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SLID’s Young Directors Forum to refresh the boardroom with young talent 

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The Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID) recently launched its Young Directors Forum (YDF) with the aim of grooming young talent to take up positions in the Boardrooms of corporate Sri Lanka as well as in the public sector/State-Owned Enterprises. As its inaugural event, the YDF organized an online panel discussion on the topic of “Refreshing the Boardroom: In Conversation with Young Directors”. The panel comprised of Anushka Wijesinha -Economist, Independent Non-executive Director of Seylan Bank, HNB Finance, Fairfirst, Co-founder/Chairman of the Center for Smart Future, Chairman of the YDF and moderator of the panel, Ms. Annika Senanayake-Director of several listed companies and Director, Corporate Planning, IWS Holdings, Sanjay Jayawardena-Founder/Director, Spirit Kitchens, Deshal De Mel-Research Director, Verite Research and Director of several listed companies including Sampath Bank and Janashakthi, all being working committee members of the YDF together with Charaka Perera – Director/COO of Stafford Motor Company-Council Member of SLID and Council representative for the YDF.

“The YDF was established to provide a forum for Young Directors and future Boardroom leaders to engage their minds on topics of interest in performing their roles more efficiently and effectively. The YDF wants to reach out to directors and director aspirants of different types of companies in Sri Lanka – listed and private companies, startups, and eventually public sector SOEs as well” said Anushka Wijesinha.

Responding to a question from the moderator as to why companies are bringing young directors to their boards, panelist Sanjaya Jayawardena said that this occurs due to the need for diversity in helping companies make better decisions. “In addition to the diversity of thought, experience, background, gender, and ethnicity, age is a key element in the notion of diversity. Young Directors are better positioned to provide a fresh perspective, a fresh way of thinking and are less likely to resist change. Today we see a lot of businesses, industries going through rapid change, which has been further accelerated due to the pandemic, and we see companies recognizing the importance of looking at things through a wider lens and getting the right mix in the boardroom”.

“A fair amount of vigor goes into the selection of directors in the financial services sector and when a director is brought in, it would not be because somebody is young, but there would always be a specific skill such as risk management, finance, technology, etc. and she/he is expected to lead with that skill. There is a lot of value that comes with the diversity of thoughts and the ability to bring in different perspectives. There is also an expectation that young directors would have a better grip on newer technologies or newer trends in business such as payment-related technology, fintech, and eCommerce in the financial services sector” said Deshal De Mel bringing about a financial sector perspective.

“Boards are responsible for driving its business forward, keeping it under prudent control, and creating value for all its stakeholders. With digital transformation increasing complexity in business, we are looking at new skills and oversight with more companies engaging with data mining, AI, digital applications just to transform the way that they do business and provide their clientele with more digital-centric solutions. Young directors who fall into the category of millennials are digital natives, and inherently by the age factor, they have more insight and possibly exposure to the digital sphere. This enables them to provide different perspectives especially relating to the fast-moving technologies that could add value to a wide variety of industries” said Annika Senanayake expressing her views.

Describing the rationale of SLID to initiate the YDF, Charaka Perera said that youth leadership has been seen in all sectors from politics, corporate leadership, NGOs, startups, etc. and that with the rise of youth leaders in Boardrooms, young directors have repeatedly proven themselves. “The primary focus of the YDF is grooming the future Board leadership of corporate Sri Lanka. We believe that through the YDF, we can identify the needs of the younger generation and young Directors who are about to step into the Boardroom for the 1st time and develop and roll out programs that will fulfill these needs” he added.



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Private Tutoring Amidst Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis: Issues Faced by Students

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By Usha Perera

Sri Lanka’s education sector, still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, now faces acute challenges due to the current political and economic crises. The sudden imposition of curfews and the lack of transportation have resulted in school closures and students being deprived of structured and systematic in-school education. In Sri Lanka, closing schools for just one day causes a loss of 25 million learning hours and 1.4 million teaching hours. Alongside this, private tutoring has gained greater importance. This blog discusses the issues faced mainly by Ordinary Level (O/L) and Advanced Level (A/L) students in attending tuition classes based on an IPS study. The study findings are derived from a sample of about 340 students, and 16 teachers and tutors across Sri Lanka.

