71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Item 16: Information and communications technologies for development
H. E. Dr. A. Rohan Perera, Ambassador and
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Information and communications technologies for development
13th October 2016
We align ourselves with the statement delivered by the distinguished representative of the Kingdom of Thailand on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
We also thank the Secretary-General for his report on Progress on WSIS outcomes, which provides deep insights into the subject.
The importance of ICTs as a significant promoter of economic and social development hardly needs emphasis. Universal access to the Internet can bring in substantial societal and economic gains to the people.
The 2015 Overall Review of the Implementation of the Outcomes of the WSIS was an important milestone in the process of employing ICTs as a key enabler of sustainable development. The call in the outcome document for WSIS to build stronger synergies with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development augurs well for the harnessing of full potential of ICTs in realizing SDGs. The cross cutting contribution made by ICTs to all SDGs and poverty eradication is noteworthy.
There has been a continued and remarkable growth in the use of ICTs worldwide, particularly during the past ten years. Evolution of connectivity, innovation and access to ICTs have made ICTs a very useful developmental tool. There has been a rapid growth in fixed and wireless broadband internet, mobile internet, smartphones and tablets, cloud computing and the availability of big data.
Despite these positive developments, there is a continuing digital divide and a gap in broadband access between developed and developing countries, as well as within countries, particularly gender-wise.
Bridging the digital divide is essential to achieve sustainable development.
Though continued investment in the ICT sector is essential to bridge the digital divide, mobilizing resources for investments in the ICT sector continues to be one of the main challenges for developing countries.
In order to bridge the digital divide and for continued investments in the sector, international cooperation is vital. At national level, far reaching policies and strategies can contribute to narrow down the divide.
In Sri Lanka, with a separate Ministry dedicated for telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure, ICTs have been recognized as a key enabler by the government in meeting development challenges. The secondary and tertiary streams of formal education and many non-formal vocational training programmes increasingly contain ICT in their curricula. The facilitation of financial inclusion is also part of the national ICT strategy.
Sri Lanka’s ICT sector has grown remarkably. With an industry of more than 75,000 employees, and more than 220 companies, our target is to achieve a revenue of US$ 1 billion from IT exports, by the end of this year.
The national broadband policy of Sri Lanka too is helping narrowing the digital divide and harness the power of ICTs to development. The mobile and broadband penetration is in the increase benefitting some of the remotest areas of Sri Lanka bringing digitization to the fingertips of our people. The ongoing free WI-FI project of the Government strengthens these efforts.
As a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society, we have also taken a lead initiative in 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 ratified the UN Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts in 2015 becoming the first South Asian country to do so, and it entered into force, February this year.
Manifesting its commitment to ensure safety and security of cyberspace for all its users, Sri Lanka became a State party to the Budapest Cybercrime Convention as well.
As Sri Lanka is currently in the process of implementing the 2030 agenda for sustainable development at national level, these positive trends in the ITC sector would make invaluable contribution to our development efforts.
I thank you.