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Background To Sri Lanka Information Technology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Information Technology
Wordcount: 4742 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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According to the World Bank definition, e-Government refers to the use of information technologies by government organisations, which have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of the government. Since the advent of the World Wide Web, the global business environment itself has gone through a lot of changes, notably in the Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to–Consumer (B2C) sectors. To follow the same trend, national governments, too, slowly started to adapt Internet and related technologies in their organisations. These sectors are mainly cantered on critical dynamics between different bodies within society, such as government, citizens and businesses. Though it gives numerous benefits to the public, most national government entities face numerous challenges while implementing e-Government applications (Davidson and Wagner 2005).

Sri Lanka e-Government readiness index figures have been lying even below the world average for last few years.

In order to reverse this unimpressive trend, the Sri Lankan Government in 2002 initiated the Re-engineering Government programme under the e-Sri Lanka Road map (Hanna, 2007). The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) was appointed as the main regulatory body to implement this programme under the guidance of the Presidential Secretariat.

Background to e-Sri Lanka

The Government of Sri Lanka developed the e-Sri Lanka Roadmap with the objective of harnessing ICTs towards achieving socio-economic development in the country. The vision of e-Sri Lanka is “to take the dividends of ICT to every village, to every citizen and to every business and transform the way government thinks and works”. The e-Sri Lanka vision and roadmap gave birth to a nation-wide ICT for development initiative, addressing all sectors of the economy and society, where ICT is used to enhance national competitiveness, reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of citizens.

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The concept of e-Sri Lanka had its origins in the private sector, initially among leaders from the local software industry and associations who were working closely with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on an ICT Cluster Initiative. Inspired by the rapid progress made by its counterparts in neighbouring India, the local software industry envisioned a billion dollar software industry for Sri Lanka, driven by export lead earnings.

Various consultative groups consisting of key stakeholders from the public sector, private sector and from civil society were formed and together worked on expanding the e-Sri Lanka concept, with input from external organizations including SIDA, USAID and the World Bank, which began to play an increasingly active role. From what was initially an isolated and an ICT sector specific activity, grew an ambitious and integrated nation-wide initiative, with a comprehensive five programme strategy encompassing building the national implementation capacity, building the information (ICT) infrastructure and an enabling environment, developing ICT human resources, re-engineering government and delivery of citizen services, and leveraging ICT for economic and social development.

These five programmes were encapsulated and presented in the e-Sri Lanka Roadmap which was officially launched by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in November 2002.

About ICTA

The Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) was created in July 2003 as an Private Limited to implement the e-Sri Lanka Roadmap, as a government owned, limited private company reporting to the Minister of Economic Reform, Science and Technology of the Government of Sri Lanka. Prior to the establishment of ICTA, all ICT related matters had been the responsibility of CINTEC (The Council for Information Technology which had been in existence since 1983). ICTA was created as an apex body to provide leadership, to energise the process of using ICT for reform and economic growth and to create a more dynamic E-Sri Lanka: (An ICT Development Roadmap (2002))

Organizations outside the hardness of the government administration are more flexible and responsive to such a fast changing technology as ICT.

Once operational, one of the immediate challenges ICTA faced was to take the e-Sri Lanka Roadmap from what was essentially a comprehensive vision document and five programme strategies, to a detailed plan of implementation, with actionable and fundable programmes and projects. This was achieved in a short period of time starting from the Agency’s inception in July 2003, recruitment of core staff by September 2003, to preparation of a funding proposal for submission to the World Bank in February 2004. Besides responding quickly and positively to the request from the Government of Sri Lanka to fund key components of the e-Sri Lanka Roadmap, the World Bank played a critical role in facilitating this process.

E-Government Strategy in Sri Lanka

“Sri Lanka has, in my estimation, one of the most mature and robust e-governance initiatives of any of the countries I have visited to date”. (Michael Tiemann, VP, Red Hat.)

The e-government strategy in Sri Lanka is arguably one of the most comprehensive in the South Asian region and possibly among Asian countries as a whole. It is different in that it takes a more holistic approach to development, where e-government is not an end in itself, but instead a piece of an intricate puzzle, which when put together, will aim to significantly impact all sectors of the economy and society and help Sri Lanka as a nation and its people, to take a major leap forward in economic and development terms.

