Remembering 2017: The exciting moments in Sri Lankan tech

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2016 was a year so terrible that it actually became a meme. So when 2017 began, we were all hoping that it would be a much better year. It wasn’t perfect but for the most part, 2017 was a good year. Leonardo Di Caprio finally won an Oscar, rockets landed on ships, and Bitcoin went over $10,000. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan tech industry had its fair share of exciting moments as well.

via GIPHY

And we’re glad that we were able to see most of them first hand. Here are some of the biggest moments of the Sri Lankan tech industry in 2017.

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DIALOG AXIATA GOT A NEW GROUP CEO

Mahesh De Andrado on January 03, 2017
With the dawn of the new year, there also came a new change. To that extent, Dialog Axiata, announced that Supun Weerasinghe had been appointed as the new Group CEO. Supun succeeded Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, who had been in charge of the company from the year 1997.

HELAKURU GOT 2 MILLION DOWNLOADS

Mahesh de Andrado on January 04, 2017

Helakuru, the popular Sinhala keyboard for Android solidified its presence when it surpassed the 2 Million download mark, making it thus far the first and so far the only Sri Lankan app to reach that milestone. Quite an achievement indeed.

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LEGENDS NEVER DIE. THEY GET REBORN

Lahiru Perera on January 04, 2017

Akin to how Luke Skywalker was a new hope for the Jedi, HMD Global seemed to be a new hope for Nokia. In case you were lost, HMD Global bought exclusive rights to use Nokia branding on mobile phones, starting with the Nokia 6.

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YAHOO CHANGED ITS NAME TO ALTABA

Mahesh De Andrado on January 10, 2017

In July of 2016, we got to know that Verizon was acquiring Yahoo for $4.8 Billion. Details were sketchy at best with no future plans included. A little into 2017 and we found out that there were a lot of changes headed for Yahoo. The biggest being Yahoo changing its name to Altaba.

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DANKLAND GAVE US GLORIOUS MEMES

Mazin Hussain on January 12, 2017

With Messenger Bots slowly taking our Facebook newsfeeds, we decided to take Dankland for a spin. Dankland created internet memes using one of 75 different combinations. We gave it a few pictures of Sri Lankan politicians and the results indeed were meme-worthy.

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METALLIC HYDROGEN WAS CREATED

Mahesh De Andrado on January 27, 2017

Two Sri Lankan scientists from Harvard University successfully created metallic hydrogen. A material that is thought to be the rarest and also most valuable on earth. Alas, it was lost almost as soon as it was found.

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PICKME OFFERED CASHLESS PAYMENTS

Mahesh De Andrado on February 01, 2017

PickMe, the popular taxi-hailing company joined hands with HNB to offer its customer a cashless payment method. Nevermore would we have to worry about not having cash on hand to pay for our rides.

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SRI LANKA’S FIRST TECH REALITY SHOW HAPPENED

Lahiru Perera on February 6, 2017

From thousands of enthusiastic faces to eight finalists, to finally the top four, we saw some very creative and unique ideas. The question was, who would be the winners of the first Sri Lankan tech reality show?

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UBERPUPPIES CAME WAGGING AGAIN

Lahiru Perera on February 13, 2017

Valentine’s Day for 2017 had something special in store. Uber partnered up with Embark where all those interested were able to get their share of puppy loving cuddles for 15 minutes, at the push of a button.

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NOT EVERY CLOUD HAD A SILVER LINING

Mahesh De Andrado on February 28, 2017

A bug in Cloudflare’s software caused a leak in sensitive information that used the services of Cloudfare themselves. Over 5.5 million websites that use Cloudflare, including Fitbit, Uber, OkCupid, Medium, and Yelp were affected as well.

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MWC 2017 HAD 8 SRI LANKAN STARTUPS

Mahesh De Andrado on March 1, 2017

ICTA’s Spiralation programme once again took a number of startups to showcase at the 4YFN programme. These startups represented Sri Lanka and also showcased their products whilst taking part in the workshops to improve their business.

