Effective IT

Wednesday, 11 April 2012 00:28 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

EVERYONE agrees that Sri Lanka needs IT to develop rapidly and has the human resources to meet this end if used wisely. However, a recent survey might have put a dent in the Government’s plans to make the country an ICT hub.

After enjoying impressive gains previously, Sri Lanka has slipped in the latest Network Readiness Index (NRI) compiled by the World Economic Forum and the global business school INSEAD.

In the 11th annual 2012 Global Information Technology Report released last week, Sri Lanka was ranked at number 71 with a score of 3.88. In the previous report for 2010-11, Sri Lanka was placed at 66 with a score of 3.81. Though the score has improved in the latest survey, Sri Lanka has slipped in the ranking.

When Sri Lanka moved up to 66th place last year, in comparison to 83rd rank in 2005/6, much of the advancement was credited to President Mahinda Rajapaksa who has been a passionate champion of ICT even from the time he was the Premier.

Yet there is an increasing need to not only promote ICT but ensure that there are accessible platforms in local languages that can be used to promote growth through technological innovation. Sri Lankans have already shown through their embrace of mobile phones that they are ready for the challenge. Nonetheless internet penetration remains low and high cost of computers as well as the need of English to use internet and software effectively could mean a bottleneck situation.   

However compared to several advanced Asian nations, Sri Lanka’s ranking is higher. For example Thailand which was ranked at 59 in last year’s index, had slipped to 77 whilst IT major India was ranked at 69 this year, as opposed to 48th place last year. In comparison to these major dips, Sri Lanka has lost only five places. Sri Lanka is also above countries such as South Africa, Indonesia, Philippines and Mexico. Countries ranked above Sri Lanka include Romania, Mongolia, Bulgaria and Mauritius.

 The 2012 Networked Readiness Index uses 53 indicators to compute the impact of ICT on public policy. The index measures the correlation between how these markets leverage advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) to drive economic productivity and social development.

Despite 77th overall ranking, Sri Lanka was placed at a high 22nd under the sub category of affordability and 54 in terms of skills. In terms of business and Government usage the rank was 44 and 43 respectively, showing a clear need for improvement. Even though online documentation, application processors and interaction would go a long way to making the public sector more efficient, there is little effort in this direction.

Most of the ministry websites themselves need to be updated and many are the complaints regarding crucial websites such as the Board of Investment. In terms of using social media for engagement or fast tracking arduous application processes to start up businesses, use of ICT is non-existent.  The visa-on-arrival system might be the only positive example that could be highlighted as having significant impact.

Private companies have fared better because consumers have demanded it of them. Surely it is time for the public services to fall in line and train staff to use IT more effectively for economic growth.