Prompted by a recent announcement by Sri Lanka's Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) that the country's Cabinet of Ministers had, in early December of last year, finally approved the nation's e-government policy, a process begun at the end of 2004; the Business Times solicited opinions from key IT industry leaders regarding this 32-page document, titled "Policy and Procedures for ICT Usage in Government (e-Government Policy)" and available at www.icta.lk, which will form the backbone for the way forward for ICT in Sri Lanka especially now that it has become mandatory for all government agencies.
According to Virtusa General Manager and SLASSCOM Secretary General, Madu Ratnayake, "it will provide clarity of purpose and gives the implementing agencies the required buy in to drive the initiatives". He adds that "given large scale IT based improvement initiatives is relatively new to some government organization, having a clear policy and stated commitment by the government will help". Additionally, "technology probably is the key government transformational tool that supports the delivery of a superior service to the citizens.
Initiatives like government information centre (1919) is a great example of the government's initiative to adopt technology for citizen services", says Mr. Ratnayake. He concludes by noting the need to "rapidly increase the IT literacy and availability of cost effective connectivity across the country to ensure that every citizen can benefit from the e-gov initiatives as well as rapidly expanding opportunities via ICT".
Meanwhile, Intel Country Manager Indika de Zoysa highlights the creation of a Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) post in all agencies as the key facet of Sri Lanka's new e-Government policy, adding that only with a CIO in place will IT programmes gain the necessary momentum to be effective.
He also identified this document's benefits towards facilitating audits, procurement, security, etc. and noted that an effective implementation of these policies could only result in easier access, less cost and faster delivery for citizens. While indicating that the document did a "really good job of capturing almost all required areas in the modern world", Mr. de Zoysa also suggested that one of its most significant outcomes was that it "now provided a clear plan with identifiable goals".
Notes top academic and Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology President / Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Lalith Gamage, the policy "is a very comprehensive document covering all aspects in detail with regard to policies and procedures for the government sector in using ICT and in delivering government services. It also specifies the minimum requirements that should be adhered to by the government organizations to ensure consistency in their ICT practices and activities".
He adds that the way forward for government agencies now as to "develop their own action plans conforming to the stipulated policies and the procedures and assistance will be available from ICTA to guide them in the implementation of their plans".
Prof. Gamage further opines that "Human Resource development in all aspects of ICT is required to implement this ambitious plan and organisations such as SLIIT will be able to assist in this regard through undergraduate, postgraduate and professional development (maybe even specially designed) programmes".
Meanwhile, according to an ICTA statement, the long process leading to the e-Government policy started with an "ICT policy committee in November 2004 to formulate the first draft of policies and procedures for use of ICT in Government. After an internal review, the initial draft was presented in February 2005 to a representative gathering of stakeholders mainly comprising members of the ICTA Focus Groups and Working Groups.
The document was later presented to approximately 150 Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) of the Western Province on 2005.3.10 and to a group of CIOs and Re-engineering Government Focus Group members on 2008.7.22. It was also made available to the public on www.icta.lk in order to ascertain the views of a wider audience. ICTA published advertisement in the newspapers inviting the views of the public and interested parties on the draft document. Comments were received from several Government organisations, private organisations, citizens, associations, health personnel, etc."
Further, Sri Lanka's newly approved e-Government policy is said to encompass the following areas: "Electronic Transactions, Computer Crimes, Data Protection, Intellectual Property Rights, ICT Management, Information Life Cycle Management, Protection of personal data, Standards, Data Administration Hubs, Network - Application and Data Architecture, ICT Audit, Accessibility and Service Delivery, Contracts and Information Assets Management, ICT Project Continuity, Procurement and Contractual Issues, Communication Interface, Networking and Connectivity, Web Presence, Government Network and Human Resource Development".