Information Communications Technology


Lanka's ICT strategy discussed globally
By Akhry Ameer
Sri Lanka's ICT Roadmap was put to the test recently among various business leaders through a global dialogue comprising officials of the World Bank, industry colleagues in the Silicon Valley, India's software association NASSCOM and key Sri Lankan ICT business leaders. The four-way video conference saw commendations and support for implementation being expressed by all those who participated.

A member of the Sri Lankan team participating in the global dialogue via the Distance Learning Centre sponsored by the World Bank situated at Longden Place. Pic by Athula Devapriya.

Eran Wickremaratne, IT Advisor for the Ministry of Economic Reforms, Science and Technology, in his opening address described the roadmap as a 'big-bang' approach where there is full-scale support from all concerned, including the government, for its implementation. In his overview he explained that the implementation would cover the areas of national information infrastructure, ICT human resources, government modernisation, capacity development and electronic development. This would be affected through a strategic council to be set up shortly. He also called for more NGO and private-sector support for its implementation. The global dialogue covered various aspects of ICT such as technology, risk capital, e-governance, societal application and also the proposed visit by the prime minister to the Silicon Valley.

The President of NASSCOM, India's apex software body, Kiran Karnik, throughout the conference expressed support in the form of sharing Indian implementation experiences in all areas and also willingness to have a joint software development effort that can work towards joint global marketing of software and services of both countries.

All participants shared various views and suggestions for the way forward in the implementation of the roadmap. The World Bank panel which included M.V. Mushin, a Sri Lankan who serves as a Vice President and Chief Information Officer, expressed support for various aspects of the roadmap.

The global dialogue also had various speakers both from the public and private sector in Sri Lanka and various representatives from related private and public sector organisations as observers.

Cisco launches global service carrier community programme
The local office of global networking leader Cisco Systems Inc. recently announced the launch of its Cisco Service Carrier Community programme in Sri Lanka. The programme is a global initiative of the company that brings together various service providers using Cisco networking equipment into a global community via the Web. The programme also seeks to promote the growth of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) traffic and propel Service Providers to new levels of revenue and profitability.

Service providers such as Internet Telephony Service Providers (ITSP's), Cellular Mobile Service Providers (CMSP's), Fixed Service Providers (FSP's), National and International Long Distance (NLD/ILD's) who have deployed Cisco's networking equipment can become members of the Service Carrier Community. As members of the programme the service providers will be able to work together to exchange traffic and maximise respective application strengths amongst them with the ultimate objective of delivering end-to-end VoIP services.

The community members will have privileged access to a searchable Web database containing profiles of all members, together with contact information, application services provided by them and the traffic routes served by them. Through this information the service providers will be able to find business partners for origination, transport, and termination of voice traffic in over 200 countries around the world. Further, members who have achieved Cisco Powered Network status will be provided with business communications services that will help them link with Cisco's extensive enterprise and small/medium business customer base.

"This programme re-affirms Cisco's commitment to the service provider market, and will enable a 'network of networks' to emerge. Since there are hundreds of service providers worldwide using Cisco's VoIP technologies, we are uniquely positioned to bring this critical mass of companies together. By keeping VoIP-based calls on VoIP networks, our customers can reduce transport cost and provide a more feature-rich set of services." said Kumaran Singaram, Director - Operations, Cisco Systems - Asia.

In addition to linking the members, the Web page also will have access links to relevant product and solution information and to the Cisco Service Provider Solutions Eco-system. This is a community of technology and services companies enabling service providers to rapidly deploy and manage innovative networking services. Cisco Service Provider Solutions Eco-system Partners support open, standards-based architecture and a shared commitment to interoperable, multi-vendor solutions. The members will also be able to physically meet potential business partners at Cisco-sponsored networking events around the world. These benefits are intended to help carriers expand their VoIP service portfolio, grow traffic and increase profitability.

Young Computer Scientist Award 2002
The Sri Lanka Association for the Software Industry (SLASI) will be organising a competition for youngsters with a view to facilitating and promoting ICT among them. The Young Computer Scientist Award 2002 will be a part of the association's programme for the International ICT week being celebrated from October 7 to 13, 2002.

The competition will be held in two categories for juniors aged between 12 and 16 years and seniors aged between 17 and 19 years. The awards for the competition will include certificates and cash prizes for each category amounting to Rs. 21,000.

The participants have to programme original extraordinary software in one of the specified areas. These subject areas consist of simulation, multimedia creation, electronic music, computer game design, electronic publishing/messaging, computer controlled devices, robots and BEAM electronics, 3D designing, computer/telephony communications, computer assisted training and learning.

The winners will also be given an opportunity to demonstrate their creations at the Infotel Lanka 2002 exhibition to be held from October 10-13. The entry forms for the competition will be published in newspapers shortly, according to staff at the Infotel Office.

Memory - global vendor for Kingston
Memory Technologies (Pvt) Ltd authorised distributors of Kingston computer memory chips, has been recognised by Kingston Technology Co, USA as one of its global vendors.

The local company has been a focused chip vendor in the country and over the last four years has successfully developed Kingston as a leading brand. Having established Kingston as a preferred brand among a majority of retail and branded computer vendors, system integrators and service providers in Sri Lanka, Memory Technologies has been recognised as a global vendor on the Kingston website. The Kingston memory is designed for all major brands of computers and maintains strategic alliances with Intel, Microsoft, Toshiba, Samsung and Rambus.

A company official said that this status enables them to offer competitive prices and maintain the high level of service provided by Kingston worldwide. However, the company is also concerned about imitations in the market. The official added that this can be identified by the lack of proper packaging and the one-year warranty provided by these dealers.