Affordability of Private Tuition Classes

The surge in the cost of living with wages failing to keep pace with inflation and loss of income generation channels have been unbearable for parents of school-going children. The IPS study found that students who belonged to family income levels below LKR 30,000 spend approximately LKR 3,000-Rs. 7,000 per month while students whose family income was above LKR 200,000 spend approximately LKR 18,000- LKR 20,000 per month on private tuition depending on the grade of the student. This scenario is illustrated in Figure 1.

Further, most O/L and A/L level students spend more than LKR 2,000 per month on data packages for both school and tuition online classes, while most students who spend more than LKR 2,000 per month are concentrated among the higher family income categories. If LKR 2,000 is spent on monthly data packages, it would approximately account for 1% of whose family income is above LKR 200,000, and more than 7% of whose family income is below LKR 30,000. All this highlights the perceived importance of private education, especially among O/L and A/L grades, and the financial burden it imposes on a family’s household income.

These affordability concerns were partly offset by the introduction of free online classes during the pandemic, which has provided considerable relief for financially vulnerable students according to students interviewed for the IPS study. Affordability concerns were further allayed by reduced class fees by some tutors. The fees reductions were made accounting for the structural changes of administrative and operating costs of an online setting applicable based on the scale and intensity of operations of tutors. Financial issues faced by the families experiencing household income losses during the pandemic were also considered in fees reduction.

Accessibility to Online Classes

Online platforms were the sole medium for conducting classes during the pandemic while it becomes an option in the current context considering the social unrest, curfews and travel constraints due to fuel shortages. However, many students faced accessibility issues in joining online classes. The issues faced were poor signal coverage, high data costs, lack of necessary devices, and affordability concerns in the context of lost household income during the pandemic. Most of the students who belonged to a family income level above LKR 200,000 used a laptop/tablet while most of the students who belonged to a family income level of below LKR 30,000 relied on a smartphone. Smartphones were found to be less user friendly for academic use. In addition to the above issues, the ongoing power outages also present impediments to online education.The accessibility issues are mainly experienced by students from families with comparatively lower income levels, and those who had to rely on a smartphone for academic purposes. This implies a close positive relationship between household income and the quality of the education received; financial strength being the primary determinant of accessibility.

Figure 1: Monthly Tuition Expenditure by Monthly Household Income
Source: Institute of PolicyStudies of Sri Lanka, 2021.

However, these accessibility issues were partly offset by the divergent opportunities experienced by students, especially in the context of online platforms. These prospects included the ability to join online classes conducted in distant locations that would otherwise have been restricted due to travel constraints and increased time available due to school closures. As a result, they increased the duration of tuition classes using the saved travel time.

Way Forward

While private tutoring became a way of bridging the gaps in the education system during the crisis, learning losses for the most vulnerable groups have further widened with accessibility and affordability issues. Since these issues were mainly observed among O/L and A/L student groups, there is a higher risk that vulnerable student groups would be highly challenged during their most decisive years leading to higher education and career development. Thus, it is necessary to address the affordability issues, focusing more on the vulnerable student groups. Financial assistance could be provided in terms of a certain number of free hours of teaching for selected financially vulnerable students and allocating a selected proportion of students to be taught at a concessionary rate.

To address the accessibility issues, recording the lessons and distributing the notes on different platforms will help to a certain extent. Providing digital equipment and networks for selected tuition centres and schools could also be considered since the lack of facilities and resources was identified as major accessibility issue for distance education. These would require collaborative efforts among the government, tutors, parents, non-government organisations and any other well-wishers.

