Where Modernity Meets Tradition: A Dual-Hub IT Strategy For Jaffina

Where Modernity Meets Tradition: A Dual-Hub IT Strategy For Jaffna

Sri Lanka is shaping up to be relevant to a global digital economy. Earlier this year, the Government unveiled its plans for Island of Ingenuity (IOI), a LKR 300M investment in the ICT/BPM sector to create a global centre of excellence in high-end product engineering, IP creation and Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). Efforts are already underway to digitize the country’s financial sector, education system, hospitals and public information services, amongst others. By 2022, SLASSCOM estimates that the IT/BPM sector is expected to reach $5B in revenue, create 200,000 direct jobs and encompass 1,000 start-ups.

As Sri Lanka gears up for the future, this report asks a singular question. What role can the Northern Province play in this growth story? In particular, what will it look like for Jaffna to be a pivotal part of Sri Lanka’s vision for the IT industry?

Currently, Sri Lanka’s Information and Communications sector generates a turnover of ~$1.2B per annum through ~65,000 employees. The Northern Province accounts for approximately 4% of these jobs. Positively, our research suggests that Jaffna is well-positioned to capitalize on the momentum in the broader IT market. Among the noteworthy attributes, we observe a positive and entrepreneurial attitude, a strong connection to the Diaspora community (leading to potential funding avenues), a high literacy rate, basic ICT infrastructure and a range of IT education opportunities. Notably, some of these attributes leave Jaffna better placed to become a digital hub than cities such as Kandy and Galle.

The recommendations of this report are informed by an assessment of the overall IT industry in Jaffna and the broader North—including the supply of IT skills, the quality of such skills (specifically industry readiness), the demand for IT services, types of IT education providers, successful entrepreneurs, companies that originated in and expanded to the North, as well as IT accelerators and platforms supporting the industry.

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