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Microsoft to help 25 million people worldwide acquire new digital skills



Microsoft recently announced a new global skills initiative aimed at bringing more digital skills to 25 million people worldwide by the end of the year.

The announcement comes in response to the global economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the pandemic has put close to 75 million people out of work.

With a labor force of close to 8.9 million, the unemployment rate in Sri Lanka increased to 5.7 percent in the first quarter of 2020 from 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 (CEIC). Expanded access to digital skills is an important step in accelerating economic recovery, especially for the people hardest hit by job losses.

“COVID-19 has created both public health as well as an economic crisis,” said Hasitha Abeywardena, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka and Maldives. “As we move from the initial emergency response phase to the recovery phase to the reimagine phase, determining what should be rebuilt, what should be redefined, we need to ensure that no one is left behind, and address the needs of those most impacted by this crisis.”

This initiative includes immediate steps to help those looking to reskill and pursue an in-demand job and brings together every part of the company, combining existing and new resources from LinkedIn, GitHub and Microsoft.

“Today, we’re bringing together resources from Microsoft inclusive of LinkedIn and GitHub to reimagine how people learn and apply new skills—and help 25 million people facing unemployment due to COVID-19 prepare for the jobs of the future,” he said.

Connecting skills to opportunities. Providing low-cost access to industry-recognized certifications through the end of the year and free access to powerful job-seeker tools that will help people get hired once they have the skills and certifications.

These resources can be accessed at a central location,, and will be broadly available online in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish.

Microsoft is backing the effort with cash grants to help nonprofit organizations worldwide assist those who need it most, including people with lower income, lower educational attainment and underrepresented minorities.

Recently, Microsoft and Sarvodaya-Fusion saw to the training of 200 Ministry of Youth trainers and Microsoft Innovative Education Experts in Sri Lanka. The partnership will see 150 youth participate in the Hour of Code and Make What’s Next campaign events.

The company is also pledging to make stronger data and analytics—including data from the LinkedIn Economic Graph—available to governments around the world so they can better assess local economic needs.

Microsoft will use its voice to advocate for public policy innovations that will advance skilling opportunities needed in the changed economy.

Later this year, Microsoft will preview a new learning app in Microsoft Teams designed to help employers skill and upskill new and current employees as people return to work and as the economy adds jobs.


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Vehicle emission testing service earns high praise from customers



Recognised as Sri Lanka’s leading-edge vehicle emission testing network, Drivegreen has won high praise from customers for its knowledgeable, disciplined and polite workforce, according to a recent customer service survey conducted by the company.

A common thread that echoed across the survey was the customer-oriented, friendly and attentive service extended by the team as the main reasons Drivegreen was repeatedly selected by customers for emission testing.

According to feedback received from a customer in Mawathagama, S.N.S Seneviratne who is a veteran driver said, “Firstly I believe, vehicle testing is an extremely valuable responsibility that has been undertaken by the company. I realise that due to the continuous vehicle testing, the release of toxic gas to the atmosphere has been minimized, enhancing air quality in this country. When compared to earlier days, we were engulfed by vehicle smoke and could not even walk on the road. However, now we witness a remarkable difference and we breathe cleaner air.”

“The staff are also extremely pleasant and helpful and as a result we do not waste our time unduly when waiting to be served or for testing,” he added.

Entrepreneur, Thasnim Kiyad from Maradana observed that as a result of receiving a comprehensive inspection via testing, it has helped him in ensuring the roadworthiness of his vehicle. The results of the emission test act as a guide to enable him to carry out the necessary maintenance and also make sure the fuel efficiency of his vehicle is maintained.

“As a result of conducting the vehicle emission test, I am made aware of any necessary maintenance required for the vehicle which I can attend to immediately. Once, my vehicle failed the test. The team instantly offered invaluable advice, and based on that I was able to make the required adjustments. Following this, when I re-tested, not only did my vehicle pass the emission test but the vehicle’s fuel efficiency was enhanced. Since then for several years now I continuously conduct my emission testing and continue to find the staff extremely competent and friendly,” he stated.


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BOC targets Rs. 50 bn coronavirus business bounce back loans



Bank of Ceylon chairman Kanchana Ratwatte engages in religious activities at BOC headquarters in Colombo yesterday with Acting General Manager D.P.K Gunasekera, Board of Directors, senior management and staff. Pic by Sujatha Jayaratne

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Bank of Ceylon (BOC) chairman Kanchana Ratwatte said in Colombo yesterday that the Bank has set its sights on distributing Covid-19 bounce back business loans totaling Rs. 50 billion going forward.

