Australian-Tamil Entrepreneur Sujan Selven Is Creating Economic Opportunities For Remote Villages In Northeast Sri Lanka Using Upcycled Devices & Improved Connectivity

Sujan Selven is a serial social entrepreneur aiming to create businesses that make money but also have some element of driving social good to them as well. He started Space Comms and Civil with his brother which focuses on telecommunication builds, electrical services and civil construction. He went on to co-found Upcycled Tech which has a goal of lifting the Northeastern part of Sri Lanka into the digital economy by providing internet connectivity as well devices (recycle) to the population there to open up economic opportunities. He is also passionate about the arts, human rights and is an advocate for refugees and asylum seekers.

I absolutely love the work you are doing with Upcycled Tech ( where you are collecting 2nd hand tech devices and donating back to people in Northeast Sri Lanka. Tell us why you started this and the impact you’re hoping it has.

I was in Jaffna from 2019 to 2020.  While I was there, the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak.  Schools shut down from a face-to-face perspective for months and I found out that kids still wanted to access education but the majority couldn’t.  I did some research and discovered a few facts (as per the 2020 census):

– Only 18% had access to a device, digital literacy is 18.8% and only 8.2% of households connected to the internet.

– The usage of computer devices are minimal, and access to the internet is even less (8.2%).

I strongly felt like we had an opportunity to improve education, create job opportunities and open up a wide range of digital businesses via this project.  

Do you have plans to make this a social enterprise that’s for-profit or will it remain a non-profit?

We want to make Upcycled Tech into a social enterprise in the future to make this a sustainable project financially and be able to provide additional services.

How did you bring the team together along with advisors (some impressive people on that list)?

When I was in Jaffna, I had the idea of connecting people with a device and connectivity. When I told my friends about this project, they understood the concept and wanted to be part of it. I worked with Niro previously on some tech projects, and he is a creative guy; he also connected me with some impressive people.

You’re the definition of a serial entrepreneur as you also run Yaarl (1st Tamil-focused event centre in Australia) and Space Comms and Civil (provider of Technology and Communications Services). Tell us a bit more about why you started these businesses and how are they going today.

Yaarl started as a family-owned business.  My mother is a fantastic cook who really enjoys her craft and I love running events (part of a previous non-profit that I ran).  I was coordinating a minimum of 4 events per year while helping out with a number of other events, leading me to eventually study an Advance Diploma in Events. 

Space Comms and Civil focuses on technology and electrical construction. My brother and I had an excellent opportunity to be part of the National Broadband Network rollout in Australia. We just grew organically from there to where we are now. We focus on telecommunication builds, electrical services and civil construction. 

Tell us more about the experience you had with Event Boss (ticketing platform streamlining processes for organizations to sell tickets for community events, etc.). What was the result of that experience, and what did you learn from it?

We had the Tamil community here still selling tickets phsyically at grocery stories and we had multiple events on the days/weeks.  We had so many charity events in the Tamil community to help raise funds for projects in Sri Lanka, but the events weren’t really coordinated because of this manual selling process.  I wanted to change this.  I started the first online ticketing platform for the Tamil Community in Australia, purposely build for the Tamil Community to make our Tamil events more effective financially. 

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