On path to ‘Smart Sri Lanka’ – ICTA CEO

Sri Lanka is now journeying from version 1.0 to version 2.0 of Development Agenda, ‘Smart Sri Lanka’ moving from pure technology and focusing more on innovation, transformation, entrepreneurship and inclusion, said ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), CEO Reshan Dewapura at the inauguration of IBMSoftwareUniverse2013 in Colombo. It was organised by IBM Sri Lanka.

“In the spirit of this event, the IBM Software Universe, where we have heard much about a smarter planet, let’s refer to this version 2.0 of the e-Development Agenda as ‘Smart Sri Lanka’. Version 1.0 was e-Sri Lanka, and by coining this new phrase we are now moving above and beyond pure technology, and focusing more on innovation, transformation, entrepreneurship and inclusion,” he said.

“Benefitting from the latest advances in technology, more intelligence and smartness could be introduced to the country, in all activities in all sections,” Dewapura said.

 

Mr.Reshan
Mr.Reshan Dewapura

Excerpts of his speech:

IBM is the oldest computer company in Sri Lanka, and have contributed immensely to the Information and Communication Technology sector in this country. And like all technology companies, IBM has also gone through a huge transformation, and I believe one of the objectives of this event, is to demonstrate that transformation and showcase the new IBM and its potential in this country.

Organisational transformation is key to success, or even key to survival.

‘Smarter’, buzzword in transformation

“Smart or smarter seems to be the buzzword in transformation, and I would also like to bring this notion, in a Sri Lankan context and share a few thoughts on a ‘smart country’ concept, which we hope to take forward and implement in the future. This I believe is the natural continuation of the journey in ICT led transformation, which we embarked upon over eight years ago.

ICT, Information and Communication Technology is a powerful tool. It can make a tremendous contribution for socio economic development, as a development accelerator in any sector, to boosting a country’s economy (specially in developing countries such as ours), and provide viable solutions to the problems of the masses and help improve their lives.

ICT therefore came into the reckoning in national development plans of countries specially developing countries.

Sri Lanka was no different. In 2005 we embarked on the e-Sri Lanka journey, an ambitious and pioneering e-Development agenda for the country, to take the benefits of ICT to every citizen in every village, every business, and transforming the way government thinks and works.

This ground-breaking initiative not only resulted in major and numerous achievements and successes in the field of ICT, but also ensured that this sector developed and matured tremendously in the past six to seven years. And being a transformational tool, ICT is also a great leveller, as it brings in inclusivity for all our citizens, like nothing else can.

“I would like to look at the development in the ICT sector, in three dimensions. The Government, the private sector, and the people. In government, the information infrastructure eco-system is now in place for all government entities to forge ahead, in re-engineering and simplifying processes and developing automated systems, to provide a better service delivery to citizens.

Crucial infrastructure systems

Crucial infrastructure systems such as the Lanka Government Network, the Lanka Gate and the Lanka Government Cloud, are in place. The Lanka Government Network, connects all government institutions in a cohesive network, providing the connectivity for easy communication and for data transfer within the government.

The Lanka Gate, is really a state-of-the-art middleware infrastructure and a flagship project of ICTA. It functions as the service delivery platform for any government e-service. In addition, its front end is also the country portal, with a single window access to citizen services, and has many delivery channels including the mobile phone, which is an ever growing phenomenon.

The Lanka Government Cloud, which was provisioned last year, now provides infrastructure, platform and applications as a service to government, for hosting any government system, application, content or service, without the government organisation having to spend on the infrastructure themselves.

The e-Population Register has also been completed and launched, creating a single system to store all people related data, which is relevant to the government. The e-Sri Lanka initiative has successfully completed a critical number of re-engineering and automating activities, and e-services projects, on behalf of the government, and many others are being worked on currently.

For the private sector, mature ICT platforms are now available as great transformational tools, for progression and growth of their industries and sectors. And for the ICT sector itself, the environment is conducive to maximise the opportunities in our country, as a global ICT destination.

