With great crises comes even greater opportunity for growth, as witnessed in Sri Lanka over the last two months alone. As the country cautiously emerges from the crippling fuel crisis of July, many attribute the quick adoption of the National Fuel Pass QR code system for bringing ease to the situation.
In a landmark move towards increased digital maturity by the Ministry of Power and Energy -under the leadership of Minister, Kanchana Wijesekera-, on the 1st of August 2022 Sri Lanka officially commenced the total implementation of the QR code system for fuel rationing for all motorists; simultaneously negating other ineffective manual systems which attempted to overcome the critical challenge previously. As of September 19, a total of 6,272,385 consumers across the country have registered to receive fuel in this way, with 34,444,886 transactions made island-wide during the 7-week period since inception- testament to not just the capacity to problem-solve, but also the practicality, efficiency, and convenience technological platforms can bring.
Credit is also due to MillenniumIT ESP, a member of the Digital Services chapter of FITIS, for the successful implementation of the National fuel pass in partnership with Dialog who is a member of the Communication chapter of FITIS.
Of the 9 million smart phone users in Sri Lanka –of which 7.9 million are on social media-, 6 million consumers to date have signed up for the QR code fuel pass system. The success of the system has been reflected in the easing of fuel queues and an increase in accountability at stations but is also vindication for those calling for increased national tech literacy in a fast-evolving global digital landscape. While QR codes have been put to use previously (in national efforts to contact trace during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and LankaQR, for instance), this has been its most successful implementation since.
When compared to other Asia Pacific emerging markets, Sri Lanka has proven to exhibit strength in connectivity, digital marketing, investment in digital initiatives, as well as the ability to adopt quickly. Market digital transformation in Sri Lanka has been recorded at 36% of the country’s total population, in comparison to India and Bangladesh which has been recorded at around 29% and 28% respectively. In fact, according to a 2018 McKinsey report titled “Unlocking Sri Lanka’s Digital Capacity,” in an analysis of about 50 Sri Lankan companies across multiple industries, it was found that the country’s overall Digital Quotient score of 35 places it slightly higher than the global median of 33. However, Sri Lanka still lags behind when placed individually against more developed countries, though holding the potential to come up to par with its global counterparts.
Another indication is the country’s quick adoption and move towards cashless, online payment platforms over the past few years. For example, solely through the JustPay (by LankaPay – a member of the Digital Services Chapter of FITIS) payment platform, and in the last 12 months alone, an approximate 13 million transactions have been recorded, together carrying a hefty value totalling LKR 55 billion. Other locally implemented digital payment platforms such as WEBXPAY, Orel Pay, PayHere, HelaPay, FriMi, IPay and PayMaster, all members of the Digital Services Chapter of FITIS, have facilitated considerable ease, flexibility, and acceleration in transactions to the country’s citizens by positively transforming the way in which we make and receive payments. Additionally, the endorsement of ride-hailing and grocery-buying apps such as Pickme also attest to the country’s digital readiness.
“There are various other tech platforms built locally that could make us more efficient and save us time to best use them on most productive activities that could directly contribute towards building a better country for our future generation,” said the Vice president Mr. Omar Sahib Digital Services of FITIS.
The proven capacity of Sri Lanka’s citizens to move forward digitally should form the basis of incentive towards greater digital priorities. However, it is not enough that we merely create platforms that promote digital citizenry. National efforts should also synchronously be taken to explore new approaches and solutions, lay down enabling protective frameworks, and also provide incentives to encourage digital prioritisation across both private and government sectors.
The Federation of Information Technology Industry Sri Lanka (FITIS) was set up in 1996 with purpose of giving a much-needed focal point for ICT industry in Sri Lanka. Today, FITIS is the apex body of ICT industry in the country covering all major industry segments as Hardware Chapter, Software Chapter, Education Training Chapter, Communication Chapter, Digital Service Chapter, Professional Chapter, Office Automation Chapter and Professional Consultants Chapter.
Photo Caption: Channa De Silva, General Manager & CEO, LankaClear / President Digital Services Chapter – FITIS and Omar Sahib, Founder & CEO, WebxPay (Pvt) Ltd / Vice President Digital Services Chapter – FITIS.