The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) announced today a range of programs that have been introduced to enhance Sri Lanka appeal as a sourcing destination for small to medium Australian businesses, start-ups and incubator hubs. These programs include investment and taxation incentives, strategies to close the gender gap in the local ICT workforce, and the introduction of the ‘All Children Coding Initiative’, with coding to be part of the school curriculum in 2017.
The All Children Coding Initiative starts in 2017 with the development of a comprehensive coding curriculum that covers both primary and secondary school students, and the participation of a pilot group of schools, teachers and students. The goal is to train 200 teachers and teach coding to approximately 7000 children in the first year of the program.
“ICT is already taught as a subject in general from Grade 6 upwards. However, we believe that programming and coding shouldn’t just be limited to computer science majors in schools, so we are introducing a curriculum for students from the age of six upwards to help them to develop and master problem solving skills and computational thinking. Once they enter the workforce, these students will accelerate the move of Sri Lanka into a knowledge-based economy that leverages on the benefits of the technological advances to support our overall economic growth,” said Arunesh Peter, ICTA’s Director of Projects.
The introduction of coding into the school curriculum will also help to address the gender gap that currently exists in the Sri Lankan ICT industry. A national ICT workforce survey in 2013 revealed that women constitute less than 30 percent of the total ICT sector in Sri Lanka. Giving more female students the opportunity to develop technology skills and IT literacy through the schools coding program is expected to increase the participation rates of women in the ICT sector in the longer term.
“We are already seeing a rise in the number of female-owned start-ups and small-to-medium enterprises in Sri Lanka. This has provided Sri Lanka with an unprecedented opportunity to scale-up entrepreneurship among women. Increasing access to ICT is key to leverage this potential, helping to overcome barriers that are specific to female entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka, such as lack of access to equity and information, and limitations on mobility and time,” said Mr Peter.
“With the national initiatives led by the Government, private sector and non-government organisations, an increase in access to ICT and training in IT literacy is providing opportunities for Sri Lankan women to participate in the labour force by opening up sectors of employment in technical fields that have been traditionally dominated by men.”
In addition to internal initiatives to encourage growth in the ICT sector, Sri Lanka has also implemented a range of measures provides a safe environment for investors, allowing 100 percent foreign ownership, no restrictions on repatriation of earnings, fees and capital, and the protection of commercial law principles and practices that are based on the British model.
Two innovative Australian businesses currently benefiting from Sri Lanka’s ICT sector, are sourcing development services from the Colombo-based IT consulting firm Eyepax. Both Sinorbis and Helloworld are using Eyepax resources to assist in the development of bespoke platforms.
Sinorbis is building a platform to give western organisations the ability to market their products via digital channels to consumers in China. The service will provide the automation that Sinorbis needs to scale rapidly to meet growing demand from its clients, who are predominantly in the travel and tourism, higher education, retail, and health and beauty sectors.
National travel agency operation Helloworld elected to build its own online platform 18 months ago to replace a system that it had been using from a third party provider in the US. The company launched the first release of the new system in September this year, and is continually rolling out updates and adding new features to the platform. The new system is assisting more than 1000 travel agents around Australia, and gives Helloworld the opportunity to build the percentage of revenues from its online direct business, with services accessible to consumers via both web and mobile apps.
Both Sinorbis and Helloworld have taken a similar approach to utilising Sri Lankan development resources in their engagements with Eyepax. High level design and architecture have been undertaken by in-house resources in Australia, together with the management of the development program, augmented by development skills in Sri Lanka.
“As a start-up, we need to be aware of our cash burn rate during development, so hiring a bigger team in Sri Lanka has allowed us to scale quickly, and keep our costs under control. Our priority is to get our platform launched as quickly as we can. Cost is just one factor in sourcing from Sri Lanka – we also needed a team that not only had the technical skills but also understood the bigger picture and our business vision and objectives,” said Dhruv Parashar, VP, Product and Technology, Sinorbis.
Creating the team has been a key objective for both Sinorbis and Helloworld, but Helloworld has taken a slightly different approach, with a small group of senior developers in its Australian team ‘paired’ with the development resources provided by Eyepax in Sri Lanka. Both groups are treated as part of the one team, using the same set of cloud-based tools and collaborative applications, and have a daily catch-up in the early afternoon to run through any tasks, issues or challenges that need to be addressed. Using this model, the more senior technical developers in Australia are freed up to focus on more strategic aspects of development.
“Effectively, by using Sri Lankan resources, we have been able to extend our working day significantly. And the things that we hand over to our Sri Lankan team to work on are done for us when we arrive for work the following day,” said Lachlan Yates, Development Manager, Helloworld.
Both Parashar and Yates cite culture as a key benefit in using Sri Lankan as a sourcing destination. “Our team in Sri Lanka is energetic and have a hardworking attitude, and take responsibility in developing their own capabilities,” said Parashar.
“The cultural fit is really good,” said Yates. “They have a similar work ethic and sense of humour. It makes it a lot easier to have those difficult but productive conversations that you sometimes need to have in business.”
About ICTA of Sri Lanka
The Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka was established by the Government of Sri Lanka to transform the nation towards a creative knowledge-based society through digitally empowered citizens. ICTA is the head ICT agency of Sri Lanka and is responsible for implementing all ICT projects initiated by the Government. One of ICTA's primary goals is to establish Sri Lanka as a destination of choice for ICT and BPO investments.
For more information on ICTA: http://www.icta.lk
For more information on IT and BPM outsourcing in Sri Lanka: http://srilankaitbpm.com
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