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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.

US economy

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.

Social Welfare

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 unnoticed.

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 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.

Competitive World

This would be very promising in all aspects when future of economy is concerned.

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.

E-Government

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 timely manner.

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.

High Speed

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.

sladsl@hotmail.com

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