When the Sri Lankan Government took the decision to declare 2009 as the Year of English & IT, it served as a challenge for companies to reach out and help the state achieve this progressive vision and aid in the task of disseminating ICT awareness across the length and breadth of the country.
Microsoft Sri Lanka took it upon itself to rise to the occasion and among its many initiatives to complement the Government’s efforts, is a project entitled ‘Software for the 21st Century’ that was recently unveiled at a simple event held in Colombo. The event was graced by university vice chancellors and faculty deans from numerous Universities and was presided over by Mr. Chris Atkinson, Vice-President, Microsoft South East Asia, who was present in Sri Lanka expressly for the occasion.
In support of the Government’s declaration, ‘Software for the 21st Century’ will provide all Sri Lankan State Universities with the latest cutting-edge software that will enable each of these institutions to expose their students to the best of world-class technology. The special significance of this is that Microsoft Sri Lanka decided to donate this range of software to these universities absolutely free of charge. In addition this programme will enable the students to obtain genuine versions of the software totally free even for their personal and home use, during their university tenure. Faculty members can also enjoy the same benefits. The total value of the software donated runs into several millions of rupees.
The Government of Sri Lanka is making extensive efforts aimed at uplifting the IT related standards of Secondary and Tertiary Students, Trainers and NGOs, Teachers and Academia. Aiding in this endeavor is Microsoft Sri Lanka, a company that has long been a keen patron of many such institutions. Inspired by the state’s commitment to usher in tomorrow’s IT capabilities to Sri Lanka today, the company - over the past four years - has supported these noble efforts by granting cash of over US $1.5 million towards such initiatives, and expects to keep up the momentum in the years to come.
As part of the extensive national programme to increase ICT awareness and ensure far reaching positive effects for all Sri Lankans, MSDNAA (MSDN Academic Alliance) will be offered to the universities as a free programme for three consecutive years (download only). This offer will be extended to the eligible departments of educational institutions as it will add great value to the existing education programmes offered at the university. With the implementation of Live@edu - a free web-based e-mail and collaboration platform, through ELMS (e-academy License Management System), users can harness the added benefits offered by Microsoft through its ‘Home User Rights’ programme, which allows them to have their own set of product keys for multiple software, free of charge, while enrolled at university.
“Microsoft Sri Lanka’s investment in this free program will be a blessing for students in higher learning who are denied of opportunities for broadening the knowledge due to affordability issue. It will certainly address the employability problem. This is very timely and opportune in the year of English & IT in Sri Lanka” said Rupa Malini Peiris – Secretary, Ministry of Higher Education.
The company spearheads many initiatives that are in line with the government’s vision to bring ICT closer to all Sri Lankans. These initiatives include preparing the country’s future generations for the next big revolution of computing via unique programs such as ’Live@edu’. Through these programmes, students will have more opportunities to dig deep into Microsoft technologies and conduct research via the Shared Source Initiative, which will enable students and faculties to access key pieces of Microsoft source codes. It will also make millions of Sri Lankan students proficient in essential pieces of software via one of their newest initiatives - DreamSpark. MSDNAA too equips students and faculties with necessary technology and design fields, and also offers an easy and inexpensive means of access to the latest Microsoft software.
In meeting the ever-changing demands of the 21st century workplace, new and innovative skills and knowledge have become mandatory and are expected as basic criteria for employability. In creating this world-class fitness for purpose, our universities play a pivotal role by being responsive, demand-led organizations that use e-technology to improve participation, achievements and the progress of their students. Equipped with significant feedback over the years from all universities Microsoft Sri Lanka devised this program to meet the realities of today and the future.
“We are excited at the Governments declaration for 2009 and in line with the vision set out by the Government, Microsoft Sri Lanka is proud to introduce ‘Software for the 21st Century,’ as this effort reflects our commitment towards raising the bar of employability for local youth. We have realized that many university students - although fully capable – find that accessing latest technologies is not such an easy task. Therefore, we have ensured that this programme is primarily geared towards eliminating this problem and ensuring that all university students have equal access to such technologies. A vast range of tools and technologies will be available to all local universities so they can provide their students access to the software most widely used in the world, which in turn would result in greatly enhancing their academic development. These efforts will pay rich dividends once the country witnesses a higher standard of IT literacy and a greater rate of employability among these students as a result of this initiative,” explained Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Country Manager for Microsoft Sri Lanka.
The universities of Colombo, Peradeniya, Jaffna, Kelaniya, Moratuwa, Ruhuna, Sri Jayawardenepura, Wayamba, Sabaragamuwa, Uva Wellassa University and Eastern Universities have all enrolled to benefit from this initiative.
