Posted on February 19th, 2018

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

Consumerism in the Modern/Digital Age

Marketing is fast changing in the world with modern consumerism in the digital world. Digital market platforms are fast invading the world having currently settled in the west and so called developed world slowly and steadily intruding into the rest of the world including South Asia. Sri Lankan consumers are equipped with mobile phones, internet and with the influence of the young generation comfortable with mobiles and computers. In the bus or social gatherings the consumer is confined to themselves immersed with the mobile phone with anti-social behavior. 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 digitalization process in many areas.

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 digitalized 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. Digitalization is embracing education, technology, commerce, business, health and many other sectors in Sri Lanka and South Asia with ripple effects of world trends. Consumer International has chosen the topic for the next world consumer day which falls on 15th March 2018, as Making Digital Market Place Fairer and Accessible and safe to the consumer across the Globe”. 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 Heavy 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.

Digitalization process in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is still lagging behind digitalization 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 digitalization in other areas, when Sri Lanka is struggling to issue Id’s for her 21.2 citizens. Sri Lank 10 million is saved by shifting X-ray files to indicate the value of the process in economic and improvement of quality of life. In the United Kingdom the Nation Health service is digitalized 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 digitalization regime to revolutionize the life of Sri Lankan citizens.

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 digitalized 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). In Sri Lanka too it is the duty of the ailing Consumer Affairs Authority” with no proper guidance and strategy to protect guide and look after the consumer whilst guiding the industrialist trader and business community the door step of the digital world. CAA can initiate and catalyze the consumer digitalization for the sake and benefit of the consumer/citizen. Let this be a warning for the Line Minister and the Government to bring about changes in the Consumer Affairs Authority the main Regulator in Sri Lanka with enormous powers to act upon to protect the consumer and regularize trade to assist the trader, industrialist and the development of the nation with many issues on economic industrial and prosperity.

The writer takes responsibility to the contents of this article and could be contacted on


  1. RohanJay Says:

    Sarath wrote: “In the United Kingdom the Nation Health service is digitalized 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”.
    While its laudable uk health system is free at the point of delivery. The standard of NHS despite its many problems is also in my opinion quite good. This has been the case for 70 years since it was introduced after ww2. However to say that it’s the best compared with the standard of other European nations or Canada or US which you here disparaged even though you probably never visited the US and experienced its healthcare for yourself. To Your above statement is not accurate. To be honest I think UK and US have equal standards. However the standard can be extremely high in medical care in US depending on how much you are willing to pay. Whereas the NHS gives a pretty good service maybe not as high as the US or Canada. Certainly Britain can be proud of the postwar success of the NHS despite tremendous problems it faced to its existence in the past and currently faces especially now as NHS celebrates 70 years as Britain’s healthcare system.

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