India’s IT guru Narayana Murthy was in Sri Lanka last week for less than 48 hours. During that period, Murthy attended and addressed six meetings, inaugurated 2009 as Sri Lanka’s year of English and Information Technology and over lunch with President Mahinda Rajapaksa accepted his invitation to become the country’s international advisor on IT.
Murthy had been invited as the chief guest at the inaugural ceremony. But as a government official put it, Rajapaksa and Murthy — who does not have a particularly easy relationship with many politicians in India — got along a like house on fire.
So much so that the lunch given by Rajapaksa in Murthy’s honour was shifted from the official venue to a more informal set-up at his Temple Trees residence.
Sometime in September last year, the President’s office called Murthy to request him to be the patron of a project designed to spread English in Sri Lanka. While the literacy rate in Lanka for local languages is more than 90 per cent, the English literacy rate is much lower.
“He accepted the invitation in October. Later, IT was also added to English. And who would be a better patron for IT in Sri Lanka?’’ After Murthy agreed, the date of the inauguration was fixed,’’ Sunimal Fernando, coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on English and IT, told HT.
He added that the invitation from Rajapaksa to Murthy to be Lanka’s international IT advisor was a “purely spontaneous gesture’’ after the two chatted on issues like global recession. “Both took a great liking to each other,’’ Fernando said.
Quoting Murthy, Fernando said: “Murthy found President Rajapaksa as someone passionate who would deliver.’’
Murthy frankly shared his views on how Sri Lanka could begin its journey in the field computer software. “He made a point-by-point presentation on what the country lacks and needs to make it big in the IT world. “You do not have enough engineers and mathematicians. More graduates have to be created Murthy told a gathering,’’ Fernando said.
He was also pleased that computer penetration in the country, according to the government, had gone up from 5 per cent in 2005 to about 23 per cent at present. As many as 300 IT training centres have also been opened in rural areas.
The logistics of how Murthy could help the spread of IT in Sri Lanka is being worked out.
Once the project takes off, Narayana Murthy could surely help Sri Lanka to click and create its own space in cyber world.