Kandy IT/BPM Week – Day 03: The IT Conference

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By now you probably know that we were in Kandy at the Kandy IT/BPM week. Held from the 10th to the 12th of June 2016, the event held host to some of the most influential personalities in the IT industry. Day three was perhaps the most important of all.

This was the IT Conference.

Kicking things off after the lighting of the traditional oil lamp was CEO of Millenium IT, Mack Gill, addressing the audience on Empowering the Youth of tomorrow.

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Mack kept his speech short and sweet wasting no time in quickly walking the audience through the work that both MIT and he have done in order to make the future a better place for the youth of tomorrow.

Mack’s session was followed by a speech by Muhuntan Canagey, CEO and Chief architect of Duo World Inc. and also the Managing director and CEO of ICTA (Information and Communication Technology Agency.

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Muhuntan’s topic was about the Road map for digital Sri Lanka. As such, he explained how ICTA has facilitated numerous projects with the sole purpose of transforming Sri Lanka into a digital nation. He also addressed the budding entrepreneurs in the room urging them where rather than working for a boss, to “be the boss” and chase after your dreams. Rather than sitting behind a desk, at a dreary 9-5 job, you can even build your product from home or gather up your friends and work on a product together and thus reap the benefit as a team. Adding to his conclusion, Muhuntan also stated that the government will provide any support required.

Following Muhuntan’s speech and presentation was a speech by Navin Peiris, Head of Commercial, Dialog Global, Dialog Telekom Plc. about enriching Sri Lankan lives.

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Investing a total of 1.96Billion USD, Axiata has been the largest foreign direct investment for Sri Lanka. As of 2016, 97% of Sri Lanka’s population is now connected to almost all networks such as 2G, 3G, 4G and Fiber.

“The more speed you give, the more there will be people to use it” – Navin Peiris

Navin then spoke about the connectivity options in Sri Lanka and how Dialog has facilitated solution such as Dialog Wi-Fi hotspots, fiber optic connections and the newly laid BBG cable capable of achieving a throughput of upto 6.4Tbps, thus far the fastest connection to date. He also made a special note that Sri Lanka is definitely progressing faster than other countries in South Asia.

It’s not only about the connections, devices too have changed the way we interact with each other and the world. Navin explained how Dialog is now manufacturing devices such as smartphones and tablets with plans to provide these at affordable prices to help start your business, develop it, and take it to the rest of the world.

After a short tea break, we had Chrishan Fernando, Country/General Manager from IBM talking to us about the rise of the citizen data officer in the cognitive era scientist.

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The role of a Chief Data Officer (CDO) is rather futuristic, Chrishan explains. Moving on to a more interactive approach, Chrishan conducted an exercise to get the audience to stand up based on what social media platforms they had posted on over the last few days. His point there was that social media has changed us over the last couple of years and mobility has enabled that even further. A staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is produced every day all over the world.

According to research carried out by Chrishan, there will be approximately 75Billion instruments connected to the internet by 2020. Even closer, by 2017, 100% of all business applications will be mobile.

“If you ask 10 CEOs if they have the correct data at the correct time, 9 will say No” – Chrishan Fernando.

The reason for this, Chrishan explains, is that there is no analysis done for the data that is gathered and the CEOs do not have the necessary information to make the correct decision at the correct time.

“Data is the next natural resource in the world” – Chrishan Fernando

Making use of this data is essential, Chrishan explained further stating that by 2019 every business will have a CDO.

Who is a Chief Data Officer? – Chrishan Fernando

This individual will be in complete charge of a company’s strategy. He/she will dream big and not think about how things have been done so far. Chrishan went on further to explain that businesses will change governments.

There is no more market segmentation, but rather, it’s all about pleasing the customer and meeting what the customer wants and needs. It has to be delivered to the customer in the way the customer wants and nothing else.

The Characteristics of a CDO would be to be data driven, perpetually curious, and also to have an acute understanding of programming languages such as Python and R.

We are at the start of the Cognitive Era – Chrishan Fernando

Next up was a Panel Discussion on the topic of the Role of IT Industry and University in Technology Entrepreneurship.

