QUALCOMM, Dialog Telekom and USAID opened a Last Mile Initiative (LMI) Center in Wennappuwa, a small fishing town in North Western Province, Sri Lanka.
The center, known as Easy Seva, is one of 15 that will be launched in the country with support from QUALCOMM, Dialog Telekom, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Development Bank (NDB) and Synergy Strategies Group (SSG), which, through a bulk purchase package of equipment, software, content and services, have created a new, market-driven approach to establish rural community-based centers.
The goal of the Easy Seva centers is to develop entrepreneurs in the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector in Sri Lanka by deploying 3G mobile broadband Internet service at the village level and enabling them to offer access to affordable ICT-enabled services and content. The centers are enabled with 3G mobile broadband connectivity based on Dialog’s HSDPA network. They will employ an innovative franchise approach, which will aim to create a profitable and sustainable business model for extending ICT services and connectivity to rural consumers.
The Easy Seva centers also will help rural residents to acquire employment skills through online training, explore new job opportunities, receive micro-loans and other banking services, as well as to call relatives and friends overseas at low rates.
The centers use a private sector model to facilitate financial sustainability with an innovative, highly-standardized package of equipment, services, training and market support for the franchisees called the “Easy Seva Franchise in a Box.” By standardizing these offerings, the franchise model will reduce barriers to entry while simultaneously reducing operating costs for the franchisees.
The Last Mile Initiative in Sri Lanka was initiated by the USAID and is being implemented by SSG and Infoshare. It is supported by a number of leading high-profile international and local partners. QUALCOMM, through its Wireless Reach initiative, will be responsible for providing funds to upgrade 3G HSDPA base stations and for the purchase of equipment for the centers. QUALCOMM also will provide technical support for technology analysis, as well as assist in obtaining equipment pricing from vendor partners. Local access to the centers is provided via Dialog Telekom’s 3G Network, featuring data speeds in excess of 1.4 Mbps based on the HSDPA technology. In addition to the provision of Last Mile access, HSDPA terminals and end-user equipment, Dialog Telekom will also provide Internet backbone infrastructure and access, a SIM card-based electronic payment mechanism co-developed with the National Development Bank, Voice Over IP (VOIP)-based low-cost communications, distance education facilities and help desk facilities for the provision of operational and technical support.