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Implementation Completion Report (ICR) Review - Sri Lanka: Distance Learning Project

1. Project Data:   
ICR Review Date Posted:
Project Name:
Sri Lanka: Distance Learning Project
Project Costs(US $M)
 3.1  2.26
Sri Lanka
Loan/Credit (US $M)
 2.3  2.26
Sector, Major Sect.:
Adult literacy/non-formal education,
Cofinancing (US $M)
L/C Number:
Board Approval (FY)
Partners involved
Closing Date
12/31/2004 06/30/2005
Evaluator: Panel Reviewer: Group Manager: Group:  
Helen Abadzi
Catherine Gwin Alain A. Barbu OEDSG

2. Project Objectives and Components:

a. Objectives
The project objective was to pilot a distance learning initiative to (a) strengthen the environment for policy reforms and (b) build capacity in the public and private sectors.

b. Components (or Key Conditions in the case of Adjustment Loans):
The project consisted of a single component that supported the establishment and operation of the Distance Learning Center Company (Cost: US$3.1 million at appraisal, US$2.3 m actual) through (a) selection and relay of distance learning course material; (b) financing the center operating costs on a declining basis over the first four years of operations; (c) technical assistance for staff training, a market survey, development of a business plan and a marketing campaign, (d) establishment of financing accounts/annual audits, (e) civil works and (f) purchase, installation and initial maintenance of distance learning technology.

c. Comments on Project Cost, Financing, Borrower Contribution, and Dates
The project was a Learning and Innovation Loan (LIL). It closed after extensions totaling 6 months, and US$42,273 were canceled.

3. Relevance of Objectives & Design:

The project was developed within the context of a draft CAS that emphasized the importance of policy reform to improve fiscal discipline, promote private sector-led growth, enhance the institutional and policy framework for increased investment in infrastructure and address second generation human resources issues. The project was to contribute to capacity strengthening through leveraging information technology for knowledge transfer. However, some project subcomponents (such as private videoconferencing) were not clearly tied to the establishment of the center, and their relevance was less clear.

4. Achievement of Objectives (Efficacy) :

(a) Strengthen the environment for policy reforms (negligible). The center started operations in March 2002 and has offered a series of distance learning courses to a large number of public and private sector participants, including many senior officials. Several NGOs have also used the facilities. However, profit concerns served to concentrate resources on profitable courses and did not allow the center to devote more time to providing a solid course of training for government civil servants and advancing the development agenda. There is no evidence that this innovative mode of distance learning has influenced policy reforms during the three-year life of the project.

(b) Build capacity in the public and private sectors (modest). The project successfully established the Distance Learning Center Company in Sri Lanka to increase local access to global knowledge using state-of-the-art communications technology. A building was enlarged and remodeled to house the equipment. The number of participants rose from approximately 616 in 2002 to 2,348 in 2004, representing a 400% increase. A total of 240 public and private institutions and NGOs using the facility in 2004. The internet based/Multimedia facilities are run at full capacity, and there is a demand for video conference services. The center successfully pioneered the use of video conferencing technology to facilitate public and private transactions.

5. Efficiency:

Project documents estimated that the center would reach 100% financial sustainability in its 4th year of operations. However, the center was not able to break even during the project implementation period. The high prices of video-conference training put it out of reach for most government civil servants except for those funded by donors. Overall, the three-year time-frame of the project was far too short for the establishment of this innovative institution.
6. M&E Design, Implementation, & Utilization:

The project had no clear monitoring and evaluation framework, so it was difficult to measure progress and quantify learning. The indicators used were difficult to measure and of dubious validity, such as the number of private sector directors trained. It was difficult to measure the impact on the distance learning center on sector reform in designated areas.
7. Other (Safeguards, Fiduciary, Unintended Impacts--Positive & Negative):

Irregularities in financial management were detected, and the chief financial officer along with the accountant were asked by the board of the center to resign. At project closing the center was in shaky financial condition.

8. Ratings:
OED Review
Reason for Disagreement/Comments
Institutional Dev.: 
LikelyLikelyOn balance, sustainability is rated likely. According to the ICR, the center operations are considered financially sustainable because cost recovery has increased from 20% in 2002 to about 70% in 2004, and the center may break even in 2005. On the other hand, the center has not yet managed to meet its policy-oriented targets in terms of
Bank Perf.: 
Borrower Perf.: 
Quality of ICR: 

- When insufficient information is provided by the Bank for OED to arrive at a clear rating, OED will downgrade the relevant ratings as warranted beginning July 1, 2006.
- ICR rating values flagged with ' * ' don't comply with OP/BP 13.55, but are listed for completeness.

9. Lessons:

-To become self-supportive and competitive, innovative high-technology projects require time and support from governments and nonprofit organizations. A timeframe longer than 3-4 years may be needed to establish profitability, a client base, and a framework through which to influence policy dialogue.

- It is important to set up an effective financial management system early on to capture and report on essential accounting information and ensure a solid financial foundation. Prompt and systematic follow-up on audit findings by the implementing agency and the Bank supervision team help to ensure that any problems identified are addressed in a timely manner and are not repeated.

10. Assessment Recommended?  No


11. Comments on Quality of ICR:

The ICR clearly described the events of the project. However, an annex table is missing that should show project costs, IDA credit, and disbursements clearly.

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