Cheranka Mendis reporting from Kuala Lumpur
After some 30 years of little IT development, the Sri Lanka Army has now plunged into an era of technology and development with some 15 projects currently under way, said a top Army official.
Sri Lanka Army IT Advisor and Ministry of Defence’s Centre for Research and Development Head of IT Colonel Dr. Thiran De Silva while attending Microsoft’s Accelerating Asia Pacific 2011 summit in Kuala Lumpur told the Daily FT that backed by two highly technology-savvy people, the Army would adapt to the age of technology by expanding its access to a staff of over 260,000.
“Both Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Army Commander are techno-savvy people. They insist that IT be given top priority to make the Sri Lanka Army a highly professional one.”
He stated that with capacity building being done on a low key during the war, the time is now right to forge ahead with technology.
Five military IT training centres have been established while the Chief Signal Officers Office has been requested to implement new applications, preferably made in-house.
Sri Lanka now has a Software Development Team under the Chief Signal Office, which caters to all software requirements of the Army. He expressed that no application had been purchased for the last four years from any company.
Applications have been built for day-to-day operational and administration work, he said. Among the 15 projects, most are for the Hospital Management Project, Army Data Network, Personal Data Network and Documentation Management Project.
“Initially I was worried about the front end of such a task but Microsoft introduced us to OSC, which we have installed and is working smoothly. We commissioned this about three months ago.”
The challenge then was to train the staff cadre numbering over 260,000 in the Army. Microsoft Sri Lanka then came forward with a curriculum and a ‘Train the Trainer’ programme. “The impact of this is huge. Those who have been trained will go back home and get their family involved in IT as well. This way it is not just one community but the entire community that is benefitting at large.”
He stated that IT had now been recognised as a key tool to move forward in the march towards economic development. Addressing the summit, he acknowledged that according to the manifesto of President Rajapaksa, ICT literacy rate is targeted to increase up to 75% by 2016.
The IT Park in Hambantota as announced in the recent Budget will help achieve the goal along with other Government projects that are in place and on the drawing board. Every secondary school is to receive an IT laboratory as well, he said.
“Within the next five years IT will play a major role in Sri Lanka and would help the country compete with other developed and developing countries in various forms.”
He stated that the country had now moved into an IT literacy of 30%, while five years ago the literacy rate was just 5%.
On the IT Park that is to be developed in Hambantota, De Silva stated that it was a vision of MP Namal Rajapaksa, who has put forward a target to achieve an IT labour force of 10% by 2020. The current number stands at 0.5%, he said. “The IT Park is expected to create 100,000 jobs. The Government also hopes to create 40,000 IT related jobs by 2016,” he added.
IT education and development will however not just be limited to Hambantota but will also reach the north and the east. IT/BPO investment and services coming in to the country will go to the south as well as the east, he told the Daily FT.
Areas of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu have been recognised as potential locations for such development. “The ICT labour force must be distributed. Areas such as Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu are untapped, yet hold great potential for such developments.”