June 2007

Sri Lanka’s ICT industry champion

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CSDMS had the good fortune of being associated with Samaranayake during the eAsia2007 conference in Malaysia. We bemoan the loss of a great leader and a philanthropist and offer our condolences to the bereaved members of his family and the ICT community in Sri Lanka.

The ICT industry in Sri Lanka lost its most valued member after Professor V.K. Samaranayake passed away on Wednesday, 07th June 2007, aged 68, in Stockholm, whilst attending a review of the Swedish government's ICT development assistance programme.

Prof. Samaranayake was the Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka from 2004. He was also the Emeritus Professor of Computer Science of the University of Colombo. He was the founder Director, University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) of the University of Colombo. He served at the University of Colombo for a continuous period of 43 years since his first appointment in 1961 immediately following his graduation from the same University. He was the founder of the Department of Statistics and Computer Science (DSCS) and of the Institute of Computer Technology (ICT) of the University of Colombo. These two institutions were merged as the UCSC in 2002. He was a Fellow of the Harvard Information Infrastructure Project and the National Centre for Digital Government of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. In 2005 he was a Visiting Fellow of the Digital Vision Programme of Stanford University, USA.

Prof. Samaranayake served the Council for Information Technology (CINTEC), the apex National Agency for IT in Sri Lanka as its Chairman for a period of 12 years. In the field of IT he has pioneered work on IT Policy, Legal Infrastructure, EDI/e-Commerce, Security, Internet Technology, Computer Awareness and IT Education. He was actively involved in the formulation of the ISO 10646 standard for Sinhalese Characters and in the development of multilingual web sites. He was also instrumental in helping to apply computers in many areas of governance, including in national elections. He was also actively involved in introducing ICT to rural communities and was engaged in developing Multipurpose Community Telecentres. He was a member of the advisory panel of the Asia IT&C program of the European Commission. He chaired the National Y2K Task Force that coordinated the very successful crossover to year 2000. More recently he initiated the External Degree of Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) of the University of Colombo which in its very first year of operation has attracted 5000 registrations.

He was the Chairman of the Project Management Committee of the SIDA funded project to enhance internet connectivity of Sri Lankan Universities. He was the President of the National Academy of Sciences during 1998-1999 and the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science during its golden jubilee in 1994. He was also the President of Infotel Lanka Society.

The Government of Sri Lanka has honoured Prof. Samaranayake for his contribution towards IT by the award of Vidya Prasadini in 1997 and the national honour Vidya Jyothi in 1998. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has presented its President's Award for International Cooperation to Prof. Samaranayake in 1996 in recognition of his contribution. At its convocation held in January 2005, the University of Colombo conferred on Prof. Samaranayake the Degree of Doctor of Science ( Honouris Causa ) for his outstanding contribution to the University.

Reshan Dewapura, COO, ICTA said: “Everyone in the ICT industry in Sri Lanka has either met or worked with Professor Samaranayake. It was his sense of commitment towards ICT development in the country coupled with his boundless energy that set him apart and allowed him to make lasting alliances and friendships both personally and professionally around the world.  There is no doubt that Prof's tireless commitment to the ICT industry has made his contribution over the years remarkable. He will be greatly missed.”   

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