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Chapter IX. E-Government in Developing C... > The Public Sector in Sri Lanka: The ...

The Public Sector in Sri Lanka: The need for Change

During the 1970s Sri Lanka experienced deteriorating terms of trade and increasing government deficits. When the policy makers in the country realised the imperative of economic and administrative policy reforms in addressing these issues, the emphasis was given to pro-market policies in trade and finance abandoning the inward-looking economic model. It also considered the introduction of decentralisation with a multi-layered administrative structure against the existing centralised administrative model. With an unprecedented increase of public sector reform, often sponsored by international financial institutions (IFIs), the reduction of government involvement in economic activities has become increasingly apparent. A new form of network between state, business and non-government sectors was instigated in order to provide services that used to be primarily government responsibility. Growing prominence of the private sector in economic activity and the IFIs, in particular the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), forced the state to become more efficient and competitive. Flexibility and managing change were regarded as components in the public sector. In this regard, dissemination and sharing of information become a must. Introduction of e-governance is seen as a path to rapid improvement of efficiency in the public sector with much-needed transparency and improved accountability (World Bank, 2000). Large bureaucracies become outdated and a new set of competencies needs to be developed.

Compared to the existing administrative practices, information technology provides promising avenues to disseminate information and to obtain a speedy feedback from the public. It also allows administrators to connect “agencies, levels and data stores of government to strengthen capacity to investigate, develop and implement the strategy and policy that guide government processes” (Heeks 2001, p.5), which enhances the capacity to make decisions promptly at the local level. As customer-oriented benefits from Internet-based transactions have been a key focus in the information age, such efforts would reduce the differences between the local community, bureaucrats and political leaders on the performance of decentralisation initiatives and increase the people’s participation in the process of development in the country. Computer-aided decision-making processes and electronic databases would provide an environment conducive to effective decentralised management in the country.


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