Yesterday, Sriganesh Lokanathan and I spent the day at the inaugural event of a business analytics group, pulled together by the Sri Lanka Ministry of Higher Education and the School of Information and Business Analytics at Deakin University. Seven Sri Lankan universities were represented by faculty as were several Sri Lankan IT firms.
When the issue of university-industry collaboration came up, Srinath Perera of WSO2 said that they were already collaborating effectively, including through the three-way relationship with LIRNEasia and University of Moratuwa.
Clearly, partnerships are critical in a a field like big data where we are all operating at the frontier of knowledge. The data resides inside firms and government organizations. Without access, there is nothing to conduct research on. The infrastructure and tools are being developed by IT firms. Without that, it is impossible to work. The demand for data scientists is so high that any organization, especially in the non-profit sector, would be lucky to hold on to good people for more than a few years. That means that a pipeline of well trained young data analysts is a critical precondition. The knowledge is fast moving and is being developed by those who grapple with big data. Without those people, universities will not be able to offer a useful education.
Contrary to the emphatic protestations of Tim Unwin, the geographer turned ICT expert, this is a metaphorical eco system. The different components need each other. They cannot function alone.
Yesterday, a good foundation was laid. The Ministry of Higher Education, especially Secretary Sunil Nawaratne and Advisor Vishakha Nanayakkara are to be congratulated on their excellent initiative. Deakin is playing a superb role in providing the initial momentum. Now it is up to the local actors to build on the foundation. We will do what we can.