It is mind boggling to even think of what ICT (Information and Communications Technology) could offer our society. It could result in job creation in terms of developing ICT solutions as well as supporting the use of ICT systems.
It could also have an impact on day-to-day life situations such as proper traffic management using technology, citizen services, banking services, mobile applications, criminal investigations, better education systems, health management and many more.
The beauty of this industry is that the place you live in is irrelevant as technology connects people across geographical terrain. Work can be done from wherever you are. Rural ICT operations, popularly known as rural BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) operations can create jobs in remote villages where youth can work from where they live without having to travel to the city and having to spend a significant portion of their earnings on food and lodging.
Citizens can obtain services from public and private organisations without having to be physically present at the actual organization. As many of you have already experienced, to get one task done you need to run around several offices. Or even worse, in certain instances to get a single service done you have to go to the same office many times.
If proper ICT systems are used and the relevant organisations are inter-connected, the waste of time can be minimised. It will also save on transport, limit traffic and most importantly will have a positive impact on the environment.
Think of the ease it could provide disabled people. For those who find it hard to walk or hear, we could have IT systems where they can get their work done independently.
Let’s take a few examples of ICT applications that are already in place. The process for obtaining and renewing vehicle revenue licence was a cumbersome matter in the past, but today you can get it done online for some provinces, at your desk in a few minutes.
There’s no hassle as the document arrives at the doorstep by post, within a few days of submitting the application. Today, the Advanced Level and Ordinary Level examination results are instantly available online as soon as they are released. Most banking functions can be done online. Various things can be bought online. No travel. No time waste. Saves time, money, and the environment too!
But what we have achieved is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many improvements and new avenues to be explored.
The fact that Sri Lanka was separated from rest of the world in the past is not relevant in the future. We are connected, or we will be connected to the rest of the world just like any other country would be. Our youth will have access to knowledge and information just like any other young person anywhere in the world. So, gathering knowledge, research, new developments and working with the world should not be a challenge. Working on projects, especially office based work for any other country from Sri Lanka should not be a challenge. Developing world class systems and Apps for the whole world from Sri Lanka would be an opportunity.
However, it also presents a challenge.
What happens to our data security? Privacy? Independence? Cultural Uniqueness? These points should be clearly thought through and methods devised to balance both aspects.
This whole area of IT and Telecoms present a world of things to think about and work on. But it is clear that the future is in that direction. The social justice today, the democracy today is highly linked to technology. We have seen what social media could do.
We see in some countries how corruption and bribery is controlled through the use of technology. Today many apps are being launched, changing the way we do things. Smart Phone along with ICT and the Telecom sector is creating a silent revolution.
A paradigm shift is happening. It is already happened to some extent, but there is a fair way to go, especially to reap positive benefits.
Are we ready? Do we have the path way clear for the future?
Those are the questions to think about.
One thing I personally believe is that ICT is an integrating link; so should be the strategy; so should be the resources we use to devise our future path.
Academics, professionals, citizens, politicians, officials, private sector and public sector, all have a role to play. The youth of the country also have a critical role in this.
After all, ICT is a young industry. It only took off about 25 years ago. Most of the revolutions done through the use of technology were done by young people. This is the case locally as well as internationally.
Looking at the world with anew is the need of the day. That eye sight whether we like it or not is through the weaves of technology. Having a clear view and developing a proper vision is the future of future generations. Hence let me simply end by saying ICT is the future of Sri Lanka.
President, Computer Society of Sri Lanka