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5G SPECIFICATIONS WERE RELEASED

Mahesh De Andrado on March 02, 2017

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) published and made available online a draft for the proposed 5G specs to give the general public a rough idea of what performance that can be achieved with 5G connectivity.

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THE TERRIFYING TRUTH BEHIND VAULT 7

Mazin Hussain on March 8, 2017

On the 7th of March 2017, WikiLeaks leaked its largest publication of confidential documents regarding the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Codenamed “Vault 7”, these were the first of many more to come.

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SRI LANKAN ENGINEERS TOOK ON WORLD HUNGER

Mazin Hussain on March 16, 2017

Tilak Dissanayake had a simple dream. He and his team were developing drones and an entire robotic air cargo network complete with airports and airlines that use low-cost, rugged drones. Their end goal? To solve world hunger.

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THE GSEA 2017 NATIONAL FINALS HAPPENED

Mazin Hussain on March 17, 2017

Officially organized by Entrepreneurs Organization, the GSEA is a competition that’s held in almost all corners of the globe. The competition returned to Sri Lankan shores and was held once again with a bunch of talented students showcasing their ideas.

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TWO STUDENTS FROM KANDY CREATED A SMART WALKING STICK

Mahesh de Andrado on March 20, 2017

At the APICTA Awards held in Taipei, Taiwan in 2016, two students from St. Anthony’s College, Kandy were presented with the Gold Medal under the School Category. Their award-winning product? A smart walking stick.

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ANDROID WAS THE INTERNET’S MOST USED OS

Mahesh De Andrado in April 04, 2017

All Hail the King!  According to a report published by StatCounter, it appeared that Google’s Android Operating system has indeed overtaken Microsoft Windows and claimed the title of the internet’s most used operating system.

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 AVURUDU IN THE DIGITAL WORLD

Lahiru Perera on April 12, 2017

One of the most exciting things about the new year is the games we play for the season. In recent times, we’ve seen these celebrations transfer over to the digital space. 2017 was no different. Here are some interesting ones we found.

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LAYUP PROUDLY REPRESENTED SRI LANKA

Mazin Hussain on April 14, 2017

LayUp, A Sri Lankan Startup whose aim is to make corporate training sessions actually helpful, represented Sri Lanka at the Seedstars Summit 2017. Even though they didn’t win, LayUp was one of the global finalists representing Sri Lanka.

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FACEBOOK HELD ITS F8 CONFERENCE

Mahesh de Andrado on April 19, 2017

Held in San Jose, Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference lasted two days from the 18-19th April 2017. 2017 seemed to be all about AR and VR. So much so that Facebook actually announced a multitude of apps to make use of these technologies.

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THE SRI LANKAN STARTUP BUILDING 3D PRINTERS

Mazin Hussain on April 21, 2017

We spoke to the folks over at RCS2 Technologies and they showed us Thrimána. Thrimána is the company’s own 3D Printer which they are using. to showcase the possibilities of 3D printing in Sri Lanka.

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A GRIM REMINDER OF OUR GARBAGE PROBLEM

Lahiru Perera on April 23, 2017

While basking in the festivities of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations, disaster struck the residents of Meethotamulla as a portion of the Meethotamulla garbage dump came crashing down, taking lives and the homes of its residents.

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SRI LANKA MADE ITS MARK AT THE MICROSOFT IMAGINE CUP

Mahesh De Andrado on April 26, 2017

Calling themselves Team Titans,  three students hailing from the faculty of Engineering at the University of Moratuwa. The team won the Regional Finals and got the chance to take part in the Global Finals in Seattle.

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CELEBRATING AVURUDU: GEEK STYLE

Mahesh De Andrado on May 01, 2017

For the second consecutive year, the Geek Avurudu Celebrations were held on the 30th of April 2017 at Trace Expert City, Maradana. A collaboration between the Geek Initiative, Gamer.lk and Pruve comics, the Geek Avurudu Celebrations was all about bringing together a collection of cosplayers, geeks to add a geeky twist to a cultural celebration.

