The construction of an IT park – was initially proposed in 2011 by the Hambantota district MP Namal Rajapakse. After recently gaining Cabinet approval, 5000 acres in Hambantota have been set aside for this purpose and the project is now attracting international attention.
“Hambantota District, a part of the ancient Kingdom of Ruhuna, was the centre of a flourishing civilization from around 200BC. It is now on the road to a new era of economic progress and growth with development of Hambantota as a economic hub.” IBM
Though named a “park”, the area is not an entertainment locale: it’s basically a pre-designed, city-like construct intended by the Government to be (in the near future) a prime region for foreign economic and technological investment. As the Sunday Times stated in September 30th 2012, this project is part of the Government’s initiative to turn Sri Lanka’s IT sector into an $1 billion industry by 2016.
If implemented successfully, the Hambantota IT Park stands to become a technological hub to rival and outdo the existing technological center (Colombo). IBM is not the only company showing interest. Global processor manufacturer Intel is interested in setting up a chip manufacturing plant , Tech One Global (looks to be the first Sri Lankan BPO to set up in the Park), Mobitel, Sri Lanka insurance, Cosmos, the Shangri-La hotel chain also have plans there. Two foreign universities (one from Singapore, the other from India) are ready to commence operations. Between them, they’re expected to provide education for more than 5000 local and foreign students. While the Government has made previous attempts to boost Sri Lanka’s dismal IT literacy and the industry, this is the first move of such massive proportions.
Valid doubts have been raised by independent blogger and industry expert W.G.T. Fernando about the viability of the park: firstly, that the necessary skills exist among the Hambantota population, and secondly, whether changes in government might one day render this project a failure. The majority of Sri Lanka’s IT skills are concentrated in Colombo, providing outsourced solutions to foreign slients.
Nevertheless, enough infrastructure is available in the area already. Several groups – notably the ICTA with their e-Sri Lanka initiative – are backing the effort. Sri Lanka’s second airport (Hambantota Magam Ruhunupura Airport) is in Hambantota. There’s also the famous harbor nearby, not to mention a wind farm. Once the issue of water supply is solved, the region would be well on its way to competing with Colombo to be the commercial capital.
As IBM has stated on their website, Hambantota is on the path of progress. Economically and well as technologically. Mega-corporations like Intel and IBM setting up shop in Sri Lanka could very well mean an IT boom like the one that revolutionized Bangalore. The system of services that arise to meet the demands of workers in these companies would, in turn, trigger a wave of investment and job opportunities in Hambantota. Either way, whether the local talent is employed, or foreign coders and techies are flown in, Sri Lanka stands to gain.
While Daily FT dubs this project “the first IT park in Sri Lanka”, we have to state that gihangamos correctly pointed out that this is actually the SECOND. The first such project was the Orion City IT Park located at 752, Dr. Danister De Silva Mw, Colombo – 09: a private-sector venture that was perhaps a little too ahead of its time.