Sri Lanka as a country is growing rapidly in every aspect. The country has achieved better gross domestic product (GDP) rates, a single digit level inflation, a solid GDP per capita income and low unemployment rates over the last two years, with positive contributions from key sectors of the economy.
This growth is expected to produce better results in upcoming years with a high momentum, supported by an increase in investment, a favourable macroeconomic environment and continued recovery in the global economy.
Overlook of ICT sector
In such an environment, Sri Lanka’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has grown in a remarkable fashion. According to the latest report titled ‘Sri Lankan IT/BPM Industry2014 Review’ by Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM), IT sector’s export revenue grew from US$ 213 million in 2007 to an estimated US$ 720 million in 2013. Total employment grew from 33,700 in 2007 to an estimated 75,100 employees in 2013, and the number of companies in the industry grew from 170 in 2007 to over 220 in 2013.
The government has set a strategic goal for the sector which is to achieve US$ 1 billion worth of IT exports by 2016. ICT authority bodies such as the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology, Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and SLASSCOM have worked tirelessly over the last five years with other stakeholders in the industry to make this US$ 1 billion target a realistic goal.
Global companies such as ATKearney, Gartner and IBM have already put Sri Lanka on the top of their global rankings and now the ICT sector is slowly progressing towards their next big goal; reaching US$ 5 billion in revenue, create 200,000 direct jobs and 1,000 startups by 2022.
Big win on e-Government services
One major area of progress for Sri Lanka was e-government. Sri Lanka was ranked number one in the South Asia by the United Nations, for country’s continuous developments in the e-government initiatives.
Sri Lanka has climbed 41 places from the 115th position in 2012 to 74th position in 2014 out of 192 countries, according to the report titled ‘United Nations E-Government Survey 2014’ which was compiled by the Economic and Social Affairs Department of United Nations. Sri Lanka is in a commanding position in the E-Government Development Index (EGDI), surpassing second ranked Maldives (94) and third ranked India (118). According to the report, country’s percentile ranking is 38.5 percent which means that Sri Lanka is in the top 40% of the countries in the world that are engaged in implementing robust e-government programmes.
Sri Lanka has also done well in the sub-indexes of the report where it has been included in the top 50 global e-participation performers. The country is ranked 33rd in the global e-participation sub-index and has secured the first place in the lower middle income group, and fifth place out of 48 lower middle income countries in the world and ranked seventh among the countries that has a high online service performance relative to income. Finally, Sri Lanka is globally ranked at the 37th place among top online service delivery countries, securing sixth place within its income group.
Sri Lanka started its E-Government initiative back in 2005 under the ‘e-Sri Lanka national development project’. The online portal offers A-Z government web indexes, 108 e-services for citizens, 51 e-services for businesses and 10 non-residence related e-services. The portal also offers extensive mobile and SMS services, an e-participation portal, easily accessible government forms, a developed open data portal with data available in various formats as well as whole-of-government strategy.
Considering these statistics, Sri Lanka has been able to significantly improve e-government processes and climb the rankings to become the number one in the South Asian region. There is more to be achieved, however, if Sri Lanka wants to compete with top global e-government countries such as Republic of Korea, Singapore and Australia. These numbers are going to affect several global rankings such as Network Readiness Index (NRI), Doing Business Index (DBI) and Global Competitive Index (GCI). ‘UN E-Government Survey’ is considered as a feeding tool for these rankings and the progress we have made here from 2012 to 2014 as a country would contribute to these global rankings to elevate the country’s position in the coming years.
The country should utilize e-government and innovation to offer momentous opportunities to convert public administration into a tool of sustainable growth. E-government is ‘the use of ICT and its application by the government for the provision of information and public services to the people’ (Global E-Government Readiness Report 2004). In a broader aspect, e-government is the idea of using information technology tools in public administration to simplify and integrate processes to administer data and information in an effective manner to improve public service delivery, engage people using versatile communication channels and empower them. The opportunities offered by the digital development of recent years, whether through online services, big data, social media, mobile apps, or cloud computing, are expanding the way we look at e-government.
Through e-government innovations, public administrations around the world can be more competent, provide better services and respond to demands for transparency and accountability. E-government can help governments go green and promote effective natural resource management, as well as stimulate economic growth and promote social inclusion, particularly of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. ICTs have also proven to be effective platforms to facilitate knowledge sharing, skills development, transfer of innovative e-government solutions and capacity-building for sustainable development among countries. E-government can generate important benefits in the form of new employment, better health and education.
The measurement sticks of government services are reliability and productiveness. When the services are electronically implemented, reliability and productiveness should increase with great discipline. Each and every person in the country finds benefits and their lives have been made easier by e-government services. This was the brainchild of ICTA whose main objective is to serve, fulfill and empower Sri Lankans through their e-government service.
On a final note, let me congratulate ICTA on their tremendous effort and finish by saying that ICT is the bedrock upon which we can dream of building a society with equitable distribution of opportunity and knowledge through robust e-government platform services.
(The writer is the Country Business Manager of Intel Sri Lanka Liaison Office)