Sri Lanka: Is Computer Literacy a politically dependent variable?

Posted on August 7, 2008  /  10 Comments

What is the correct computer literacy figure in Sri Lanka? Is there one figure? We ask this because we hear different answers.

According to HE the President of Sri Lanka it is pretty impressive at 25%. This what he said in the 60th Independence day speech as reported by Daily News the next day:

“We have given our nation every opportunity to link with the technologically developed world. We have been able to raise computer literacy in the country to 25% without trumpeting about it, in a country that did not attach much importance to it.”

(Relevant part of President speech is also available at:

The apex body for ICT related matters in Sri Lanka, Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) seems not in agreement with the President. It estimates Computer Literacy to be between 15%-20%. That was what ICTA Consultant J.K Perera told Daily News nearly one year ago. He also said once only the Western Province contributed to the country’s IT literacy level, but now there is a significant growth among rural communities.

20% should be the ‘official’ figure of ICTA because it is the figure also reported by Swarnawahini, covering the launch of Sinhalised Firefox, but one may not take it seriously because they also attributed development of Firefox to ICTA.

Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka tells a very different story. (See Graph above) Recently conducted Computer literacy survey put this figure at 16% in 2007 only a 6% improvement (from 10% to 16%) since 2004. (An online summary)

The survey also refutes the typical claim by ICTA that Computer Literacy has improved among rural communities because of its Nenasala network.

The Table 38 provides the percentages of the population (5-69 years) who cannot use Internet facilities (even with assistance). While this has dropped from 85.8% to 82% in Western province, there is hardly any improvement some of the other provinces like Central (*increased* from 86.4% to 91.9%), Southern (*increased* from 91.2 to 92.8), Sabaragamuwa (*increased from* 93.2% to 93.8%) Eastern (slightly dropped from 94.3% to 94.0%) and Uva (slightly dropped from 96.8% to 96.4%)

These statistics certainly do not reflect the characteristics of a country with high computer literacy.

Can somebody enlighten us please? What is the correct Computer Literacy rate in Sri Lanka? 25%, 20% or 16%?


  1. Chanuka, you are being far too conservative. Pg. 69 of the Mahinda Chintanaya (Eng version) promises that the IT literacy will be increased from 20% to 60% over a period of 3 years.

  2. Sanjana,

    As a recipient of a monthly allowance of Rs. 200 from govt to purchase milk for your kid (page 18) you should not be so sarcastic about ‘ahinda’ Chintanaya. :-)

  3. Dear Chanuka, you are correct i did a survey on this .According to that sri lanka had abnormal difference between literacy rate and computer literacy once comparing with America as well as india.According to the statistics Computer literacy rate in Sri Lanka is only 13%.But Literacy rate is over 90%.This is exceptional in the world. In India literacy rate is 61 % but computer literacy rate is 6%.In America 99% of the population has the literacy skill and their computer literacy level also more than 70%.This is remarkable.I think you know the reasons!!!!!

  4. I am sorry Nalin, I cannot remember seeing any work on the correlation between literacy and computer literacy rates – Sri Lanka or elsewhere. I will be glad to learn from any such effort.

  5. Dear Mr.Chanuka
    what is acurates computer literecy increase in 2004 to 2007 leval of UVA and we want know Howmany percentage riched computer literacy for School Children and adults?

  6. Dear Chanuka,
    Please find the abstract of my study,


    The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition: “Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.” Computer literacy is the knowledge and ability to use computers and technology efficiently. Computer literacy can also refer to the comfort level someone has with using computer programs and other applications that are associated with computers. Another valuable component of computer literacy knows how computers work and operate. Now, having basic computer skills is a significant asset in the developed countries.
    The objectives of this study to identify the relationship between literacy rate and computer literacy rate in Sri Lanka. Content method and focus group techniques has been conducted .According to the statistics Computer literacy rate in Sri Lanka is only 10%.But Literacy rate is over 90%.This is exceptional in the world. In India literacy rate is 61 % but computer literacy rate is 6%.In America 99% of the population has the literacy skill and their computer literacy level also more than 70%.But in Sri Lanka Though the literacy rate is high there is a considerable Low rate in computer literacy rate. This is an exceptional case once comparing these rates. According to focus group study most of the respondents in the view that no clear IT policy, political influences as well as infrastructure problems as the reasons for this.

    P.S.This is exceptional and i think researchable issue.

  7. @Srikanthan,

    Extremely sorry for the delay in replying.

    Uva province, as you see from above graph, hardly a star performer. In fact, it outperforms only North Central province. According to Statistics Dept PC literacy in Uva has increased from a little more than 5% in 2004 to 10% in 2007. The same report says only about 23% in Uva are aware about computers while in the Western province this percentage is little below 50%.

    The percentage that can use minimum of two software packages is 5% in Uva and 16% in Western.

    District-wise Moneragala in Uva province is one of the three provinces with the lowest PC literacy. (The other two are Polonnaruwa and Nuwara Eliya)

    Hope this gives a rough picture about Uva province. I am sorry they do not provide separate for students.


    Interesting abstract. What you should focus more is the functional literacy than mere literacy. My guess in Sri Lanka functional literacy (ability to do some real work, not merely recognise letters) is low. Not many use their knowledge to any work. For example, according to Statistics Dept more than 60% of the population (5-69 years) knows nothing about computers. How can that be? Don’t newspapers publish enough about them? So the only possible reason is these people do not read even newspapers.

    What over 90% literacy rate brings if 60% does not even read newspapers?

  8. HEllo!,
    yes i accept.These variables like CCPI…I also have some doubt on these indicators.And happy to tell that this abstract has been accpeted in the international conference at eastern university.I think we have to start this debate from there.More or less universities also take the blame.But as we see people are doing petty politics outside!!!!