Thursday, April 11, 2013

Country on path to ‘Smart Sri Lanka’– ICTA CEO

          Country on path to ‘Smart Sri Lanka’– ICTA CEO
‘Sri Lanka is now journeying from version 1.0 to version 2.0 of Development Agenda, ‘Smart Sri Lanka’ moving from pure technology and focusing more on innovation, transformation, entrepreneurship and inclusion’. This was stated by ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) CEO Reshan Dewapura Tuesday (19) while participating as Chief Guest at the inauguration of  IBMSoftwareUniverse2013  in Colombo.  Organised by IBM Sri Lanka, this was the first ever ‘IBMSoftware held in Sri Lanka.
Delivering  his keynote speech on the occasion, Dewapura explained  to a full house at the Oak room at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo the  buzz phrase  ‘Smart Sri Lanka’: “In the spirit of this event, the IBM Software Universe, where we have heard much about a smarter planet, let’s refer to this version 2.0 of the e-Development Agenda as ‘Smart Sri Lanka’. Version 1.0 was e-Sri Lanka, and by coining this new phrase we are now moving above and beyond pure technology, and focusing more on innovation, transformation, entrepreneurship and inclusion”. Highlighting the differentiator component of the endeavour  Dewapura said further: “ Benefitting from the latest advances in technology, more intelligence and smartness could be induced to the country, in all activities in all sections.
Director of Software Sales & Marketing, IBM India / South Asia, Jason Mosakowski  , Director-IT, Agro Harapan Lestari Pvt. Ltd., Kevin de Silva, Country General Manager, IBM Sri Lanka, Chrishan M Fernando and, Head of Software Group, IBM Sri Lanka Channa de Silva also spoke at the inauguration session.
The Chief Guest gave an overview of Sri Lanka’s achievements in the ICT sector and shared with the conclave the future national ICT plans. The buzzword was ‘smarter’.  Dewapura drew the attention of the audience  attention to three focus areas  both with regard to the past achievements and future hopes  - Government, private sector and people. (Smart Government’, ‘Smart Jobs’ and ‘Smart People’).
Underlining the benefits of peace attained after many years Dewapura pointed out the path to achieve  one of the challenges put forward in the ‘Mahinda Chinthana,  Vision for the Future’.
While ensuring Government’s and ICTA’s commitment Dewapura emphasised  that version 2.0 of the Development Agenda would contribute much for fulfilling the challenge of Sri Lanka becoming the regional knowledge hub.  
The following is the full text of the keynote speech delivered by the ICTA CEO:-
Objective of IBM S/W Universe 2013
“It is indeed a great privilege for me, to have been asked to speak at this first-ever IBM Software Universe event, being held here in Sri Lanka. IBM is the oldest computer company to have been in existence in Sri Lanka, and, throughout the years, have contributed immensely to the Information and Communication Technology sector in this country. And like all technology companies, IBM has also gone through a huge transformation, and I believe one of the objectives of this event, is to demonstrate that transformation, and showcase the new IBM and its potential, here in this country. 
Organisational transformation, key to success
This is of great importance, in an era, where organizational transformation is key to success, or even key to survival. On a personal level, I have been engaged with IBM in many ways, and in many forms almost all throughout my working career. So on behalf of the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka and also on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, and also for me personally, I’m delighted to be here at this event and share a few thoughts on this subject. 
‘Smarter’, buzzword in transformation
Now in the previous speakers’ addresses, we heard a great deal of information and many facets about ‘A Smarter Planet’ and how we can get there. Smart or smarter seems to be the buzzword in transformation, and I would also like to bring this notion, to a Sri Lankan context, and share a few thoughts on a ‘smart country’ concept, which we hope to take forward and implement in the future. This I believe is the natural continuation of the journey in ICT led transformation, which we embarked upon over 8 years ago. And to start off with, let me say a bit about this journey, and how far we have traversed in it, to date.   
ICT – Information and Communication Technology is a powerful tool. It can make tremendous contributions as a tool for socio economic development, as a development accelerator in any sector, to boosting a country’s economy (specially in developing countries such as ours), and provide viable solutions to the problems of ordinary people, and help uplift their lives. ICT therefore came into the reckoning in National development plans of countries (again specially in developing countries).  
Sri Lanka was no different, and back in 2005 we embarked on the e-Sri Lanka journey, an ambitious and pioneering e-Development agenda for the country, with the vision of taking the benefits of ICT to every citizen in every village, every business, and transforming the way government thinks and works. 
This ground-breaking initiative has not only resulted in major and numerous achievements and successes in the field of ICT in Sri Lanka, but has also ensured that this sector has developed and matured tremendously in the last 6 to 7 years. As well as being a transformational tool, ICT is also a great leveler, as it brings in inclusivity for all our citizens, like nothing else can. 
