Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella made a statement on 21 December that, “Digital multinational conglomerates are overwhelming and alienating our local businesses by data colonisation.”
He went on to say, “This is directly impacting our medium scale companies. This view is also shared by leading industrialists in Sri Lanka. These predatory techniques lead to huge sums of money leaving the country through these digital platforms. Therefore, the Government has been considering registering foreign digital operators and not social media and digital platform users.”
The Federation of Information Technology Industry Sri Lanka (FITIS) recognises and welcomes Minister Rambukwella’s initiative and the Government’s steps in the right direction. There are a few points it intends to emphasise on, in order to bring to light, both; the lack of a level playing field in the digital business arena and the necessity for one.
It is a fact that there is an increasing reliance on the digital economy, especially in the face of COVID-19, the resultant lockdowns and social distancing regulations. However, with this reliance comes the vital need to develop a fair regulatory framework — one that allows equal opportunities for international and local players to conduct business in an environment that encourages fair competition.
Most European countries, developed countries, and large markets have taken measures to identify non-resident digital businesses. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), in its 2019 report, said that regulatory bodies of countries where worldwide digital platforms operate find it difficult to control them.
According to CBSL, the primary cause for this is the fact that these businesses, since they are not registered locally, do not come under the host country’s regulatory environment and taxation system. In contrast, local platforms are under regulatory scrutiny and are liable for local taxes. Such differences are not conducive to ensure a level playing field for local operators.
FITIS is the apex body of the ICT sector in Sri Lanka, covering all the major industry segments, with chapters covering hardware, software, training and education, communication, office automation, professional and digital. It represents a cumulative membership of over 200 active business firms in the ICT industry. The Digital chapter of FITIS was formed to foster digital businesses, entrepreneurs, and e-commerce, with the long-term goal of growing the country’s digital economy.