Aiming for Digital Prosperity with NITC 2017: Day 2

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In our previous article, we covered everything we saw on Day 01 of NITC 2017. But that was only one part of the massive story that is NITC 2017. The massive conference that was held in partnership with the SEARCC Conference 2017, saw 60+ individuals in attendance from over 50 countries. Here’s what we found on Day 02 of NITC 2017.

Empowering the masses

The first keynote speaker we saw on Day 02 of NITC 2017 was Chevaan Daniel – Group Director of The Capital Maharaja Organization. He opened by sharing that 10 years ago if you wanted to tell a story you would have required an army, a media network, and a large sum of money. But this power has now been broken up and thrown back at us. And being entrusted with this power means we should use it responsibly.

Chevaan Daniel speaking at NITC 2017
Chevaan Daniel speaking at NITC 2017

Afterwards, Chevaan shared that we are at the point in human history that change is all around us and we are wondering how to contend with it. This is described as the age of acceleration. In order to succeed in any field, we must continue moving forward and adapting to this change. Yet one thing that hasn’t changed is governance.

Cheevan stated that our governments far too long to respond to change. But today, we have the power to influence the world and it should be used to make policy making and innovation meet. He went on to say that when we give our leaders power, we must also hold them accountable. And today, if you disagree with any policy-making decisions, you can easily voice your opinion without a media network.

But for digital prosperity, this power must trickle down to the masses. Cheevan shared that while we talk about pretty figures such as Sri Lanka having a 95% literacy rate, in the rural areas there’s deprivation, poverty, and a lack of opportunity.

This is why the youth travel to urban centers and other countries. Thus, he said that we must go back to the basics of developing a nation. “Digital prosperity means going to the village and whatever digital progress we make must benefit the people,” said Cheevan in conclusion.

Building trust between humans and technology

The next keynote speaker we saw on Day 02 of NITC 2017 was Moira De Roche Holmes – Deputy Chairman and Director of IFIP IP3. She opened her session by sharing that technology has taken over almost every aspect of our lives and asked, “But can we trust all this technology?” Most attacks arise from unforeseen circumstances and the consequences compound exponentially.

These attacks erode our trust in technology. But Moria argued that we need to improve trust between humans and technology saying, “If we don’t trust technology, it will limit our economic growth.” To build this trust technology needs to be safe, secure, reliable, and usable. But whenever an attack occurs, this trust is eroded. Thus, service providers must consider security seriously at all stages of development.

Moira De Roche Holmes at NITC 2017
Moira De Roche Holmes at NITC 2017

At the same time, governments need to push for legislature that supports data breaches. Additionally, Moria also argued the need for governments to have defensive and offensive instruments in cyber-attacks. The industry too has to play its part to work towards public interest. And this requires professionals having the necessary skills and competence.

Afterwards, Moira moved on to state that we as consumers should demand more from service providers and be informed. She then reiterated the importance of governments working with international organizations to craft appropriate legislature. She concluded her keynote by sharing a few programs that IFIP IP3 is conducting to help build this trust between humans and technology.

The Future of Service Robots

Following the tea break, we saw Prof. Chandimal Jayawardena from SLIIT on stage. He opened by introducing the concept of service robots, which refers to robots used to assist humans in performing certain jobs. Afterwards, he shared that this is where the world of robotics is moving towards. In 2015 alone, $5.4 billion was spent on personal and domestic robots.

Prof. Chandimal Jayawardena speaking at NITC 2017
Prof. Chandimal Jayawardena speaking at NITC 2017

However, the industry doesn’t have any standards. As such, there are various different technologies used by robots. Prof. Chandimal then moved onto the software component of these robots and shared that these software components are still as complex as they were 30 years ago. However, research into these software components has increased in the past decade. But we are yet to achieve standardization.

After sharing the history of robotics, Prof. Chandimal shared examples of software architectures for robots and challenges consumers face. He concluded with the words, “Ultimately, what’s required by a robot? Carry out tasks.” And as the market shifts from industrial robots to service robots, we need new architectures and software frameworks.

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

The next keynote speaker we saw take the stage was Dr. Dayan Rajapakse – Chairman of the ESOFT Group. He opened his keynote with an age-old saying, “Prevention is better than the cure and when it comes to the cure, the urgency is of utmost importance.” He then went on to explain what the Internet of Things (IoT) is and why it’s on the rise. This rise he says is due to broadband access and devices being cheaper, resulting in more devices being connected as smartphone penetration increases.

