Pre and post internet activities towards e-governance- the sri lankan experience

Pre and Post Internet Activities towards e-governance- the Sri Lankan
S. T. Nandasara
Senior Lecturer, Institute of Computer Technology,
University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
E-government or Electronic government is an opportunity to take advantage of the increased productivity and reduced costs that can be achieved using Internet-based technology. Even better, e-Government can enhance the citizen's access to government information and services, and can provide new ways to increase citizen participation in the democratic To realize the potential of e-Government, agencies must find a way to make their systems operable with each other–and preferably with commercial systems as well. This will allow tremendous efficiencies and cost savings not only in government-to-business or government- to-citizen transactions, but also in the basic "back-office" government operations, such as payroll, statistical analysis, resource management, and other internal functions. For many agencies, interoperability standards could help not only to improve interagency compatibility, but also intra-agency compatibility among various departments. With the introduction of the Microcomputer in Sri Lanka, the use of Information technology in Governance took a new turn. In the early stages of Information Technology in Sri Lanka. Due to this early introduction of the computer, the people and the policy makers of Sri Lanka became no strangers to the use of Information Technology in governance. When Internet finally entered Sri Lanka, Sri Lankans were more than ready for accepting Information & Communication technology as a vehicle for the possible e-governance utilizing
General Election Result
One of the main demarcation points of pre Internet era in e–governance in Sri Lanka was the introduction of Computers for assisting the Election commissioner for counting votes in the 1982 Presidential Election. For this project, BBC microcomputers were used. Since then to-date, the computer have being assisting the Election Commissioner for the release of election results of all the elections that were held in Sri Lanka without a single break. The Presidential Election of 1982 saw the use of computers to process results and the release of results as a graphics display for telecasting. For this floppy disk drives were use even before they were introduced to the UK market continued without a break thereafter, with technological improvement at every stage. At the General Elections of October 2000, the computer system installed and operated by the University of Colombo processed the results provided by counting centers in the districts to produced district, and national results in all three national languages. These were provided on-line, as graphics displays and as data to four Television Services and the Internet. In the coming election, December, 5th 2001 this exercise will be widen than ever for giving graphical and text display for all the TV stations, Internet Service providers (ISPs) and Broadcasting services simultaneously for transmitting the election results. Establishment of an Apex body for IT in Sri Lanka
Although Computer Use and Computer Education existed in Sri Lanka from the mid sixties, it as only two decades later a national policy was formulated. In 1984, the Government of Sri Lanka entrusted a committee to prepare a Computer Policy for Sri Lanka. This Report resulted in the Computer and Information technology Council (CINTEC) Act No. 16 of 1984 CINTEC and the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) first initiated work in the area of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in the mid-eighties. The discussions at the above forum lead to the establishment of the National EDI Committee in August 1995, with representation from CINTEC, EDB, Sri Lanka Ports’ Authority, Sri Lanka Customs, Sri Lanka Telecom, Airlanka, Sri Lanka Freight Forwarders Association the Ceylon Association of Ships' Agents. The Cabinet of Ministers, in January 1996, recognized the National EDI Committee as the National body/focal point for EDI in Sri Lanka, with technical, administrative and financial support from CINTEC. CINTEC established a Working Group with representation from over 20 organizations, to function as The Committee is working towards recommending to the Sri Lanka Standards Institution the adoption of ISO 9735 Version 4 (UN/EDIFACT standards - Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport) as a Sri Lanka Standard, and has requested the observations of entities such as the Sri Lanka Banks' Association, the Chambers of Commerce, representatives of the garment sector using EDI, and the sectors represented at The CINTEC Committee on Law and Computers has been functioning since 1987. The Committee has carried out the work such as Evidence (Special Provisions) Law, Computer Crime, Legislation on Electronic Commerce, Data Protection and Legal Education. Bodies Implementing Registration & Standardization
All organizations providing tertiary and vocational education in the island, need to be registered by law, with the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC). TVEC has now made some headway in registering Computer Training Institute but it is needless to mention here that continues monitoring in required if standards are to be maintained. Association of Computer Training Organizations (ACTOS) was established as an imitative of CINTEC to safeguard students from the sub standard institutes at least to some extent. However as membership is not mandatory most of the institutes choose to remain outside
Information Network to the Rural Community
The information network connectivity to the rural community using internet technology and local web site ( is a collaborative effort of UNESCO, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MPT), Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBS), The Journalism Unit and Institute of Computer Technology (ICT) of the University of Colombo and is the core of the Internet based Community Radio Project. This provides Internet technology to facilitate the Community Radio Service of Kotmale, a remote village in Sri Lanka. The web Site is provided with information from Colombo, the commercial capital as well as from the region and information therein is used fro the broadcasts of the regional radio service. Links to other services such as news papers etc. proved timely news for the radio programme. What appears in the daily news papers is now simultaneously available at Colombo and at An important aspect of this project is the development of content by the local community on matters relating to them such as their products, skills and resources. This project has received much commendation from many quarters including the Time magazine and has already several awards. This is a very good example of multi disciplinary cooperation and contribution to the rural society at large.
