Nº 10 2012 > Global Symposium for Regulators | Special report
Sri Lanka's President praises role of ICT in reconciling his country
In his opening address to the 12th Global Symposium for Regulators held on 24 October 2012, in Colombo, Sri Lanka's President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, recognized that information and communication technologies (ICT) were a force for good, opening a pathway to progress and breaking down barriers of race, faith and geography.
But he also warned that we need to be wary of the abuse of such technology, particularly where children are concerned.
The president said ICT need to be handled with great care and their development imposed duties and responsibilities on parents so as not to draw children towards intolerance and extremism.
“ICT must not be the tool of societies that pay homage to material values, and pay no heed to the values of decency, tolerance and humanity,” said President Rajapaksa. “The wonders of ICT should not alienate our children from what is best in their culture and traditional values.”
ICT has been a driver of reconciliation in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war in 2009. Re-establishing communication towers in areas ravaged by civil war in Kokavil in northern Sri Lanka and linking the north once more to the power grid had assisted the restoration of peace across the country.
But the bigger picture has been one of ICT as a driver of economic and social development. The President said that the country is fully aware of the development potential afforded by ICT and there are now more than 20 million fixed and mobile phone users in Sri Lanka, exceeding the size of the population, in what is considered a middle income country.
“Our rate of IT literacy has grown to over 40 per cent within the past six years, with the opportunity very soon for every school to have state-of-the-art computer-training facilities,” said President Rajapaksa. “These advances have positively impacted the rural sector and helped the overall growth of the economy.”
New infrastructure will drive growth
The government is developing a policy and regulatory framework for a next- generation network and aims to have a national broadband policy before the end of 2012.
“With the assets we have in education, the recognition of skills, a readily trainable workforce, and the search for new areas of competence among our youth, Sri Lanka will not be left behind in this new Age of Knowledge,” said the President.
Infrastructure is one challenge in maximizing the benefits of ICT development, and the government is building the tallest communication tower with a state-of-the-art facility to make the country the communication hub for South Asia. In addition, a dedicated information technology park is being built in Hambantota, in the south of Sri Lanka, once one of the most neglected areas in development, which will sit alongside other major infrastructure facilities such as a new port and international airport.
“We see how mobile communications can bring revolutionary changes to the lives of people in new life skills, new employment opportunities, and new links to markets in one’s country and abroad,” said the President. “It can bring new educational opportunities, expand health and healing services, have a positive impact on sustainable development, increase production in agriculture, and expand the market potential of small industry and also develop new media.”