Our vision is a SMART Sri Lanka. In moving towards our vision, we will focus on a SMART Government which will do more, with less. Benefitting from re-engineering processes which have already taken place, we will adopt a “Whole of Government” approach offering our citizens ONE common window for all services," President Mahinda Rajapaksa said.
Addressing over 160 local and foreign representatives who attended the inauguration of the World Summit Award Global Congress 2013 at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo yesterday, President Rajapaksa emphasized on the urgent need to equip the people in this country, especially, the youth and in particular, the rural youth.
"They must acquire a working knowledge of the English language on the one hand, and on the other, they should master IT skills and have access to computers and the internet," the President said.
"However, we must protect our children from the negative effects of internet use.
Chairman of World Summit Awards, Prof Peter Bruck said that Sri Lanka is rapidly forging ahead in information technology and the country is poised for a leap frog to become an important IT knowledge centre in Asia. “The credit for this amazing progress should go to President Rajapaksa, who is totally committed to make the maximum use of the tools of IT to speed up the development of the nation,” he said.
Prof Bruck expressed his deep appreciation to President Rajapaksa for his proposal to name an ‘International Skills Day’ during his focused address to the 68th United nations General Assembly on September 25. “President Rajapaksa will be able to tell the world about how Sri Lanka attained most of the Millennium Development Goals at his next speech at UNGA in 2015,” he said.
Dr Ralph Simon, who invented ring tones in 1999, said that the e-skills knowledge of Sri Lankan youths ranks among the best in the world.
Telecommunications & It Minister Mr Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and ICTA Chairman Prof P. W. Epasinghe also attended the ceremony.
Mr Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President delivered the welcome address and ICTA CEO Reshan Devapura and Telecom CEO Lalith de Silva also addressed the gathering.
Full text of the speech:
Prof Peter Bruck
Other members of the Head Table
It is my pleasure to be with all of you this evening as we inaugurate a unique global initiative – the World Summit Award Global Congress 2013. This event has brought together people of many different cultures, many countries and many nationalities. We welcome you as guests of our country.
As Information and Communication Technology takes us to new heights, I believe it is our duty to ensure that no country or citizen is left behind. My Government has always been committed to ensuring that the benefits of technology are not limited to a privileged few, but reach all sections of our society. It is with this vision that we launched the e-Sri Lanka Development Initiative. The National Policy pertaining to all our development activities is firmly based on this premise and the e-development agenda of my Government, is no exception.
We strongly believe that Information and Communication Technology, is the future driving force of economies. It is the tool and the enabler that will push the boundaries of socio-economic development, in countries such as ours.
That is why we have given priority to ICT, and main-streamed ICT in all our development activities. Through the e-Sri Lanka Initiative we are moving forward rapidly to bring benefits of ICT, to the door step of our rural population.
Many talk of the ‘Concept of a Global Village’ – but I want a global village which is meaningful to our people. This is why we have always stressed on the importance of linking the villages and townships and opening doors to the world of knowledge outside.
To achieve this objective, the Development Policy Framework of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Mahinda Chinthana, Vision for the Future lays clear emphasis on the urgent need to equip the people, especially, the youth and in particular, the rural youth. They must acquire a working knowledge of the English language on the one hand, and on the other, they should master IT skills and have access to computers and the internet. However, we must protect our children from the negative effects of internet use.
In this context, we have implemented a unique network of ‘tele-centers’ known as Nenasalas which give access to rural communities. Today there are 720 Nenasalas spread throughout the Island. We have also established over 3500 IT labs in schools, across the country. We are now reaping the benefits of our efforts. Our ICT Literacy which was a mere four percent (4%) in 2002 is over forty percent (40%) today. I am committed to ensuring that this figure goes up to seventy five per cent (75%) by 2015.
As you can see, ICT is used by my Government as instruments for rural empowerment; as a powerful tool that could make the villages of our country a meaningful part of the global village.
The e-Sri Lanka Initiative has numerous other successes and has been in the fore-front in using ICT, for the benefit of ordinary people and for improving their lives.
We are now in a position to take Sri Lanka to the next a level in ICT led development. My officials have already drawn up the next phase of the e-Development Master Plan which reflects the national goals of accelerated economic growth and the elimination of poverty; shifting to a more knowledge based, globally integrated economy and ensuring access to basic services and an inclusive information society.
Our vision is a SMART Sri Lanka. In moving towards our vision, we will focus on a SMART Government which will do more, with less. Benefitting from re-engineering processes which have already taken place, we will adopt a “Whole of Government” approach offering our citizens ONE common window for all services.
Our villages will have evolved into SMART villages with multi-purpose service centres and a high level of social innovation. Our IT/ BPO industry will become the number one driver of growth and SMART JOB creation.
My Government will also ensure that we have the right ICT Policy and e-Laws in place, to make this transformation possible. I am confident that with all these vital components in place, we will see our vision of a ‘Smart Sri Lanka’ realized over the next 5 to 6 years.
It is in this back drop that the World Summit Award 2013 has come to Sri Lanka. After a 30 year long terrorist conflict which almost destroyed our country and our economy, Sri Lanka today is a country in revival. Colombo is a well-planned, environmentally sustainable and culturally vibrant city. The Country is shifting to a more globally integrated, competitive, knowledge based economy.
Just as we have ICT success stories to relate, I am sure all of you have successes that you are proud to talk about, in your countries. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all those countries that have successfully embarked upon and delivered mature, acclaimed e-Development initiatives.
I have no doubt about the potential of valuable, relevant and localized digital content. It has the power to transform the socio economic environment of people, societies and countries. A global initiative of the magnitude of the World Summit Awards gives us further opportunities to share our experiences and synchronize our efforts in this area, for the future.
I am sure you will all agree that ICT is the only tool that will cross geographical barriers, social barriers and reach out to the rural, disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. It is up to all of us, to ensure that these are not just dreams, that we achieve each and every one of these goals and objectives.
I would like to conclude by commending all those who worked tirelessly to successfully organize World Summit Award Global Congress 2013, and also offer my heartiest congratulations to all the WSA award winners, from across the globe.
I do hope our foreign delegates will have a very pleasant stay in our country. You can travel around the country. Travel to north or south. You can travel anywhere freely. If you had come four years ago, you could not have travelled to certain places and we would not have allowed you to go because of your safety concerns. I wish you all a very successful three days as you deliberate, discuss and share experiences.
May the noble Triple Gem Bless you all !