The Government yesterday said that the Open Source Software increases chances of maximizing the potential in rural Sri Lanka in IT in being a producer of innovative and quality software technology for the world.
'There is a need for the Sri Lankan economy to grow at a rate of 8%-10% and to achieve this 'we need prudent macro-economic policies couples with development of thrust industries such as ICT,' Science and Technology Minister Prof. Tissa Vitharana said in delivering the speech of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse who was not present on the occasion. The subject of ICT comes under Premier Rajapakse.
The national Free and Open Source Software Week 2005 began early this week and the ceremonial activities began yesterday.
'The Cabinet of Ministers, having seen the tremendous benefits that Free and Open Source Software could bring to our nation, our citizens and our industry, recognized the Free and Open Source Software week as a national event,' he said.
He noted that through the e-Sri Lanka initiative, the ICT Agency would be able to harness the potential of ICT within the people of the country; he said adding that this could be carried out through a series of programs with support from several donors and partnerships with several departments, agencies, ministries, the NGO sector and the ICT Industry.
Prof. Vitharana observed that the ICT Agency is presently working closely with the Administrative Reforms Committee to establish LakGovNet linking all state agencies through a nationwide government information network which would facilitate the sharing of information between the many state agencies and also provide various services.
Sri Lanka has in place a Computer Crimes Act and is now setting up and executing strong Intellectual Property laws to protect the valuable creations of individuals and industries and software is one such product, the minister said.
However, he noted, 'the relatively high cost of software has kept most of our citizens away from ICT and Free and Open Source Software presents an alternate approach for acquiring software legally at a relatively low cost, provided we are satisfied with the quality.'
Japanese Ambassador Akio Suda observed that Sri Lanka was a country that has been through many national events such as the tsunami devastation, the tragic conflict and the general election and noted that the country is currently engaged in going in for another election.
Speaking on the topic of ICT, he said that it has been witnessed that there is a rapid scale of growth and need for development of technology. In addition, Mr. Suda pointed out that there was a responsibility on the part of the society to 'narrow down the digital divide so that many can benefit.'
In this regard, he said that through utilizing the Open Source System there is a possibility of opening the gate to a ubiquitous society, with its value being increasingly recognized.
Japan and Sri Lanka have developed relationship including technology with the Colombo University and have also initiated Colombo as origin for technological corporation scheme under the Colombo Plan.
CICC representative Akio Kanaya of Japan addressing the gathering said that the OSS is a good way to improve ICT in Asia and narrow the gap of the digital divide.
He observed that training of OSS in Japan is being carried out including contest, outside training, with some having already been conducted in Malaysia and Singapore.
These courses will be conducted more frequently and Sri Lanka as an important ICT centre would be part of the second quarter fest, he said.
Mr. Kanaya noted that ICC has been conducting workshops in Cambodia and as such 'we are planning to contribute to Asia', he said adding that thereby there would be a diffusion of technology OSS through government programs.
Meanwhile, ICTA chief Manju Hatththotuwa said that ICT has a special growth pole and also is an enabler in every sector in the economy.
'In Sri Lanka we need to transform growth to the rural economy and thereby use it as a tool,' he said.
He noted that the strategies that flow is a responsive public sector as well as NGO and private sectors.
ICT can penetrate into various sectors and in Sri Lanka there is a need for a far ore holistic approach and a need for consistency and political leadership and provide empowerment through reforms, Mr. Hathtthotuwa said.
This was required in a bid to avoid the acute disparities in the geographical zones that need be addressed, he said.