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 1 st 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.
FITIS 1 – Channa De Silva, General Manager & CEO, LankaClear / President Digital
Services Chapter – FITIS
FITIS 2 – Omar Sahib, Founder & CEO, WebxPay (Pvt) Ltd / Vice President Digital
Services Chapter – FITIS