Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo
TECH CAN SAVE OR RUIN US
Thushari Kandamby pits R&D against a breakdown in human relations
Q: What are the chief attributes of Sri Lanka at present?
A: Sri Lankans are a friendly lot. Education is free up to university and provides numerous opportunities for economically deprived students. Healthcare too is free, which augurs well for better health countrywide. And Sri Lanka’s natural beauty offers a little piece of heaven.
But a breakdown in interpersonal relationships, people being too busy to integrate with family and technology taking over family lives are the negatives.
Suicides are also on the rise among the younger generation. There’s political interference at various levels, preventing people with merit from achieving their potential. The lack of discipline on the roads too is an ugly facet.
Q: And what other challenges does the country face today?
A: Youth unrest is a challenge Sri Lanka is facing at the moment with university students experiencing frequent interruptions due to political interference. Poor traffic coordination also fuels a loss of productivity while garbage disposal poses challenges as well.
Q: Do you observe changes in the spheres of education and healthcare?
A: The development of technology has given students a chance to update and upgrade their knowledge about the subjects they learn. Moreover, the quality of education can be enhanced by installing computer laboratories in every school, while also providing online courses and examinations to create more opportunities for study and subject streams that are currently not available in Sri Lanka.
Technology has also improved healthcare with various forms of surgery – laparoscopy, bypass, and lung and kidney transplants, to name a few – being performed in Sri Lanka. The government must allocate more funds to streamline and improve advancements made through R&D as well as in the pharmaceutical industry.
Q: How can Sri Lanka retain the talent it has and thereby curtail the brain drain?
A: In the physics and chemistry fields for instance, there are fewer job opportunities. So brain drain is a natural consequence and is nothing to be astonished about. Job opportunities must be increased, industry developed and people assured of stable incomes to curtail the brain drain.
Q: Where do you see Sri Lanka in 10 years’ time?
A: If things go according to plans being proposed today, the highways to Jaffna, Kandy and Kataragama will be developed, and monorail systems installed. This will undoubtedly reduce traffic congestion.
If wider industry areas are developed, more employment will be generated and result in higher incomes, which in turn could limit the number of people leaving our shores.
Q: What is the good, bad and ugly of the world in which we live?
A: Science and technology advancements are being used to find cures for diseases, as well as develop agriculture, transport and telecommunications. The world is inching closer to achieving sustainable nuclear fusion, which will provide unlimited energy. World leaders are also addressing global problems to minimise disasters and realise a more sustainable peace. Rising global literacy is a sign that future generations are becoming well-educated.
But wars over border issues, colonisation, and the use of nuclear and chemical weapons to dominate others are resulting in resource depletion and a brain drain from poorer countries to more developed nations.
Q: : How do you view food shortages and environmental degradation?
A: Food shortages stem from multiple causes including environmental issues such as droughts and floods, poverty, global conflicts and wars.
Furthermore, some nations don’t preserve or conserve seasonal produce; others waste food without a conscience such as at the La Tomatina festival or instances where wheat, fruit and vegetables are dumped while thousands die of hunger. Environmental degradation is caused by humans due to deforestation, growing populations and pollution.
The following quote attributed to Richard Painter sums this up: “The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. If we scale that to 46 years, we have been here four hours; our Industrial Revolution began one minute ago… In that time, we’ve destroyed more than 50 percent of the world’s forests.”
Q: How do you view the growing importance of social media today?
A: Social media enhances communication with relatives and friends, and is the best way to learn about the world in which we live as we don’t have time to read newspapers or watch TV documentaries.
It is also an important tool for business, and has become a quicker and more economical way of informing consumers about new products and services.