A National Capacity Building Workshop to Accelerate Digital Government Transformation in Sri Lanka was successfully conducted from June 7-8 with the objective of building the capacities of key government officials to contribute to accelerating the pace of digital governance for sustainable development in Sri Lanka.
The training was organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), through its Division for Public Institutions and Digital Government (DPIDG) and its Project Office on Governance (UNPOG), in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka (SDCSL) and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) with support from United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office in Sri Lanka.
E-governance is one of the modern initiatives to ensure efficient, effective and transparent governance for sustainable development. Sri Lanka must upscale the public service delivery through an improved e-governance system by accelerating the digital transformation of key sectors across the country, which will deliver the desired sustainable development outcomes.
In general, digital transformation in government frequently focuses on IT infrastructure and digital solutions. However, research has shown that (Richard Heek ,) human infrastructure such as knowledge, skills, attitudes, and mindset of public employees are the main indicators of public administration readiness to implement and sustain e-government. Digital transformation requires a digital mindset and inculcating a digital mindset among public officers requires new skills, work reorganization, and continuous training.
Digital mindset is not just the ability to use technology, but a set of behaviors and attitudes. It is a change in the capabilities of public institutions to keep abreast of technological developments and to understand the benefits and risks of digital technologies to solve complex problems. The contribution of key government officials, especially Chief Digital Information Officers (CDIOs) is crucial for this acceleration and adaptation process.
Considering the necessity, the workshop was organized for the key government stakeholders for furthering their capacities on digital governance and strategy by providing them with knowledge on recent trends and practices in e-governance systems across the globe as well as to contribute to the development of the data policy framework.
Senior Government Representatives from Korea and Singapore presented their national strategies and innovative practices on the digital transformation journey, and the key policies and frameworks including data policy that boosted and quickened the efficiency of citizen-centric service delivery. Further, the knowledge and experience of e-governance strategies from country, regional and global levels were presented and discussed by panelists including the representatives UNDESA, UNESCO etc.
The outcome of the workshop is expected to feed into the National Digital Economy Strategy formulation process initiated by the government.
Placing SL as a world class logistics hub: the challenges
By Lynn Ockersz
‘Sri Lanka’s proximity to emerging and developing markets and its already developed air and seaports in Colombo and Hambantota gives it a unique opportunity to be the next leading logistics hub in the region, with the potential to overtake Singapore and Dubai, if the cards are played right and the right governance and Ease of Doing Business regulations are handled sensibly, logistics and supply chain specialist Sanjeeva Abeygoonewardena (SA) said.
Abeygoonewardena made the above observation, among several others, while presenting an issues paper on Sept. 18 at a Sri Lanka Innovators’ Forum, functioning under the aegis of the Gamani Corea Foundation, Colombo. The event was chaired by the chairman, Gamani Corea Foundation Dr. Lloyd Fernando and was held at the BMICH. The paper was titled, ‘Shipping & Logistics, the Promising Frontier – Innovation-led Logistics Hub.’
Responses to SA’s paper came from a panel of specialists in logistics and allied disciplines, representing the state and private sectors, with Prof. Amal Kumarage, chairman, Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, Sri Lanka, functioning as moderator. The rest of the panelists were: Messrs. Rohan Masakorale, Krishantha Fernando, K.D.S. Ruwanchandra, Ports and Shipping Ministry Secretary, and Ted Muttiah.
Some of the recommendations made by SA for the elevation of Sri Lanka as a number one logistics hub were as follows:
Establishment of rail and water networks from the seaport that will enhance and support the strength of Sri Lanka’s local connectivity.
Establishment of an International Maritime Centre, providing services for ship management operations and other value-added activities that will pull liners to Sri Lanka.
Sea-air hub connectivity must be streamlined, enhancing the efficiency of a single customs bonded platform via the single window concept.
More advanced abilities leveraging AI robotics and frontier technology to provide more value-added services at the hubs to support single-window and trade facilitation portals.
Skilled logistics professionals and an educated workforce through a Maritime and Logistics Campus will boost the growth of the local logistics industry.
Governance framework through a Collaborative Council of private-public officials who will act as custodians to carry out the national roadmap as a national logistics and transport services policy.
Invest in a consulting firm that can facilitate a capacity-building programme on improving Ease of Doing Business, Economic Freedom, Logistics Performance Index and Corruption Perception Index across schoolchildren and business councils that will create better awareness for the future.
A point that was emphasized by most panelists and participants in the lively and wide-ranging forum that followed the presentation of the paper was the need for the Sri Lankan polity to think beyond self and short term interests. There is an urgent need to prioritize the future well- being of the country over the gratification of immediate, selfish interests.
Rohan Masakorale, among other things, focused on the problem of bribery and corruption. It is difficult to achieve anything without greasing palms. There is also no leadership worth speaking of in Sri Lanka, he pointed out. These problems need to be eliminated. Local education needs to be upgraded and we need to achieve the standards obtaining in countries such as Singapore. His views found resonance with many in the audience.
