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ICTA in the forefront to make Sri Lanka a digitally inclusive nation

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Digital literacy 43% at present

BY SURESH PERERA

In keeping with the President’s vision, the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka has launched multiple initiatives to make Sri Lanka a digitally inclusive country.

As the apex ICT institution of the Government, the ICTA has been mandated to take all necessary measures to implement the Government’s Policy and Action Plan in relation to Information and Computer Technology.

“We are looking at a rapid positive change in digital transformation without waiting for the next 10 to 15 years to create a technology based society”, says a senior ICTA official.

It is to accelerate the digital transformation process and achieve the objective of a digitally inclusive Sri Lanka that the ICTA’s intervention is necessary, he stressed.

“We should make digital technology normal for everybody just like, for example, electricity which was a privilege at one point, but is now general purpose for the citizenry. Our target is to make digital technology general purpose for the consumption of everybody by 2024”, he noted.

He said that targets need to be accelerated to make the whole population or at least 75% of it digitally literate. At present, digital literacy stands at 43%. Computer literacy doesn’t mean learning how to switch on and off a computer. It goes beyond the basics and extends to the effective use of digital technology to surf the web, access online fora or use social media for communication purposes.

A farmer should be able to use Whatsapp or any such freeware or cross-platform for consultations on matters regarding his crops. Not everybody who uses a mobile phone is digitally literate. The concept of digital technology should be an integral part of day-to-day life of the citizenry, the official outlined.

He said the ICTA is working in collaboration with government institutions, industry stakeholders, NGOs and INGOs to achieve dedicated targets to make Sri Lanka digitally inclusive. In a technology based society, everybody should be able to consume something.

It’s an enormous challenge, he underlined. “We need to push ahead with our 900 plus initiatives to make the digital transformation in Sri Lanka happen at a swift pace”.

There is a significant digital transformation of government institutions which have become citizen- friendly and citizen-centric as a result. The ICTA facilitates the task of building sustainable capacity and improving processes to achieve set objectives, the official continued.

The ICTA has rolled out a dedicated government learning platform free of charge to state institutions for educational purposes, he said.

“We are also working on meeting the demand for ICT professionals in the country. The gap has to be bridged by producing sufficient ICT professionals to meet the growing demand”, he emphasized.

He said that ICT across the board encompasses schools, government, vocational and higher education. There is also key focus on enhancing and promoting smart education.

Another focal point is on using digit technology effectively for mass education in a post-Covid situation, he further said.

“We also support professional education”, he added.

Technology adoption is another key area as just as much as capacity building is imperative, trust and confidence should go hand in hand. People should have the competence and the trust to use it, he said.

The 21st century is knowledge-centric. True competitiveness lies in how well technology is integrated into every economic sector, be it agriculture, industry, service or else. It is imperative that Sri Lanka invests strategically in this century’s new innovative technologies, integrate such innovations into our education systems and incorporate innovative measures to our economic framework. The quality of life of people should be enhanced by creating a culture of Technological Innovation.

 

 



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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