Over 300 senior decision makers in government IT from across the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have gathered in Colombo, Sri Lanka to participate in the FutureGov SAARC Summit.
They are joined by government IT experts from countries including Australia, New Zealand, USA, Malaysia and Indonesia to discuss shared challenges and cutting edge, innovative solutions for modernising government service delivery.
Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka, delivered the opening keynote and outlined his view of the role and importance of ICT in Sri Lanka’s development.
“Sri Lanka’s achievements in the ICT sector has seen leaps and bounds with innovations in how the government delivers citizen services, increased investor confidence and necessary infrastructure gradually taking shape. For many years that the war was on, Sri Lanka had to struggle to achieve its true potential in the world stage in many sectors, ICT is one such area. Now in Sri Lanka we are gaining global recognition for a centre for delivering IT as well as an emerging knowledge services industry.”
Weeratunga emphasised that despite being a small country and having recently emerged from years of civil war, the ICT sector in Sri Lanka is growing rapidly. Whilst Sri Lanka’s IT sector is currently producing US$400 million worth of exports annually, a goal has been set to increase this figure to US$1 billion by 2016.
Fuelling this growth is the plan to build a new 250 acre Information Technology Park in Hanbantota, in the south of the island, within the next 4 to 5 years. Hanbantota already has an international port and early next year will also be home to Sri Lanka’s second international airport. The park will provide approximately 100,000 new jobs and will further contribute to Sri Lanka’s growing economy.
The country’s improved business environment and attractiveness for potential investors has been reflected by Sri Lanka’s significantly improved rankings in both the Global Services Location Index and the Network Readiness Index.
Further echoing these trends is that as recently as 2005, Sri Lanka had an ICT literacy rate of under 5 per cent, compared to approximately 40 per cent today.
Sri Lanka’s e-government policy and the efforts of the ICT Agency has enabled citizens to gain access to a wide range of services, however Weeratunga stressed the need to think beyond the technology. Due to the increasing expectations from citizens and the need for government to do more with less, “governments must not only do things better, but differently and this requires radical transformations.” Weeratunga stressed that all governments use ICT to deliver public services, yet in some cases projects fail to deliver. Consequently government needs to rethink the way it delivers services. “People deserve excellent services from government and there is no way that we can deviate from this position.”
The FutureGov SAARC Summit is the product of close partnership between the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka and FutureGov. Thanks to this partnership, over the past four years the success and scale of the FutureGov events in Sri Lanka has rocketed, turning them from local events to now encompassing participants from across the entire SAARC region and beyond.
The FutureGov SAARC Summit continues tomorrow, Thursday, and will cover topics such as financial inclusion, telehealth, e-agriculture and the recently announced Maldives IT Infrastructure Development Programme.
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