1919, a catalyst for Govt bodies
The positive values of the Government Information Centre-1919 could have a catalyst effect on all government institutions, said Chairman GIC-1919 Project Steering Committee and Additional Presidential Secretary Dr. I. H. K. Mahanama delivering the keynote address at the National GIC-1919 Conference held at Hotel Galadari, recently.
Placing the GIC in its perspective Dr. Mahanama said that the 'Mahinda Chintana' had covered the whole spectrum of Sri Lanka's economy. Backed by a thorough study of the past it points out what should now be done in the naval, aviation, commercial, energy and knowledge sectors etc., for a better future.
The GIC acclaimed for its promptitude, courtesy, accuracy, personal interest, tenacity and on-going improvement through advanced technology could percolate into government institutions and play a pivotal role in making Sri Lanka the Knowledge hub of Asia. "We might not be able to reduce the number of letters received daily to five as in Singapore, but substantial time could be put in for productive work with greater public service efficiency", Dr. Mahanama said. Sri Lankan people were prone to address even matters that could be thrashed out at levels nearer home to the Head of State.
However, there is an in-built facility in the GIC project to put forward grievances and complaints. Each complaint is considered carefully, brought to the attention of the relevant office and the caller is sent a reply with regard to his complaint with confidentiality maintained at all times.
ICTA Chairman Professor P.W. Epasinghe said that the GIC over the past four years had promptly, accurately and courteously responded to over 235,000 public calls. "GIC now operates seven days a week, 365 days a year for 12 hours each day from 8 am to 8 pm and provides information in all three languages Sinhala, Tamil and English in a very courteous manner through multiple channels.
This service obtained simply by dialing 1919 makes it easier for people and organizations to obtain information relating to government departments and State banks.
It commenced with 15 government organisations, but now represents over 134 organisations.
Its first call resolution rate is 94 percent. This is most important in improving customer satisfaction. The average speed of answer is 11 seconds of being in the queue."
ICTA Re-engineering Government Program Director Wasanta Deshapriya presented the GIC annual report (May 2009 - April 2010), and also an overview of the GIC from its launch in 2006 up to date under the direct supervision of Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and guidance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Pointing out that a large percentage of people were still going through much discomfort by limiting the service they get from the GIC only as an informant of telephone numbers of government institutions, Mr. Deshapriya said: "People should not have to first call the GIC for the telephone number of the relevant government institution and then call the institution concerned; instead in one call they could ask the GIC for the required information.
For example they could ask the GIC what documents should be taken for submitting an application for a driving licence. An apt slogan for GIC would be 'By dialling 1919 - you can ask for more than a telephone number'."
The audience of about 350 officers representing some 134 government institutions including 14 ministries, 47 departments and 15 government banks and 58 statutory bodies that are currently covered by GIC was also avid listeners to a talk on 'Role of the GIC in a knowledge society' by ICTA Chief Operating Officer Reshan Dewapura.
He said that the GIC had won world awards (WSA 2008, GTA runner-up 2007) and was known even among people in the remotest village and contributed to creating a knowledge society.
"In a knowledge society, information is a key factor which decides the level of life standards.
In such a society people use their brains more than their hands in their work and personal lives.
There, people create, share and use knowledge for the prosperity and well-being of its people.
In a knowledge society people build their lives around information which can be processed into knowledge soon afterwards," he said.
Attesting that these principles were applied in the GIC project Dewapura pointed out that under the e-Sri Lanka initiative which ICTA was mandated to implement, people's lives had become more comfortable by the use of ICT.
People who travelled for hours and stayed overnight at makeshift shelters just to know how to get a document were now able to get not merely the knowledge but the very document to their home by post.
GIC is at the root of the transformation of the society that uses their brains more than their hands, Dewapura said.
Five institutions won awards for their high contribution to the GIC. A 10-criteria scale was strictly adhered to in selecting these winners.
The winning institutions in alphabetical order were Central Environment Authority, Police Department, Registrar General's Department, Registrar of Persons' Department and the Railway Department. Certificates of appreciation were also presented to three GIC personnel.
The down-to-earth questions that were asked and the vivacious discussion that followed added to the formal feedback given in writing that will go a long way in further improving GIC services. A case in point was the question on what could be done with regard to institutions under the Provincial Councils that are currently not covered by the GIC.
Plausible options were proposed during the discussion which the Presidential Secretariat and ICTA are looking into.