In July 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colombo West Rotary Family launched “Digital Unite – Decreasing the Digital Divide” to enable academically-brilliant Advanced Level students from indigent families to access the Internet, thereby contributing to their academic and professional success.
In Phase 1, the project donated 13 mobile phones bundled with six months of Internet connectivity to highly promising students of 6 Colombo city schools: Ananda, Gothami, Hindu College, Hindu Ladies, Royal, and Zahira. Phase 2 will see the gifting of 13 more mobile phones, at the end of the ongoing Advanced Level examination. DS, Muslim Ladies, and Sirimavo will be included in Phase 2.
Commenting on the project, the President of the Rotary Club of Colombo West Rtn Brian Selvanayagam said, “Digital Unite aims to bridge the digital divide by putting digital devices in the hands of gifted and indigent children so that they can access world-class educational material to supplement their classroom learning. We are indeed grateful to Rtn. Sumi Moonesinghe of the Rotary Club of Colombo West who conceived this idea and funded this initiative.”
The Youth Service Advisor to the project Rtn Yukthi Gunasekera stated, “We hope this project will inspire other individuals and organisations to step forward and gift digital devices to promising secondary school students of Sri Lanka to connect to the Internet and better their lives. To this end, we even encourage others to use our project name ‘Digital Unite – Decreasing the Digital Divide’ to do identical projects that will benefit our youth.”
The project’s initiator and major donor Rtn Sumi Moonesinghe explained, “During the COVID-19 lockdown, I supported Colombo West Rotary Family’s West Aid 2.0 project, which gifted essential food items to 215 families across Sri Lanka. At that time, I realized that school children from indigent families would not be able to follow online classes since they don’t have access to the Internet. This is when I decided to do something to connect very bright secondary school students, from big government schools in Colombo city, to the Internet. Thus, Digital Unite was born. Since the Colombo West Rotary Family had done a commendable job with West Aid 2.0, I gave them the task of executing Digital Unite. I am pleased with the professional, committed, and responsible manner in which the West Aid 3.0 team is going about implementing this project. My fervent wish is that our private sector will do similar projects in greater scale to empower our highly talented youth.”
Rotaractor Samila Imbulana, who heads the Digital Unite project, commented, “We Rotaractors and Interactors of the Colombo West Rotary Family are thrilled to organise this project. We are making sure that the distribution of the mobile phones is done in an equitable manner, both in terms of gender and ethnic balance. To this end, we are happy that most of the secondary schools we approached have embraced and supported our project enthusiastically. Furthermore, from the very beginning of this project, our team was very conscious of and extremely concerned about the possible misuse of digital devices by our student beneficiaries. Therefore, we decided to gift the mobile phones and tablet computers to the mothers of the students. In addition, the mothers signed a written declaration to register the cellular connections under their own names (and not under the names of their offspring), and to supervise the usage of the devices by their children. In turn, the students had to declare that they will not misuse the devices, and use them only in the confines of their homes.”
Digital Unite is spearheaded by West Aid 3.0, a team that consists of the Rotary Club of Colombo West along with its eleven youth service clubs – namely, the Rotaract Clubs of Alumni of University of Moratuwa, ANC, Colombo West, NSBM, and University of Moratuwa – and the Interact Clubs of DS Senanayake College, St. Bridget’s Convent, Steiner College, Sujatha Vidyalaya, Visakha Vidyalaya, and Wycherely International School.
More about Digital Unite
Digital Unite was conceived and funded by Rtn Sumi Moonesinghe from the Rotary Club of Colombo West. The project is being carried out by the Rotary Club of Colombo West Youth Wing, under the West Aid 3.0 umbrella. Digital Unite will provide 26 bright and indigent students from big Colombo city schools with free mobile phones and tablet computers with Internet connectivity for 6 months. The purpose of this pilot project is to bridge the digital divide by giving access to online educational resources and opportunities to smart, underprivileged children to achieve their career, professional, and life goals.
More about Rotary Club of Colombo West
The Rotary Club of Colombo West (RCCW) is the largest club in Rotary District 3220, encompassing Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Chartered in 1961, RCCW has pioneered many important projects for the community, including provision of electricity and shelter, eye clinics and cataract operations, demining, computer and English literacy, heart surgery for children, and dialysis units for CKD patients. RCCW has, in its current membership, four past District Governors, while the late past District Governor Gamunu Gunathileke was a Charter Member of the club.
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