Mahinda Rajapaksa; the 'Tech President' in Asia
IT development in Sri Lanka
President Mahinda Rajapaksa with the first copy of the new
local language interface software jointly developed by
Microsoft and ICT Agency at Temple Trees on Monday.
Microsoft Sri Lanka Country Manager Shriyani de Silva
Wijeyeratne, ICTA’s Chairman Professor P.W. Epasinghe,
Microsoft Sri Lanka H.R. Director Channa de Silva, ICTA’s
Chief Operating Officer Reshan Dewapura, President’s
Secretary Lalith Weerathunga and ICTA’s Director Jayantha
Fernando are also present.
The past four years have been the most
colourful and progressive in Sri Lanka where IT (Information Technology)
development is concerned. As promised in the 'Mahinda Chinthanaya'
manifesto, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has taken swift action to promote
IT industry in the country through a number of national programs.
English and IT are two such initiatives that had attracted the world's
attention. This national initiative delivers a clear message to the
society about the keenness and the commitment of the Government in its
drive to develop IT.
It was very recently that President Mahinda Rajapaksa inaugurated the
IT University in Kahawatte. Ruwanpura National College of IT Education,
will train IT teachers based on industry oriented subjects especially
related to the information technology. This would be a good start in all
aspects where IT education is concerned. To compete with the global
industry standards, we need more skilled people coming out from our
schools and from our universities in time to come.
There is no doubt what President Mahinda Rajapaksa has done during
this four year period would propel our country forward on the rails of
IT. His vision on IT would have been the main reason for these things to
take place in such style in the country. It is his personal interest
that drives IT and not the political momentum.
|WHILE Obama named as
Tech President of US ...
It was not so long ago that
US 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.
In any society this leadership is critical and it stimulates people's
minds by giving a very clear and strong message to the society about the
readiness and the commitment what the leadership is providing for
country's development. However, Sri Lanka has been identified as a
civilization that depends mainly on agriculture. To be with the global
trend, we need to take some alternative routes to make this country more
strong in this competitive world based on novel industries. To convert
Sri Lanka's brand name from agro civilization to high tech industry
society would be challenging. Therefore this mind-set is very important
and has to come from the top of the Government. Now President Mahinda
Rajapakse has identified the potential importance of this social drive
and he is taking the lead.
The reality is no one can expect wonders to happen in a country where
ruthless terrorism has crippled the normalcy in the civil society for
more than three decades. Regardless of the hardships we faced, the IT
related achievements we have gained during this four year period would
be remarkable. There have been lots of initiatives that have taken place
at the grassroots level. However it will take some time to reach the
civil society. To make this happen fast some other infrastructure
facilities are also needed to be developed simultaneously. The country's
data communication infrastructure is one such thing that needed to be
developed. Specifically the access services and networks are the drivers
in IT that carries development to the society. Non-existence of widely
available access networks have prevented this happening in the past.
Therefore removal of this bottleneck would ensure a free flow of IT
development uniformly in all over the country.
The proper leadership and the ability in foreseeing have paid rich
dividends. To be more precise in this, having identified the importance
of information technology in time to come, President Mahinda Rajapaksa
has taken certain strategic measures as soon as he was elected President
of Sri Lanka in 2005. The most significant decision would be the
reassignment of TRCSL's (Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri
Lanka) duties under his office. It is not necessary to explain the
significant role what the regulator is playing in the process of
telecommunication development in any country. In this context Sri Lanka
is no exception.
Presidential Secretariat's leadership in ICT
Telecommunication and IT cannot be separated easily. This reflects
the importance of telecommunication in the process of IT development. If
the telecommunication sector needed to be developed some strategic and
timely decisions are vital to be taken. However the previous regimes and
authorities in the country have failed to realize the reality and no
leadership was provided to the strategically important institutes in the
country that takes motherland forward. Today the TRCSL operates under
the Presidential Secretariat with the purview of the Secretary to the
President as the Chairman. This provides better leadership and necessary
guidance to the Directorate of TRCSL by allowing this institute to
reclaim its regulatory power effectively in the telecom sector. During
this period, making things our way Sri Lanka has been awarded with the
Chairmanship of UN-ESCAP and the Secretary to the President Lalith
Weeratunga has been appointed as Chairman to the committee.
TRCSL has managed to create a very strong image in the world's
telecommunication sphere by closely working with the international
organizations. Many international regulatory forums were held in the
recent years and NGN (Next Generation Network) forum is one such event
that took the world's attention. The eleventh SATRC (South Asian
Telecommunications Regulators Council) is just around the corner. So the
groundwork has been completed and the regulator is ready to set sail.
ICTA; leading the ICT development
While these things are taking place in the regulatory sphere, the
country has embarked on a rapid IT exposition and development process
with the directive of the Presidential Secretariat. Information
Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, known as ICTA is another
organization that operates under the Presidential Secretariat with its
main scope focused on ICT develop and promotion of e- Sri Lanka. The new
leadership provided by the Government has been able to set in motion the
ICTA and as a result many IT achievements were gained. E-Government
process is the most significant project that has been undertaken by the
ICTA. This will bridge the Government and its services with the public
over the networks. Today almost all Government institutes are having a
website and in the near future they will provide on-line services to the
public by allowing them to transact with the Government efficiently over
the Internet. GIC - Government Information Centre is another fruitful
initiative launched by the ICTA recently.
This service allows the public to obtain information especially on
services provided by the Government by dialing a unique telephone
number. LGN - Lanka Government Network operates under the ICTA that
connects all Government institutes over a high secure network.
This high-tech secure network can be used to transfer bulky data
between Government institutes by cutting down the vehicular transport
costs while increasing the efficiency in Government sector. Nenasala -
the rural Internet centre that provides Internet and related services to
the rural community operates under the ICTA and has boosted its
expansion soon after the President's announcement to established 1000
centers in the island.
Ministry of Education
The similar initiatives can be seen in the country's education sector
too. SchoolNet - the network that connect schools in the country is a
gigantic educational initiative undertaken by the Ministry of Education
with the help of the Moratuwa University. To introduce modem educational
methods and to uplift our students' skills to international standards
this concept has been introduced by the Ministry of education and funded
by the Asian Development Bank.
Further with the intention of developing education system in the
country the Ministry of Education has taken certain measures to train
teachers on IT subjects. Simultaneous programs were also conducted to
increase their computer usage by providing incentives to teachers for
the purpose of purchasing personal computers. By helping students to
learn through innovation, high-tech Satellite education methods have
also been introduced with the collaboration of the Ministry of
Initiative to uplift knowledge of English and IT are the most
effective measures that have been taken by President Mahinda Rajapaksa
to promote and develop Sri Lanka in two directions. This will train
teachers and students in the country for the purpose of making skilled
people to fulfill the future demand in IT industry.
There is no argument. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has managed to
create a big boom in the IT industry in Sri Lanka during his tenure in
His vision and the support provided by the Presidential Secretariat
and the relevant institutes would have been the reason to achieve IT
goals in a shorter period of time than we anticipated. President
Rajapaksa's name will be added to the history as the "Tech President" in
Asia who leads Sri Lanka in IT development (See Box).Therefore it's our
duty to strengthen the hands of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his
tireless effort in making Sri Lanka a better place.