Internet, before it becomes an illusion
It was not so long ago the recently elected United States President
Barack Obama stressed the importance of high speed broadband in American
society in the process of economic recovery.
Being named as the 21st Century Tech President, he elaborated
specifically how American economy would recover from its present crises
if a modern technological tool such as broadband is adopted.
What does this mean? This reflects the place that is occupied by
broadband especially in the process of empowering US economy. President
Obama believes that broadband Internet could play a huge role in
economic recovery mechanism so do the American citizens.
Certainly this would be capable of transforming the entire economy
and the society, not only in the US but also in other countries where
broadband Internet has become dominant.
US are occupying the 15th place in the world ranking in broadband
adoption. President Barack Obama does not seem to accept the place they
have been awarded with nor do the American citizens.
As a nation pioneered in many technological inventions in the 20th
century and as a country to send a man to the Moon first, USA must not
accept this either. However, the Americans are ready to retrieve the
place once they have occupied in the world. Organizations,
professionals, politicians and citizens have come forward to make this
happen in the US.
Today there is a huge voice coming out from the American society in
this regard. As a result of such today broadband has become a national
issue in the United States.
American example would be a good one for Sri Lanka to consider.
Though Sri Lanka has brought down cutting edge technology and deployed
in timely manner, still no significant contribution was ever made to the
national economy. The Government, who is sighted as the responsible
party, has not realised the value and the effectiveness of broadband
technology in the Sri Lankan livelyhood.
This is a very disappointing situation to be noticed in all aspects.
As we have seen in world examples, broadband grew vigorously in
occasions where Governments have taken the leadership.
To be more precise like how Governments take care of social welfare
such as roads, education, public health and financial matters, broadband
must also become a national priority and should be treated accordingly.
However, we have not seen such a thing happening in the country
especially in related to high speed broadband Internet technology.
When we consider the development of ICT in Sri Lanka, the Government
has taken certain steps to promote information technology throughout the
country in the past. Even though we have discussed ICT as a whole in Sri
Lanka broadband did not come under the main scope or rather it went
Broadband has its own goals and sets of targets to be achieved, some
goes with the main frame of ICT and some do not. Therefore broadband
must be treated as an individual product and priority should be given to
it. This assures the growth of broadband Internet and indented goals
could be achieved in considerably less time.
Having identified this unique characteristic, many countries in the
world have implemented national policies for high speed broadband
internet in addition to polices that are being implemented on ICT. This
shows the importance of high speed broadband and the initiatives that
other countries have taken to promote Internet.
Broadband is so important and vital, and could play an effective role
in the developing process.
This is the reason why most countries in the world have taken
interest to develop standalone policy for broadband Internet. Therefore
we should not mix up the broadband policy with the formal ICT policy
because these two varies widely.
Sri Lanka needs a national policy for Internet. It is an exactly a
policy for High Speed Broadband Internet (HSBB) that carries our country
forward based on the platform of data networks.
And it purely represents the broadband Internet technology and the
framework that Sri Lanka expects to take in promoting Internet in the
future. This will further discuss modern technologies that Sri Lanka
should be adopted to enhance the services provided in the country.
Once implemented successfully, broadband policy would create a
significant change in data communication sector in the country. Not only
the data communication sectors the other public services and industries
would also have the opportunity to acquire the benefits of Internet.
This would be very promising in all aspects when future of economy is
Because the country’s economy needs to be switched over to an
intelligent next generation, technology based on data networks which
would meet the demands of the competitive world is needed.
Therefore, despite of the nature of the industry, from farming to
authentic tea plantation, from garment to tourist industry, everyone
must adopt this technology. But this future planning and switching over
can only be done if the particular industry is aware about the future
prospects of the Information technology in the country that they are
intending to adopt.
Consequently this reflects the key role of broadband Internet policy
in Sri Lanka in the time to come.
Additionally, broadband policy would be capable of streamlining the
entire administration system in the country if implemented correctly. To
be more precise, the e-Government initiative is totally depending on the
quality and the speed of the Internet.
Thereon, the successive e-Government system could change the entire
mechanism of the country. But the reality is, broadband would never
become a success as long as it operates in a policy vacuum, which is
quite evident in Sri Lanka. This policy vacuum in broadband has
prevented data communication industry from achieving its goals in a
It is as if the authorities have ignored the presence of broadband in
the country. No standard was ever published and broadband operates are
in an ad hoc basis.
Usually operator will decide and finalise the standards in broadband
services. The impact this has caused on the economy is enormous. All
three vital components in broadband; price, quality and coverage does
not seems to be in favour of the public.
Latest technologies have deployed to provide Internet at faster
speeds exceeding megabits. But achieving these advertised speeds to the
Internet is a mirage. The word ‘high speed’ and the phrases like ‘very
very fast’ were used frequently to describe nominal broadband Internet
by taking the fullest advantage of an absence of an advertising
watch-dog authority in the country.
Rural areas in the country are left behind by the authorities. Most
tele-centers served in rural areas that provide Internet connectivity to
villages, operate using low bandwidth services below 128kbps which is
inadequate in all aspects. If one believes speeds as low as 128kbps
could fulfill the requirements of IT in the country, it would be the
biggest mistake we ever make.
The Government must take a firm decision to develop high speed
Internet in the country without further delay. High speed Internet for
all must become the dictum. The prices must come down, quality must
increase and the coverage must be widened. If we cannot meet these goals
by the end of 2010, broadband Internet would become an illusion for all
living in Sri Lanka.