ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 47
Financial Times  

Sri Lanka appeals to Commonwealth to bridge digital divide

By Bandula Sirimanna

The Sri Lankan government’s proposal to make personal computers available for developing countries like Sri Lanka at very low prices received a favourable response at the Commonwealth Connects 2007- e- Partnership summit held in New Delhi last month. Minister of Science and Technology Prof Tissa Vitharana said he made this proposal at the summit to bridge the digital gap in developing countries with the assistance of the Commonwealth. He added that only 10 percent of the country’s population is enjoying computer facilities.

There are no computer laboratory facilities for around 8,000 schools in the island and only a few national schools enjoy this facility. Therefore, it is essential to bridge this digital gap, he said. The ‘Commonwealth Connects Programme’ is helping to bridge the deepening digital divide across 53 countries of the Commonwealth.

In an attempt to address this increasing digital fragmentation, a collaborative effort between the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth partner agencies and member countries formed the Commonwealth Connects Programme. It is a multi-stakeholder partnership whose aim is to facilitate strategic action by governments, the private sector and civil society organisations to fast track positive change. It is a unique initiative that enables the transfer of technology and expertise across the whole Commonwealth. Vitharana disclosed that Sri Lanka will also be benefited by this initiative.

The minister made this disclosure when he opened the New Panora Computer Manufacturing plant at Mattakkuliya recently. Panora Corporation, a subsidy of PCH holdings began operations at the company’s new state of the art manufacturing facility. The 1.2 billion-rupee investment, spanning three years will boost production of Panora branded computers, with the facility expected to turn out 12,000 units of Panora PC’s per month, during the first year alone .The plant will initially employ 200 skilled workers and plans to increase this number to a thousand with increased production.

Vitharana said that amendments have been made to the Computer Crimes Bill presented in parliament in 2005 by a committee convened by the Information Communication Technology Agency and the new amendments will be presented in parliament shortly. The committee had examined criminal implications of spamming and e-surveillance, and facilitated the establishment of a specialized Digital Forensic Lab in the Police Department for the enforcement of Computer Crimes and also creates the framework for the analysis of forensic evidence.

Panora has managed to position itself as the most sought after brand of computers in the desk top PC market in Sri Lanka, said Chairman of Panora Corporation S.H.M Rishan. Chairman ICTA Prof V.K Samaranayake noted that Panora has taken the initiative to assemble computers in Sri Lanka at a time where several multinational companies had turned down the request to set up computer assembling plants in the island .

He expressed the belief that the Sri Lankan made computers will penetrate the international markets soon as the country poses educated, skilled and talented manpower resources in the ICT field.

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