Having been the front runner in the Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Management (BPM) industry of Sri Lanka over the years, the Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM) has organised numerous conferences and conventions to take its objectives to the roots of the Sri Lankan society.
With objectives of bringing about inclusive technological growth across Sri Lanka, advocating for the same, building human capacity in regional cities and bridging the gap between the IT industry and the fresh IT undergraduate of Sri Lanka.
SLASSCOM, with the support of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB), Information and Communications Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and Federation of Information Technology Sri Lanka (FITIS) had conducted its IT/BPM Week projects in numerous cities across the island nation in previous years.
“The world at large has suffered due to the recent pandemic, with public events and gatherings being banned in Sri Lanka as well. The immense success of the two IT/BPM Week events of the immediate past years had shown us the need for more events of that nature. It necessitated that we, who are experts in IT and BPM industries, challenge the current situations to successfully carry out the first ever Digital IT/BPM Week event this year. Hence, in contrast to the traditional regional events, SLASSCOM took the challenge of organising the IT/BPM Week digitally this year with the support of EDB, ICTA and FITIS.”
Uplifting skills and knowledge
The Digital IT/BPM Week was open for all IT undergraduates of Sri Lanka from both State and private sectors. It was held from 25 to 29 May, with core objectives of uplifting skills and knowledge of IT undergraduates in Sri Lanka with technical topics, providing guidance for career progress in the ICT industry and encouraging IT students to engage in entrepreneurial thinking and to support the digital economy of Sri Lanka.
The Digital IT/BPM Week 2020 incorporated 10 main sessions. There were five technical topics (Machine learning, Blockchain, Design thinking, e-Commerce and Mobile development) and five topics of personal development (Entrepreneurship, Career progression, Personal grooming, Self-finance discipline and Industry readiness post COVID-19).
The IT/BPM Week was a resounding success, with participation of more than 2,600 students from around the island live on the sessions and more than 14,000 views for the videos up on social media pages afterwards.
SLASSCOM Board Director and SimCentric Technologies Managing Director Haridhu Abeygoonaratne said: “It was great to see the enthusiasm from students all around Sri Lanka to participate on various sessions that was held at the Digital IT/BPM Week 2020 and the Industry support we as SLASSCOM got to conduct a successful Digital IT/BPM Week 2020 was just amazing! We are looking forward to conducting similar programs with the help from the industry to up-skill the undergraduates joining the IT/BPM industry.”
Knowledge partners for the Digital IT/BPM Week 2020 were 99X Technology, Pearson Lanka, Microsoft Sri Lanka, ISM APAC, SimCentric Technologies, Vitalhub Innovations Lab, TIQRI, Virtusa, Pyxle International, WSO2, BoardPAC, Calcey Technologies, Microimage, Loons Lab, Rootcode Labs, UNIVISOR.IO, DBA, University of Kelaniya, University of Jaffna, SLIIT and Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation. The official newspaper partner was Daily FT. With their valuable partnerships, the Digital IT/BPM Week 2020 made history as a significant milestone in the IT/BPM industries of Sri Lanka.
A summary of the Digital IT/BPM Week 2020 along the sessions over the five days is as follows:
The first session of day one was conducted by 99X Technologies. React Native, which is an open source framework for creating native applications for iOS and Android, was the topic for discussion.
The uses of React Native and its features, delving into the field of mobile development, alongside the different types of mobile applications (native, web and hybrid) were outlined. The challenges of developing native applications across different platforms being made easier with React Native was discussed subsequently.
It was also demonstrated how React Native could be set up, and then was followed up with a walk-through on how to build your first React Native application.
‘Be a Game Changer’
Session two, titled ‘Be a Game Changer’ was conducted by Pearson Lanka and focused on personal grooming and etiquette tips to ace your job interview.
For most, an interview is to be met with a shirt, tie, and perhaps a jacket to match, but your first impression challenges are quite a bit more than what meets the eye, as was explained. The session started off with what it means to be a “game changer” and went through recollections of how many of the popular brands you know and love today have undergone radical changes to their image throughout history.
Many other aspects of the topic were then covered, including tips and dos and don’ts with regard to how best to present yourself visually during an interview which focused most importantly on the right attitude and mindset and communicating with confidence but not arrogance.
Day 2 began with a discussion conducted by ISM APAC on ‘How the software development industry will change to cater to the new booming industries – the case of eCommerce’. The session spoke of the impact of the global pandemic on the economy, the variable magnitudes of the impact it had on various industries and how the said industries have responded.
The adaptation required to survive and thrive to keep ahead of the competition was then discussed with emphasis on eCommerce that is usable in a range of ventures. Various examples were discussed with futuristic analysis of which services would be expected to experience growth in the immediate future and which employment opportunities are bound to open up, owing to the advancement in eCommerce in contemporary times.
Start-ups and entrepreneurs
The second session of the second day focused on ‘Reaching global heights for start-ups and entrepreneurs’, conducted by a panel consisting of notable names in the field representing WSO2, BoardPAC, Calcey Technologies, and MicroImage.