Government interventions

The interventions from the government in terms of capacity building, encouraging quality certification, business linkages and market creation, all backed with the provision of substantial resources, has been key to the tremendous growth and development of the ICT industry.

This industry is now on the path of being a critical growth pillar in the country’s development effort. The IT BPO industry has become the fifth largest foreign exchange earner in the country at $ 475 million p.a. and has generated over 50,000 new jobs during the past six to seven years.

For people, opportunities have been created and the stage set to use ICT for the betterment of the people, rural communities, and the disadvantaged and underprivileged groups.

Access to ICT for all through the well-known Nenasalas (the local tele-centres), the enabling of local language computing, the creation of local and localised applications, all these have bestowed benefits to many rural and specially marginalised and under-served communities.

Over 200 ICT based community projects have helped and continue to help rural and disadvantaged communities on regular basis. ICT literacy in the country has gone well above 40 percent from being around four percent only a decade ago.

These efforts have also gone a long way to spawn a local e-content creation industry in the country, which has now come to be recognised globally by winning international awards for innovative and impactful digital creations.

The phenomenal penetration of the mobile phones in Sri Lanka (which is now over 100 percent) has brought out another dimension to this thriving developer community, in producing pioneering mobile applications, and giving rise to a booming mobile content eco-system in the country, which has been showcased in the UNCTAD Information Economy Report 2012.

These are some of the achievements in the past, let’s move now to see what the future holds in this e-Development Agenda. What can we expect in the future? Sri Lanka today, reaping the benefits of post-terrorism peace, is looking to transform itself to a dynamic global hub in the region, and more specifically from our point of view to a ‘Knowledge Hub’, in the region. Information and Communication Technology will always play a key role or even the implementation of version 2.0 of the e-Development Agenda, will be the differentiator, or even trail blazer in this endeavour to become a Knowledge Hub.

Smart Sri Lanka

In the spirit of this event, the IBM Software Universe, where we have heard much about a smarter planet, let’s refer to this version 2.0 of the e-Development Agenda as ‘Smart Sri Lanka’. Version 1.0 was e-Sri Lanka, and by coining this new phrase we are now moving above and beyond pure technology, and focusing more on innovation, transformation, entrepreneurship and inclusion. Benefiting from the latest advances in technology, more intelligence and smartness can be induced to the country, in all activities in all sectors.

The aim is to provide a launching pad for Sri Lanka to become a knowledge economy and information society, and finally a knowledge hub. To get to ‘Smart Sri Lanka’, activities will need to happen in three areas as before; in government, in the private sector, and in the citizenry. Albeit, with a much higher emphasis on concepts and activities which are, more than just technology led improvements. And again we can coin the phrases ‘Smart Government’, ‘Smart Jobs’ and ‘Smart People’ for these three focused areas.

Smart Government would leverage on the infrastructure eco-systems already in place, and would use e-government services to demonstrate transparency, accountability and participation. The continuation of re-engineering and automating government processes would take place until all the key public services are available electronically. This we believe would not only present tremendous benefit to the citizens and increase participation and usage, but would also improve government revenue collection and expenditure management systems and boost its planning, and management activities.

The latest e-Government concepts and trends such as cloud computing, Open data (albeit with appropriate sensitivity filtering), big data analysis, and mobility of application and content, should be fully embraced. With these new concepts, while contributing immensely to the transparency and accountability of government, citizens will be able to garner many benefits and would certainly make the government look smarter in their eyes.

Smart Jobs

As Sri Lanka seeks to become a knowledge and innovation hub, a highly vibrant ICT services sector becomes a crucial enabler. In this context, Sri Lankan ICT industry’s core competences, which are, the highly sophisticated software development and the high-end knowledge-process-outsourcing come into play. This industry can be the catalyst in bringing global knowledge and demonstrating best practices in ICT products and services for the benefit of all sectors in Sri Lanka. It will also help grow, develop and mature, the booming digital-content industry.

Investment in increasing the capacity, capability and quality of the Sri Lankan workforce will play a key role in creating this demand.

