ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday October 7, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 19
Financial Times  

Impact of wireless communication in socio economic development

By Sunil Karunanayake

During a period of much negativity and pessimism surrounded by North-South and South-South conflicts it was pleasing to hear some encouraging remarks from a business leader with vision and foresight seeing a bright future for the country. This is what went through my mind last Thursday when listening to Dr Hans Wijayasuriya, CEO of the mobile communication giant Dialog Telecom, who boldly said that this country has a near 20 million population, that all won’t go away (overseas) and we must stay and develop the country. Dr Wijayasuriya was obviously speaking with authority and sincerity having seen the gigantic leap of his company in less than a period of 10 years by reaching all corners of the island. Using key words “Inclusion’ and “Connectivity” he gave lot of confidence to Sri Lankans with his model of “Sirisena mudalali of Embilipitiya” now a key player in the connectivity concept. The e-loading, buddy system is now taking the technology to hitherto untapped sectors thus making a significant impact on the economic progress of the country.

He made these comments on mobile communication during the monthly lecture at the Centre for Banking Studies at the Central Bank.

According to Dr Wijayasuriya, the turnaround of the mobile communication industry took place in the late nineties and his company Dialog Telekom though entering as the fourth player behind Mobitel, Celltel (now Tigo) and Hutchison has led the revolution in this field.

In the early years of post liberalization era of the seventies some wanted Sri Lanka to be a Singapore; then in the nineties the talk was of a “NIC” (new industrialized country). Now we agree that our economic model is unique and the potential comes from the rural areas. Apart from Sanath Jayasuriya’s and Lasith Malinga’s, the majority of the Sri Lankan cricket team too is dominated by players from Panadura to Matara, then in athletics it’s the Susanthika’s and Darsha’s from out of Colombo. In rugby, Kandy has been invincible for over a decade. Dialog as a company has seen this transformation and invested heavily in the provinces contrary to the high concentration of economic activity in the Western Province

Singapore’s resounding success coming from port services, international trade, model governance and political processes may not be able to be replanted elsewhere but the lessons learned from Singapore could be of high value to countries and leaders who are sincere to give their own people a higher quality of life. Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping sent many study teams to learn the Singaporean experience; South Korea was impressed by Singapore’s anti corruption culture and the hassle free urban traffic control system. Dr Mahathir Mohamed who turned Malaysia into an NIC was taken up by greenery, cleanliness and the orderliness. Certainly technology and communications are simple lessons to Sri Lanka.

As illustrated by Dr Wijayasuriya, in their unique style the mobile communication industry comprising four key partners have recorded impressive growth. Technology is a great social leveler of low cost and high flexibility. Today a most popular mode of public transport - trishaws - is powered by mobile phones providing connectivity, productivity and public convenience. Simple traders or Mudalali’s as they are commonly known now carry out the e-loading process that’s much in demand from the younger generation. Fishermen in the high seas now evaluate the market conditions and then decide where to unload their merchandise. This shows the maturity of the average Sri Lankan who is now becoming more techno savvy.

Perhaps these positive developments are the outcome of the aggressive “inclusive” policy adopted by the mobile phone industry by moving away from the exclusive or small affordable sector. Inclusive policy aiming at mass market or many possible has seen the customer end user surplus growing.

Dr Wijayasuriya sees banking as an area that offers high potential for mobile communication usage. The accessibility to banking is somewhat limited due to the inadequacy of infrastructure. Given the emerging wide acceptance electronic money culture as demonstrated in reloading business the future in banking appears to be promising. Undoubtedly mobile communication has created a major impact in the Sri Lankan economy through contactability within the island and also with the globe thus facilitating the commercial process. Leveraging for further potential is immense. On a socio economic front new affordable technology within the reach of masses and penetration into rural economy is a good recipe for poverty alleviation and social integration. Email -


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