In a move to create much-needed IT/BPM capacity required for the expansion of the industry in Sri Lanka, SLASSCOM Vice Chairman Mano Sekaram is advocating the creation of regional second tier cities to bring about inclusive growth in the country.
The IT/BPM industry is now amongst the top five largest export earners, with an estimated export revenue of US$ 720 million in 2013 and a growth of 33,700 employees in 2007 to 75,100 employees in 2013.
The industry has also played a key role in developing ICT, which has played a critical role in the country’s economic transformation and there is an urgent need to take ICT to all parts of the country in order to bring about national connectivity. The IT/BPM sector has been and will continue to be a driving force in this area.
Sri Lanka is fast emerging as a niche global sourcing destination for IT and BPM services with a high future growth potential, with AT Kearney ranking Sri Lanka among the top 25 destinations in their global ranking. The worldwide addressable market for IT/BPM off-shoring has been estimated at $ 403 billion and the Sri Lankan industry’s Vision 2022 aims it to become the number one foreign exchange earner of the country, with US$ 5 billion in revenue, creating 200,000 direct jobs and 1,000 start-ups.
SLASSCOM Vice Chairman and 99X Technology CEO Mano Sekaram observed that growth has so far been ‘Colombo-centric’ and stressed on the need to bring about inclusive growth that will touch every segment of society. “The fastest way of doing this is through the spread of ICT in rural areas, through the creation of regional cities.”
He’s pointed out that the IT/BPM industry is one that can operate from any location, given that an enabling business environment and sound infrastructure are in place. “Our greatest untapped human resources rest in the regional areas which is where 80% of our current workforce comes from.”
Furthermore, given Sri Lanka’s development drive, Colombo, which is already home to hundreds of IT/BPM firms, will only get more congested. Increased expenses would mean higher costs of operation for companies.
“The creation of ‘second tier cities’ would see a paradigm shift from the Western Province and would empower regional systems. Rural people will be able to reap benefits while living in their own households, allowing them to enjoy a far better standard of life. This will assist in achieving the Government’s vision of transitioning Sri Lanka into a middle-income country,” Sekaram asserted.
This shift will also see an enhancement of employment opportunities, by developing the capabilities of the youth of the country and making them employable in the industry.
A readiness assessment of locations has shown that Jaffna, Kandy and Hambantota have potential to be developed as second tier cities in Sri Lanka so far, given the infrastructure already in place, connectivity, current and planned development, their capacity to generate skilled workforces.
In line with this, SLASSCOM has also put forward a proposal for the acceleration of the regional IT/BPM hub concept to fast-forward the movement of businesses to these second tier cities by creating sufficient incentives for early movers to jumpstart the process, and has identified a number of key development areas to work on.