Digital Inclusion and Transformation in South Asia
The Colombo Initiative (CI) in collaboration with Observer Research Foundation (ORF),India and Sappani Foundation (SF),Canada on a joint research partnership, is delighted to launch a series of discussions and events uncovering trends and patterns in security, economic, and geopolitical landscapes in the bilateral relationship and across the Indo-Pacific region.
Current COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to Digital inclusion. This has recently been elevated to a global priority for governments, businesses, development agencies and society at large, due to the vital and versatile role of technology to support COVID-19 response and recovery. In this new normal life, digital inclusion and transmission is essential as disruptions and uncertainties are increasing in frequency and magnitude in all corners. Also, this pandemic has further marked the indispensability of new technologies as a lifeline for individuals and organizations.
In this context, Colombo Initiative hosted virtually, a panel discussion together with ORF & Sappani Foundation, under the theme “Digital Inclusion and Transformation in South Asia,” on Friday, August 27, 2021 at 2 p.m. The session, moderated by Nisha Holla, explored the multifaceted importance of digital technologies across the South Asian region, especially in India and Sri Lanka. Dishan De Silva, one of the directors from Colombo Initiatives, made the welcome speech and in his introduction he said this event is to be the first of many high-level roundtable conferences to come out of the new trilateral research partnership between ORF, Colombo Initiative and Sappani Foundation.
Program & Speakers
List of Speakers
- Hon. Namal Rajapaksa – Member of Parliament, State Minister of Digital Technology and Enterprise Development; Minister of Youth and Sports, Sri Lanka
- Mahinda B Herath – CEO of Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), Sri Lanka
- Deena Jacob – Co-founder and CFO of Open Financial Technology, India
- Anna Roy – Senior Advisor NITI Aayog, India
- Jayomi Lokuliyana – Co-founder and CEO of Digital X and ZMessenger, Sri Lanka
- Nisha Holla – Visting Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, India
- Dishan De Silva – Colombo Initiative, Director, Sri Lanka
The event commenced with a keynote address by Hon. Namal Rajapaksa, State Minister of Digital Technology and Enterprise Development, and that followed by a panel discussion. This event featured distinguished digital business leaders from India and Sri Lanka, who unanimously agreed on the necessity to create a really “inclusive” digital progress within the South Asian area.
- Minister Rajapaksa introduced, in the keynote speech, that the Sri Lankan Authorities is actively pursuing blockchain know-how, which might facilitate digital currencies and a bigger digital economic system sooner or later. This initiative falls in step with the imaginative and prescient of the federal government to construct a technology-based society: “Good Nation.”. He also mentioned that he hopes to simplify the processes for E-businesses and we are looking at attracting more investment in the E-Commerce space. They are also actively pursuing Block-Chain technology which would facilitate digital currencies and a larger digital economy.
- Mahinda Herath, who spoke of Sri Lanka’s expanding digital access, affordability, availability and infrastructure. In addition to that he briefed the governments’ schemes to improve internet connectivity, accessibility and literacy of all demographic sections of the state.
- Deena Jacob spoke on digital access and transformation with a perspective from the private sector. She agreed with other panelists on how COVID has persuaded small and medium businesses to innovate and adapt to new technology, and also credited India’s digital ecosystem and infrastructure for letting small businesses smoothly transmit towards the digital inclusion.
- Anna Roy discussed the growing space for frontier technology and briefed the Government of India and the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog’s efforts in empowering data access, privacy, sovereignty and also tackling digital challenges. Ms. Roy stressed on responsible use of digital platforms by sovereign governments, and inclusive growth in India by adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) in various service and development sectors.
- Jayomi Lokuliyana spoke on the impressive digital transformation in Sri Lanka over the past decade, and its positive impact on entrepreneurs and start-ups in terms of transactions, e-commerce, capital flow, innovation and new market opportunities.