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UNIVERSITIES BATTLED ON A DIGITAL PLAYGROUND

Binura De Zoysa on May 02, 2017

For the second consecutive year, Gamer.LK held the Inter-University eSports Championship at Trace Expert City. In eight competitive titles, students from various universities took part to gain individual glory and to try and win the overall championship.

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A JOURNEY TO PERADENIYA

Yathusha Ulakentheran on May 12, 2017

The ACES hackathon takes place inside the Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya. Organized by ACES, it is aimed at undergrads at the Faculty of Engineering and Science at the University of Peradeniya.

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WANNACRY MADE US CRY

Lahiru Perera on May 14, 2017

A ransomware program called “WannaCry” managed to infect computers from all over the world. Reports claimed that over 99 countries were affected by WannaCry, including China and Russia.

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LIDAR HELPED SAVE SRI LANKAN HISTORY

Mahesh De Andrado on May 15, 2017

RCS2 Technologies, together with  a number of other parties launched an initiative to map Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage using LIDAR technology in order to better understand its construction and to help preserve it.

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WE ATTENDED TWO GOOGLE I/O EXTENDED EVENTS

Mahesh de Andrado, Mazin Hussain on May 17, 2017

Sri Lanka was host to two Google I/O extended events. One was by Dialog and one was by Mobitel. Each event had its own set of speakers and events to last the entire night. And we got the opportunity to attend both events.

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STARTUP WEEKEND NEGOMBO 2017

Mahesh de Andrado on May 19, 2017

Startup Weekend, the 54 hour event that brings together entrepreneurs, to graphic designers to software developers and anyone in between happened from the 19-21st of May 2017. These were the finalists and their product pitches.

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SRI LANKA GOT A NEW STARTUP ACCELERATOR

Mazin Hussain on May 24, 2017

In an effort to provide Sri Lankan entrepreneurs with the resources they need to build great products with their network of global partners, StartupX Foundry was launched. Run by a group of industry experts, this was as the place to be if you’re a budding startup.

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WE SUFFERED FROM SEVERE FLOODS

Lahiru Perera on May 26, 2017

Sri Lanka was victim to some of the worst floods we had seen in a very long time.Countless people lost their houses and even their lives. At this time of need, some brave souls sprang into action using the technology at hand to unit themselves to help each other.

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UKI: THE CODING ACCELERATOR IN JAFFNA

Mazin Hussain on May 31, 2017

Uki, a coding accelerator in Jaffna run by the Yarl IT Hub alongside the SERVE Foundation had one simple mission: to help passionate students in Jaffna join the IT Industry or build their own startup.

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SRI LANKANS WERE FINALISTS AT NASA SPACE APPS CHALLENGE

Mahesh De Andrado on June 02, 2017

Team Codon, comprising of 6 students from the University of Moratuwa have emerged as one of the five world finalists under the category of Galactic Impact in the NASA International Space Apps Challenge 2017.

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SLT TESTED OUT PRE-5G TECHNOLOGY

Mahesh de Andrado on June 06, 2017

SLT successfully carried out South Asia’s first comprehensive field trial of Pre-5G LTE Advanced Pro technology. This essentially laid the groundwork for the next generation of broadband technologies using Advanced Carrier Aggregation Technology.

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WE LEARNED ABOUT THE IRON LADY; NAYENI FERNANDO

Mazin Hussain on June 06, 2017

In 1976, the Computer Society of Sri Lanka was formed. Among its founding members was a lady. This lady is one who stands tall amongst the silent giants of the Sri Lankan IT industry. She was none other than Nayeni Fernando. This, was her story.

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FROM AN INTERNSHIP TO AN ENTREPRENEURSHIP: MEET SITRIGHT

Mazin Hussain on June 08, 2017

Sit Right is a smart seat cover with a mobile app that monitors your posture and coaches you to improve it. The team submitted their application to AIRMaker, a startup accelerator who focuses on IoT startups building solutions in the areas of Digital Health and Smart Cities.