Information Dissemination to Rural Community via Broadcasting Media
Providing information for the rural community with expensive technology such as Internet is not possible due to many factors. The live radio programme initiated four years ago was meant to provide information about ICTs and information from the Internet live to listeners from all part of the island. Most of them would not have Internet access or even a computer but were very mush interested in the technology. Those who did not have a phone to comment live to the programme were encouraged to send in their questions by post. This became an instant success and became the most popular radio programme necessitating a The disadvantage of this programme was that only sound and not the screen display from the Internet could be relayed via the radio. This resulted in the weekly live TV programme that commenced a year later. In this programme, the questions of the viewer are answered by surfing the net and the display is shown on the TV screen in full multimedia. The questions had a wide range and the beneficiaries were not only the one who asked the question but hundreds of thousand of listeners ad viewers.
Standardizing of IT awareness programme
Today if one goes through the job advertisements in newspapers calling for Secretaries, Accountants, Marketing Specialists, Merchandisers etc. one common requirement you would find is the requirement of Computer literacy. Many training institutes provide such training through short-term certificate curses. However, to bring in standardization to this aspect of computer education some measures have been introduced. One such measure is the introduction of the Sri Lanka Computer Driving License (SLCDL). This is a programme modeled on the European Computer Driving License (ECDL) to provide computer literacy skills to Non IT professionals. It is a 110=hour computer application course aimed at equipping office staff & school leavers with basic skills to operate personal computers in practical applications. The major benefits derived from such a scheme can be described as the assurance of a professionally recognized qualification and proof of competency in the computer skills of potential employees.
Computerization of National ID
National ID cards have long been advocated as a means to enhance national security, unmask potential terrorists, and guard against illegal immigrants. They are in use in many countries around the world including most European countries, Hong Kong, Malaysia, In the Sri Lankan content, the Government of Sri Lanka, by law, imposed to have a National ID card at the age of 18 years. However, issuing, maintaining and monitoring multilingual (Sinhala/Tamil/English) National ID card is one of the key issues in the Department of In response, Government of Sri Lanka now initiating to implement a computerized national identification system will cater the entire citizen in three languages. This was delayed for some time due to the unavailability of Standards for the Sinhala Language, now has been
Establishment of Intranet at the Department of Government Printers
Government Printer Department now with Intranet System to provide government documents, such as gazettes, Government acts, Notification, etc. to the public in Sinhala, Tamil and English languages. The entire government and cooperation computerized documents coming to Government Printer’s Department in Sinhala or Tamil language must be formatted using standards confirmed by the Sri Lanka Standard Institute. In respect of Sinhala language text must be formatted using the standards input methods and display
Establishment of Working Group for Standardizing Sinhala Font Shape & positioning
Due to the various difficulties arises form the computerization of Government Printer’s Department, there is a need to standardizing the Sinhala font shape and positioning. The working group on this regards was established by the Sri Lanka Standard Institute in October, 2001 and working paper will be available by mid January, 2002.
E-government is not just about the public service. While achieving the strategy's goals is the formal responsibility of the public service, e-government has a much wider focus. Crown entities and other state sector organisations will be encouraged to participate in the strategy. Local government will be invited to take up the opportunities and challenges presented by e- government and hopefully will work in partnership with central government so collectively


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