Empowering and increasing small and medium enterprises, and encouraging more public-private partnerships, specially with the industrial sector need to be pursued. To cater to infrastructure demands, development of technology parks and implementation of state-of-the-art data centres need to be carried out.

There should be innovation to ensure that the economic environment is conducive to attract more Foreign Direct Investment, for the formation of Venture Capital companies, and foster incubators.

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ICTA’s 1919 receives 1.5 mn inquiries in 2012

The Government Information Centre (1919) reported around 1.5 million calls in 2012, Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) stated where a majority of the calls were received mainly from the Western Province.

Most of the calls were in relation to enquiries made on Sri Lanka Railways, Department of Registration of Persons, Motor Traffics Commissioner’s Department and Sri Lanka Police.

Last year, the official website of the Government Information Centre had around 350,000 entries with 1,000 complaints forwarded through the website, an ICTA official said.

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Huge transformation in country’s IT – Minister Siyambalapitiya

The government, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa aims at seeing everyone use IT for greater comfort and ease, said Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, while participating at the launch of the issue of copies of birth, marriage and death certificates in the Polonnaruwa District recently. Speaking further at the inauguration held at the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat, Minister Siyambalapitiya said that there would be a huge transformation in the country’s information technology sector soon.

Recalling the assignment of ICT to a new Ministry and its responsibilities the Minister said: “At the Cabinet reshuffle in November 2010 the President gave us several responsibilities. While attempt is made for Sri Lanka to become the Wonder of Asia by 2016, President instructed us to make the ICT literacy of Sri Lanka which is currently about 35 percent, 75 percent by 2016. The next challenge the President requested us to meet was to generate 200,000 new ICT-based jobs by 2016. Making Sri Lanka’s current IT-BPO industry revenue reach US $ 1 billion by 2016.

Referring to the 2012 budget the Minister said it contained several proposals which were a shot in the arm for using ICT in all sectors targeting national development. “Apart from the specific allocations for the institutions under the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology the budget has allocated Rs. 500 million for the Ministry for developing IT in the rural areas. Accordingly we selected the Polonnaruwa District for IT development to coincide with the Anuradhapura Deyata Kirula 2012. As stated by ICTA Re-engineering Government Programme Head D. C. Dissanayake I requested that this programme in Polonnaruwa be launched under the patronage of Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena. Today anyone from the Polonnaruwa District could obtain one’s birth certificate not only from the Polonnaruwa District Secretariat but from any Divisional Secretariat in the Polonnaruwa District within a few minutes. So could a marriage certificate be obtained, and a death certificate too with similar ease. “Those days a mobile phone was a prerogative of the elite. But today most of the population have mobile phones. Sometimes a person has more than one phone. Our population is 20 million. There are 21 million telephones in the country. Out of which 17,500,000 are mobile and 3,500,000 land phones.

We would like to see everyone in the Polonnaruwa District, – be he a farmer, grama niladhari, fresh water fisherman – use this IT tool”.

Participating in the occasion as Chief Guest Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena said that it was gladdening that the Government gave top priority to the use of technology for the well-being of all.

Speaking further at this inauguration, the Health Minister thanked all concerned for extending the BMD project to the Polonnaruwa district in response to his invitation. Ministries of IT and Technology and Public Administration, Registrar General’s Department and the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) were particularly commended for their roles in bringing BMD to Polonnaruwa.

Moving from technology the Minister referred to the mental and physical health. The Health Minister said that the Government had launched several programmes for regulating the use of mobile phones and for ensuring the use of technology for well-being of the peoples. “No country in the world has taken steps as Sri Lanka to ensure the use of mobile phones and internet subjected to healthy monitoring. The Government has taken steps to draft regulations necessary for the use of mobile phones and internet under a sound monitoring system. Decrying this abuse Health Minister said: “It is regrettable that although new technology should be used for man’s well-being, many abuse it. Many accidents take place as a result of people crossing roads and driving while using the mobile phones. The Health Ministry incur heavy expenditure for providing treatment to a large number of victims by the use of mobile phones”.

