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Microsoft Sri Lanka Celebrates Seven Significant Years - Far-reaching initiatives touching millions of lives across the country

In 2004 Microsoft came to Sri Lanka with the ambition of bringing the magic of software to all Sri Lankans, and positively transforming the local IT landscape. This year, the company marks 7 years of empowering businesses and enriching lives of over 1.5million people across every corner of the country. This year also marks the celebration of successful partnerships and far-reaching affiliations, with the Government, the ICTA, the Ministry of Education, NGO partners, and leading Corporates that have helped Microsoft to take the role of a tiny pebble that sets off giant ripples across a vast pool that is the IT industry of Sri Lanka.

Over the years, the company has contributed significantly to change the way ICT adoption permeates in Sri Lanka and thereby help our nation stand tall in the competitive global arena. His Excellency, President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his message of felicitation on the occasion stated, “Among the primary objectives of my government is to increase ICT literacy to assist in the forward march of the country. Supporting this vision, Microsoft has contributed greatly to increase ICT literacy in Sri Lanka since its establishment. Microsoft has played a commendable role in increasing ICT penetration into the rural sector of the country by its Gamata IT initiative, which has now established a strong partnership with the Tharunayata Hetak Movement, the ICTA, the Ministry of Education and Singer Sri Lanka. It has also facilitated training and knowledge transfer to many thousands of students and teachers in our schools while its Software for the 21st Century initiative greatly benefits undergraduates. In addition, its assistance in training Secretaries of Ministries, Heads of Departments and other key administrators have helped increase efficiency and productivity in the public sector.

Another significant contribution by Microsoft Sri Lanka is the introduction of local language enabled software that complemented the work initiated during the year of English and IT. I look forward to the support of Microsoft Sri Lanka towards the nation’s economic growth and its continued collaboration with my government, especially with the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology, to realize the nation’s goals of economic development and progress.”

Microsoft Country Manager, Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne, whilst thanking His Excellency the President for his words of encouragement sent especially on this momentous occasion, went on to pay his gratitude to His Excellency for his untiring commitment towards making the country reach its fullest potential. He further said, “The last seven years have been tremendously exciting and littered with milestones for Microsoft in Sri Lanka. We have demonstrated very significantly how we can support the development of the local IT industry, and have grown into a company which is valued by all stakeholders for its contributions that extend far beyond a ‘business as usual’ approach. The sheer magnitude of our grants and other funding initiatives have easily made us the strongest contributor towards ICT capacity building in Sri Lanka, but what really inspires us most is the manner in which IT has transformed the lives of millions during the past few years, including students and teachers mainly from outside the cities, migrant workers, rural youth, small businesses and marginalised community segments.

We have directly engaged over 200,000 Students and Teachers through our initiatives, while our Gamata IT program has reached a further 80,000 people and trained 27,000. A staggering US$ 40 million worth of free software donated over these years, have enabled more than 25,000 University students and many NGO’s to use some of the world’s best software for their own initiatives. Four global case studies, and many Enterprise Agreements with top corporates have helped Sri Lankan businesses leverage IT in many new ways, and some of our local Partners have grown their businesses significantly, and currently employ thousands of people across the island, due to their interaction with Microsoft.

We are deeply indebted towards the Government, our many Partners and other stakeholders who have been our inspiration and the platform upon which many of these initiatives have been built. They continue to inspire us to reach greater heights, and a very energetic young Microsoft team is looking forward with great anticipation to doing lots more in the years ahead.”

Commitment to Capacity Building

Some of the programmes initiated with simple goals, have today truly reshaped the way computers and software are perceived and used by many, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of many citizens, empowering them at their workplace, schools and homes. A massive investment of over Rs.450 million in cash and over Rs. 4 billion of Free Software donations to deserving communities and students, have paved the way for many Sri Lankans to increase their IT literacy and adopt cutting edge software.

The most significant impact made by the company is in the education and training sphere, where the focus is on catalysing the promotion of global knowledge standards across the country which has affected as much as 25% of the current student population. With investments reaching over Rs. 166 million in cash and much more in software donations, the company has so far trained over 12,000 teachers and reached over 34,000 lives through this initiative.

