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Immense potential of DPI for Sri Lanka explored (Pics)

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The High Commission of India, in partnership with the Ministry of Technology, Government of Sri Lanka organised a conference on Digital Public Infrastructure yesterday (March 26) in Colombo. 

The conference, through its three sessions and breakout meetings explored the transformative potential of DPI for enabling service delivery, empowering communities by fostering inclusivity and enriching the economy by driving innovation.

The three sessions included an Opening Plenary with the keynote address delivered by President of Sri Lanka – Ranil Wickremesinghe, wherein he applauded the conference for being timely. President Wickremesinghe underlined DPI as a vital enabler for the digitisation of the Sri Lankan economy. He emphasised the need for collaboration with India in this domain, highlighting the potential of fast-tracking growth by adapting India’s successful strategies domestically. 

India’s digital transformation and the significance of DPI and India Stack was elaborated upon by High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka – Santosh Jha, in his welcome remarks and by Dr. Pramod Varma, Co-Chair, Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure (CDPI) in his presentation during the Opening Plenary.

The other two sessions saw discussions amongst experts from India, Sri Lanka and the region, on the themes of Accelerating Digital Sri Lanka and Unlocking the Digital Stack respectively. The former focused on the roadmap for adoption of DPI in Sri Lanka and the resultant acceleration towards e-governance across the board, with the opening remarks by Hon. Kanaka Herath, State Minister of Technology. The latter went beyond foundational DPI to discuss use cases marrying technology, markets and governance with a special focus on the positive externalities in the startups domain. This session was opened by MP Dr. Harsha de Silva.

The conference was particularly enriched with several breakout meetings between visiting experts from India and their Sri Lankan counterparts as well as other stakeholders. A key highlight of these was an interaction of the visiting senior officials from Government of India’s Ministries handling Digital India and Startup India programmes with Senior Officials who are leading the six Working Groups of Government of Sri Lanka on Digital Economy.

Futuristic linkages were also initiated in the startup and IT industries domain on the sidelines of the conference. In the afternoon of 26 March, Startup India’s team held a capacity building workshop for startups in Sri Lanka, including sessions by Indian experts on the art of pitching and effective marketing. The Chief of IIT Chennai’s Incubator ‘Parvartak’ interacted with key startup incubators in Sri Lanka. Chairman NASSCOM called on the President of Sri Lanka yesterday.

The conference is another step in the series of initiatives being undertaken to implement the Vision Document adopted by Prime Minister of India and President of Sri Lanka during the latter’s visit to India in July 2023 to promote connectivity, including in the digital domain. India’s ongoing grant assistance for establishing the Sri Lanka Unique Digital Identity (SL-UDI) Project is a key building block for the digital transformation of Sri Lanka aided by DPI. The various engagements today emphasised the immense potential to leverage India’s DPI in accordance with Sri Lanka’s requirements and priorities towards effective and efficient delivery of citizen-centric services to the people of Sri Lanka.

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President embarks on observation tour to Pekoe Trail (Pics)

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe visited the Court Lodge Estate, owned by the Udupusellawa Plantation Company in Nuwara Eliya this morning (16) to explore opportunities for the revival of the tourism industry around the picturesque hills of Nuwara Eliya. Notably, the President embarked on this journey by traversing the Pekoe Trail.

The “Pekoe Trail” spans 300+ km through the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, regarded as one of Asia’s best-kept secret routes. Originating from the renowned city of Kandy, it extends south towards the Hatton and Horton Plains National Park, then east through Haputale and Ella, before meandering around the charming town of Nuwara Eliya. Originally constructed during the British colonial period to transport tea from vast plantations to factories, the trail holds historical significance.

During his walk along the Pekoe Trail covering a distance of 3.2 km, the President engaged in friendly conversation with the workers employed at the Court Lodge estate. Welcoming the President warmly, the people expressed their heartfelt wishes for a joyous Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

The Court Lodge estate, overseen by Browns Plantations, spans 264 hectares and employs a total of 349 workers. During his visit, President Ranil Wickremesinghe personally inspected the fundamental requirements of the plantation workers, addressing issues related to education, healthcare and housing. He particularly focused on the prospects of the children within the plantation workers’ community, especially those set to complete their schooling after the G.C.E. Advanced level examination.

The factory at Court Lodge is known for producing “Light Bright” tea.

During his tour, President Ranil Wickremesinghe also emphasized the importance of providing Pekoe Trail tourists with the opportunity to savour a freshly brewed cup of tea. Furthermore, he explored avenues to bolster the tourism industry associated with Sri Lanka’s central highlands by leveraging the Pekoe Trail.

Mr. Miguel Cunat, the visionary behind the Pekoe Trail expedition, who has extensively explored the central mountains of Sri Lanka over the years, expressed his belief that Sri Lanka can be mapped internationally as one of the premier hiking destinations globally.

