Information Communications Technology

Many Sri Lankan banks seek Tata IT services
By Hiran Senewiratne in Bangalore
Many of Sri Lanka's commercial banks are planning to obtain information technology solutions and consultancy services from Indian information technology giant Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a company official said.

TCS plans to set up corporate offices in many countries, including Sri Lanka, as it expands its network to almost every corner of the world, TCS Senior Consultant V. Narendra said.

At present, Bank of Ceylon's Chennai branch obtains IT services from TCS, which provides 80 percent of the bank's operations software solutions.

Other Sri Lankan banks too have inquired about obtaining IT consultancy services and solutions from TCS, Narendra said.

Sri Lanka has the potential to be a major IT centre in the region, Narendra said.

"We provide IT consultancy services and solutions to most of the leading US companies through our 20 corporate offices in the United States," Narendra told a group of visiting Sri Lankan journalists last week.

The media were flown by SriLankan Airlines to Bangalore, the carrier's latest destination, as part of a familiarisation tour.

TCS is located at India's biggest IT park at Whitefield, a few miles out of Bangalore, which is known as the garden city of India.

TCS has more than 15,000 software professionals operating in 50 countries, providing clients with e-business solutions and system integration services, to help them design and build their e-business operations.

TCS is working with leading companies in sectors such as banking, financial services and insurance, and telecommunications, Narendra said.

It also has strategic alliances with technology companies like IBM, Microsoft, Sun Solaris, HP, Compaq/Tandem/Digital and Oracle.

Lanka's "Simlin" tower or IT city
Walking through one of the busiest shopping malls in town, one would reminiscence as to how this early pioneer has transformed through the years. If you have been to Singapore, the first floor of Unity Plaza at Bambalapitiya (pictured below) would remind you of the "Simlin" tower, because almost every single shop happens to be a computer store.

Through the years, these computer stores have developed to an extent that today it literally is a one-stop shop for all your computer requirements. A printer cartridge, a mouse or even a computer with all accessories can be found here. The all-important reason for the popularity of this location is the price. Prices of these computer products range from as low Rs. 100.

However, one of the specialities of this little mall that ensures that every visitor does not return home empty handed is its CD collection. The collection of software CD's that was priced at around Rs. 400 a few years ago is now available here at Rs. 100. In addition the range which initially comprised of pirated software has now extended to music CDs, video CDs and even DVDs at unimaginable low prices.

Though it suits the common man who cannot afford to buy original Microsoft Windows or Office software the suppliers of original software are apprehensive. They say there is no guarantee or manuals for these products. "Even if it does not work I still lose only Rs. 100. If I want help I can buy a tutorial CD or a low-priced Indian book on the software," one shopper said. International software vendors are making every effort to combat piracy. Piracy is largely in the Asian market due to the affordability factor. The number of CD's bought by foreigners at this mall on some days is surprisingly high.

The only problem that remains is the quality of service. Some shoppers have had bad experiences after purchasing unbranded PCs with a one-year warranty. They have returned subsequently only to discover that the shop no longer exists or the required spare part is not manufactured anymore. This is due to the fact that PC's are assembled using bulk stock lots imported by vendors from countries such as Taiwan, Korea, Bangkok, China and Singapore. As they usually go for cheaper prices, the same brand is not imported again if the price does not suit the importer and therefore even the guarantee of the product cannot be assured by the vendor.

Yet, one would say for a developing country such as ours this is a divine gift as the average budget does not permit costly equipment!

Software exporters to form national body
The Software Exporters' Association (SEA), which is now recognised as a national association, is planning to transform itself into the National Association of Software and Services Exporters.

The association, which started in 1999 as a grouping of dedicated software exporting companies, now has a membership of over 35 firms. The apex body recently sought membership with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and has moved its secretariat to the chamber from July 1, 2002.

The association, which has been functioning as an organised work group to carry out its various functions, held its first Annual General Meeting on July 15. The newly elected executive committee of the SEA, led by H. D. Gunawardene, will now take over the responsibility of transforming the association into a national body and to work towards making the country a preferred software destination.

The main objective of the SEA is to promote software and IT-enabled services from Sri Lanka to new overseas markets. Its main areas of activities are marketing, training and human resources, infrastructure and finance. The Sri Lanka Export Development Board and the Board of Investment are the patrons of the association. The EDB and the Information and Communications Technology Cluster have been providing the association secretarial support.

Cisco launches the Little Dragon
Internet Networking giant, Cisco Systems, Inc. recently launched its latest generation of IP phones - the Cisco IP Phone 7905 series- in India and related markets. The Cisco IP Phone 7905 is used for voice communications via the Internet using the Internet Protocol (IP).

Also called the 'Little Dragon', the IP phone is based on Cisco's Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID) technology. The launch comes in the wake of the latest developments in the telecom arena with the introduction of IP Telephony in the Indian market. The product according to the company is aimed primarily at addressing the needs of enterprise and mass users.

The unit delivers essential business communications, by providing the most frequently used business features - such as instant updates on stocks, quote of the day, weather or any other Web-based information; Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP3) standard directory which provides user mobility within the office - while retaining use of direct dial number.

