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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sri Lanka Leveraging High Technology for Competitiveness and Innovation

The World Bank, 17/09/2009

Naoko Ishii
Country Director
World Bank Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Opening Remarks: Leveraging High Technology for Competitiveness and Innovation -- Report Dissemination Workshop

September, 17, 2009
Prof. Tissa Vitarana, Minister of Science and Technology
Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Minister of Public Administration & Home Affairs and Deputy Minister, Finance and Planning
Prof. Wishwa Warnapala, Minister of Higher education
Mr. Kumara Welgama, Minister of Industry
Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President
Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, President of Global Research Alliance
Mr. Mahesh Amalean, Chairman, MAS Holdings.

Distinguished Guests

I am honored to be present here today at this Workshop, and thank the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Presidential Secretariat for the kind invitation. The presence of key decision makers in the public sector and industry leaders from the private sector makes this an impressive platform for initiating a dialog on the use of technologies and innovation for fostering competitiveness and economic growth. We are indeed pleased that we at the World Bank are able to contribute to this dialog through this recent report on Leveraging High Technology for Competitiveness and Innovation. The report is the outcome of a collaborative initiative with the well known expert in this field Dr. Ravi Mashelkar, President of Global Research Alliance and a former Director General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of India.

This Report is presented at an opportune time in Sri Lanka’s history. With end of the armed conflict, Sri Lanka is poised to transform itself from a low income country constrained by the conflict to a middle income country with enduring peace, prosperity, and growth. What can drive this transition? In these times of accelerated globalization, “grey matter” is a country’s most powerful resource. How can this intellectual energy be unleashed? In the past Sri Lanka has lost its best intellectual capital through a brain drain. Creating the enabling environment in Science, Technology and Innovation can turn the brain drain into a brain gain.

Unfortunately, Sri Lanka’s public investments in Science and Technology and Innovation have been very modest. In the most recent Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010 Sri Lanka ranked 79th out of 133 countries.

Sri Lanka should seize the prospect of technology driven high value addition economic growth. To gain economic benefits from technology driven growth, countries have to rethink and act simultaneously on their education base, their innovation systems, and their information and communication technology infrastructure, while also building a high-quality economic and institutional regime.

It is encouraging to see that the Government of Sri Lanka espouses this new paradigm at this important time in Sri Lanka’s history. We are pleased that we were able to contribute to these efforts through the report being presented today and look forward to supporting the government in its future endeavors.

Thank you.