Government initiative to develop high speed broadband Internet
After seven years since its introduction, swift action has been taken
by the Sri Lankan Government to promote high speed broadband Internet
services in the country. National Broadband Consultative Committee, a
special committee that comprises of members from the Presidential
Secretariat, TRCSL and ICTA has been appointed to work jointly to make
this national initiative successful through a strategic process.
Broadband will place the world in Sri
Having identified the role of high speed broadband Internet
especially in socio-economic development, the Government has decided to
promote and integrate broadband Internet services in Sri Lanka's
mainstream through a number of initiatives. Education, health,
Government and other public services will get the priority in addition
to a number of other services that may be needed for the well-being of
the citizens through this national broadband initiative.
Government's leadership in broadband promotion
Broadband has been identified as the catalyst in modern
socio-economic development. In all over the world especially the far
eastern and the European countries measures have been taken to adopt
high speed broadband services in their development process by placing
broadband at the right place.
In every example where broadband is successful there is one thing in
common. That is the involvement of the Government. Broadband spurs with
the Government's leadership. By proving this many economies in the world
achieved positive socio-economic growth in their respective countries
through Government-backed broadband promotion initiatives.
This does not mean that the Government must become the facilitator.
But the Government must become the leader in broadband promotion and
development. Public must be educated about its benefits and viable
solution must be created accordingly in the society by allowing public
to access the high speed Internet regardless of their social standards.
How Government guides education and health; broadband must also become a
similar public utility service that driven by the Government.
The State or the Governments involvement and its leadership should
not be limited to policy and guiding process. The Government should take
the leadership in broadband through adoption. In this context all
Government services and offices must be connected to the Internet using
high speed broadband links by giving the opportunity to the public to
access their services remotely. To get the maximum out of this,
applications must also be developed along with the Internet services.
Having Internet service could be useless if citizens have not been
provided with the correct applications to access the services online.
Therefore applications must also be developed along with the Internet.
ICTA spearheads e-Government through LGN
As we know this has already begun in Sri Lanka through the initiative
called e-Sri Lanka. ICTA, the Information Communication Technology
Agency of Sri Lanka that comes under the Presidential Secretariat has
been doing this through its e-Government initiative.
What ICTA has done during this four-year period is commendable. Today
almost every Government institute has its own website hosted locally for
the service of general public. Through the Local Government Network (LGN)
all Government institutes are inter-connected using high bandwidth
network by increasing the efficiency of the Government services to the
will be provided with high speed Internet
The vast amount of Government's expenditures can be saved drastically
while giving fast and high quality public service to the citizens in the
country with the use of LGN. The transportation between inter
organizations have come to a halt.
Bulky data now transferred between Government institutes using LGN
network and that reduces printing cost and saves millions of State funds
annually. In phase I, 325 Government institutes have been connected to
the network and planning to connect another 150 in phase II. The
Government Information Center known as GIC is another e-Government
initiative implemented by the ICTA. Today any information related to
Government services can be obtained by dialing 1919.
Innovation has begun
Young genies at ICTA have developed a train tracking system that
tracks the exact location of the train in real time. Recently they
planted this device on a train and tested its functionality before
installing the system in other trains.
This revolutionized high-tech device will give valuable information
about the train including its speed, outside temperature, time it takes
to reach the other station.
Apart from providing real time information to the commuters, the
railway department can use this system for its traffic operations by
saving millions of rupees annually. In addition this system will
increase the safety of train transportation by avoiding frequent train
collusions that occurs in the country. This system will be introduced to
the public application soon.
Soon there will be an electronic map available for the public to find
locations in the country. Under this project Colombo and major cities
will be covered in phase one. Future will be added regularly to enhance
Since these maps are based on electronic platforms they can be used
to deliver a number of services to the public on-line. Real time and
none real time information can also be provided to the public with great
accuracy than in traditional maps that provides fixed information.
Being a web based map it has many advantages than the map printed on
a paper. Unlike in a printed map this E-map could be updated regularly
as any change takes place. If the real time feature is enabled,
temporary road closures also could be displayed in the map with
alternative routes and diversions that commuters should take in such an
event. This flexibility is unmatched and suits the fast developing
If anyone needs to find a place or a road, the search window provides
the key names instead of wasting precious time by going through lists of
names normally we find in printed maps.
In reality once the E-map is developed it provides us the opportunity
to add more features and interactive components to further enhance its
content. One such feature is the real-time vehicular traffic monitoring
service we could integrate in the E-map for the use of commuters.
