Global Symposium for Regulators 2012
09.00, Tuseday 2 October
Colombo, Sri Lanka
H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka
Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Secretary - General of ITU
Mr. Houlin Zhao, Deputy Secretary - General, ITU
Honourable Deputy Ministers
Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Chairman, Global Symposium for Regulators
Secretaries of Ministries
Chairmen & Chief Executive Officers of Regulators & Operators
Ladies & Gentlemen
It is indeed a pleasure to address you today as you meet in Colombo at this “Global Symposium of Regulators” to discuss the new strategies for the regulation of telecommunications and focus on the progress of Information and Communication Technology.
It is timely that this Symposium with focus on ICT takes place the day after the International Day of the Child…because it is a technology that has great attraction and meaning to children. It can take their thinking and skills to new heights of achievement. It can promise them a great new world of ideas and innovation. But, it can also lead them to dangerous influences … draw them away from tolerance and towards extremism of many kinds. It is a technology that needs to be handled with great care imposing much more duties and responsibilities on parents in the guidance of their children. The wonders of ICT should not alienate our children from what is best in their culture and traditional values.
I welcome you all to a country that is making great progress both in telecommunications and ICT, so soon after ending nearly three decades of terrorism. We have a significant emphasis on the development of the conflict affected areas, with ICT playing a vital role in the path to progress.
The ICT sector stands out in the progress made by Sri Lanka in the past seven years and accelerated in the three years since the defeat of terrorism. Our emphasis on communication as a key path to peace and reconciliation can be seen by the speed with which we restored the communications tower in Kokavil in the North, destroyed by the forces of terror. This opened speedy communications to the area most damaged by them. Two weeks ago, we also linked the entire North, earlier ravaged by terrorism, to the national power grid, which will add to the progress of telecommunications and ICT in this region.
Sri Lanka recognizes the need for rapid progress in the field of ICT, a technology that is racing ahead with innovations and new applications that make our world smaller each day. It opens pathways to progress to the people, breaking down the barriers of race, ethnicity, community, faith and geography.
And I take pride in stating that our progress has been remarkable. We now have more than 20 million fixed and mobile phone users in our country, exceeding the size of our population, in what is considered a middle income country.
We have 750 Nenasalas or Rural Telecentres which one can call Knowledge Centres as well, largely in the rural sector, linking the rural people to the benefits of the Age of Information and empowering them to progress in life.
Similarly, our rate of IT Literacy has grown to over 40 per cent within the past six years, with the opportunity very soon for every school to have state-of-the-art computer training facilities. These advances have positively impacted on the rural sector, and helped the overall growth of the economy. This also makes Sri Lanka a promising destination for investors in diverse sectors, from business outsourcing to industry, tourism and agriculture.
My dear friends,
As we move ahead in ICT, Sri Lanka has set in motion a plan to develop a policy and regulatory framework for Next Generation Network, or NGN, and to have a National Broadband Policy, before the end of this year. We see the importance of broadband connectivity through-out the land for our people to fully benefit from the speedy advances in ICT.
To take our communication reach beyond our land, we are already engaged in constructing what will soon be the tallest communications tower in South Asia. It will give telecom operators the opportunity to share a modern and state-of-the- art infrastructure facility, taking us closer to be the Communications Hub of South Asia.
Our emphasis on growth of ICT comes from the awareness of the new revolutionary age we live in, the Technological Revolution. We see this best in the “Smartphone” that will soon be in the pockets of all, a device that has made the old giant computer a primitive piece of technology.
We see how mobile communications can bring revolutionary changes to the lives of people in new life skills, new employment opportunities, and new links to markets in one’s country and abroad. It can bring new educational opportunities, expand health and healing services, have a positive impact on sustainable development, increase production in agriculture, and expand the market potential of small industry and also develop a new media.
With the assets we have in education, the recognition of skills, a readily trainable workforce, and the search for new areas of competence among our youth, Sri Lanka will not be left behind in this new Age of Knowledge. We are ready to forge ahead to the new opportunities being opened daily by ICT. A dedicated IT park is being built in Hambantota, in the Deep South of Sri Lanka, once the most neglected area in development, where already other mega infrastructure facilities such as a port and an international airport are being built.
My dear friends,
This Symposium of strategists and regulators in telecommunications and ICT will no doubt look at all the challenges ahead. With the experience of recent weeks, you will think of ways to prevent this great technology being used to sow hatred. Examine how to avoid the advances of instant communication being the source and cause of violence against faiths, against cultures, and traditions that need respect and protection. ICT must not be the tool of societies that pay homage to material values, and pay no heed to the values of decency, tolerance and humanity.
You will study the areas where better regulation is required, how these advances in technology can be abused, as much as they are used to benefit people and societies. You will consider new Road Maps for progress, in a field of technology that is on a path of continuing speedy growth. That is the challenge of this significant global forum.
I thank the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), for giving Sri Lanka and our Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRCSL), the privilege and opportunity to host this important and timely forum. You will be able to witness firsthand what our government has been able to do in terms of infrastructure development, after a war against terror that ended only three years back. It is the proof of our commitment to progress.
You will also find our traditional hospitality encouraging for your work, and enable you to take back the best memories of a beautiful land and friendly people. I wish your deliberations every success.
May you all be blessed by the Noble Triple Gem!