Three dimensions
I would like to look at the development in the ICT sector, in three dimensions. The Government, the private sector, and the people:
In government, the information infrastructure eco system is now in place for all government entities to forge ahead, in re-engineering and simplifying processes and developing automated systems, all to provide a better service delivery to citizens.
Cruial infrastructure systems
Crucial infrastructure systems such as the Lanka Government Network, the Lanka Gate and the Lanka Government Cloud, are all in place. The Lanka Government Network, connects up all government institutions in one cohesive and dedicated network, providing the connectivity for easy communication and for data transfer within government. 
Lanka Gate
The Lanka Gate, is really a state of the art middleware infrastructure and a flagship project of ICTA. It functions as the service delivery platform for any government e-service. In addition, its front end is also the country portal, with a single window access to citizen services, and has many delivery channels including the mobile phone, which is now, an ever growing phenomenon in our entire country.
Lanka Government Cloud
The Lanka Government Cloud – which was provisioned last year, now provides infrastructure, platform and applications as a service to government, for hosting any government system, application, content or service, with-out the government organization having to spend on the infrastructure, themselves. 
e-Population Register
Also on the enabling side, the e-Population Register has also been completed and launched, creating a single system to store all people related data, which is relevant to government. The e-Sri Lanka initiative has also successfully completed a critical number of re-engineering and automating activities, and e-services implementations, on behalf of the government, and many others are being worked on currently. 
For the private sector, mature ICT platforms are now available to use as great transformational tools, for the progression and growth, of their industries and sectors. And for the ICT sector itself, the environment is conducive to maximize the opportunities in our country, as a global ICT destination.
Government interventions
The interventions from the government in terms of capacity building, encouraging quality certification, business linkages and market creation, all backed with the provision of substantial resources, has been key to the tremendous growth and development of the ICT industry. And this industry is now firmly on the path of being a critical growth pillar in the country’s development effort. The IT BPO Industry has become the 5th largest foreign exchange earner in the country at USD 475m p.a. and has generated over 50,000 new jobs in the last 6/7 years. 
For the people, opportunities have been created and the stage is set to continue to use ICT for the betterment of the masses, the rural communities, and the disadvantaged and the under-privileged groups. Access to ICT for all through the now well known Nenasalas (the local tele-centres), the enabling of local language computing, the creation of local and localized applications, all these have bestowed untold benefits to many rural and specially marginalized and underserved communities. Over 200 ICT based community projects have helped/ continues to help rural / disadvantaged communities on regular basis. ICT literacy in the country has gone well above 40% from being around 4% only a decade ago.
These efforts have also gone a long way to spawn a local e-content creation industry in the country, which has now come to be recognized globally by winning international awards for innovative and impactful digital creations. The phenomenal penetration of the mobile phones in Sri Lanka (which is now over 100%) has brought-out another dimension to this thriving developer community, in producing pioneering mobile applications, and giving rise to a booming mobile content eco-system in the country, which has caught the eye of UNCTAD and has been showcased in the UNCTAD Information Economy Report 2012.  
Future e-Development Agenda, version 2.0
So these are some of the achievements in the past, let’s move now to see what the future holds in this e-Development Agenda. What can we expect in the Future?
Sri Lanka today, reaping the benefits of post terrorism peace, is looking to transform itself to a dynamic global hub in the region, and more specifically from our point of view to a ‘Knowledge Hub’, in the region. Information and Communication Technology will always play a key role, and continuation of the many things I have mentioned earlier, or even the implementation of version 2.0 of the e-Development Agenda, will be the differentiator, or even trail blazer in this endeavor in becoming a Knowledge Hub. 
Smart Sri Lanka
In the spirit of this event, the IBM Software Universe, where we have heard much about a smarter planet, let’s refer to this version 2.0 of the e-Development Agenda as ‘Smart Sri Lanka’. Version 1.0 was e-Sri Lanka, and by coining this new phrase we are now moving above and beyond pure technology, and focusing more on innovation, transformation, entrepreneurship and inclusion. Benefitting though, from the latest advances in technology, more intelligence and smartness can be induced to the country, in all activities in all sectors. 
The aim is to provide a launch pad for Sri Lanka to become a knowledge economy and information society, and finally a knowledge hub. In order to get to a ‘Smart Sri Lanka’, activities will need to happen in three focus areas as before; in government, in the private sector, and in the citizenry. Albeit, with a much higher emphasis on concepts and activities which are, more than just technology led improvements. And again we can coin the phrases ‘Smart Government’, ‘Smart Jobs’ and ‘Smart People’ for these three focus areas. 
Smart Government would leverage on the existing infrastructure eco-systems already put in place, and would use e-government services to demonstrate transparency, accountability, and participation. The continuation of re-engineering and automating government processes would take place until all the key public services are available electronically. This we believe would not only present tremendous benefit to the citizens and increase participation and usage, but would also improve the government’s revenue collection and expenditure management systems, not to mention boosting its planning, and management activities. 
Latest e-Government concepts and trends such as cloud computing, Open data (albeit with appropriate sensitivity filtering), big data analysis, and mobility of application and content, should be fully embraced. With these new concepts, while contributing immensely to the transparency and accountability of government,  citizens will be able to garner many benefits and would certainly make the government look smarter in their eyes.  
Smart Jobs
Let’s move on to Smart Jobs. As Sri Lanka seeks to become a knowledge and innovation hub, a highly vibrant ICT services sector becomes a crucial enabler. In this context, Sri Lankan ICT industry’s core competences, which are, the highly sophisticated software development and the high-end knowledge-process-outsourcing come into play. This industry can be the catalyst in bringing global knowledge and demonstrating best practices in ICT products and services for the benefit of all sectors in Sri Lanka. It will also help to grow, develop and mature, the booming digital content industry in the country.
Investment in growing the capacity, capability and quality of the Sri Lankan workforce will play a key role in creating this demand. Empowering and increasing small and medium enterprises, and encouraging more and more public-private partnerships, especially with Industry bodies, will need to be pursued with greater force. In order to cater to the infrastructure demands, development of technology parks and implementation of state-of-the-art data centres will need to be carried out.  
Innovation will be also required to ensure that the economic environment is conducive for attracting more Foreign Direct Investment, for the formation of Venture Capital companies, and for fostering of incubators. The eco-system needs to be set, to drive transformation of the ICT sector and other sectors with use of ICT. This is in order to continue the development and growth of smart jobs and smart employment opportunities, not to mention increasing the foreign exchange revenue for the country. 
Smart People
Smart People are empowered people. We must use technology to encourage social capital, citizen participation, and digital inclusion. Increasing ICT literacy in the country to optimum levels will be important. Many modalities such as the Nenasalas, Schools and other education-delivery centers can be utilized for this purpose. These can also have engaging partnerships with the communities, to create entrepreneurs and entrepreneurships. The previously mentioned digital content, and specially the mobile content can be a key contributor in providing solutions and opportunities to people.    
The Smart People concept also contributes to sustaining the peace that has been earned in our country with the greatest of efforts, and the greatest of sacrifices. ICT can contribute to peace in-away that nothing else can. It breaks down barriers that were there before, creates a true cyber class, and brings in that inclusivity, which is vital, for sustaining peace and harmony. And by making certain that all segments of our population are smart, greater peace can be sustained. 
Smart City
And now I’d like to throw into this combination of a ‘Smart Government’, ‘Smart Jobs’ and ‘Smart People’, the concept of a ‘Smart City’. By combining all three of the above in more concentrated and highly focused manner in a small urban area, we can give light to the smart city concept.  
From a technological point of view, the infrastructure systems of the city can be made more intelligent by the use of Information and communication technology. Utilities, transportation, traffic management and public services can all be made more efficient by the correct and incisive use of technology. From a government point of view, municipal services, citizen transactions can be transformed to provide great efficiencies and benefits to the city dwellers. 
On the economic side, the smart city can provide a world class business environment, where investors would be delighted to come in, where entrepreneurship and innovation can thrive. With all this in place, the ‘smart-city’ can also be the centre of the ‘knowledge hub’ which I alluded to earlier, and be playing the prime role in spreading this phenomenon to the rest of the country.     
Government’s  commitment
So these are some of the thoughts of our visions for the future of a ‘Smart Sri Lanka’. I can confidently mention that, the Government of Sri Lanka is extremely focused and committed on these areas, and will continue to do its utmost to realize these goals. The commitment for this sector from the government is with-out limitations, and the ICT Agency is fully devoted to realizing this commitment. 
IBM – supportive partner
Coming back to IBM, we are extremely happy and very thankful that, IBM has been a trusted and a supportive partner of ours through-out the years. They have contributed greatly to our journey, continues to do so, and I believe that more engaging partnerships will materialize in the near future. As a pioneer in this industry, I hope that IBM will continue to lead the way, and I’m also sure they are aware they have a key role  to play in our successes.
To conclude, I’d like to mention, that the ICT Agency is privileged to be part of this event. I’m thankful to IBM, for giving me this opportunity to speak to you, and I wish the IBM Software Universe all success. I hope that all our endeavors will finally result in a Smart Sri Lanka for all of us. Thank you”.  
Caption (9625)
ICTA CEO Reshan Dewapura delivering his keynote speech as Chief Guest at the inauguration of IBMSoftwareUniverse2013 at Oak Room, Cinnmon Grand, Colombo on 19th March 2013.

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