e-Sri Lanka: Transforming a Nation with ICT

Notes from the World Bank seminar “e-Sri Lanka: Transforming a Nation with ICT” in Washington.

The E-Sri Lanka initiative, which became effective in January 2005 is one of the pioneering ICT for Development projects supported by the World Bank. This ambitious e-development project aims to bring connectivity to rural populations, improve the way government operates and raise awareness of the benefits of ICT for remote rural populations as well as support the development of a vibrant private ICT sector. The leadership team from Sri Lanka’s ICT Agency presents the original E-Sri Lanka vision and emerging lessons and key results after the first four years of implementation experience.

Key talking points:

Where does Sri Lanka stand?

Network Readiness Index (NRI) presentation, shows high percentages of ICT Literacy and Governmental readiness for ICT.

Some examples:

  • Information on any Government Process, Service or Application just a phone call away
  • Civil Registration (Birth, Marriage, Death certificates etc.) documents in hand within a matter of minutes
  • Drive-in Vehicle / Revenue License Registration
  • Government  Organizational Machinery (Ministries, Departments etc.) connected, on-line and secure
  • Single-window, multi-channel access to any e-service in Sri Lanka (very soon)

Figures for Industry and Education show:

  • 30,000+ new jobs created in the IT/BPO sector since 2005
  • IT/ITeS becomes the 5th largest foreign exchange earner for the country – USD 250+ million in 2008
  • 2009 – Declared as the “Year of English and IT”
  • 2000 schools equipped with computer labs (6000 by 2010/11)
  • 40 Distance Education Learning Centers set-up, offering 35 online graduate level courses

Figures for society show:

  • Increased access to ICT for citizens across the country – 600 Nenasalas (Tele-centres) set-up
  • Provision of Market Prices & Crop/Agriculture information to farmers
  • Providing e-health/tele-medicine facilities to rural patients
  • Development of digital talking books for the visually impaired, to developing visual hearing aids for the hearing impaired
  • Availability of supplementary school educational material both at primary and secondary educational level to students.
  • Setting up of rural BPOs and creation of job opportunities for youth in rural communicates

How did this happen?

Answer lies in the implementation of structural grids in the society:

Infrastructure-, e-Governance-, Knowledge-, Industry- and Rural grid.

Infrastructure grid examples:

Nenasala – knowledge centers. Both public and private ownership: entrpreneurs, religious institutions, community based organizations, rural schools and public libraries.

NBN – National Backbone Network. Objective: Deployment of affordable broadband services throughout Sri Lanka:

  • Island-wide Ultra High Bandwidth Broadband Backbone
  • Provision of affordable broadband connectivity to all parts of the country
  • Technology Neutral, Least Cost Subsidy
  • Tariff Regulation: Re-activate ISPs & NFB providers; increase competition

Lanka Government Network – Objective: Highly available, secure backbone to connect the government.

Rural grid examples:

e-Society Development Initiative (e-SDI):

  • Seeks to spread the benefits of ICT to disadvantaged communities
  • Solicit issues and ideas from communities, build their capacity
  • Help them implement  ICT projects to solve their most pressing issues
  • 175 communities have had 175 sustainable ICT centers established, with over 72,00 people benefiting each month

e-Sri Lanka Vision: “Take the dividends of ICT to every village, citizen, business and also transform the way government thinks and works”.

Q&A session

Viewers of the webcast sent in their questions via Twitter (hashtag: #eSL09), and via a videolink

Wamuyu (twitter):

– Any study that shows that students exposed to ICT education have performed better than students who have not?

– Did Sri Lanka begin with a single e-Transactions law that was later split up into computer crime, copyright and e-Signature or did Sri Lanka enact all the specific laws separately?  How did the country get consensus from the various Ministries?

lpant (twitter):

– Have for-profit entrepreneurship models been more successful than community dev ventures or state-sponsored, funded models?

– About ICTs’ role to break status quo. Specifically I am interested on enabling role of ICTs to facilitate governance innovation, social innovation and institutional change. I am wondering if the speaker can talk about specific experience about this from the projects in Sri Lanka.

– When the speaker was talking about the LGN he mentiones that all gov organization will be connected , on what level this connection?

Video link from Rwanda, Moldova, Tanzania:

-Can the e-gov become a common denominator and contribute to international cooperation?

All the questions can be viewed on the eDevelopment Twitter page. The webcast will be archived and made available on the e-Development website. Facts presented above are collected from the seminar slideshow presentation. To learn more about e-Sri Lanka program, visit: www.ictalk.lk

Photo credit: Gregory Asmolov.

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e-Sri Lanka: Transforming a Nation with ICT
was published on 28.05.2009 by Anders Bolin. It files under global, south asia
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