PC’ makes affordably owning a PC a reality for primary and secondary school teachers. The ‘Teacher PC’ project is aimed at enabling 25% of the teacher community (approximately 48,000 Teachers) to own a PC within the next three years.

Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Microsoft’s Country Manager in Sri Lanka said "The ‘Teacher PC’ is an extension of Microsoft’s commitment to working with education communities all around the world, to help them address the education challenges of the 21st century.

In order to achieve a dramatic change in ICT adoption levels in our country, including initiatives for rapid IT penetration into rural areas, we cannot look at small-scale conventional projects.

The government and the private-sector should join hands, and commit resources to develop innovative and ambitious projects, that will leap-frog the country into the forefront of the digital economies in the region. We hope that the ‘Teacher PC’ will be a solution that provides a much needed resource to educators, who wish to transform and modernise their teaching, making it more relevant to the digital world we live in. Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture in ICT literacy – we cannot afford to be complacent and get left behind in an era where the competitiveness of countries is determined by their technological awareness and acumen. We hope that the ‘Teacher PC’ will prove a sustainable foundation for significant gains in ICT, and we are very optimistic about the results of this joint effort, to promote PC ownership amongst teachers and introduce a new group of people to the power of technology.”

Microsoft and the MoE’s ‘Teacher PC’ initiative, which extends the company’s existing initiatives in Sri Lanka, integrates the efforts of both parties to enhance lives by driving progress in technology accessibility, connectivity and education.

The ‘Teacher PC’ is one of several initiatives Microsoft supports to propel teachers to new vistas in ICT learning – helping them acquire the familiarity and expertise necessary to use ICT in the classroom as a tool of teaching. -Financial Times

Samsung gets deal to network Govt

The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka [ICTA] signed a contract with Samsung Networks Inc. to implement and manage the Lanka Government Network [LGN] project, for which funding has been provided by the Government of Korea. Present at the contract signing ceremony were Mr. Dae Hee Kim, Vice President – Samsung Networks Inc. and other Samsung officials; Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President, Professor V.K. Samaranayake, Chairman, ICTA, ICTA Board members and other ICTA officials.

The LGN is a strategic project of the Re-Engineering Government program of the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka which, functions under the Presidential Secretariat.

The LGN would equip and digitally connect a large number of District and Divisional Secretariats,Ministries and key Government Departments to each other to ensure an interchange of information as well as to provide ICT based citizen services.

The network will be a highly available, secure and reliable backbone that connects all the organizations (initially 325 locations) of the Government of Sri Lanka. The organizations will be equipped with Internet, Email and IP based government-to-government voice services. The project will also address the basic hardware and Local Area Network (LAN) needs of the connected government organizations including providing Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity to the LGN Hub. Additionally, a help desk, desk-side support and training will be supplied.

The objectives of the LGN project are to facilitate secure communication networks among government institutes, including overseas representative offices and to provide centralized control and management of the network, thus reducing administration and support at agency sites. ICTA’s Re-engineering Government program will implement a number of enabling projects which will provide the fundamental requirements necessary for successfully implementing e-Services. These projects would interconnect the government, fulfill minimum ICT requirements of the government, provide a supporting application platform to deploy e-Services, build the ICT capacity of public officers, fulfill policy, standards and security requirements of the government and ensure the web presence of the government to provide information and services.

In this respect, the Lanka Government Network will form the backbone infrastructure for the Government of Sri Lanka, being the enabler to fulfill the ICT requirements to link up all government agencies for seamless interaction and efficient services to citizens, thus creating a “Connected Government”. -Financial Times

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