The genuine Kingston products are sold with a lifetime warranty. To counter this, Memory Technologies has launched a campaign educating customers on spotting the fake products and has also opened a hotline to handle customer queries and warranty issues.

IBM servers to lower cost of infrastructure
IBM Sri Lanka introduced its pSeries 630 Unix servers to the local market recently. The new range is part of the company's strategy to provide large enterprises, mid-market and small businesses high-end server features at a lower cost.

The lower cost of ownership is made possible by the server's unique ability to allocate resources dynamically into four "virtual servers" carrying out four different tasks, instead of running it through four separate physical servers. The new server also features a 64-bit system architecture and the POWER4 microprocessor.

The p630 comes in both desktop and rack mountable options with one, two or four POWER4 1.0GHz processors and with a memory of 1GB expandable to 16GB. It also has two integrated 10/100 Mbps Ethernet connections and two high performance SCSI controllers.

Besides catering to small and medium businesses the p630 is suitable for hospitals, financial institutions, and e-businesses to carry out some of its small critical functions. IBM also revised its high-end and mid-range servers earlier in the year with the introduction of the p690 and p670 series respectively.

IDM Computer institute spreads its wings
As you drive along Duplication Road, you would keep wondering whether it is a marketing gimmick that a computer education institute has around seven different locations. Well, it is not so. It is an indication of how this institute has grown to become a comprehensive one-stop shop for IT education.

IDM Computer Studies (Pvt) Ltd was set up in 1984 initially with the focus of providing formalised training and conducted a diploma programme and a programme for students sitting the British Computer Society exams. Through the years meeting the growing demands of Information Technology itself, IDM has today created a model for computer education and training that satisfies all those from basic computer users, to industry professionals and academics.

The institute caters to over 4,000 students in Colombo alone at a given period of time with its own diploma as the starting point and working upwards to internationally recognised qualifications and certifications. The various international exams are conducted through the Department of Examinations.

Speaking on the different locations Dr. Bandula Ranasinghe, Chairman - IDM Group of Companies, said that they are specialised business units catering to the needs of various segments of the industry. Dr. Ranasinghe is an industry expert who has been involved in IT education in Sri Lanka since the 1970's and is today also an IT consultant. Asked for his vision for IDM, he said that his organisation is ready to extend full support in the areas of IT education to achieve the government's plans of making the country IT literate.

IDM's latest innovation is its programme for schoolchildren. IDM Compukids has been developed based on the British and US models towards providing organised training to kids from primary school level to a London O/L computing qualification. Thereafter, the students are ready to enter the next phase of the educational model of the institute that makes them industry-ready.

The institute is also working closely with the relevant public institutions responsible for developing the General Information Technology (GIT) subject for the Advanced Level Students. IDM will play the role of training and supporting teachers.

Speaking on plans of expansion, Dr. Ranasinghe said that the institute already has nine different locations spread over the island and will increase this through franchise arrangements to other parts of the country. He said that IDM has repositioned itself as "The Nation's IT Academy".

Asked about IT education in Sri Lanka, Dr. Ranasinghe as an industry observer, said that there are excellent programmes available for career-minded students. He also had a high regard for the Bachelor of Information Technology external degree programme being conducted by the University of Colombo.

However, he said that there are also a large number out of the 300 plus institutes in the island offering programmes that are not career oriented and resorting to various marketing practices such as mass scholarships to attract students. This is also indicative by the relatively small membership of around 30 in the Association of Computer Training Organisations (ACTOS), a self-managed body that governs the practices of the IT institutes.

News in Brief

APTECH launches new curriculum
APTECH Worldwide's Sri Lankan business partner IT Lanka Academy (Pte) Ltd launched a new curriculum for its local courses recently. Aptech Certified Computer Professional (ACCP 2003) programme is a hybrid model that has been developed by Aptech for use in all its worldwide centres. This enables the Sri Lankan students to be exposed to the same technology training as other students around the globe.

The programme has been designed by Aptech in consultation with international alliance partners such as Microsoft, Sun and NetG. Conducted over a period of three years in a modular approach the programme exposes the students to leading technologies and makes them 'workforce-ready' upon completion. The training methods will comprise a combination of instructor, computer-based and web-based training. Further the local trainers who are trained by Aptech will also follow a specified course format with materials that are provided by its principal.

IT Lanka Academy is a BOI venture with franchise licensing from Aptech, India to conduct its courses locally. Aptech, India, is now a global venture with 2,449 centres in 52 countries in Latin America, South East Asia, Middle East and SAARC regions. Its courseware is updated every two years to keep abreast with modern technologies and is translated into various languages.

Celullar phone Email from Mobitel
Local cellular operator, Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd recently introduced a mobile email facility to its customers. The emails sent through the mobile phone work along similar lines as that of email communication via a PC.

The delivery of the emails is almost instant. However, this feature will be limited to customers having digital handsets. A company spokesperson said that Mobitel is concentrating on other new features and will be launching them as soon as internal testing is completed.

Suntel introduces 24-hr cheque drop boxes

Local wireless loop telecommunications provider Suntel added a new conve-nience for its customers recently with the introduction of a 24-hour cheque payment drop box. These boxes are similar to the cheque deposit box concept in banks, but are available to customers 24 hours day throughout the year as they are located outside the office in the premises of the Suntel centres in Colombo and Nugegoda.

The concept that has been on trial over a six-month period in Colombo has improved customer satisfaction levels, according to company officials. This helps to eliminate the inconvenience of queues and parking that customers have to face during working hours.

The process involves filling out a payment slip, getting it machine franked, dropping it into the box with the cheque while retaining its duplicate. The security staff at the Suntel centres also have been trained to handle these units should customers seek help.

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