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Sri Lanka reaping benefits of advancing digital revolution

16 June 2017 10:29 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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While the world has embraced information and communication technology (ICT) as an enabler of social and economic development, there is no doubt that ICT has found its niche in every sphere of Sri 
Lanka’s polity.
Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando recognizes the colossal role ICT plays. 
“ICT must be a key driving force in leading Sri Lanka towards a knowledge-based society and leading our society towards a sustainable economy,” he said.
A significant milestone in the development of the ICT industry in the country was the formulation of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka as the apex ICT institution of the government under the Information and Communication Technology Act No.27 of 2003.
As an institution overseen by the Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Ministry, the ICTA has followed robust programmes, especially in the last two years under the auspices of the minister.
“The ICTA facilitates the creation of a dynamic ecosystem with the capacity to respond to technological advances as well as changes in the global technology industry,” Fernando said.
With the great potential ICT has to accelerate human and economic progress, Fernando stressed the need to develop new technologies that have a lasting social impact and bridge the digital divide. 
“We need to nurture ideas and innovations especially in ICT entrepreneurship to bring about a significant paradigm shift to achieve sustainable economic and social development,” 
he added.
Taking cues from the burgeoning global entrepreneurial ecosystem, the minister said, “Our government has a forward-looking vision to build a fully integrated entrepreneurial ecosystem so that the country would have the best chances of competing regionally.”
Significantly, Sri Lanka for the first time made an appearance in the Global Start-up Ecosystem Report 2017 - a useful benchmark to analyse and compare our country’s standing against how the rest of the world is doing.
“Our ICTA has spearheaded initiatives towards this and we have witnessed a spurt of start-ups and a major growth in entrepreneurship in the last few years,” observed the minister.
“While the recent growth of our start-up ecosystem is impressive, our continued success to build the capacity of these start-ups will hinge on our ability to not only put the right policies and strategies in place but in forming definitive collaborations amongst entrepreneurs, support organisations and investors,” added the minister.
“The ICTA acts as a national accelerator to catalyze innovations and through several initiatives provide start-ups with support,” he said. 
The agency’s Tech Start-up and IT SMEs Support Programmes have recorded positive results in supporting the industry through its seed funding, market access, mentoring and training initiatives.
The agency’s ongoing Spiralation Seed Funding programme, which provides seed funding for promising start-ups, has shown impressive outcomes with about 86 percent of the beneficiary companies being able to continue business without 
any disruption.
The argument that the Lankan start-ups need funding cannot be overstated. “Building the capacity of the majority of local start-ups is imperative as they often have great ideas but not enough money to implement them,” he noted.
Offering all players in the start-up ecosystem an interactive platform, the ICTA annually organises a start-up conference and exhibition. Now in its second consecutive year, ‘Disrupt Asia 2017’ features top international speakers, mentors and investors, showcasing innovative start-ups, propelling Sri Lanka into the entrepreneurial spotlight.
Through the ICTA’s provision of training, networking sessions and promotional opportunities, support for start-ups to attend foreign conferences and exhibitions are also carried out. These schemes encourage young ICT entrepreneurs and help to promote and strengthen their start-up companies. 
The ICTA’s role to facilitate market linkages and networking events as well as participation in other start-up events in overseas markets has also contributed to develop the local 
start-up ecosystem.
“The Sri Lankan ICT businesses, especially start-ups, are at the tipping point of transforming our nation with many expanding beyond our borders. We must remain committed to supporting them with the government and private sectors coming together in a concerted effort working towards helping them develop on a global scale,” the minister concluded.

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