The first app, he told the Internet Hall of Fame, involves using technology to help the government meet its requirement to communicate with a population that speaks different languages.
“Although we also use English, Sri Lanka has two national languages,” Dias noted. “One of the biggest problems is that we have two communities who speak different languages and so cannot talk to each other. This was a root cause of the 20-year civil war in our country, and if we want to avoid another war, we must enable people to communicate with each other.
So, translation is very important, especially for the government. They are required by law to provide services in both national languages, but they have been unable to fulfill that requirement. We are helping them do so.”
A second project focuses on e-learning.
“Again, this came from a national requirement,” Dias said. “We have a secondary school exam around age 16. Mathematics is compulsory. You have to pass.”
But nationally, about 50 percent fail mathematics, meaning they fail the entire exam, and subsequently cannot even go to a technical college.
Dias is working to set up an online tutoring system to help students pass.
“What we do is we give them problems to solve on-line,” he said. “If they get it wrong, we don’t tell them the correct answer, we simply say, ‘O.K., try this,’ and we give them a hint. We let the students figure out what needs to be done. And it can all be done online, without a human teacher.”
To find out more about Gihan Dias’ work, read this month’s exclusive profile of his contributions to global Internet development.