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WE WERE (ALMOST) VICTIMS OF THE ONE RING SCAM

Mahesh De Andrado on June 12, 2017

Originating from Japan, around the year 2012, the One Ring scam worked by scammers hiring an international premium rate number. In 2017, Sri Lankans too almost became victims of this scam. But luckily, that scenario was avoided.

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HYPEHASH TOOK PART IN THE MENORCA MILLENIALS 2017

Mahesh De Andrado on June 14, 2017

Being the complete opposite of an accelerator, the Menorca Millenials was about taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. HypeHash was given the opportunity to take part in the Menorca Millenials and this is what we learned from them.

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WE SAW THE JOURNEY OF TEAM SRI LANKA TO THE FIRST GLOBAL CHALLENGE

Mazin Hussain on June 20, 2017

A Sri Lankan team was among those competing in the FIRST Global Challenge. This is an annual international robotics challenge aiming to inspire children to pursue STEM studies. The goal here is to address the 14 Grand Challenges identified by the USA’s National Academy of Engineering.

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SLASSOM APPOINTED A NEW CHAIRMAN

ReadMe Live on July 7, 2017

Ruwindhu Pieris – Managing Director of Stax Inc. took up the role of the SLASSCOM Chairman. Alongside him, the organization appointed a new Board of Directors. He encouraged the IT industry to celebrate its success and encouraged it to pursue bold initiatives for the future.
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SOCIAL MEDIA DAY 2017

Lahiru Perera on July 9, 2017

Social Media Day. It’s the one day all internet dwellers (us included) get to celebrate the massive culture that is Social Media. Last July, Social Media Day Colombo edition kicked off for the sixth consecutive year.
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DISRUPT ASIA 2017

ReadMe Live on July 12, 2017

It’s the biggest celebration of the entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka. Last year, we went and wrote three feature-length articles. In 2017 we wrote six because we found so much more at Disrupt Asia 2017.
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THE MERCANTILE ESPORTS CHAMPIONSHIP

Binura De Zoysa on July 15, 2017

With its doors open to all corporates in Sri Lanka, this year’s Mercantile eSports championship attracted the participation of over 60 well-known companies from various industries. Across the two days of endless action, the event paved the ground to settle rivalries, gain glory, and fun.
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WHATSAPP HIT A BIG MILESTONE

Readme-live on July 27, 2017

“Can you just WhatsApp it to me?” has now become a common question in the lives of many of us. 2017 was the year it became a messaging platform used by one billion people every single day. And Facebook, which is its parent platform also hit a milestone of 1.32 billion daily users this year.
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SRI LANKAN ESPORTS WENT INTERNATIONAL

Binura De Zoysa on August 4, 2017

In 2017, a rare opportunity presented itself to all DOTA 2 and Counter Strike: GO players in Sri Lanka. ASUS brought its ROG Masters tournament to Sri Lanka. The best teams went on to represent Sri Lanka at the Regional Qualifiers in India.

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GOOGLE LEARNED SINHALA AND TAMIL

Mahesh De Andrado on August 17, 2017

In August 2017, Google Speech got an update. This update added 30 languages and locales for its voice typing feature. Among these languages were Sinhala and Tamil. To do this, Google worked with native speakers. That’s why you can now type things on your phone in Sinhala and Tamil.

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PAYABLE BECAME A BILLION RUPEE STARTUP

Mahesh De Andrado on August 14, 2017

We first spoke about PAYable when it launched in 2016. This startup debuted a platform to revolutionize cashless mobile payments. It gave merchants a portable POS device through its app and Bluetooth card reader. In 2017, this startup was valued at a billion rupees.

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WE LEARNED THE HISTORY OF TRACE EXPERT CITY

Mahesh de Andrado on August 16, 2017

You would have probably seen a collection of brick buildings just opposite the Elphinstone Theatre. If you’re in the Sri Lankan tech industry, then you know what this place is. But very few actually know the story behind Trace Expert City.

