Spotlight on ‘ICT for Inclusive Development’ at NITC 2014
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 00:00
CSSL creates platform for Commonwealth nations to deliberate on role of ICT in citizen-centric development
By Senuri De Silva
The 32nd National Information Technology Conference 2014 (NITC) was inaugurated on Monday with the attendance of many Commonwealth delegates and guest speakers focusing on ‘ICT for Inclusive Development’.
The event organised by the Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL) is to create a platform for Commonwealth nations to deliberate on the role of ICT in citizen centric development in the Commonwealth beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which reach their deadline in 2015. It will also consider the relevance of the CHOGM 2013 theme ‘Growth and Equity: Inclusive Development’.
The conference agenda features deliberations on topics relevant to Commonwealth countries on developing a collaborative and connected Commonwealth to share ICT knowledge and resources to synergise efforts to advance the social development.
“The conference will finalise a declaration, ICT for inclusive development which includes policy objectives and targeted visions for 2020 in the Commonwealth. Thereafter we will submit our recommendation to the Chairman of the Commonwealth, President Mahinda Rajapaksa,” said CSSL President Ajith Salgado speaking at the inauguration ceremony held at the BMICH.
Director General/Chief Executive of UK-based Commonwealth Telecommunication, Chair of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D and University of London Royal Holloway Professor Tim Unwin in his keynote speech addressed a myriad of current issues that he hopes will be discussed in the following days sessions, saying: “Your higher education system is turning out some people of the highest capacity. It’s good to see so many women in an event that is largely for computer science and IT. We have to do more about this gender balance. ICTs are transforming the world for the better for most people but not all people. That’s why this conference is about ICT for inclusive development.”
Unwin asserted that ICT has opened up new possibilities for criminal activities. “CTO has been dealing with wider issues on the governance of the internet. It raises questions about the right and wrong, and about privacy and freedom. We have considered those. There is both a dark side as well as the modern brilliant side and we cannot pretend that it doesn’t exist. Today the use of ICT has increased the disparity between the rich and the poor. In the UK where we are moving to a digital by default environment 15% don’t have access to a computer and will therefore marginalise them further. If we don’t work with the poor we have failed as humans. It can contribute value to the economy. Computer scientists and computer are brilliant at developing new tech but we still have a choice on what we can do our work on and what we can develop. We can collect mass fortunes or we can listen to the child on the street. By the use of our science we can make a technical change to their lives.”
He continued: “I believe that we must have an open and transparent dialogue on some of the many difficult issues that have remained unresolved. Social economic and political minds need to work on what are more challenging issues like internet governance and data privacy, security of state, businesses and loved ones. We should also have greater concern about sustainability. Our technology is unsustainable and it’s built to be unsustainable and think of the tech demands and the cost of putting satellites into the atmosphere. We have to pay much greater attention to the question of sustainability.”
Chief Guest Senior Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama stated that Sri Lanka has already achieved its Millennium Development Goals but expressed the need for changes in the education system to facilitate future ICT development.
“The single common factor we can see is the emphasis in science and tech and the emphasis on ICT. Even those developing countries are looking at that post 2015 agenda. Developing countries like ours can use technology much more and much faster. Our President has insisted from the beginning of his tenure that it should be forward looking and science. Without that approach to accept a new scientific culture it’s difficult to look at a scientific culture. In South Asia we are the most computer literate nation. We have to restructure the education system and upgrade skills. We have to create a whole cadre of people who are in charge or who promote this science and tech and IT,” he said.
IBM Asia Pacific VP Tim Greisinger discussed the creation of ‘smarter cities’ and the possibility of integrating ICT into the everyday lives of the population saying: “There are many aspects to smart cities. They can increase security, increase faster response to dangers all well as predicting them and taking precautionary action. There is a way to make every subsystem of cities better and smarter. A city is a ‘system of systems’. IBM has worked with cities such as RIO as well as the Government of Philippines to implement such technological advancements.”
Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Secretary Gotabaya Jayaratne also addressed the gathering and said: “The Government is planning to create 100,000 new IT jobs and uplift ICT literacy amount by 75% by 2016. We are also planning to earn $ 1 billion from foreign exchange by IT related industries by 2016. We were able to create 85,000 jobs in the IT field and maintain 50% ICT literacy in the country and earn about $ 900 million from our foreign earnings. Out of 5.2 million families in the country, one million have individual computers and the use of internet is at 23.5% at the moment. These achievements indicate the development of ICT in Sri Lanka.”
ICT Agency of Sri Lanka CEO Reshan Devapura said that the theme for this year captures the development of the country: “Development becomes inclusive when all stakeholders are allowed to contribute to the decision making process.” He indicated that there have been many initiatives being taken to develop ICT literacy that has already grown in leaps and bounds since 2005, as well as the ITBPO industry – one of the rising sources of income for Sri Lanka – that aims at reaching the $ 5 billion mark by 2022.
The technical discussions of the conference are on from 26 to 27 August 2014 at The Kingsbury, Colombo, with the participation of Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK Dr. Chris Nonis and Securities Exchange Commission Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa.
The CSSL is a leading professional body of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Sri Lanka and is a member of the South East Asia Regional Computer Confederation (SEARCC) and International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP).
Pix by Lasantha Kumara