Does e-ticketing in Sri Lanka Serve its Purpose?


A Railway Ticket in Sri Lanka

A Railway Ticket in Sri Lanka

Printed e-Ticket the Railway Department Issue to the commuter

Printed e-Ticket the Railway Department Issue to the commuter

The message you get once you buy the e-ticket through your mobile phone.

The message you get once you buy the e-ticket through your mobile phone.

Does e-ticketing in Sri Lanka serve its purpose? In the first picture you see a regular paper ticket issued for train commuters by the Sri Lanka Railway Department (more commonly known as Sri Lanka Railways (SLR)), which is littler than a credit card. in the next picture you see a printed version of an e-ticket the same department issues at the counter once you show the e-ticket details that is sent to the commuter’s mobile phone by the said department. It is bigger than an A5 paper!!! The very purpose behind the e-ticket system is to reduce the paperwork and make the ticketing process faster and more efficient. Not to mention the ease for both the department and the commuter. There shouldn’t be any paper work at all since there should be a way that the department can confirm the authenticity at the railway station itself with using technology. If they still insist on the papers, shouldn’t the e-ticket be reduced at least to the size of a credit card?

(Also see the image below and read the paragraph below it.)

Railway Department's Train Schedule with False Information

Railway Department’s Train Schedule with False Information

Above is the screenshot of the Train Schedule published online by the same department in its website. Here it says the Intercity Express train (number 4022) has first, second and the third-class tickets. But this is false information misleading the unsuspecting commuter. There is no 2nd or 3rd class compartments in this train. I checked and double checked with the department a short while ago. See how a tourist feels once they trust the department website and go to the station with the false information.

As far as I know, it is the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), the apex government body for ICT-related developments, that spent huge amounts of monies granted by the World Bank and the South Korean government for creating, maintaining and updating these government institutions’ websites. But it looks like that money was wasted than invested.

ICTA was a well-planned institution established by the then U. N. P. government which came to power in 2002 for a very short period. It had a vision, goals and a well-thought-out plan which was designed by the professionals and experts in the field. Unfortunately, once SLFP-lead coalition government came into power in 2005, things changed. When Mahinda Rajapaksa became the Prime Minster and took the ICTA under his office, things went worse and once he became the President of Sri Lanka and took the ICTA under the President’s Office, things even deteriorated. President Rajapaksa changed the original master plan designed by the experts and started interfering into the ICTA’s domain. He ensured the race, religion and the allegiance to the ruling party are the criteria to the staff selection, funds disbursement and what not? Professional staff members were replaced with the ruling party’s henchmen (and henchwomen for that matter.) The utter waste and the lethargy became the norms at the ICTA to stay. The ICTA was formed with a young CEO in the capacity of Mr. Manju Hattotuwa with the right qualifications and an open mind towards the constant changes in the field of ICT. But, the ruling party installed a very old, cunning and vile carnivorous dinosaur whose knowledge in the field in question was obsolete as a result of old age and utter incompetence, as the Chairman of the so-called apex government body for ICT-related developments. Earlier it was the CEO of the agency who ran the agency productively and the post of the Chairperson was more of a formality if not ceremonial. But the obsolete dinosaur first got Manju out of the ICTA and changed the agency from a private sector-model efficient organization to a lethargic government department. (Not to mention the couple of buffoons installed as CEOs of the agency from time to time who came nowhere close to Manju in terms of public relations, efficiency and productivity.)  So, when the dinosaur died of old age, the position of the Chairperson went to a lady who new anything but ICT. The dinosaur reduced the ICTA to rubble but this ignorant lady ensured the rubble became dust.

The SLR website is only one tiny example when it comes to incompetence. Almost 99% of the other government institutions’ websites are equally obsolete and hardly serve the very purpose of launching them at the expense of the taxpayer. Those websites are also obsolete with eons-old information, email accounts that are not checked, contact numbers that don’t exist anymore and links that don’t work from the very day of creating those websites. Most of the responsible officials in the said institutes use Yahoo! Email IDs let alone Gmail IDs if not for the email IDs with domain names of the institutions! Furthermore, you have to call those officials and tell them that an email has been sent and it is high time they checked them. That is “e-Sri Lanka” or “Digital Sri Lanka” for you and your tax rupees are at work!!!

Professor Rohan Samarajiva, the Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka

Professor Rohan Samarajiva, the Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka

At least now the agency is chaired by a non-corrupt, efficient and experienced futuristic visionary in the capacity of Professor Rohan Samarajiva who won’t be fooled by flattering or sycophancy. So, Sir, it is your time to make things right at the ICTA if it is not too late as yet.

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