“The government has developed and announced a range of measures aimed at supporting the economy, businesses and employees through the COVID-19 crisis, and the BOC will play a significant role in the government’s business support mechanisms with a view to reigniting the economy back to pre-Covid-19 level”, he said.

BOC chairman made these remarks at an event where BOC celebrated its 81st anniversary, leading the banking and finance landscape in Sri Lanka.

Speaking further Ratwatte said: “The Central Bank has proposed loan schemes to help revive affected businesses and increase money circulation in the country. BOC staff and senior management should work as one to achieve this objective. Under trying circumstances during the pandemic the entire staff rallied round BOC to keep the wheels of commerce moving in the country. BOC made a significant role in moving the economy in the right direction. I want to thank the government and the Central Bank for their guidance and support during this period. Entire staff of the bank had to make many sacrifices too.

‘’Those efforts were never mentioned in the media or elsewhere. In fact, it was under very trying circumstances, services were rendered by the banking sector. Despite the health risk, we kept the banks open throughout the period. Everybody from the lower level employee to the DGM to Acting GM made their fullest contribution to keep BOC operations moving. The health threat is not over yet, But we need to get our 12 million strong customers participating actively in the economy back again. We have started going to regions in the country and encouraging our customers to come to the bank and start their normal business activities.

‘’BOC has a share of 40% of foreign remittances and we have been able to maintain that level up to the end of July except for the month of June where there was a small deviation. Every other month despite the covid situation foreign remittances have flowed to the bank as usual. I would like to call upon the staff and senior management of BOC that despite the challenges we are facing, we need to address the concerns of the government of Sri Lanka. The main focus of the government is to ensure that there is enough liquidity in the system. Most of the relief schemes and moratoriums have been introduced by the Central Bank to ensure that there is adequate money circulation in the market for which purpose we have to think beyond the usual banking practices – without breaking the rules and well within the realm of our accepted banking practices – and help keep the wheels of commerce moving”.

D.P.K Gunasekera, Acting General Manager-BOC said,”BOC has distributed about Rs, 9 billion coronavirus business bounce back loans. Potential loan grants worth Rs. 6 billion have been registered with the Central Bank. In addition to that, our branch network is currently in the process of reviewing loans worth Rs. 12 billion. Thus BOC is working ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the government to achieve quick economic recovery”.

A number of leading businesspeople of the country who are top-line customers of the bank took part in the event.


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Nihonbashi partners Luxe Colombo on 25th anniversary



Nihonbashi, an iconic dining destination has partnered with Luxe Colombo to create a food-hall concept, where premium imported products are available for purchase or can be enjoyed at the ‘Taste Lab’. This is the first space in Sri Lanka where an extensive range of specialty cheeses and cold-cuts are paired with wines from around the world and can be sampled at the space itself.

After 25 years in its original location, a stone’s throw from Galle Face Green, famed Chef-restaurateur Dharshan Munidasa decided it was time to adopt a modern concept of a ‘deli-style’ space where specially curated menus could come into play along with small pop-ups showcasing his love of Japanese cuisine and steaks. It would also be a space for his chef friends to host pop-ups, to capture the attention of a growing segment of discerning luxury diners, while at the same time staying true to the Zen spirit of Nihonbashi, which prides itself on high-quality produce and authenticity that has kept raising the bar over 25 years and was in fact the first restaurant in Sri Lanka to ever make it to the prestigious Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list. Luxe Colombo has fast earned a solid reputation as a purveyor of fine-foods from Europe and delivery options are also available out of this well-located space.

The ‘Taste Lab’ embodies the best of the brand’s personality. Visitors to the space are met with a sense of serenity and anticipation as they walk across the pond. The space has been designed to maintain its Zen interiors in this atrium flooded with natural light. It brings an open-air courtyard feel inside and the leafy-green foliage used as decor adds to the fresh feel. Original features such as the bamboo columns and pond are highlighted at night with subtle lighting.

Ready-made vegan soups, aged soy-sauce, a delectable range of freshly-made mayonnaises and many other Nihonbashi ready-to-go products are also available at ‘Taste Lab’ along with Luxe Colombo’s gourmet collection.


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