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W.G.T. Fernando

W.G.T. Fernando
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W.G.T. Fernando is an author of over 15 ICT books and Founder/CEO at GTS. Gihan is a former lecturer at the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. He began his education at Thurstan College before going to Wycherley International School. He graduated with Honors in Computer Science at University of Liverpool in the UK and MSc in Advanced Software Engineering at Kings College, University of London.

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Enriching the algorithmic programming skills among Sri Lankan students

Considering the salient advantages by enriching the algorithmic programming skills among the Sri Lankan school, undergraduate students as well as early career graduates, IEEE Young Professionals Sri Lanka thought of having an algorithmic programming competition among Sri Lankan young programmers.

Having the constraints of informatics Olympiad, IEEE Xtreme competitions which are of similar kind but restricted to one set of group, we think of having all programmers compete in one platform to enhance the competitive advantage.

This will be a warm up session for undergraduate and graduate students who are willing to participate in the IEEE Xtreme 8.0 and will be a challenging experience for school students who could be able to share the same arena with senior programmers. The early career graduates will also witness a wonderful change having bored with working on their company projects all the time. The expected participation would be around 200+ participants.

Date: 11thOctober, 2014
Venue: University of Moratuwa & University of Peradeniya

IEEE Excavation 1.0

Details submitted to us by Andun Sameera

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“Today we live in a world where everything is interconnected. Your spectacles, your watch, your mobile phone and may be even your shoes. And who knows, in mere future the very chairs you sit on may communicate with your trousers.” The outset of the most awaited event of the month was marked as such.

Google has always been the core engine of almost all the internet related searches. Adding to the interest of young intellectuals, Google has launched many additions like the Google Student Ambassador Program, Google Summer Code and Google Map Making. In parallel to those, with the purpose of running the awareness and guidance to the enthusiastic Sri Lankan youth, a meet up was organized for the Google Students Group in Sri Lanka by the Google Student Ambassadors.

Akshika Wijesundara addressing the audience

Akshika Wijesundara addressing the audience

The meet up, which was a result of efforts taken by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UOM, to enhance the skills of the university undergrads, was held on 3rd September 2014 at 1700hrs at CSE seminar room, UOM. The meetup was organized by Akshika  Wijesundara (Engineering undergraduate of CSE), along with the fellow Google student ambassadors. It was compered by Malith Jayaweera, an Engineering undergraduate of CSE UOM. The proceedings of the meeting were followed by the welcome speech delivered by Akshika  Wijesundara.

‘Google Summer of Code’ is a global program that offers students stipends to write code for open source projects. The CSE undergraduates Bhathiya Supun, Sachith Senevirathne, Sachini Herath and Buddhika Dilhan were the experienced seniors of GSoC at the gathering. The audience was thankful when these members came up with a presentation which included their experiences and a brief description of the projects each had contributed.

Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UOM never lack winners. The department included two out of the three winners of G-CV. The competition involved online CV creation using Google Sites and the winners were as follows.

  • 1st place – Justine Win, Philippines
  • 2nd place – Rajith Yashodha, Sri Lanka
  • 3rd place – Sachith Senavirathne, Sri Lanka

The next in the agenda of the Google student meet up was the award presentation to the two G-CV winners Rajith and Sachith thus appreciating their noteworthy achievement.

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Subsequently, the presentation on Google Map Making was staged by Dulshani Gunawardena (GSA for South East Asia). The presentation attracted a considerable attention of the audience that it was followed by a lengthy Q&A session.

“How would the accuracy of an included detail will be confirmed by the map making community?”, “Who has the authority to accept and confirm any details requested to be added?”, “How can one request his/her details to be reconsidered once the request is rejected?”

were a few questions asked and answered during the session.

A person’s interests could vary with time. The meet up was scheduled on a time when the waves of interest were flowing in an around the university premises. The new found interest was regarding the upcoming Google translate week. Adding to the mentioned interest, Kasun Gunasekara (GSA for SouthEast Asia) came up with a presentation which included essential details of the upcoming event.

The most awaited moment of the most awaited event was scheduled next. Dulshani Gunawardena, was once again on the stage with a bunch of stimulating facts and points regarding the Ambassador Summit. Adding to the interest, was a short video depicting their delightful experience in the last summit.

