SJB MP Mr Eran Wickramaratne speaking in Parliament on the vote of Ministries of Defence and Technology said that the government needs an institution to facilitate the e- government program to run one government to the whole country.
He further said that the present ICT agency – ICTA was created when the President Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister in 2002 when he headed a committee while working as a CEO in a private bank.
Even now the problem was retaining the best people in the field in a typical government service where market rates are much higher than for the senior civil officers in the public sector.
The use of Information Communication Technology is very important as it is a huge export income sector bringing in around 1.7 billion dollars which is second only to the garments industry. The potential of its expansion is much higher expecting a $ 3 billion export revenue to the country by 2024.
Therefore, the MP said that the government should encourage this ICT industry as an export. But it has put taxes on it at 30 percent which is a discrimination. The government’s role in the ICT is very critical and important. President in his budget speech mentioned about his dissatisfaction on the government institution promoting ICT and promised to appoint a committee to go into it while mentioning the close down of the ICTA.
“Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe when he was the Prime Minister 20 years ago in 2002 having Mr. Milinda Moragoda as the Minister of Technology apponted a committee. I also served in that committee while serving as a CEO of a Bank. That was the committee that came up with a program called E- Sri Lanka” Said Eran Wickramaratne
The ICTA was created under that programme. The QR code fuel pass solution was created by the ICTA and implemented in partnership with two private companies. Over 6.2 million citizens are now using this fuel pass facility thanks to government involvement in the ICT program. As a result, the ICT literacy has gone up to 35 % now in the country.
Mr. Eran Wickramaratne recalled from his memory about a move to bring in the Microsoft company to open up a branch in Sri Lanka when a hand shake was arranged between the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Bill Gates the CEO of Microsoft when Mr. Wickremesinghe was in Washington to meet the US President Bush. But unfortunately, before this meeting the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe was dissolved by President Chandrika Kumaranatunge in 2004. The whole intention was for the Microsoft to start up a factory in Sri Lanka and had it been success the economic destiny of Sri Lanka would have changed.
ICTA has involved in standardization of Sinhala and Tamil languages to be familiar with our users of IT. Now e revenue license system and the host of other e government systems are in progress. On the side of Law making much of the computer related acts have been introduced to combat e – crimes with bench marking to international standards.
On the continuous needs of the ICTA Mr. Wickramaratne said that 0ver 25,000 public servants and 650 leaders have been trained to handle the e – government digital infrastructure and the Lanka gateway system. This digital infrastructure has been created by ICTA for the government with the whole idea of having one government together with iCT.
He emphasized that when the ICTA was created the problem was retaining the best people in the field in a typical government service where market rates are much higher than for the senior civil officers in the public sector.
Mr. Wickramaratne concluded by saying that we need to ensure that we have an organization in government to facilitate implementing ICT program with critical people in the saddle.