Sri Lanka’s Computer Literacy: Target 60%; Achieved 19.5% – ICTA

Posted on November 19, 2008  /  15 Comments

ICTA today clarified that Sri Lanka’s Computer Literacy is far below the target of 60% under Mahinda Chinthana. Athula Pushpakumara, Head of Communication and Media at ICT Agency Sri Lanka, in an article to Divaina newspaper today claimed the 2007 figure of 16.5% has increased to 19.5% by the first quarter of 2008. No sources were provided.

The official Computer Literacy figure for 2006/7 by the Department of Census and Statistics is 16.6%.

In 2005 November, in his election manifesto ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ President Mahinda Rajapakse promised to take the necessary steps to increase Computer Literacy to 60% within three years.


  1. Raises an interesting question in light of the President specifically saying in the Budget Speech that a review is merited now that it is the midpoint of his term. Perhaps some of us can collectively check up on the promises made in 2005 and in the 10 year plan.

  2. There is a face lift in ICTA website. Visit Looks like an open source tool is being used to redesign the site. It looks more like LIRNEASIA type now. Hope this was done without wasting much money by someone within the ICTA. I didn’t find Sinhala and Tamil versions yet. Hope ICTA will do something more than a face lift to its website to carryout the original e-Sri Lanka master plan it designed few years back. High time someone crosschecked the original master plan goals with what ICTA has been able to achieve overall.

  3. Is Athula Pushpakumara confirming the comments in Hon Sajith Premadasa’s budget speech? Sounds like the ICTA appointees are saying it like it is, without defending the person who appointed them.

    The Premadasa speech is here.

    When one examines the record of this Govt. in this field, there is a visible disparity in rhetoric and reality. When our neighbour and friend India have made significant strides in the ICT arena (where the ICT industry grew to USD 51 billion in 2006-2007) Sri Lanka continues to vacillate and hesitate to take the next great leap forward.

    President Rajapaksa in his 2008 Independence Day speech claimed that SL has attained 25% computer literacy, but according to the figures provided by DCS CL has increased only from 9.7% in 2004 to 16.1 in 2006-7.

    DCS survey also asserts that 46.9% of Sri Lankan households cannot afford to purchase a computer. How constructive it would have been if the govt. introduced a subsidised scheme for computer purchases and the expansion of computer literacy projects.

  4. Doanld Gaminitillake

    If we can use Sinhala /Tamil / English across all platforms and across any application the rate will be more than 80%

    Sri Lanka most computer systems uses only Latin script.The Local language “TEXT ” Sinhala, Tamil and English cannot be used in across all platforms or across any platform or on any commercial application. (eg Adobe product)

    The Decision makers in Sri Lanka are using English Language.These guys assume computer runs only in Latin Script. Also when initial MS DOS came in to sri lanka — it was restricted to use only ASCII character set. (256 character limit) This fact has misled local (sri Lankika) software developers.They thought the character encoding and keyboard the same.

    What we mean by a FONT, is an artistic way of representing text on screen or in a printer or in a out put devise. Font is a creation art of an individual or company.

    Font is not a character encoding.
    For example same encoding is used for two fonts Verdana and Times.

    character encoding is a standard with proper values.

    Quote from Unicode Consortium
    “Unicode provides a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language.”

    Sinhala too have been registered in Unicode Consortium but only a limited number of characters are registered. Balance characters are hidden in its own proprietary standard. Therefore Sinhala is not compatible across all platforms like the Latin Script.

    All sinhala characters have to be identified and published in the SLSI (Sri Lanka Standard Institute) as a public Standard with proper character encoding along with the Tamil Language. The Sinhala characters have be published with encoding by Donald Gaminitillake on ISBN 955-98975-0-0.

    Once this is accepted a proper IME for Sinhala will develop and Sri Lanka will leapfrog into the IT world in local language.

    Donald Gaminitillake
    I set the standard

  5. “There is a face lift in ICTA website. Visit Looks like an open source tool is being used to redesign the site.”

    Looks like they are using Joomla – Like Nandasiri, I wonder what prompted this epiphany.