The meet up was an outcome of a collective effort. Its fruitfulness lied in the dedication and the support of many who were involved in the organization. The vote of thanks, which included all the gratitude towards the parties involved was delivered by Samadhi Poornima.

The crowd seemed to have gained so much interest regarding the Google Student Group – Sri Lanka and its associated events. Hoping for their enthusiastic participation in the upcoming events, the  meeting was adjourned with a group photograph taken by Dilshan Pathirana.

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Glancing on the future of technology, two undergraduates from Faculty of Information Technology, University of Moratuwa has founded ‘SoftBeetles’. They are working with one of the prior startups guidance program in Sri Lanka, MIT Global Start-up Labs (GSL) 2014 powered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology in USA.

SoftBeetles‘ has focused on an important problem which is periodically faced by university students to initiate their first product. Finding boarding places for first year students and other academic year students has grabbed their attention to find a stable solution. This can be introduced as one of the major issues which new comers face when they enter to universities. Most time before entering to universities, applicants try to find good boarding places but the issue is there is not a unique platform for providing such services. Even though there are some platforms which provides similar services, there is no unique, dedicated platform, providing what SoftBeetles are trying to introduce as their first product. Covering all existing solutions for this problem, they were able to showcase the product ‘boarding.lk’ during ‘Demo Day’ for MIT GSL 2014 on 30th July.

The students who have initated with the help of mentors at MIT GSL are Hiruma Punsali and Sandarekha Ramanayake.
boarding.lk has its own values. Ratings, recommendations, reviews of the boarding places from students and up-to-date information will be offered for students. This will be the first product of SoftBeetles and they hope to extend this idea for all over universities and other institutions as well.

Hiruma and Sandarekha during mentorship Industry Day 2

Hiruma and Sandarekha during mentorship Industry Day 2

With more students joining with GSL programme to take entrepreneurship seriously, the goal of setting up 1000 startups (as targeted by SLASSCOM) by 2022 could well be a reality in Sri Lanka.

Feature image photo credit – Hiruma Punsali

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    $50,000 is the target by 16th May 2014

    $50,000 is the target by 16th May 2014

    Asoka Handagama is no stranger to the film industry in Sri Lanka, a director known for his controversial films has embarked on a new mission, this time using part funds from the film lovers themselves. A budget of $120,000 of which $50,000 would be raised via crowdfunding, this new methodology could be the new wave for young filmmakers to make their films a reality.
    Handagama is first to experiement with this and you could make his attempt a reality. Funding starts from a mere $20 and goes upto $1000. Rewards from the smallest contribution await for the public who help out.

    What Handagama says about his journey so far

    Since childhood, I have always been ahead of my peers. The first time I was in love, my contemporaries hadn’t even thought of starting such an affaire. My first literary exercise was about my own love. I wrote and directed my first theater work during my high school days. When I first directed an episodic TV feature, I had never stood behind a camera. It was through my first cinematic exercise, that I realized a radical approach was needed in the ‘form’ to portray contemporary socio-political issues effectively.

    Being in cinema is a painful exercise, but I enjoy this pain.

    I find my my true heaven, only when I am in cinema, behind a camera, weaving a new narrative.

    The Film

    A university Professor appears to be having an affair with a young female student; his behavior threatening the carefully established routines of his middle class family. Through their unusual correspondence, the student keeps the professor’s wife informed of the affaire and activities.

    The professor seems torn and confused as he at times denies and then admits to seeing the girl. The wife caught in the middle is not sure what to believe. The young student claims she is willing to die for their love and wants the Professor at any cost.

    As her carefully composed life starts to unravel, the wife makes the ultimate decision: she brings the girl home to live with them.

    Fantasy seeping into reality, we delve deeper into the complex maze that is human desire only to see how far we go in order to suppress it so that we may make room for civilization.

    For more details, see CRIMSO page

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    British Council in Sri Lanka has been around in Sri Lanka since 1949 offering a wide range of services in promoting English in the island. An institute well known for its large library membership (25,000+) and language examinations and courses, we came across a  few programmes that interested us greatly and was intrigued to explore more. With an invitation from Eranga Ginige, Head Partnerships & Business Development at British Council Sri Lanka, he was able to enlighten us of the latest programme which was being actioned.