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WE WERE RIGHT ABOUT ANDROID OREO

Mahesh de Andrao on August 22, 2017

When Google first teased Android O, all we knew was that it would be a type of sweet or dessert. Many enthusiasts speculated that its name would be Android Oreo. Last August, our speculations were confirmed. And the announcement was perfectly timed with a partial solar eclipse.

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THE FIRST 5G TEST IN SOUTH ASIA

Mahesh De Andrado on August 23, 2017

When you say the word 5G, you immediately think of really really fast internet, low latency, and ultra HD content streaming. In 2017, we saw Dialog Axiata conduct the first successful 5G test, hitting speeds upwards of 35GB. This was a landmark test because it was the first in South Asia.

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CHINA BANNED ICOS

Mahesh De Andrado on September 5, 2017

With Bitcoin surging over $10,000 cryptocurrency certainly made a name for itself in 2017. This led to a massive ICO boom, especially in China. But then in September last year, China banned the practice of ICO’s. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped the cryptocurrency mania spreading across the world.

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8 LOCAL STARTUPS WENT TO OSLO

Mazin Hussain on September 5, 2017

The Oslo Innovation Week is a five-day series of events held in Oslo each October. These events vary from seminars, talks, hackathons, and more. The purpose of all these events is to support startups. In 2017, we saw three startups represent Sri Lanka at these events.

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THE NATIONAL IT CONFERENCE 2017

Readme-live on September 14, 2017

We saw the 35th National IT Conference also known as NITC 2017 take place. Furthermore, this year it took place in partnership with the SEARCC Conference 2017. And this was in parallel to the IFIP General Assembly. Over the course of two days, 60+ individuals were in attendance from over 50 countries.

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THE VIRTUAL BIG MATCH OF SRI LANKAN SCHOOLS

Binura De Zoyza on September 30, 2017

Once again in 2017, we saw the virtual big match battle royale of Sri Lankan schools – the Inter-School eSports Championship. The event saw 500 students competing from 75 schools across the country. Ultimately, the overall champions of 2017 were Gateway College Colombo.

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LEARNING TO BUILD AT GDG DEVFEST 2017

Mahesh De Andrado on October 8, 2017

Organized by GDG Sri Lanka, DevFest is one of the biggest events for developers in Sri Lanka. In 2017, it was held inside the SLIIT Malabe Campus. In the morning we found a series of code labs where participants were introduced to some best practices. In the afternoon was the main conference.

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THE ARRIVAL OF UBERZIP

Mahesh De Andrado on October 10, 2017

When Uber first arrived in Sri Lanka, there was plenty of excitement. In 2017, Uber expanded its offerings in Colombo with the introduction of UberZIP. This was the smaller and cheaper way for all of us to get around Colombo. It was indeed cheaper but only when surge pricing wasn’t in effect.

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WE SAW HOW A 5G WORLD IS BEING BUILT

Mazin Hussain on October 11, 2017

Downloading a 4K movie in seconds. Livestreaming a cricket match 5G holds much promise and in 2017 Dialog conducted the first 5G test in South Asia. We also got an inside look at how Ericsson builds the technology that makes 5G possible.

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GIANT ROBOTS FOUGHT

Mazin Hussain on October 18, 2017

In 2017 we saw the world’s first battle between giant robots. It all began in 2015 when the US company Megabots Inc. challenged Suidobashi Heavy Industries in Japan to a battle. The challenge was accepted and last year we finally saw the US and Japan fight with giant robots.

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THE RETURN OF SEEDSTARS

Mahesh De Andrado on October 20, 2017

In 2016, we saw SeedStars come to Sri Lanka for the first time and LayUp to Switzerland. There it emerged as a finalist at the SeedStars Global Summit. In October they returned to select another Sri Lankan startup and give them the same chance.

