Government ready to offer more ‘free Wi-Fi’ to its citizens

March 4, 2015

ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) spearheads the free Wi-Fi project and delivers more than what was promised on the pledges made before election.

The Internet connectivity a citizens right program also know as the “Free Wi-Fi” was spearheaded by the ICTA along with the support of all telecommunication operators in Sri Lanka.

The objective of this program was to facilitate the Sri Lankan Citizens to be able to have access to Internet for a variety of purposes. The government’s objective was to enable its citizens to engage in policy making of the government and contributing towards good governance. Citizen will be provided with “free Wi-Fi” in specific locations across the country. The first 250 locations will be launched before 31st March 2015, while the balance 750 locations will be completed within 60 to 90 days.

Hon. Ajith P. Perera, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Telecommunication said “that providing free Wi-Fi facilities to more than 1000 locations in the country during the next 30 to 90 days was more than a mere fulfillment of an election pledge. The citizens from all walks of life and from different parts of the country will now benefit from the Free Wi-Fi program”

Addressing a media briefing held at the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) the Deputy Minister further emphasized that in the current rapidly changing world, internet facilities were no more a luxury but only an utility service like water, electricity and gas. The Deputy Minister said that it was because of this that the current Government had changed its original plan and decided to provide speedier Wi-Fi facilities to a larger number of locations.

Reminiscing the past as one who belonged to the group of students who received school level computer education for the first time in 1983, the Deputy Minister said that he had got that opportunity as a result of an action, current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had taken as the then Education Minister, which included of setting up of computer facilities and training the youth at village level.

Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Telecommunication proposed that all telecommunication companies must be part of this ambitious journey and the country must take pride of its adoption to the digital age. We must do a lot more to make the Internet to truly become people’s consumer right. The Deputy Minister also said that the supply of free Wi-Fi facilities is just the beginning of the government’s digital initiative.

Creating Wi-Fi zones that supply free Internet facilities in every main city of the country is a presidential election pledge of current President Maitripala Sirisena.

Mrs Chithranganie Mubarak Chairperson of ICTA stated, “It is wonderful to note that social unity among the public and private sector has enabled ICTA to fulfill one its key objective of ICT penetration in the country. I am amazed as to how such a large-scale implementation can be achieved in such a short time. This clearly shows that the true benefit of this partnership to deliver such services was unimaginable before. I take this opportunity to thank all the stakeholders on this project”

Mr Muhunthan Canagey, Managing Director/CEO of ICTA said “It was an ambitious dream for ICTA to spearhead such a telecommunication rollout within a period of 60 to 90 days. The telecommunication operators, along with the team at ICTA and TRC were able to drive such an ambitious and dynamic initiative”

There were many technical and interoperability that needed to be finalized between all telecommunication operators, however the spirit of all parties were positive which enabled ICTA do deliver more than the promise made by the government at the last election.

Mr Muhunthan Canagey further added that there were many factors other than technical and policy that needed to be considered, such as selection of locations where most public will find it convenient to use. The consensus were reached by the teams that the locations shall include all state universities, limited professional education institutions, all railway stations, central bus stands, district secretariat, A grade base hospitals, public parks, public libraries, museums and limited Government offices and district secretariats will provide free Wi-Fi facilities. The distribution of ‘free Wi-Fi’ locations shall be proportionately distributed across all districts. The initial limit shall be 100 MB per citizen per month and can be accessed at a speed of 512Kbps.

Sri Lanka will be one the first countries in South Asia to take such initiatives and be able to deploy it in such a short time.

The Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka is the apex ICT institution of the Government. In terms of the Information and Communication Technology Act No. 27 of 2003 (ICT Act) ICTA has been mandated to take all necessary measures to implement the Government’s Policy and Action Plan in relation to ICT. In terms of section 6 of the ICT Act, ICTA is required to assist the Cabinet of Ministers in the formulation of the National Policy on ICT and provide all information necessary for its formulation. The Government of Sri Lanka wholly owns ICTA.