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.
The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) announces the appointment of a new Chairperson and Board of Directors, with the change of Government. The new Board consists of Mrs Chitranganie Mubarak (Chairperson), Mr Muhunthan Canagey (Managing Director), Dr Ajith Madurapperuma, Mr Ananda Wijeratne, Mr Upul Kumarapperuma and Mr Chanuka Wattegama.
Mrs Chitranganie Mubarak is a BSc. Honours Graduate from the University of Colombo and is well known in the ICT sector for empowering rural communities with IT. She worked at ICTA, heading the e-Society Programme of the e-Sri Lanka Development Project for almost nine years, before joining a Senior Management position at SLIIT. She was instrumental in conceptualizing and launching close to 250 projects, with wide ranging development outcomes some of which have received international recognition. She is also a Member of the Board of the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Kelaniya and a Member of the National Steering Committee on Food Security of the National Science Foundation. Prior to assuming duties at ICTA she was a Director at the Sri Lanka Export Development Board.
After a period of almost 12 years at ICTA its CEO Reshan Dewapura will be concluding his tenure, the new Board of Directors announced. Mr Muhunthan Canagey will be taking over responsibilities from Reshan. With the appointment of Muhunthan, the Government plans to widen the role of ICTA in the public and private sector, initiating and implementing the National ICT Policy, while also contributing to reforms, innovation and creating new opportunities for the local ICT industry. Muhunthan and Reshan will work together until the 28th of February 2015, to ensure a smooth transition of operations at ICTA.
Mr Muhunthan Canagey has been in the ICT industry for over two decades and is one of the country’s youngest entrepreneurs. He stepped into the field of IT at a very young age of 16. Canagey holds a Master’s Degree in Information Technology from the University of Keelle (UK) and has extensive knowledge of the industry. He was the founder and CEO of multiple technology enterprises and was the founder and CEO of a highly successful enterprise in the area of satellite communication and media: a first of this nature to be formed in Sri Lanka.
The ICTA Chairperson and Board of Directors while appreciating the dedicated services of Reshan Dewapura towards ICTA stated that “during Dewapura’s tenure as CEO and COO he helped steer the World Bank Funded e-Sri Lanka Development Project to a successful conclusion”.
In a recently published report the World Bank (available at www.icta.lk), while commending ICTA, noted that ICTA has developed into a capable and professional institution, which played a substantive role in the significant outcomes that the e-Sri Lanka Project has attained. The overall rating given to outcomes of e-Sri Lanka was satisfactory, which reflected that ICTA played an essential role in achieving the following key results:
Modernisation of Government services, development of several electronic services for citizens and business, and improvement of the internal efficiency of the Government
Provision of affordable access to information infrastructure and services.
Technical assistance to build capacity for ICT leadership
Improved policies and laws required for ICT diffusion
Increased ICT literacy in every part of the country
Promotion of IT and BPO exports, and mobilising of resources and innovation in ICT applications to meet priority social needs.
Implementing a results based M &E approach to improve project performances and measure outcome/ impacts Reshan Dewapura with over 27 years experience in the ICT industry, has been at ICTA since the inception of the organization in July 2003, and has held the posts of Director Information Infrastructure and Chief Operating Officer, prior to being appointed as CEO in 2010. Reshan also functioned as a Director at ICTA’s two subsidiary companies – Sri Lanka CERT (SLCERT) and Lanka Govt. Information Infrastructure (LGII). He is also a Board Director at the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT), as well as at the LKNIC (Sri Lanka’s Domain Registry). He is a member of the Governing Council of the National Institute of Business Management (NIBM).
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. ICTA is wholly owned by the Government of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka as a country is growing rapidly in every aspect. The country has achieved better gross domestic product (GDP) rates, a single digit level inflation, a solid GDP per capita income and low unemployment rates over the last two years, with positive contributions from key sectors of the economy.
This growth is expected to produce better results in upcoming years with a high momentum, supported by an increase in investment, a favourable macroeconomic environment and continued recovery in the global economy.
By- Indika Zoysa
Overlook of ICT sector
In such an environment, Sri Lanka’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has grown in a remarkable fashion. According to the latest report titled ‘Sri Lankan IT/BPM Industry2014 Review’ by Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM), IT sector’s export revenue grew from US$ 213 million in 2007 to an estimated US$ 720 million in 2013. Total employment grew from 33,700 in 2007 to an estimated 75,100 employees in 2013, and the number of companies in the industry grew from 170 in 2007 to over 220 in 2013.
The government has set a strategic goal for the sector which is to achieve US$ 1 billion worth of IT exports by 2016. ICT authority bodies such as the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology, Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and SLASSCOM have worked tirelessly over the last five years with other stakeholders in the industry to make this US$ 1 billion target a realistic goal.
