Narayana Murthy, the ‘IT Guru’ is in Colombo. ‘Entrepreneurship and IT for National Integration: A Challenge for Sri Lanka’ was his topic addressing Sri Lankan software industry representatives, on Saturday. The well attended event was organized by the three month old Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM) that has ambitious plans to follow elder brother, NASSCOM.
Murthy talked for 40 minutes, and delivered the gems, for anybody to pick. Develop infrastructure; Build HR or import if not enough; Encourage foreign investment; Avoid fat government; Give confidence to private sector; Nurture venture capitalists: Change labour laws; Provide equal opportunities for both genders; Ensure peace, political stability and correct fiscal environment because they are the key to the growth of IT and ITES industries and don’t be scared to innovate. That was the txt ver.
For most IT professionals in the audience, the speech might have sounded strangely familiar. No surprise. It was the same wisdom the speaker shared with almost the same crowd in 2003, as IT advisor to then Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe – who unfortunately wasn’t there in the audience today to confirm. (We are told Murthy was appointed, or rather re-appointed, IT advisor yesterday, this time to President Mahinda Rajapakse.)
Will it be too blunt to ask whether Sri Lankan software industry needs the very guidance, six years later?
Perhaps it does, like that naughty boy who never listen to his teachers. SLASSCOM Chairman Ranjit Fernando repeatedly reminded, in global terms, Sri Lanka’s IT industry is still at its infancy. Not sure what Central Bank would say. In 2003, combined IT and ITES industry in Sri Lanka was USD 80 million. For 2007, Central Bank didn’t give a figure. Industry estimates it between USD 100 -150 million. Some development but might not be as impressive as the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ across Palk Strait. According to Murthy, the USD 60 billion Indian IT/ITES industry now provides 250,000 direct and 300,000 indirect employment opportunities. Fernando wants to increase the 11,000 IT jobs in Sri Lanka today to 100,000 within three years, by following the Indian example. Extremely ambitious plan, in a time of global recession.
Peter De Almeida, of N-Able has different views. We tried, he says, but missed the bus. Why try repeating the same? Why not try differently? Perhaps he has a point. It was Einstein who reportedly defined insanity as repeating the same experiment and expecting different results.