Gihan Dias is an active member of Sri Lanka’s Internet Society, but he has turned his focus away from building networks to developing Internet-based applications to advance his country.
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...
When Gihan Dias wrote his first computer program in the late 1970s, he had never seen a computer. “I learned BASIC programming from a book, and wrote programs on paper,” he said. When he actually got to use a computer—in 1979—he knew he had found his passion.
A few years later he met the Internet, which became his career-long focus.
Dias was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2014 as a Global Connector for his role in setting up and the running the academic Internet in Sri Lanka, which started with the country’s pioneering e-mail system, LEARNmail.
He was also instrumental in setting up the country’s top-level domain registry, .lk and was the founder-president of the Lanka Academic Network, or LAcNet, a nonprofit dedicated to providing Internet access in Sri Lanka. LAcNet gave Lankan expatriates a way to keep in touch with their homeland.
So what stands out most from a 30-plus year career with a list of achievements that would make anyone proud? Getting Sri Lanka’s e-mail system—and then Internet—running, Dias reflected recently in an exclusive interview with the Internet Hall of Fame.
“What we did right at the beginning was a key achievement because it is really difficult to get people to understand the benefits of Internet, especially to get them to provide money or other resources, when they have no experience in what you are talking about,” he said. “Once we had the first networks it was easy to show it’s working and the...
Some of the Internet’s early hot spots have not aged well.
There are now more than a billion sites and counting on the web. By comparison, in 1995, the year that saw the launch of both Amazon and AltaVista, there were just 23,500.
Before launching its own website, The New York Times published a “site seeing” guide to the World Wide Web in January 1995, highlighting 26 websites for online rookies to visit.
In April, The Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance revisited those early recommendations, only to discover that more than 20 of the sites are no longer online and a handful are only available through archives.
“Most of the URLs the Times printed in 1995 are now dead, including those that led to a guide for backpackers and wilderness trekkers; a livestream of a coffee pot; a Grateful Dead fan page; a map of estuaries; a federal spending website; a hub for online gaming; a gardening site; a site devoted to legislation affecting Massachusetts; Wired’s coverage of legal issues in cyberspace; Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology; a graphic novel about living with cancer; an illustrated explanation of an infamous flaw in Intel's Pentium chip; a cybermall; a site for making hotel reservations in San Francisco; a site dedicated to subway routes; a virtual frog dissection; a wine-tasting club; a digital...
In this exclusive video from the Internet Hall of Fame archives, 2014 IHOF inductee Susan Estrada describes the 1988 creation of CERFnet, one of the original regional IP networks, and talks about how she and her team built an Internet network that everyone could use. CERFnet logged a number of notable ‘firsts’ for the Internet, including the first commercial network.
Dr. Estrada discusses the challenges of getting people to use the Internet at the time, and shares how a female superhero named ‘Captain Internet’ brought a whole new generation into the digital future through the formation of interconnectivity.
Although Internet development and the technology industry are fields that have been historically dominated by men, there have been some exceptional women who have made their mark, including Susan Estrada.
Estrada in 1988 founded CERFnet, one of the original IP networks that serviced the academic and commercial communities in California. As executive director, she took the initial National Science Foundation funding of $2.8 million and grew the network from 25 sites to hundreds of sites.
Under her leadership, CERFnet also developed a number of notable firsts for the Internet, including the first deployment of dialup IP, accounting reports for customers and high quality service with 24/7 monitoring.
In 1993, she wrote 'Connecting to the Internet, An O’Reilly Buyer’s Guide', a Barnes and Noble bestseller that gave practical advice on how to get the best Internet service.
As head of Aldea Communications, Estrada continues to consult on Internet infrastructure, and to investigate technologies and techniques needed to increase older-adult use of the Internet.
Estrada was named an Internet Hall of Fame Pioneer in 2014...