Opportunity to Share and Harmonise Efforts in ICT across Asia

H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka delivering his Keynote Address at the opening ceremony of eASIA 2009in Colombo.

Grand Inaugural

e-Asia 2009, Asia’s Premier ICT Event, was held between December 2 till December 4 2009, at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, in Colombo, Sri Lanka . The three-day conference was organised by joint efforts of Centre for Science Development and Media Studies, Presidential Secretariat of Government of Sri Lanka, and ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA).

The first day of the conference saw the grand inaugural ceremony consisting of the launch by the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The ceremony was followed by the plenary sessions consisting of eminent experts, commenting on the importance and advancements of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in fields of governance, learning, health and telecentres, in addition to the emerging technologies.

Delivering the keynote address at e-ASIA while inauguration, the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa said that ICT is the future driving force of economies.  It is the tool and the enabler that will push the boundaries of socio-economic development in countries such as Sri Lanka.  It is with this aim that Sri Lanka has given priority to ICT, and mainstreamed ICT in all its development activities.  It is in this regard, that Sri Lanka firmly pushes ahead with the pioneering initiatives such as e-Sri Lanka.

He underlined that these efforts have resulted in numerous achievements and successes in the field of ICT in Sri Lanka, given the fact that country’s percentage ranking in the Network Readiness Index has moved up from 72 to 53 in a span of three years. Voicing his concern over the impact of Internet on young population of the country, he cautioned, “Our children must be protected from the dangers in the cyber space at any cost. Our culture also should not be harmed due to any advances in ICT. I am therefore, appealing to all the Asian leaders to take precautions in this regard.”

Dr MP Narayanan, President, CSDMS thanked the Honourable President, for gracing the occasion with his presence and the eminent dignitaries for their gracious participation; while expressing hope that the three day conference would prove to be enriching and enlightening experience for all participants. He said, “A conference of this nature gives us further opportunities to share our experiences and harmonise our efforts for the future. Such interactions will positively contribute to the progress of the entire Asian region. There has never been this much commitment and focus for ICT led development.”

e-Asia 2009 had five tracks, which  includes: e-Governance, Digital Learning, e-Health, Telecentre Forum and Emerging Technologies. The three-day conference-cum-exhibition was attended by nearly 1,000 delegates from 30 countries, including a 300-strong group of IT professionals from the host country, Sri Lanka. In addition to the Asian countries, delegates from the US, UK, Japan, South Korea and Sweden were also present in this Asian ICT event.

egov Asia Conference Report

Session: Policy Framework for e-Governance

Prof P W Epasinghe, Chairman ICTA, Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka and Member National Administrative Reforms Council (NARC)

Chair: Prof P W Epasinghe, Chairman ICTA, Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka and Member National Administrative Reforms Council (NARC)

Speaking in the session, Dr Hatem Elkadi, Ministry Advisor for Strategic Projects, Ministry of State for Administrative Development, Egypt, notified about Egypt’s vision on e-Governance, government modernisation and institutional development programmes. Articulating the vision of the Government of Egypt on e-Governance, Dr. Hatem Elkadi said that his country envision to deliver “efficient, effective, agile, public service capable of adjusting to change, managing resources wisely, providing distinguished services to citizens and continuously interacting with them.”

Speaking on the first phase of Egypt, e-Government strategy adopted between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2007, Elkadi said the phase saw setting up and approval of the e-Government strategic plan, with the implementation and assessment of pilot projects and geographical and sectoral deployment of some projects. The targets set for the second phase starting from July 1, 2007 lasting till June 30, 2012 are expansion of these piloted projects on national level, besides insuring ownership and aligning business with IT in Government.

Comparing the situations prior to ICT deployment typical of pre-2004 period to the post 2004, Elkadi said earlier the undocumented processes opened the doors for corruption. The employees were untrained and agencies took long time in delivering citizen services. Resultantly, municipalities were unable to track citizens’ requests and enjoyed monopoly in terms of making available citizen services.

