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President Rajapaksa ushered in era of transformation through ICT – Dewapura


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President Mahinda Rajapaksa ushered in an era of transformation through ICT, says I CT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) CEO Reshan Dewapura.

The ICTA CEO said so while participating at the IBM Software Executive Summit 2011 held in Colombo recently. Speaking further at the occasion on the topic ‘Ushering in the Transformation Era with IT in Sri Lanka,’ he said that the President had launched the era of transforming the country through ICT about six years ago.

The war for victory in socioeconomic development is making great strides, Dewapura said referring to the people-friendly boost that the President gave to ICT for development as he became Prime Minister in 2004.

 

At that time ICT was a prerogative of the urban elite and seen at its best only as a technology that enabled automation. Under the guidance of the President, the change from ICT as an elitist tool to a tool of taking universal knowledge to the village received a shot in the arm.

The contribution that ICT would make as a tool for socioeconomic development, its capability as a development accelerator in any sector and its potential contribution as a boost to a country’s economy thus came to light rather late.

But once this realisation came, ICT took on a new meaning, a new vision and got truly ingrained in the national development plans of countries (especially developing countries). With this people-friendly turn, the e-Sri Lanka initiative aimed at making people’s lives more comfortable by the use of ICT too took a people-friendly turn.

An ICT Act was passed in Parliament, the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka was set up, donors pledged their support for e-Sri Lanka, Dewapura said, referring to the legal framework of ICT4Development.

“The fruits of these efforts at transformation of society through ICT are now there to be seen – be it the ICT indexes, ICT literacy, the impact of re-engineering government programmes or taking ICT to the grassroots, be it qualitative or quantitative, the achievements are there for all to see. We strongly believe that e-Sri Lanka will go down in history as an innovative programme that made a real difference in our country,” he said.

Emphasising the value of considering ICT from a holistic approach and not isolation, Dewapura said: “Strongly entrenched in the belief that ICT is the future driving force of socioeconomic development, the e-Sri Lanka initiative was strengthened to have some level of impact in the lives of all citizens in this country.

The e-Sri Lanka Development project which was started about six years ago is an integrated e-development programme which looks at developing the entire ICT landscape in a holistic manner. It does not subscribe to various ICT development activities carried out in isolation, but promotes the interlinked integrated development of the entire ICT sphere.”

The e-Sri Lanka initiative in this holistic perspective includes ICT infrastructure projects including access, re-engineering government projects – which includes re-forming government processes and automating them, ICT human resource development, ICT industry growth, societal ICT applications for rural communities, e-leadership and industrial capacity building.

All these components are intrinsically linked and are interdependent. All have to succeed equally well to achieve the ultimate objectives; failure in one component will significantly dilute the success of others.

Elaborating on the success story of e-Sri Lanka that ushered in the revolutionary transformation through ICT under the guidance President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the ICTA CEO said: “This pioneering e-Sri Lanka initiative has resulted in major and numerous achievements and success in the field of ICT in Sri Lanka. And there is one indicator that captures these successes in a nutshell. Sri Lanka’s ranking in the NRI or Networked Readiness Index, which is measured by the World Economic Forum and published in its Global Information Technology Report, (and which measures the ICT Readiness of Countries : Year-on-year), Sri Lanka’s ranking in this NRI, has gone up significantly in the last five/six years. As a percentage position it has gone up from 72 to 48.”

Speaking further about the success story, Dewapura went on to say: “The World Economic Forum which is the publisher of the NRI, in its Global Information Technology Report of 2010/2011, has commented that in the last five years, Sri Lanka has the fifth biggest improvement in the NRI, and hence the fifth best development in the ICT sector in the world.

This as I said is in a nutshell what we have achieved in the last five years, and indeed achievements that everyone involved in the ICT sector of this country should be proud of.”

Going into some of the details of the success story of transformation through ICT, the ICTA CEO added: “If we look into details of the progress, that has got us to this stage in the last five to six years, many activities take the limelight. Our ICT literacy rate has moved from a mere 4% to 30%.

There has been tremendous development in the ICT/BPO industry, with about 26% year on year growth. A number of innovative projects have been completed in government (LGN, Lanka Gate, GIC, BMD, e-DS, e-Pensions, e-Civil Registration, e-RL etc.).

“ICT access has been greatly increased with the establishment of the acclaimed Nenasala network or tele-centres (with over 600 centres in operation).

And over 150 ICT based community projects have helped/ continues to help rural/ disadvantaged communities on regular basis. So a huge amount of work has already been done. However, we are aware that much more needs to be done in the same spirit and with the same determination.”


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