The Sri Lankan economy has seen robust annual growth at 6.4 percent over the course of 2003 to 2012. Almost five years after the end of the three-decade civil conflict, Sri Lanka is now focusing on long-term strategic and structural development challenges as it strives to transition to an upper middle income country.
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“The Cell”The Science and Technology Cell at the University of Colombo is a registered company established in 2013 through a Quality and Innovation Grant (QIG) under the HETC project. It is a co... Show More +llaborative facility with board members representing 7 Departments of the Faculty of Science (Chemistry, Mathematics, Nuclear Sciences, Physics, Plant Sciences, Statistics, and Zoology).The Cell has been an effective channel for high-profile companies such as Darley Butler, Ceylon Cold Stores, DSI, Hemas and John Keells to work with the faculty on specific industry problems and conduct consultancies for organizations such as UNDP, CEB, and providing services for ITI and the Asia Foundation “Earlier, I thought that lecturing would be the only career path for me,” said Gihan Dissanayake, an enthusiastic research assistant with an interest in organic chemistry. “Thanks to the Cell, I got the opportunity to work at Hemas manufacturing plant and explore many new opportunities for my research interests” added Gihan, who plans to complete his PhD abroad and return to Sri Lanka with new knowledge to further develop the work of the Cell.The ApproachThe Quality and Innovation Grants (QIGs) are a competitively awarded grant scheme of the World Bank-financed Higher Education for the Twenty First Century (HETC) Project. The grants were designed to make resources available to support strategic and innovative plans to enhance the quality of teaching, research and innovations in universities.QIGs operate in four windows, three of which are dedicated to enhance undergraduate study programs and postgraduate research degrees. The fourth window is research dissemination and commercialization projects, and is directed towards promoting agro, manufacturing, high-technology services and aquaculture industries via knowledge and technology transfers. This window also supports linkages between university and industry through the establishment of business centers and university commercialization centers equipped to facilitate the valorization of research products.The Cell is one of 11 grants that won LKR10 million ($75,000) to:· Foster entrepreneurship among members of the University community;· Enhance opportunities for the initiation of research projects and consultancies aimed at economic growth, and· Facilitate the obtaining and protection of rights to intellectual property developed through the company.Results and Way ForwardQIGs have been awarded to 58 programs, exceeding the project target of 51 programs. 40 beneficiary undergraduate study programs with modernized curricula were launched to promote student-centered learning and prepare ‘market-ready’ graduate students for a multi-disciplinary environment.Over 15,000 students are also enrolled in Advanced Technological Institutions, surpassing the initial project target of 11,000 students.Apart from the 11 Research Dissemination and Commercialization entities, 60 MPhil and PhD candidates under the 7 Postgraduate grants are currently engaged in research aimed at economic development, improving the well-being of the people and environmental sustenance. Their research was featured in many local and international publications and garnered awards.Speaking of the way forward for the HETC project, the Project Director, Professor K.A. Nandasena summed up the scope of research dissemination and commercialization grants of the QIG: “we aim to improve the research culture, promote symbiotic University – Industry relations and provide direct contribution to socioeconomic development of Sri Lanka. We are optimistic that these initiatives will take root, inspire and equip the higher education system to improve its quality and relevance to the local and global society.” Show Less -
ICT Trends, Challenges and OpportunitiesDespite a growing ICT literacy, less than a fifth of Sri Lankans use the internet, and only 10 percent of households have direct access. This is an indication t... Show More +hat the internet is not being fully utilized to improve information access or business efficiency. However, internet access and quality have improved dramatically with faster speeds and lower costs. This has helped ICT employment grow 20% per year for the last 10 years.An obvious gap in Sri Lanka’s development toward a knowledge economy stems from the lack of university graduates, especially women who major in technical fields.Sri Lanka nevertheless has an ambitious goal of improving revenue through ICT related jobs and startups. Ruwindhu Peiris, Managing Director of the Colombo office of Stax and Board member of lead of “1000 Startup Program” of SLASSCOM (The Sri Lankan IT KPO Industry Chamber) presented the Knowledge Services Industry Vision 2022 which envisions Sri Lanka having a knowledge based economy with the goals listed above.The Changing Role of NGOs in Sri LankaIn a presentation on the changing role of NGOs in Sri Lanka, Udan Fernando, Executive Director of Center for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) illustrated