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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2857

"Year of English and IT – 2009" declared by the Government of Sri Lanka

By Manjari Peiris

The year 2009 is already declared as the "Year of English and IT" by the Sri Lanka government and the official launching of it would take place on February 13, 2009, at 11.00 a.m. at the Presidential Secretariat by the Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse and Mr. Narayana Murthy, Chairman of Infosys Technologies Ltd., India.

The official launching will also be complemented by a media conference on the same day along with a talk by Mr. Narayana Murthy on the theme "Entrepreneurship and IT for National Integration" – "the Challenge for Sri Lanka" organized by the India – Sri Lanka Pragathi Sansadya on February, 2009.

In regard to IT development, among the institutions working under the purview of the Ministry of Science & Technology, The Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies (ACCIMT) has been contributing a valuable service to the society in many respects, viz. Research and Development, Technology Transfer, and Training courses in modern technologies.

Apart from IT, research and development, it is contributing for electronics, mecatronics, photonics, communication, robotics and space sciences and technologies.

In the past, ACCIMT has paid more emphasis on development of software to meet the needs of clients and the transfer of knowledge pertaining to IT to general public through courses. The software developed are in the form of processing of data to speed up tasks to give a better service to the general public and also in the form of information dissemination through information systems.

The ACCIMT also develops Databases for National Interest Databases of National Interest. One such instance is the information system developed to the Ministry of Science and Technologies to gather information on general public of their employment and resources available. Thus knowledge transfer to the rural sector with more than 300 information named "Vidatha centres" in almost all of the divisional secretariats has been successful. This programme has facilitated much benefit to small and medium scale entrepreneurs, self-employed and unemployed youth to use raw material available in rural sector. That information is thus fed into the central database at the Ministry through the Vidatha Centres.

Another information system developed for IT promotion by the ACCIMT was for the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) to disseminate information on traditional medicine of Sri Lanka ITI which is the nodal point to the Asia pacific Traditional Medicine and Herbal Technology network by collecting information on plants, mineral animals of Sri Lanka and how they are beneficial, by using their scientific Sinhala and Tamil names. The data collected are stored in a central database where the general public can get that information along with images of them.

The ACCIMT has been developing database management systems for various government sector organizations in the field of finance, human resource management, stock management (fixed assets and consumable items) etc. It has developed a software package for an insurance company too.

In regard to development of software, the ACCIMT concentrates on popularizing the use of IT among the general public, especially in the rural areas. Many people are reluctant to use computers due to their incompetence in English language. To overcome this barrier, the ACCIMT is now on the process of localizing open source software to both Sinhala and Tamil. They do this service in collaboration with the University of Moratuwa.

In the initial phase, the Mozilla Thundebird and Firefox (email and internet browser) has been localized into both languages keeping up with the global version upgrades to these packages. This has helped the public to familiarize with the use of email and internet in their local languages. These packages were installed in the Vidatha Centres to enable people access from those centres.

One-day workshops have been held in a few schools in different parts of Sri Lanka familiarizing the teachers as to how to use these packages.

Training programs are also being conducted by ACCIMT to enhance the IT knowledge of the general public. The programs are categorized into general and professional programs. General programs are conducted for school leavers, where they can learn on software packages and computer hardware. The professional programs are aimed at industrialists who wish to learn in a specific area and advanced features.

The computer hardware courses have been successfully conducted for more than six successive years at programs for more than 500 student participation. These programs are very popular, especially among school leavers.

The ACCIMT also concentrates in On-going Research & Development and Future Directions concerning IT development. More emphasis has been drawn on areas of research in localization. It has helped in converting open source software to Sinhala and Sri Lankan Tamil in the most efficient way. This has helped the ACCIMT to study as to how other countries had localized their IT technologies into their languages and how they had overcome difficulties.

The ACCIMT looks forward to concentrating on applications on ‘vision based automation’ in the future. The initial literature surveying and studies are currently being done. It is expected that this area will help in analyzing still images and video streams which can be very important in automation applications and identifying and analyzing of certain situations in medical and other areas.

In addition, the ACCIMT aims at developing more packages that can be advantageous to the general public in acquiring information in local languages at school level and also general knowledge, so that information available in English can be accessed by all Sri Lankans without any language barrier.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) which too functions under the purview of the Ministry of Science & Technology is engaged in providing web hosting and database hosting facilities for research and development and public sectors at concessionary rates.

The NSF also provides international electronic database subscriptions, promotes open source library automation software and E-Repository services for scientists. Electronic collection and maintenance of science and technology information pertaining to science and technology manpower and technology are also being handled by the NSF.

- Asian Tribune -

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