  6. The final survey that provided data for the DCS ICT Literacy report of 2006/2007 which stated that the ICT literacy of the country was at 16.1% was conducted in November 2006, exactly 2 years ago. Hence, looking at the ICT Literacy progression curve from 2004 to 2006/2007 it is reasonable to expect the current ICT literacy of the country to be in the region of 30%.

  7. BBC steals a photo of a little boy of Mahavilachchiya. That was taken at Takshila Vidyalaya on Nov 2006.

    Here is the original:

    Shame it was not even acknowledged.

  8. @DCS

    Isn’t that a little steep? CINTEC was started in 1983 or 1984. From then to 2006, 16.1%. Then in two years, it’s doubled?

    If you are actually a statistician, could you elucidate the extrapolation logic?

  9. This is the first time I am expressing my opinion on LOCAL LANGUAGES IN COMPUTERS ISSUE – what Mr Donald Gaminitillake has been fighting over the years. I did not wish to get involved in the debate due to two reasons.

    1. I myself was more interested in teaching English through computers than promoting Sinhala and Tamil. (But now I have been successful in making English more popular in the places I work or help I can think of local languages as well.)
    2. I wanted to check myself the reality of what Mr Gaminitillake speaks. He often gives Japan as a good example of using local language in computer environment and it was only last week I could visit Japan and spend few days both in Tokyo and faraway places.

    These are my findings in Japan.
    1. Japanese I saw use computers, internet and computer assisted equipment such as ATMs, ticket machines in railway stations, etc. irrespective of their age, gender, etc. I talked to few people who could speak Japanese and nobody was talking about Unicode Japanese or standards but they were very happy about flawless Japanese they could use without hassle.

    2. While I was away from Sri Lanka, both Poonaryn and Mankulam were liberated by Sri Lankan forces and after reading the news in English websites I wanted to read it in my mother tongue (Sinhala) as well. I could not read any Unicode supported Sinhalese websites as Sihala Unicode was not installed in any computers at the conference but could read without any problem without downloading any fonts!!! There wasn’t a single Sri Lankan apart from me at the event which 200 delegates from other countries attended and I don’t think the organizers had any reason to download Lanka eNews font to the computers that were made available for the delegates to surf the Net. If my guess is right about not downloading the LeN fonts to those computers, then does this say that LankaeNews has produced a superior product than ICTA’s (or anyone else’s) Unicode?????

    Wasn’t it included in ICTA’s e-Sri Lanka master plan that the ICT will be made available for all walks of people? Funnily, the ICTA (suddenly) talks about villages and the picture of front page of the ICTA website also talks about now. Visit It says “ICT to every Village, (I don’t know why V is in capital there), every citizen (c in simple.)” How can they make ICT available to village if the villager has to undergo a tedious process of downloading the local language solution and install it. I have never been able to use a Sinhala Unicode supported website in ANY of the cybercafe’s I have visited. When I asked the managers about it, they were unaware of such a solution and did not help me by allowing me to download by giving me the admin facilities or they did not do it themselves. I explained them that if Sinhala can be read more people will use internet for longer hours but they did not care!!! I don’t know if that is bad attitudes towards business or lack of faith in Unicode though.

    My opinion is authorities should rethink and negotiate with both Mr Gaminitillake and LankaeNews folks and either fix the existing problems in Sinhala Unicode solution or go for a superior solution. We, users are not concerned about the technicalities of the end product. We are concerned about the ease of usage. Someone higher than ICTA should have a serious look at what Mr Gaminitillake says about the flaws in current Unicode solution it seems. So far what I have seen was attacking Mr Gaminitillake’s personal life than countering his arguments.

  10. @DCS,

    I am so glad to see brown sahibs (or sahibas) of Dept of Census and Statistics (DCS) not only read our blog, but do that on Sundays, when I thought normally they observe their own version of Sabbath. Looks like our tax money is at good work.

    If DCS figures to be belived, PC literacy (not ICT literacy) has changed from 9% in 2003 to 16% in 2006. If we assume a linear exploration it would be 23% in 2009 end. So 30% for 2008 end is bit too high. ICTA is more realistic is taking it as 19.5% for 2008 Q1. (Never forget ICTA is headed by a reputed mathematician. Will he make such simple mistakes?)