    WHAT IS FUTURES?

    FUTURES is a platform for social innovation which brings together selected group of people representing the private sector, public sector, not-for-profit organisations, community groups and consumers to develop innovative ideas for products, services, business models and policies that address emerging social issues and needs in Sri Lanka. The social sectors in focus for 2014 are: Water, Education & Health.

    WHAT IS SOCIAL INNOVATION?

    Social innovation is all about creating new ideas for products, services and business models that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships.

    WHAT TO EXPECT?

    We like the idea of inspiring creativity and innovation. Bringing in the right stakeholders, a strong vibrant 150+ passionate group of people with 2 days of understanding the issue at hand and then working on a dialogue to create solutions. With knowledge sharing presentations by Deepal Sooriyaarachchi, Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, Harsha Purasinghe, Chandra Embuldeniya, Isura Silva it is bound to be a forum worth engaging in.
    The Forum is scheduled for 21st and 22nd March 9am onwards at Hilton Colombo.

    10 GOLDEN TICKETS

    With proceedings all ready, Eranda was kind enough to offer 10 spots for interested youths to get involved in this invite-only Forum. Hence a google doc has been opened for anyone that is interested to take part. One’s who are lucky enough to be selected will be notified. The process will happen via twitter in coolaboration with @digitlk & @TweepUpSL. Register your interest here. You can follow the discussion on twitter via hashtag #Beyond2020

    Agenda details here & more info via British Council site here

     

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    March 12th 1989 was a date which many didn’t think highly of until the true power of what was born out of an idea by one man. A visionary who transformed the way we communicate and engulf information at rapid pace without breaking a sweat. WWW or World Wide Web was born out of a need by a man who just wanted to organise documents within his organisation.  With proposal titled “Information Management: A Proposal” Tim Berners-Lee circulated for comments at CERN. It was not until October 1990 that he starts work on a hypertext GUI browser+editor using the NeXTStep development environment. He makes up “WorldWideWeb” as a name for the program and project. The rest as we know is history.

    Is this all we need? Are we satisfied with the WWW as it is now? Are all able to enjoy it?

    The Web’s billions of users are what have made it great. I believe we can build a Web that truly is for everyone: one that is accessible to all, from any device, and one that empowers all of us to achieve our dignity, rights and potential as humans. – Tim Berners-Lee

    President Mahinda Rajapaksa also highlighted the importance of this day as 25 years of WWW is celebrated world wide.

    Sri Lanka has fully accepted the advances of the Internet, and is dedicated to ensuring its widest reach in the country to benefit all sections of society…  – Mahinda Rajapaksa

    He also added

    My government is aware of the need to speedily reduce and eliminate the digital divide in the country enabling the full benefits of the Internet and its incomparable access to knowledge available to all our people.

    We also encourage access to social media as a source of rapid information, valuable social awareness, and participatory democracy. – Mahinda Rajapaksa

    The success of the Web can be traced to its original design as a decentralised system and an open architecture anyone could help to build. Let’s hope it stays that way without interference from governments or any vested organisations with need to control terms. To 25 years and more for the WWW then, our jobs depend on it! :p

    Feature image courtesy – http://www.webat25.org/

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    An App that almost all with a smart phone can’t live without has had great news yesterday (19th Feb) as Facebook plans to acquire WhatsApp for a deal worth $19 Billion. Yes, you read it right, $19 Billion! With an unprecedented 400 Million active users, it is a strategic acquisition by Facebook to further enhance its reach towards the teen and smartphone users.

    WhatsApp growth (image cortesy theverge.com)

    WhatsApp growth (image cortesy theverge.com)

    The co-founders and story of never giving up

    Jan Koum and Brian Acton co founded WhatsApp in 2009. Brian Acton was actually turned down by Facebook in August 2009 as visible from his tweet back then.

    Facebook turns down Brian Acton in 2009

    Facebook turns down Brian Acton in 2009

    https://twitter.com/brianacton/status/3109544383

    Few months earlier to this, he was also turned down by Twitter.

    Twitter turns down Brian Acton in 2009

    Twitter turns down Brian Acton in 2009

    https://twitter.com/brianacton/status/1895942068

    Mark Zuckerberg comments on the acquisition

    “I’ve known Jan for a long time and I’m excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected. The growth rate they have today and the monetization that’s early but promising and in place, we see a clear trajectory ahead and are excited to work together on this.” – Zuckerberg

    What to expect for the WhatsApp users in near future?

