Pre and post internet activities towards e-governance- the sri lankan experience
Pre and Post Internet Activities towards e-governance- the Sri Lankan
S. T. Nandasara
Senior Lecturer, Institute of Computer Technology,
University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
E-government or Electronic government is an opportunity to take advantage of the increased
productivity and reduced costs that can be achieved using Internet-based technology. Even
better, e-Government can enhance the citizen's access to government information and
services, and can provide new ways to increase citizen participation in the democratic
To realize the potential of e-Government, agencies must find a way to make their systems
operable with each other–and preferably with commercial systems as well. This will allow
tremendous efficiencies and cost savings not only in government-to-business or government-
to-citizen transactions, but also in the basic "back-office" government operations, such as
payroll, statistical analysis, resource management, and other internal functions. For many
agencies, interoperability standards could help not only to improve interagency compatibility,
but also intra-agency compatibility among various departments.
With the introduction of the Microcomputer in Sri Lanka, the use of Information technology
in Governance took a new turn. In the early stages of Information Technology in Sri Lanka.
Due to this early introduction of the computer, the people and the policy makers of Sri
Lanka became no strangers to the use of Information Technology in governance. When
Internet finally entered Sri Lanka, Sri Lankans were more than ready for accepting
Information & Communication technology as a vehicle for the possible e-governance utilizing
General Election Result
One of the main demarcation points of pre Internet era in e–governance in Sri Lanka was
the introduction of Computers for assisting the Election commissioner for counting votes in
the 1982 Presidential Election. For this project, BBC microcomputers were used. Since then
to-date, the computer have being assisting the Election Commissioner for the release of
election results of all the elections that were held in Sri Lanka without a single break.
The Presidential Election of 1982 saw the use of computers to process results and the release
of results as a graphics display for telecasting. For this floppy disk drives were use even
before they were introduced to the UK market continued without a break thereafter, with
technological improvement at every stage. At the General Elections of October 2000, the
computer system installed and operated by the University of Colombo processed the results
provided by counting centers in the districts to produced district, and national results in all
three national languages. These were provided on-line, as graphics displays and as data to
four Television Services and the Internet.
In the coming election, December, 5th 2001 this exercise will be widen than ever for giving
graphical and text display for all the TV stations, Internet Service providers (ISPs) and
Broadcasting services simultaneously for transmitting the election results.
Establishment of an Apex body for IT in Sri Lanka
Although Computer Use and Computer Education existed in Sri Lanka from the mid sixties,
it as only two decades later a national policy was formulated. In 1984, the Government of Sri
Lanka entrusted a committee to prepare a Computer Policy for Sri Lanka. This Report
resulted in the Computer and Information technology Council (CINTEC) Act No. 16 of 1984
CINTEC and the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) first initiated work in the
area of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in the mid-eighties.
The discussions at the above forum lead to the establishment of the National EDI
Committee in August 1995, with representation from CINTEC, EDB, Sri Lanka Ports’
Authority, Sri Lanka Customs, Sri Lanka Telecom, Airlanka, Sri Lanka Freight Forwarders
Association the Ceylon Association of Ships' Agents. The Cabinet of Ministers, in January
1996, recognized the National EDI Committee as the National body/focal point for EDI in Sri
Lanka, with technical, administrative and financial support from CINTEC. CINTEC
established a Working Group with representation from over 20 organizations, to function as
The Committee is working towards recommending to the Sri Lanka Standards Institution
the adoption of ISO 9735 Version 4 (UN/EDIFACT standards - Electronic Data Interchange
for Administration, Commerce and Transport) as a Sri Lanka Standard, and has requested
the observations of entities such as the Sri Lanka Banks' Association, the Chambers of
Commerce, representatives of the garment sector using EDI, and the sectors represented at
The CINTEC Committee on Law and Computers has been functioning since 1987. The
Committee has carried out the work such as Evidence (Special Provisions) Law, Computer
Crime, Legislation on Electronic Commerce, Data Protection and Legal Education.
Bodies Implementing Registration & Standardization
All organizations providing tertiary and vocational education in the island, need to be
registered by law, with the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC). TVEC
has now made some headway in registering Computer Training Institute but it is needless to
mention here that continues monitoring in required if standards are to be maintained.
Association of Computer Training Organizations (ACTOS) was established as an imitative of
CINTEC to safeguard students from the sub standard institutes at least to some extent.
