The second phase of the Suhuruliya program, known as the Suhuruliya 2.0 National Strategy, was inaugurated at the Bandaranaike International Conference Hall. The primary objective is to empower the entire women's community in Sri Lanka through digital technology, thereby elevating their standard of living.
This comprehensive strategic plan is designed to encompass women across all fields, from homemakers to professionals in offices. Unveiled at the Bandaranaike International Conference Hall, the plan outlines seven main objectives. The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka anticipates achieving these goals within the next three years.
The objectives include empowering ten thousand female entrepreneurs with digital technology, enabling their access to the international market as digital entrepreneurs. By the year 2026, the program aims to make fifty percent of the female population in Sri Lanka active contributors to the national economy. Additionally, there is a focus on increasing women's representation in education to forty percent and boosting their contribution to the ICT workforce to forty-five percent. The plan also emphasizes empowering women in the public sector to adapt to the new digital age and extending support to women with special needs, expats, and those with non-IT degrees, enabling them to reap the rewards of the digital economy while protecting them from the dangers women face in cyberspace. These strategic plans include providing knowledge and training on cybersecurity and secure information sharing to protect themselves.
Addressing the occasion, State Minister of Technology, Hon. Kanaka Herath, announced that a digital economy policy has been formulated for the country as part of the DIGIECON 2030 program. The policy focuses on two key issues: empowering the community with digital technology and bolstering the digital economy. The inclusion of these aspects in the Suhuruliya strategic 2.0 plan is not only crucial but also commendable.
The state minister elaborated that the National Digital Economic Policy is a program with practical applicability starting from the village level. There are ongoing efforts to expand the IT industry by enhancing the country's digital literacy. It is of utmost importance to closely monitor the progress of the Suhuruliya program and ensure its widespread adoption across the entire island.
Addressing the occasion, the State Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, Mrs. Geeta Kumarasinghe, emphasized that to overcome global and national challenges, the women's community must acquire knowledge in information technology. This will enable them to stand independently and contribute to the strength of the country's economy. The state minister also reiterated her commitment to continuing the support provided by her ministry thus far.
While delivering the keynote speech, Prof. Malik Ranasinghe, Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, highlighted that despite fifty-two percent of the country's population being women and the majority pursuing higher education, they have a low representation in job opportunities. The professor attributed this gap to a lack of information technology knowledge and noted that individuals from these countries often benefit from free education and employment opportunities abroad. Furthermore, he mentioned that the Suhuruliya 2.0 strategic plan incorporates a practical program aimed at empowering the women's community with information technology to actively participate in the country's economy.
Mr. Sameera Jayawardena, Associate Chief Digital Economic Officer of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka noted that the first phase of Suhuruliya has progressed through various stages due to its practicality. He further mentioned that the preparation of the Suhuruliya 2.0 strategic plan garnered support with representation from every sector. Launching such an initiative with the participation of a large number of people was acknowledged as an inspiring task.
A special panel discussion session on "How to Unleash Women's Potential in the Digital Economy" was also held at the event. The session was moderated by Mr. Indika de Zoysa, Chairman of the Federation of IT Industry Sri Lanka. The distinguished panelists included Mrs. Champa Upasena, Director of the Women's Bureau of Sri Lanka; Dr. Roshan Ann Perera, Economist annd Senior Research Fellow at the Advocata Institute; Ms. Shahani Seneviratne, Chief Operating Officer of 99X Technologies and Vice President of SLASSCOM; Ms. Mihiri Dissanayake, Board Member of BCS Sri Lanka Section; Dr. Nirosha Wedasinghe, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems and Director of the Center for Gender Equity and Equality at General Sir John Kotelawala Defense University; and Ms. Ruvini Apsara, Entrepreneur and Founder of Super Creamy Ice cream. The discussion delved into strategies and insights on empowering women in the digital economy, drawing from the diverse expertise of the panelists.
Fifty-nine institutions, comprising government entities, non-governmental organizations, and women's organizations, actively participated in the development of the Suhuruliya 2.0 strategic plan, a process that spanned eight months. Several organizations, such as the Ministry of Technology, the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment, the Ministry of Education, Meta Institute, and the United Nations Asia and Pacific Training Center for the Development of Information and Communication Technology, have extended their support to sustain the Suhuruliya program.
The event saw the participation of notable figures, including Mahesh Perera, Chief Executive Officer of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka; Deepa Liyanage, Additional Secretary of the Prime Minister's Secretariat; Varuna Sri Dhanapala, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government; A. K. R. Alawatta, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Technology; Champa Upasena, Director of Sri Lanka Women's Bureau; K. P. C. Subhashini, Director of the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs, and Social Empowerment; Indika De Soysa, President of FITIS; Dr. Ajantha Athukorala, President of the Sri Lanka Computer Society; Shehani Seneviratne, Vice President of SLASSCOM; Vajeendra Kandegamage, Former President of the British Computer Society Sri Lanka Branch, along with professionals, industrialists, representatives of women's organizations, women's development officers, entrepreneurs, and others.