Sri Lanka’s e-development strategy, “e-Sri Lanka: an ICT Development Roadmap”, (e-Sri Lanka Roadmap) elaborated in November 2002, recognized e-government as a critical area and spelt out the need to establish an institutional framework for planning and implementing e-governance. Prior to the development of the e-Sri Lanka Roadmap, the country lacked a coherent national strategy for ICT, though a Ministry for ICT was briefly in existence in the year 2000. Up to this point, e-government activities were sporadic, adhoc and often restricted to computerisation of departments.

Individuals like to use ICT to improve the workplace. The introduction of ICT in the Department of Immigration and Emigration is a relatively successful example of this.

The e-Sri Lanka Roadmap seeks to leverage ICTs towards achieving socio-economic development across multiple sectors of the economy and society. Significantly, the emphasis is not on ICT alone but on using ICT as a development tool to help to improve the lives of citizens. The human development and security aspect is specifically addressed, with key programmes aimed at serving the needs of poor citizens in rural communities who as with most developing nations form the bulk of the population. This paper therefore will focus and elaborate on the e-Sri Lanka Roadmap and its current programmes and projects, in particular Re-engineering Government, Nenasalas (telecentres) and the e-Society Fund.

Five Programme Strategy

While the overall design and concept of an e-Sri Lanka was the product of input from a number of stakeholders which was discussed, compiled and presented in the e-Sri Lanka Roadmap in November 2002, the eventual design of the initiative for funding purposes evolved significantly during the preparation of a detailed implementation plan.

E-SriLanka’s continues to evolve during programme implementation, with ICTA and its key partners continuously adjusting and fine tuning programme strategies and implementation plans based on early lessons and feedback. From a group of sixteen pilot projects, which were initiated in September 2003 to test ideas, partnership models and implementation capabilities, prior to final design of the main programmes of projects, ICTA learned several key lessons some of which are documented in the evaluation reports for these projects. This included the need for ensuring project ownership among beneficiaries, the need for sustainability planning, awareness raising and communication plans and also for designing improved project partnership and implementation strategies.

1st Step

Enabling Legal Environment

The issue of formulating and incorporating into the country’s legal system suitable measures relating to ICT, so as to promote the development of ICT, and to create a facilitating legal environment is presently being addressed by ICTA. In this regard, ICTA is carrying forward the work originally undertaken by CINTEC, consequent to specific mandates given to ICTA by the Cabinet of Ministers.

Analysis using PESTLE Factors

We were able to analyse the e-Sri Lanka Re-engineering Government programme based on the PESTLE Factors. This model discusses 6 different factors which include 30 more different sub factors and also with this we have discussed about financial factors, Organizational factors.

Political Factors

Environmental Factors

Technology Factors

Social Factors

Legal Factors

Support Factors

Financial Factors

Organizational Factors

    Among these, authors have given more emphasis to the technological and procurement related factors, since they showed a substantial amount of progress during last two years. Other factors are discussed briefly in order to make this a complete analysis.


Technology Factor Analysis

IT infrastructure

 Since 2002, Re-engineering Government programme gave a significant emphasis to improve the government IT infrastructure by implementing various projects. The Lanka Government Network (LGN) and the Lanka Gate are the main projects among them.  

Lanka Government Network (LGN)

LGN (Lanka Government Network) is the highly available, secure and reliable underlying information infrastructure backbone that connects all the government organizations (initially 325 locations in 3 phases) of GOSL in a cost-effective and secure manner to provide Internet, Email and IP based voice services to the government organizations by a MSP (Managed Service Provider). The project will also address the basic hardware and LAN network needs of the connecting government organization including providing WAN connectivity to the LGN Hub.

Primary goals of LGN

• To establish and operate a central LGN hub to provide Internet, Email and IP based voice services to all GOSL organizations.

• To connect 325 government organizations nationwide to the central LGN hub.

• Provide appropriate hardware and networking facility to GOSL organizations.

• Provide broadband connectivity to GOSL organizations to create a GOSL IP backbone.