    However, please note:

    1. The sample DCS has taken is 5-69 years. For all practical purposes the age range should be 18 and above as anybody below 18 years cannot practically use his PC literary for income generation.

    2. DCS has considered the mere ability to use a PC as ‘literacy’. In other words a 7 year old boy who plays GTA, IGI or Need for Speed will qualify as ‘literate’.

    Why include children and exclude seniors? Why lower the standards? Can any researcher justify these?

    The same survey says in 2006/7 only less than 20% is aware about computers. (page 73)


    I think this is what we should take seriously.

  11. In the link we can read this.

    Quote – “Speaking to Sandeshaya Weeratunga said that “during the past three years computer literacy in the country has increased from 5 per cent to over 20 per cent”

    E- Sri Lanka

    He elaborated that the ‘e-Sri Lanka’ initiative has enabled people to obtain authenticated copies of Death, Marriage and Birth Certificates – essential documents within a few minutes.” Unquote

    I do not know about the ability of obtaining the authenticated copies of birth certificates within few minutes, what I do know is my 2 months old baby has not been given a birth certificate yet. I met the officials 3 times by now still they say that the birth certificate is not ready. This means I cannot use my baby’s name in any official document yet. I cannot take a passport for him. I cannot open a bank account for him. Officially, he doesn’t exist!!! Is this what we want from an e-Sri Lanka? I think the e-Sri Lanka should do much more than this rather than taking respected government officials for a ride.

  12. I am not surprised to see these low computer literacy rates. Politicians in Sri Lanka often promise so many things even without knowing what it takes to achieve those promised goals. They have no concrete plans to backup those promises. Once they come to power, they loose the sight of these promises. “Mahinda Chintana” had the same fate.

    There are many Sri Lankans who want to see a higher computer literacy rate achieve in our country. It would not simply be achieved with having ICTA. It requires a vision and proper planning and implementation. I do not see that is happening. Currently, common people in Sri Lanka has much bigger issues to deal with regarding living. In that sense, our economic conditions are a major hurdle for achieving that goal.

    It will be slow. But we will get there in time. 60% is a very high goal for a country like Sri Lanka and with current conditions it will not happen anytime soon. However, we can all contribute to that effort without waiting for the government to do it.

    As far as ICTA is concerned, I do not see a leadership with a vision guiding that institution. It seems like a place where people are pulling it in different directions with their own agendas. Their priorities are not inline with what must happen in Sri Lanka.

  13. Re Lankaenews web site

    Yes you can see it on any computer that uses microsoft operating system but not in apple etc. The browser downloads the font set.
    BUT YOU WILL NOT BE able to copy a simple sentence of Sinhala and paste it to word etc. Again it is a own proprietary system.

    Japan goes on JIS standard (japan Industrial standard) all characters are registered in it. Same JIS is in the unicode consortium.

    Please do not mix up the unicode consortium and Sinhala.
    Again I say that Sri Lanka is based on a own proprietary standards for local languages. What Andy Daniel registered in UNICODE CONSORTIUM was adopted by SLSI as SLSI 1134. only public objection was given by self and Sri lanka association of Printers.

    There is a standard extant for Sinhala described in A Standard Code for
    Information Interchange in Sinhalese by V.K. Samaranayake and S.T. Nandasara
    (ISO-IEC JTC1/SCL/WG2 N 673, Oct. 1990). The coding proposed in it was found
    to be an inadequate basis for a modern, computer-based interchange code,
    though it is adequate to handle the capabilities of a Sinhala typewriter for
    representing contemporary colloquial Sinhala. In addition, the document is
    ambiguous as to coding order — presumably, given the graphic decomposition
    in the code set, the text stream is to be coded in visual, not phonetic order.
    An additional problem is that there is no provision to handle exceptional

    ICTA and Sri Lanka is following this useless system and quote as unicode sinhala thus damaging the quality of unicode consortium.

    The group led by VKS and ICTA make wrong presentations and mislead the President and Lalith. The time is ripe for them to listen to me. Change the SLSI for the betterment of Lanka

    Donald Gaminitillake
    I set the standard

  14. what should we bangalis do to be prosperous like Sri Lanka in literacy rate? Would you all pls let me know by today 6 pm(According to bangali time). Illeteracy is a great problem here