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ICT capacity building fulfilling Mahinda Chinthana vision for the future in the New Year

Apr 16, 2012 2:30:05 PM - www.ft.lk

Avurudu or New Year and Easter remind us of the East and our oriental culture. The Sinhala and Tamil New Year day is the day the sun transits from Pisces to Aries to begin a new year cycle. The dawn of the New Year occurs at the point that transit takes place.


The New Year is an occasion for new resolutions to turn over a new leaf in life. It is also a good time to look at our scriptures, chronicles and national policy statements.  In such a context, a look at the Mahinda Chinthana Vision for the Future, the Government’s national policy statement is relevant. The Mahinda Chinthana Vision for the Future states: “In ancient times, our Buddhist monasteries were seats of learning that spread the teaching of the Buddha to the rest of Asia. Many aesthetic subjects that originated in these monastic centres of learning greatly contributed to the knowledge foundation of the world. History records that these centres of excellence in areas such as naval, irrigation, management and architecture served to spread this knowledge throughout the Far Eastern continent.”

ICT and youth
Emphasising the role IT can play in empowering the youth the document says: “The young generation of Sri Lanka needs to be broadly empowered with modern information and communication technologies. The future market for employment will depend entirely on these skills. For these reasons, our youth will be given more opportunities to improve their knowledge in these areas and information and communication technology will be introduced for accessing all services in the country.”

ICT literacy and whole country
Referring to a pivotal ICT development with positive value for the whole country, the President in his policy statement says, “By 2016, the information technology literacy rate will be improved up to 75 per cent.”

ICTA and six-pronged programme
The ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), the apex body responsible for national ICT policy and implementation of the eSri Lanka Development Programme is fully committed to meet these targets spelt out in the policy statement. ICTA implements this development programme via a six-pronged strategy which encompasses building implementation capacity, building information infrastructure and an enabling environment, developing ICT human resources, modernising the Government and delivering citizen services, and leveraging ICT for economic and social development through public-private partnerships and eSociety.  

ICTA and private sector
The space is not sufficient to explain these six programmes succinctly in an article like this. Therefore, an attempt is made through the current article to disclose sufficient information to whet the interest of readers. Here ICTA wishes to focus on just one aspect in which the private sector could play a significant role in achieving some of the national ICT targets. ICTA firmly believes that the development of the nation cannot take place without the participation of all sectors and considers the private sector an important partner in progress.

ICTA, the private sector and capacity building
 According to ICTA, the Capacity Building Programme (ICBP) is one of the core programs under ICTA which facilitates the private sector of the broader eSri Lanka initiative. The overall goal of the ICBP is to strengthen, predominantly through private sector-led initiatives, the existing ICT industry in Sri Lanka; to encourage emerging sectors of the industry and entrepreneurship, to stimulate broad-based industry growth and to promote international competitiveness.
The ICBP is intended to provide benefits to stakeholders across the broad spectrum of the Sri Lankan ICT industry, including, but not limited to, the software industry, IT-enabled service industry and IT training providers. The programme is also expected to expand employment opportunities within the industry.
The ICBP has three broad sub-components: ICT industry human resource development and capacity building, industry promotion and development and creating an enabling environment for ICT industry growth. These programs were facilitated with about 30 strategies.

Programme one: ICT human resource development and capacity building
This programme looks at strengthening the availability of human capital across the ICT industry workforce and enhancing the skills and competencies of those entering the ICT industry as well as those who are already employed in it. Strategies which come under this programme cover overseas training, local scholarships, domestic professional courses and in-house training and vendor accreditations.
In the recent past, over 30 training programmes were held and more than 1,400 professionals were trained under the domestic ICT learning seminar project. 2,000 plus individuals also benefitted from the ICT Skill Development Project that covered Microsoft, Oracle, RedHat, CISCO and SunJava certifications.

Programme two: industry promotion and development
Industry promotion has a broad goal to provide funding and technical assistance support which will enable Sri Lanka to identify and take advantage of domestic and global business opportunities in the ICT field. The key areas of focus were initiatives to facilitate market penetration in the case of emerging sectors of the ICT industry, initiatives to expand market share in more mature market sectors and initiatives to promote the use of domestic products and services.  
The research and innovation endeavour of ICTA also focused on apparel, information security and mobile technology. This was the shot in the arm for Sri Lanka’s thrust industries such as tourism, gem, jewellery, the ornament industry and the apparel industry. Business linkages were created and 18 missions were carried out including in UK, Australia, Europe and Africa.
In addition to that, company accreditations were effected totaling 45 companies covering ISO 9001, ISO 27001, COPC, CMMi Level 3 and Carbon Neutral Certification.  Under industry promotion and development, startup grants were also given and 11 startups benefitted from the project.

Programme three: creating an enabling environment for ICT industry growth
The strategies in this programme of activities recognise that development of ICT human capacity and promotion of the ICT industry will require an enabling environment for it to be effective. Strategies will support the accreditation and capacity building of national ICT training providers and improving the profile of the ICT industry and the skill base of entrants into the ICT workforce by familiarising career counselors with the skills, attitude and knowledge expected by private sector ICT employers.  
Under this project, 300 plus trainers were trained while more than 27,000 children from the Anuradhapura, Badulla, Colombo, Galle, Jaffna, Kandy, Kurunegala and Matara districts were made aware about IT-BPO. This led to a large number of students opting for IT-BPO as a career of choice parallel to or even excelling the traditionally prestigious fields of medicine, engineering and accountancy.
ICTA is keen on strengthening the existing ICT industry in Sri Lanka, encouraging emerging sectors of the industry and entrepreneurship, stimulating broad-based industry growth and promoting international competitiveness.  A senior ICTA spokesperson stated that software development, as well as ICT personnel development, are important areas ICTA are keen on promoting. These are areas that go a long way in total ICT development. There are many opportunities open to the keen developer. Enthusiasts are urged to inquire as their proposals may fall in line with the 30 strategies for ICBP and ICT development that have been adopted. ICTA will be only too happy to offer its full support to ICT development and capacity building, adhering to simple guidelines prepared in the best interests of all.