Monitoring cameras could also be fixed at major junctions for the
monitoring and surveillance purposes by allowing commuters to see them
Maps of historical sites and cities with interactive facilities and
real time information will come on-line soon to provide guidance to
travellers. Hotel reservation and travel information required by the
tourists will also be available in the map. Electronic map with rich
details and interactive features is an essential utility service.
All these reflect the commitment and the efforts that have been taken
by the Government towards the success of e-Government mechanism. The
leadership provided by the tech savvy President materialized by the ICTA
would have been the main reason for this success.
To build competence the majority of Government servants have also
been trained to work in an IT environment. School teachers and students
were also educated through tailor-made IT programs with the help of the
Government. As a result of Government commitment to develop IT in
schools more than 3,500 computer labs have been established in the
The 'School net' that funded by the Asian Development Bank connects
the majority of school computer labs through their network using cutting
The long felt need- online payment has also been completed recently
with the implementation of Lanka Gate by allowing Sri Lankans to pay
online for the Government and other services that they transact over the
Internet. The groundwork has been completed with flying colours. The
Government institutes are now ready to serve citizens who may visit
their websites using Internet.
The next step must begin. Citizens in the country must be provided
with a cost effective high speed Internet service to access these sites
to get their things done fast. By proving Government's commitment in IT
development Sri Lankan Government has taken timely decision to take the
leadership in broadband promotion with the intention of providing fast
affordable Internet services to all Sri Lankans in the future. In this
context National Broadband Consultative Committee has been appointed to
accelerate the development of high speed broadband Internet services in
Sri Lanka under the purview of the Presidential Secretairiat.
Mechanism to increase broadband penetration
Sri Lanka has a vibrant market. With five broadband operators and
mixture of wired and wireless solutions broadband uptake seems to be
growing at an even rate. However this growing rate has failed to deliver
the anticipated development in access services so far.
Since there is no national initiative to take this message to the
public, commercially oriented business models focused only the viable
business models that generate profits. As a result of this many living
in rural areas were left behind. Lack of connectivity and low quality
broadband services has widened the digital gap instead of narrowing.
Public would never consider using Internet as long as they don't see
any benefit in real life. The Government must discuss the benefits of
Internet more frequently while hosting services and applications in the
key areas of public utility services. This compels citizens to use
Internet applications regularly. Once embark they realizes the benefits
of Internet through experience.
Therefore public must be provided with the opportunity to experience
the Internet to see its benefits through a practical mechanism.
Constructively with this method public exposure and awareness can be
increased effortlessly to a higher level within a short period of time
than we anticipate. Lack of local content availability especially in
Sinhala and Tamil would be one of the reasons to have low Internet usage
in the country.
To counteract this situation; from entertainment to education
programs must be brought in to the on-line platform soon.
In this context Government has decided to take some strategic
measures in the future. Web hosting facilities will also be increased by
allowing content developers to host their content affordably in local
servers. Similarly to attract foreign clients to host their content in
Sri Lanka a special strategy must be used. Small and medium
entrepreneurs must be provided with grants by allowing them to enter in
to the competitive business by implementing data centers Islandwide.
Government must become the mentor
However to allow public to access the Internet the Government should
identify and remove all obstacles that hampers broadband development in
the country. The national broadband Consultative Committee will be
addressing these issues in the future to make an environment where
broadband can grow vigorously. While helping operators to boost their
business, this committee will be introducing a national broadband policy
that takes our motherland forward in the next decade.
While facilitating public with affordable high speed Internet
service, the operator must also be provided with an opportunity to
sustain in the market to serve their subscribers in a better way. The
difficulties may face by operators in the phase of providing affordable
high speed broadband services to the nation; will also be addressed. By
considering the growing demand in high speed Internet services, and also
to run modern bandwidth hungry applications smoothly, broadband
standardization will also be introducing to the country in the future.
Telecommunication Infrastructure development is vital for the smooth
broadband role out in the country. Special projects will be carried out
in rural areas where Internet services are not available for the use of
New technologies based on wireless and Satellite, will be introduced
in underserved areas with the intention of solving their long felt need.
With this way digital divide can be minimized effectively by adding
every citizen in this country to the main stream of development. This
will convert rural society in to a knowledgeable society that regarded
as the essence in human development. If we really want to take IT
development in to the rural masses, they must be provided with the
medium to access the information super highway like everyone does.
IT never develops without the presence of affordable high speed
broadband Internet. Not limiting to popular slogans as stated in the 'Mahinda
Chinthanaya'` a national initiative has been launched to serve Sri
Lankans with an affordable high speed Internet that all could access.
Soon Sri Lanka will be entering an era in data communication that takes
our motherland forward over the platform based on data communication. We
as members of National Broadband Consultative Committee are duty bonded
to make this happen soon in Sri Lanka.