Post 2004, the government processes were re-engineered and documented. The staff were trained and the citizens were provided with one-stop-shop service delivery outlets.

Now, requests are tracked through an automated workflow system and the services are available through government portals.

Commenting on the current state of affairs in government, especially the local government, service delivery, Elkadi stated that out of 289 municipalities, 45 have completed training and setting up of IT infrastructure. Besides a good number of local governments too have a website of their own.

Briefing on state of the move towards paper less courts, and ICT enabled Judiciary, Elkadi said out of 29 Primary Courts, 10 are fully automated and the services are available on the Internet. The time in initiating a case has been shortened from 48 hours to just 10 minutes. Moreover, the process of hearing has been automated and the case documents can be archived electronically.

Elkadi also informed about the adoption of e-Procurement model by the government in Egypt. Corroborating the deployment, he said that e-Procurement promotes transparency in government procurement process and provides central registration of suppliers, besides optimising the procurement cycle through all government entities.

It also reduces procurement costs while increasing the return of investment (ROI). It also optimises inventory levels through the adoption of efficient procurement practices and improves the ability to audit the public procurement expenditures.

Another speaker of the session was W.G. Crishantha, Senior Technologist, ICTA. Crishantha, quoting Richard Heek’s findings on state of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) projects rolled out in developing countries, W.G. Crishantha, Senior Technologist, Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, ICTA said just 15 percent of the projects are a success, 35 percent of the project are a complete failure and 50 percent result in partial failure.

Recalling the UN e-Readiness Index report, he said that though Sri Lanka was in 84th position in 2003, and took a dip later from this position to 101 in 2008. Taking note of the e-Sri Lanka roadmap, he stated that one of the most important aspect of it is to re-engineer government. The other key aspects of the e-Sri Lanka included building of national information infrastructure, developing ICT human resource and social application development, known as e-Society.

Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka

He emphasised on the evaluation of the e-Government model by different approaches and laid stress on the factors affecting the e-Government model adopted in Sri Lanka.

Session: Cloud Computing for e-Government

Chair: Kavan Rathnayake, CEO, Dialog Broadband

Mudiam Vamsi Charan, IBM, one of the key speakers of the session presented some facts and figures on the state of existing computing capacity and its underlying unutilised potential. According to him, in a given IT set up, and in distributed computing environments, up to 85 percent of computing capacity sits idle and on average 70 percent of the amount is spent on maintaining current IT infrastructures versus adding new capabilities. He added that annually, the consumer products and retail industries lose nearly $40billion or 3.5 percent of their sales due to supply chain inefficiencies. On the security aspect, he cited that 33 percent of the consumers notified of a security breach, terminate their relationship with the company they perceive as responsible.

Tracking the evolution of cloud computing over the years since1990 when the grid computing surfaced for the first time, Charan said it later led to utility computing, software as a service (SaaS) and to cloud computing, eventually. Enumerating some of the benefits that can be drawn from cloud computing, Charan said it provides massively scalable computing resources from anywhere, simplifies service delivery, enables rapid innovation of new business models and dynamic infrastructure for next generation data centres.

Stating the economic benefits derived from cloud computing, Charan said that the hardware, labour, power and software costs are reduced to 83.8 percent, which results in strategic change capacity with enormous scope for liberated funding for new development, transformation investment or direct saving.

Citing a case study on Dongying city of China, which has a goal of building a smarter city where cloud would provide the base dynamic infrastructure to support future development of e-Government hosting, waterway management, green IT and digital city, Charan said the collaboration would help Dongying municipality build a cloud computing platform to reinvigorate the Yellow River Delta Economic Zone with the Dongying software brand as the industry focus, and increase the international competitiveness of the software outsourcing industry in China’s Shandong province.

Christian Lanng, CEO, Porta Limited, Denmark, spoke on why cloud computing will change the landscape of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Business transactions?