Moderated by Madu Ratnayake, the members of the panel were

  • Indika de Zoysa
  • Mano Sekaram
  • Dr S. D. Dewasurendra
  • Harsha Subasinghe

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Madu’s first question to the panel was whether or not Sri Lanka has what it takes to be a “Silicon island” (akin to Silicon Valley, but in the form of an island). Indika explained the steps taken by Intel to make use of ICT in our country. As such Intel takes part in seeding programs for startups both in schools and in universities.

Another particular interesting topic brought up was the scenario where students who complete their studies and then to other countries in search of employment thus resulting in a brain drain. As the panel discussed, the trick is to entice those knowledge workers with offers they cannot refuse. Thus they benefit both themselves and the companies who they work for in order to make the best possible use of their knowledge.

The panel discussion continued with issues being brought up such as setting the right mindset, being disruptive and to always look at the bigger picture.

As a country we need a fundamental change in our attitude & work collaboratively. Innovation happens only when you challenge. – Mano Sekaram

Another good point raised by a member of the audience was the somewhat fault in our primary and secondary education, where students are essentially taught to simply memorize answers and throw them at exams. We are somewhat of an exam paper nation, taught to parrot answers rather than taking the time to research.

Harsha’s views on this were similar.  As the CEO of CodeGen, he commented how most research students for example, would just do the project for the sake of the project and not for the interest or love of continuing the project.

With a few more questions, the Panel discussion came to a close and the audience was invited for Lunch.

After lunch, it was Brian Kealy of Microsoft walking us through the product innovation by Microsoft with Cloud Technologies.

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He spoke about the advancements in technology since the first industrial revolution which as you know (or may not), introduced the world to the steam powered engines and machinery. From there, the second industrial revolution introduced the world to electricity and electrification. From there, the third industrial revolution was the introduction of computers, more significantly, the impact of the microprocessor.

Brian then went on to explain the 4th Industrial revolution. This would include the physical aspect such as autonomous vehicles, the ability to create parts and components on the spot thanks to 3D printing new materials), the biological aspect such as genetic diagnostics, treatment of diseases and engineering in terms of genetic engineering and also the engineering of prosthetic limbs etc. With regard to the digital aspect, Brian explained how elements such as Internet of Things, disruptive businesses, and bitcoinchain have changed the commercial side of the world.

He also uses an example of Kodak, who despite having the blueprints for the world’s first digital camera, decided that the time was not right for in to be unveiled and chose rather to keep it locked in a cupboard. The result? Someone else created it. When was the last time you saw anyone using a camera with film in it? Well that’s your answer right there.

Brian then went on to explain about how Microsoft helps provide solutions to various barriers. For example, according to Microsoft, approximately 2 million people don’t have access to any form of banking. Enter Temenos, a cloud based banking platform powered by Microsoft cloud.

“Our Industry does not respect tradition. It respects innovation” – Brian Kealy

Brian ended his session explaining how we always overestimate what we can achieve in a year, and underestimate what we can do now. Food for thought indeed.

Next up was Llavan Fernando of Zone 24×7.

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His presentation on talking to us on the shift from Products to lifestyles took the companies experience with two automotive brands, namely Tesla and BMW, and pitted them against each other.

A hardware engineer at heart, Llavan spoke about Tesla and how they changed the automotive industry. Then came BMW and their Vision, literally. Using these two car brands as an example, Llavan took us on a journey to explore the methodologies behind creating a good customer experience for our clients.

In his case study of BMW vs. Tesla, Llavan pointed out the key points that make or break a good customer experience. For example, the Tesla uses natural language processing to recognize and understand navigation. Simply say your destination and the vehicle’s software will plot out the fastest route for you and drive you there. In comparison, BMW’s approach is more instruction based where you have to perform a step-by-step action to go somewhere, which is rather tedious and inefficient.

Again, taking the mobile app for both brands, Llavan pointed out that Tesla’s mobile app was a lot faster than BMW when it came to performing functions such as remotely triggering the horn and alarm. BMW, he noted lagged considerably behind.

