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The World Conference on Youth 2014 was held in Colombo last week where youth representatives and various stakeholders including government officials gathered from nearly 160 countries to discuss the issues of the youth community. The theme of the conference was based on developing the post 2015 agenda on youth development and various aspects related to youth development were discussed. These findings of the conference were documented in the Colombo Declaration which would become a primary input for United Nation in coming up with post 2015 youth development strategies. The conference emphasised on the importance of Information Technology (IT) in youth development and some of the highlights are discussed below.

The Secretary to Sri Lanka’s President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga addressed the main plenary session on Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda and highlighted the importance of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in youth development. He said “Throughout the years, ICTs has not had a more robust and loyal champion than the youth. They have effectively exploited ICTs to dictate the trends in a major growth industry, and fostered it to generate youth entrepreneurship as a solution for youth unemployment. Be that as it may, these are not advantages that youth all over the world enjoy. For those in developing countries in particular, ICT access comes at an unaffordable cost.”  The main argument put forward was the making ICT affordable for all youth as a mean to empower them in the development process. Mr. Weeratunga further stated that there is a powerful potential for ICTs to cut across many recommendations to strengthen their outcomes. However, it was also presented that the governments must go beyond simply enhancing access and become actively involved in training and creating programmes aimed towards the empowerment of young people.  In commenting on the IT and job opportunities, Mr. Weeratunga said that becoming ICT-savvy does not only open doors for job opportunities, but also motivates and enables young people to learn about their communities and become active in the local development process.

Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka Mr. Lalith Weeratunga is seen speaking at the plenary session on “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: What We Want” at the World Conference on Youth 2014.

Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka Mr. Lalith Weeratunga is seen speaking at the plenary session on “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: What We Want” at the World Conference on Youth 2014.
(Photo credits : Official Photographer)

The round table session on Poverty Eradication and Food Security discussed the importance of technology in achieving this aim. Mr. Anushka Wijesinha from the Institute of Policy Studies highlighted the ability to use technology to eradicate poverty. He noticed that youth participation in the agriculture industry has been dropping over time. However, citing an example from the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, he stated that the youth who are already engaged in the agriculture industry use mobile phone applications to support trading. Further, he also commented on the use of social media at the global scale in order to support the agriculture industry while concluding that technology is a great method to eradicate poverty and address food security.

A section of the audience at the plenary session on “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: What We Want” at the World Conference on Youth 2014.

A section of the audience at the plenary session on “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: What We Want” at the World Conference on Youth 2014.
(Photo credits : Official Photographer)

The outcome of the conference was the Colombo Declaration which included 97 recommendations for youth development. Among many recommendations that are related to IT/ICT, following recommendations are identified as prominent and expected to be implemented at a global scale:

  • Encourage the use of Information and Communication Technology in education the establishment of inter- and intra-regional youth innovation and technology centers, as a means of disseminating knowledge, skills development, innovation and connectivity, thereby enhancing infrastructure in these areas.
  • Increase recognition of non-formal education and vocational education, including volunteer schemes and Information and Communication Technology models and apprenticeships, as an effective means of empowerment and skills transfer.
A section of the audience at the plenary session on “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: What We Want” at the World Conference on Youth 2014.

A section of the audience at the plenary session on “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: What We Want” at the World Conference on Youth 2014.
(Photo credits : Official Photographer)

It is interesting to notice that IT/ICT being given the due importance in the post 2015 development of youth. According to Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, the U.N. Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, this was not the beginning or the end but an opportunity to cater to the issues brought forward for the benefit of the youth of the world. Hence, we can expect more and more development in IT/ICT fields in terms of supporting youth development which is crucial for the betterment of the society.

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3 Teams from TechnoPlanet Labs, the R&D labs of Manav Rachna College of Engineering, Faridabad (Harayana ,India) bagged the First, Second and Third positions at the National Finale of the Microsoft Imagine Cup for the ‘Innovations’ Category held at the Microsoft Innovation Centre, Greater Noida, India.

The first position was bagged by Team Dexters  who innovated RespirON. RespirON provides a great and personalized tool to better understand asthma and help the Asthma Patient and his physician to come up with the best plan on how to manage it thus helping the patient to live a healthy and active life. Team Dexters is represented by Shanu, Ajay Kumar, Saini, Shubam Goel, Roshit Gopinath.

