ICTA Archives — Page 2 of 2 — LIRNEasia


Sri Lanka has a peculiar media structure. The government has its own TV stations (2), radio (2) and also an entire newspaper publishing company. These have no similarity to the BBC and CBC, on which they were modeled. These are out and out propaganda operations. I cut my media teeth at the government radio station in 1978-79 (it was a monopoly back then, so I had no choice) and have done many programs there since.
I was impressed when the ICT Agency made a presentation at a recent conference, that included a detailed response to concerns that Sri Lanka was dropping in international rankings in the ICT space. The presentation included action items that would address weak points and would thus result in improved rankings. e government was central to the design of e Sri Lanka and is perhaps the program area that has absorbed most of the USD 83 million funds. Therefore, the UN e gov rankings are very important. Sadly, the 2010 rankings indicate that Sri Lanka’s position has deteriorated in relative and absolute terms.
Multiple dishes is a common sight at many Nenasalas – the ‘telecentres’ set up under the e-Sri Lanka program, funded by the World Bank. Some of them are huge – with diameters little less than 2m. Having not done a design recently, I cannot tell the prices offhand, but I do know they are expensive – one such dish (with equipment) costs few times more than the aggregate cost of the PCs and peripherals in the centre. Why a telecenter is equipped with multiple dishes? The reason is, sadly, poor planning.
  On January 16, 2008 a bus bomb went off killing 25 and injuring more than 60, in a remote area of Moneragala, arguably the least connected district in the island. Within less than two hours, the international news channels were up with clips. Nuwan Sameera (inset) FTPed them from his Nenasala telecenter in Bibile town – about one hour journey away. Nuwan operates just within 200 m from a telecom tower (see photo) but bureaucracy is bureaucracy. Spending World Bank money generously, ICTA, the implementation agency of Nenasala telecenter network under the e-Sri Lanka program, first provided a VSAT link from a different operator.
Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka, was recently elected to the chair of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Committee of ESCAP – the Economic & Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific 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” 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. Responding to a question that some rural tele centers have been dysfunctional Weeratunga said there are about 600 Telecenters and it’s not unusual for a few to fall behind. “However we will relocate them if necessary”, he said. Commenting on the Sri Lankan expertise of the diasporas, Weeratunga said that there are those who want to help but in actual fact most of them are really in search of jobs. “We cant pay them the salaries they expect but if anyone wants to genuinely help they could log in to the ICTA web site (www.
Here are the summarised results from the telecenter operator survey done by LIRNEasia at the weCan workshop in October 2008. Sample was not representative, but large enough to get a general idea about the telecenter operations in Sri Lanka. Out of a total of 147 operators surveyed, the bulk, 101 were from Nenasalas, the 500 odd telecenter network created under the World Bank funded e-Sri Lanka programme. 10 were from Sarvodaya multi-purpose telecenters and 6 from others (eg. public libraries) 30 have not specified the type of the telecenter.
The 2009 Budget contains the following statement: Allocations were made in the 2006 Budget to connect rural villages in backward areas with the rest of the world and enable them to blend with the global community and economic trends, through Information Technology. This program has enabled online connectivity through around 500 Nana Sala Centres, between villages, schools and state and public institutions, and also facilitates to broaden the knowledge of English and Information Technology. I propose to name the year 2009 as an year dedicated to expand the knowledge of English and Information Technology and allocate Rs. 100 million to broaden the scope of this programme. The questions are: * The Budget contains no other allocations for ICT related activities, explained possibly by the existence of a USD 80 million or so e Sri Lanka program, funded primarily by a concessionary IDA credit and a Korean loan which has not been fully disbursed and is in danger of being cancelled.