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ICSE 2017 Conference begins in Colombo

India's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu with Colombo School of Business and Management Chairman, Dian Gomes at the inauguration yesterday.

The Second International Conference on 'Social Entrepreneurship'-Innovations in Social Enterprise for Development (ICSE 2017) was inaugurated at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute yesterday.

The Colombo School of Business and Management (CSBM) has organised the conference partnering with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok and the Colombo Plan. India's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu was the chief guest at ICSE 2017.

Colombo Plan Secretary General Kinley Dorji,Colombo School of Business and Management Chairman,Dian Gomes,Colombo School of Business and Management Head, Prof. Ranjith Bandara, Yunus Centre and Asian Institute of Technology Bangkok Director Dr. Faiz Shah and Sarvodaya Development Finance Chairman Channa De Silva were present at the inaugural session.

High Commissioner Sandhu spoke about the several initiatives and policy measures instituted by the Indian Government to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in India.

He said Sri Lanka also has a strong tradition of innovation, and that there is a lot that we can learn from each other. He also spoke about technology as a great leveller, and social entrepreneur has the potential to offer small solutions to big problems. He noted that innovation and entrepreneurship are critical for development, not just because they enhance productivity but they also address social issues in a novel manner. He urged Sri Lankan youth to make use of the varied learning opportunities provided by Government of India under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, various scholarship programmes and S&T research innovation programmes.

"Innovation and entrepreneurship are critical for development. They enhance productivity by leaps and bounds. That’s not the only reason why it is important. They address social issues in a novel manner. They have the prowess to make societies more inclusive. They craft social empowerment. The theme of this year’s Conference, 'Building an Intellectual Economy to Foster Socially Innovative Enterprise Development' is apt in every sense.

"In today’s day and age, technology is a great leveller. As Prime Minister Modi has said, today there is an "app" for filling every gap! A farmer can today find out the best farming methods, thanks to his mobile phone. A fisherman can tie up the best price for his day’s catch while still at sea. Students can access online courses from the best Institutes in the world, sitting in the comfort of their homes. Today, we see and speak with friends and relatives spread across continents almost daily, that too almost free. Behind all these sea changes, is not just technology, it is someone who found out the best use of technology to contribute to the society, a social entrepreneur who thinks differently.

"As human life expectancy increases, we may not be able to survive with learning just one trade to last a lifetime. We need to learn multiple trades spread over our life cycle. We need to learn, unlearn and relearn. Some of the trades which were relevant perhaps till yesterday are no longer relevant today. Wikipedia replaced Encyclopaedia Britannica. A Smart phone has replaced calculator, camera, computer and what not! Disruptive innovations have forced us to rethink on existing strategies and business models.

As you may be aware, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) which India co-hosted with the United States concluded just yesterday in our tech-capital, Hyderabad. The US delegation was led by Advisor to the US President, Ivanka Trump. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi spoke at the inaugural session. This was the first time GES was hosted in South Asia. This year’s theme was “Women First, Prosperity for All”. The event highlighted India’s enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship. There have been participants from over 150 countries at the conference, including Sri Lanka. Interestingly, over 31 percent of entrepreneurs at GES were 30 years old or younger. The youngest entrepreneur was just 13.

The Tech start ups in Bengaluru and Hyderabad have changed the face of modern India.

Sri Lanka also has a strong tradition of innovation. The magnificent rock fortress in Sigiriya is a stellar example of this tradition. The traditional irrigation systems in Sri Lanka are another example. Basawakkulama reservoir, which is used even now, was built as early as fifth century BC by King Pandukabhaya. It is also interesting to note that futurists like Arthur C.Clarke made Sri Lanka their home. There is a lot that we can achieve from each other.

India and Sri Lanka have been jointly funding S&T research and innovation programmes. This has further strengthened innovation and techno-commercial partnerships. In addition, India has been providing fully-funded training opportunities to Sri Lanka, under Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme over the last several decades. A large number of ITEC slots are for entrepreneurship and innovation related subjects. The conference concludes tomorrow.