Dr. Dayan Rajapakse speaking at NITC 2017
Dr. Dayan Rajapakse speaking at NITC 2017

He then went on to share that the market for healthcare IoT devices is set to be worth $117 billion by 2020. Yet, this presents new challenges. With billions of devices being connected, how can we ensure security? What’s to stop a stop a hacker from killing a diabetic with an insulin pump. Dr. Dayan also highlighted the privacy issues this will bring about saying that in Sri Lanka we rely on ethics rather than laws for privacy matters as we don’t have a data protection act.

Dr. Dayan then shared some examples of medical IoT devices. These examples ranged from wearables to real-time monitoring of patients to maintaining patient records. He concluded his keynote by sharing some of the challenges medical IoT devices face, which are: security, reliability, privacy issues, large data volumes, and laws to protect us.

How mobile has transformed society

The final keynote speaker on Day 02 of NITC 2017 was Jayomi Lokuliyana – CEO of zMessenger. She opened by stating that mobile connectivity has transformed from being a luxury to a vital tool that connects the masses. However, she shares that Sri Lankan women have a smaller digital footprint when compared to global trends. This Jayomi says is due to the lack of content aimed at women. She then shared an initiative pursued by zMessenger, which was BeautifulU.lk to solve this issue.

Another issue is rural connectivity. Jayomi shared that with the internet, farmers can increase their productivity and profits as they get more information. To help farmers, the Consumer Affairs Authority launched an app. This app helped farmers know which markets they can sell their produce at for the highest price.

Jayomi Lokuliyana speaking at NITC 2017
Jayomi Lokuliyana speaking at NITC 2017

Jayomi then went on to share how mobile connectivity can be used to increase English literacy and empower youth. She shared two case studies for this. The first was a project zMessenger conducted in partnership with the British Council to give students English lessons over mobile. Another case study was the Skill Up Sri Lanka campaign aimed at empowering youth with vocational training.

Afterwards, Jayomi shared how mobile digital services can help healthcare. She shared an example of an app called MobileMidwife. This is an app that helps midwives keep digital records and obtain information easily. She concluded by saying that we need digital infrastructure to ensure economic prosperity. But to ensure we can use this infrastructure, content and digital literacy are essential.

The breakaway sessions

Following the keynotes, NITC 2017 was once again split into three breakaway sessions that took place in parallel. The parallel sessions on Day 02 focused on: IOT & IOE, better ways to go about IT, digital security, and future of the corporate world. Additionally, a separate parallel session took place where academic papers were presented. While we can’t cover all of the sessions, here’s what we learned at two of these breakaway sessions.

Disruptive Innovation

One of the breakaway sessions we attended was on disruptive innovation by Prasanth Nanayakkara – CEO of Auxenta. He opened his session by explaining what disruptive innovation was and sharing examples of it. He then stated that disruption is the next stage that follows innovation, where the needs of users are met.

But this requires sustainable business models and entrepreneurs to not overestimate what can happen in the first two years of operation. Yet what really enables disruptive innovation? The answer to that is three things argued Prasanth. The first is new technologies like cloud computing. The second is new business models like subscriptions. The third is new value chains.

But how do you then craft a winning formula? He shared that you need to look into 4 things: business problems, technology, support networks, and entrepreneurship. He concluded by saying that technology is the main catalyst of innovation and innovation is something that happens every day.

Leading in a VUCA world

What is VUCA? VUCA stands for Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous. This approach accepts that there’s no control over how things as we want them. Introducing us to this world was Caroline New, who is a leadership expert from Australia. In a VUCA world, Caroline states that we have to be different. She says that we live in the world where questions are many and answers are few. But in such a world, we must be willing to get out of our comfort zones.

Caroline New speaking at NITC 2017
Caroline New speaking at NITC 2017

But how does one lead in a VUCA world? Caroline states that you need to be flexible and persist while accepting the little victories. Additionally, you’ll require a self-transforming mindset to recognize change and then listens while focusing on growth and learning. And this means asking questions and embracing failure while experimenting. But these experiments should be small trails where risks are managed. Caroline concluded by saying that a feedback environment is necessary when conducting these experiments.

The end of NITC 2017

With the conclusions of the breakaway sessions, Day 02 and NITC 2017 itself came to an end. Thus, marked the end of Sri Lanka’s largest international ICT event.

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