STATEMENT FROM SRI LANKA
Address by H.E.
Mrs. Sarala Fernando, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to
the United Nations in Geneva and Leader of the Delegation
of Sri Lanka
17 November, 2005
(Check against delivery)
Excellencies and distinguished delegates,
I have the honour to convey to this Assembly the
greetings and best wishes of the President of Sri Lanka, Her Excellency
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who was unable to attend the Summit due
to the Presidential Elections being held in Sri Lanka today.
I must also extend my sincere appreciation to the
Government of Tunisia for the excellent preparations made for this meeting
and the warm welcome extended to all delegations, in this land of
hospitality and tolerance.
The Tunis Summit brings to a historic conclusion, the
largest ever multi-stake holder deliberations on information and
communication technologies held over the last two years. This Summit, which
has been recognized as a ‘Summit of Solutions’ opens the gateway for the
developing world to accelerate achievements on the goals enshrined in the
Millennium Declaration and the use of ICT to combat poverty and hunger,
disease and environmental degradation as well as to empower people and
As we approach the first anniversary of the devastating
Tsunami that struck in the Indian Ocean region in December 2004, Mr. Utsumi,
Secretary-General of the ITU has reminded how the use of ICT and early
warning infrastructure could have saved many, thousands of lives. Taking
into account the number of other tragic natural disasters experienced this
year, our deliberations must have a special focus on the wider use of ICT in
natural disaster prevention.
In 2003 Sri Lanka ranked in the medium access category in
ITU’s Digital Access Index. The challenge we face is still to bridge our
achievement of high literacy rates and the great enthusiasm of our people in
particular the youth in adapting to the new technology, against the
unsatisfactory penetration of ICT, especially access to the Internet, due
mainly to the inadequacies of the rural electrification and
The digital divide centers on the affordable access to
computers, both hardware and software. Sri Lanka is embarking on a
pro-choice policy with regard to the use of software and encourages users to
decide on the alternatives or combination, of proprietary and free and open
source software products. The Government is shortly due to launch the low
cost PC initiative, the e-Sri Lanka PC, packaged with free and open source
software, to create a culture of providing affordable access to technology.
Significant steps have also been taken to develop local language content.
Among the several measures intended to take the dividends
of ICT to the rural areas, the foremost effort in Sri Lanka is the
multi-donor led e-Sri Lanka Development Project currently implemented by the
ICT Agency, the apex ICT policy implementing body, under the logo ‘smart
people smart island’ (www.icta.lk). This project is a comprehensive
e-development initiative, specifically designed to address a broad spectrum
of activities to foster economic growth as well as to address poverty
alleviation and promote social integration and peace. A Program to establish
a 1000 Tele-centres throughout the country undertaken by the ICT Agency in
partnership with the private sector and NGOs is taking ICT to the rural
communities of Sri Lanka including the conflict affected areas, and
contributes to peace building.
Sri Lanka is also a prime destination for ICT related
foreign direct investment. Our software exports have grown significantly
over the last few years, due to the benefits of outsourcing and in recent
times we have witnessed the steady growth of the Business Process
outsourcing sector. The benefits of globalization continues to open new
frontiers in ICT investments in Sri Lanka and has triggered a framework of
legislative measures, the latest developments being a Computer Crimes Bill
presented in Parliament in August and the e-transactions legislation just
approved by Cabinet.
On the subject of Internet Governance we agree with the
need for the establishment of new space for dialogue for all stakeholders on
an equal footing and expect that our deliberations in Tunis will enable us
to reach agreement in a consensual manner, as has been the hallmark of this
process over the last two years. The WSIS process has fostered a truly
inclusive multi-stakeholder partnership. Let us all commit to implementing
the decisions, recommendations and ideas generated by this unique Summit to
establish a fair, information society accessible to all.