75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Item 16: Information and Communications Technologies for Sustainable Development
Statement by Ms. Dinushi Rupathunga, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Friday, 09 September 2020
Sri Lanka aligns itself with the Statement delivered by the distinguished representative of Guyana on behalf of the Group of 77 & China. We also thank the Secretary-General for his report on Progress of the World Summit on Information Society outcomes, which provides deep insights into the subject.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is an important catalyst in creating a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented information society, which is pivotal in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. While it is encouraging to see that access to ICTs have continued to grow during this year, inequalities relating to digital technology remain a significant concern to many developing and least developed countries.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet facilities and digital connectivity warrant the highest level of international cooperation, being central and crucial to various aspects of our response to the pandemic, ranging from vaccine research to e-learning, and e-commerce. As we recover, ICTs are undoubtedly prominent in leaving no one behind, in this digitally interdependent world.
In this context, Sri Lanka welcomes the Secretary General’s Road Map for Digital Cooperation, launched in June this year, which outlines concrete actions relating to universal connectivity, promoting digital public goods, building digital capacity, trust and security in countries to advance the SDGs.
Sri Lanka’s initiatives relating to the ICT for sustainable development is guided by its National Policy Framework, which is focused on establishing a “technology based society – a Smart Nation” as one of the ten core priorities. It has underscored the imperative need that technology be integrated with every sector of the economy strategically investing in new technologies and integrating such innovations with our education system, and economy.
This digital transformation is focused on creating efficient and citizen-centric government services through simplification of systems and market processes; the use of information and communication technology as a knowledge management tool; promoting entrepreneurship in the IT sector by developing Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Knowledge Process outsourcing (KPO) and creating international e-Commerce and e-Payment systems.
For the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals during this “Decade of Action”, the SDG Council of Sri Lanka recently launched an online portal to disseminate and monitor up-to-date information relating to the SDG indicators in the country.
The effective use of technology in a whole of government approach has enabled Sri Lanka to control the spread of COVID-19, and a wide range of pandemic related issues. The Government of Sri Lanka has introduced several digital solutions for our people, including ‘Contact Sri Lanka Portal’ set-up by the Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka in coordination with the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), to respond to the requests from Overseas Sri Lankans. MyHealth Sri Lanka app, and a one-stop COVID site were used to disseminate up to date COVID related information from the official sources. To make the ‘Work From Home’ concept efficient, a dedicated platform namely meet.gov.lk was introduced. With the support of all telecommunication operators, the Government also introduced a cost-free official E-learning portal for school children.
In order to increase the areas of telecommunications coverage, the programme ‘Gamata Sannivedanaya’ has been launched. Accordingly, a pilot project has been commenced to provide full coverage of 4G services by the telecommunication operators in the Ratnapura District, with the expectation of covering the entire island by the end of 2021. It is envisaged that a country wide High Speed Optical Transmission System and a high speed 5G Mobile Broadband System will be implemented in accordance with the National Policy Framework.
The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka is monitoring and ensuring compliance of quality services for voice and broadband services by licenced operators and is also in the process of preparing the IPv6 Road Map for Sri Lanka.
As innovative technologies and growing ICTs provide ample opportunities for the world, they also pose challenges. It is heartening to note that the 3rd edition of the Global Cybersecurity Index published by the ITU has indicated significant improvements including more widespread adoption of national cybersecurity strategies, legislation and response teams., It is therefore important that we identify avenues for further action relating to enhanced cooperation among countries to develop appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks and also develop processes to deal with the ethical aspects arising from developments in ICTs, especially relating to social media.
Observing the increasing role of digital technology, Sri Lanka calls for collective action of all nations to address cyber security challenges as well as to share best practices and technologies with resource constrained countries. In this context, Sri Lanka was pleased to endorse the “Global Declaration on the Digital Response to COVID-19”, that was adopted in July this year, at a Virtual Ministerial Conference organized by Singapore and Estonia.
In addition, Sri Lanka underscores that Social Media platforms should be subject to a code of conduct regulating their obligation to tackle intolerance and hatred online. For this purpose, an all-of-UN approach to prevent religious intolerance and hate speech online is needed.
In conclusion, Sri Lanka affirms its strong support to global initiatives to harness the benefits of ICT while remaining committed to addressing the challenges arising from its rapid developments and the digital divide caused by constrained resources and facilities.
I thank you!