• Provide centrally managed Internet access to GOSL organizations.

• Provide centrally managed email access (with web based email access) to all GOSL organizations.

• Provide centrally managed trusted secure connection to authorized agencies that are outside of the purview of GOSL

• Provide basic training to users on usage of internet, email and IP based voice services.

According to the initial plan consisting of 3 phases, it was able to cover the target of 325 locations in Phase 1 and planning to cover another 150 in Phase 2. LGN is a highly secured, reliable infrastructure backbone that connects all government organisations to provide Internet,

email and Internet Protocol (IP) based voice services.


In addition, this also provides,

Secure communication network among government organisations in Sri Lanka

Centralised control and management of the network

Centrally managed internet access

Centrally managed secure email system

Broadband connectivity to create an IP backbone

Open interoperability standards; This will enable to ensure interoperability between systems regardless of their platform, technology or vendor

Multilingual support by adopting ICTA approved Unicode fonts for local languages and should be supported by the trilingual keyboard (to support Sinhala and Tamil)

Virtual Private Network (VPN) activity to trusted users to access the government network

Centralised help desk facility to LGN users

Lanka Gate

After stabilizing the physical network infrastructure to all government departments through LGN, during last two years ICTA was able to reach great heights by launching its flagship software infrastructure called Lanka Gate. This ever flexible infrastructure is based on the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) framework, which basically is built on to plug any e-Service to it.

By having this feature, it can extend this infrastructure not only to government organisations, but to any of its stakeholders such as citizens, businesses. All these e-Services can be accessed via a common web portal named as the “Country Portal”. Any Sri Lankan citizen can log into this portal and access any of the government e-Services hosted. In addition to that, any of these e-Services can be extended to represent more than one government department as well. All these transactions are secured with Message level (i.e. WSSecurity) and Transport Level security. All the government e-Services can be authenticated using the LGN CA (Certification Authority), which is owned and managed by ICTA. By having its own Certification Authority ensures secure governance in future without having to depend on a third party CA.

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Subsequently, in order to provide Internet and Mobile payment facilities, Lanka Gate infrastructure is envisioned to have two more main components called CCPGP (Credit Card Payment Proxy) and the MPG (Mobile Payment Gateway). The CCPGP is designed to function as a proxy for existing Internet Payment Gateways available in Sri Lanka. The MPG is designed to provide an open architecture to support mobile payments with SMS, WAP and IVR facilities.

Virtual Business Transformation (VBT)

Having the luxury of a stable network and a software infrastructure has enabled ICTA to move ahead with many more e-Government projects. These projects mostly will be launched as “Quick Wins” with ICTA owned “Virtual Business Transformation” (VBT) concept. Here ICTA has decided not to transform all E-Government projects as a complete BPR (Business Process Re-engineering). VBT enables to carry out a high-level business process study upfront and connect them to Lanka Gate architecture as a “Quick Win”. That would enable citizens to use many services at a record quick time rather than doing a complete BPR for each and every government system around.

This is more of an “agile” method allowing more citizen interactions to government services. E-Services will be targeted, initially for government organizations with reasonable software and hardware readiness. The identified organisations will work with ICTA to virtualised their business processes and optimise the information and service flow between citizen and organisation. Essentially a Business Process Mapping Language (BPML) should be used to detail out the current business process changes and to map and align the new business process with proposed e-Services.

Organizational Factor Analysis

Vision and Strategy

It is paramount to have a clear vision in order to be successful in e-Government projects. As authors suggested in their initial paper, during last two-three years, Re-engineering Government project speared headed by its flagship Lanka Gate project, gave the direction to have more “Quick Wins” along with other major projects in the road map. Along with major projects such as e-Revenue Licence project; there are quite a number of “Quick Win” projects under its VBT concept. For example, under Lanka Gate – Country Portal project, ICTA envisioned to launch quick win projects like Railway Schedule Inquiry, Examination Results Inquiry, EPF/ ETF balance inquiry, Motor Traffic Registration inquiry, etc.  

