An Evening of AI At the National CxO Forum 2017


The National CxO Forum 2017 is an event organized jointly by FITIS and the Ministry of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure. It is aimed at empowering leaders in businesses organizations for better information and digital governments. Held under the theme of “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning”, the event took place for the second consecutive year on the 28th of March at the JAIC Hilton Union Ballroom.

Wasantha Weerakoon, CEO of TechOne Global and also the Chairman of FITIS for the year 2016/2017, was up to deliver the welcome speech at the National CxO Forum 2017.

National CxO Forum 2017
Wasantha Weerakoon addressing the Audience
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

He thanked all those present and proceeded to introduce Dr. Kithsiri Manchanayake as his successor the Chairman of FITIS. Wasantha then spoke about all the programs delivered for a period of 25 years since the inception of FITIS and the steps taken for the industry to operate.

“Developing an Industry via ICT is the solution to settle our debt of $70B” – Wasantha Weerakoon

Through experience, Wasantha and his peers realized that something more meaningful and valuable needed to be added to the industry. This would do this by some different activities: they would perform cross pollination to create awareness and new business ventures.

Sachindra Samararatne, Project Manager at ICTA was up next.

Sachindra addressed the audience on Government projects carried out by ICTA. A few key points regarding Sri Lanka were thrown at the audience. This included facts such as Sri Lanka being ranked Number 14 in the world as an outsourcing destination by AT Kerney, out of 45 countries. He also proudly stated that Sri Lanka would be a part of the Global Startup Ecosystem Report from April 2017.

National CxO Forum 2017
Sachindra Samararatne addressing the audience
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

He then spoke about ICTA’s Industry Development Program which has supported over 150 IT-BPM businesses through programs such as Spiralation, Disrupt Asia. Sachindra went on to give examples of how the ICT industry is being helped with Industry knowledge enhancement such as Domestic learning seminars, quality code developing initiative, and developing security professionals.

Following Sachindra’s speech, two gentlemen and a lady were up on stage to carry out a live demonstration of machine learning and AI. What better way to do that than at the National CxO Forum 2017?

National CxO Forum 2017
L.I.S.A in action
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

Lead by Haritha Thilakarathna and his team, the demonstration revolved around Enadoc Apparels, an apparels company in the year 2020. Using what they call LISA or the Logical Intelligent Smart Assistant which resembles an interface similar to Cortana the trio conduct what appears to be a meeting to go over the financial statement of the business. They go over the sales breakdown, financial statements, all by the power of their voice. Using LISA, they set reminders, check out statement of expenses grouped by each month. They can even request access to secure files remotely.

The first speaker for the National CxO Forum 2017 was up 

Suresh Surenthiran  of FHNW Academy of Art and Design is also the Director of Technology, Strategy and Design at DIYRockets. Interestingly DIYRockets was the first to create a 3D Printed rocket engine. He is also a part of The Digital Journeyman.

National CxO Forum 2017
Suresh Surenthiran addressing the audience
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

A futurist by nature, Suresh’s entire presentation was about the advancements in ICT and the future of computing, especially AI. Even the furniture that we use would be talk to us. Enter the Internet of Everything where you connect the unconnected. Using examples of farming, where 64 robots manage 6500 cows in a farm, to AirBnB, Uber and Hello tractor, Suresh explained that everything will soon be connected and all work will be done by robots. In fact, according to him around the year 2030-2040, machines will take over most of our workload.

He then spoke about the Internet of Me. With advancements in technologies such as Intel Curie, Smart houses and smart lighting, we could actually have a future where everything works the way we want it to. If you’ve had a rough day at work, your smartwatch could sense your heartrate and pulse and communicate that to your smart house, which in turn would adjust things like the lights and sound at home to improve your mood.

“If you want to participate, you need to accelerate” – Suresh Surenthiran 

Currently there are 13 Billion connected devices in the world. That number would go upto a staggering 29 billon by the year 2020.

The second speaker was Dr. Buddhika Jayasekara.

Dr. Jayasekara’s presentation revolved around the application of AI in intelligent systems and Intelligent Robots and Systems.