Introducing the Electronic Invoicing Programme (EIP), Christian Lanng said that legal dimension was added to the EIP in 2005 and since then it became illegal to pay a paper invoice for public sector. Requiring that 250,000 or 70 percent of all Danish companies used electronic invoicing when trading with the government.

Oleg Petrov, Program Coordinator, e-Development Thematic Group, Global ICT Department, The World Bank, talked about Government 2.0 and Cloud Computing.

Stating the fate of billions of dollars of IT investments in government as IT blunders, Oleg Petrov cited Gartner report which said “On an average, $8 out of every $10 spent in IT is “dead money” – not contributing directly to business change and growth”. Emphasising the need to have right technology for better governance and shifting of approaches from a citizen centric to a citizen driven; from ‘eGov to Open Gov and to self service government’, Petrov noted that with the use of Cloud Computing, governments can share infrastructure, applications, and services. It results in more collaboration, encouraging  public– private joint service delivery, outsourcing,  shared services and the cloud.

Having enumerated the challenges involved in the adoption of Cloud Computing for governments as data location, security, data recovery and vendor lock-in, Petrov suggested the governments for evaluating the impact of
cloud on the existing security, privacy, and procurement practices and strategies. He added that the governments should defi ne quality and support in terms of service-level agreements (SLAs) for non mission critical work before expanding to mission critical IT services.


Chair: Mahesh Perera, Director-IT, The Parliament of Sri Lanka and Secretary,
Computer Society of Sri Lanka Harin Gunawardena, CEO, Harmon Solutions (Pvt.) Ltd. elaborated on the need for simplifying processes and said it can be done through business process re-engineering in the government.

Articulating the various aspects of redesigning phase of government process
re-engineering model, Gunawardena said: Firstly, it’s imperative to understand
the organisational background and the business needs. This is to be followed
up by aligning project objectives with the aspirations of senior management. He
added that the study and documentation of the current processes of the organisation and policy and operational level re-engineering, completes the redesign phase.

Dr. Shahani M Weerawarana, Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Moratuwa, referring to Heek’s fi ndings that just 15 % of the e-Government projects are successful, elaborated on the adoption of agile approach for adopting eGovernment model in better manner. Dr Shahani acknowledged, that though, “We are getting better at producing software, but, problems persist at the front end – diffi culties in getting the requirements
right.” Dr Shahani said the requirements are often, ambiguous, unclear, incomplete and contradictory.


Chair: Dr. Lloyd Fernando, Member of National Administrative Reforms Council and member of National Economic Council and Programme Director (Distance Learning) Post Graduate Institute of Management Dr. Waheeda Sultana, Reader, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Mangalore University, Karnataka, elaborated on the renowned e-Governance initiative of the state of Karnataka, India, that is, Bhoomi Project, Dr Waheeda Sultana said that this project of on-line delivery of land records in Karnataka demonstrates the benefi ts of making government records more open so that citizens are empowered to challenge arbitrary action. She added, under the  Bhoomi e-Governance project all 20 million land records of 6.7 million land owners in 177 taluks of Karnataka have been computerised. Previously farmers  had to seek out the village accountant to get a copy of the Record of Rights, Tenancy and Crops (RTC), a document needed for many tasks such as obtaining bank loans. There were delays and harassment and often bribes had to be paid.

However, today for a fee of INR 15, a printed copy of the RTC can be obtained online at computerided land record kiosks (Bhoomi centres) in 177 offi ces. Bhoomi has been recognised as a successful e-Governance project in India. It has also earned recognition outside the country. Bhoomi is now declared as the national model for replication in all the states by the Ministry of Communication and IT, Government of India, she opined.

Ashis Kumar Mahapatra, Senior Scientist, National Informatics Centre, Government of India, put forth his views on overcoming the challenges of e-
Governance projects, and said that a dedicated policy framework must be followed with the guidelines that can lead to productive e-Governance projects,protecting investment and overcoming challenges.