    Well, Facebook isn’t just giving money away and will ensure that it earns back the money spent, so expect to see Facebook Ads appearing on an updated App version of WhatsApp. This sure is a blow to Google who has been dominating the ads sphere online. Koum though believes that the acquisition won’t change much in terms of Ads

    “We think that for our product, advertising is not necessarily the right way to go. We think we have a very solid monetization system in place.” – Jan Koum

    The development for such Apps is encouraging for all entrepreneurs and we should see more such big swallowing in the near future by the Big 4 (Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo).

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    It’s been exactly two years since the article about #FASL was first written. So much has happened since then: so many stories, events, puns, gossip, cricket and politics all wrapped in different tweets by different kinds of tweeps all making a mark in history in their own individual way.

    TweetupSL is going to be celebrated for the 4th time this September (Updated – happening on 7th Dec 2013) as many in the twittersphere would know. That in itself has a history of over 3 years for the Sri Lankan twitter community. And for those who have been on twitter before that, the events that had unfolded have been sweet/bitter memories, forgotten moments, life changing instances that few may know about.

    We’ve also had an explosion of businesses popping into Twitter in Sri Lanka in 2011. Many of those stories are also interesting milestones for the Sri Lankan tweeps.

    Many of us would now look back at the inception of our twitter journeys and ponder ‘Wasn’t it a bit peculiar to begin with?’, ‘What was life like before I got addicted to twitter?’. Time has indeed passed us by with many an activities with the online community, with a few happening offline too.

    Then there are the growing new twitter users who ultimately get involved and have a jolly good time with local hashtags, take part in free food events and talk politics/cricket to name a few engagements. Some get to know the past activities of other twitter users, some remain clueless.

    All in all, from a few people to clicks of batch mates, they all end up on twitter and form part of the Sri Lankan twitter community.

    Being on twitter since Feb 2009, a few things got me thinking that with such an active twitter community, it would surely be fascinating to encapsulate the various experiences/stories into one entity in the form of a book. But the only way this would truly be possible to capture most of the instances would be, if the Sri Lankan twittersphere help in sharing their stories (mini-tweetups, local hashtags, life changing moments etc..).

    So, what do you say? Want to be part of a project where we can create a historic book which we can proudly keep as a worthy memorabilia?

    Here is how you can get involved:

    • Dig into your twitter account (you can use your twitter archive option too if allowed) and unfold some memorable moments on twitter.
    • Finally you can even use that ‘Favorite’ option that you’ve pretty much being using like the facebook ‘Like’ and uncover some tweets which you found fascinating.
    • Maybe you are already remembering a few memories of some of the fun times you had, go find those tweets.
    • Once you are ready to share them, you can tweet to @gihangamos about it or use the hashtag #TweepSLbook (would recommend both)
    • A book wouldn’t be complete without pictures in it so do send your pictures too so that they can be included in the book (Naturally all pics sent by @sudaththa will automatically be rejected)
    • Hope you can spread the word about it too so that many can be part of this.

    Oh and this book will be ready in time for TweetupSL 4! And to make it a truly memorabilia one, a separate section will be reserved in the book for details of all that register for TweetupSL4 with profile pic and twitter handles included. Use that section to get signatures of the tweeps you meet maybe?

    So let’s do this, shall we?

    p.s – Permission will be sought from tweeps if their tweet is involved before it is published in the book.

    Disclosure – To cover publishing/printing costs, the book will be available for a very nominal price

    Current tweets for #TweepSLbook


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    We are delighted to inform our readers that team FireBird, 4 students from IIT (Informatics Institute of Technology) have won 1st place in ‘Samsung Digital Native Award’ at Imagine Cup 2013 in Russia. The team also secured $10,000 in prize money.  Congratulations are in order since its the first time that a team from Sri Lanka have been able to clinch first place in a world final at Imagine Cup!

