High-Level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation & Connectivity
27 April 2021
Statement by Eng. Mahinda B. Herath, Chief Executive Officer - ICT Agency of Sri Lanka
I bring greetings from Sri Lanka, its Government, the Ministry of Technology and the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka, the apex Digital Transformation Agency.
His Excellency Gotabaya Rajapaksa the President of Sri Lanka in coming into power, presented a national policy framework entitled “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour”, wherein a full chapter was dedicated to “A Technology Based Society”. This sets in motion a well-integrated action plan to create an ecosystem conducive for a digital transformation that would affect the entire economic system and alter the whole of society. Political commitment at the highest level was evident when the President took under his wings the Ministry of Technology; and brining the aforementioned ICT Agency, along with other key technology related entities under his control.
A National Digital Transformation Strategy was put in motion with a whole-of-society approach. At the root of this approach is the Sri Lanka Unique Digital ID (SL- UDI), which is scheduled to be in operation next year. SL-UDI will empower many high impact citizen services, connected through a National Data Exchange built for data and identity interoperability.
Roughly 75% of our population are in non-urban areas. Though our mobile penetration is well above 100%, the Smart Phone penetration is only around 45%. These realities have been factored into a blueprint to address the digital-divide and digital inclusion.
When mobility restrictions and social distancing measures were imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka took measures to accelerate the digital transformation. With increased demand for remote work and education, e-commerce, virtual service delivery and managing health related response to the pandemic, a number of emergency measures were taken. A video conferencing solution for the government, later extended to the education sector as well, white-listing of traffic to this solution, adoption of a remote education platform, accelerating 4G coverage to all villages, commencing fiberization of more than 10,000 schools, introducing QR-code based Covid tracking and tracing, adoption of DHIS2 for Covid-19 vaccination management with a Citizen Portal for scheduling etc., are some such measures. In parallel, the meet.gov.lk platform was used to educate industry and citizen groups on the use of the available digital technologies in meeting challenges of Covid-19.
Sri Lanka is ready to share its experience and learnings on its efforts to address the digital divide, whilst willing to learn from experiences and learnings of the other countries who are present here today.