Insights, ideas and experiences of the experts were shared, targeted at budding undergraduates looking to get a start-up off the ground. The journey of an entrepreneur was discussed along the lines of one’s first steps and obstacles, the art of getting started, finding resources and working with the right people. Valuable advice for young female entrepreneurs was incorporated into the discussion.
The challenges and tough situations present with start-ups, understanding and managing cash flow in the business and the importance of industry experience were then discussed followed by.a discussion on the steps towards becoming a global company. The day ended on that note.
The first session of Day 3, conducted by TIQRI was on building winning products through design thinking. Marketing a product requires a creative mind set and a mentality to understand the audiences and how to market the product specifically towards them.
Starting off with the disadvantages of the Waterfall Development Model and how agile development assists with shorter delivery cycles, Design thinking was introduced to students. The five steps of design thinking were then outlined: Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test along with case studies of successful implementation.
Overviews of the Double Diamond design thinking framework and Google Ventures Design Sprint were analysed followed by the five-phase process for product creation.
Role of start-ups post-COVID-19
The second session for the day was a panel discussion centred on the role of start-ups in the post-COVID-19 era conducted by representatives from Loons Lab, UNIVISER.IO, ICTA and Rootcode Labs. Experiences and knowledge regarding start-ups and tech entrepreneurship were shared.
The risks and rewards of becoming an entrepreneur in the current economic climate, dealing with failure and the importance of experience for start-ups were discussed. The importance of having a technical background and the need to update existing knowledge by seeking external sources, mentors, books and information were shared with students.
Web-based services gaining limelight was delved into and the opportunities that spring from global crises like the pandemic were considered. The final minutes of the third day saw a discussion on how a business can recover from an economic downturn.
Micro services and containers 101
The first session of Day 4 was titled ‘Micro services and containers 101, with Spring Boot and Docker’ and was delivered by VitalHub Innovations Lab. After an explanation of traditional software architecture and its evolution to module-based approaches, traditional architecture of web applications was portrayed.
Explaining the drawbacks of the ‘monolith architecture,’ it was explained how micro services can address these issues. The scalability and reduced complexity of micro service based approaches were explained through case studies.
The discussion was finalised by exploring vital concepts and tools related to micro services, with an introduction to Spring Boot, the concept of containers for deployment, an introduction to Docker, and an overview on developing and deploying micro services.
The second session of the day concentrated on how undergraduates manage their finances in their work life, with special reference given to self-financial discipline and was delivered by DBA, University of Kelaniya.
The session discussed the many aspects of personal finance, identifying the traps and countering them. Crafting a budget to suit one’s lifestyle was emphasised. The session was finalised with discussions on the long-term approach to a career, saving for retirement earlier on and the importance of managing taxes.
The first session of Day 5 focused on machine learning and was conducted by SimCentric Technologies. The discussion began with the foundations and concepts in machine learning, followed by a practical demonstration of an Artificial Neural Network in action. Machine learning was then discussed as an extension of Artificial Intelligence leading to discussion of deep learning as a subcategory of machine learning.
Supervised and unsupervised learning were analysed. The three important processes of machine learning (training, testing and prediction), were discussed in detail. Machine learning pipeline was the next topic and it was followed by an overview of the neural networks and associated core concepts. The session ended with a demonstration using Google Collaboratory where a neural network was used to build an image recognition model to classify photos.
Making workforce ready post-COVID-19
The final session for the final day brought together a panel to discuss an important topic: ‘Making Workforce Ready Post COVID-19’. The panel consisted of representatives of Ministry of Higher Education Technology and Innovation, University of Jaffna, SLIIT, ICTA, Microsoft Sri Lanka, Virtusa and Pyxle.
The panel discussion began by looking at how various stakeholders can act to ensure that the industry has a sufficient workforce to tap into, with a focus on the education sector. The effect of the pandemic on the education industry was followed by a look at how balancing the capacity of institutions to safely handle students against the industry demand for an increased output of skilled people is important.
This involved discussions on how private universities would be handling the fluctuations in demand and the Government’s plan for risk mitigation. Possibilities of the Government’s collaborations with the private sector to ensure that people are learning the right skills to benefit them and the industry long-term were analysed. The panel lauded Government universities for being able to adapt to the current conditions, and finalised on discussing the importance of building a skilled workforce rapidly on short notice.
A resounding success
At the completion of the five days, the participants were left amazed and satisfied.
A participant’s feedback read: “The overall event delivered meaningful and important facts on the IT ecosystem in the post CoViD-19 era. Most of the topics covered at the event are relevant and updated and I’m very thankful to the organisers for hosting it virtually and allowing us to participate.” Another satisfied student quipped in saying, “It was one of the best events I have participated in. I was able to gather knowledge about new technologies. The event organisation was the best too!”
Overall, the Digital IT/BPM Week was a resounding success. SLASSCOM considers this as a significant milestone in its journey and plans to carry out a multitude of projects in the future, with support from their corporate sponsors Dialog and Hatch. Keep an eye out on SLASSCOM social media pages for upcoming events.