Internet Day 2022 Discussion: Can the Sri Lankan IT industry earn $5 billion by 2025?

Panel discussion at Internet Day 2022 on the topic Developing IT Professionals

by Aarthi Aryasinha

Will Sri Lanka be able to produce 200,000 IT professionals within the next 3 years, to enable a revenue of $5 billion dollars to flow into the economy? A recent panel discussion hosted by the Federation of Information Technology Industry Sri Lanka (FITIS) featuring 4 panellists discussed the reality of this goal. 

Graduates not equipped

‘Internet Day 2022' organised by FITIS (Federation of Information Technology Industry Sri Lanka) discussed the importance of developing IT professionals in Sri Lanka. The discussion highlighted key elements of the digital economy that need to be tweaked in order to create a significant improvement in the Sri Lankan economy. The conflict within the IT industry revolves around a gap between demand and supply, in terms of quantity and quality. On the supply side, businesses within the industry are observing that graduates coming out of their relative courses are not equipped with enough specific skills and experience to actually perform the jobs that are available to them. There is a gap between the numbers of available graduates and those actually being given the opportunity to work in their chosen fields within the IT industry.  

Room to grow

Associate Chief Economy Officer of ICTA, Sameera Jayawardene says out of the 300,000 students that sit their A- Levels, 121,000 students qualify to go into university, but only 25,000 get the opportunity to attend. This demonstrates the space within the schooling system that needs to grow to accommodate the IT sector. There are plenty of options for students, they must be made aware of. Both state universities and private institutes provide a number of opportunities for students eager to participate and join this industry. Governments have been working with IT institutes at top levels to facilitate better programmes and more inclusive streams. Increasing the capacity of IT students, meaning their knowledge and practical abilities that can be applied to real world and real job atmospheres will in turn increase the number of IT professionals in Sri Lanka, getting us closer to the 200,000 graduates goal by 2025. 

Industry Prejudices

Another aspect of the IT industry discussed on internet day that requires adjustment is the prejudices revolving around IT itself.  There are beliefs amongst many that IT is solely for those heavily gifted in their academics, that it is not a field for women, and that people looking at building a career in IT require heavy knowledge and experience from a very young age in order to be successful. Vishaka Nanayakkara from the University of Moratuwa explained  “gone are the days where we believed that hardcore mathematicians are going to be the computer scientists.” There is a significant need to increase opportunities given out to a wider scope of students who may possibly not have significant experience in the field, yet have a passion to learn and excel in the IT field. 

Action required

It is important that both educational institutes, as well as governments, aid the future of IT in Sri Lanka by specifically gearing education towards the detailed necessities of the industry. Allowing graduates to come out of their degrees well equipped with skills and experience that will enable them to participate in the field from day one is vital. This could be in the form of apprenticeships, and internships, which take place while they are being educated, which would go towards fulfilling the quality of IT professionals demanded. 

Through these various efforts, a real change can be achieved within the IT industry. It is important that as a community, those able to create such change, from within the educational system and even those outside who actually acquire these graduates, put in the time and effort to better the system. If this is done successfully, we would come that many steps closer to fulfilling our 2025 goal of the IT industry contributing a $5 billion revenue to the overall economy.

Internet Day 2022 Developing IT Professionals: 

Moderator Fairooz Habeeb (Silverleap Technology Private Limited/ Chief Operating Officer President Software Chapter FITIS )

Panellists: Mr. Mohan Fernando (IIT/CEO)/ Zafarullah Hashim (Trainocate/Managing Director)/ Ms. Vishaka Nanayakkara (Moratuwa University)/ Mr. Sameera Jayawardene (ICTA/ Associate Chief Economy Officer)