The government of Sri Lanka has set its sights on raising the ICT
literacy of its citizenry to 75 per cent by 2016, the Secretary to the
President declared at the FutureGov Forum Sri Lanka last week (Thursday
ICT literacy in the island republic has
grown from five per cent in 2004 to 30 per cent today, as a result of a
series of initiatives spearheaded by a Presidential taskforce to bring ICT to ordinary Sri Lankans, particularly in rural areas, where 77 per cent of the population lives.
Lalith Weeratunga (pictured), Secretary to the President, Sri Lanka,
told a room of around 200 senior government officials in Colombo that
bridging the rural-urban divide was one of four priority areas where ICT is being deployed to spur growth and propel socio-economic development.
“The peace that has dawned in our motherland has enabled us to think
of innovations that would improve the quality of life of those living in
rural areas, hitherto not much noticed by policymakers,” he said.
The Rural Telecentre Network, known as Nenasala, and a network of PC labs in schools, were lauded as a key government project to narrow the digital divide in rural areas.
ICT “is a passport for employment opportunities”, and so it is “the duty” of government to ensure rural communities are made ICT literate, said Weeratunga.
The other three priority areas were making government robust and efficient, using ICT to involve citizens as “partners of governance”, and the commitment of top leadership for boosting national competitiveness.
Driving these priorities is the e-Sri Lanka project, launched in 2005 by the Information & Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) with assistance from the World Bank.
“The cornerstones of e-Sri Lanka – peace, equity and growth – remain valid today,” said Weeratunga.
But Sri Lanka’s most senior civil servant cautioned that the government’s ambitions faced tough challenges.
“Creating ICT infrastructure that will have a positive impact on the economic development of a country is no easy task,” he said.
“It is a conceptual process that has little or no relation to
technology. People must be placed at the centre of everything and it is
from their lens that processes need to be looked at.”
The government of Sri Lanka’s modernisation efforts received three
awards at the FutureGov Awards earlier this month (October 2010), a
tally equalled only by the government of South Korea.