Global companies such as ATKearney, Gartner and IBM have already put Sri Lanka on the top of their global rankings and now the ICT sector is slowly progressing towards their next big goal; reaching US$ 5 billion in revenue, create 200,000 direct jobs and 1,000 startups by 2022.
Big win on e-Government services
One major area of progress for Sri Lanka was e-government. Sri Lanka was ranked number one in the South Asia by the United Nations, for country’s continuous developments in the e-government initiatives.
Sri Lanka has climbed 41 places from the 115th position in 2012 to 74th position in 2014 out of 192 countries, according to the report titled ‘United Nations E-Government Survey 2014’ which was compiled by the Economic and Social Affairs Department of United Nations. Sri Lanka is in a commanding position in the E-Government Development Index (EGDI), surpassing second ranked Maldives (94) and third ranked India (118). According to the report, country’s percentile ranking is 38.5 percent which means that Sri Lanka is in the top 40% of the countries in the world that are engaged in implementing robust e-government programmes.
Sri Lanka has also done well in the sub-indexes of the report where it has been included in the top 50 global e-participation performers. The country is ranked 33rd in the global e-participation sub-index and has secured the first place in the lower middle income group, and fifth place out of 48 lower middle income countries in the world and ranked seventh among the countries that has a high online service performance relative to income. Finally, Sri Lanka is globally ranked at the 37th place among top online service delivery countries, securing sixth place within its income group.
Sri Lanka started its E-Government initiative back in 2005 under the ‘e-Sri Lanka national development project’. The online portal offers A-Z government web indexes, 108 e-services for citizens, 51 e-services for businesses and 10 non-residence related e-services. The portal also offers extensive mobile and SMS services, an e-participation portal, easily accessible government forms, a developed open data portal with data available in various formats as well as whole-of-government strategy.
Considering these statistics, Sri Lanka has been able to significantly improve e-government processes and climb the rankings to become the number one in the South Asian region. There is more to be achieved, however, if Sri Lanka wants to compete with top global e-government countries such as Republic of Korea, Singapore and Australia. These numbers are going to affect several global rankings such as Network Readiness Index (NRI), Doing Business Index (DBI) and Global Competitive Index (GCI). ‘UN E-Government Survey’ is considered as a feeding tool for these rankings and the progress we have made here from 2012 to 2014 as a country would contribute to these global rankings to elevate the country’s position in the coming years.
The country should utilize e-government and innovation to offer momentous opportunities to convert public administration into a tool of sustainable growth. E-government is ‘the use of ICT and its application by the government for the provision of information and public services to the people’ (Global E-Government Readiness Report 2004). In a broader aspect, e-government is the idea of using information technology tools in public administration to simplify and integrate processes to administer data and information in an effective manner to improve public service delivery, engage people using versatile communication channels and empower them. The opportunities offered by the digital development of recent years, whether through online services, big data, social media, mobile apps, or cloud computing, are expanding the way we look at e-government.
Through e-government innovations, public administrations around the world can be more competent, provide better services and respond to demands for transparency and accountability. E-government can help governments go green and promote effective natural resource management, as well as stimulate economic growth and promote social inclusion, particularly of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. ICTs have also proven to be effective platforms to facilitate knowledge sharing, skills development, transfer of innovative e-government solutions and capacity-building for sustainable development among countries. E-government can generate important benefits in the form of new employment, better health and education.
The measurement sticks of government services are reliability and productiveness. When the services are electronically implemented, reliability and productiveness should increase with great discipline. Each and every person in the country finds benefits and their lives have been made easier by e-government services. This was the brainchild of ICTA whose main objective is to serve, fulfill and empower Sri Lankans through their e-government service.
On a final note, let me congratulate ICTA on their tremendous effort and finish by saying that ICT is the bedrock upon which we can dream of building a society with equitable distribution of opportunity and knowledge through robust e-government platform services.
(The writer is the Country Business Manager of Intel Sri Lanka Liaison Office)
Making the biggest progress by a member country from its preceding ranking in the 2014 United Nations eGovernment Development Index (eGDI), Sri Lanka has advanced to the 74th position. At the preceding survey determining the eGDI which was in 2012 Sri Lanka’s position out of 193 countries was 115. Thus the 2014 United Nations eGDI of Sri Lanka is a jump traversing 41 positions. The rank reached by Sri Lanka out of 193 countries also places it within the first half of the highest ranked countries as well as the in the first position out of South Asian countries. The Maldives is at the 94th position. “The Sri Lankan Government has made a substantial effort to develop its online portal which now ranks 74th in the world. The online portal offers A-Z government web indexes, 108 e-services for citizens, 51 e-services for businesses and 10 non-residence related e-services. The portal also offers extensive mobile and SMS services, an e-participation portal, government forms easily accessible online, a developed open data portal with data available in various formats, as well as a whole-of-government strategy,” stated the 2014 UN – egov Development Index Report. “This is a significant achievement of all times by Sri Lanka,” ICT Agency (ICTA) CEO Reshan Dewapura said yesterday. The United Nations published the report on Wednesday in New York. e-government describes the use of technologies to facilitate the operation of government and the dispersement of government information and services. e-government, short for electronic government, deals heavily with Internet and non-internet applications to aid in governments. “Last year we worked hard on various fields in e-government and our tireless work has paid dividends,” said ICTA Re-engineering Government Program Director Wasantha Deshapriya.
