Reaping the rewards of digitalisation

Rohan Fernando

Sri Lanka Telecom

Q:  How has Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) navigated the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 12 months?

Our business continuity plan – one of SLT’s inbuilt systems – is a contingency that enables the enterprise to weather onerous conditions.

Given the fact that global pandemic outbreaks of this nature are rare in nature, the contingency is not wired to absorb the brunt of its implications, which led to the need for some improvisation.

The impact of the pandemic on companies – particularly in a global context – was taken into account as SLT incorporated prevention and control parameters into this plan. These protocols were revisited and strengthened once the advanced stages of the pandemic struck, and we are ensuring that these measures are maintained as continuous processes.

Q:  In your view, how significant is the telecom’s role in the national economy?

Sri Lanka looks to immerse itself in digitalisation as it strives to enter a digitalised environment. All essential services irrevocably require communications to ensure the smooth functionality of operations while the present context demands digital facilitation.

In its role as the national service provider when it comes to the digital communication system, Sri Lanka Telecom offers service coverage across the dimensions of land, sea and air.

We are the custodians of an important function with a fibre optic system, an underground network running 56,000 kilometres acting as the country’s network backbone. This enables SLT to provide coverage to essential services, enterprises and households, earning it government recognition as an essential service as well.

Having earned a reputation for being one of the largest connectors in the context of global communications, SLT has partnered with international telecom operators to operate five submarine cables and is in the process of building a sixth such cable (SEA-ME-WE 6).

Furthermore, Sri Lanka Telecom is poised to enhance the mobile telephony sector through the release of 5G technology. This activation is expected to take place in the industrial zone of the Hambantota District during the course of this year.

Owning a fancy mobile device doesn’t necessarily mean that individuals wield 5G technology. From the activation of AI to the amplification of automation, the scope of technology that can be delivered through 5G services is undeniably of paramount importance.

Q:  As a business leader, what steps have you taken to foster economic vitality and improve efficiency at SLT?

State enterprises generally have a reputation for lacking economic vitality and efficiency. This has come about from the absence of strong leadership in addition to unnecessary pressures exerted by external parties.

Despite 49 percent of its shares being state equity, SLT cannot be classified as a state owned organisation.

As a company, Sri Lanka Telecom has witnessed significant changes since the change in management last year. In my assessment, remarkable improvements have been recorded in terms of the organisation’s top and bottom lines, and the friction between management and staff has been negligible.

Moreover, SLT looks to lead by example by serving as a role model in terms of how public-private partnerships (PPP) can thrive while providing a boost to the national economy.

Q:  And finally, what measures can organisations such as SLT take to prevent losses and contribute to the nation?

SLT consistently invests in the latest technologies and R&D projects in a bid to introduce the best solutions available in digitalisation while fulfilling its social responsibility towards the country.

Our aim is to set an example of how organisations can rise to the challenge in times of turmoil and become the game changers that the nation deserves.