The Innovative Teachers and Students National Competition conducted in partnership with the MOE, began with just 125 entries in 2005, and in 2010, it attracted as much as 80,000 entries with over 95% of winners coming from areas outside of Colombo. Through the training programmes alongside the exposure given for selected teachers at international forums, the company’s cultivated a team of educators who are capable of igniting a passion for IT among students even from the farthest corner of the island.

Microsoft has initiated many projects to further this mission. The company identified Uva Province as one of the most indigent areas of the country back in 2005, and initiated its own “Uva Revolution” by training over 3000 teachers in IT, in that area, within a very short time. In addition, via the installation of 400 Multipoint technology enabled classrooms across the country, in partnership with the MOE, through the EKSP project, Microsoft helps create an affordable solution that allows each student to simultaneously experience IT using just one computer and a projector.

Microsoft has reached a wide range of people, through its training programs done in partnerships with SLANA, the Vocational Training Authority, the Foreign Employment Bureau, NGOs such as Sarvodaya, Infoshare and corporate giants like HSBC. The investment in this area reaching over Rs.175 million were channelled to train over 45,000 individuals including migrant workers and youth, whilst indirectly affecting over 135,000 lives. Most recently, a partnership with the National NGO Secretariat under the patronage of the Ministry of Defence saw registered NGO’s in Sri Lanka obtaining Microsoft software worth over Rs.100 million for free, which would help them serve the communities better.

The tertiary education component of Microsoft’s outreach focuses on undergraduates and academia with programmes such as Imagine Cup and Software for the 21st Century. The Software for the 21st Century program has 16 state and 6 private universities having access to free genuine Microsoft software to install on their university laboratory, work or personal computers. Imagine Cup, is the largest student competition in the country, has placed Sri Lanka on the global IT map with 11 teams representing the country at the Worldwide Finals where over 325,000 students from over 100 countries participate.

“I take immense pride on the landmark achievements made by Microsoft Sri Lanka as it represents our commitment towards the country and its people.” commented Mr. Akther Ahmed, President, New Emerging Markets, Microsoft South East Asia. Mr. Ken Wye Saw, Vice-President Public Sector (Asia) for Microsoft, who was also present at the occasion said, "I credit these milestones to the solid partnerships the company has created with other stakeholders who are equally passionate to harness people’s fullest potential, giving the country a distinctive competitive edge.”

A More Promising Future

Whilst acknowledging these remarkable achievements, Microsoft proudly announced that it would further strengthen its commitment towards the country. Among the new initiatives are, the funding the International Institute for Software Economics, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Incorporated (IISEIE), to conduct a high-tech Economy Survey for Sri Lanka. The purpose of this study is to better understand the needs and opportunities for the country’s high-tech industry development, with the results helping to develop programs that will enable the IT industry become a key driver of economic and social development for Sri Lanka.

Further providing our younger generation with access to new technology, Microsoft and the Ministry of Education entered into a Schools Agreement, that will enable schools to upgrade thousands of computers with latest technology including Windows 7 and other software, an initiative on which both parties will work closely in the years ahead. Making a landmark move, plans are underway to partner ‘Tharunyata Hetak’ on the Microsoft Gamata IT initiative to reach 1000 rural villages in the future.

The University of Sri Jayawardenapura will be incorporated into the Dynamics Academic Alliance Program, whereby they receive latest versions of Dynamics AX and NAV software products for Free and gain access to a vast set of resources that will enhance the active learning experience of students. In another farsighted step to introduce international standards to the local industrial education space, the company will soon set up the Microsoft IT Academy Program with the Vocational Training Authority.

On the Technology front, Microsoft is expecting to transform local business practices through its revolutionary range of products and solutions such as Microsoft Lync®, Virtualization solutions and Cloud computing. MS Office 2010 will also soon be launched in Sinhala as part of an ongoing partnership with ICTA.

Microsoft will also be playing its part in supporting the Government’s “Visit Sri Lanka 2011” theme by bringing one of its regional events to Sri Lanka in May. The event titled ‘ICT-4-Nonprofits’ is an event to share the latest technology developments, with non-profit partners from across the region. Done in partnership with local partner Infoshare, this will give participants from many countries worldwide will have the opportunity to experience Sri Lankan hospitality.

As the company looks back at these eventful years it is humbled by these achievements. Through the many facets of engagement that empower many innocent lives with the power of ICT, the company envisions a future where every Sri Lankan from any corner of the country be able to realize the individual’s fullest potential and take Sri Lank to greater heights.