Sri Lanka’s Computer Literacy Survey Questionnaire

Posted on August 2, 2006  /  9 Comments

Sri Lanka’s Department of Census and Statistics will be conducting a household computer literacy survey in October 2006. The questionnaire for the survey has been posted on their website for comments. Comments have been requested by August 14, 2006.

The document can be found HERE

The documents includes instructions on how to send comments.


  1. Marcus Wijewardena

    There are questionnaires that can be improved by modifications, but unfortunately not this. It is a pity that Dept of Census and Statistics comes up with such low quality work.
    Any third rate local marketing research firm would have done better. (Dept of Census and Statistics should seriously consider outsourcing their work to private sector!)

    Does Dept of Census and Statistics call this a proper questionnaire? There is no structure! There are no screening questions! Many questions are ambiguous and still more open ended! What output Dept of Census and Statistics expects from a questionnaire like this?

    The only thing they can do now is to forget this and design something that can deliver. Why not request the help of a marketing research firm that has done something similar?

    Please note the following points. These are not the only drawbacks, but the suggestions will be useful when they redo the same.

    1. Some important questions have been asked from the wrong group and/or a limited group.

    e.g. The question how far one has to travel to use Internet/E-Mail facilities is asked only from those who have a computer at home! Is this a joke? If one has a computer at home it is possible they have Internet too. It is those who do not have PCs at their homes have to go to cyber cafes!

    2. The concentration should be on individuals, not households.

    Measuring computer literacy levels in households is meaningless. Computer literacy is an attribute of an individual, not a household. So the very first thing the questionnaire should have is a screening question (or two) to screen the respondents in to the categories of computer literates, computer illiterates with a fair level of computer awareness and the rest. The third category might be less than 5%, but who knows for sure? That is what we need to find out. This draft questionnaire does not have any screening questions to do that.

    Further, all the questions in parts 2 and 3 are designed for households and not individuals. Watching TV might be an activity the entire household might get engaged (and they all watch the same programme) but using a computer is a private activity. Is there a need to find out the frequency of households using computers or the applications households use? Do these figures have any meaning? Why not concentrate on individuals using computers than concentrating on households?

    3. The questions are very ambiguous and can mean anything.

    e.g. The first two questions of Part 4 are:

    1. Do you have knowledge/ aware about computers? Yes/No

    2. Can you do any activities using the computer? Yes/No

    What is the meaning of the first question? Being merely aware about computers is one thing and having knowledge about computers is something else. The first category might be as large as 90 -95% but those who have some knowledge about computers might be much less. (There is a fair chance this question will be misunderstood by the respondents for having knowledge to use/repair a computer)

    The second question is even more ambiguous. What is meant by ‘activities’? A computer can be used to kill a person. (As a matter of fact, a student of University of Jayawadenapura was once killed by hitting him with a computer monitor) So when this question is asked a respondent can always reply affirmatively because he/she can kill a person using a computer. Why cannot the questionnaire be more specific?

    4. Literacy rate is an ‘adult’ thing

    Is there a specific age group targeted or the questions are asked from everybody, including children below 5 years? (as indicated in the questionnaire) What is the big point? A one year old cannot be computer literate by default. That is why when we talk about literacy rates we talk adult literacy rates. Why not use the same principle here?

    5. No way to counter check whether respondents tell the truth

    In surveys like this, it is not recommended to ask questions like “Are you aware of the computers?” or “Do you know how to use a computer?” There is a high possibility that the respondents might not tell answer truthfully. Who wants to admit that he/she knows nothing about computers? The standard industry practice is to ask indirect questions like “Do you know how to take a printout from a computer?” or (showing a mouse or key board) “Do you know what are these?” The user’s level of knowledge can be decided on the answers he/she gives to such questions. Asking questions like “ Are you aware about the computers?” or “Can you do any activities using the computer?” is useless.

    I hope these suggestions are useful. I am sorry for being so harsh, but I do not see this particular questionnaire leading anywhere.

    Marcus Wijewardena

    P.S. These comments were already sent to the given e-mail address.

  2. Dear Marcus

    Standardizing Sinhala for IT Part 3
    read comment 66 and link

    I do not think that the person in the statistic dept could even switch on a computer.

    The functional literacy rate in Sri Lanka is very low compared to conventional literacy rate (aprox 93%)

    This is the biggest problem in our country Lanka

    Donald Gaminitillake

  3. I have already mailed my two cents.

    Inter alia, I have suggested;

    (a) Change the name “Computer Literacy Survey” to “ICT Literacy Survey”

    (b) Categorise the ICT literates into several groups according to their abilities. (This information will be very important to policy makers in HR planning) According to this survey, there is no difference between a Senior Programmer at Virtusa and a secretary at a govt. department who knows only to type a letter using a PC.

    (c) Include a separate section for telephone usage and ask the participants whether they can use a mobile phone or a fixed phone, send an SMS, take a photograph using a camera phone etc.

    Today a “computer” is not just a PC. It can be a mobile handset, a fixed phone, a digital camera, a fax machine, a photo copier, a DVD/VCD player or even a wrist watch. What we need to know how comfortable the people with all these gadgets. Why limit to PCs?

    Of course, it is not practical to include all these in a single survey, but this should cover at least phone usage.

  4. Donald,

    I beat you by asking this question.


    Isn’t the Statistics Department interested in knowing;

    1. What percentage of computer users actually use Sinhala/Tamil in their PCs now

    2. What percentage of computer user might start using Sinhala/Tamil if there are better solutions

    3. What percentage of NON-USERS might turn to be users of they have enough Sinhala/Tamil content in Internet

    Donald, why not you write to them? I am too lazy. :-)

  5. Dear Dharma

    I will visit them

    Donald Gaminitillake

  6. Donald,

    You do not have to visit anybody. Why do you want to waste your time and petrol when there are so many ICT tools to help you?

    All I like you to do is to do a formal and comprehensive note on the above points I have raised briefly and e-mail it to the relevant authorities.

    I have seen both you and JC (Ahangama) have discussed the need to incorporate national languages in to computer environment in detail, so I am sure you can give them some good points to improve their questionnaire.

    JC, Harsha and Harsula, I think you all can give some input to Donald in this, because whatever the disagreements we have regarding the approaches, we all can agree that incorporating Sinhala/Tamil into computers is something essential.

    This is a very good opportunity to find out what people think about it.

  7. Dear Dharma,
    You are quite right regarding local languages in computing. I am one of those who assume digital divide in Sri Lanka is dependent fairly on language difference and presently working towards localization efforts. Why don’t we make sure that this assumption is true or false?


  8. So far nobody gave me any feed backs
    They talk of Sinhala but they are not intersted to educate the young students.
    Now I have to take a new path — Like Apple -Think differant

    Donald Gaminitillake

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