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Launch of SPARX Lab by ICTA: Where Sri Lankan future entrepreneurship will be fostered

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From Left to Right: Dr. Prasad Samarasinghe - Managing Director, LankaBell Ltd/ Chairman, FITIS, Shamilan Somasundaram - Founder, Niftron, Eng. Mahinda B. Herath - Chief Executive Officer, ICTA, Jeevan Gnanam - Founder, Hatch Works, Jayantha De Silva - Secretary, Ministry of Technology, Oshada Senanayake - Chairman, ICTA/ Director General, TRCSL, Anura De Alwis - Chief Digital Economy Officer, ICTA, Ms. Nevindaree Premaratne - Senior Manager, ICTA, Ms. Lakmini Wijesundara - Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, IronOne Technologies & BoardPAC

The Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) is the apex ICT institution of the Government mandated to drive digital transformation with a vision to make Sri Lanka a digitally inclusive nation. In line with the Digital Economy Strategy, ICTA develops, supports, and helps nurture the startup ecosystem of Sri Lanka.

ICTA recently announced the launch of SPARX Lab with an opening ceremony held recently with the participation of Jayantha De Silva, Secretary to the Ministry of Technology, Oshada Senanayake, Chairman, ICTA/ Director General, TRCSL, Eng. Mahinda B. Herath, Chief Executive Officer, ICTA, Anura De Alwis, Chief Digital Economy Officer ICTA, and representatives from the startup ecosystem including Jeevan Gnanam, Founder, Hatch Works graced the occasion.

SPARX Lab is a physical space dedicated to nurturing early-stage startups in Sri Lanka. In line with ICTA mandate to develop, support, and help nurture the startups, this dedicated workspace will foster budding entrepreneurs and provide orientation, consultation, guidance, and mentoring for entrepreneurs planning to establish their own startup. In addition, these entrepreneurs will get the chance to develop networks with like-minded people, academia, government, and all other entities within which the ICTA Startup Ecosystem Development unit closely works.

Since 2010, ICTA has supported developing startup ecosystems by creating awareness, instilling entrepreneurship culture, incubation, market access, early-stage seed funding, consulting, and mentoring. In addition, initiatives such as ‘10,000 Ideas’, STEP Pre-Incubator, StartupSL, and Regional Startup Hubs will further support the development and growth of the startup ecosystem in Sri Lanka.

Commenting on this initiative, Jayantha De Silva, Secretary of the Ministry of Technology, stated, “Within the prevailing cultural and economic setup in Sri Lanka, initiating startups is a huge challenge. Therefore, the Ministry of Technology, along with ICTA facilitates and nurtures these startups to create a technology-driven environment conducive for the growth of startups”.

Chairman of ICTA Sri Lanka and DG TRCSL, Oshada Senanayake addressing the opening ceremony, stated, “I think it’s indeed a significant moment for ICTA. The key pivotal point for us is the development of the next generation of technopreneurs and startup enablers. Therefore, ICTA has an important role to play in enabling and empowering the Sri Lankan startup ecosystem.”

Primarily, SPARX Lab will act as a hub for budding entrepreneurs and early-stage startups that can to come together and be groomed with the support of ICTA, the startup ecosystem, and the government. In addition, SPARX Lab will be the central hub for all regional startup hubs and University incubator networks formed due to the roll-out of the Entrepreneurial University framework. Finally, it allows key ambassadors to get together and work on one national agenda along with ICTA.

“ICTA has been incubating startups for a long time, and it comprises a mature, though young, team to support and nurture startups. The facilities that have been developed by ICTA here will be a massive addition to the startup ecosystem,” said Eng. Mahinda B. Herath, CEO of ICTA Sri Lanka.

SPARX Lab will be open for any team or individual whose idea qualifies or has already qualified as one of the ‘10,000 Ideas’ Tech-innovation Program initiated by ICTA, to empower the next generation of tech innovators. In addition, the registrants in the StartupSL platform who do not own a business registration or who have not completed one year since registering their business would also be eligible. StartupSL is the national online platform for startups in Sri Lanka, which allows its registrants to connect with the startup ecosystem enablers and vice-versa. Cohorts of ‘STEP’, the ICTA pre-incubator program will also have access to the SPARX Lab.

ICTA has remained particularly close to the startup ecosystem and have played an important role in changing the lives of many entreprenuers in Sri Lanka” stated Mr. Jeevan Gnanam, Founder of Hatch Works, who was recently awarded ‘The Best Co-working Space’ in the world at the Global Startup Awards 2021.

The occupants at SPARX Lab will receive numerous supports from the entire startup ecosystem. SPARX Lab can be accessed from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm on weekdays, with multiple facilities including video conferencing, free high-speed Wi-Fi powered by Dialog, SLT and Mobitel. Based on the requirements, they will also receive access to a pod to house their startups with two team members for two consecutive weeks or daily. One-on-one meetings could be facilitated, along with a dedicated space for startups seeking a business place for recruitment. For more details contact us via startups@icta.lk.



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Business

Pan Asia Bank posts steady performance during FY 2023 –

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Aravinda Perera- Chairman & Naleen Edirisinghe - Director CEO of Pan Asia Bank

Profit before Tax increases by 258% amidst external challenges

Pan Asia Banking Corporation PLC reflected a steady performance amidst multitude of adversities emerging from challenging macro-economic conditions as the Bank reported its financial performance during 2023, which showed judicious portfolio management and prudency exercised in dealing with possible fallout on its asset quality in challenging times.

