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Revolution in ICT: Microsoft and ICTA launch Vista and Office 2007 in Sinhala


Ceremonial Presentation


Caption:

Ceremonial Presentation to His Excellency the President at Temple Trees


His Excellency, President Mahinda Rajapakse accepted a Plaque incorporating the first copy of the Sinhala Language Interface Pack (LIP), from Microsoft and ICTA, paving the way towards making significant progress in Rural ICT adoption in Sri Lanka. Accompanying this was a special audio visual message from Microsoft Chairman, Bill Gates, who commended the President for his visionary leadership in declaring 2009 the Year of English and IT.


“One of my primary undertakings in “Mahinda Chintanaya” was to create a knowledge based society...Year 2009 saw the launch of the “year of English and IT” as a major initiative of this Government to help Sri Lanka meet the demands of the 21st Century in Skills and capacities...This is indeed a momentous step in the policy of my government in moving towards a Knowledge Based Society in Sri Lanka....It is imperative that we move fast in this era of peace, to bring about the dividend of peace and economic prosperity, to all communities...I take this opportunity to congratulate Microsoft Sri Lanka in making IT more accessible to the Rural Community, especially through the launch of the Sinhala LIP for Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista” were a few of the comments from His Excellency’s message, and he went on to congratulate ICTA for the many contributions they have made towards the local ICT industry.


His Excellency thanked Microsoft for their efforts and support across many spheres of IT in Sri Lanka, and also extended his pleasure and thanks to Bill Gates for his message. The President took time to examine the new products and their features during the brief demo which took place.


Among his comments Bill Gates said “...Like President Rajapakse, I am optimistic that the country is poised for greater economic growth and development, and much of that will be fuelled by the use of software and the power of IT. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate President Rajapakse for his leadership in declaring 2009 the Year of English and IT Services in Sri Lanka, and to wish those involved in the implementation of this very important initiative, every success moving forward. For its part, Microsoft stands ready to fully support the initiative and broader IT objectives in the long term....Microsoft’s presence in Sri Lanka continues to grow in many ways and we are committed to deepening existing partnerships and building new ones. Working together, there is a lot we have already achieved, and much more we will accomplish in the future”.


The biggest barriers to the proliferation of IT in the local context include geographic accessibility, finance and ultimately the most fundamental of all – language. Into this scenario Microsoft Sri Lanka, since its inception, has worked tirelessly to bridge these gaps and in collaboration with the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka, has now unveiled a local language software that is bound to cause a veritable revolution in the local ICT scene – the groundbreaking Sinhala Language Interface Pack (LIP).


What is most impressive is that there products will be made available for Free to the entire country, thereby ensuring the added Language functionality will not cost Sri Lankan consumers at all (visit www.microsoft.com/srilanka for the free download).


Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, along with the Chairman of ICTA, Prof. P.W. Epasinge, ceremonially handed over the presentation pack to His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapakse at Temple Trees. Also launched was the Glossary published by Microsoft Sri Lanka and created in conjunction with ICTA, local academia and linguistic experts which accompanies the software in order to ensure absolute ease of understanding for all those using the software.


Also present on the occasion were Messers. Lalith Weerathunga, Secretary to the President, Member of the Presidential taskforce for the implementation of the Year of English and Information Technology and Chairman of the National Administrative Reforms Council;, Reshan Dewapura, Director/Chief Operating Officer,ICTA, Jayantha Fernando Director ICTA, and Channa de Silva , EPG Director, Microsoft Sri Lanka.


The LIP software now available for the Windows Vista Operating System and Microsoft Office 2007, provides a primarily localized user experience with menus, buttons and instructions in Sinhala. Enabling speedy and convenient access to knowledge, skill and development, LIP users will enjoy familiar features including Microsoft Office 2007’s Quick Access and Mini tool bars, and the benefits of the Instant Search feature on Windows Vista, which instantly locates and launches any document, file or programme on the hard drive or web. Searching the Internet will also be much simpler with local language guidance. Thus, the advantages of the latest and best technology will be delivered to Sri Lanka’s rural communities as these two products rank among the world’s most popular software.


