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ICT - World economic recession is in our favour

Television channels now regularly air news items related to economic crises the world is facing these days. From giant chain super markets to car manufactures in USA and central Europe, stores and production lines are closed down leaving thousands unemployed.

It is needless to say how this crisis could affect our economy in time to come. The major export business can be affected. If this continues Sri Lankan work force presently employed in Middle Eastern countries may face some hardships soon. Their contribution to the country is enormous and unmatched. One could imagine the situation that may arise if such a thing triggers in the future.

For certain this economic recession in the world would create some degree of uncertainty in the country's tourism industry in the future.

Economic experts

However, evaluating the enormity of the impact of this on the country's economy has to be done by the economic experts. The scope of this article is to reveal how a modern technology based on IT can be used to turn this situation to a profitable source of foreign income in the future.

High standard communication environment essential to attract foreign investors

Today the entire world has turned in to virtually a small place because of the progressive development in data networks. The primary source of interconnecting people living in different diversities would always take place over the Internet.

The world socio-economic revolution created by the rail tracks during the past century is about to be recreated by the Internet, which works on the data network platform. In this context data networks based on high speed broadband Internet would be capable of playing a huge role in the economic development in the country. Unfortunately the place that should be occupied by data networks was never secured and its significance has also never been evaluated. This situation has prevented the country from achieving its economic development in the past decade.

Undoubtedly we need to work on something which could increase our foreign income. The business like BPO would be an idealistic choice in all aspects. Comparatively our labour is cheap and high in quality. Our nation has created a very strong image in the world platform for their efficiency and quality in doing things. When the economic crisis amplifies in the developed world, not only the software developing industry but also other ventures and large companies would think of shifting back their office work to places where labour is cheap.

BPO industry

For certain, there is a big opportunity available for the BPO industry in Sri Lanka. But it is very important to develop the infrastructure facilities by allowing investors to start their ventures cost effectively in our soil. In this context IT and data networks and their quality and availability is an essential commodity for an industry to grow. Modern and latest cutting edge technology must be brought in to overcome some of the challenges we may face in the communication infrastructure development.

But not to forget the charges for DPLC (Domestic Private Leased Circuit) and IPLC (International Private Leased Circuit) must be revised to make them competitive in the region.

However it is more likely the authorities have misunderstood this situation. It is not only the under-develop communication infrastructure that delays the development. Malaises in data communication services are also to be responsible and their impact have adversely affected on the economic growth. As we have moved in to infrastructure development in parallel we need to rectify the malaises in the communication sector in the country. Both these actions have to be taken simultaneously.

However to make this happen some rules and regulations in the country need to be revised. When there is no real threat to our national security we must go and deploy them for the benefit of our people.

Evolution process

The fascinating thing is the data communication networks and their technology is in a continuous evolution process. What is not available tonight would be available by tomorrow morning. Therefore we should not stick to traditional methods when we are in the business of modern communication. Since we are heading for a rapid expansion in data communication networks, we opt to take some revolutionary decisions in the future. Like in other countries studies must be initiated to check the possibility of freeing white space frequencies for the use of wireless broadband transmissions. This process will compensate rarity in wireless spectrum significantly.

When deploying technologies irrespective of their origin it has to be done cost effectively. Similarly a fast deploying feature would be an extra qualification. Deploying fiber would be alright since their costs have been drastically reduced in the world. But that does not mean the operator should incline to fiber-only mentality. Because laying fiber consumes considerable time. A technology like wireless is fast to deploy and could be a very smart and cost effective (Low CAPX and OPEX) choice if we can sparingly manage our scarce resources in the wireless spectrum.

Technical difficulties

However laying fiber optic cables can be expedited if we could use the country's widespread canals and rivers where possible, in addition to rail tracks and power transmission pylons. Need not to say that in places where we need connectivity over land a branch can be taken out from the main cable. New ideas and inventions can be used to overcome technical difficulties if they arise. With this alternative method in addition to time spared operators can also save millions of rupees by cutting down their CAPX drastically if adopted.

Similarly in addition to fiber optic cables running through the country's irrigation network another fiber optic cable can be laid around the island to meet the growing demand in communication in rural Sri Lanka. But unlike in the past, these networks have to be under the authority of the government.

In this process government can directly invest in these projects. If operators are to be involved it has to be a consortium. Giving monopoly rights to operators especially in mass scale projects where national assets are involved would do no good to the public at all. The best example can be found in Sweden relating to their STOKAB fiber optic project owned by the Stockholm city. This practice will ensure fair access among competitors in the same business resulting rapid growth in the industry.

Data transmission

Communication resource sharing mechanism is desperately needed in Sri Lanka. From International backbone segment to internal network segments monopoly rights secured by certain parties have done severe damage to our country's economy. Gigabit capacity optic fiber rings and microwave links that could be used for the purpose of data transmission are left in underutilised condition simply due to monopoly rights that they have been given with. The mistake we have made in the past cannot be repeated once again. Time has come to utilise the dark fiber in the country for development.

Investors will never come unless they have been provided with infrastructure facilities that are required for smoother operations. Even if they are compelled to shut down their business they would never consider Sri Lanka as an alternative as long as we keep our communication environment unchanged.

There is a good opportunity awaiting the country. As a nation we must make our plans to get the best out of this global economic recession. But the truth is as far as we keep this communication environment unchanged the intended benefits would never fall in our favour.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
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