The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Colombo office will prepare the recommendations and outcome of this week’s National Summit on Foresight and Innovation for Sustainable Human Development in Sri Lanka to be used as a guide for long-term planning, according to UNDP Sri Lanka Resident Representative, Peter Batchelor.  He told the Business Times on the [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

UNDP to develop ‘outcome document’ for their development planning for the 2030 agenda



The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Colombo office will prepare the recommendations and outcome of this week’s National Summit on Foresight and Innovation for Sustainable Human Development in Sri Lanka to be used as a guide for long-term planning, according to UNDP Sri Lanka Resident Representative, Peter Batchelor.  He told the Business Times on the sidelines of Sri Lanka’s first summit on innovation for sustainable development in Colombo that recommendations on energy, climate action, waste and disasters – issues which are key priorities that Sri Lanka is facing today -, would be included in the government’s 2030 agenda for action. Speaking on the opening day of the 2-day summit, Mr. Batchelor said that foresight is a methodology that encourages innovation, strategic planning and the proactive shaping of the future.

The purpose of foresight is to enhance the ability of decision makers to engage with and shape future events. It’s about anticipating possible and probable future events in order to cope with and depth to or transform them. Foresight is not about predicting the future and should not be confused with forecasting, rather making predictions on the extrapolation of current trends or the frequency of similar events. It cultivates the capacity to anticipate alternative futures and the ability to visualise multiple possible outcomes and consequences. It can help policy makers identify opportunities of threats that may arise over the coming years as well as possible strategies to deal with.  Asia-Pacific region has seen a remarkable economic and social progress in the past two decades. Between 1990 and 2008 over 700 million people were lifted out of poverty in the region. GDP growth rates in this region have surged against other regions.

The relative importance of drive of economic growth of prosperity as of today and for a growing number of countries including Asia, innovation in its many dimensions is emerging as a leading drive of growth and development. In recent years we have seen a world that is increasingly real time account and the use of information and communication technologies is becoming increasingly widespread. The use of ICT has not only resulted in improvements in economy but has a crucial impact on government willing to provide more citizen friendly, transparent, countable, people oriented public services. It’s important to note that governments can play a key role in fostering the conducive environment for innovation.  Sri Lanka which stands with many futuristic prospects needs to focus more on next generation development solutions, added Mr. Batchelor.

State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Niroshan Perera stated that the present government expects the country to reach an upper middle income country status while attaining sustainable economic growth and ensuring good governance. In doing so, Sri Lanka will strive to be the most open and competitive economy in South Asia. “As the ministry entrusted with the role of planning the future of the country, we believe that the implementation of the 2030 agenda in Sri Lanka’s national development framework is vital. The national targets incorporated in our public investment programme have been set in line with both sustainable development goals and national development priorities to ensure more holistic development for the country,” noted Mr. Perera. He also added that Sri Lanka has pledged its commitment to achieve sustainable development goals by 2030 with special focus on poverty elimination, achieving food security, improving education, minimising income disparity and urban development.

“I believe that Sri Lanka has a stable and favourable political leadership, human and economic potential to carry out the 2030 agenda successfully. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka has missed several opportunities in the past that could have taken us into a vibrant and sustainable economy. We should ensure that our current path to economic prosperity is resilient in the global and local challenges.”  He said innovation is essential as ‘we’ compete in the global market. “If we are to build an economy with a competitive export sector, technological and demand driven innovation is essential. A lead forward in technological innovation will put us in par with the developing world, if not we will always lag behind in our production capacities.”  On the second day of the summit, Minister of Digital Infrastructure and Telecommunications, Harin Fernando said that Sri Lanka was due to sign up with Ericson (on Thursday – May 26) to set up a 5G test lab in Sri Lanka.

He said the ministry will be partnering with a few other companies in the world to set up 24 innovation centres in all districts in Sri Lanka. There will be incubators around it, said Mr. Fernando adding that more information will be released soon.  Mr. Fernando noted that the government will be funding 1000 startups where innovators can start their innovation and organisations like Microsoft, Oracle can take these innovations to the world platform.  Noting that Sri Lanka is on the brink of digitisation he said, the country would be the third country the world to implement a ‘Household Transfer Management’ System (HTM) after Estonia and Sweden. The card will be launched on January 2017 which will digitise the country’s whole platform for all financial transactions to biometric form. This will enable Sri Lanka to save US$2 million a day in transaction costs on pensions and social welfare schemes like Samurdhi.

The card will kick start the economy and provide more avenues to cater to many digital platforms such as e-governance, digital education, e-health and so on.  “This HTM card will redefine the Sri Lankan lifestyle and the economy. Every person who is over 15 years old will have this card, which will work as a national identity card and transaction card and since it is Near Field Communication enabled, it can be used for transactions via mobile devices on ‘tap and pay’ system. It is a fully-integrated card,” noted Mr. Fernando.  He also mentioned that the key challenges of the ministry are to get connectivity in place with fibre optic cables covering the entire nation. “Only 25 per cent of the population has access to Internet while only 24 per cent use smartphones.

Usage of 10 per cent of Internet has proven to increase GDP by 1.2 per cent and thereby the government is in favour of encouraging and improving the industries engaged in the telecommunication and digital infrastructure to uplift the real economic growth of the country. In December we have a massive digital summit, unveiling the Sri Lankan digital story which will be attended by the world’s top two IT heads.”  Open Design City, Berlin Co-Founder Jay Cousins speaking on ‘Disruptive Innovation through Engagement’ mentioned that there is always a change in a government’s decision in taking a country forward. Not having a proper long term plan is not going to help a country’s growth in any way. “You need to be very careful when taking decisions and setting up a long term plan, you need to be mindful as to what seeds must be planted in order to set it up,” he noted.

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