Hill Country Disability Group

CDMA Phone Project

Prema of Hill Country Disability Group, Koslanda

Irosha Dharmadasa

Objective: Empower Hill Country handicapped families by setting up a small scale self-sustaining digital voice communications network to enable group communications among the disabled and employ the handicapped as self-employed telecom entrepreneurs serving their isolated communities by providing them (or their families in cases of severe disability) with CDMA digital wireless phones.

Location: Currently serving isolated families in Haldummulla and Ella Divisions of Badulla District

Rationale: Handicapped people living in hill areas suffer two-fold deprivation: both from social-geographical isolation and from lack of livelihood opportunities. CDMA fixed wireless phones are inexpensive and work well in isolated rural communities that lack fixed line connections. Families of the handicapped, provided with subsidized Lanka Bell CDMA phones, can serve remote communities as the local telecom facility, generating a modest income meeting the cost of their own calls so they can break their isolation through a self-sustaining phone network transforming widely scattered handicapped families into a 21st Century ICT-linked and empowered self-help society.

Description: Handicapped youths can become young entrepreneurs operating a small public telecom service out of their homes using affordable CDMA phones. Family members may also be trained so responsibilities may be shared. Isolated hill communities (like tea estates) that have no fixed line phone service will have convenient telecom service at inexpensive fixed line rates. Project rapidly deploys a self sustaining phone network for the handicapped who can easily contact one another, promoting group communications among the disabled, lifting the veil of isolation to give the handicapped members broader mental horizons, and promoting a sense of full citizenship in their community and in the world. Members' social status can change overnight from being information deprived community liabilities to being self employed telecom proprietors serving isolated communities by providing affordable telecom facilities. The phones also support text messaging, conference calls, Internet access at 230 kbps, and other digital features.


  • Joanne Capano of USA
  • Thomas Rupnicki of USA
  • Suyin & Steve Karlsen of USA
  • Helen Dalzell & Janet Taylor of USA
  • William & Mary Pearce of USA
  • Stewart & Janet LaBrooy of Malaysia
  • Geraldine Lesser of USA
  • Note: Project is available for sponsorship @ US$ 50 per CDMA phone


  • Suntel (Pvt.) Ltd.
  • Hill Country Disability Group


  • Initial pilot project to network twelve families in Badulla District in calendar year 2007.
  • Delayed due to Lanka Bell Ltd and ICTA indecision.
  • Seventeen Suntel phones purchased and deployed during Sept-November 2008.

    Suntel phone presented to Jayasundaram

    April 2006: first formulation of project concept presented to ICTA
    May 2007: Director, National Secretariat for Persons with Disabilities, pledges NSPD support.
    September 2008: Deployed the first 12 Suntel CDMA phones to isolated handicapped families in Haldumulla Division of Badulla District
    October 2008: Deployed a further five Suntel phones to isolated handicapped families of Ella and Haldumulla divisions of Badulla District

    Remarks: This project waited for ICTA funding for two years after receiving approval and repeated assurances of funding. The project is simple, scalable, and involves only small inputs since the CDMA phones themselves are cheap (currently costing ca. USD45 each).