Pekoe Trail offers tourists a unique opportunity to explore a variety of terrains, delve into the region’s storied history, engage with its vibrant culture and savour authentic local cuisine and beverages. Comprising 22 stages, the Pekoe Trail can be tailored to suit one-day or multi-day excursions, catering to a range of preferences. Plans are underway to further develop the trail, enhancing it with necessary facilities to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience for visitors.

The European Union (EU) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have extended their support to the Pekoe Trail project, aligning with Sri Lanka’s national tourism strategies. The initiative encompasses various aspects, including sustainable environmental development, to foster the growth of tourism in the country.The goal of the Pekoe Trail project is to draw in a new wave of tourism, including adventure seekers, to Sri Lanka while simultaneously improving the livelihoods of rural communities. Mr. Miguel Cunat conveyed his appreciation to President Ranil Wickremesinghe for the support provided in initiating the Pekoe Trail and commended the President’s vision to revitalize the country’s economy by transforming the tourism industry.

(President’s Media Division)

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Seminar on India – Sri Lanka Defence Cooperation held (Pics)

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The High Commission of India in Colombo organised a Seminar on Defence Cooperation with the theme “Identifying New Opportunities and Forging New Bonds” to promote Indian Made Defence equipment and explore avenues for collaboration in defence production today (April 10) in Colombo.

State Minister of Defence – Premitha Bandara Tennakoon was the Chief Guest. High Commissioner of India – Santosh Jha participated in the event with the Indian delegation led by Shri Anurag Bajpai, Additional Secretary (Defence Production), Ministry of Defence, Government of India. 

The delegation comprised representatives from Indian Defence companies including Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, Zen Technologies, SSS Defence, Bharat Forge, Big Bang Boom Solutions, AWEL, AVNL, Mahindra Defence, Sager Defence and TATA Advances System Ltd. 

From the Sri Lankan side, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of Sri Lanka Navy, Commander of Sri Lanka Air Force and other senior officers from Sri Lankan Armed Forces, Police and Special Task Force graced the event, as also representatives of leading Sri Lankan business conglomerates.
High Commissioner Jha underlined the increasing diversification of India-Sri Lanka bilateral cooperation across domains, including in security and defence matters. He emphasised that because of geography, the security of India and Sri Lanka is interlinked and intertwined. India’s defence exports today stand at nearly 2.6 billion US Dollars, a ten-fold increase over the past five years. The High Commissioner stated that the seminar was another platform to explore ways of extending India’s increasing capabilities in the defence sector to Sri Lanka.

The State Minister of Defence lauded the growth of the Indian defence industry, and said that the seminar would facilitate collaboration between two countries contributing to a stable Indian Ocean Region. The Minister stated that the procurement of cost effective and tailor made products from India in the last decade had helped protect Sri Lanka’s sovereignty & territorial integrity. He emphasized that collaboration and joint R&D with Indian defence industries would also lead to the country’s economic revival. The Minister also thanked the Government of India for standing by Sri Lanka in the times of crisis.

Addressing the gathering Additional Secretary (DP), Shri Anurag Bajpai described Sri Lanka as India’s priority partner and reassured that India stands committed towards ensuring capacity & capability building of Sri Lanka Armed Forces as part of PM Modi’s vision of SAGAR (Security & And Growth for All in the Region). He highlighted the common security challenges faced in the Indian Ocean Region and called for enhanced collaboration to create a safer environment. He shared Atma Nirbhar Bharat’s, self-reliant India’s upward trajectory in establishing robust R&D and indigenous manufacturing ecosystems, while fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

It may be recalled that a similar Defence Seminar cum Exhibition was previously conducted on 07 June 2023 at Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Armed forces have been successfully operating a range of Indian defence equipment like L-70 guns, Indra Radar, Offshore Patrol Vessels and Army training simulators. More recently the GoI has committed supply of Floating Dock, Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and Dornier aircraft which would ensure capacity building of Sri Lanka Armed Forces. The Seminar was yet another reaffirmation of India’s commitment to building capacities for Sri Lanka, in line with the Neighbourhood First Policy.

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‘Nekath Seettuwa’ presented to the President (Pics)

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Following customs and traditions, the ‘Nekath Seettuwa’, the table of auspicious times for this year’s Sinhala and Tamil New Year, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat today (10).

The table of auspicious times, duly prepared by the State Astrologers’ Committee of the Department of Cultural Affairs, was then presented to the President.

Minister of Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs Vidura Wickremanayake presented the ‘Nekath Seettuwa’ to the President in accordance with traditional customs. 
Auspicious periods comprise of various timings such as the New Year’s Eve, Punya Kaalaya or inauspicious time, timings for cooking, working, eating, anointing, setting off for work and more.

Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Mr. Sagala Ratnayake, Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Buddha Shasana Religious and Cultural Affairs Mr. Somaratne Vidanapathirana and several others attended this event.

(President’s Media Division)

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