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STARTUP WEEKEND TRINCOMALEE

Mahesh De Andrado on October 27, 2017

Travelling great distances can be quite a tiring task. We found ourselves making our way over to the town of Trincomalee. Why do you ask? Well. It was the weekend. But this was a special weekend. This was Startup Weekend Trincomalee.

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VENTURING INTO INFOTEL

Mahesh De Andrado on November 2, 2017

In 2017, we saw Sri Lanka’s biggest ICT exposition and conference became 25 years old. It was a place where we found everything from startups to enterprise IT hardware to a gaming competition. And in 2017, it took over BMICH for four days instead of the usual three.

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YARL GEEK CHALLENGE SEASON 6

Mazin Hussain on November 3, 2017

It’s one of the most iconic hackathons in Sri Lanka. Every year, it sees participants travel north to Jaffna from all corners of the island. Over the course of three days in Jaffna, we found some interesting ideas at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 6.

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EMPOWERING THE NEXT GENERATION OF WOMEN IN IT

Vinusha Paulraj on November 7, 2017

Shree Atcheson calls Belfast home, Sri Lanka is the land of her birth. Fueled by the goal of making coding a more inclusive profession, at 22, she founded the UK’s first wing of Women Who Code in Belfast. Her latest project – I Am Sri Lanka was setup to showcase “local and global role models” to Sri Lankans.

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STARTUP WEEKEND JAFFNA 2017

Mazin Hussain on November 10, 2017

On a cold Friday morning in 2016, we made our way to Jaffna. We were on our way to the first Startup Weekend to be held in Jaffna. We had no idea that it was the first of many. And in 2017 we returned to Jaffna to witness Startup Weekend Jaffna 2017.

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THE PROTEST AGAINST UBER

Mazin Hussain on November 22, 2017

In the latter half of 2017, there was an unusual protest in Colombo. There were no traffic jams, no riot policemen shooting tear gas, and no news alerts. These protesters stood in front of Nelum Pokuna, they screamed, and held their placards high that read, “Uber Go Home.”

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SEEING THE DIGITAL HEALTH PROJECT FIRST HAND

Mazin Hussain on November 24, 2017

In November 2017, our editor had an accident at the office. A glass pane on one of the doors at our office was smashed as he opened it too hard. When he went to the Colombo General Hospital to seek help he got a first-hand look at the government’s Digital Health Project.

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WE HAD A NATIONAL HOUR OF CODE

Mahesh De Andrado on December 7, 2017

As part of the annual Computer Science Education Week, Microsoft Sri Lanka organized an Hour of Code inside Temple Trees. The purpose of this initiative was to spend one hour introducing students to computer coding.

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PLAY EXPO 2017: THE MARRIAGE OF SLCG AND THE COLOMBO COMIC EXPO

Mahesh De Andrado, Binura De Zoysa on December 8, 2017

In 2017, gamers across the island celebrated 10 years of the Sri Lanka Cyber Games. As it celebrated its 10th birthday it became a part of something bigger alongside the Colombo Comic Expo: The PlayExpo 2017.
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WE MET AN AI THAT SPOKE SINHALA AND TAMIL

Mazin Hussain on December 13, 2017

Cody is a nice guy. You might not think that when you first meet him. That’s probably because he always speaks in somewhat of a robotic manner. But when was the last time you met an AI that spoke in Sinhala and Tamil?

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THE GATHERING OF THE TWITTERHOLICS AT TWEETUPSL 7

Nimila Hiranya Samarasinghe on December 16, 2017

Since its inception in 2010, TweetupSL has become one of the most sought after Public Social Media events of the year in Sri Lanka. It brings the local Twittersphere to an offline where they get to connect and have fun with the connections they’ve made in the digital world.

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THE VOLUNTEERS TEACHING KIDS TO CODE

Mazin Hussain on December 25, 2017

The BBC Micro:Bit is a tiny computer that’s half the size of a credit card. With this tiny computer, the Micro:Bit Sri Lanka User Group travels across Sri Lanka. Over the past year, the achievements of this group of volunteers has inspired other movements across the world.

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