Participating at the occasion ICTA Re-engineering Government Programme Head D. C. Dissanayake said the BMD enabled the issue of birth, marriage and death certificate within a few minutes, thanks to computerisation. “Currently BMD is in full operation in the Colombo, Kegalle and Moneragala districts. It has also been introduced to the Ampara, Anuradhapura, Badulla, Hambantota, Jaffna and Puttalam Districts.”

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ICTA launches first National ICT Industry Survey

The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) has launched the first National ICT Industry Survey. Called the National ICT Industry Survey 2009, the survey is executed under the guidance of the Monitoring and Evaluation (M & E) unit of ICTA and will be implemented by GreenTech Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd.
ICTA has taken steps to conduct this first National ICT Industry Survey parallel to the ICT workforce survey 2009 which was also launched recently. ICTA Monitoring and Evaluation Programme Head, Jagath Seneviratne, said “While the aim of the workforce survey is to elicit a clear understanding of the extent and the composition of ICT-BOP workforce in Sri Lanka and weigh it against the supply of skilled personnel, the purpose of this first National ICT Industry Survey is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the present status and future trends in the industry” . In doing so the survey will also capture the fundamental constructs of individual industry players and their perceptions on the future of the industry as well as barriers to progress and development efforts.
The ICT industry, telecoms, telephony, the BPO sector, the internet, the regulatory and policy environment and the national initiatives – including e-Sri Lanka, studies in the health sector and education sector – will come within the ambit of the survey. In particular the survey will focus on aspects directly relevant to e-Sri Lanka projects and forward planning, Seneviratne explained.
The areas the National ICT Industry Survey will seek information on mainly are: (1) type of products, (2) what markets the industry serves, (3) present status and the growth of the industry in terms of sales volume and turnover, (4) investment in research and development, (5) growth strategies and (6) perception of industrialists on policy and development aspects of the industry.
While the workforce survey covers about 600 organisations this first National ICT Industry Survey sample covers about 350 organisations and a large number of Key Informant Interviews with the industry specialists.
This National ICT Industry Survey will bridge the information gap in the industry and the successful completion of the survey will provide useful information for formulating policy and determining commitments in the future.
ICTA encourages all selected survey respondents to contribute to the successful implementation of the survey by providing up-to-date and accurate information. Data collection will begin around the third week of October 2009 and the final report is expected in February 2010.

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Eurocenter enables e-services for ICTA’s Lanka Gate Project

In a move that is poised to make public service revolutionarily comfortable, the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) awarded a ‘Lanka Gate e-Services Project’ to Eurocenter DDC recently. The undertaking by the Eurocenter DDC is for developing online services at three Government institutions.  These three institutions are  the Department of Labour, the Department of  Motor Traffic and the National Transport Medical Institute.

The main objective of Lanka Gate is to deliver e-services to the general public through a common portal via service portals, adopting a Virtual Business Transformational approach, ICTA sources said.

The initial phase of this project will consist in enabling e-services at seven selected Government institutions. Among these seven institutions where the above-mentioned ICTA-initiated e-service enabling project will be implemented during the first phase, are four Departments, an Institute, a Board and a Bureau.  The Departments are the Labour Department, Motor Traffic Department, Immigration and Emigration Department and the Examinations Department. The National Transport Medical Institute, National Water Supply and Drainage Board and Foreign Employment Bureau are the other institutions where enabling of e-services will take place during the initial phase.

The Department of Labour intends to make comprehensive citizen services related to EPF issues available on-line. This will  provide the working public with easy around–the-clock access to EPF related information such as account balance details and refund status details.

The services to be provided by the Department of Motor Traffic, will assist the general public to view vehicle information contained in the Certificate of Registration (CR).  Besides viewing the CR or ‘vehicle book,’ the people will be able to reserve online, a vehicle number of their choice (within three series ahead).  This will  eliminate the need for the people to wait in long queues. Most of these services include secure online payments as well.

The National Transport Medical Institute, the authorising body for issuing medical certificates for heavy vehicle drivers, will provide online facilities to applicants. This will include the facility of  enabling them to register online for medical checkups at a time convenient to them. While this service is simple and easy, it removes the hassle of the heavy vehicle driver spending long hours at the institute premises to obtain medical certificates.