Phase two of the Sri Lankan national ICT initiative is about to get underway with the name ‘Smart Sri Lanka’. Smart Sri Lanka has been formulated as the next version of the e-development program of the government, as the e-Sri Lanka project under the guidance of ICT Agency (ICTA) came to a close in December last year.
Premier objective of Smart Sri Lanka is to expedite the process for Sri Lanka to become a knowledge-based economy and information society, and eventually a knowledge hub in the region. Vital components of this phase include strategies for Smart Government, Smart Jobs, Smart Industries, Smart Information Society, Smart City, Smart Leadership and Smart Project Management.
ICTA CEO, Reshan Dewapura, explained Smart Sri Lanka, “As a result of bringing e-Sri Lanka to a close, there will not be any stoppage or projects half-way through. Instead, they would be updated and continued in line with new technologies and revamped strategies under the Smart Sri Lanka banner”.
Smart Sri Lanka project is to be implemented over five to six years, starting in the first quarter of 2014.
The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) has decided to conclude the ‘e-Sri Lanka’ project but revamp and continue the e-Sri Lanka development initiative under the name ‘Smart Sri Lanka’.
ICTA CEO Reshan Dewapura underlined this when he participated at the Media Dialogue held at Hotel Galadari Colombo Wednesday (18).
Speaking further on the occasion ICTA CEO ensured that as a result of bringing ‘e-Sri Lanka’ to a close, there wouldn’t be any stoppage of projects carried out under the “e-Sri Lanka” initiative half-way through. They would instead be updated and continued according to new technologies and strategies. Dewapura said that ICTA was currently in the process of planning “Smart Government, Smart Jobs, Smart Industries, Smart Information Society, Smart City and Smart leadership and Smart Project Management. ICTA CEO pointed out that today ICT was the country’s fifth biggest exchange earner. S Much work spread over the past decade had gone into Sri Lanka reaching this stage.
The ICT literacy was 4 per cent in 2003, now it is 40 per cent. ICTA offered its full co-operation for the rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the North as well, Dewapura added.
ICTA Programme Director / Legal Advisor Jayantha Fernando presented to the media personnel participating in the media dialogue all the salient measures ICTA took in the legal angle for implementing e-Sri Lanka. The following sub titles under the main theme “Legal environment for ICT led Development” ‘Sri Lankan ICT Sector’, ‘Introduction’, ‘History of ICT Law Reform Process’, ‘Administrative Legal Framework for ICT Development’, ‘What is ICT law?’, ‘Some legislation for ICT development in Sri Lanka’, ‘Intellectual Property Act No. 36 of 2003’, ‘Patenting software – Sri Lanka’, ‘Protection of software – under Copyright’, ‘Software Copyright Protection in Sri Lanka I P Act No. 36 of 2003’, ‘Is copying of software allowed? Section 12(7) of IP Act’, ‘Liability for software violations’, ‘Role of software in the digital economy and licensing’, ‘Electronic transactions Act No. 19 of 2006’, ‘Impact of Electronic transactions Act – Recent Developments’, ‘Electronic Signature Framework’ (Providing for secured transactions),’ ‘Electronic Transactions Act Chapter V – Electronic Evidence’, ‘Payment Systems Reforms’, ‘Payment and Settlement Systems Act 2006’, ‘Mobile transactions and payment regime’, ‘Mobile payment guidelines’, ‘Mobile payment regulations’, ‘Computer Crime’ , ‘Computer Crimes Act No. 24 of 2007′,’Data protection approach in Sri Lanka’.
Jayantha Fernando concluded the presentation emphasizing that ‘laws relating to ICT continue to change”, “Laws will always remain behind technology”, “The progress of technology evolution will depend on how fast laws are able to adapt to changes” and that “change is a necessary reality”.
Addressing a long session in the morning ICTA Re-engineering Government Programme Director Wasantha Deshapriya took the audience comprising media personnel in all three languages through a journey of e-Government from inception to the present day. The other countries tried to create better public service by retaining the same procedures but easing them by automation instead of manual action. On the other hand ICTA tried first to change the procedure to more people friendly procedures more efficiently. A good beginning is half the victory in a battle. Similarly this good beginning has made Sri Lanka continue to have a winning edge over many countries in the field of e-Governance, Wasantha Deshapriya said concluding his comprehensive presentation entitled ‘Where are we in the Re-Gov roadmap?’