He later elaborated on the vulnerability of the existing Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) models in the bench of e- Governance and on the development of a dedicated SDLC Model for e-Governance projects named e-Governance Tree Model (EGT Model). The Model has a defi ned policy framework and design guidelines and deals with the customised steps involved, security issues, process management, resource management, Interoperability, e-Readiness and maintains an overall standard from initiation to the rollout of the project, he stated.


Chair: Dr. R B Ekanayake, Board Director, ICTA and Pioneer e-Banking expert Wasantha Deshapriya, Director, Reengineering Government Programme, ICTA, articulating the objective of the e- Revenue License project of the Sri Lankan government, Wasantha Deshapriya said the project is to implement an online Motor Revenue Licensing system, which would require the possibility of online payments and provision for their legal acceptance by the department. In order to implement the project, it was necessary to provide vehicle registration, vehicle insurance data and vehicle emission data online.

This was achieved, he further said, by implementing web services at each of the  above organisations to provide the requisite data on request to Lanka Interoperability Exchange of the Lanka Gate project, which was then mashed upand presented in a collaborative nature to accomplish the business objective. The information infrastructure built by Lanka Government Network was used to integrate all the data feeds. A number of VPNs were created for connecting commercial organisations. Furthermore digital signatures were installed at each location to ensure that all data exchanges and transactions were carried out on a secure platform, he added.

Kanchana Thudugala, Senior Project Manager, Technology Team, ICTA, enunciated Lanka Gate, as a comprehensive collection of infrastructural mechanism to easily ‘plug-in’ an e-Service or to ‘compose’ a set of e-Services in order to generate composite e-Service, such that these e- Services would then be readily and easily available to other applications and portals that comprise Lanka Gate. To achieve these goals, Thudugala further stated, projects within Lanka Gate are designed to leverage Web 2.0 concepts, open standards and an overarching Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), enabling dynamic, customisable, collaborative and composeable services via multiple delivery channels.

Hence, after studying similar initiatives in other countries, in Sri Lanka, Thudugala said, “We decided to architect a unique Web 2.0 enabled and service  oriented architecture, SOA based solution. Thus, Lanka Gate was designed to be composed in a loosely-coupled and fl exible manner by leveraging the latest SOA principles and techniques. It features a unique approach in contrast to the traditional notions of e-Government portals and integrated applications, by intentionally supporting informal Web 2.0 concepts such as RSS, folksonomies,recommendation, sharing, ‘pay-perclick’ and social networking, in addition to supporting formal Web 2.0 and SOA concepts such as usability, participation, collaboration, decentralisation, standardization and convergence.”

Vibhor Jain from Ernst & Young, spoke about the e-Governance strategies for Local Self-Government in India. He said, given the sheer number of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), the challenges of coordinating such decentralised planning activities in India are self-evident. For example, in one of the smaller states, Kerala, there are 999 village panchayats whose plans need to be coordinated to create district and state level plans.”

Proposing an innovative portfolio of e-Governance solutions as essential to address the above challenges, Vibhor said: Web portals, collaboration suites, databases, workfl ow solutions, Geographical Information Systems and fi nancial management solutions are some examples of it. The e-Governance strategy would need to address aspects such as the model for development and maintenance of software solutions on such a large scale, managing ICT infrastructure procurement and roll out, leveraging common e-Governance infrastructure created and ensuring sustainability of large ICT investments.

A.T.L.P.Samarasinghe, Chief Engineer, Sri Lanka Railways, talked about the integrated global positioning system (GPS) based Ticketing and Operation Mapping System for improvements in the pubic sector transportation. Samarasinghe said that the bus fares in Sri Lanka are zonal based and the fare structure of buses is unjust to the passengers since it does not charge for the exact distance that he travels. The Ticketing Solution has been designed with the intention of regulating bus fares and if necessary, train fares to achieve optimum utilisation of the  available buses.

