Interview: Xavier Rolet

What makes Sri Lanka an attractive destination for foreign ICT investors?

XAVIER ROLET: For any investor in this sector, access to talent is of pivotal importance. Sri Lanka has been extremely effective at producing world-class engineering talent. The country’s education system is proving extremely effective at producing high-quality, highly employable graduates. Several of the national public education institutes offer sophisticated technical programmes, and these are available to students across the country.

Couple this with a fast-growing private education system that is offering equally advanced programmes, and the result is a talent pool capable of providing excellent technology solutions and services to a host of critical industries.

LSEG recently announced the signing of a landmark agreement with the government of Sri Lanka to set up their global business services arm in the technology-focused TRACE Expert City park in Colombo.

Where does Sri Lanka stand in terms of overall regional ICT infrastructure development, and how has it achieved its current position?

ROLET: Sri Lanka has been an early adopter of ICT technology, as is evident by the high penetration of mobile phone users. There is also significant and steady growth in internet usage, especially mobile broadband. This in turn provides access to information and drives sectors such e-commerce.

There is also a conscious direction of efforts towards enhancing digitalisation. In the regional context, Sri Lanka has been making steady progress and now ranks among the leaders in ICT infrastructure in South-east Asia.

The establishment of technology centres, access to talent, government strategy and the ease of doing business in this industry are all contributing factors to LSEG increasing our footprint here in Sri Lanka.

Would an expansion of ICT integration in the domestic economy necessarily lead to the desired multiplier effect?

ROLET: I believe that it certainly would have an impact. One area that is likely to benefit greatly from this is the development of human capital. Integration of ICT facilitates inclusive development opportunities for those who are currently less able to participate in value creation. We are likely, for example, to see greater female participation in the workforce as ICT evolves, which will have a considerable impact on further sectoral growth.

The growth of ICT across different economic sectors is also likely to increase foreign direct investment, further stimulating economic development. ICT-driven innovation has been known to increase productivity in both the manufacturing and services sectors. Through digitalisation, we can expect to see a rise in segments such as e-commerce, e-banking, e-education and e-health. These factors in unison will not only lead to further growth in national income, but will also play a significant role in enhancing standards of living and quality of life.

How can schools or universities that currently lack funds work to ensure that ICT has a steady presence in academia?

ROLET: The education sector is keenly aware of the importance of ICT; both as a discipline of study, and also as an enabler of it. It is important that the need for resources is made known to key stakeholders. It is becoming more commonplace for organisations and industries to work closely with the education system to ensure students are provided with relevant, usable skills and knowledge. Continuous interaction with industry bodies can prove very beneficial to educational institutions looking to leverage ICT, and LSEG continues to invest heavily in our relationships with a growing number of universities in the country.