Internet penetration in Sri Lanka will expand from 22 per cent to 50 per cent over the next two years as LTE becomes widespread with the help of high altitude balloons, said Harin Fernando, the country’s Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Minister.

The minister, speaking at the Ground Zero security conference in Colombo, said Sri Lanka could be the first country in the world to have “every inch covered” with LTE internet connectivity, if Google’s Project Loon is a success, the country’s Daily News reported.

Sri Lanka announced plans in February to take a 25 per cent stake in the project, which use balloons to provide high-speed internet connectivity, in exchange for the spectrum the government will allocate for the project.

Fernando cited data that shows a 10 per cent increase in internet penetration has the potential to drive a 1.2 percentage point increase in GDP.

Sri Lanka’s mobile broadband penetration is 38 per cent, with 3G connections accounting for the vast majority of that, according to GSMA Intelligence. Only two operators – Dialog Axiata and Mobitel – offer 4G service with just 44 per cent population coverage and less than a million users. 3G networks cover 90 per cent of the population, with 9.8 million connections.

According to Akamai’s Q3 2015 survey, the country ranked 71 globally, with an average broadband speed of 5.1 Mb/s.

The minister noted that the government needs to focus on cyber security and to invest heavily to ensure legitimate users benefit and not criminals, the Daily News reported. “The world needs a frank dialogue among states, the private sector and the civil society to guarantee the security of cyber space.”