IS SRI LANKA ON THE DOOR STEPS OF DIGITALIZATION?
Posted on October 2nd, 2018

Sarath Wijesinghe (Former Ambassador to Israel and UAE/Former Chairman CAA –Solicitor in England and Wales/Attorney-at-Law)

Digitization process in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is still lagging behind digitization when neighbor India and even Bangladesh has surpassed us. Bangladesh has introduced biometric ID’s for their 110 million citizens which is a base for digitization in other areas, when Sri Lanka is struggling to issue Id’s for her 21.2 citizens.  In the United Kingdom the Nation Health service is digitized and centralized to give the best care health in the world, when USA is trailing behind to study the system for their citizen health regime. Line Minister appears to work hard with his available resources for the introduction of the digitization regime to revolutionize the life of Sri Lankan citizens. It seems the Government is to spend 10 billion rupees in 64 projects on vitalization revolution with the ICTA the engine of the state in this sphere. Federiederch Naumann” Foundation has funded for digital transformation in Sri Lanka on the research opportunities and challenges in order to leapfrog from 2G to 3G and 4G with connectivity of 960 state institutions documenting, globalizing and harmonizing the vision to be an active member of the global village integrating world digital platforms. According to experts computing is about living and not about computers any more when innovations are fast moving with sharing of information thereby digitalization has already come to our doorsteps with ripple effects of global development reached with 125% mobile owners more than the population and high computer literacy and internet use of 30% of the population. Organization of Professionals in Sri Lanka has chosen Digitalization Economy and Governance” as the theme of the 31st annual sessions in 2018 and the Consumer International has proposed building a consumer trusted digital world” in 2017 and making digital market places fairer” in 2018 showing the priority shown to digitalization process in the current fast moving  world digital  order.

Consumerism in the Modern/Digital Age

Marketing which is directly connected to digitization process is fast changing in the world with modern consumerism in the computer world with revolutionary changes. Digital market platforms are fast invading the world having currently settled in the west and slowly in the  so called under developed world slowly and steadily intruding slowly and steadily to the rest of the world including Asia/Sri Lanka. Today Sri Lankan public/consumers are well equipped with mobile phones, internet with the influence of the young new generation comfortable with mobiles computers and adequate knowledge. In public transport or social gatherings the consumer is confined to themselves immersed with the mobile phone with anti-social behavior when banks and public/private bodies encourage the citizen/consumer to make use of smart phones for day to day  domestic, business and public duties/commit tents. Face book users and those immersed in the social media are a large percentage of the population. EBay, Ali-Baba, and other international mega platforms are known and used by the trader in Sri Lanka and the ordinary citizen fast growing. Credit Card usage and internet money transfers are frequent and a common occurrence in supply chains and banks. Local Pick Me and foreign UBER are well known to the consumer and consumed by a fair percentage of the population. There are over 40,000 UBER taxies in UK and much more in USA Car industry is planning electric unmanned cars in few years. UBEY and other car giants have targeted the deadline of 2 to 5 years for driverless auto driven cars on the road with plans to expand worldwide. It appears that Sri Lankans too will be compelled for a long jump towards modern consumer platforms and digital consumerism. It is not a surprise considering the rate of computer literacy and utilization of gradual digitization process in many areas. When 3 billion world citizens that is 30 are online Sri Lanka has3.5 million FB users, with 115% mobile penetration and 33.4% internet accounts with indications that the days are not too far to reach the digitization goal with the ripple effects from the open internet platform and high rate of literacy and competency on IT and Education.

Digital Market Places

Digital marketplaces are fast penetrating to the consumer worldwide. In the United Kingdom and the so called developing world 40% of purchase of consumers is online visiting the market places online and the items are either delivered or sent to collection points near the residences. Mega platforms are spreading worldwide including Sri Lanka with the advent of modern technology used by the Sri Lankan consumer via 23 million mobile phones and the internet replaced by the traditional land phones. Sri Lankan business community no longer visit Hong Kong, Singapore, China, or any other market place physically due to the utilization  of modern technology and  online or bank transfers which are somewhat risky unlike in the west such frauds and  happenings are rare due to regulatory powers of the State, Consumer Organizations, Media, and good business practices. Advice from the magazine WHICH” and Government and Chambers of Commerce monitors references give protection and guidance to the consumer in dealing with the trader. How safe are the consumer in the west when things go wrong due to scams, frauds, and unethical trade practices which are rare are monitored and supervised by the and regulated by the Department of Trade and Industry, Powerful Consumer Organizations, with the powerful media with well-educated consumer backed by the well-organized consumer organizations unlike in Sri Lanka where the main regulator Consumer Affairs Authority being one of the most inert and inefficient white elephants giving priority to collect fines from the small trader instead of educating the consumer, trader and the regulator for the betterment of the consumer which is the least looked after segment of the society always in the receiving end. Chambers of commerce and Sri Lanka are traditional organizations not modernized the services to suit the modern challenges and requirements when other parts of the world Chambers and vibrant active and takes the trader and the state to the right direction in this competitive environment. The day is nearing faster a fair cross section of the consumer will be modernized to utilize the local and international platforms and digitized online buying.

