Long way to go in e government services

Posted on October 11, 2009  /  4 Comments

Sri Lanka’s 1919 Government Information Center, serving 20 million people gets around 3000 calls a day, compared to New York City’s 311 service which is serving perhaps the same number of people but gets 50,000 calls a day. Long way to go .. . . not only in terms of getting citizens to use the telephone to interact with government, but also for government to use data and IT to better deliver government services, as described in the NYT article excerpted below:

“The mistake people make is to think that collecting the data is the endgame,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York. The real payoff, he said, takes another step. “We actually use the data,” he noted.

Indeed, New York has been a pioneer among cities in the use of computing firepower to sift through data to improve services. It began in the 1990s with the city’s CompStat system for mapping, identifying and predicting crime. The system, combined with new policing practices, reduced crime rates in New York and was later adopted by Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other cities.

In 2002, the city began its “311” telephone number for answering questions about government services and to report problems down to missing manhole covers. The service receives 50,000 calls a day, and earlier this year began operating on the Web as well. Complaints, response times and resolved problems are tracked and measured to improve performance.


  1. Tring, tring, tring, tring…this goes on 20 times…Hallo? Sir nae, kemata gihilla (boss out for lunch so don’t ask me)- click – or- ..Sir, meetama eke ne..passe call karrana (boss at an (un)important meeting so don’t ask me, call back)..click – Sound familiar?

    On Monday morning no one answers until after 10 a.m. After 2:00 p.m. on Friday same story – our government ‘servants’ are either on their way from or going back home- gamme yanava.

    Takes one day to get a passport – but one week or more to get all the required documentation in the required order. Forms must be filled out by your local Grama Sevaka (who verifies your details by checking an electoral register which is retyped every time they come around to pick up forms which we fill out dutifully, and regularly). Then you have to take that form and get it co-signed by the Provincial Big Man and certified by a JP. Side note – what happens to the old electoral typed registers?

    Once married and then remarried, our public officials still insist on seeing the former marriage certificate, divorce decree nisi (typed out on a rickety court typewriter) and decree absolute (one ‘Sir’ could not tell the difference and sent me home…I was infact showing him the right one but he scolded me for not knowing enough Sinhala) to prove that you are actually married, divorced and then remarried. Absolute rubbish. Didn’t they check these before..I mean isn’t my current, valid (but still typed … no, no, this time 10 years later, was actually written out) marriage certificate enough to prove my civil(ized) status?

    Better take a day off (or short-leave), put on your rubber slippers, an umbrella and the cheapest, drab clothes, and go there yourself. This way they know you can’t afford a ‘something’ but feel sorry and do their job. Be nice. Go down a peg or two. Talk a bit about the daily woes of life…in’p’lation, traffic, politics (or maybe not), pension, school admissions. They want to feel special.

    Who needs e-governance? Not them! ICTA must have a purpose to go on and on and pay and pay…not us, but themselves no?..and the Big4 that do their audits.

  2. Tomorrow I am calling 1919 to get “information on “Issuing of guns/explosive permits.” Its on the website! http://www.gic.gov.lk/index_english.php

  3. Why do they have the ‘?’
    From the website:

    Qualification Criteria

    (Citizen) of Sri Lanka having a valid reason and justifying the need of a Gun Permit

    Note : People who are not eligible for possessing a Gun
    ? Old People
    ? Medical Unfit
    ? Small Children

  4. So I called 1919. A friend of mine (British educator) wants to volunteer her time to teach English to secondary school teachers and students in Tangalle. I just wanted the number of the Provincial Education Authority.

    The operator was polite but they have no information that drills down to the provincial level. I was asked to either call 1231 (SLT Directory Assistance) or call the MOE (011-2785142-5). It will be the tring, tring again I am afraid.

    Was I expecting too much?

    Try to ask simpler questions and see if you are any luckier!