    Full winners list here

    amal-stefan-imagine-cup2013Amal Gunatilake and Stefan Udumalagala showcasing at Imagine Cup finals in Saint Petersburg City, Russia. (Image courtesy Microsoft Imagine Cup fb page)

    Regarding the project:

    Name : I – Chum

    Members of the Firebird team – Stefan Udumalagala, Amal Gunatilake, Mohamed Shehan, Kishore Kumar

    Project Description

    The product i-Chum is a significant leap in enabling the visually impaired helping them to lead a normal and productive life. It provides augmented sensory aids: allowing the visually impaired to experience and comfortably interact with both the physical and virtual environments and animate and inanimate objects within these environments without compromising their safety. i-Chum uses a novel approach to package a combination of sensory techniques together. By connecting the device into a smartphone or tablet PC with Windows 8 OS user has the ability to perform task such as obstacle avoidance and -navigation,object identification and generic reading and writing.

    We researched the gaps in the current society where technology could actually be a help to improve the life style. Through the research we found out that even though there are products which have been introduced into the market already, still those products do not cater to a broad range of capabilities.Our team had a brainstorm session and we put our thoughts and knowledge together to come up with a perfect product which does cater wide range of capabilities for the visually impaired people.

    “With our product “I-Chum” the visually impaired will no longer be impaired, they could be just as independent and normal as their next door neighbor who has perfect vision.”– Team Firebird

    Team Trailer

    We managed to capture the full presentation of team Firebird when they presented at the finals in Sri Lanka

     

    FirebirdsTeamTeam Firebird in Russia (Image courtesy of Stefan Udumalagala)

     

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    IT park

    The government of Sri Lanka has big plans for the improvement of the IT sector with targets of making it into a $1 billion industry by 2016. Dubbed incorrectly (AFAIK ‘Orion City‘ came about in 2007-08) as the ‘first IT park in Sri Lanka’, ‘Hambantota IT park’ seems to be an infrastructure in place to partially fulfill the said objective.

    At a glance:

    Proposed area for IT park: 5000 acres (approx. 20 million sq meters)

    Significant landmarks in Hambantota vicinity: Shangri-La Resort and Spa, Sooriyawewa cricket stadium, Hambantota Magam Ruhunupura International Port, Hambantota International Airport, Ranmihitenna Tele Cinema Village, Bundala National Park, Hambantota Wind Farm

    Current interests in the IT park: Intel Corporation to set up chip making plant, IBM, 2 Universities (Singapore, India), Tech One Global, Mobitel Lanka call centre, 3000-room apartment complex

    p.s – If there are any other landmarks of interest,development that I have missed, do comment below

    With money being pumped into the area by the government without any objection since its spearheaded (with help from certain ghost advisors/consultants) by the president’s son, Namal Rajapaksa , the IT park could very well sit in the midst of a developed fully fetched modern city with connected road networks (highway connection from Matara by 2016E) to Colombo. With the new 2nd airport in Sri Lanka located in Hambantota, there might not even be a need to travel to Katunayake for foreign investors/consultants.

    Opportunities:

    Employment opportunities directly and indirectly would increase with the development of the IT park. The government estimates an addition of 50,000 employment opportunities. Foreign investments would flow into the country, local entrepreneurs could flourish, encourages the masses (with the youth in Hambantota richly benefiting)  in working on skilled jobs, indirectly improves the education sector with private schools being based to fulfill the needs of the workforce who relocate with family… all of this seems like the IT park could be a gold mine. It could be, as long as the challenges are met.

    Challenges:

    Is it really viable for an IT park to be located in a place like Hambantota? Would the professional IT personal be willing to work outside of Colombo, possibly relocating? Would investors pick the Colombo based IT park ‘Orion city’ instead? Would the hot climate in Hambantota act as a hindrance? Would the ‘possibility’ of an unstable government give second thoughts for investors? (since these high fetched plans and developments in Hambantota are possible only till the Rajapaksas’ stay in power). These would be just a few questions that would have to be raised with regard to a successful IT park in Hambantota.

    The future for Sri Lanka:

    All in all, the ideas and action for such projects, and paying due diligence to an educated skilled society by the government would no doubt drive the country towards a sustainable platform in which to compete globally while residing in the pearl of the Indian Ocean… which in my humble opinion is a dream for any Sri Lankan.

    Image source:

    http://www.ociarchitects.com/images/Projects/Softwareparks/bashyam_it_park.jpg