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Technologies Transforming Economies


Notes from Sri Lanka Economic Summit: Session 04

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is churning the global economy in various dimensions. The Sri Lankan economy too needs to advance with this pace of revolution as it risks falling behind countries that are leveraging on new technologies for growth. 

Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2019 focused on the impacts that 4IR could have on the future of Sri Lanka’s economy. The panelists recognized the ways through which Sri Lanka could make the best out of the trends in 4IR. I

The keynote speakers were Mr. Jan Metzger, Head of Asia Pacific Banking, Capital Markets and Advisory, Citi Bank, and Mr. Sanjay Jain, Partner at Bharat Innovation Fund and Chief Innovation Officer at CIIE, IIMA. 

Mr. Supun Weerasinghe, CEO OF Dialog Axiata PLC, Mr. Bingumal Thevarathanthri, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Sri Lanka, Dr. Pandula Siribaddana, Senior Lecturer at Post Graduate Institute of Medicine, UOC, Ms. Vidya Ganesan, Partner of McKinsey and Company, Singapore and Dr. Sanjiva Weerawarana, Founder, Chairman and Chief Architect of Lanka Software Foundation, were the other panelists.

Sri Lanka Economic Summit: Session 04 Panellists


Broad consensus on the trends

The consensus in the panel was that the rate of change in technology is transforming the world and that 4IR is going to upend the way in which economies operate. Convergence of digital technologies with various sectors has brought about a transformation in the traditional economic system. As a result, everything may become a service soon. It would help develop greater capacity and enhance abilities. 

Asian countries are keen to expand such digital services in the region. According to Mr. Jan Metzger, Asia, particularly China is 12 years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of digitization. For instance, Ping An Good Doctor is a phone consultant health service provided in China, through which even the medicine is delivered right to your doorstep. India too has gone through the digitization process, more notably through their Aadhar card system, which contains an individual’s basic information and biometric details. This is used to facilitate many transactions such as sim card issuance, while also making the creation of a bank account as simple as leaving a fingerprint.

Sri Lanka too has embraced the concept of digitization early on but has not kept up with regional dynamics. The country is indeed a groundbreaker in the field of telecommunications, being the first to launch from GSM to 3G to 4G and even test 5G, which enables companies to communicate effectively with customers and deliver high standards of customer service


What is the way forward?

A good partnership between Fintechs and banks, framed with clear guidelines, would be very successful in generating a fantastic user experience. Various products need to be launched according to the market needs, especially by personalizing services for the growing desires of the millennial generation.

Although only 3.5% of GDP in Sri Lanka is spent on healthcare, the state of public health is commendable given it is comparable to some developed countries in the region. Mr. Pandula Siribaddana believes that Sri Lanka, which is probably the fastest aging population, would possibly have a 20% population that is above 65 years of age by 2025. Therefore, there is a need for providing care for elders, easing the burden on caretakers and more. For this reason, technology and innovation will play a significant role in matters such as remote monitoring which facilitates monitoring of patients’ health conditions outside a conventional clinical environment. Common examples of remote health monitoring tools are glucose meters and blood pressure sensors.

Nevertheless, innovation is not an option and it is non-negotiable. Sustainable innovation, as defined by Ms. Vidya Ganesan, is innovation which incrementally improves products such as cellphones and automobiles. She further emphasized that Sri Lanka needed to take measures in order to seize available opportunities in further enhancing existing uniqueness in apparel manufacturing, food safety and other grounds.

This could be used to help boost the economy from Rs. 89 billion, to Rs. 134 billion over the next few years. Therefore, it is important to facilitate the inclusive use of technology and the key enablers in the digital ecosystem in order to reach the expected growth by lowering costs and providing better services.

Writer at Economy.lk

Sharon Anandaraj

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