Sri Lanka – Smart People Smart Island

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Sri Lanka is a smart Island with smart people and certainly, with a very smart Government.

Answers from Elena Ornig

With confidence I can add – Smart Government!  With confidence because in October 2013 I went to the Gartner Symposium IT on the Gold Coast and spent two days with the Sri Lanka delegation, interviewing six company representatives.  What I learnt was that the Sri Lankan Government is committed to driving the growth of the Information Technology – Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry. The support is real and under Presidential supervision. Through ICT Agencies Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO) – Business Process Management (BPM) companies were provided with grants for quality enhancements, consulting expertise, training and marketing.

As a result of such a deliberate approach by Sri Lanka’s Government and the provision of sensible taxation and incentive regimes, the IT-BPM companies are now working with global enterprises and establishing relationships with companies from all over the world. For the IT-BPM industry Sri Lanka has a vision, targeting the year 2022 to achieve a 200,000 strong workforce and 1,000 tech startups to generate 5 billion US dollars in revenue. What is more astonishing is that Sri Lanka has seriously opened its doors for business with no restrictions on the repatriation of earnings, fees and capital; allowing 100% foreign ownership. That is why Sri Lanka has a Smart Government!

At the Gartner Symposium IT 2013, the representatives of The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) talked and I listened with great interest.

Sri Lankan Delegation

(The Sri Lanka stand at Gartner Symposium IT 2013)

ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) is a government body created to support the growth of the ICT industry through the implementation of the e-Sri Lanka program for a bigger aim – to participate in global markets and to develop the country’s economy. The program eSri Lanka is funded by the World Bank and the Government.” (Collected recording)

For the past seven years, under the specific category of private sector development, they have been taking private company delegates to countries that were targeted to develop markets for Sri Lanka. Already, they have supported over 50 companies in such endeavors. This year is the first time they have come to the Gold Coast taking part in one of the world’s most important gatherings of CEOs and Senior IT Executives. They have had previous experience with promoting Sri Lanka, as a country, at the Gartner Symposium IT in the UK but this is the first participation by an official delegation of companies; and for the first time they are exploring Queensland on a full business mission.  The delegation presented six selected exhibiting companies and included two additional companies with the primary role of networking.

I was very impressed with how well they spoke English and how well they organized their business mission in Australia.  Over all, they have visited Australia, including Sydney and Melbourne four times and they are very serious of doing business with our country. They believe that Australia is a good market for Sri Lanka. They are looking for the right opportunities to set up companies or partnerships; or other forms of business relationships. However, the current model they are trying to establish is mainly based on partnerships.

“We are looking for companies that can become our fronting partner companies. We are ready to provide all necessary backup support.  We are looking for companies that can represent us in Australia. We are ready to supply these companies with our products and solutions and guide them in the right direction. We are happy to work with end clients but at the moment we are looking for partners. We see such relationships as a win-win solution for both countries. People can be employed here in order to run day to day operations of these companies.” (Collected recording)

The companies I have met were: @eSoft (software applications for mobile devices); i-Context (an innovative technology specialist group with cloud based solution –  the Virtual Academy); SCIENTER (software management solutions for Hospitality sector), TALLIANCE (specializes in e-commerce and mobile software development); WAKENSYS (a global consulting and technology services); zMessenger (an award winning Mobile Value Added Services powerhouse) and others. I have interviewed the majority of exhibiting companies and soon will publish a series of six interviews atAuthors Interviews Biz.

One of the companies Tech One Global from Colombo has already established a partnership with Microsoft, becoming their official distributor. However, they develop their own document solutions highlighting the issue of document security and they are looking for a partner in Australia to take it to the market.

(Photo is taken from TechOneGlobal blogspot)

Tech One Global - award ceremony

(Microsoft Sri Lanka Director SMS&P Pubudu Basnayake (right) presents the award to Tech One Global General Manager Zia Carder and to Tech One Chief Operations Officer Wasantha Weerakoone)

The sense of excitement of the Sri Lankan delegation was contagious. They explained everything with pride and passion.

“We have great talent. We have good degree holders in IT and certified specialists. We also have a great pool of professionals in Finance and Accounting. We have strong banking and financial services. We rank well in terms of the quality of labor. We have good quality infrastructure and quality broadband. We have everything to attract companies to setup their businesses in Sri Lanka or to outsource our services.  We are ranked first for Business Sophistication in South Asia. The way Sri Lanka is moving is up and our revenue has grown at the rate of 23% per year. Our government is supporting us and since 2009, has included IT as a subject into the school curriculum. We are now ranked number one in South Asia in the higher education and training category. We have free education right through to university level.  We are looking at a real boom. “(Collected recording)

The solutions that these companies were presenting were wide ranging: education on-line solutions, fast software solutions, Cloud based solutions, hospitality management solutions, document security solutions, industry-specific solutions, mobile marketing solutions and e-commerce solutions.

However, one particular company – OrionCity is the first and largest IT Park in Sri Lanka and a provider of high-tech infrastructure space. OrionCity was offering to help Australian companies with their Infrastructure and Services, including facilities for incubators.

(Top-notch IT Park in Colombo)

Orion City IT Park

There, they have many startup companies and Google already runs many programs in Orion City.

I can clearly sense that their excitement is not accidental. They have the full support of Sri Lanka’s President – Mahinda Rajapaksa who proudly stated: “Our vision is a SMART Sri Lanka”. The President’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, personally oversees the operations of ICTA.  Because of those arrangements they have clear targets.

“About five years ago, ICTA and the Industry had a target for 2015 – to achieve one billion dollars in export revenue and to grow workforce numbers to 100,000. Right now, in 2013, our revenue has grown to a staggering $650,000,000 and the workforce has reached 80,000. We are now super confident that the target is achievable and we have already set the new targets for 2022.” (Collected recording)

Apart from the ICTA they have SLASSCOM – the Sri Lanka Association of Software Companies which acts the catalyst of growth for the IT-BPM industry. It helps to facilitate trade, propagates education and encourages innovation.  This Association also supports the creation of a progressive national policy framework.

In October 2013, in Colombo, the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) was hosting the WSA Global Congress 2013. In his official address the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa stated: “We are now in a position to take Sri Lanka to the next level in ICT led development.”

Now I see why Sri Lanka is a smart Island with smart people and certainly, with a very smart Government.

My warmest regards,
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Written by Elena Ornig

Managing Director of Publishing Company "Julia Sophistique Pty Ltd". Committee member of Australian Computer Association GC Chapter. Member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Member of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland. Member of the IT Forum Gold Coast. Sponsor of the Helensvale Writers' Group, Gold Coast. Committee member of the Gold Coast Writers Association Honored VIP Member of STANFORD WHO'S WHO in America. Publisher, writer and blogger.