Home / View Point Of The Wolf / Realising sri lanka’s potential to be a digital hub


COLOMBO : According to a recent McKinsey survey, COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by several years and that many of these changes are here for the long haul. It also showed that rates of adoption were most pronounced in South Asia.

Naturally this specific facet has a ripple effect on every other aspect in a country; In Sri Lanka companies and institutions from every single sector transformed and enhanced their operations by adopting digital centric strategies. The quantum leap in Sri Lanka is driven by the advantage of an accommodating infrastructure designed to facilitate the development and delivery of digital products. As Sri Lanka goes through Industry 4.0, an era defined by data, AI and technology, the inevitable shift is noticed with consumers adopting digital channels as primary means of interaction and companies rethinking their marketing plans with a higher portion of investment on digital. Success in the future depends on how we transform into a “Digital Economy”.

We’re in good company with a digital powerhouse in neighbouring India where Google plans to invest 10 billion US dollars in the next five to seven  years and who have implemented a robust infrastructure designed specifically to facilitate and nurture digital based businesses and Singapore working towards a vision of becoming Asia’s Silicone Valley and Indonesia making it’s mark as the newest player with the launch of Nongsa Digital Park to create a digital bridge between Singapore and them, it becomes imperative that we take key learnings and establish collaborative ventures.

With more than 28 million mobile subscriptions and more than 15 million mobile broadband subscriptions as at December 2020 (as per the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka) President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision to establish a tech based society and a smart nation is being implemented at a rapid pace, creating digitally enhanced offerings across every touchpoint.  

Further, the imminent launch of 5G in Sri Lanka (already trialed by the major networks) is set to revolutionise businesses with accelerated delivery, advanced development via collaboration, data, AI integration into decision making and immersive technology and most importantly providing stronger platforms and support systems for tech startups who in many cases become the agents of transformation by developing innovative solutions.

 We already have a strong ICT sector which is currently served by more than 500 companies, support a large number of key industries across the economy, notably agriculture, financial services, manufacturing and tourism (which is seeing a slow but steady revival). Lankan ICT companies already export software products and services to markets worldwide, including the US, Europe, Australia, East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Sri Lanka has also emerged as an offshore centre of development for some Fortune 500 companies, as well as a number of global joint venture firms. We are also placed within the top 50 outsourcing destinations in the world.

While the Government and private sector stakeholders have done an admirable job in positioning Sri Lanka as a high quality, niche destination for ICT services, the writer strongly believes that we have both the capabilities and the capacity to move beyond BPO to knowledge process outsourcing solutions, such as data analytics and software engineering. Specialist startups in these specific areas have emerged in recent years with skill levels that match up-to any player in the region. Locally, we’ve already leveraged data and AI across sectors like health, education and agriculture and we do have the ability to scale up these solutions for international businesses. Lankan companies are already making the foray into robotics and mobile gaming. An emergent culture of design thinking and innovation with educational institutions and universities across the country offering courses specifically catered to these areas ensure a new generation of Sri Lankans with the entrepreneur spirit.  which can become a complimentary catalyst to us becoming a true digital economy.  

Our key towards becoming a digital economy lies in empowering a culture of data, AI, technology and innovation.

(Kabeer Rafaideen is the CEO of ALT X (Altered Experience),

A marketing and technology agency with data and design thinking at its core)