Free wi-fi with a 100MB limit in urban areas and villages may cast the impression progress in the field of ICT engagement and the public .However, strategic areas remain to be focussed over this noble government endeavour.
Sri Lankan authorities and stakeholders of the ICT industry should target their focus on the ten pillars of the Global Information Technology report (which was released in the 15th of April 2015 ). The Sri Lankan ICT sector needs improvement. Its important to develop strategies to improve each pillar.
The framework translates into the Network Readiness Index(NRI), a composite indicator made up of four main categories (subindexes), 10 subcategories (pillars), and 53 individual indicators distributed across the different pillars.
At this years NRI of World economic Forums Global Information Technology Report 2015 Sri Lanka has been ranked 65th out of 143 countries. Singapore at the top of the list followed by Finland and certain Nordic countries. European nations that dominate the leader-board, with seven top 10 places this year. Singapore is the sole remaining Asian Tiger. You have nations such as Estonia, Slovania, Malaysia and Qatar at the 20s and 30s.
The report scores nations on four indexes of based on their readiness to exploit new digital technologies first the regulatory and business environment, second the infrastructure, affordability, and skills, third the usage by businesses, individuals and government, and finally the social and economic impact.
The the top of the index chart, the Environment subindex, two pillars measure Political regulatory environment and the Business innovation environment. The second subindex, Readiness, has three pillars the infrastructure digital content, Affordability and Skills. The third Usage subindex has three pillars with Individual usage, Business usage and Government usage. The final Impact subindex has two pillars with Economic impacts and Social impacts. Sri Lanka demonstrates high scores on three pillars mentioned above. These are: Affordability,Skills and Government usage. In the case of the other pillars, Sri Lanka scores below 5.0. In an example of a case closer to home in Asia, Singapore maintains a high score above 5.0 in all ten pillars.
The success of Singapore may be attributed to one of the world’s best ranges of government online services and e-participation tools, among other factors. According to the report “Singapore offers the most conducive business and innovation environment worldwide and the second most digital-ready workforce (2nd, behind Finland.) With such fertile ground, it is not surprising that digital usage is so widespread: Singapore boasts the highest penetration of mobile broadband subscriptions per capita. Yet however, Internet uptake is surprisingly low: only three-quarters of the population use the Internet on a regular basis, far lower than leaders Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. This relatively low uptake does not prevent more than half the population being employed in knowledge-intensive jobs, the second highest after Luxembourg” (WEF GIT Report)
Free WiFi should have been prioritised. It step by step implementation should ideally begin with schools which lack e-connectivity for student development. The e-school a project to enable schools with Wi-Fi Internet was terminated soon after the last general election. Certain schools lacked the resources to sustain this promising venture investing in the future of nations youth, ensuring their connectivity to the wider world.
As we live in a modern tech world its important to first connect the village school so that the kids can learn from the online material rather than black & white text books. Internet to improve skills is another area the Government could focus and infrastructure for this is required with teachers to teach IT.
Despite Sri Lanka’s improvement a few places from last year from 76th to 65th there is much more improvements to be done for sectors such as the Number of applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) per million population under sub index Economic Impact Sri Lanka has got a value of 0.6 at 79th place while countries like Japan top the list with value of 300 above. Mongolia has a better score at 75th place with a value of 0.7, it’s strongly recommend the authorities to improve on R&D and invocation.
ICTA is the apex ICT institution of the Government which was established in 2003 under the leadership of the present Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe. Prime minister understands clearly the value and importance to develop the ICT industry of our country, he was keen to develop the BPO industry at that time and this author was working at Sri Lanka telecom assisting to setup the Telecom City and the largest BPO the HSBC outsourcing center in Rajagiriya. When the initial presentation to the Prime Minister was made about the BPO industry he was very much positive and supportive. Two years of hard work to setup the Telecom City a massive IT park was shelved after the change of government at that time.
Unfortunately, the loss was for the country. This farsighted initiative was to generate many jobs from this industry and we lost many investors who were ready to invest for this project due to inconsistency of policy. Again, another opportunity has opened up to rebuild the nation and with it and strengthen the ICT industry with the leadership. As Minister Eran Wickramaratne rightly points out “the new Government’s emphasis is on soft infrastructure in preference to hard infrastructure. A strategic advantage our island holds is its educated population, one of the best in the region. If soft infrastructure is developed, the country could achieve great progress, given its rich human resources and its unique geographic positioning in the world.” For this, a sustained strategy of investment in and trust in people will sow the seeds for growth in ICT and innovation sector.