Sri Lanka, on the path to becoming the regional knowledge hub, is in the forefront of development effort, said ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) Chief Executive Officer Reshan Dewapura.
Dewapura made the remark while delivering his address as the Chief Guest at the Infotel Expo 2010 gala dinner hosted in Colombo recently.
Speaking further, the ICTA CEO said that Sri Lanka after the end of the ethnic war was now firmly on the path of socioeconomic development as envisaged in the ‘Mahinda Chinthana Vision for the Future’ policy statement of the Government.
“Since the conclusion of the fight against terrorism, which plagued us for almost three decades, Sri Lanka is now firmly on the path to economic development. The comprehensive and cohesive development plan for the country is clearly articulated in the ‘Mahinda Chinthana – Vision for the Future’ – the Government’s policy document
“The policy statement envisages making Sri Lanka the regional hub in five sectors. It speaks of transforming Sri Lanka to a dynamic global hub in five sectors: A maritime hub, an aviation hub, a commercial hub, an energy hub and a knowledge hub,” Dewapura added.
Out of these five areas in which it is envisaged in the ‘Mahinda Chinthana Vision for the Future’ that Sri Lanka would become the centre of activity in the region, the knowledge sector stands out: “With regard to transformation of Sri Lanka into a knowledge hub in the region, ICT has been and will be a huge contributor. We know that out of the five hubs, it is the knowledge hub that has progressed the most so far, the one that has matured more than the others. The Government itself has recognised this and hence is fully committed to the ICT sector and with focus and great emphasis on the knowledge hub, it has placed ICT in the forefront of its development effort,” Dewapura asserted.
The knowledge sector also stands tall as an area where the private sector and the Government have vast vistas for collaborative effort: “This is also an industry where the private sector and the Government work seamlessly, hand in glove, with common objectives and goals with the same mind-set and have similar aspirations. Looking at the future, it is strongly believed that this sector is what will drive development and will be the key in generating employment, increasing exports and boosting the national economy of our country,” the ICTA CEO added.
Pointing out an area where there is huge potential for speeding up the journey of Sri Lanka towards becoming the knowledge hub of Asia, Dewapura referred to the vast possibilities in IT-BPO: “An area which has huge potential for hastening Sri Lanka’s journey towards becoming the knowledge hub of Asia is the IT-BPO industry. We have set targets for ourselves in the IT/BPO industry in the next four or five years. We are looking to grow this industry to a US$ 1 billion industry with an increase of 100,000 to 150,000 in the workforce. We aim at making our IT-BPO industry a top foreign exchange earner and a top employment generator for the country. If we can achieve this, no doubt this will provide a significant boost to our economy.”
Taking ICT benefits to every citizen
Moving on from growing the industry to making the benefits of ICT accrue to every citizen, especially the disadvantaged, Dewapura said: “Other than growing the industry, what about using ICT as a tool for spearheading socio-economic development in the country? What about taking the benefits/dividends of ICT to every citizen in every village? What are our plans for the future in this respect?”
Dewapura emphasised that an essential part in making the benefits of ICT accrue to the people is to create the environment in which all the people and in particular those in distant villages and the disadvantaged like the differently-abled can benefit.
“While we work on programmes and projects that will directly harness ICT for the benefit of the people, we must not forget that we also have to create an environment that is conducive to taking the benefits of ICT to every citizen. We have to create an environment in which ordinary citizens can consume the dividends of ICT. I’m talking about increasing the Internet penetration, increasing the broadband penetration, increasing the PC penetration and most of all increasing the ICT literacy of our citizens.”
‘e-Sri Lanka’ initiative
“The Government of Sri Lanka is keen and extremely focused on these areas and will continue to do its utmost to realise these goals. The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka, is empowered to contribute to this effort, with a mandate to execute the ‘e-Sri Lanka’ National Development Initiative, through which it has been executing a number of strategies, and successfully implementing a significant number of programmes and projects, and will continue to do so in the future. The telecom industry, also has to play huge role here, they have recognised that and are gearing up to deliver on their share of the responsibility,” he said, explaining the efforts the Government was making and the role ICTA was fulfilling in the endeavour.
“The ICT industry – as it has done in the past – has the most vital role to play in contributing to this endeavour. We are privileged to be involved in this sector and to be at a point in time where this industry can really grow and contribute to development. It is our responsibility to maximise on these opportunities and ensure we give of our best to accomplish the goals of a ‘Connected Nation,’ where everyone can readily enjoy the fruits borne out of ICT-led development. It is time for bold steps and for strategic commitments and investments, to follow the lead of the Government and gear-up to deliver on the industry commitments,” Dewapura said, encouraging collective effort.