Other key services provided are video conferencing and collaboration and other value-added options such as prioritizing calls received, calling party name and number, calls received, missed calls and dialed calls etc. - in an easy-to-program and easy-to-use platform, at a touch.

Cisco AVVID voice and video solutions prepare organizations to compete in the Internet Economy. By converging data, voice and video onto a single IP network, companies are able to take advantage of IP-based business applications for enhanced employee productivity; customer flexibility and control; standards-based, distributed, open architecture; and exceptional customer service.

India which has been allowing Closed User Group (CUG) telephony for a few years and from April this year allowed private players to tap into the International Long Distance and National Long Distance calls market to voice over Internet (VOIP). In Sri Lanka some of the local conglomerates like John Keells Holdings have introduced VOIP to connect their group companies.

News in Brief
IIT concludes first Holmesglen diploma
The Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT) held an awards ceremony for the first batch of students of the Information Technology and Software Development course concluded recently. The diplomas were awarded by the Holmesglen Institute of Australia.

IIT collaborated with Holmesglen Institute in 2000 to provide shorter-term courses to equip students with skills in software development. The diploma programme is an 18-month practical course that covers a range of programming languages focusing on Web and Software Development.

Holmesglen Institute is an Australian government sponsored technical and further education institute that offers over 400 courses in three different campuses.

IIT is a member of the Informatics Group of Companies set up in 1990. The institute was the first to offer international computer degree courses in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University of the United Kingdom. IIT recently extended its course offerings to include a Masters degree in IT through Keele University of the UK.

PC House launches Power Tree UPS
PC House (Pvt) Ltd has launched its Power Tree Uninterrupted Power Supply system together with its principal Power Tree - Singapore recently.

PC House, as the sole authorised distributor in Sri Lanka, says that it has gained a considerable market share in a short period of time making it the fastest selling UPS. Since the launch of a new campaign in December 2001, the distributor has sold 6,760 units and experienced a failure rate of 0.1 percent.

Power Tree also hopes to cater to the medium scale and high-end sector with its line interactive rack mounted range and the online range. The online range provides solutions ranging from 1kVA to 30kVA to suit a single end-user environment as well as major industrial environments. The units are bundled with power management software that ensures maximum protection round the clock.

PC House has an after sales support division and trained technical personnel in Colombo, Kandy, Kurunegala and Ratnapura to provide sales support to its Power Tree customers.

3M Lanka offers VIP certification
3M Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, the local subsidiary of 3M, held its first Volition Integrator Professional (VIP) training and certification programme recently. Twenty-one professionals from 11 integration companies obtained the formal 3M VIP certification designed to provide systems integrators and resellers with product knowledge and technical skills.

The 3M Volition Network Solutions offers a complete range of structured cabling systems that are cost-effective for every commercial application.

These range from Category 5, Category 5e and Category 6 copper cabling, right up to the latest fibre-to-the-desk (FTTD) networks.

The 3M Volition FTTD cabling systems offer the high gigabit speeds of fibre optics at the price and simplicity of copper while eliminating the need to upgrade copper cabling with fibre in the near future. Multimedia applications and the latest networking technologies demand increased bandwidths that copper cannot provide. FTTD cabling also eliminates interference problems and provides clean and secure data transmission over long distances.

The certification enables the resellers to deliver 3M Volition Network Solutions to suit the end-to-end needs of small and large enterprises. They deliver structured cabling solutions with the best possible combination of copper and fibre to suit individual requirements. These Enterprise Networks could be copper, fibre, or a hybrid, and link the PCs in different departments in a seamless manner. They provide the communications infrastructure with a broadband migration path to transfer increasingly complex data, voice and video traffic, without downloading delays and without the cost and disruption of re-cabling.

The Volition Network Solutions carry a 20-year warranty backed by 3M and is distributed here by Software and Management Services.

Kingslake supplies I-DEAS to NERD
Kingslake Engineering Systems, a leading supplier of enterprise class software solutions to Sri Lankan companies and authorised re-sellers in Sri Lanka for EDS PLM Solutions, recently commissioned advanced engineering design, analysis and manufacturing software known as I-DEAS at the National Engineering Research Development Centre or NERD Centre at the Ekala Industrial Estate.

The NERD Centre has set up a Centre for Manufacturing Excellence (CME) with the specific objective of assisting the die and mould making industry in Sri Lanka. The I-DEAS software will be an important aspect of this initiative.

"A recent survey conducted by the Centre shows that nearly 90 percent of the demand in Sri Lanka is for high precision, high quality dies and moulds. However, only 30 percent of the market needs can be met by local industry and the rest has to be imported. We intend to fill this void as it is essential to have local supply of dies and moulds as this will speed up the whole product development process. I-DEAS software will provide us with the tools to do the full range of three dimensional design, analysis, manufacturing and simulation," said Kumar Perera, Head of Techno-Marketing of the NERD Centre

I-DEAS is an advanced engineering tool for full three dimensional modelling, drafting, tolerance analysis, assembly, surfacing, mould design, manufacturing, die and moulds inspection, simulation and testing.


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