IT can be used to help our economy, mainly in two directions.
- Usage of IT for improving the internal efficiencies of our complete Eco system, including government, corporates, enterprises, industries to individuals, reducing cost of production and improving the quality
- Ability of exporting the expertise in IT to other countries, commonly known as outsourcing
Specialists will emerge from practice, if we do not practice it is difficult to produce a workforce with those skills. Repetitive outsourcing jobs do not produce high skilled innovators, where encouraging small entrepreneurs to work on verticals would produce more specialists. The fortunate situation in IT industry,unlike any other industry is the initial investments are not that high and the number of people to start is also not so critical.
Recently I saw our Hon. President has appointed an Indian as his IT adviser, which that person has refused to accept for certain reasons. Hon. President, while India is very strong in IT, they are in a different business paradigm, their business model would not work for us. Further, there are enough Sri Lankan's (many who are living even abroad) who will be willing to give you advice on what is right for our tiny nation. Ask for it, you will have our heart and soul with you.
I can point few things that we should do, if we are to really use IT for our economic development.
- Apply IT for internal processes to improve efficiency
- Create more number of smaller IT related businesses in the country
- We should have a ministry for IT (any way we have so many ministries, what difference it makes having one more). Currently it is mixed with science and Technology which is much more broader to handled by one minister. Then we need to find someone who is young and enterprising who can take the lead in. (just for an example see when Dr Palitha Kohona speaks in international PR)
- We should have compiled our citizen database ( we have been talking, ...... and still do). The story so far is we have made it so complicated and we invited large international companies to design it for us, where still nothing happens. Hon. President, this should be one of your accelerated programmes (like "maga neguma"), we should do it in months, not years. Also we don't need so many experts, let us do it ourselves. It cannot be a miraculous job to create a 20 million record database.
- Why cant RMV(registrar of motor vehicles), Registrar of Persons, Elections commissioner and Police use a common database. They don't work together, ask if they do!!! Without this there are isolated islands of information, recollected many times without any significant proactive usage. Imagine if this information is available it can be simply be disseminated for authentication and verification of citizens and vehicles, driving licenses etc. If you drive around you will know how many times your ID number and Vehicle number is manually written down by officers, without any ability of cross referencing the information they see.(since this is a seperte topic itself, I would write an another article on this)
- Once we achieve these basic infrastructure, link income tax to all the other citizen services. Don't think too complex. The more complex you think would take more time. All IT systems need to be improved over period of time, faster than you think.
- Once we achieve this we need to link all the citizens and enterprises to the same system
On the other hand development of expertise and enterprises
- Promote local IT services companies against the rest, but ask them to be certified , dont use tender conditions such as last year revenue which will disqualify all local bidders (instead of revenue measure the capabilities) - if tender processes are not correct- change those.
- Promote smaller IT companies more - take their taxes off - Trust me they will bring foreign exchange when they are up and running
- Create more environment for research, tell the problems you have and asked people to come up with solutions - Don't publish tender documents prepared by people who has no knowledge to write specifications - if rules need to change - change those!
- Provide the infrastructure - not the capital - Innovative IT projects do not need large sums of capital, but innovative thinking and proper infrastructure to survive.