Software for the 21st Century’, as an initiative dedicated to the universities of Sri Lanka, provides a great opportunity particularly to university students of the Computer Science and IT Faculties - granting them access to original versions of all Windows development tools free of charge. “This is particularly important since we believe that all our graduates need to be exposed to the widest possible technological platforms and products. The ability to master such technology early will help Sri Lanka graduate from being consumers of technology, or even early adopters of other people’s technology, to actually influencing the way technology develops in the future,” said Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe - Director of the School of Computing, University of Colombo.
‘Software for the 21st Century’ consists of four key initiatives provided absolutely free of charge. MSDNAA, which will provide all students and the faculties for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and Visualization, Illustration, Design and Arts Departments of local universities, access to the latest in Microsoft software. This software can be utilized by students to develop any coursework/assignments and personal non-commercial projects. Software offered under MSDNAA includes Windows Server, Visual Studio, Windows Client (Vista & XP), SQL Server, Exchange Server, Expression Studio, Project, Visio and MSDN Library.
Live@edu, which is known to be the ultimate suite of applications (mobile, desktop and web-based) to help students team up and create a community that can last a lifetime. It comprises features such as co-branded e-mail inboxes that students can use as their primary accounts, along with value added services such as Office Live Workspace, Windows Live SkyDrive, and other software that encourages collaboration. Live@edu also works with the devices students already use, and even integrates with the infrastructure they already have in place. Students are also able to outsource the time and cost of spam-filtering, server uptime and ongoing maintenance to Microsoft’s enterprise-class infrastructure and ensure the privacy of their data, which will in turn keep them safer online.
In addition DreamSpark is about providing students Microsoft professional-level development and design tools, so they can chase their dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology, or even get a head start in their careers! This programme which was announced by Bill Gates and is estimated to give software access to upto 35 million students worldwide, free of charge.
Finally, the Shared Source Initiative (SSI) is one in which Microsoft is able to share source codes with customers, partners, developers, academics, and Governments worldwide. The SSI encompasses a wide spectrum of technologies, programmes, and licenses offered by Microsoft to various communities. The SSI fosters technical innovation and brings value to businesses and developers. An ever-growing, rich set of technologies is available under the SSI and source code offerings range from Microsoft products such as Windows, Windows CE, and Office, to developer tools such as WiX and WTL. The licenses associated with these offers range from being purely closed-source, and allowing only viewing of the code for reference, to allowing it to be modified and redistributed for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.
The ‘Software for the 21st Century’ programme is a facet of Microsoft Sri Lanka’s commitment to help ‘skill-up’ Sri Lankan university students to match job industry demands. As part of this aim the company has arranged for university students who are part of this programme to gain invaluable industry experience through internships within Microsoft as well as with Microsoft partners; in addition, annual project showcases will be held within the universities giving students the opportunity to exhibit their innovations and the expertise and knowledge they have gained.
This initiative also supports Microsoft’s aspiration to encourage the consumers to use of genuine software at all times, thereby benefiting from better security, stability and more. For instance, Live@edu entitles students to a free sharing and collaboration platform, an opportunity to create an email address under the university domain name, a 10 GB exchange labs email account per student, 25 GB Sky Drive space as personal storage per individual and many other such perks.
Through its myriad corporate citizenship efforts, Microsoft Sri Lanka has immersed itself firmly within the social fabric of Sri Lanka as a company that delivers compelling, industry-leading innovation, and earns the trust of its customers, partners, governments, and others in the process. The Microsoft’s Partners in Learning programme, which encompasses Imagine Cup, MSDN Academic Alliances, Teacher PC and the Innovative Teachers Competitions are all part of their education efforts, and ‘Software for the 21st century’ falls into this category as it reaches out to, and benefits, students across the island.
“Microsoft Sri Lanka’s latest initiative will really make life easier for us and help us become more abreast of the ever-evolving technological changes in the world, particularly as it is almost impossible for most of the students to afford purchasing these types of software legitimately, Microsoft’s ‘Software for the 21st Century’ has really opened doors for us. We will now be more employable and prepared to face the job industry and will have a better bargaining power when job hunting. This way we also save a lot of time, as we don’t have to wait to complete university to be able to access such forms of software and tools,” said Ransara Wijethunga, an IT student from the University of Moratuwa, Faculty of Information Technology.
As the local Government works towards bridging the digital divide this year, Microsoft Sri Lanka will play a definitive role in helping the state achieve the most conclusive, far reaching and desirable results.