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Sri Lanka makes its way forward with steady steps in the ICT Super Highway

The global demands of today’s rapidly evolving economy have given rise to many nations addressing issues of mutual interest which, are of paramount significance in relation to global economies and their rapid development. The Government Leaders Forum (GLF) provided an opportune moment for leaders in the Asia Pacific Region to come together, in an exchange of views relating to administrative governance, education, healthcare, sustainable economic growth and most importantly, addressing the role of information and communications technology (ICT) within these spheres and the value it adds to the successive evolution of the above.

Organized by the Government of Indonesia in collaboration with the Microsoft Corporation, the event was themed ‘Serving the Citizen: The Transformative Power of Information Technology in Delivering Government Services’ and was graced with the presence of high profile participants in the league of H.E. Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia and Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation.  The Sri Lankan delegation to the seminar was fortunate to have been selected as one of four countries to have a series of one-to-ones with Mr. Gates and his team members. Microsoft was delighted and keen to hear of H.E. President Mahinda Rajapakse’s vision for Sri Lanka as a key player in the global IT revolution, and went on to state that the positive impression presented by the Sri Lankan delegation created and provided for an opportune moment, for the Government of Sri Lanka and Microsoft to forge a Public Private Partnership between each other. In addition to the interactions the delegation had with Mr. Gates they also had the opportunity to have multiple meetings with Chris Atkinson, President South East Asia – Microsoft Corporation, on strategies and implementation aspects of the proposed partnership as well as Michael Donlan, General Manager Public Sector, APAC – Microsoft Corporation who further helped the delegation prepare for the proposed strategy.

The agreement would address the possibility of Microsoft setting up an innovation centre in Sri Lanka, whilst facilitating greater support for the IT / BPO industry, greater investment in education and boosting IT capacity in Sri Lanka. Mr. Gates further suggested that Sri Lanka should find ways of developing world class universities locally, enabling Sri Lanka to enter into a new world of knowledge and technology.

The Microsoft Corporation went on to state that they would explore the possibilities of commissioning a McKenzie Consultant Study for Sri Lanka, focusing on the potential for IT / BPO industrial growth in the country. Whilst launching a special initiative to boost IT capacity in the country, Microsoft further plans to develop specialist skills of approximately 500 Government employees, communicating greater support towards rural computing and adding emphasis on working through the Nenasala and Vidatha centres and more. Further, enhancing its commitment towards skills development in Sri Lanka, Microsoft also plans to equip overseas workers with IT training and provide them with email IDs prior to leaving the country thereby supplementing the ICTA eFEB project simultaneously.

After a special invitation to visit Sri Lanka made by H.E. President Mahinda Rajapakse himself, Bill Gates indicated his support towards the country’s ‘Year of IT’ plan for 2009, and went on to make further recommendations to the Sri Lankan delegation in the wake of reducing internet access costs, which he felt was a prime factor in regard to a population’s progression in being internet savvy; and further increasing broadband penetration in Sri Lanka.  The Microsoft Corporation reaffirmed the importance of educating local consumers on the many drawbacks, and global repercussions of contributing to the ever increasing growth of software piracy that is prevalent in the country today. The government recognized the severity of the issue, and guaranteed that methods to curtail the distribution of pirated software in the country will be paramount in their plan of action.

The partnership between the two organizations is to be spearheaded within the related areas of the Sri Lankan Government by Hon. Karu Jayasuriya and the Hon. Prof. Tissa Witharana. The campaign will have the fullest support from the Office of H.E. the President of Sri Lanka, which will play a pivotal role in these initiatives. Thus, providing for the nation a concrete body to liaise on the new developments undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka. A task committee of such stature only reaffirms Sri Lanka’s commitment towards these new initiatives, and their will to make these visions a reality.

This alliance between the Microsoft Corporation and the Government of Sri Lanka is a very positive milestone in the ongoing economical development of the nation. With a world wide network, that sets the standards for bridging the gap along the information superhighway, this partnership promises new hope for Sri Lanka, and its many generations to come.

The Government of Sri Lanka was represented by Hon. Karu Jayasuriya - Minister for Public Administration & Home Affairs, and Chairman Cabinet Sub-Committee on Human Resource Development; Hon. Prof. Tissa Witharana - Minister for Science and Technology;  Ariyaratne Hewage – Consultant, HRD, Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs; Dr. Sunimal Fernando – Senior Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka; Prof. P.W. Epasinghe – Chairman, ICT Agency of Sri Lanka and Senior Advisor to The President; Reshan Dewapura – Chief Operating Officer, ICT Agency of Sri Lanka; Sriyan de S. Wijeyeratne – Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka.