National initiative launched for digital technology awareness, adoption in northern region

  • First regional cluster development initiative commences from the Northern Province

The Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) is at the forefront of driving digital transformation to make Sri Lanka a digitally inclusive nation. The ICTA together with the Ministry of Technology, the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), telecommunications partners, and industry partners, launched this two-day forum with the objective of creating awareness about the national digital transformation agenda for the country and engaging with regional partners to create a conducive environment in the Northern Province for digital technology development.

This northern forum is the first of the five regional cluster development programmes planned in the Western Province, Southern Province, Eastern Province, and Central Province. This initiative focuses on creating collaboration among stakeholders in the northern region such as government agencies, industry partners, and the SME sector working in agriculture technology and education technology to introduce new and advanced technologies from local and international experts, providing necessary support for new technology research and development, and connecting solution providers with technology-based companies.

The government forum on 25 June was conducted with an online participation of 158 participants and staff of Jaffna and Mannar connecting from the district offices. The main stakeholder engagement forum on 26 June was attended by 140 online participants and from the five district secretariats, 15 each connected physically, making it a total of 225 participants which was well received. Ministry of Technology Secretary Jayantha De Silva, commenting on this initiative, stated: “We need to facilitate and support our young talent whom I believe are second to none. To do that, we need to create more jobs, use technology to increase productivity, build capacity and develop the supporting   infrastructure in the regions. We have plans to establish five technology parks and revamp two IT parks in Jaffna and Mannar. The IT/BPM industry itself requires 300,000 technology professionals and we have many initiatives planned to achieve this goal. As a nation we are now on a progressive path for the betterment of future generations. We want everyone to be a part of this journey and reap its benefits.”

ICTA Chairman Prof. Lalith Gamage stated: “We at ICTA are facilitators of the national digital transformation agenda and have developed a comprehensive strategy to deliver this. We have identified five areas – digital government, digital economy, digital laws and policies, digital services, and digital technology. Digital government focuses on digitalising citizen-centric services, ease of doing business, and digitalising services for government efficiency. We have developed a foundational framework to deliver this and are progressing in this area.” He added: “In line with the digital economy strategy, five key pillars are identified as drivers to achieve our vision of making Sri Lanka a digitally inclusive nation. Namely, technology industry development, startup ecosystem development, capacity building, technology diffusion, and regional cluster development. We have many supporting initiatives to implement these and take the message of digital transformation to grassroots levels.”

ICTA Chief Digital Economy Officer Anura De Alwis, speaking at the session, stated: “We started this initiative from the Northern Province since, according to statistics and information, we believe that the Northern Province would be a fast adopter of our digital transformation initiatives. For example, the second largest startup community in Sri Lanka is represented by the Northern Province. And we want to take that message to the other regions as well. We at ICTA are facilitators. We have facilitated many initiatives to support startups such as an alternative credit framework for startups, removing impediments for startup development through the spiralation programme. We want to support our startups to go to the global stage. Many programmes are in place to develop digitally capable youth, future-ready women, digitally capable differently abled persons, and the digitally capable elderly generation.

A MoU was signed by ICTA CEO Eng. Mahinda B. Herath and Northern Chamber of Information Technology Chairman T. Thavaruban, signifying the partnership between both organisations in moving forward towards developing digital technology in the northern region.

ICTA Director – Regional Cluster Development Indumini Kodikara stated: “ICTA would like to thank all partners who have joined us in this national initiative; the Ministry of Technology, the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, Dialog Axiata (Pvt.) Ltd., SLTMobitel, Bharti Airtel Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., Hutchison Telecom Sri Lanka, Lanka Bell Ltd., the University of Jaffna, the Sri Lanka Association of Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM), the Federation of Information Technology Sri Lanka (FITIS), the Chairman of British Computer Society (BCS), NCIT, CSSL, SLINTEC, SLIBTEC, and Extreme SEO. Specials thanks to all the government, private sector, and all others who connected from the northern region. Without them, we will not be able to take this journey, and want them to hold hands with ICTA in moving forward.”