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Allianz Divitharana: A new take on Life and Health Insurance

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The world’s number one insurance brand Allianz has announced the launch of its new Divitharana Insurance product, which provides comprehensive life and health insurance for policyholders and their loved ones, at an easily accessible and affordable price. The product, which has been designed for the mass market, a segment that is highly price sensitive, comes with a host of benefits and features, making it a truly comprehensive insurance product, that covers all of life’s important bases, protecting life’s most precious things.Tailored for the mass market, which includes farmers, fisherfolk, technicians, teachers, executives and other members of the general public, Divitharana Insurance provides life insurance at a flexible and economic price point, with the option for policyholders to settle the premium in monthly, quarterly, biannual or annual instalments, while also providing the convenience of increasing the cover provided during the policy period, without having to go for a new policy. These are particularly important features amidst the present economic challenges the nation is facing, as it allows everyone to have access to good and reliable insurance, regardless of their income level and style.

A key differentiator of Divitharana insurance is that each policyholder will be entitled to an individual investment account, on which an annual dividend will be declared and the proceeds credited to the policyholder’s account. On top of this, policyholders will also be entitled to an additional loyalty bonus of 20%, which will be added to the maturity value for continued on-time premium settlements. other than the life cover provided by Divitharana, policyholders can also opt to include additional covers such as Disability Benefit, Critical Illness and Hospitalisation cover, while also enjoying the flexibility of extending the insurance cover to include their spouse & children.

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SLT-MOBITEL doubling the cloud with country’s first-ever VMware Cloud Foundation deployment

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Understanding the importance of breaking new ground to reap the benefits of Enterprise premium cloud services, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider, has become the country’s first-ever service provider to enable VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) deployment in the island and importantly the first telco provider to have two clouds. Amidst the changing dynamics, the deployment milestones are supporting SLT-MOBITEL’s Cloud programme in accelerating digital transformation.SLT-MOBITEL Enterprise premium cloud was launched in 2018. Having a successful journey for over three years, the new mobilization now elevates and transforms the premium cloud through VMWare Cloud Foundation. Importantly, SLT-MOBITEL is the first local organisation to partner VMWare as a Business Continuity Certified Planner (BCCP) and initiate VMWare Cloud Foundation in Sri Lanka.

VMware Cloud Foundation is a suite of VMware products that provide building blocks necessary to implement an integrated software-defined data center platform. Its components combine to automate deployment and lifecycle management, helping to simplify IT operations and reduce administrative overheads for enterprises.With its Cloud Verified Status and as a VCF Enabled Partner, SLT-MOBITEL is now in the forefront as the only service provider in the country offering a range of new differentiated services such as automate infrastructure and application delivery with self service capabilities to help organizations plan, manage and scale their data center operations especially dramatically reduce provisioning times and cut operational costs.

The SLT-MOBITEL VMware VCF deployment ensures customers transition to the industry’s most advanced cloud platform with a complete set of software-defined services for compute, storage, networking, security and cloud management to run enterprise apps in private or public environments.By doubling the cloud SLT-MOBITEL establishes customers have both production and disaster recovery sites with different scales, located at two different Data centres with required ROP and RTO. The Disaster recovery site can be deployed at any scale with respect to production sites according to the enterprise customer’s requirement. SLT-MOBITEL also provides migration as a service with the features from NSX –T.

Through VCF, SLT-MOBITEL is offering customers the benefit of real disaster recovering services, a Software-defined Data Center (SDDC) and monitoring services, latest networking enablers with NSX – T up-to-date versions of VMware software vSphere, vSAN and intelligent, advanced VMware capabilities including ESXI and VSAN and efficient and effective migration services. SLT-MOBITEL also provides IaaS services, Virtual Machines, and Virtual Data Centers along with a range of other support facilities such as Disaster avoidance with Stretch Cluster (RPO 5 minutes), Disaster Recovery as a Service, and Backup as a service.Above VCF deployment is directly done by Vmware Professional Service team to ensure the highest quality deployment .

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