The National Freelancer Development Endeavor, initiated in 2022, is a pivotal project currently in progress in Sri Lanka. This endeavor was conceptualized against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving global labor market, particularly in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) sector. According to the 2021 Freelance Forward Survey conducted by Upwork, the freelancing industry has witnessed remarkable growth in recent years. This surge in freelancing, driven by factors such as self-employment and new business registrations, has demonstrated its immense potential in contributing to national economies. Freelancers in the United States, for instance, contributed a staggering $1.3 trillion to the economy in annual earnings, underlining the sector's significance.
Despite the evident opportunities presented by the flourishing freelancing sector worldwide, Sri Lanka had yet to fully embrace its potential for addressing current economic challenges. Recognizing the national importance and economic contributions that freelancing could make, the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) embarked on the National Freelancer Development Endeavor. This ambitious initiative aims to empower Sri Lankan youth with the skills, attitudes, and digital competencies required to excel in freelancing, ultimately improving their socioeconomic status and reducing unemployment and poverty.
The project's objectives are well-defined and ambitious. The overarching goal is to increase the contribution of freelancers to the national digital economy, with a target of achieving $3 billion USD by 2024. To accomplish this, the project outlines specific objectives, which include promoting freelancing among Sri Lankans, creating a supportive ecosystem for freelancers involving various stakeholders, and developing a freelancer registration platform and maintaining a comprehensive freelancer database.
The anticipated outcomes of this project are multifaceted and far-reaching. They encompass a reduced youth unemployment rate, improved job opportunities for Sri Lankan youth, increased potential for youth employability in the ICT industry, enhanced collaboration among different groups including government authorities, industry associations, freelancers, training institutes, academic institutions, and other stakeholders. Furthermore, the project envisions a rise in registered freelancers contributing to the national GDP, improved quality and efficiency of freelancing, and heightened awareness and understanding of freelancing among government officials.
The scope of the National Freelancer Development Endeavor encompasses several strategic components. It includes a Freelancer Capacity Building Strategy, the establishment of a National Freelancer Forum, "How to become a successful freelancer" Training Programs, the engagement of Master Trainers, the Freelancer TV Program series.
Crucially, the target audience for this project is all citizens of Sri Lanka, emphasizing inclusivity and accessibility to freelancing opportunities for everyone. To make this endeavor a success, it involves a diverse set of stakeholders and partners. Key partners include the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, the Online Entrepreneurs Club, Payoneer, the Ministry of Education, the National Youth Services Council, and the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils, and Local Government.