Have Sri Lankans been told about the benefits of Internet?
The word Internet has become a very familiar word to many people
living in this country. Despite its popularity, majority of Sri Lankan
households remained isolated from Information super-highway for the past
Internet education has managed to change the early education by
creating a virtual classroom environment.
Lack of computer usage, highly priced Internet services, coverage and
unawareness are cited as the main responsible factors for not having
widespread Internet penetration in the country. However when existing
users are taken into consideration, it is doubtful whether they have
identified the importance of Internet properly even though they use
More than a decade has passed since the introduction of Internet; but
no significant contribution has been made to our national economy and to
the growth of GDP. This would be a very disappointing situation.
Logically the success of the Internet in any society is reflected by
a particular country’s GDP index. Precisely, this colossal amount of
contribution that it directly offers to the GDP would have been the
reason for other countries to adopt Internet technology in the process
of developing their economies.
While other countries reap the harvest, we are still searching for
fields to plough. Lengthy projects have consumed valuable time and that
would be a huge loss for the country. Therefore, the time has come to
act swiftly to bring the benefit of Internet to the country.
However, to understand the real situation, it is wise to identify the
factors that have actually dampened the Internet penetration in the
country. If we consider the growth, Sri Lankan Internet module looks
more like a self motivated one than a well established widespread
To be more precise, people will subscribe to the Internet after
having identified the benefits of internet by themselves. The majority
of these users have obtained Internet services to meet the demands of
their existing requirements and not in the search of new opportunities
This demand of Internet could be categorised as ‘application oriented
Internet demand’ by analysing the usage behavior of the users. In many
occasions their use of Internet is limited to primary objectives and
would rarely be used for other activities. This may be due to the
unawareness of many other tasks that he or she could do over the
Internet very easily.
As a result of this self motivated Internet phenomenon, the intended
benefits of the Internet that the country would require for its
development has been wasted. This is exactly what has happened in Sri
Lanka for the past twelve years while other countries achieved their
Internet based targets timely.
To prevent retardation and achieve the maximum out of Internet, other
countries have taken a number of strategic measures to guide and educate
citizens about the benefits of Internet in their respective countries.
Having identified the role that a Government could play, the
Governments initially put many citizens services over the Internet for
the access of the public. Actually this was done mainly to promote the
use of Internet in the society and to increase the efficiency of the
This action of the authorities that displays example through
leadership is the important factor that any country would need in the
process of promoting Internet in respective societies.
The semi-compulsory nature of the Government services which is
provided over the Internet could attract more people to use Internet for
transactions and services effectively.
The semi-compulsory nature consisted of - best option, time save,
cost effectiveness and user friendly characteristics would tempt
citizens to use Government services voluntarily. The other phenomenon is
due to the lack of knowledge among Internet users; many use Internet for
browsing Internet and downloading e-mails.
These are regarded as basic applications of Internet that wouldn’t
require high speed Internet service at users end. Without knowing its
capabilities, these users remain satisfied thinking that these are the
best that they could do over the Internet. Based on that, the speed and
the price would never become a concern as they only use Internet for
To overcome this resource wastage and to assure the maximum benefit
out of Internet, the public must be educated about the advantages and
the things that they could do over the Internet to increase the
productivity of any individual task that they may under take. Due to the
absence of a national broadband awareness initiative, high speed
broadband Internet weren’t properly recognised in the mainstream of the
Worsening this situation further, the other factors too have created
an unhealthily market situation in the country.
As we know, e-mail is a well known communication facility that comes
with the Internet. When these programs become popular, people started to
use e-mail for multipurpose tasks in addition to transfer of text
messages. Photos, video clips, documents and even software programs were
often attached and sent across to other parties over the Internet
The camera mobile phones and other similar hand-held multimedia
devices such as iPods and digital cameras have become increasingly
popular among people than ever before.
In this context, when transferring captured and stored content in
these devices, IP platform is identified as the fastest and most cost
effective medium of doing so.
Therefore the growing demand of emerging multimedia applications
pushes the user right into the Internet platform by further increasing
the demand of Internet even in simplest applications available today.
However, users find it difficult in unlocking some of these features
due to restrictions imposed by operators. Surprisingly some operators
are still continuing 10MB mail box quota which was allocated in 1998 to
this very date while others in the world provide 10GB (10,240MB) to
As we know, due to user friendly characteristics, e-mail is regarded
as the easiest method of transferring data between computers. But a
local provider doesn’t allow users to transfer his or her pictures,
video clips and other multimedia content, by implementing limitations on
email storage. Free e-mail services such as hotmail, yahoo and gmail
would come as alternates.
The next available option is the third party software-based file
sharing technique but it requires some knowledge at user end.
When broadband Internet is concerned, price and the speed cannot be
simply ignored. While prices kept away the users from acquiring
Internet, speed has managed to discourage the people from using the
Internet. The price comparison shows that Sri Lankans pay more money for
less speed monthly, for their Internet connection than in India. For Sri
Lankan rupees of 3,200 one could get 8Mbps broadband service in India
even with a phone connection.
So their Internet speed is 1,500 percent higher than in Sri Lanka and
this allows them to surf the Internet quickly to complete their tasks
than we do. Apart from lower prices and higher speed, Internet users in
other countries are entitled to get more features as well. Subscribers
of broadband Internet will be provided with free International calls
during off peak time in addition to unlimited e-mail space and free web
space in many instances.
If we provide high speed Internet as other countries do, many
students in the country would be able to do their studies over the
Internet regardless of the location of the university or the classroom.
But the reality is while children in other countries use Internet for
educational purposes our children are desperately looking at it simply
because they cannot afford to have Internet service at home. In this
context, primary and secondary education is highly affected.
Both distant education and e-learning have faced numerous challenges
in the phase of providing services due to deprived quality of broadband
services. Among many affected, medical students were highly affected due
to the poor quality of broadband services which lies beyond their
control. The truth is, access to documentary educational video materials
have become a luxury for Sri Lankan students.
Now it has been made clear that the country would require a unique
plan - backed by the Government in the future - to ensure wide spread of
Internet growth across the country. Among many reasons, public
unawareness and unsuccessful strategic plans in the past were cited as
the factors responsible for the creation of underdeveloped Internet
market in the country. Aggressive yet specially developed strategy could
be used in this regard to achieve mass scale benefits to people and the
Nevertheless public awareness initiative would not become a fruitful
gesture unless we provide ‘knowledge through experience’mechanism at the
initial phase. This allows public to experience the Internet practically
to identify its advantages by themselves. Therefore, putting services
online alone would do no good unless we motivate people to use Internet
more frequently in their daily tasks.
The truth is, people will never consider using Internet unless they
have been convinced about its benefits. Even convinced, it does not
assure anything in return to the country unless we provide fast