The front and back doors of the bus are provided with Smart Card Readers, which are connected to a GPS Receiver mounted on the bus. The reader will read the Smart Card and updates a Database along with the GPS coordinates of the location where the passenger got into the bus. When the passenger gets down, the reader again reads the contents and updates the Database along with GPS coordinates to deduct the fare (exact fare for kilometres travelled) from the card.


Chair: Dr. U Vidanapathirana, Secretary, Ministry of Internal Administration Kanchana Thudugala, Senior Project Manager, Technology Team, ICTA, speaking on the requisite competencies for government Chief Information Offi cers (CIOs), Kanchana Thudugala Kanchana Thudugala noted that developedcountries such as United States (US), Australia and European Union (EU) have technology savvy executives in certain government sector organisations and the role of the CIOs in these governments have evolved in the past decade from chief IT coordinator to chief standards enforcer, chief IT strategist, chief IT policy advisor and to the chief security offi cer.

Unfortunately, in the government sector in Sri Lanka, he contrasted, “There is very low recognition and empowerment of the role of CIOs. Developed countries have effectively improved their government sector delivery of services to citizens by leveraging IT / IS and the CIOs of the government organisations have been at the forefront of these efforts in these countries.” He further said that considering these facts, an empirical research was done with an extensive literature review on the capabilities expected of CIOs. He averred the hope that the recommendations of this study  will provide the necessary information to professional organisations and education sector to build the necessary environment to nurture and build future CIOs in Sri Lanka and as well in other developing countries.

Kengatharaiyer Sarveswaran, Systems Engineer, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Moratuwa spoke on the challenges in developing management information systems (MIS) in the government. He
informed that government recruitment policies and procedures including salary scales made it diffi cult to fi nd skilled personnel to carry out MIS implementation. Also, there is no comprehensive documentation elaborating the University’s functionalities.

These are a few factors that made the requirement gathering process tricky. Due to budget constraints and license issues Open Source technologies had to be used for the development. Interactions between the identifi ed sub-systems such as Examination and Registration, Finance, Welfare, Human Resources and Support services management modules also were complex. Moreover, he  stated, deployment was the most diffi cult task of the implementation cycle. The reluctance to change the way of work, fear of losing jobs and lack of trust of the IT systems are some challenges faced in this phase.


The eASIA 2009 event concluded with the valedictory session .The valedictory
session saw closing remarks from the eminent speakers including. Jyrki Pulkkinen, Ashis Sanyal, Department of Information Technology, Government of India, Dr. MP Narayanan, President, CSDMS, Reshan Devapura, COO, ICTA,  Hatem El Kadi, Ministry Advisor  for Strategic Projects, Ministry of State for Administrative Development, Egypt, Attique Ahmad, Deputy Director (IT),  Water & Power Development Authority, Government of Pakistan. Thoughts  regarding the three-day conference were exchanged between the speakers and  the audience. Ashis Sanyal said, “I have attended all the e-India and all the   e-Asia conferences and exhibitions. I say that from all aspects including   hospitality from the security personnel at the entrance to the head table,  e-Asia  2009 is by far the best”. Mathias Hatakka from the audience said that  the  conference was “Enjoyable, had practical sessions where we discussed   issues and ideas away from theory. The sessions were very enduring.”  Delegates  from Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, and Portugal etc. too were   full of plaudits for e-Asia 2009. With the end of the valedictory session came  end to a three-day saga of the Asia’s Premier ICT event. Dr. M. P. Narayanan  said that e-Asia 2009 did not end with the fi nal session but would continue   through other modes such as e-conversations, the Internet and e-Conferences.   Thus, the issues and deliberations of eASIA 2009 will be carried over in the   forthcoming eINDIA 2010, India’s Premier ICT Event, to be held from 4-6   August 2010.