The ICT Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka commenced implementation of the e-Sri Lanka Development Project with the technical support of the World Bank in 2003. Since inception the e-Sri Lanka Development project went through series of improvements and was successfully concluded on 31st December 2013.
After the completion of e-Sri Lanka Development Project, the World Bank undertook a thorough review of e-Sri Lanka overall performance during January – October 2014. Consequently the World Bank released the final version of the Implementation Completion and Results Report (ICRR) through a letter addressed to Secretary to the Treasury dated November 2014. A comprehensive methodology, including a stakeholder consultation process, as well as analyzing data from different sources was used for the review, and the assessment was carried out by a group of consultants appointed from the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of the World Bank.
The assessment revealed that during the period, ICTA has developed in to a capable and professional institution which played a substantive role in the significant outcomes that the project has attained. The rating given to outcomes was satisfactory which reflected that ICTA played an essential role in achieving the following key results;
• Modernization of government services, developed several electronic services for citizens and business, and improving 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,
• Promoting IT and BPO exports, and mobilizing 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.
Overall rating for outcomes
According to the ICR, the overall outcome rating given in the assessment was satisfactory.
The ICR report highlighted that the fact that the project remains highly relevant to the country and for the World Bank‘s assistance strategy. Efficiency of achieving the outcomes will also be greatly enhanced by the long-term benefits, especially those related to provision of transparent and efficient government services, increase in specialized ICT skills and ICT literacy at all levels of education and job creation through a dynamic and competitive ICT industry sector.
It was also mentioned that the project significantly contributed to social development, with a special emphasis on integrating the poorest populations of the Southern, Northern and Eastern regions of the country through use of ICTs. Under the project‘s participatory approach, government stakeholders were engaged in the e-Policy, Leadership and Institutional Development Program and the Reengineering Government Program; industry and academia were engaged in the ICT Human Resources Development and Industry Promotion Program; rural populations, through the Telecenter Development Program; and the poorest and most vulnerable populations, through the e-Society Program. Synergies between telecommunications, Telecenter, e-government, and e-society programs were encouraged to render information access and service provision relevant to rural populations.
Strengthening of institutions and ICTA as a e leadership institution
According to the report, world bank has realized through its assessment that the project had a substantive impact on the institutions that participated, which included ICTA, Ministries and other government agencies. e-Sri Lanka entailed a new institution that had to be created from scratch, building on lessons from pioneering nations, and attracting new talents and business-like practices to the government—drawing on local company law and endorsed by a parliament act. ICTA, through the support from the e Sri Lanka project, was able to build its capacity as an e-leadership institution. In addition, the project brought about change in the culture and improved efficiencies in the use of IT by Ministries, Department and private sector institutions, which has now been institutionalized into the government system.
Key success factors contributed to outcomes
The World Bank also recognized that synergy between all the projects implemented by ICTA as a key success factor for achieving the e-Sri Lanka vision. The report identified that the following success factors effected to achieve planned development outcomes/results
Active involvement of ICTA on consolidation and development of the sector: ICTA was instrumental in assisting the government in strengthening the policy framework for the digital economy. ICTA led the successful unification of the eight ICT industry associations, and helped create SLASSCOM—a promising coalition of software and BPO companies. ICTA staff also participated in several government IT-related Tender Boards and assisted ministries and agencies in their capacity as technical experts. ICTA also pioneered the creation of the current Chief Innovation Officer (CIOs) function and the development of CIO staff with a mandate to promote electronic services and ICT usage within their respective agencies which supported project implementation.
Costs savings enhanced efficiency/ Cost effectiveness: Following the Medium Term Review (MTR), several changes were made to the implementation arrangements which led to substantial progress and cost savings, including, formation of technology teams, establishment of Sri Lanka Computing Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) and other in-house staffing initiatives such as the Private Sector and e-Society teams.
Expansion of the project to previously inaccessible areas of the country increased its outreach and results: Until 2009 the government was unable to implement several initiatives envisaged under the project in the North and the East of the country due to instability in the area. Once the area stabilized, the government went ahead with implementation in these two provinces. The additional financing approved in 2012 by the Bank was also instrumental in completing these activities in the North and the East.
Strong government support: The government identified ICT as a means of achieving peace, growth and equity through technological and institutional transformation of key sectors of the economy. Government commitment towards the project remained strong throughout the implementation. This is evidenced by the strong support to ICTA, a professional, government agency that implemented the project, while supporting the overall development of the ICT sector in the country.
Implementation and utilization of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)
The implementation of the e-Sri Lanka Development project was closely monitored in accordance with the M&E plan The majority of data generated through project implementation was collected on a monthly basis using the data collection instruments developed. Baseline and periodic evaluation surveys were conducted based on the agreed set of selected indicators. The findings of the evaluations were consolidated, discussed and reported upon in Evaluation Reports and used to improve performances. M&E capacity was also built among partners and contractors of many e-Sri Lanka projects. The M&E unit was engaged in demonstrating results and lessons learned through workshops to various stakeholders within the government.
The project relevance rated Substantial
The project design was completed during the period of 2002-2003 period and was intended to address the poor coordination of IT related policies/programs, an under developed legal environment for electronic transactions, low ICT literacy, low level of ICT use within government, lack of ICT infrastructure in rural areas and lack of public access points to make ICT affordable to the majority of the population. The project was designed to address these constraints by modernization of government services and to improve access to information, infrastructure and services. The design included technical assistance to build capacity for ICT leadership, improve policies for ICT diffusion, provide ICT literacy, promote ICT education and exports, and mobilize resources and innovation in ICT applications to meet priority social needs
ICT investments require complementary investments in human resources, relevant local content, business process reengineering, and the legal environment in order to reap the potential benefits from productivity and transformation. These areas were incorporated into the project design. Implementation of the various project interventions to enhance growth, employment and equity through affordable access to information technology was highly relevant and outcomes have been substantive
Efficiency / Cost effectiveness of ICTA
In the ICR report achievement of efficiency/cost effectiveness related objectives were given substantial emphasis.
The efficiency in the project was based on increased access to information by citizens; increased public sector cost efficiency and transparency; improvement in the quality of governmental services; reduction in transaction costs and time spent (for government, businesses, and citizens); increased contribution to GDP by the private sector in general and the IT industry in particular; ICT-enabled increases in productivity across government and industries; and an enhanced policy and legal environment. IT related exports increased from US$213 million in 2005 and are now in excess of US$720 million;
The establishment of the government wide intranet has enabled government agencies to access and share each other‘s information and data seamlessly, thereby substantially reducing government processing and transaction times and costs.
ICR assessment recognized that ICTA, as an institution, compares favorably in size vis-à-vis institutions with similar mandate, further enhancing the overall perspective of efficiency of the project. The staffing and costs levels stand up well to comparisons. At project end, ICTA had around 80 staff (country population 21 million). This compares favorably to the under implementation similar Bank ICT projects in both Rwanda (900-1,000 staff; for a country with a population of 11 million) and Moldova (29 staff; country population of 3.5 million).
Finally the ICR concluded that the e Sri Lanka project achieved its objectives and has successfully created the platform for NEXT LEVEL OF ICT DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTRY. ICR further indicated that ICTA has adequate capacity and is well placed to sustain progress made under the project; to carry forward ICT reforms and to provide effective citizen centered , business friendly government services, to empower the poor and disadvantaged groups through increased and affordable ICT tools and to develop ICT leadership.