The 2018 edition of Disrupt Asia, Sri Lanka’s Premier Start-up Conference and Innovation Festival, was successfully concluded recently at the Trace – Expert City with the participation of a large number of individuals connected to the growing startup industry in Sri Lanka.Organized by the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), Disrupt Asia 2018 is the progression of an increased effort by the organization to broaden the start-up landscape of the country and inspire the next wave of growth.
The Innovation Festival part of Disrupt Asia 2018 was the most significant addition to this year’s edition of the event and showcased many technological innovations that included advanced assistive technologies, works of art and digital activations for the public to experience and interact with. This festival captured the imagination of all, especially the younger crowds, with all of them stating their excitement at the atmosphere of the festival and the wide variety of innovative items on display.
Among the thousands of participants who attended the Conference and Innovation Festival were youngsters from all parts of the island. Several elements of Disrupt Asia 2018 drew special praise from these young participants. One such group of youngsters was from the “Uki – Stepping Stone to Tech Life”, a full scholarship based Accelerator program for Coding in Jaffna, Sri Lanka targeting students who have completed Advanced Level examinations but do not have access to university education or any other form of vocational education. The studentsdescribed how they were inspired by their interactions with other entrepreneurs and startup companies, established potentially long-term connections with numerous tech personalities and even picked up skills such as public speaking, pitching and presentations.
Students from Dr. Kulasinghe Maha Vidyalaya in Kotugoda who participated at the exhibition stated that they were enthralled by their experience at the Innovation Festival as they were keen in learning more about ICT and felt privileged to be given an opportunity to witness the various games displayed in the Creative Pavilion. The Creative Pavilion of the Festival helped boost the local game development community by providing a platform for Sri Lankan game developers from across the island to showcase several locally-developed games. Some of them included the “Koombiyo” by Kodex, “Extraction Valley” by RAM Studios, “Zombie Rage” by Motion Miracles and Ceylon Driver by RFactory.
Disrupt Asia is just one of several programs that the ICTA has commenced over the years in order to encourage collaboration and continuity among the startup landscape of Sri Lanka. The ICTA’s flagship program “Spiralation”, a Tech Startup Support Program which focuses on supporting new technology ventures, has been successfully running since 2010. The program has supported 56 companies during this period through funding and other benefits including mentoring, capacity development training as well as global and local exposure. Similarly, ImagineIF is an initiative of ICTA which aims to initialize and develop the entrepreneurial mindset in universities and higher education institutes in Sri Lanka. In 2018, the program will be hosted in six national universities with an open invitation to all other national universities and higher education institutes to take part in.
Commenting on the impact of these Industry Developmentinitiatives, Ahamed Nishadh – Project Manager of ICTA stated, “Disrupt Asia is a program that is constantly expanding and plays an important role in setting up a road map for start-ups to plan their journey towards success. With the help of the ICTA and our various other Industry Developmentinitiatives -such as Spiralation and ImagineIF – that engage with all stakeholders, the start-up ecosystem in Sri Lanka now has a clear vision and focuses on action that will generate long-term results. This is exactly what is required to take Sri Lanka’s start-up ecosystem forward to compete in the regional and global stage.”
Disrupt Asia 2018 was supported by the Ministry of Telecommunication, Digital Infrastructure and Foreign Employment. The Conference part of Disrupt Asia 2018 brought to light the need for policy and strategy while entrepreneurs shared their insights, successes and failures and inspired current and potential entrepreneurs. Several top experts from USA, Netherlands, UK, Singapore, Bangladesh, Philippines, India and Sri Lanka expressed their views on Artificial Intelligence, digital marketing, security and set the stage for disruptive thinking around STEAM education, creative industries and social entrepreneurship.