Other presentations included ‘eServices-Myth and Reality’ by ,ICTA Programme Head – eServices Kanchana Thudugala, ‘Impact of eSociety’ by ICTA Content Manager e- Society Shriyananda Rathnayake, ‘ How ICTA helped our Private sector’ by ICTA Project Development Executive Sachindra Samararathna, ‘Has Nenasala bridged the digital divide?’by ICTA Project Manager – Information Infrastructure. Gavaskar Subramanium, and Mastering Social Media and Sri Lanka’s news culture by Mr. Deepthi Kumara Gunaratna.
The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) has decided to amend the eGovernment policy appropriately. Valuable deliberations and inter-action by eGovernment stakeholders took place recently for arriving at a new e-Government policy for Sri Lanka to embark on an era of better governance soon. That was when the workshop themed ‘eGovernment for good governance’ hosted by ICTA was held at Hotel Galadari, Colombo recently (3 Dec). A large number of Government Institution heads, Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs), representatives from Academia, the private sector and other institutions participated in the workshop. The event included addresses and presentations on ‘Background and introduction to new eGovernment Policy’, ‘eGovernment Policy – Vision and Overview of Policy’ and ‘Introduction to review process’ by the Review Committee. This was followed by group activities and group presentations comprising ratings of policy clauses with regard to qualities like clarity, applicability and implementability.
The first eGovernment policy in Sri Lanka ‘the ICT Policy and Procedures for the Government (eGovernment Policy)’ was initially approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on 16 December 2009. It was to be implemented by all Government organisations including ministries, Government departments, provincial councils, district secretariats, divisional secretariats and local Government authorities.
Policy should be dynamic
With rapid changes in the technologies and with the advancement of eGovernment implementation, it is required to review and reformulate the eGoverment policy. Even at the time when the policy was approved, it had been identified that the policy should be dynamic and should be amended as and when necessary. In order to achieve this objective a committee comprising senior government officials, Chief Innovation Officers, academics, technologists and eGovernment experts have been set up to review and reformulate the eGovernment policy.
As planned, the eGovernment policy given the cabinet nod in 2009 was reviewed in March 2011 and in April 2012. Although the self-assessment by relevant stakeholders on their compliance with the 2009 policy was 55% in 2011 and 51% in 2012, two drawbacks surfaced in the review. One was that inter-institution understanding needed to be improved. The other was the maturity of the understanding of the eGovernment policy needed to be raised to a higher level. In this backdrop ICTA carried out about 25 workshops island-wide including the North and East to ensure better orientation towards eGovernment policy among relevant stakeholders. Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga issued two circulars one in 2010 and other in 2011 urging compliance with the eGovernment policy.
Although the first eGovernment policy came into force in 2009 with the cabinet nod much behind-the-scenes work had been done in 2007 and 2008 as well towards formulating an appropriate eGovernment policy. In this endeavour ICTA availed itself also of developments in the field overseas. Many governments and civil societies had identified eight key goals/pillars as the primary objectives of Good Governance.
10 Good Governance objectives
ICTA considered these good governance principles termed ‘Good Governance Octagon’ and formulated its own 10 Good Governance objectives. These are as follows:
Objective 1–Make government information available and accessible electronically to citizens through multiple channels
Objective 2 – Make government services electronically available and accessible to all citizens via multiple channels in a citizen friendly manner
Objective 3–Improve/Re-engineer government processes to be citizen centric
Objective 4– Use eGovernment to eliminate duplication in ICT Infrastructure, information collection, government processes and ICT solutions within and across government organisations
Objective 5–Use of ICT to achieve, measure, monitor and publish defined service levels for all government services
Objective 6 – Address the requirements/needs of marginalised communities through ICT
Objective 7 – Implement processes and systems in government organisations to be highly responsive and interactive through the use of ICT
Objective 8–Enable citizen engagement through electronic means for consensus driven, public policy and decision making process wherever authorized
Objective 9–Strengthen rule of law through the use of ICT
Objective 10 – Establish and implement of a proper enabling operational framework for successful eGovernance
Based on the vision ‘To be the most citizen-friendly Government through eGovernance’, ICTA through the eGovernment team has thus come up with a new draft eGovernment policy. The eGovernment policy of 2009 had 177 policy clauses. The new policy comprises 132 policy clauses formulated after group activities and inter-action taking into consideration the feedback, trends in technology and stakeholder thinking.
For view of the draft new eGovernment policy and expression of views log on to http://egovpolicyen.engage.icta.lk/. Views of stakeholders are welcome till 31 December 2013.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”