Sri Lanka exports a mineral sand called Ilmenite, mined off the coast of Pulmuddai, which annual export value is US$ eight million, but at the same time it imports a byproduct from this mineral called Titanium Dioxide required by the paint industry, which has a US$ 12 million import value, or, 50% more in value than the raw material export.
Scientific Affairs Minister Professor Tissa Vitharana made this observation at a function in Colombo on Monday, where he emphasized the importance of value added exports, as opposed to raw material exports.
He said that only 1.5% of Sri Lanka’s exports have a value added base. In contrast, in countries such as Singapore, Korea and Malaysia, it was over 50%.
Of the six patent applications that the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology has made to the US Patent Office, one of which is the extraction of Titanium Dioxide from Ilmenite.
A five year Science and Technology plan is being prepared with the emphasis on value addition.
Vitharana further said that the way forward is to achieve a 75% IT literacy as envisaged by President Mahinda Rajapaksa by 2016. Sri Lanka’s current IT literacy rate stands at 30%.
“But we have to exceed that to go to a higher plane,” he added.
IT will provide knowledge at the fingertips, rather than having to wait for weeks and months for books and magazines, the traditional carriers of such knowledge.
The occasion was a Microsoft sponsored programme to fete teachers and students who excelled in IT.
Microsoft Country Manager Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne in his speech said that IT is causing a silent revolution in the country.
The best resources are in the village, he said. An indication of this was that the majority of Monday’s awards were bagged by teachers and children from rural schools.
The report on Sri Lanka’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for the next five years was formulated two months ago for which Cabinet approval has also been received, a member responsible for its drafting told The Sunday Leader on Thursday.
Moratuwa University’s Professor Ananda Jayawardena however said that the drawback in taking the recommendations forward was the lack of funds to make investments in the likes of laboratories to achieve the goals set forth in the report.
One of the key recommendations in the report was to increase Sri Lanka’s “research and development” spend from the current 0.19% of GDP to 1% of GDP by 2016.
Jayawardena said that Scientific Affairs Minister Professor Tissa Vitharana who headed to committee that formulated this report had said that he would seek donor funding to implement its findings.