It was around 6.45 PM and the sun was setting. Yet, SLECC was packed with a massive flock of people. All of them dressed in black T-shirts with a vibrant Peacock in a traditional form and futuristic form. Welcome to Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2018 by Dialog and GDG Sri Lanka. Once the chaos had subsided, the annual event had kicked off with a colorful dance sequence with bright lights and much digital flair.
Following this colorful display, we saw Roshanth Gardiarachchi – Senior Manager of Dialog Ideamart take the stage at Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2018. He opened by sharing that there were 10,000 applicants for Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2018. It was a tough task for them to shortlist the 3,500 attending who they believed were the most passionate.
Afterward, he shared the origins of Dialog Ideamart, which began in 2012. Since then it has grown in size with solutions implemented in international markets. Roshanth went onto share an example of this by introducing us to Apigate. A platform, that offers developers access to an API marketplace.
But the key point of his speech was how Sri Lanka have missed many opportunities. As such, we can’t allow the fourth industrial revolution to pass us by. Roshanth concluded he speech by announcing that Dialog Ideamart would be launching an Android creation toolkit in the near future.
Afterward, we saw Prash Balakrishnan – Google Country Marketing Consultant for Sri Lanka. He opened his speech by sharing how the work that is done in Sri Lanka continues to amaze him. And Sri Lanka has submitted the most number of submission for Google’s Summer of Code despite being a tiny island. As such, Prash hopes to see more startups come out of Sri Lanka.
The Pandora’s box of modern technology
Following Prash, we saw Dr. Rainer Deutschmann – COO of Dialog Axiata. He opened by sharing that a lot has changed since Sundar Pichai – CEO of Google announced that they were adopting an AI first approach. There has been over 250 million new internet users and 360 million new users of social media. Additionally, 170 million new apps downloaded, generating $68 billion in revenue.
Furthermore, while Intel built a 49 Qubit processor, Google won the race by building a 72 Qubit processor. These are powerful processors for supercomputers. And then there’s Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s), which have generated 3.5x times more money compared to Venture Funds. Of course, it should be noted that these were equally riskier as well.
But when it comes to AI itself, Dr. Rainer shared the example of AlphaGo Zero to show powerful it’s become over the past year. Yet, he warned us that we should be cautious with such powerful technologies. He pointed to the first accident by Uber involving an autonomous car. Other cases of caution Dr. Rainer pointed out was fake news plaguing social media and the machine bias in data models used in the American justice system.
Dr. Rainer spoke at length and highlighted that as powerful as technology is, we must do more to avoid such situations. But stalling innovation is not the answer. He went onto say that any company that does not innovate will go bankrupt. For proof, he pointed at Kodak, which is a classic example.
Yet, there is hope as the barrier to innovation is diminishing. Dr. Rainer shared that companies no longer need hundreds of people to build valuable products. WhatsApp only had 35 people when it was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion. With that, Dr. Rainer concluded his session at Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2018.
Leadership 101 from a cricketing legend
The next speaker we saw was the Sri Lankan cricketing legend, Kumar Sangakkara. He opened by sharing that this was the largest gathering he spoke at after his retirement. Sangakkara shared that he didn’t have an education in business or ever served as a CEO.
Instead, he spent time in nominated leadership roles as the vice-captain and captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team. In that role, he had formed his own view of leadership. But it has changed since then. To find leadership, you must learn to look inward shared Sangakkara.
He explained this by saying, “The most difficult aspect of leadership is not leading others but it’s about leading yourself. Looking inside yourself, understanding who you are and being able to translate that to your core values – what makes you human into a lifestyle. One that benefits not just you, not just your family but the community, the country and the world at large.”
Sangakkara concluded by noting that every human is unique and born a winner.
You don’t need to work at Google to be innovative
Following a series of entertainment acts, we saw Peter D’Almeida – Managing Director of N’able took the stage. He opened by sharing that people typically connect innovation with technology and business. But if this is the case, then he believes we need to rethink what innovation means.
Peter noted how Sundar Pichai and other tech leaders rose through many challenges. He also shared how Arunachalam Muruganantham led a revolution in sanitary hygiene by making low-cost sanitary pads. Peter also shared that throughout his life he never had a formal education. Rather, he was always unhindered in his search for things. He concluded by sharing that his greatest fear was simply running out of ideas.
Accelerating Women in Tech
Next up was Sammani Kusaladharma – Senior Executive at Dialog Ideamart. She spoke at length about encouraging more women to participate in tech. Sammani noted that many of the pioneers in technology were women like Ada Lovelace. She went onto explain that while Ideamart distributed Rs. 5 billion among its developer community. However, only Rs. .75 billion has been given to female developers.
