Sri Lanka having catapulted 10 places from being ranked 62 last year, to become number 52 in the 2011-2012 Global Competitive index as per the report by the World Economic Forum, we now must come within the top 30 countries was the view of the Head of National Portfolio Development of United Nations (UNOPS) the key note speaker Rohantha Athukorala at the CIO Summit 2011staged at Galadari Hotel yesterday that attracted the cream of Chief Information officers of the country.
Athukorala who sits on many boards of directorates in the public, private and the International public sector in Sri Lanka and overseas, pointed out that for a country to move up from being ranked 79 two years back and to become closing on be a top 50 country is an achievement that sure cuts a clear positioning globally as the next economic engine of the world that can be a 100 billion dollars in the near future. But he cautioned that we must focus on the areas that have not developed in the last few years as per the World Economic Forum report.
One of them was the Labour market efficiency, where Sri Lanka is ranked a low 117 on a base of 142 countries and the other being Technological readiness where there has been no improvement on a rank of 85 in the last three years. The speaker assigned this responsibility of the latter to vibrant technological industry of Sri Lanka as a challenge, which also will have its fair share of opportunity. He requested the participants of the CIO Summit to deliberate on this area given that the cream of talent from the industry was present who have already committed to the country to be a 1 billion dollar industry from the current 400 million dollars.
A key point highlighted by Athukorala was that whilst Sri Lanka forges in the competitiveness arena globally, businesses must drive cutting edge innovation stronger, given that the country’s ranking has been hovering around a rank of 42 in the last three years even though on ‘business sophistication’ we had made giant strides. We must launch innovative products with use of new technologies like the Nano technology so that we become leaders to the world just like Sri Lanka’s apparel industry pointed Athukorala. From a policy perspective the Nano Park together with the thrust for driving computer literacy by way of the Nanasla project Sri Lanka is on the growth trajectory.
But the speaker emphasised that given his experience of working in top global companies in South Asia, the unique culture that Sri Lanka is known for must be preserved at any cost. Sri Lanka’s hospital culture combined with family centered orientation must be preserved so that Sri Lanka will be uniquely positioned globally and not become just another South Asian nation. I guess it’s also time that we have a brand positioning statement for Sri Lanka so that we command a distinctive position globally.
Athukorala commended the government’s drive of improving the SME sector with the Divi Neguma programme, as the SME’s contribute to almost 80 percent of the 48 billion economy.
Athukorala said that when he was the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board one insight he got was that almost 70 percent or more of the exporters were from the SME sector and the key issue facing Sri Lanka was more a supply chain issue than demand based, which is where productivity becomes key, and can hinge on technological development.One key initiative that Sri Lanka is working on and needs a greater focus is connectivity to the world so that SMEs of Sri Lanka will have access to value addition. This will garner a stronger profit and peace dividend which will be felt outside the Western Province. This is where projects like the Sri Lanka Design Festival comes to play said Athukorala.