Dr. Buddhika Jayasekara addressing the audienceImage Credits: Avishka Senaratne
Dr. Buddhika Jayasekara addressing the audience
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

He began by explaining Natural Intelligence. This is the ability to learn, understand, and make judgements or have opinions based on reason. He also explained about Swarm Intelligence and Human intelligence. The former is essentially the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized natural or artificial systems, whereas the latter is the intellectual prowess of humans, which is marked by high cognition, motivation, and self-awareness.

Dr. Jayasekara then spoke about Artificial intelligence which is the study of how to produce machines that have some of the qualities found within the human mind. These qualities include the ability to understand language, recognize pictures, solve problems and learn. AI applications and intelligent system development was his next area. Human beings can adapt to a given scenario. But for a machine to adapt to a scenario, you would need customized robots. The system would vary depending on the application or adapt to the situation. This was akin to the topic of discussion that we attended at the SL Robotics Meetup as well.

Dr. Jayasekara also spoke about MIRob or Moratuwa Intelligent Robot, a service robot developed within the halls of the University of Moratuwa. This is an intelligent service robot that can acquire knowledge through interactive discussion with the user while handling uncertain information in the user’s instructions. Apart from MIRob, there are several other project in development such as an intelligent wheelchair, intelligent robot for smart buildings, a smart chat robot for the elderly etc.

His next topic was about machine learning and deep learning. THs has many hidden layers, and is useful for complex learning tasks such as visual perception.

The third speaker at the National CxO Forum 2017 was Sujit Christy

Sujit, the director of Layers-7 Seguro Consultoria Private Limited spoke to the audience about Securing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Using examples from the movie iRobot, Sujith explained Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics. Adding to this, Sujit also noted that while we should be excited about technology, we should be aware that these do not cause damage to humans.

National CxO Forum 2017
Sujit Christy addressing the audience
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

With an influx of robots doing work for us, there would be a resulting surge in human job displacement. This in turn would cause the growth of new industries and also inculcate the widespread adoption of AI. In fact, Sujith noted that 80% of jobs in an IT department would be made redundant as they would be carried out by an Intelligent system.

Two examples of where AI is in use is Nutanix which helps computing infrastructure professionals automate how they handle networking between servers. The next example was Mesosphere which helps simplify the task of installing and maintaining software on servers.

AI can also be used to monitor and defend your organization and country against malicious attacks. We can become a knowledge society. We can use AI to develop society. On the other hand, once these 80% of people lose their jobs, they would switch to activities such as theft in order to compensate for their financial losses. Sujit went onto explain that according to rankings of cyber-attack, Sri Lanka is pretty high up on the list. It’s time to protect the schoolchildren. This will result in safeguarding organizations and thus safeguard the country.

The last speaker for the National CxO Forum 2017 was Dr. Oleg Sazhin

Dr. Sahzin attending the Forum from Russia via Skype is a Business Development Director and Head of Global Projects Department at ABBYY.

National CxO Forum 2017
Image Taken From:

He  spoke to the audience about Artificial Intelligence in document and image processing. His company ABBYY is a software company that provides optical character recognition, document capture and language software for both PC and mobile devices. It is also one of the largest centers in AI with an R&D department based in Moscow. Founded in unis depot f image recognition and text processing.

Dr. Sazhin explained that by 2020, the world would generate 50 times more information than today. He also spoke about advancements in OCR and detection of zones that contain text, pictures and tables. For example, text blocks are parsed into line and a vertical histogram is used. Following that, lines are parsed into words and words into letters.

Dr. Sazhin’s session was unfortunately cut short due to technical difficulties, but nonetheless, he managed to get his point about the advancements in AI and OCR across quite successfully.

With that, the presentations for the National CxO Forum 2017 came to a close

Once the guest speakers were done with their presentations Dr. Kithsiri Manchanayake, the newly elected Chairman of FITIS was up on stage to explain the plans for Infotel 2017. Infotel as you all know the largest Information and Communication Technology Event in Sri Lanka. Initiated 25 years ago, the first Infotel was initiated by Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe who was the Minister of Science Technology. Dr. Manchanayake walked the audience through the history of Infotel and proudly declared the theme for Infotel 2017 – Towards an Imagination Economy.

With awards handed to the speakers, and the closing speech, the National CxO Forum 2017 came to a close.



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