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EY facilitates discussion on Digital Cities at the FITIS Sri Lanka Internet Day 2021 Forum



Ernst & Young (EY) facilitated a timely discussion on Digital Cities as the knowledge partner at the “Sri Lanka Internet Day 2021”, the inaugural virtual event organized by the Digital Chapter of the Federation of Information Technology in Sri Lanka (FITIS) which was held in line with FITIS mandates on digital economy and regional hub and the 7-pillar digital strategy.

Themed Digital inclusion, the forum emphasized the need for citizen engagement in a digital society and its impact on digital inclusion and also discussed about Sri Lanka’s digital strategy, digitalization initiatives and the need to further enhance digital infrastructure to facilitate a digitally empowered ecosystem.

A major highlight of the forum was the discussion on Digital Cities held with the participation of Arjuna Herath Senior Partner and Head of Consulting at Ernst & Young Sri Lanka and Maldives and Amit Midha president, Asia Pacific and Japan and Global Digital Cities of Dell Technologies. The discussion between Herath and Midha provided deep insights on Digital Cities and laid the foundation for Sri Lankans to look forward to the concept, inspired by the digital models implemented by Singapore and other developed countries.

Herath laying the context for the discussion indicated that Cities have been centers for innovation and economic growth since the perennial times and as a result of that, more and more people migrated to cities in search of jobs and luxury lifestyles. He stated that technology has played a key role in the transformation of cities and that has led to the emergence of the Digital City concept. Midha exploring the topic said, “It is a City that thrives in the fourth industrial revolution”. Midha emphasized the fact that data and data related industries are going to be crucial within the next 30 to 40 years and that everyone needs to transform themselves to be successful in the digital sphere. He highlighted that digital jobs can thrive with new concepts such as Work from Home and Sri Lanka has the capacity to build on that. He also stressed on the importance of a Digital City in helping individuals and societies to transform themselves with access to economic growth, better living standards, better healthcare and education, mobility and new job opportunities, etc.

The discussion emphasized how new technology can be used to facilitate the everyday lives of people. The government’s role in this regard was perceived as vital because if necessary policies are implemented and infrastructure is provided, there is enough talent to build on those advantages and come up with new innovations. Midha emphasized that the private sector must join hands in the development efforts by alluding to the fact that ideas from different segments are vital in making progress.

A Digital City is expected to have streamlined services relating to transport, health, education, and all the primary services that people look forward to. The discussion went on to show a clear pathway where Sri Lanka can adapt the Digital City concept in the long run. According to the thoughts shared, safety is the top most priority for a city because if the city is not safe, people will leave that city. The next pillar is to streamline transportation within the city, from the city and into the city. The third pillar is the development of heath care and education which are considered as two of the primary needs of people living in a city. The next important aspect is the government to work as an app, conveniently assisting to fulfil the needs of people. The focus on sustainability, green energy, smart grid and solar was also highlighted as essential aspects in shifting to the concept.

The discussion also highlighted the need to focus on security when dealing with data and data related projects at a time when hacking, cyber-attacks and data thefts are abundant in the world. “In the process of digitizing cities, intrinsic security is a must have and we need to pay more attention to that going forward.” Says Midha.

Mr. Herath spoke about the opening Sri Lanka has in creating a Digital City with the new Port city in the making and the need to embedding the concepts that were discussed when creating the City including the required leadership and policies, operating models and processes and the community and the ecosystem which also need to be considered. Mr. Midha elaborating on this said “There has to be a vision that has to be built. A dream has to be put out there to get citizens buy in. In fact this is how cities take shape. There is plenty of money in the system. People will help make these cities happen. They need to be told what the dream is, how they can happen, then they buy into this, in fact any public project that makes livability better makes prices of all real estate in the city to go up. So, all the folks know that by doing things right, it is a significant economic return. They also want future generations to have better access to infrastructure and live in a better place.”

Providing a comprehensive outlook on Digital Cities, what advantages these cities have in store for the public and what needs to be done in order to shift towards the new concept, the discussion ended after sharing a wealth of knowledge while acting as an eye opener for the authorities to look forward to maximize the available technologies and embrace the Digital City concept.

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Courtyard by Marriott to debut in Sri Lanka



Marriott International is set to introduce the Courtyard by Marriott brand to Sri Lanka, this year. The hospitality giant has signed an agreement with Colombo City Centre Partners (Private) Limited, part of the Abans Group, for this 164-key hotel, expected to open in late 2021, – according to Business Traveller India.

Located in the heart of Colombo city adjacent to the Beira Lake, Courtyard by Marriott Colombo will feature 164 modern guest rooms and suites. The rooms will be equipped with functional work area, smart amenities, and high-speed internet access, making it an ideal stay option for business and leisure travellers, the Indian magazine stated.

There will be two dining venues – an all-day dining restaurant serving a combination of western dishes, Asian favourites and a host of local delicacies as well as an adjoining Lobby Lounge decked with a full-service bar and a quick-bites menu.

Other amenities include a 24-hour fitness centre, an outdoor swimming pool and three meeting rooms.

Rajeev Menon, president, Asia Pacific (excluding China), Marriott International said:

“We are delighted to strengthen our Marriott Bonvoy portfolio of hotels in Sri Lanka with today’s signing. The signing underscores our long-term commitment to Sri Lanka as a strategically important market, offering the potential to grow our brands and provide customers with more choices.”

Kiran Andicot, regional vice president – Development, South Asia, Marriott International commented, “We are very pleased to collaborate with Abans Group, who share our vision to offer smart, intuitive service and high-quality accommodation in Sri Lanka.”