the shift in perception of NGOs from ‘conspirators’ to ‘partners in good governance’ while the space for NGOs to operate has become more open to advocate for change. It is now up to the Civil Society Organizations to seize the moment and use creative ideas to add value. “However, CSOs should maintain a critical distance with the government while exploring the possibilities of collaboration and engagement. This will ensure the independence of CSOs,” Fernando said.Female Labor Force Participation in Sri LankaSri Lanka has the 20th largest gender gap in labor force participation (LFP) globally, which impedes the country’s goals for growth and equity. In 2010, the labor force participation rate for women over age 15 was 41 percent, versus 82 percent for men of the same age. In contrast, female LFP in Thailand and Malaysia were 80 and 57 percent respectively. Most women live long, healthy lives - an indication that while Sri Lankan women are educated and live longer many do not work outside the home.The low female labor force participation has been attributed to 3 key factors:· Gender norms around household roles – women are responsible for household chores limiting access for outside employment;· Skills mismatch – a disparity between the skills women attain and what the market demands or will pay for; and· Gender bias - active and institutional gender discrimination, wage gaps, discriminatory work places, and weaker job networks compared to male counterparts.“While governments, policy makers and practitioners work on making systemic changes, civil society groups can help improve this situation at the individual and household level through exposure, encouragement and advocacy,” said Pryce, encouraging NGOs to incorporate ICT as well as gender and development into their existing programs.To help address low female labor force participation, CSOs can promote and advocate for:· Women to access part time work, maternity leave and child care services in an effort to eliminate associated stigma;· Girls’ to identify and develop careers of their choice from an early age regardless of gender norms and restrictions;· Access to job information and placement services.The two day workshop provided opportunities for CSO participants to network and brainstorm possible ICT solutions integrated within existing projects. This will be followed up with a year of support for NGOs in close collaboration with the partners. “Our goal is to support our NGO partners in creating employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for educated young women in Sri Lanka. We will work towards this goal and keep track of results which we hope will be innovative and demonstrative examples for others to follow,” said Isura Silva, Manager of Sarvodaya Fusion.This is the third year of partnership for ICT development outreach for NGOs working with youth implemented by World Bank South Asia Region External and Corporate Relations unit, Microsoft Asia and Pacific Citizenship Engagement program and the Sri Lankan ICT4Development partner, Sarvodaya Fusion. Show Less -
In Afghanistan, a successful political transition needs to be supplemented by a stable security environment as well as by adequate management of the current fiscal crisis. Agriculture and services are... Show More + likely to be the key drivers of growth in the immediate future. With stability, growth could increase from 2.5 percent in 2015 to 5.0 percent the year after.In Bangladesh, the economy is maintaining macroeconomic stability, despite the political turmoil, structural constraints, and global volatility. The protracted political unrest has reduced growth by one percentage point. Growth in 2015 is now projected at 5.6%. However, a recovery driven by strong domestic demand is possible. It will require a continuation of single-digit inflation, an improved investment climate, and above all political stability.Economic activity in Bhutan is expected to gain momentum with real GDP growing at 6.7 percent in 2015, driven by new hydropower construction and innovative tourism measures such as “Visit Bhutan 2015.”In India, GDP growth is expected to accelerate to 7.5 percent in Fiscal Year 2015/16. It could reach 8.0 percent in FY2017/18, on the back of significant acceleration of investment growth to 12 percent during FY2016-FY2018. The country is attempting to shift from consumption- to investment-led growth, at a time when China is undergoing the opposite transition.Nepal’s growth will remain in the 4.5 to 5 percent range. The fact that consumption remains the country’s main growth driver leaves it vulnerable to a slowdown in remittance growth. To improve its growth performance the country needs to boost infrastructure development to support private sector investment.In Pakistan, a gradual recovery to around 4.6 percent growth by 2016 is aided by low inflation, and fiscal consolidation. Further progress depends on tackling key growth constraints including frequent power cuts, a cumbersome business environment, and low tax revenue.In Sri Lanka, growth is expected to decline to 6.9 percent in 2015 due to slowing construction activity. This trend is partially set off by consumption growth thanks to increased public sector wages and higher disposable income. With competitiveness remaining a challenge, the new government is reassessing the previous investment-led growth model. Show Less -