Krishantha Fernando drew attention to the fact that local logistics development plans have a short term focus. There is a need to eliminate paper work in this context and to fast track planning processes. The Port Community system is vital he pointed out, among other things. K.D.S. Ruwanchandra pointed to the need for a system change in the logistics development field. In this context, the state agencies are working in a ‘crisis situation’. The proper legal frame work is being evolved by the state to resolve outstanding issues in this connection. Capacity improvements are being prioritized in the logistics field. There are considerable problems in most public spheres that need resolving.
Ted Muttiah stressed, besides other things, that although much has been achieved in the logistics field in the past there is a need to bring them all together, going forward. It was pointed out that port capacity takes years to build.
Dr. Lloyd Fernando questioned as to whether the country has a national plan. Do we have an effective system of governance? However, we need a holistic approach to national development. A prime need in this connection is to evolve a holistic plan within the logistics sector which would in turn be connected to a national plan.
Sri Lanka’s battle against NCDs: Is the Sugar-Beverage Tax doing enough?
By Priyanka Jayawardena
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) lead to around 120,000 deaths in Sri Lanka each year, constituting 83% of the overall recorded deaths. The revised National Policy and Strategic Framework for the Prevention and Control of NCDs is a positive initiative by the government to address this. Such policies can play a crucial role in promoting healthier lifestyles, preventing NCDs, and improving overall public health. However, the question that lingers is, how effective are the existing measures, and where can we make improvements?
In the battle against NCDs, the government implemented a crucial policy in 2017 – the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) tax. This tax aimed to curb the consumption of SSBs closely linked to health problems like obesity, diabetes, and dental issues. While this measure holds great promise, evaluating its effectiveness is difficult owing to data gaps. However, an IPS analysis of how SSB taxes are helping to reduce their consumption in Sri Lanka provides some initial insights.
The Case for Taxing SSBs
According to WHO 2019 estimates, diabetes is the second highest cause of death in Sri Lanka, accounting for 12,460 deaths. As rates of obesity and diet-related NCDs continue to increase, significant attention has been given to reducing the daily intake of sugar.
Taxing SSBs is a globally recommended option among evidence-based policy options to improve food environments. Research suggests several reasons for taxing SSBs, compared to other food products that contain free sugars. This is primarily due to the observed association between SSBs and NCDs, their high sugar content, and very little nutritional value.
By making these beverages more expensive, governments aim to discourage their consumption, ultimately leading to better public health outcomes. Beyond the health benefits associated with reduced SSB consumption, SSB taxes also raise revenue. When introducing the SSB tax in 2017, the government forecasted LKR 5 billion in revenue in 2018. Therefore, these taxes are recognised as a sensible way of reducing the incidence of NCDs.
Sri Lanka’s Sugary Drinks Tax
The effectiveness of the SSB tax can be influenced by its structure and rate. Higher tax rates are generally more effective in driving down consumption. In Sri Lanka, the SSB excise tax is imposed as a specific tax – i.e., applied on sugar content per 100 ml. By imposing higher costs on these beverages, the government intends to deter their consumption.
However, there is a factor that often goes unnoticed but can significantly affect the impact of SSB taxes – i.e., inflation. As the general price level of goods and services rises over time, the purchasing power of money decreases. This means that the same tax rate applied today might not have the same “real” value in the future due to the diminishing value of currency caused by inflation. On the other hand, as people’s average income per person goes up over time, specific tax rates have less impact over time.
Examining the timeline of SSB tax implementation in Sri Lanka reveals
SEC makes four new senior appointments
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka (SEC) is pleased to announce four new senior appointments with diverse backgrounds to leadership positions to fulfill its regulatory and developmental mandates.
Ms. Manuri Weerasinghe has been appointed as Director, Corporate Affairs. She has over 20 years of experience in the fields of Accounting, Financial Management, Financial Reporting and Auditing with over 8 years’ of experience at the SEC. She is a Fellow Member of CA Sri Lanka, member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and a member of the Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia. Her academic credentials include a Master of Business Administration and a BSc (Hons) in Accountancy & Financial Management (Special). Prior to joining the SEC, she had served in several financial management positions in Bermuda and Sweden.
Madura P. R. Wanigasekara has been appointed as the Chief Digital Officer. He has a career spanning over 20 years in delivering and managing IT solutions, has held several senior management positions in both the public and private sectors. He has vast experience in formalizing and implementing organization-wide IT strategies and has a proven record of accomplishment in delivering many digital transformation programs. His academic qualifications include a Master of Science in Information Technology from the University of Colombo and a Bachelor of Information Technology from the Curtin University of Technology. He is also a member of the Australian Computer Society (ACS).
Ms. Sharmila Panditaratne has been appointed as the Assistant Director, Legal and Enforcement. She is an Attorney-at-Law with over 21 years of experience as a securities market regulator. Previously she held the post of Senior Manager Legal and Enforcement at the SEC. She holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Houston, Texas and has worked at two law firms in the USA prior to joining the SEC.
In addition, the SEC has appointed Riyaz Bary, Deputy Solicitor General at the Attorney General’s Department as a Director on secondment basis.
These appointments are expected to increase the effectiveness of the SEC secretariat in the respective operating areas.
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