Sammani highlighted the work of Ideamart has done to change this. This includes a series of workshops and competitions across the island. She concluded by sharing that Ideamart is now one of the largest developer ecosystems in South East Asia.
The Arimac digital empire
Afterward, we saw a series of mesmerizing products from Arimac Lanka. The first was a humanoid robot named Diyazen. The second was a cognitive platform named Sasrutha. The third was an integrated AR content aggregator platform called Wynkar. And the final one was IMI, which was a games portal.
Making these announcements at Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2018 was Chamira Jayasinghe – Founder and CEO of Arimac Lanka. He shared that they’re boldly aiming towards becoming the first Sri Lankan unicorn by 2028. And on that journey, he’s expecting to acquire over 50 startups. Interestingly, when he shared the timeline of Arimac’s journey, we noticed that they acquired ShoutOUT.
However, despite having an ambitious goal, he made a plea to the audience not to contribute to the brain drain. Chamira concluded his session with one more announcement. Arimac is creating a game dedicated to Sri Lanka’s sniper extraordinaire Nero. Chamira also shared that the earnings from the game would go towards helping the families of war heroes and service personnel.
The Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2018 Awards
Following Chamira’s huge announcements, it was time for the Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2018 Awards. In between the awards, the ceremony was put on hold. This was because it was time for the Google IO keynote.
Once the keynote had ended, the awards resumed. And the winners of the awards are as follows.
How to become a super developer in Sri Lanka
Following an entertaining break courtesy of Akunu, we saw Paul Ravindranath – Regional Lead, Developer Relations in India for Google take the stage. He touched on a wide array of topics, with a bunch of statistics thrown in to show where Sri Lanka was headed.
He too touched on how the University of Moratuwa has the highest number of participants in Google’s Summer of Code. Having shared such statistics, Paul shared the benefits of being certified as a Google developer and how to obtain this certification through Udacity and YouTube. He concluded his session with the hope that he’ll see more Sri Lankan companies in the Google Accelerator Program.
The communities and possibilities surrounding Google
Next up on stage was Tharaka Devinda and Dilini Weerasinghe from the Google Developers Group Sri Lanka. Dilini gave us an inside into the Google Women Techmakers movement. This is a movement that celebrates the talent of women and their achievements. Afterward, Tharaka spoke about how the Google Developer Group has managed to provide over 250+ certifications and conducted events for over 4800+ participants.
Then it was time for Lim Shang Yi – Google Developer Expert to speak on building conversational applications. He opened by touching on the various upcoming changes to Google Assistant and how this can give developers more tools to build conversational tools. But Google Assistant isn’t merely a conversational tool.
It is also a visual tool as well. Lim showed us how IoT devices can be used with Google Assistant. He demonstrated this with a product that could translate languages in real time. This he pointed is an example of the many possibilities open to developers.
Can AI be the next Mozart?
Following an energetic performance by Sanuka Wickramasinghe, it was fitting for Keshan Sodimanna – Google Engineering Consultant to take the stage. His topic was, “Can AI be the next Mozart?” He opened by saying, “Music and art are patterns. What we do with machine learning is understanding these patterns.”
He added that the music we generate through AI is not a replacement to musicians. Rather, it would serve as a complement to them. Keshan then treated us to a soundtrack generated entirely through machine learning using Tensorflow Magenta. He concluded by sharing examples of other AI tools that can be used to generate music.
Making knowledge accessible to all
After Keshan, we saw Richa Singh – Architect, Google Crowd Source take the stage. During her session, she shared that while only 55% of the Internet is in English. Yet only 5% of the world speaks the language. Richa went onto remind us of Google’s mission of making information accessible to all.
But it doesn’t do this alone. Richa shared with us an example of the Google Map Makers that helped build Google Maps. Taking this example, she encouraged the audience to utilize Google Crowd Source to help make information available to everyone.
Contributing to open source software is important
The final speaker we saw at Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2018 was Cat Allman – Program Manager for Google’s Open Source Outreach Programs. She opened her session by highlighting the benefits of contributing to open source projects. Cat went onto share Google’s contributions to open source projects with the company having released 120 million lines of codes as it pushed 250,000 commits to such projects annually.
Cat then shared the valuable skills and experience one gains by contributing to open source projects. This includes real coding experience and soft skills such as time management and communication. She concluded by giving us all an in-depth introduction to the Google Summer of Code and Come Camp.
All good things must come to an end
The vote of thanks was delivered by Kasun Withanarachchi – Specialist at Dialog Ideamart. As he walked off the stage, the masses trotted to the exit as the sun rose. Needless to say, Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2018 was an exciting night. From product launches to witnessing the power of AI to seeing the value of Sri Lankan talent. This year’s conference was one of the best yet. And now the wait begins until next year.