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 email@example.com.
Sri Lanka still ‘under test’ before it can receive crucial second tranche from IMF
by Sanath Nanayakkare
International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff concluding their visit to Sri Lanka yesterday reaffirmed their support to Sri Lanka to move out of the ongoing economic crisis, but did not specify an exact timeline for releasing the second tranche of its Extended Fund Faculty (EFF) arrangement to Sri Lanka.
The IMF mission team led by Peter Breuer and Katsiaryna Svirydzenka that visited Colombo from September 14 to 27, is yet to be convinced that it has received a robust programme from the Sri Lankan authorities where they indicate how they would be addressing the persistent revenue shortfall besides outlining progress in foreign debt restructuring which would give Sri Lanka a breather to balance its financing requirements as it starts to repay its foreign debt.
“We had constructive and productive discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on economic performance and policies underpinning the first review under the IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement. The people of Sri Lanka have shown remarkable resilience and the authorities have made significant progress on important reforms. The discussions will continue towards reaching a staff-level agreement in the near term that will maintain the reform momentum needed to allow Sri Lanka to emerge from its deep economic crisis, Peter Breuer said.
“The objectives of the IMF-supported program will continue to focus on restoring macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, while protecting the poor and vulnerable, safeguarding financial stability and stepping up structural reforms to address corruption vulnerabilities and unlock Sri Lanka’s growth potential, he said.
However, the press briefing given by the IMF team yesterday signaled that they needed to see more economic and financial policies to support the approval of the First Review of the program under the EFF arrangement.
“Sri Lanka has made commendable progress in implementing difficult but much-needed reforms. These efforts are bearing fruit as the economy is showing tentative signs of stabilization. Inflation is down from a peak of 70 percent in September 2022 to below 2 percent in September 2023, gross international reserves increased by $1.5 billion during March-June this year, and shortages of essentials have eased. Despite early signs of stabilization, full economic recovery is not yet assured. Growth momentum remains subdued, with real GDP contracting by 3.1 percent in the second quarter on a year-on-year basis and high-frequency economic indicators continuing to provide mixed signals. Reserve accumulation has slowed in recent months, he said.
Speaking further Peter Breuer said: “Sustaining the reform momentum is critical to put the economy on a path towards lasting recovery and stable and inclusive economic growth. The authorities have met the program’s primary balance targets and remain committed to this important pillar of the program so as to support their efforts to restore debt sustainability. However, revenue mobilization gains – while improved relative to last year – are expected to fall short of initial projections by nearly 15 percent by year end, in part due to economic factors.
“The onus of fiscal adjustment would fall on public expenditure if there were no efforts to recoup this shortfall. This could weaken the government’s ability to provide essential public services and undermine the path to debt sustainability. To increase revenues and signal better governance, it is important to strengthen tax administration, remove tax exemptions, and actively eliminate tax evasion.
“Against continued uncertainty, it also remains important to rebuild external buffers through strong reserves accumulation. Building on the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s success in controlling inflation, refraining from monetary financing will help keep inflation in check. Other challenges include maintaining cost recovery in electricity pricing.
“The government has made steady progress on structural reforms. Key legislations passed in Parliament, including the new Central Bank Act and the Anti-Corruption Act, could improve governance if implemented effectively. The IMF Governance Diagnostic report would inform future reform measures to strengthen governance when published.
“A new welfare benefit payment scheme was enacted with new eligibility criteria that aims to improve targeting, adequacy, and coverage of social safety nets. To ensure financial stability, steps were taken on conducting bank diagnostics, developing a roadmap for addressing banking system capital and liquidity shortfalls and improving the bank resolution framework.
“The authorities have also made headway on regaining debt sustainability through the execution of the domestic debt restructuring and advancing discussions with external creditors. As Sri Lanka is restructuring its public debt which is in arrears.
“Executive Board approval of the first program review requires the completion of financing assurances reviews. These financing assurances reviews will focus on whether adequate progress has been made with debt restructuring to give confidence that it will be concluded in a timely manner and in line with the program’s debt targets.
“Discussions are on-going, and the authorities are continuing to make progress on their plans for revenue mobilization targets, anti-corruption efforts, and other important structural reforms.”
The IMF team held meetings with President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, State Minister Shehan Semasinghe, Chief of Staff to the President Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the Treasury K M Mahinda Siriwardana, and other senior government and CBSL officials, during the visit. The IMF team also met with parliamentarians, representatives from the private sector, civil society organizations, and development partners.
‘Imposing minimum room rates on five star hotels could ruin tourism sector’
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
The imposing of a minimum room rate on five star hotels on the basis of a recent gazette notification is actually killing the industry. Room rates, accordingly, could henceforth rise to between 80 percent and 100 percent, top travel and tourism industry expert Chandana Amaradasa said.
“The minimum room rate of a five star hotel currently comes to about US $ 65 but with the new gazette notification it would go up to US $ 170 per day. But our competitors, such as, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are maintaining a minimum room rate of US$ 80 to US$ 85, Amaradasa told The Island Financial Review.
Amaradasa said that the tourism industry is just picking- up and ‘this type of move is detrimental to the entire sector because these room rates are normally determined by demand and supply and not by gazette notifications.
Amaradasa added: ‘At present, Colombo five star hotels are mainly patronized by Indian tourists, corporate clients and MICE tourists. This will not only impact hotel revenue but the outside supply chain as well. Nowhere in the world is the tourism industry regulated in this manner and this would enable our competitors, such as, Vietnam and Thailand to attract tourists.
“As a long term consequence, some of the airlines could also pull out of Sri Lanka and hotels will halt recruiting new staff and training them with the limiting of their revenue sources.’
ADL’s journey continues: Unveiling new offices in Indonesia and Malaysia for tech excellence
Axiata Digital Labs (ADL), the renowned technology hub of Axiata Group Berhad, is proud to announce the grand opening of two new offices in Indonesia and Malaysia. These strategic expansions, respectively, mark significant milestones in the company’s journey since it’s inception in 2019. This signifies ADL’s unwavering commitment to revolutionizing the telecommunications industry and propelling the global rate of digital transformation.
The inauguration of these state-of-the-art offices exemplifies the dedication ADL has towards expanding its footprint and harnessing the power of innovation across Southeast Asia. As the first CMMI 2.0 Level 3 IT organization in Sri Lanka and an ISO-certified company, ADL is well-positioned to lead the charge in transforming traditional telcos into techcos through its groundbreaking Axonect Product Suite.
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