Team Pathfinders, scored the second position with MovAid, “MovAid” is world’s first personalized solution to measure and monitor the recovery or rehabilitation of any individual after undergoing any orthopedic trauma, surgery, injury or joint replacements.Team Path Finders comprises of Prashant Gupta, Pritam Singh, Piyush Verma and Jehi Jha.

Team Technoplanet stood at the Third position with “Smart Skull” which is an automatic alert system that provides alerts for the victim’s relatives & emergency numbers in case of accident so that the victim receives emergency medical care in time. Nikhil Dalmia, Saurabh Kanwar, Ankit Sachdeva, Vimish Madaan belong to Team Technoplanet. It also features an audio navigation system as well as wireless calling.

Winners India Imagine cup 2014

It is noteworthy that of the 10 teams competing in the national finals for the innovation category at The Microsoft Imagine Cup, five were from TechnoPlanet Labs., out of which Three teams which stood first, second and third at the national finale have made it further to the Semi- Finals to be held in the first week of May 2014.The International Finals of Microsoft Imagine Cup will be held in the last week of July in Seattle.

Microsoft Imagine Cup, which is referred to as the Olympics of Technology, is a platform for young entrepreneurs, developers and innovators to develop and showcase their technology-based new business ideas, create products, put together business plans and even take their products to the markets. This year 60,000 student innovators participated in the competition from 25 Indian states. The three categories wherein innovations are done are The Innovations Category, The World Citizenship Category and The Gaming Category.

Last year too, in Imagine Cup, 2013- Team Path Finders consisting of Nikhil Dalmia, Prashant Gupta, Pritam Singh , Hardik Garg with their mentor Manasvi Sihag won the Indian finals of Microsoft Imagine Cup in both Innovation and world citizenship category and represented India in the world finals in St. Petersburg,Russia.

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Blue Ocean Ventures and the Indian Angel Network collaborate for the third successive year to host Venture Engine 2014, a project aimed at fostering entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka.  Over its brief two year duration, the project has served as a springboard for 12 businesses, garnering Rs. 200 million in investment collectively.  In addition to opening the door to financial backing, Venture Engine provides startups with access to a breadth of expertise in the form of workshops and mentoring sessions via Lankan Angel Network (LAN) and the Indian Angel Network (IAN).

Endorsing the event for the third consecutive year are platinum sponsors Expolanka and Orion City and gold sponsor Dialog Axiata, organisations consistently at the forefront of the Sri Lankan business arena.  Venture Engine is run, mentored and filtered by Lankan Angel Network, Sri Lanka’s first alliance of angel investors.

The competition is open to owners of startup businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.  An open call for business plans was officially launched on the 29th of April and the close of submissions is scheduled for May 26th, after which a rigorous selection process will ensue.  A panel of potential local and overseas investors will review business plans of applicants, selecting a minimum of 20 applications to move on to the second pitch round, and provide valuable critique and insight during this segment of the process.

The top applicants benefit from valuable opportunities to enrich their business plans through a series of workshops and one to one mentoring sessions with successful local and international investors.  These entrepreneurs will make a final pitch to a panel of local and international investors with the most exceptional business plans announced at a finale.

“A salient feature of Venture Engine is that the entrepreneur is granted the opportunity to pitch directly to the investors.  The selected candidates are mentored by LAN and IAN, and there is no ceiling on funds made available through the angel group.  Thus any fundable startup in the top ten has a good opportunity to gain the required investment to set up and expand their company,” explained Prajeeth Balasubramaniam, Managing Director, Blue Ocean Ventures.

Mr. Prajeeth Balasubramaniam, Co-Founder of Blue Ocean Ventures addresses the audience

Mr. Prajeeth Balasubramaniam, Co-Founder of Blue Ocean Ventures addresses the audience

“We were charting new territory in 2012 when we launched the first Venture Engine programme. With foreign investors eager to capitalise on post war growth and budding entrepreneurs looking to spread their wings, the need for an effective startup ecosystem was identified.  Over the last two years we have witnessed an impressive display of talent and drive, reinforcing our decision to launch Venture Engine in Sri Lanka.