The software was formally introduced and demonstrated at a simple, locally themed event held under the auspices of Chief Guest, Minister for Science and Technology Professor Tissa Vitaran and other dignitaries from the State and Corporate sectors as well as the local IT community.


The event which was hosted by Microsoft and ICTA focused on the message of delivering accelerated community access to Information Technology (IT) in this Year of English and IT, through LIP, a theme which reflected the core commitment of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that Microsoft Sri Lanka entered into with the Government of Sri Lanka to produce software in the country’s mother tongue.


Commenting on the introduction of LIP, Chief Guest at the launch ceremony, Minister for Science and Technology Professor Tissa Vitarana said, “His Excellency, President Mahinda Rajapakse, took an important step towards creating a knowledge based economy by declaring 2009 as the ‘Year of English and IT’. The upliftment of English and IT skills will invariably lead to an increase in job opportunities and thereby enhance the quality of life of all Sri Lankans. The Nenasala and Vidatha programmes are instrumental in providing ICT access to rural communities where the co-operation between the state and private sector will add immense value. In this context, the release of Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 in Sinhala is both timely and relevant. IT in the vernacular will lead to speedier adoption of technology across the country and accelerate the IT literacy levels in a meaningful manner. I congratulate Microsoft and the ICTA for their efforts in making this a reality. My ministry and I look towards working closely with them, in disseminating these Technologies to all parts of Sri Lanka, and towards their effective adoption, and I am appreciative of the initiatives they have planned in this regard”.


In his address Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne said, “This is a proud moment for all of us at Microsoft Sri Lanka, because today, we are launching a product that could potentially change the face of ICT in Sri Lanka. I thank everyone involved for their commitment, creativity and enthusiasm, and I have to make special mention of our partnership with ICTA, without which this could not have been facilitated. The Microsoft Product Development teams in different part of the world did a wonderful job in building these products, supported by our local team, and the local partners, and I thank them profusely.”


The Country Manager also expressed his thanks to the Science Land Corporation (Pvt) Ltd, Microimage and the University of Colombo School of Computing for lending their support and technical expertise to the creation of the groundbreaking software.


Throughout this national Year of English and IT and beyond, Microsoft Sri Lanka is committed to working to ensure that every citizen has access to the ICT tools they need in order to reach their full potential. We are also proud to launch an initiative called Microsoft “Gamata IT” which will be our vehicle for taking IT to rural communities. Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista will bring the best of world class technology to our people, and customers can experience the user friendly familiar Microsoft interfaces in the language they know best.


Microsoft Sri Lanka will make thousands of copies of the new Sinhala Language Interface Pack accessible free of charge across various Government departments, rural community centers and other stakeholders around the island. Five thousand copies of the glossary will also be distributed in a similar manner. Free downloads and more information is also available at the Microsoft Sri Lanka website on www.microsoft.com/srilanka.


Prof. P.W. Epasinghe, Chairman, ICTA in his message said, “The objective of ICTA’s Local Language Initiative (LLI) is to ensure that the benefits of ICT are taken to the citizens of Sri Lanka most of whom would, if given a choice, prefer to use ICT in their own languages, Sinhala or Tamil. We have been able to use IT in Sinhala and Tamil for quite some time: we have been able to type in Sinhala and Tamil, exchange information in Sinhala and Tamil using computers, and browse the web in Sinhala and Tamil without having to send fonts to each other and without having to download fonts to view websites, due to initiatives taken by ICTA and its predecessor CINTEC, together with many stakeholders. Both CINTEC and ICTA realized that if the use of IT and the benefits thereof are to be taken to citizens of Sri Lanka, then they should be able to use IT in their own languages”.


Mr. Reshan Devapura also shared his thoughts on the evolution of the process and the steps taken by ICTA.Feedback from members of the distinguished crowd gathered at the occasion indicated that LIP had been eagerly and positively received, and dignitaries were unanimous in their praise for those involved in its creation and impressed by the enormous potential of the software in terms of the impact it stood to make particularly in underserved rural communities.