ICTA which facilitates this project was established to develop and enrich the economy of Sri Lanka through ICT. Over the years, ICTA, under the e-Sri Lanka initiative, has spearheaded many projects to enhance the ICT sector in Sri Lanka.  Appreciating the endeavour of local companies to deliver software on a par with international quality standards, ICTA CEO Reshan Dewapura, said: “We are very happy that a local company is helping to deliver world class software in Sri Lanka”.

Eurocenter DDC is a CMMi Level 3, ISO 9001:2008 and Microsoft Gold Certified software engineering Company with offices located in Colombo, Sri Lanka and Oslo, Norway. Having earned high international recognition since its inception in 2000, Eurocenter DDC delivers hgh-end custom engineered, high quality software engineering services to its global clientele and has established a strong foundation of customers within multiple businesses and cultural environments.

“ICTA’s partnership with Eurocenter is yet another testimony to our capability and efficiency to deliver high quality software services”, Eurocenter DDC CEO Mano Sekaram said.

Eurocenter enables e-services
Mano Sekaram, CEO of Eurocenter exchanging agreements with Reshan Dewapura, CEO of ICTA

ICTA’s 1919 Project Wins Award as Best e-Content Product in the World!

The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka attracts international attention for creating the world’s best e-Content. The multimedia product “Government Information Center (GIC)” has won the World Summit Award (WSA 09) with a single, electronic, trilingual (Sinhala, Tamil and English) knowledge base of 1,600 services available to citizens from 77 key government organizations. For more information visit the homepage www.gic.gov.lk .

1919

With this, the GIC has approximately outrun 20.000 other products and projects from 157 countries participating in the 4th edition of the WSA, the United Nations based contest for e-content and creativity in the Information Society.

The global contest on creativity generated content is taking place every two years as a follow-on activity to the UN World Summit on Information Society. This year 545 national finalists from the United Nations Member States were selected by 34 eminent e-Content experts in New Delhi.

The submitted projects were nominated in one of the eight WSA categories to receive global acknowledgement as the world’s Best in e-Content. Australia, Austria, Canada and New Zealand dominate this years winners list.

“In contrast to mass TV and newspapers, the new media do not concentrate in one country or one region; we do not see a digital Hollywood or digital Fleet street. Rather, the most interesting e-Contents come from smaller markets, and there from smaller players.

They appear to be much more in touch with users and their communities. Local content, not global, triumphs in terms of quality” concludes from the Jury proceedings Peter A. Bruck, WSA Chairman. The WSA is a global not-for-profit activity promoting the most outstanding achievements as a flagship partnership initiative of the UN’s Global Alliance for ICT and Development and in close collaboration with UNESCO, UNIDO, ISOC and a worldwide network of Partners.

“The GIC has handled over two million telephone calls in the last two years during which it has been functioning – averaging over 1,500 calls a day which goes up to 2,500 calls when we have a media campaign.” Reshan Dewapura, Chief Operating Officer of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) which maintains the Government Information Centre, said.

“The public can call 1919 to access the service run by the GIC which operates from 8 am till 8 pm and is staffed by officers who can handle queries in all three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English,” Wasantha Deshapriya, Director Re-engineering Government said.

WSA was started as an Austrian initiative in the framework of the United Nations World Summit on Information Society in 2003. Today, it is the world’s leading contest for excellence and creativity and e-Content production and a global hub dedicated to closing the digital content divide and narrowing the content gap between different regions of the world. Key sponsors of the WSA include the global Internet Society and Indigo Brainmedia – the leading and most innovative digital magazine from Latin America, which won the WSA in the e-Entertainment category in 2007 and since then entered into a long term visionary as the main supporter and sponsor.

The WSA 09 Winners’ Gala, WSA Winners Conference and Exhibition will take place in Monterrey, Mexico, September 2-5, 09 in collaboration with the UN GAID’s Global Forum.

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