Making IT play knight in shining armour


New Delhi : Can the computer enter the home and the street in a way that helps minimise violence against women? An initiative from Sri Lanka believes that information and communication technology (ICT) can do just that.

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The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) has awarded a grant to the Centre for Women and Development for a project to use technology to document violence against women in the north of the country via a database.

Through data collection, educating women on their legal rights and holding workshops on escaping violence, as well as a local language web portal to empower them by giving them a basic level of IT literacy, the project hopes to inch closer to its goal.

ICTA’s project officer for communications Nuzreth ‘Nuzzy’ Jalaldeen said in a statement made available here that the root causes of violence against women needs to be well-documented.

“By analysing such information, concrete steps can be taken, both legal and charitable, to reduce the occurrence of such violence and reduce its effects,” Jalaldeen said.

Just collecting data and reporting on it can actually reduce violence against women, the new initiative argues.

“The fact that these crimes are being recorded highlights both the seriousness of the offence and the low regard that those responsible are held in, both making battered women more likely to come forward and report such abuses and law enforcement more likely to treat such complaints with the sensitivity and seriousness they deserve,” Jalaldeen added.

The ICTA functions under the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo and is the single apex body involved in ICT policy and direction for the nation, being the implementing organisation of the e-Sri Lanka initiative.

The project is now under way despite challenges in the strife-torn island, and the final version of the database, PDA software and web portal, were launched Oct 2, 2007.

Saroja Sivachandran of the Centrd for Women and Development said the project was significant in both the north and east of Sri Lanka, as well as majority Tamil communities in the Central Province.

ICTA CEO Reshan Dewapura spoke about the agency’s e-society grants programme that supports similar ongoing projects.

Following the launch, five regional centres will be established that will hold workshops to make women aware of their rights and assistance available.

Reported data will be collected by the regional centre staff into a PDA (personal digital assistant – an electronic device which can include some of the functionality of a computer, a cell phone, a music player and a camera) and then synchronised into a central database.

This data will remain strictly anonymous and confidential and only aggregated information will be released publicly. But law enforcement officials may be given preferential access to the data to assist them in tackling the problem.