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Sri Lankan villages tend to have a poor electricity supply and crumbling roads. Ravaged first by civil war, then by last year's tsunami, many parts of the country have no access to telephones, let alone to computers or the Internet.

But in 2002, a US-based Sri Lankan software engineer decided to build a technology institute in the island's rural northeast district of Vanni to offer residents new opportunities.

With the help of other expatriate computer scientists, Jey Surier turned a bullet-ridden building into Vannitech — a thriving technology centre complete with offices, lecture halls and a library. Staff members include individuals trained in India and the United Kingdom.

Students are taught English alongside technical subjects such as electronics, networking and wireless communications. After last year's tsunami, Vannitech provided software to track medicines and helped create forms to collect information in refugee camps.

The institute's long-term goal is to help rebuild the nation. The more students it trains, the closer the institute is to achieving this goal — it plans to grow from its existing capacity of 60 students to 1,000 in 2010.

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