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Internet access has finally become a human right

Turning the world upside down, the Finnish Government has announced the access to the broadband Internet as a basic human right. According to Finland's Government this legal process comes in to effect from mid 2010. To make this decision more meaningful, the Finnish Government has decided to take 1Mbps as a basic broadband service.

This entitles all citizens to get at least 1Mbps broadband service to their homes and offices respectively. This shows the place occupied by the broadband in today's world. The socio-economic revolution created by the telephone in the last century is about to be recreated by the ascendant high speed broadband Internet in all over the world.

High-speed

Broadband has managed to create many excitements in the world. Those countries where broadband Internet is successful have taken certain measures to promote high-speed broadband development. Almost in every example there is one thing we could see as common.


Internet access for all: Basic human right

It is the direct intervention of the Government. The above referred Finnish Government's action is a good example. However this is not the first time such a thing to take place in the world. As we know the South Korean Government has taken very effective measure not only to promote IT but also to promote broadband.

Today, South Korea is regarded as the birthplace of modern broadband. This simply reflects the successfulness of the decisions that has been taken by the Korean Government in mid 90's.

If we look at the regional countries they all have taken certain measures and initiatives to integrate high speed broadband Internet in their countries. India, Pakistan, Singapore and Bangladesh are taking the lead in Asia.

Among these countries some have implemented policies for high speed broadband Internet while others have moved further and introduced QoS (Quality of Service) in broadband services. Whatever the initiative it really reflects the significant role that the high speed broadband Internet is playing in the world.

This broadband enthusiasm is very active in the European region. There are lots of exciting things taking place in all over the Europe. The European lawmakers and regulators are busy with making policies and other legislations that assure the growth of high speed broadband Internet in respective societies.

Infrastructure facilities

Not only the legal framework but the physical infrastructure facilities are also being upgraded. New technologies and fiber networks have been laid across the streets with massive capacities by enabling the transportation of bulky data between peers.

As we turn back to Sri Lanka, many doubts may arise over the development of high speed broadband and its penetration. Sri Lanka's broadband diffusion is insignificant and the market is more or less a stagnated one.

Though we have adopted broadband early, its penetration level still remain low and inadequate to drive the market forward. As a result, the anticipated benefits of broadband could not be attained timely and we have missed lots of market opportunities in the competitive world.

This is something we cannot afford. Sri Lanka must make its global presence strong in IT field. To make this happen Sri Lanka must soon convert into a supplier of digital goods and services to the global market.

This could be a very challenging task. As we know, the competition is everywhere. South Asian region is very famous for IT related business. From back office IP BPO business to software developing industry others in the region are also competing with us. Therefore the time has come to realize these facts before it's too late.

The required actions must be taken and the entire country must be awakened to take the challenges of IT. It could be a political decision or a policy level decision. But whatever it is the Government must come forward to take necessary actions.

Government's involvement

This is the reason why we are always emphasizing the importance of Government's involvement. If reforms are needed to be done to make sure this is happening at all levels without facing difficulties, the Government's firm action would be required. Therefore if we are looking for a mass scale IT development in Sri Lanka, the Government has to realize the work role that is required of it.

Broadband is the under current in IT development. IT development leads economy to foster. This mutual relationship would have been the reason to call broadband Internet as a catalyst for economic development in the world. Therefore if we really needs to make Sri Lanka an IT hub in the region, there is no argument, we need to promote and develop high speed broadband Internet in our civil society at the earliest possible opportunity.

If we roll along with this broadband market model we never reach there in time. Initially there are lots to be done; especially from the Government side. Some reforms and new regulations would be needed to be introduced to the sector in addition to infrastructure development. However, development of physical infrastructure would be essential as well. But first we need to identify the market requirements. Building infrastructure in ad-hock basis could be another burden to the sector.

Legal barriers

Whether it's public or private funds, unnecessary investments in infrastructure development could increase market failures. On the other hand building physical infrastructure would not be possible as long as some legal barriers remain in the sector. Therefore the Government must develop a practical mechanism to address all these issues what standing in the middle of the broadband development path.

In Sri Lanka people are not aware of the benefits of broadband. Apart from this, there is no nationally recognized program to make public awareness in the country. Digital divide is high and many do not even have basic medium to access the Internet while others are paying exorbitant charges for nominal broadband services.

Highly priced broadband services have prevented the users from experiencing the real fast Internet services. Many applications find difficulty running smooth on the Internet due to the poor data transfer speeds thus preventing innovation. In fact knowledge based society leads innovation. Absence of innovation means we are not building a knowledgeable society in Sri Lanka. But this is one of the key aspects in broadband and is regarded as an important factor in socio-economic development.

This is not the time to make broadband access a human right in Sri Lanka. But to make sure all citizens will get access to high speed Internet facility at affordable price; it is the duty of the Government to take some effective measures soon. The national priority should be given to the high speed broadband Internet and the Government must take the leadership in broadband adoption.

Interactive services

All e-Government services must be turned in to high capacity interactive services and people must be provided with the fast access service respectively. National policy for broadband could also be used to identify and recommend solutions that are needed for the achievement of explosive growth in high speed broadband in Sri Lanka.

New standards must be introduced to the broadband whilst making a national goal. In this regard high speed broadband above 10Mbps must be provided to all citizens in the country at affordable price by the end of year 2013. To achieve these goals national infrastructure must be developed with fiber and wireless technologies to meet the growing demands in explosive bandwidth. The existing cooper networks must be converted in to Fiber-Cooper hybrid networks to overcome the limitations in cooper-based services in the process of provisioning high bandwidth services. Technologies such as DOCSIS could also be employed in the existing cable services and new cable networks could also be laid in rural areas too.

High speed broadband Internet is critical in socio-economic development. Therefore Sri Lanka must adopt an aggressive broadband development strategy soon. This allows making future plans according to requirements that would lead to data communications to prosper vigorously. If broadband market is lagging and penetration is low, there is no alternative action than Government taking the leadership in broadband Internet development.

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