Sri Lanka not realising e-commerce potential: EU

By Uwin Lugoda

While statistics show that the potential for e-commerce in Sri Lanka is high, it is coupled with an under usage in the country, noted a representative from the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Project Manager Harshini Halangoda pointed out that according to 2018 figures, 33% of the 20.9 million population has access to the internet, with a total of 27.38 million mobile connections islandwide. However, internet users only amount to 6.71 million.

She made these observations addressing the third national Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) on E-Commerce Reforms in Sri Lanka at Taj Samudra, Colombo last week.

Halangoda went on to express the changes digitalisation has had on trade, and emphasised the need for a supportive regulatory framework that would let young people get into trade.

“Two decades ago, we would have thought exports are regularly for big business. However, today we see young people with good ideas and a lot of enthusiasm start up and run businesses from their bedrooms. That is the promise of digital technology.”

The third PDD had several goals, some of which were to analyse the progress made, provide an overview of international best practices, and discuss the way forward in crafting legislative proposals that will update national laws. During the event, Secretary to the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology M.C.L.

Rodrigo stated that the facilities of e-commerce and modes of digital engagements between people, businesses, and government organisations are aligned with the mandate for which the Ministry works towards creating a digitally empowered nation.

He went on to emphasise that the Ministry along with its two key organisations, Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and Sri Lanka CERT, is assisting to realise thrust areas relating to e-commerce through series of activities with the introduction of policies, strategies, regulations, and human resource capacity development activities, while ensuring provisions of required digital infrastructure.

Taking into account the findings from the National Digital Policy 2020 to 2025 draft which is currently under review, Rodrigo emphasised the need for an innovative economy with a focus on improved competitiveness, revenue, and digital jobs.

“The ICT industry has also set a target of achieving export revenue of $ 5 billion by at least 2020. Facilitation and creating multi-stakeholder partnerships for creating digitally enabled free trade zones are now being thought of.

Furthermore, over 10,000 companies will benefit from the digitally enabled free trade zone by 2025; the concept has been identified and recognised in Sri Lanka’s digital economy strategy.”

He also went on to point out that Sri Lanka’s digital economy strategy looks to connect private firms such as small and medium sector entrepreneurs to the global value chain, as well as the importance of government safeguards to protect consumers from vulnerability and help them enjoy e-commerce without constraints.

“I think our strategies, programmes, and projects should be focused on that specific objective. Furthermore, the Government too has the right to be vigilant on the behaviours of both consumers and suppliers to prevent any undue incidents that may create disadvantages to the trust associated with online businesses.”

The event was organised by the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology in partnership with the International Trade Centre (ITC).