The Household Income and Expenditure Survey is an important report. The 2016 report is just out.
The previous report (2012-13) found that 12.5 percent of Sri Lankan households lacked telephone service, fixed or mobile. By 2016, the phoneless households had declined to 8.5 percent.
Where are these households? Back in 2012-13, one out of four households in Ampara and Batticaloa districts lacked telephones. Ampara had got connected in the four years before 2016: mobile only households now amounted to 73.3 percent of households; only 9.1 percent of households in this relatively remote district lack a phone. Batticaloa had advanced, but not that much: 15.4 percent of households lack any kind of phone.
Badulla, represented in Parliament by the Minister of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure, now brings up the rear. Of the District’s households, 17.1 percent lack a phone. Fixed-only and fixed+mobile are in line with other districts. Badulla lags in mobile-only households: only 46.8 percent, much lower than the 61.9 percent for the whole country. The Minister was complaining that his portfolio was useless, it did not allow him to give people in his district jobs. If he had focused more on improving the conditions for competition among mobile operators rather than placing all his bets on the entity with state ownership, he may have been able to deliver more benefits to his constituents.
The strongest district is Colombo, where only 4.6 percent of households lack service.
Sadly, the HIES does not report penetration of Internet or smartphones.