Llavan used a number of other examples such as Apple’s iPod vs Microsoft’s Zune Player to demonstrate the differences between the two and also to point out how one still survives and the other has died completely.

Next up we had Dr. Harsha Subasinghe, CEO of Codegen International speaking to us on how AI will change the future.

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Dr. Harsha opens up his presentation saying that his favorite era was the 1800s, where a majority of the world’s then 1 Billion population were subsistence farmers.

Fast forward 200+ years and the world has changed vastly. The average life expectancy was raised from 25-70 due to advancements in medicine and technology.

Then the machines attacked were introduced. As Dr. Harsha explained, machines took over jobs that people were doing. This was both happy and scary at the same time. Undoubtedly, the mechanical revolution brought about a huge change.

Technology backing is one important factor to get the fruits of AI into the market. With technologies such as Wave computing and GPU computing, more and more powerful computing power is available today along with cost effective components. If said components are not available, you can simply make the component via a blueprint and a 3D printer.

Dr. Harsha then went on to explain advancements in fields such as Medicine, Data science, advancements in AI such as intelligent chatbots, Google’s cloud vision API, IoT and smart home appliances and even the rather disturbing area of humanoid robots, where he noted that by the year 2025, humans would be able to have sexual intercourse with robots.

Dr. Harsha then spoke about CodeGens work, especially about building an AI powered knowledge base. After all, knowledge is power and those who possess the knowledge, can wield the power it hold.

The next speaker for the day was Srinath Perera, Head of Research at WSO2 speaking to us about the next generation of the internet and Data driven decisions.

“Information is the ultimate competitive advantage”

Srinath went on to explain and point out that there is always room to improve. For example, UI is not upto mark, the internet is still limited to computers whereas the future is clearly in IoT. There is celary a lack of understanding when it comes to semantics and meanings, finally, the internet is limited to simply sharing information and not the sharing of the economy, which can be used for smart decision making.

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He then spoke about how to deliver a better User and customer experience. Customers demand personalized reliable and durable products and services, at the time and in the place they want them.

“It’s not only about the experience of the computer or system, it’s about everything”

Srinath explained the topic of sharing the economy further where he used examples of Uber (ridesharing), AirBnB (apartment sharing/renting), Task, Rabbit, and EatWithMe, all of which allow the sharing of resources. Srinath’s idea here is to not own things but to rent as needed. Quite a practical approach indeed.

The last speaker for the day was CEO, IFS Sri Lanka and Chairman Emeritus of SLASSCOM Jayantha De Silva.

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His topic “Towards a successful career in IT history” was all about empowering those involved in IT fields to go forward in their endeavors.

It’s not only about developing yourself, rather you  can move along the industry layers to reach at least the national level and from there to move on to the international level. He further explained that it don’t matter if you have technology or functionality, if you don’t have the knowledge needed, you cannot think to go forward in this field.

Jayantha then spoke about Servitization, a relatively novel and new concept that deals with manufacturing firms developing the capabilities they need to provide services and solutions that supplement their traditional product offerings. To gain a competitive advantage, you can combine IoT with Servitization to create something very interesting

“Are we ready for the challenge?”

Jayantha ended his speech by urging the audience to focus on three key areas on order to build up a successful career in IT:

  • Attitude
  • Adaptability
  • Agility

With that, the conference officially came to an end.

Dr. Dhammika Elkaduwe, Head of Department of Computer Engineering was up on stage to deliver the vote of thanks. He expressed his sincere thanks and gratitude to SLASSCOM, all sponsors and partners for the event and all those attending.

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Overall the Kandy IT/BPM week was a resounding success. Three days of forums, panel discussion and forums resulted in one thing: “Kandy is definitely a good place to be”.

You can click here and here to see the proceedings of Day 01 (Future Careers), Day 02 (Entrepreneurship Workshop) and Day 02 (BPM Conference).

A special shoutout to Dialog Home Broadband for powering our Instagram and Twitter feed.

Till next time folks.

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