However as membership is not mandatory most of the institutes choose to remain outside
Information Network to the Rural Community
The information network connectivity to the rural community using internet technology and
local web site (www.kirana.lk) is a collaborative effort of UNESCO, the Ministry of Post and
Telecommunication (MPT), Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBS), The Journalism
Unit and Institute of Computer Technology (ICT) of the University of Colombo and is the
core of the Internet based Community Radio Project. This provides Internet technology to
facilitate the Community Radio Service of Kotmale, a remote village in Sri Lanka. The web
Site is provided with information from Colombo, the commercial capital as well as from the
region and information therein is used fro the broadcasts of the regional radio service. Links
to other services such as news papers etc. proved timely news for the radio programme.
What appears in the daily news papers is now simultaneously available at Colombo and at
An important aspect of this project is the development of content by the local community on
matters relating to them such as their products, skills and resources. This project has
received much commendation from many quarters including the Time magazine and has
already several awards. This is a very good example of multi disciplinary cooperation and
contribution to the rural society at large.
Information Dissemination to Rural Community via Broadcasting Media
Providing information for the rural community with expensive technology such as Internet is
not possible due to many factors. The live radio programme initiated four years ago was
meant to provide information about ICTs and information from the Internet live to listeners
from all part of the island. Most of them would not have Internet access or even a computer
but were very mush interested in the technology. Those who did not have a phone to
comment live to the programme were encouraged to send in their questions by post. This
became an instant success and became the most popular radio programme necessitating a
The disadvantage of this programme was that only sound and not the screen display from
the Internet could be relayed via the radio. This resulted in the weekly live TV programme
that commenced a year later. In this programme, the questions of the viewer are answered
by surfing the net and the display is shown on the TV screen in full multimedia. The
questions had a wide range and the beneficiaries were not only the one who asked the
question but hundreds of thousand of listeners ad viewers.
Standardizing of IT awareness programme
Today if one goes through the job advertisements in newspapers calling for Secretaries,
Accountants, Marketing Specialists, Merchandisers etc. one common requirement you would
find is the requirement of Computer literacy. Many training institutes provide such training
through short-term certificate curses. However, to bring in standardization to this aspect of
computer education some measures have been introduced.
One such measure is the introduction of the Sri Lanka Computer Driving License (SLCDL).
This is a programme modeled on the European Computer Driving License (ECDL) to provide
computer literacy skills to Non IT professionals. It is a 110=hour computer application
course aimed at equipping office staff & school leavers with basic skills to operate personal
computers in practical applications. The major benefits derived from such a scheme can be
described as the assurance of a professionally recognized qualification and proof of
competency in the computer skills of potential employees.
Computerization of National ID
National ID cards have long been advocated as a means to enhance national security,
unmask potential terrorists, and guard against illegal immigrants. They are in use in many
countries around the world including most European countries, Hong Kong, Malaysia,
In the Sri Lankan content, the Government of Sri Lanka, by law, imposed to have a National
ID card at the age of 18 years. However, issuing, maintaining and monitoring multilingual
(Sinhala/Tamil/English) National ID card is one of the key issues in the Department of
In response, Government of Sri Lanka now initiating to implement a computerized national
identification system will cater the entire citizen in three languages. This was delayed for
some time due to the unavailability of Standards for the Sinhala Language, now has been
Establishment of Intranet at the Department of Government Printers
Government Printer Department now with Intranet System to provide government
documents, such as gazettes, Government acts, Notification, etc. to the public in Sinhala,
Tamil and English languages. The entire government and cooperation computerized
documents coming to Government Printer’s Department in Sinhala or Tamil language must
be formatted using standards confirmed by the Sri Lanka Standard Institute. In respect of
Sinhala language text must be formatted using the standards input methods and display
Establishment of Working Group for Standardizing Sinhala Font Shape & positioning
Due to the various difficulties arises form the computerization of Government Printer’s
Department, there is a need to standardizing the Sinhala font shape and positioning. The
working group on this regards was established by the Sri Lanka Standard Institute in
October, 2001 and working paper will be available by mid January, 2002.
E-government is not just about the public service. While achieving the strategy's goals is the
formal responsibility of the public service, e-government has a much wider focus. Crown
entities and other state sector organisations will be encouraged to participate in the strategy.
Local government will be invited to take up the opportunities and challenges presented by e-
government and hopefully will work in partnership with central government so collectively
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