H. E. Dr. A. Rohan Perera, Ambassador and
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Information and communications technologies for development
28th October 2015
We align ourselves with the intervention made by the distinguished representative of South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
We also thank the Secretary-General for his report on Progress of the WSIS outcomes, which provides deep insights into the subject.
Information and Communications Technology is a significant catalyst for economic and social development in the contemporary world, with critical spin offs for employment generation and wealth creation. Access for all to the Internet can enable incredible societal and economic gains. ICTs are a key enabler of sustainable development.
It is encouraging to note that there has been continued growth in adoption and use of ICTs across the globe in recent years. Statistics show that over 90 percent of the world’s population is now covered by mobile networks, and that the number of mobile subscriptions is almost equal to the world’s population. Internet penetration has grown from about 15% of the global population in 2005 to over 40% today. Broadband internet is becoming more affordable around the world – over the past five years, fixed broadband prices as a share of GNI per capita have dropped by 65%. In developing markets, the digital economy is growing at 15-25% per year. The rapid development of the ICTs have marked the “Death of Distance” and accelerated the development process.
Despite these positive inclinations, there are some disturbing realities that we must acquaint ourselves with. There is a continuing digital divide and a gap in broadband access between developed and developing countries, which would not augur well for sustainable development. Alarming statistics show us that while 78% of households in developed countries have internet access, only 5% in the least developing countries do so. Mobilizing resources for investment in ICT diffusion continues to be one of the main challenges for developing countries. Though the global community has been successful in rapidly deploying broadband – to 2 billion more people over the last 10 years, there are billions more to reach, and continued investment in this sector is critical.
We are at a historic crossroads this year where the United Nations General Assembly has launched a ten-year review of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society. We are encouraged by the commitment of the Member States to achieve a successful outcome of the WSIS review process.
The WSIS action lines must build synergies with the 2030 agenda for sustainable development as ICTs are a cross-cutting element that covers all sustainable development goals. It is imperative that these synergies function to bridge the digital divide between the developed and developing states.
While international cooperation is required to bridge the digital divide, carefully crafted national level policies and strategies too can contribute to narrow down the divide.
Mr. Chairman, Sri Lanka is a prime example of this.
Due to the implementation of a carefully calibrated people-centered national policy, Sri Lanka’s IT literacy has grown steadily from a mere 3 percent in 2005 to almost 50 percent in 2014.
The national broadband policy of Sri Lanka too is helping narrowing the digital divide and harness the power of ICTs to development.Through an ongoing free WI-FI project, citizens will be able to access 100 MB of data monthly at a maximum speed of 512 Kbps. Free WI-FI Connections will be available throughout the country by March 2016 through Google’s Loon project, thereby providing Universal Internet Access to the entire country.
Due to the implementation of WSIS outcomes, Sri Lanka has jumped 11 places in the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index 2015; 65th in the world and leading in South Asia. Sri Lanka ranks in the top ten economies in terms of affordability.
As a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society, we have also taken a lead initiative in Multi-lingual Internet initiatives keeping with the policy of encouraging multilingualism, putting in place technical conditions to facilitate local languages on the Internet.
The legal framework for e-Governance and e-Commerce is in place in Sri Lanka. We have adopted, several years ago, the requisite legislation for electronic commercial transactions, based on UNCITRAL model laws.
Sri Lanka has accorded specific importance to the growing role of cyberspace and the importance of security-building initiatives for the future of the Information Society, which would be an integral part of sustainable development. Towards this end, Sri Lanka became a State party to the Budapest Cybercrime Convention, and on 1st September 2015, the Convention entered into force in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka's e-Government policy and associated projects have ignited a rapid e-service drive, benefitting a significant portion of the country’s population. Our success in the investments on e-Government has been recognized by the United Nations. Sri Lanka has advanced from 115th in 2012 to 74th position in 2014 in the United Nations E-Government Development Index (EGDI).
All these developments have assisted Sri Lanka in harnessing the potential of ICTs for its development activities. This would augur well for the implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development at national level.
I thank you.