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Sri Lanka needs critical minds for critical times!

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

Every year, May 3rd is marked around the globe as World Press Freedom Day. This year UNESCO has declared the theme “Critical Minds for Critical Times”. Recently, Sri Lanka joined the ranks of nations that have taken progressive steps in making information available to the public by unveiling its own Right to Information (RTI) law. This is an important first step for the country. Experience from different parts of the world suggests that opening up access to information is an ongoing process that requires patience and perseverance to bring the full benefits of disclosure to a large number of stakeholders including, citizens, private sector and government.

women working on computers 

The World Bank unveiled its own policy on the disclosure of information in 2002. The Bank felt compelled to do so as knowledge sharing is an integral part of its development mission.  Moreover, the Bank needed to share information in order to get a better pulse from its stakeholders on how its services were performing; how it could improve but also to serve an increasing demand for its information and data.  In 2010 this policy was revised through a series of public consultations. Even so, the document is still evolving with constant feedback from our clients and citizens from countries we serve.
 
Opening up the institution has also meant exposing our staff and projects to public scrutiny. When I joined the World Bank in 1995, it was a very different institution; most information was restricted. Our journey from a closed institution to an open one has not been easy. We have learnt that merely implementing a policy is not enough to achieve the real reason for opening up; allow people to review, analyze and make informed judgements based on concrete information and data.  But more importantly we now know better that how staff perceive the increased access and its impact is the biggest challenge and yet also an opportunity.

Moving towards a 'Digital Bangladesh'

Rubaba Anwar's picture

“My country finally owns me!" was the delighted reaction from a high level private sector official to the possibility of a national identity system in Bangladesh. A lot of brain-wracking thought went into the possible economic benefits of such a project.

The sleepless nights of complicated financial analyses and exasperatingly fruitless brainstorming sessions that reach a point when you are not willing to say anything until you find something that will make the rest of them jump on their chairs, make things very difficult sometimes! But, the answer was there, short and simple. Such a refreshing start to an interview for the purpose of identifying the probable benefits to service delivery agencies of having access to a near-immaculate database of citizens, was hardly anticipated.

Rolling out robust, digitized national ID (NID) cards to 100 million citizens over a period of five years is the daunting task ahead for Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) Project. One may argue about the novelty offered by this initiative when Bangladeshi citizens with voting eligibility actually have NIDs since late 2008. A solid counter argument would be the “digitized nature” of the sophisticated NIDs of ‘digital Bangladesh’, enabling machine readability of biometric citizen information embedded in the card, as a replacement of the paper based, easily faked cards with little printed information and near-alien photos that gave rise to popular groups like I hate my NID photo” on Facebook!

Have Librarians Missed the Bus?

Dilinika Peiris's picture
Photo Courtesy of Sri Lanka Library Association (SLLA)

As the Sri Lanka Library Association celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year, it’s time for us to reflect on the contributions of the Library and Information professionals to the development of Sri Lanka. At the same time, given the explosion in the sheer amount and sources of information now available especially through the internet, I found myself asking; do librarians have a role in the digital world? How are they adapting to this change? And are organizations and policymakers still making effective use of their knowledge and expertise while making decisions?

A recent Sunday Island piece captures the challenges and exciting opportunities that Librarians face in Sri Lanka today; I agree with them that with the expansion of information and sources, professional assistance is vital to identify trusted and accurate information. As a result, we should more actively recognize and involve Library and Information professionals as partners in policy consultations and working groups.