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* Sri Lanka to use ICT as a tool to empower disadvantaged rural communities
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 08:01 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Oct 24, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government has given priority to Information and Communication technology (ICT) and is using it as a tool to reach the villages and empower the disadvantaged rural communities, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said.

The government has launched the e-Sri Lanka Development Initiative to bring benefits of ICT to the door step of country's rural population and use the technology as a powerful tool that could make the island's villages a meaningful part of the global village, the President said.

Delivering a speech at the inauguration of World Summit Award Global Congress in Colombo on Wednesday evening, the President said his Government is always committed to ensuring that the benefits of technology are not limited to a privileged few, but reach all sections of the society.

The President said he wants a "Global Village" that is meaningful to the country's people and therefore, his government stresses on the importance of linking the villages and townships and opening doors to the world of knowledge outside.

To achieve this objective, the government's Development Policy Framework, Mahinda Chintana, Vision for the Future clearly emphasizes on the urgent need to equip the people, especially, the youth and in particular, the rural youth, he said.

He stressed that the country's youth must acquire a working knowledge of English language and have access to computers and the internet to master IT skills without abusing the technology.

"We must protect our children from the negative effects of internet use," he noted.

He said the government has implemented a unique network of "tele-centers" known as Nenasalas which give access to rural communities.

According to the President, there are 720 Nenasalas spread throughout the Island and over 3,500 IT labs in schools, across the country. Sri Lanka's ICT Literacy which was a 4 percent in 2002 is over 40 percent today and the government is committed to raise the figure up to 75 percent by 2015.

The President said the government is now in a position to take Sri Lanka to the next a level in ICT led development.

The government has already drawn up the next phase of the e-Development Master Plan, which reflects the national goals of accelerated economic growth and the elimination of poverty; shifting to a more knowledge based, globally integrated economy and ensuring access to basic services and an inclusive information society.

"Our vision is a SMART Sri Lanka. In moving towards our vision, we will focus on a SMART Government which will do more, with less. Benefitting from re-engineering processes which have already taken place, we will adopt a 'Whole of Government' approach offering our citizens ONE common window for all services," he said.

The World Summit Award Global Congress 2013 hosted by Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) takes place from October 23rd to 26th in Colombo.

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