Procurement Management

Most of the e-Government projects undertaken by ICTA were comparatively large projects and needed a substantial amount time to complete. Therefore, ICTA opted to develop those systems closer to the traditional “Water Fall” approach. Most of the time a complete BPR was done prior to the development. When it comes to the project software development, ICTA didn’t have much control over the project mainly because it did not have the technical strength to support initially. Therefore, most of the projects took substantial amount of time to make a real progress.

In order to overcome these project delays, ICTA devised a new software development approach called “Software Development Services Approach (SDSA)” with following key aspects in mind. (See Figure 5)

An initial high level system study is needed to define the overall architecture of the project.

Depending on this initial study and the devised high level architecture, the ICTA technical staffs breaks the total architecture into several “key components” mainly depending on their complexities and interdependencies.

If possible “A thin slice prototype” is implemented to validate related technologies. This would eliminate any technical challenge or any architectural gap up front.

After identifying and testing the high level architectural components, it is quite easy to procure them separately as several individual contracts. This enables to complete any identified component/ module parallel to other components identified in the architecture.

Once all these components are completed, a separate contract can be offered depending on the complexity of the integration or it can be integrated utilising the ICTA technical staff.

Finally, all the technical deliverables from the vendor need to be reviewed and signed off by the ICTA architecture team.

This approach effectively harnesses agile and iterative software development industry best practices within standard procurement guidelines whilst leveraging upon the cost–effective, highly successful and specialized outsourced software development services industry.

For example, the Lanka Gate project followed this SDSA methodology and procured all its components simultaneously for several vendors. By applying this, the project was able to complete its key components within a very short time (four months). In addition to that, the continuous review process paved the way for a successful completion without any last minute surprises.  

The Leadership

There are several steps have been taken to improve the organisational leadership among government CIOs (Chief Innovation Officers). During last few years, ICTA organised several programmes such as e-Champion knowledge sharing sessions via video conferencing with the collaboration of World Bank, Study tours to countries like Estonia, which has a much sophisticated E-Government structure and most importantly the initiation of the MBA in e-Governance programme. Each year ICTA selects most eligible CIOs with the collaboration of University Of Moratuwa to conduct this very important course, which directs them to know almost all the aspects of e-Government.

Subsequently, ICTA has also taken steps to form the “National Administrative Reforms Committee (NARC)” to resolve any delaying issues related to its respective organizations. Now CIOs slowly leverage this concept to inform their grievances to this committee. However, as suggested by authors in their initial paper, still the “Inter ministerial committee” though it was again accepted by the cabinet early this year, has not off taken totally.  


Environmental Factor Analysis

National e-Government Policy

The government ICT Policy should be implemented without any further delays. The government was not able to approve the drafted ICT policy by the cabinet for years due to various reasons. Adhering to the ICT Policy will allow government organizations to follow some strict guidelines from the beginning itself. Otherwise complications will arise after a few years time. For example, the use of pirated software within government departments can take place if there is no enforcement/ policy directive from the government. The policy may not be able to control issues 100%

but will certainly improve the standards and the management of ICT within organisations.  


The Legal Infrastructure

While other technical developments are going on, the importance of ensuring parallel developments in the legal framework is essential. Fortunately ICTA strengthened its efforts by commencing the building of a legal framework for ICT development in Sri Lanka, by extending a generic global standard like United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). With this, during last few years ICTA was able to enact a few ICT laws such as Electronic Transaction Act, Computer Crime Act (ICTA, 2007). In addition to that, now ICTA is in the process of legalizing the Credit Card payment transactions within government organistions. This will be instrumental to use credit card within the Lank Gate infrastructure and will further helpful to regulate mobile payment transactions as well.  


Financial Support Factor Analysis

At the moment ICTA reengineering government programmes mostly relying on the World Bank funds until end of 2011 with its two year extension. For some reason, if World Bank does not fund for the next phase, the government should have an alternative plan to take up the challenge to the next phase. Creating Public Private Partnerships (PPP) can also be proposed as one more financially feasible source that Sri Lanka should look at. The private company can invest in an e-Government project and can own, manage and maintain for an agreed period. Further it can gain from the investment through fees. After the agreed time, the private company should transfer ownership and operations to the government.

