Harin outlines 6 focus areas to develop social innovation in SL

Thursday, 26 May 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

DHP_6233By Charumini de Silva

Telecommuni-cations and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando yesterday outlined five key pillars for social innovation, pointing out that the advantage of foresight would be the differentiator in accelerated and inclusive economic growth.

“In an age where the world keeps changing at a rapid pace, we have to continuously innovate and be one step ahead. In order to be a leader, we need social innovation that contributes towards positive development of society and engages the community in addressing development challenges,” he said, participating in a panel discussion on ‘Disruptive Innovation: Facilitating Social Innovation through Digital Infrastructure’ at #2030NOW, the National Summit on Foresight and Innovation for Sustainable Human Development.  

The Minister’s six pillars for social innovation were new ways of making, collaborative economy, open democracy, incubators and accelerators, free-mind working and funding for innovations. 

He said building an economy where individuals and companies perfect the art of collaboration was important for Sri Lanka to join the big value chains and build global products with high value.

“This perfection is what will drive the economy to a more high value service offering,” he added. 

Noting that open democracy would change the way traditional democracy is viewed, Fernando asserted that with digital technology participation it could take place on an unimaginable scale.

The Minister emphasised on the significance of innovation which should be instilled in society’s DNA, where every citizen will find funds for innovation needs. “Banking and investment regulations must facilitate such a culture and ideologies,” he highlighted.

Sri Lanka on brink of digitisation: Harin

The Government yesterday expressed confidence in the country becoming a global hub for IT solutions, asserting that innovation is what they need to become successful in this technology era.

“Sri Lanka is on the brink of digitisation, where innovative technologies are transforming national infrastructure to kick start the economy,” Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructure Minister Harin Fernando said on the sidelines at #2030NOW, the National Summit on Foresight and Innovation for Sustainable Human Development yesterday. Noting that e-governance goes in hand-in-hand in digitisation, he revealed that by 1 January they would launch the Household Transfer Management (HTM) card system which will digitise the whole platform from financial transaction to all data.

Sri Lanka on...

“This HTM card will redefine the Sri Lankan lifestyle and the economy. Every person who is over 15 years old will have this card, which will work as national identity card and transaction card and since it is Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled, it can be used for transactions via mobile devices on ‘tap and pay’ system. It is a fully-integrated card,” Fernando explained.

According to the Minister, the introduction of the system will enable the Government to save $ 2 million per day which is spent on social welfare such as pension and Samurdhi and enable more avenues to cater to many digital platforms of e-governance, digital education, e-health and so on.

“Sri Lanka is a country which provides many social welfare benefits where the Government sends off money daily into many accounts. Despite some of them being deceased, their families still keep collecting the pensions and we have no way to track it. Hence, the digitisation here helps as it will work in the banking system itself.” 

He said Sri Lanka would be the third country in the world to introduce the fully-integrated HTM card after Estonia and Sweden.

Noting that the Ministry has already sent out an international tender which would close on 7 July, he said that 32 companies have bid thus far, including Virtusa.

“We will be looking at companies that have experience in this area. According to the tender, there should be a Sri Lankan company also with a 51% stake. It’s a concoction — there should be a hardware partner, a software partner and a card partner. We are looking at a foreign card partner and two local partners for hardware and software,” he added. 

He also said the Government would sign an agreement today with a leading telecommunication company, Ericsson, to set up a 5G test lab in Sri Lanka which would enable people to innovate and experience new technology. 

“We are also partnering with a few other companies in the world to set up free innovation centres in our districts. The Government will fund and support it, where innovators can start their innovations. Companies like Microsoft and Oracle have already signed agreements,” he added. 

Noting that the key challenges of the Ministry was to get connectivity in place with fibre optic cables covering the entire nation, he said that only 25% of the population was accessing the internet, with 24% of the population using smartphones.

The Minister pointed out that usage of 10% internet has proven to increase Gross Domestic Production (DGP) by 1.2% and thereby the Government is in favour of encouraging and improving the industries engaged in the telecommunication and digital infrastructure to uplift the real economic growth of the country. 

“In December we are having a massive digital summit, unveiling the Sri Lankan digital story which will be attended by the world’s top two IT heads,” he revealed. (CDS)