The Federation of Information Technology Industry Sri Lanka (FITIS) was set up in 1996 with the purpose of giving a much-needed focal point for the ICT industry in Sri Lanka. Today, FITIS is the apex body of the ICT sector in the country covering all major industry segments such as system Integrators, Hardware vendors, Software development Firms, Training & Education institutes, Telco & other Communication companies, Office Automation vendors and ICT Professional bodies. FITIS understands the potential of the ICT Sector and therefore has been actively contributing towards changing the landscape of Sri Lankan ICT industry during last two decades.

 

Thus, this year we embarked on a four-pillar strategy focusing on key areas such as;

 

                                      1. Digital Transformation
                                      2. Increase industry contribution towards the national economy
                                      3. Development of a cohesive communications strategy for all stakeholders and policy makers; and
                                      4. increasing our value proposition to Members

 

In the context of the digital transformation, FITIS has identified activities which would focus on digital transformation in the upcoming years as a focal point on our agenda. Sri Lanka is far behind in embracing digital technology; be it in the private sector, public sector or as individual citizens.  The activities we are looking to initiate this year are, encouraging digital adoption within key industries by providing expert consultation to organizations that require support, creating a platform to recognize digital initiatives, increasing ICT literacy levels within all sections of the population, supporting and assisting in expediting E-government  initiatives, working with government to increase smart phone and internet penetration  and providing digital advisory and consultancy for export companies by linking tech companies with our exporters.  As part of creating a platform to recognize digital initiatives we will embark on a Digital Transformation awards, which recognize companies and industries that embrace digital tools and systems in ways that fundamentally reshape their organization and the customer experience.

 

The above strategies are the key external activities planned for FITIS. However, during the year FITIS has planned to further enhance the member value proposition too, by way of developing an app to obtain ground level market intelligence. FITIS will also concurrently plan and negotiate with vendors common to the industry, train and develop technology and business-related programs, actively engage and link new global tech companies with traditional IT vendors, develop special incentives for individuals within the member organizations, and organize membership drives and member networking and partnership creation events. Further, as a benefit to the members and the industry, a member’s directory and privilege scheme is scheduled to be launched for better opportunity and engagement.

 

FITIS is also of the opinion that the increased need of technology usage is an absolute requirement when viewing the current productivity challenges Sri Lanka faces. A clear plan to therefore increase the dispersion of ICT usage is a priority.  However, all elements of growth must come to play for this to happen, such as awareness, education, availability, affordability, etc. For example, FITIS is currently pursuing better tax benefits for the industry where imports of ICT equipment can be at zero tax, which would help in increasing the usage of ICT within the country both urban and rural. This would be a small step towards our goal of becoming a digital nation.

 

Another challenge FITIS foresees is managing policy with regards to the ever-changing digital platforms and services the country is exposed to. FITIS has pledged support to the respective government bodies to help formulate effective policy frameworks required for digital transformation.

 

In relation to the contribution to the national economy by FITIS, the Federation plans to assist software and service companies to increase export revenue to achieve the USD 5 billion target by 2022. Moreover, FITIS will also contribute to increase the current ICT workforce of 80,000 to 200,000 in the coming years as human resource remains the single most limiting factor to the industry’s growth.  Ongoing initiatives with NAITA, Ministry of Education, and other Education related entities not excluding our own education and training institutes to increase the human capital, are some of the initiatives that aim to increase the ICT workforce.  Furthermore, Discussions are ongoing to commence a graduate conversion program for non-ICT graduates to ICT graduates.

 

At present FITIS is also a member of regional bodies such as ASOCIO and APICTA, which enables us to position the Sri Lankan ICT industry especially at forums of regional importance and share our success stories internationally.  By working in collaboration with local government bodies such as EDB as part of the national export strategy, we have built a brand “IOI“ (Island of Ingenuity). This will be used to promote aggressively our own Sri Lankan ICT and knowledge services brand.

 

We further encourage FITIS members within the software chapter to develop internationally recognized ICT products and solutions. At FITIS we support and encourage Companies to focus on the development of Intellectual Property as this will undoubtedly be the future direction of the Industry. IP creation enables companies to develop a sustainable competitive advantage. Thus, to make Sri Lanka an ICT hub, such encouragement is needed and necessary from all stakeholders to strengthen the ICT sector.

 

Therefore, in order to create more encouragement, it is imperative that we create awareness of new technologies such as AI, Robotics and Data Science. Steps must be taken by all stakeholders to encourage both private and public sectors to use these technologies for their digital transformation processes whilst educating decision makers on the importance of modern technologies, which is vital if we are to focus on economic development. Thus, Government policies must encourage adoption of such technologies whilst creating awareness. FITIS therefore hopes that initiatives mentioned above developed by FITIS would causes a ripple effect that would enable more participation and adaptation of such new technology.

 

For the purpose of adaptation, introduction to ICT must begin at school level. It is important that the future generations experience the use of ICT at a very early stage within the school curriculum. Thus, when they complete their secondary education, they will be equipped to utilize the full potential of ICT in whatever field they may choose.  FITIS therefore encourages and has made initiative with regard to this.   However, for such projects to be successful, relevant educators should be available within the school system.

 

Hence to make ICT a leading driving factor of the economy, the country must look at the at the holistic picture. We must commence digitizing the government and private sector for improved connectivity and productivity. We must promote day to day encounters with technology so that citizens familiarize themselves, thus, making the economy more efficient.

 

Whilst Sri Lanka does have a tough road ahead, some of our industries are now leading the change regionally when it comes to adoption of innovative technologies such as 4G. whilst FITIS is aware that most industries have not even begun to embrace new technology, the federation is hopeful that this would change over the nest five years. As a country we must adapt to modern technologies such as IOT, 5G, AI, machine learning and robotics to stay competitive globally and increase national productivity. A shift in mindset is required. We must now focus on building Smart Cities, as case studies have shown that it has successfully eliminated a number of challenges faced by authorities such as crime, congestion and pollution. Unfortunately, progress has been slow compared to our neighboring countries. more education, more training and more awareness is needed. However, there has been some great digitization efforts by both government and private sector such as health care which we as a country should be very proud of. Every single industry will eventually have to adopt digital transformation in order to survive and thrive. We are seeing digitally enabled companies becoming a threat to traditional giants every day. Uber and Pickme are reshaping the transportation industry. Tesla is the biggest threat to the automotive industry as it moves towards self-driving cars. The Advertising industry has been reshaped by companies such as Google and Facebook. Any country needs to be digital to stay relevant, and whilst Sri Lanka is presently slow, it needs to now fast forward its way to the top focusing on technology to compete with the global market.

Abbas Kamrudeen

Chairman FITIS