Sri Lanka: From Frontier to Emerging
Sun, Sep 22, 2019, 07:28 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
Sept 22, Colombo: Hiranya Samarasekera, VP Engineering – Head of Enterprise Architecture Group (EAG) at Sysco LABS, delivered the keynote speech at the 2nd International Conference on Business Research (ICBR) 2019 organized by the Business Research Unit of the Faculty of Business at University of Moratuwa.
This year’s conference theme was “Calibrating the modern-day businesses through data analytics and business information systems in emerging markets.”
Hiranya classified Sri Lanka as an “Emerging-Emerging Economy” more popularly known as a Frontier Economy; an economy which is more developed than the Least Developing Countries but too small and risky, with less advanced capital markets to be an Emerging Economy. In the quest to achieve Emerging Economy status, the question Hiranya posed to the audience was, whether Sri Lanka has what it takes to be on par and remain competitive with countries that are globally classified under the “Emerging” category.
Drawing comparisons with other countries in the region to answer this question, it was noted that Sri Lanka’s total active labor force of 9 million is miniscule when compared with Bangladesh’s 60 million, as is Sri Lanka’s IT Enabled Sector which currently consists of a workforce of just 80,000 people in comparison to India’s 3.1 million. Furthermore, from an innovation point of view, Sri Lanka was ranked No. 89 on the Global Innovation Index in 2019 whilst other Frontier Markets such as Vietnam are ahead at No. 42.
Within a landscape such as this, Hiranya states that it’s time for Sri Lanka to shift its focus towards value added innovation, i.e., both product and service related innovations that would result in Sri Lanka progressing as a “Knowledge Economy” thereby creating a competitive advantage for ourselves in this rapidly growing borderless global market.
Using an example from a pivotal moment in Sri Lanka’s ship building industry; he noted that the recent commissioning of the KDDI Cable Infinity built by Colombo Dockyard PLC, the largest and most sophisticated vessel to be built by Sri Lanka (113m), is a great example of such an advantage as it gives us leverage to compete with the top manufacturers in the industry such as China and Japan.
In the same way, cloud computing has made it easier than ever for even a start-up to access large scale computational power, storage and the latest technological advancement within seconds, a feat that would have required enormous capital investments a few years ago. This has largely reduced the barriers to entry and catapulted many startups to success. With the right application of technologies such as cloud computing along with data analytics the possibilities for identifying a gap in the market and servicing that gap effectively are endless. As such, Hiranya points out we are at a critical juncture where Sri Lanka needs to “adopt digital technologies, embrace analytics and use it as a competitive advantage.”
The use of machine learning technologies which can be identified as a foundational transformational technology, is also fast gaining momentum in the global market with successful applications across varying industries from self-driving automobiles to facial recognition on smart phones and social media. Technologies such as these can greatly assist in governance, enabling decision-makers to make insightful and data-driven policies that deliver better, more cost-effective and citizen-friendly services. This would not be limited to governance alone, IoT (Internet of Things) coupled with business process management enables end-to-end digitization of processes, paving the way for process mining and process analytics whilst gaining real-time insights about processes assisting organizations in making proactive decisions.
The use of technologies to create a competitive advantage are not limited to the applications above, the use of technology in the finance sector (FinTech) has been rapidly developing with the birth of tools such as peer-to-peer lending, cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding platforms among many others. Facebook’s recent announcement of a consortium named “Libra” – an effort to create a global digital currency with several large tech and non-tech companies such as eBay, Uber, PayPal, Visa and Mastercard to name a few – showcases the level of technological disruption taking place in the financial sector as well.
Hiranya concluded his keynote address by highlighting the significant data and analytics-driven growth trajectory we are heading towards and the extensive opportunities available both in the government and private sectors as a result. “We need to develop a new breed of employees who are capable of analytical, quantitative and research skills,” he said. “Everyone has to take on the role of an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, challenging the status quo and venturing in to unchartered territories in order to push the nation to the next level.”
Sysco LABS is the innovation arm of Sysco Corporation (NYSE:SYY), the world’s largest foodservice company. Sysco is the global leader in marketing, selling and distributing food products as well as equipment and supplies to the hospitality industry. Sysco serves over 500,000 customer locations through its team of over 65,000 associates and operates 300 distribution facilities across the globe.