E-Commerce and buying products online      

E-Commerce buying or produces services online have transformed the marketplace to a new era with modern technology. Digitization is embracing education, technology, commerce, business, health and many other sectors in Sri Lanka and South Asia with ripple effects of world trends.  E- commerce and buying products and services online have transformed the consumer with connected devices and payment methods can buy anything from  music to take away travel accommodation  buying things events where these new way of trade  has opened vast array of choices, requiring access, safety, consumer movement in a better digital world. A Ministry is now set you for Ministry of Telecommunication and Digital infra-structure with entering into an MOU with digital broad band with Hauavi Technologies”, E Gram Pital Project”, and MOU with UNDP. With the Ministry and ripple effects of the world trends digitization process is bound to reach faster than expected and the consumer is warned to be ready for the impending changes in due course.

Expansion of digitization and way forward

Digitization will not be confined to consumerism as it will be not developed and expanded on isolation. Entire infra-structure and systems will have to be changed  modernized and digitized  to  suit  Health, Education, Administration, Economy and the other areas in modern life facing challenges on innovations – the Ministry has pledged to act upon. Digitalized system will be fast safe and convenient to the citizen for development and a better life, provided it is given with adequate safeguards, with organized consumer movement as in the West where the consumer is organized with the media and the organized bodies and publications such as WHICH” magazine  in UK which provides information and protection to the consumer with activism with the assistance of the consumer, trader, industrialist and the government (Department of Trade and Industry). Digitalization and e-consumer is safe in the west due to safeguards taken by the state, self-regulatory procedures and advanced trade practices coupled with good trade practices and regimes in practice unlike in Sri Lanka and less advanced consumer climates. Therefore strict regulatory powers, state intervention and imposition of good trade practices are necessary for a safe and proper digitalized regime and governance. (reading materials- Lanka Web 19.2.2018 digital market places in few years/ making fairer digital market places Lanka Web 7.3.2018/ Lanka Web 15.12.2016 consumer rights in the digital age/ How to build a consumer trusted digital world Sri Lanka Guardian 14.3.2017/ Protecting Consumers Financial Times 14.3.2014 all by Sarath Wijesinghe / Sunday Times 11.3.2018 Randima Atagala / IPS consumer rights in digital age Jayantha Fernando/ CAA Web 15.3.2017 A digital age consumer can trust) – [email protected]

2 Responses to “IS SRI LANKA ON THE DOOR STEPS OF DIGITALIZATION?”

  1. aloy Says:

    Do our people know what is digital apart from scrawling a mobile or using a laptop or a PC to get some information or to put in some data. It is strange that our IT guys who can enlighten the general public on a regular basis on mass media never do so. Perhaps they do not have the writing skills. Instead we get write ups from people like this writer trying to give his own impression on the subject most of which people already know. I have seen even our former presidential secy who was the head of TRC trying to write on this subject extensively on news papers.

    It is though the digital technology countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan rose up to the level of advancement they are enjoying today. The design for the worlds first integrated circuit (IC)that went into the electronic calculator (intel 4004) was done by a Japanese company and they (intel) went from there to make the present day’s i7 with compatibility all way back to 8008 which was just one level above 4004. Thereby that company virtually put the US in the forefront of technological development. Actually this technology apart from manufacture of the chips, is not at all difficult to understand. If people like Steve Jobs who had no formal education and was living the life of a hippie could develop a company like Apple to be a trillion dollar company there is no reason why our people with doctorates on IT mostly in universities could not do better to put SL in the world’s map.

    Our PM is visiting Norway tomorrow. That country’s one of the technological universities developed one of the three Instruction Set Architectures in the world called AVR (Alf Vegaard Reduced instruction set computing). Alf and Vegaard being the two students who invented the system. This is used in Embedded Systems that powers many electronic controllers in electrical items. We should try and develop this technology through all our universities. Our PM should ask for Norway’s help in this regard. This will also be a solution for the joblessness of our graduates. I believe this digital technology is incredibly simple and our A-level students can easily grasp it.

  2. aloy Says:

    I have come across two noteworthy news items connected with digital technology in the past couple of days: one is the suspension of the mandatory use of meters in three wheelers by the Transport Ministry (which I consider a good move) and the other the Gifting of a 3D printing machine by the government of Turkey to Agriculture Department of University of Peradeniya (which I consider as an insult to Yahapalanaya government).
    Since arriving in SL about a couple of weeks ago, I found it easier to keep my car in the Garage and travel in the three wheelers as it is very difficult to find parking space in the city. I found that most three wheelers have broken down meters and drivers complain that the units break down too often and also the vendors charge 2 to 3000 rupees to replace parts such as chips (the AVRs mentioned in earlier post) which is too much for them. This may be due to either the use of inferior chips or the interfacing problems with distance measuring mechanism of the meter. The ministry has made a good decision to suspending the system until a reliable equipment is found. I too have decided to take up this challenge not only to fabricate a unit to charge the correct fare but also to print out a ticket at the end of journey just like what they issue in busses.
    As for the 3D printing, I consider this technology no more complex than that of a Laser Printer where a software driver installed in the computer makes it possible to print what is on screen. I have seen videos of this 3D printing being taught to kindergarten students in some countries. So, what is the Pera Uni dons going to do with it?. Are they going to do genetically modify crops with it?.

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