A committee to expedite the digitization process
President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the Government headed by him is committed to build a digitalized modern Sri Lanka
The President said that it is a duty of the Government to accelerate the digitalization by digitalizing the Government sector and a Committee of Cabinet Ministers would be set up to ensure that the Government sector utilization is done rapidly.
He made this observation addressing at the launching ceremony of the DIGIECON 2030, a digital economy 2030 master plan and a regulatory policy framework kick-off aimed at developing a regulatory framework and the master plan towards transforming the country into an inclusive digital economy. This event organized by the Ministry of Technology was held at the Temple Trees.
The Keynote address was delivered by Regional Cluster Lead for South Asia for Digital Development, World Bank Siddartha Raja on ‘Leveraging Digital Economy towards a Sustainable and Resilient Sri Lanka’.
The DIGIECON SRI LANKA 2023-2030 website was launched by President Ranil Wickremesinghe on this occasion and ICT associations extended their support.
The launch of DIGIECON 2030 which is a concept of President Ranil Wickremesinghe is a crucial step in Sri Lanka’s transformation towards an inclusive digital economy.
DIGIECON 2030 will also facilitate scale ups for over 50 of the most innovative start-ups, SMEs and technological developments in Sri Lanka, across a diverse range of industries with a platform to access global investors and markets.
Speaking further, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that Rs. 100 million is set aside for universities and private sector institutions for this year to commence the development of a digital policy and another Rs. 1 billion next year for the research in the IT sector and Artificial Intelligence to develop digital economy.
The statement made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe is as follows:
What has to be said of accelerating Sri Lanka’s digital innovation and the industry four exhibition that we are planning to hold has already been said. In fact, I have very little to add, and that I had mentioned in the morning that the IMF reforms give us a growth potential. We should grasp that opportunity and therefore we should now plan for an economy that fits the mid-century, a highly competitive social market economy.
Highly competitive means not being competitive in every sector. We cannot, but there are areas that we can be competitive, for instance, as regional logistics centre and in certain types of agriculture. So those are the areas that we have to identify. Secondly, that highly competitive economy should also be a green economy because there are huge potential for Sri Lanka to exploit the green economy.
Thirdly, the highly competitive economy must be a green economy and a digital economy. So this is where the path fits in. It is not only a digital economy, but also a green economy. The two should combine together and then it must be a highly competitive economy. So these are details which the market will have to work out as we develop further.
As far as the digital economy is concerned, we have now to develop our digital policy, which we haven’t done so. So there are many ideas here, many proposals, and we have to do this together with the industry. Government spending cannot drive the digital economy. The digital economy has to be driven by the private sector.
What we can do is to promote. We should not stand in the way. That’s going to be our policy, our digital policy, and within it, Artificial Intelligence (AI) oriented policy also of implementation. To do this, firstly, we have to build up the manpower. Now that manpower again while the Government will increase its spending in this sector. Again, this is what the private sector has to do and we will ensure that funding is made available to all those who take on this course, who follow these courses.
If you look at the whole digital industry, you’ll see the two leading giants, US and China. In USA it is driven by the market. In China also it is driven by the market. The whole of China’s development came through the market, so we should not think of digital policy has been centered on the Government.
But there is certainly a duty of the Government to accelerate the digitalization by digitalizing the Government sector. What we plan to do in this Government is to appoint a Cabinet Committee of ministers to ensure that the Government sector utilization is done fast and quickly. That move will help you to bring digital policy forward and accelerate it.
We cannot wait too long. We should also coordinate and work together with our neighboring countries. I am looking forward to the economic and technological cooperation, a partnership with India, which will enable us to work together with India and specifically South India, which has grown by leaps and bounds. So this is the area that concerns the Sri Lankan policy.
Then, the infrastructure required will have to be provided by the private sector. Government is not in a position to do so. We will promote the provision of infrastructure by the private sector. This is one of the reasons that have led the Government to privatize Sri Lankan Telecom. We just haven’t the money to put into it.
We need foreign investment and let it come through the SLT and the other institutions that are involved. In this way we are laying the groundwork for the Government policy on digitalization. It is necessary. It will be one of the key sectors of the new economy. It’s for you all to tell us what has to be done; it’s for you all to work with the Government or for the Government to work with you all.
So at some point, the formulation of policy will depend on the decisions of the IT sector, because all new technologies will be tried out in Sri Lanka. We want to build a new economy that is based on industry four technology. Looking at agriculture, looking at fisheries, manufacturing services, it’s a totally different world from what we know now that you will see in 20 years’ time and this growth will come into South Asia as India develops.
So therefore, I won’t take any more of your time. I have told you what we are planning to do. We will have this Cabinet Committee and we should also focused on areas that are easy for us to develop. One such area is Artificial Intelligence (AI). What is artificial intelligence? How does it correlate to the mind? Now, this is a topic that most of us here are familiar with being Buddhists.
We know that as the Dhammapada says, the mind determines everything. So what is the correlation between the mind and artificial intelligence? I think that’s one area for us to work on. Now, the second area, I would say, is research. The research is lacking in Sri Lanka. There is insufficient research being done. I don’t intend in any way to start new research institutions.
What we want are the universities and the private sector to link up. We will certainly help the universities with the infrastructure that is needed. But it’s the private sector that has to drive it. Private sector has to invest the money, lose some of it and gain the rest of it, because this will ensure that the private sector driven industry.
The universities and, if there are other institutions that can help you, certainly all of them would be combined. And to plan out this policy, the state minister will speak to you all and then report back to the Cabinet Committee. As an initiation for this year I am setting aside Rs 100 million.
Next year, we want the research. I want you to do the research with the main focus on the AI. And for that next year I set aside Rs. 1 billion depending on how you perform. Then we can decide what we give for 2025. This Government of which many members are here, which I head with the Prime Minister and the Ministers, as a whole is determined to modernize the country and to digitalize the country and you can rest assured that everything to ensure Sri Lanka comes out as one of the leading nations in the region as far as digitalization is concerned.
State Minister of Technology Kanaka Herath delivering the welcome speech said the launch of DIGIECON 2030 marks a new chapter in Sri Lanka’s journey towards becoming an
inclusive digital economy. The Government aims to leap into Industry accelerating our economy through sustainable tradable goods and services, supported by advanced technology.
State Minister also said that through DIGIECON 2030, the Government will build a conducive business environment for investments whilst giving direction, and commitment of the Government towards facilitating a digital ecosystem to all the stakeholders. The Government will take the lead in giving shelter to a series of events, which will explore partnerships that will lead to digital transformation using cutting-edge technology and leverage human-centric technology to improve productivity and efficiency to match and link with global value chains.
Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Heads of Foreign Missions, Cabinet Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Ali Sabry, Susil Premajayantha, Kanchana Wijesekara, Ramesh Pathirana, Nazeer Ahamed, Manusha Nanayakkara, State Ministers Suren Raghavan, Aravindh Kumar, President’s Senior Advisor on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayake, Senior Advisor to the President on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene, World Bank representatives, other dignitaries and key stakeholders also were present at the occasion.
President’s Media Division (PMD)