The Bank reported a Pre-tax Profit of Rs. 2,328 Mn for the year ended 31st December 2023, which is 258% increase compared to corresponding period last year, supported by improved net interest income, increased trading gains from government securities and reduced exchange losses.

The Sri Lankan economy has experienced some positive signs of gradual economic recovery and a measure of stability in macro-economic factors compared to the previous year, with the appreciation of LKR against USD and the IMF bailout followed by the Domestic Debt Optimization (DDO) announcement. The multiple economic scenario models used regarding collective impairment in 2022 were continued in 2023 to ensure that adequate buffers were in place to absorb any potential credit risk that could arise in the future. The allowance for overlays applied in previous year was continued and maintained during 2023 too. Meanwhile, the Bank managed to end the year with healthy credit quality matrices due to improved credit underwriting standards and concerted collection & recovery efforts despite the contraction in the loan book during 2023 which impacted the Bank’s Stage 3 Loan Ratio adversely.

Furthermore, the Bank increased impairment provision buffers held regarding investments in International Sovereign Bonds of Government of Sri Lanka (SLISBs) further during 2023 with the expectation of possible adverse outcomes of the on-going government External Debt Restructuring (EDR) programme. The Bank recognised an impairment charge of nearly Rs. 2 Bn regarding International Sovereign Bonds during 2023.

The interest income for the year 2023 rose by 39% due to the high interest rates that prevailed during the period under review compared to corresponding period of the last year and the re-pricing effect of facilities in response to the market conditions. Further, the growth in interest income was supported by the increased interest income from Rupee denominated securities of the Government of Sri Lanka (T-Bills & Bonds) due to increased investments and high interest rates offered on such new investments compared to the previous year. Consequently, the net interest income increased by 9% in 2023 compared to the last year. (Pan Asia Bank)

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SLT-MOBITEL celebrates the season of love with exciting giveaways

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SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider, celebrated Valentine’s Day with a series of heartwarming promotions and networking activities, spreading love and joy for customers across the country.

Connecting hearts from all around the world on social media, SLT-MOBITEL invited participants to share their loving memories for a chance to win movie tickets. Customers were also given the opportunity to dedicate romantic ringing tones to their loved ones by dialling special codes.

As part of the Valentine’s Day celebrations, SLT-MOBITEL also offered a special promotion, providing a special screening for the glamorous movie ‘Sihinayeki Adarey’, powered by SLT-MOBITEL. Furthermore, customers were treated to a surprise bonus of 10GB of free data upon recharging their SLT-MOBITEL mobile numbers with Rs. 500 or more through any banking app.

Taking love to the hill country, in a special engagement event at the Kandy City Centre, fans were able to participate in activities and interact with the ‘Sihinayeki Adarey’ cast including Hemal Ranasinghe, Sheshadri Priyasad, and many others.

Through these exciting promotions, SLT-MOBITEL helped spread love and joy this season while enhancing the customer experience with exclusive activities.

To discover more of SLT-MOBITEL’s Valentine’s Day promotions, visit https://www.facebook.com/SLTMobitel.

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Call for Proposals: Saman Kelegama Memorial Research Grant 2024

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The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) is inviting proposals for the Saman Kelegama Memorial Research Grant 2024. The grant is an annual, merit-based grant awarded to an outstanding undergraduate studying in a Sri Lankan university. It aims to promote policy entrepreneurs among undergraduates by encouraging policy-relevant, rigorous and innovative socio-economic research.

The grant was established in 2018 to honour Dr. Saman Kelegama’s legacy of independent research and public policy engagement in socio-economic development in Sri Lanka and the wider South Asian region. Dr. Kelegama was the Executive Director of the IPS from 1995 to 2017.

Fourth-year undergraduates studying economics or a related subject in a University Grants Commission approved university or higher education institution in Sri Lanka are eligible to apply. Proposals must be written according to the guidelines provided and emailed to tharakam@ips.lk on or before the submission deadline of 30 April 2024.

HOW WILL THE WINNER BE CHOSEN? The quality of the proposals will be judged for its policy relevance, feasibility, originality and creativity. Three finalists will be chosen and invited to present their proposals at the IPS, where the award recipient will be selected.

OUTCOMES OF THE GRANTS – The recipient will be expected to produce a Policy Discussion Brief within six months of receiving the grant. The research report can be written individually or jointly with an IPS senior researcher.

BENEFITS OF THE GRANT – The beneficiary will be awarded a one-time research grant of LKR 200,000 to carry out the proposed research and a three-month internship at the IPS. The recipient will be able to seek guidance from senior researchers and benefit from IPS resources to complete the proposed study during the internship. To enable students from all over Sri Lanka to benefit from this opportunity, the terms of the internship will be flexible. The internship can either be a fully in-house internship at IPS, or it can be an in-house plus online internship. In the case of the second option, the in-house component of the internship should be at least six weeks. To encourage research dissemination, an additional subsidy will be provided for presenting the research findings at local conferences and workshops.

Important Dates

30 April 2024 – Deadline for Submission of Proposals

01 June 2024 – Announcement of Finalists

23 June 2024 – Announcement of the Winner

Further information is available at: https://www.ips.lk/saman-kelegama-memorial-research-grant/

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