Lifelong learning is crucial because technology is evolving – Janaka Perera

Unprecedented and rapid technological changes and innovations have marked the era we live in. And the world is on the verge of entering the age of self-driving cars among other novelties.

Those who lived through the 1950s know that transformations at the time were moving at snail’s pace compared to the rapidity of events taking place today. The technology we were using then was basically that of the ’30s. Even in the 1960s, direct dialling from Colombo to the provinces wasn’t possible.

It took around two decades for TV to be introduced to Sri Lanka though it had been available abroad since the ’50s. Even up to the mid-1980s, offices in both the state and private sectors in this country were using manual typewriters.

However, Sri Lankans have had engineering in their genes – as evinced by the country’s ancient hydraulic civilisation (irrigated agriculture) and construction of giant stupas, says Managing Director of Nimbus Cloud Lanka and President of the Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL) Damith Hettihewa.

Over the past decade, many companies have been launched to promote new inventions. LAKRO Industries, which was established in 2009, was later incorporated as LAKRO Inventions to promote Sri Lankan inventions overseas.

LAKRO was started up by Niranjan Weerakoon who is an inventor with around 30 years of experience – among its inventions were a coconut scraping machine and an eco-friendly biomass stove.

Vega Innovations and Techno Consultants has begun manufacturing a solar-powered electric three-wheeler, which can run a distance of 120 kilometres after charging the battery just once, according to its Director and Cofounder Dr. Beshan Kulapala. The company also manufactured the Vega electric car.

However, the increase of EVs (electric vehicles) calls for massive investments. Even the US will need an additional 50 percent electricity generation and for a nation such as Sri Lanka, this will be a major challenge.

With the closing of schools due to the pandemic, Sundaralingam Pirinavan – a student of Kilinochchi Madhya Maha Vidyalayam – used his time to develop a system to operate a three-wheeler using solar power. He was helped by his grandfather who is a technician.
In the meantime, Sri Lanka’s tech community is well prepared and geared to address the challenges that arise from the ongoing pandemic to enable day-to-day life to continue. From children being able to access classes online to home delivery of consumer goods and services, Sri Lanka is taking giant strides in its digital journey.

Even before the pandemic unfolded, we had the necessary framework in place from which to embark on our digital journey. The ability of consumers to make an immediate transition from manual to electronic transactions provides clear evidence that a strong foundation had already been laid.

To enable this transition from a policy perspective, Director and Legal Advisor of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and Director of Sri Lanka CERT Jayantha Fernando affirms that the nation has an enabling legal framework to transform every form of physical activity into the digital medium – except for certain classes of instruments where notarisation is required.
A concerted move from paper to digital transactions – be it in the state or private sector – is the need of the hour. As measures are taken to verify the identity of a person, protecting the same in the digital world is imperative.

Developments such as advanced robotics, AI and 3D printing will open up many opportunities, for both developed and developing countries. Governments need to leverage the benefits, and successfully manage structural and technological changes while minimising costs.

Sampath Bank was ahead of the pack when it introduced new technology and has been the first to install a banking robot at its headquarters. Robotics enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning is proving to be a game changer that will bring unique operational efficiencies to the global financial services industry.

The Electronic Transactions Act No. 19 of 2006 was enacted to fulfil a number of objectives such as facilitating domestic and international electronic commerce.

It did this by eliminating certain barriers and establishing legal certainty; encouraging the use of reliable forms of electronic commerce; facilitating electronic filing of documents with the government; promoting efficient delivery of state services through reliable forms of electronic communications; and encouraging public confidence in the authenticity, integrity and reliability of data messages and electronic communications.

New technology is flooding the workplace and all we have to do is apply ourselves to fresh challenges. We must be lifelong learners because advances in technology are inevitable and ongoing.

Nowadays, more and more schools are adapting to new technology very well in a bid to stay relevant.