Funding for the LGN Project

Bi-lateral loan from Korean Export & Import Bank

US $ 6.5 Million

30 years with 10 years grace period

Change Management

Evolution of Technology Implementation

Performance Analysis for LGN (2008, 2009)

Number of Email

Number of VoIP Calls

SOA Governance Framework

SOA is the backbone of the Lanka Gate providing loosely coupled decentralized services with a centralized control structure. Ideally it should be loosely coupled but tightly managed. Therefore, it is essential to have a framework to govern its operations in order to maintain its sustainability in the long run.

Therefore, ICTA is in the process of formulating this important framework mainly to fulfill the following needs,

To formulate procedures in order to maintain new e-Services

Performance monitoring

Monitoring and management of deployed eServices

To manage security issues

To manage Service Level Agreements (SLAs) etc.


Lack of compatibility among e-Government systems can be a failure when it comes to sharing data among them. Hence, it is essential to implement an e-Government framework, which will support the compatibility among e-Government systems. This is called the interoperability framework.

Therefore, Lanka Interoperability Framework (Life) is getting formulated to provide guidelines for different government organizations to standardize the data architecture and data exchange. However, still this has been limited only to Personal Data domain.

The rest of the identified domains are now being formulated and still in the review process. Though, this was not a major concern for the moment, once the Lanka Gate and other related e-Services are in action, this will be a critical aspect in data communication between different domains.

Therefore, it is the ICTAs primary responsibility to get this finalized before it is too late.

Competitive Advantages Analysis using Porters five forces

SWOT Analysis



Threats and Challenges

The unstable and constantly changing on political environment.

While e-Sri Lanka’s survival and indeed strengthening through successive governments has been a noteworthy success and credit to the overall soundness of the vision and concept as well as to ICTA’s own capabilities, these political changes have also given rise to some challenges. Changing ideologies have necessitated some adjustments to programme strategies, implementation approaches and partnership models. Nevertheless, the overall vision and concept of e-Sri Lanka has remained remarkably intact.

Increasing impatience on the part of the stakeholder community and the expectation of immediate and visible results.

Across government, ICT industry, academia, NGO community and especially the media, expectations of quick results have been extremely high and therefore some disappointments inevitable. While establishing ICT infrastructure and systems alone can be achieved relatively swiftly, doing things too fast significantly increases the risk of getting it wrong. Worldwide experience has demonstrated that e-Government is not about simply automating departments and processes. Instead it is all about shifting the centre of gravity from government to the people and ensuring a focus on serving the citizen. Achieving socio-economic development through the use of ICT, as with any development intervention, takes time.


The need of an effective communication strategy. Building awareness among the stakeholders and beneficiaries of ICT and ICT enabled development is critical to ensuring broad participation and thereby sustainable development. Equally important, and in conjunction with raising awareness of the uses and benefits of ICT, is expectation management. Key stakeholders need to be made aware of what can be achieved and by when, and informed of the many issues and challenges that need to be overcome. Consequently, they need to also be continuously kept abreast of progress made through regular reporting and feedback mechanisms. In this aspect, ICTA’s monitoring and evaluation system will play a crucial role.

Is the need for local ownership? This has been a critical success factor in enabling and ensuring the survival of e-Sri Lanka through different regimes. The fact that e-Sri Lanka was a home grown concept and close to the hearts and minds of its many stakeholders, ensured effective lobbying for its survival and business continuity when government changed hands. Any other development project, most likely to have been designed and created by a donor institution working with a single local ministerial counterpart, would have suffered a very quick death at the hands of a new government. The survival of e-Sri Lanka through successive governments is testimony to its broad ownership among the stakeholder community.

The critical need to build national implementation capacity and the need to find champions to successfully take projects forward. For a cross-sectoral initiative like e-Sri Lanka this presents a major challenge, and if not resolved, a major obstacle, to progress. Building local project management skills and implementation capacity has become a critical part of ICTA’s work going forward, and will play a large part in determining the overall success or failure of e-Sri Lanka. ICTA will need to identify and partner with real champions among its various partners, both in terms of identifying key individuals as well as capable institutions and companies.

Low ICT Literacy Rate

Various E – Services given with the Re Engineering process



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