“The success of startups from the last two events has seen our investor base expanding.  Sustainability is key and Venture Engine’s role effectively extends beyond the immediate capital infusion.  Our team of mentors continue to provide insight and guidance after the new ventures are underway,” added Balasubramaniam.

“Venture Engine is a unique initiative.  It has inspired entrepreneurship and also driven angel investing in Sri Lanka. Year on year, it has brought critical money and mentoring to young Sri Lankan entrepreneurs. IAN is proud to have helped found Lankan Angel Network, partnered VE and brought in investors from around the world to the island nation,” said Padmaja Ruparel, President, Indian Angel Network.

“From simple beginnings as a small fruit and vegetable exporter in Dam Street, Expolanka has risen to a diversified conglomerate ranked amongst the top ten business entities in Sri Lanka with a global footprint across 18 countries.  Entrepreneurship is the cornerstone upon which our success is built and we understand the challenges of venturing out on new territory.  We see immense value in the exposure and guidance VE provides its participants and its cascading effect on the economy,” stated Hanif Yusoof, Group CEO, Expolanka.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are such fundamental principles of the IT industry that the terms have almost become synonymous.  The most significant technological advancements have been brought about by entrepreneurs with marketable ideas and unwavering drive.  Without platforms such as VE, we run the costly risk of these ideas never reaching realization.  Orion City, once a startup itself, understands this need and is committed to developing the Sri Lankan IT sector.  Furthering this goal, we are excited to announce the launch of Orion Nest, a dedicated facility for start-ups,” emphasised Jeevan Gnanam, CEO/Director of Orion City.

“The Venture Engine amply demonstrates the value creation potential of a synergistic platform which brings together Innovation, Risk Capital and Domain Expertise. World over, Venture capital has proven to be an essential ingredient in driving innovation and national competitiveness. Dialog is privileged to be a partner in the Venture Engine competition for the third successive year and it is particularly rewarding to note that within a short space of two years, the Venture Engine programme has succeeded in seeding several business ventures which are globally competitive,” said Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, Group Chief Executive of Dialog Axiata PLC.

Venture Engine has made substantial headway not just in facilitating startups, but in creating general interest in entrepreneurial ventures amongst investors and potential candidates.

Information on the programme, previous years’ events, and past participants are available on the project website www.ventureengine.lk.  Application process information and resources are also available on the website with entries accepted on submissions@ventureengine.lk.  Further assistance will be provided on contacting inquiries@ventureengine.lk.

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Starting off with the venue, you won’t believe if I said this Northshore College building is situated in Colombo 15/Mattakkuliya. It is enormous inside and out. Started nearly 3 years back,  4th batch of students are now undergoing their studies where the univeristiy offers IT and Management Degrees only at the moment.

The name ‘ROBOCOM’ itself gives an idea what this event is about. A Robotics Competition organized by the Northshore College ‘Robotics Society‘ to bring out the hidden talents among the Mechanical Engineering Students and to get an idea about starting a Robotics Degree at the College.

“I hope this competition is the first step of a long way. You will not win instantly, but you will definitely win” – Professor Niranjan Gunawardhana, Director of Northshore College.

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10 teams were supposed to battle, however only 7 turned up.  Team Arrow, Team Omega, Team MH370, Team 1st Place, Team Robosonic, Team Circuit Breakers and Team Titan were the present teams at the venue.

Apparently the individual who won the open category Robotics Challenge at UoM last year is one of the Lecturers at Northshore College and he’s been guiding the students for this competition along with some other lecturers as well.

Each team got 3 trials to pick the object and follow the trail. Final results were announced after calculating based on a formula and by judging the design. 3rd place went to Team 1st Place, 2nd place to Team #MH370 and Team Arrow were able to bag the 1st position without any hesitation.

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Visit our Live Blog for Live and detailed updates of the event.

Photo Album: here

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In an effort to keep up with this rapidly developing field, and in order to expose our students to this particular sphere of robotic technology, Northshore College has organized ‘Robocom’, its first ever Robotics competition.

More info here.

Keep an eye on our Live Blog for detailed updates as we will bring them to you instantly as they happen. :D