Further elaborating on the collaboration, Aban Pestonjee, chairperson of Abans Group said:

“We are happy to have forged this strategic business alliance with Marriott International and are keen to see our relationship grow from strength to strength. We eagerly look forward to the opening of the first Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Sri Lanka. We are excited to have Marriott International with us at Colombo City Centre.”



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Virtusa appoints Santosh Thomas as CEO



Virtusa Corporation, a global provider of digital strategy, digital engineering and IT services and solutions that help clients change and disrupt markets through innovation engineering, yesterday announced the appointment of Santosh Thomas as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Virtusa’s Board of Directors appointed Santosh as successor to the company’s founder, Kris Canekeratne, who announced his transition from the business in May 2021. Santosh joins Virtusa during a time of significant growth and follows the recent appointment of Sander van‘t Noordende to the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Santosh brings more than 20 years of leadership and industry experience to Virtusa. Most recently Santosh served as President of Global Growth Markets at Cognizant where he managed a business with revenues over $4 billion and built multiple billion-dollar businesses in Europe and Asia Pacific in Banking, CommTech and Products & Resources.  In his new role, Santosh will help Virtusa drive growth in key markets and continue to be recognized as an employer of choice.

“On behalf of the entire company and the Board of Directors, I would like to thank Kris for his more than two decades of leadership,” said Sander van‘t Noordende. “I would also like to welcome Santosh who brings a stellar track record of client service, leadership, and proven success. Santosh has the vision and experience to take Virtusa’s deep heritage in digital engineering to new levels of growth.”

 “I am deeply honored to join Virtusa at this exciting time for our employees, clients and partners,” said Santosh Thomas. “I have admired Kris and Virtusa for fostering a culture of innovation and distinguishing itself as a global leader in helping customers tackle their unique digital transformation challenges. Virtusa has a great brand reputation, an impressive roster of strategic partners, and is well positioned for sustained growth.”

“When I founded Virtusa 25 years ago I had a vision to build a global powerhouse in digital engineering services. And we did just that,” said Kris Canekeratne. “I leave with the confidence that the company and its leadership team have never been stronger and its opportunities have never been greater. I welcome Santosh Thomas to the CEO role and wish him the best in his efforts to lead Virtusa through its next phase of growth.”

Also announced yesterday, Denise Warren has joined Virtusa’s Board of Directors and has been appointed Chairperson of its Audit Committee. Ms. Warren recently retired from her position as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of WakeMed Health & Hospitals, and serves on the boards of Brookdale Senior Living, Computer Programs & Systems Inc., and Rockroom Insurance Group. 



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No double standards please, on govt’s vehicle import ban: CMTA



Meanwhile, on June 9, The Island published its front page lead story ‘Covid time bonanza: Luxury SUVs for MPs coming after all- LCs opened before Cabinet rescinded its own decision’.

The Ceylon Motor Traders Association (CMTA) has expressed its concerns on the decision the government has taken to import 400 vehicles – including 227 luxury SUVs – to a value of Rs. 3.7 billion through the Bank of Ceylon. The Government reversed its earlier decision to cancel the order, citing the fact that the Letters of Credit (LCs) had been already opened and “as the opening of Letters of Credit meant guaranteed payment, Sri Lanka faced the prospect of being blacklisted if a unilateral decision was taken” as per Minister Keheliya Rambukwella’s explanation to the press.

The CMTA notified the government of the same issues and repercussions on international trade as a result of unilaterally dishonouring 216 LCs of its members that had been opened prior to the import ban in March 2020. Totalling Rs. 5.2 billion, these include a considerable number of vehicles ordered by permit holders such as doctors and government officials who are at the forefront fighting the pandemic, some of whom had already sold their existing vehicle, anticipating their new vehicle to arrive shortly. Is it fair to keep these permit holders on hold indefinitely while new luxury SUVs are imported for MPs during the import ban?

Due to these LCs being dishonoured, a total of more than 14,000 vehicles comprising 10,780 Motorcycles, 2640 trishaws and 537 Cars specifically ordered for Sri Lankan market conditions were prohibited from being imported.

The vehicle import ban imposed last year has taken a toll on vehicle buyers by constricting the market at a time when the need for personal transportation is more acute. To make matters worse, the resulting imbalance of demand vs. supply has caused prices of used vehicles skyrocket within a short time span, and has led to unscrupulous activities at the expense of the consumer, such as odometer tampering.

Speaking on behalf of the CMTA, Chairman Yasendra Amerasinghe said, “Considering the rampant increase of COVID-19 cases at this time, with various potent variants of the virus spreading throughout the island, personal mobility represents the safest option for citizens who have no choice but to travel. The CMTA very much agrees with Minister Rambukwella’s statement that cancellation of confirmed LCs will affect the credibility of our banks and country. We strongly urge the government to apply the same standard to LCs for vehicles for government servants including doctors, and the general public as it has applied for luxury SUVs for MPs. We hope that there would be no double standard.”

Furthermore, the CMTA mentioned that it had been reminding the government of a proposal for Quota that It had submitted in March, at the request of the President’s Secretariat, to which no response had been given. This proposal was based on a minimum volume of vehicle imports for the industry to survive until the import ban is lifted.

Concerns were also raised as to how this purchase had been carried out without an open tender, with queries as to whether it complies with government procurement guidelines.

Founded in 1920, the Ceylon Motor Traders Association (CMTA) is affiliated to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and is widely accepted as the voice of the Sri Lankan Automotive Industry.

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