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Internet use has grown due to pandemic in Lanka, but slower than peers, survey shows

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A recent national survey conducted by LIRNEasia, a regional policy think tank, showed that 44 percent of Lankan population aged 15 and above were internet users in 2021.

Internet use was lower amongst the rural, elderly, less educated and poorer groups. Those residing in rural areas, for example, were 19% less likely to be online than their peers residing in urban areas.

The pandemic situation has brought many online, with 31% of new users (aged 15 and above) in 2020 and 2021 citing that they came online due to a need brought about by the pandemic. Despite the growth experienced, internet use levels in Sri Lanka this year were below that of countries such as India and Nigeria.

Sri Lanka’s sub-par performance in this regard is notable for two reasons. First, because empirical evidence shows that countries with higher per capita income often have higher internet use levels. Sri Lanka’s internet use levels were below that of countries with lower per capita income levels. Second, because Sri Lanka has out-performed these countries in the past, but recent high growth in countries such as India — where internet use grew by 25% annually — have led to them overtaking Sri Lanka.

“Concerted efforts should be made to bring and keep those at the margins online,” Senior Research Manager, Gayani Hurulle of LIRNEasia, said. “These include ensuring that high-quality, affordable internet is available to all, and digital skills of users are built to allow for productive, responsible and safe internet use.”

The survey findings were released at a virtual launch event conducted last Wednesday (8), which included a panel discussion with leading government, private sector and civil society representatives. Panelists included Oshada Senanayake (Director General, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka and Chairman, ICT Agency of Sri Lanka), L. Ilaangovan, Secretary of Education, Cultural Affairs, Sports and Youth Affairs of the Northern Provincial), Jiffry Zulfer (Founder and CEO, PickMe), Karin Fernando (Team Leader for Sustainable Development, CEPA) and Gayani Hurulle (Senior Research Manager, LIRNEasia). The discussion was moderated by Rohan Samarajiva (Chair, LIRNEasia).

The research was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) through a grant given to three regional think tanks, LIRNEasia, Research ICT Africa and Instituto de Estudios Peruanos. The nationally representative sample for the survey conducted in Sri Lanka consisted of 2,500 households and individuals across the country covering 125 Grama Niladhari Divisions. The sampling methodology has been designed to ensure representation of the target group (population aged 15+) at a national level with a +/-2.8% margin of error at a confidence level of 95-percent. The data also allows for disaggregation by urban/rural divide, gender and socio-economic classification at the national level, as well as by within and outside the Western Province.

LIRNEasia is an Asia Pacific ICT policy and regulation think tank. Its mission is to catalyze policy change through research to improve people’s lives in the emerging Asia Pacific by facilitating their use of hard and soft infrastructures through the use of knowledge, information and technology.



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Booster shots: Poor public response makes GMOA contemplate legal remedy

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Lack of enthusiasm among the public to receive the booster dose was disconcerting, given that Sri Lanka had a long-established and highly functional immunisation programme, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

By 20 January 2022, 64.56% of Sri Lankans had been fully vaccinated, but only 22.47% had received the booster dose, the GMOA said.

“At the early stages of vaccination against Covid-19 the public response was favourable. However, the current waning of interest might be driven by the myths and rumours regarding the vaccines. It is important to take measures to counter such misinformation by raising public awareness of the ongoing vaccination programme.”

“Legal action against those responsible for the spread of communicable diseases can be taken under the Penal Code”, GMOA Secretary Dr. Senal Fernando said. “Provisions of the Quarantine Ordinance can be used against persons who do not comply with directions given by the proper authorities under the Quarantine Ordinance,” he said.

The GMOA said that several countries had made it mandatory to have proof of vaccination for entry into public places. The same thing could be done in Sri Lanka to ensure that more people got vaccinated.

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Govt., SJB haggle over procedure to rescue country

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By Saman Indrajith

The SJB on Sunday said that it was wrong for the President and the government to seek the assistance of the Opposition to steer the country out of the present crises without creating a proper forum to obtain such assistance.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the latter’s third Policy Speech in Parliament last week had sought the assistance of the Opposition. “His speech is full of excuses. He sought our assistance but there is no forum to offer our assistance. The government too has asked for the same several times. If the government needs the Opposition’s assistance, what it should do is to declare a state of national disaster situation so that the Opposition could make use of Parliament as the forum for our contributions. That has not been done so far. The President and the government could make use of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act No 53 of 2005 to form a disaster management committee comprising the government and opposition MPs.

The President is the ex-officio Chairman of the committee, the Prime minister and the Opposition leader are there with 24 government ministers and five opposition MPs. In addition to that there are provisions to the involvement of the Chief Ministers of Provinces in the committee. If the government genuinely needs our support it should have started forming that committee. There are laws enabling the formulation of mechanisms to help people the government does not make use of them. We have been repeatedly asking the government to appoint that committee.

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Lord Ahamad plants kumbuk tree sapling during visit to Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary

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By Ifham Nizam

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia, the United Nations and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK, planted a Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) sapling at the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary last week.

The Department of Wildlife said Lord Ahmad had been joined by the British High Commissioner in Colombo Sarah Hulton, Hasanthi Urugodwatte Dissanayake, Acting Additional Secretary of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Foreign Ministry, Saman Liyanagama, Wildlife Ranger of the Colombo Wildlife Range, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Professor Sevvandi Jayakoddy, Senior Lecturer of the Wayamba University.

The planting activity was followed by a brief visit to the wetland and Prof. Jayakoddy, and Liyanagama explained the importance of wetland ecosystems as well as challenges in conservation and maintenance, while Dissanayake briefed him on the Sri Lanka’s pioneering work related to mangrove restoration and conservation, both at policy level as well as at the ground level.

Hasini Sarathchandra, Publicity Officer, Department of Wildlife Conservation said British High Commission in Colombo with the International Water Management Institute Headquartered in Sri Lanka, had already launched a project under the Darwin Initiative at the Baddegana Wetlands.  Similar collaborations are envisaged involving the Bellanwila – Attidiya Bird Sanctuary.

Wetlands play an important role in our natural environment. They mitigate the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else. Colombo is a city built on and around wetlands. Despite progressive loss and degradation, wetlands still cover some 200 km2 of the Colombo metropolitan area and suburbs.

The wetlands are fundamental to the well-being of the people of Colombo and its suburbs. The wetlands can reduce extreme air temperatures and make the city more live able due to evaporative cooling. The wetlands provide a critical land-mass which helps to maintain the richness of Colombo’s biodiversity.

The Bellanwila-Attidiya wetlands was declared as a bird sanctuary on 25 July 1990, due to biodiversity of the area and its contribution to controlling floods. The wetlands, which span over 930 acres, host endemic species and is a paradise for migratory birds. 44 species of fish including 06 which are endemic to the country have been identified in the Bolgoda River which flows through the wetlands. The wetlands are also home to 21 reptilian species, 17 species of mammals and 10 butterfly species. Bellanwia-Attidiya sanctuary falls within the upper catchment of the Bolgoda river basin. The Department of Wildlife Conservation manages the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary.

Selection of the location was also due to the close collaboration that Sri Lanka has with the Government of the UK on conservation of mangroves and wetlands.

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