TAMAP workshop on e-Agriculture and Digital Market Platforms to strengthen knowledge and initiatives for digital transformation
To provide stakeholders a platform to gain further understanding of current applications and initiatives of e-agriculture systems, the European Union-funded ‘Technical Assistance to the Modernisation of Agriculture Programme’ (TAMAP) conducted a workshop on e-Agriculture and Digital Market Platforms in Colombo .
TAMAP in collaboration with the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute (HARTI) brought together private and public sector entities to discuss digital solutions for farmers. Participants were provided with information regarding new agricultural technology applications to expand markets and market opportunities. The current COVID-19 crisis underscored the need to harness e-agriculture solutions to provide real-time information while practicing physical distancing.
Welcoming the participants both at the venue and those joining the workshop online, Dr Christof Batzlen, TAMAP Team Leader indicated that, “TAMAP has started to analyse the demand for e-agriculture solutions in Sri Lanka. TAMAP and HARTI have initiated this discussion to take stock of who is doing what and to examine the nature of the long term plans. The workshop is an entry point for further discussions, regarding the facilitation of e-agriculture and intended to provide direction and recommendations for e-agriculture and digital market platforms in Sri Lanka.”
Joining the workshop via Zoom, Sebastian Balcerak of TAMAP provided a market perspective on What is e-Agriculture? Overview on Various e-Agriculture Systems and Applications in the Global World. He elaborated on the EU’s existing support for e-agriculture, current players, large and small, and interactions between both buyers and sellers.
Explaining FAO’s Digital Agriculture Strategy, Approach and Plan for e-Agriculture in Sri Lanka, Dr Xuebing Sun, FAO Representative in Sri Lanka and Maldives, said, “e-Agriculture is one of the major strategies used by the FAO to promote transformational change in the agricultural sector. FAO is committed to assist the government and its partners to support an emerging digital society. The goal is to develop a national approach: A holistic digital-agriculture approach with a national vision and overall strategic objectives. This to be achieved by identifying the digital-agricultural priorities of the nation and defining the areas of intervention, as well as stakeholders’ responsibilities and necessary resources.”
As the agency responsible for dissemination of appropriate agriculture technologies to farming communities, the National Agriculture Information & Communication Centre, Department of Agriculture’s representative at the workshop, S. Periyasamy, Director, elaborated on What are GoSL’s requirements for an e-agriculture system in Sri Lanka.
He stated that although NAICC encountered challenges to engage stakeholders in an action plan, several ICT initiatives designed by the Department of Agriculture are being successfully implemented. These include management information systems, mobile applications, sharing information through websites, radio broadcasting, call center solutions, social media-based solutions, and digital and printed publications.
Prof. Ranjith Premalal De Silva, Director/CEO, HARTI, while expressing his views on Digital Market Platforms – Issues and Expectations, asked if farmers are prepared to undertake this change and move towards virtual interaction. He considered that, “From farm-gate to food plate, the length of the supply chain can be minimized through digital market platforms”. Prof De Silva elaborated on some constraints to the introduction of the platforms such as farmers’ perspectives, buyer/consumer concerns, retaining the middleman’s legacy, e-product deliverables and the technological backdrop.
Subsequently several digital market platforms for the agricultural sector in Sri Lanka were presented. Mr H.M.J.K. Herath of the GIS Unit of HARTI, presented the HARTI platform and Govipola of Croptronix, Helaviru of Epic and Govi Mithuru of Dialog provided information about their platforms and product offerings. The participants were also updated on the development challenges of these platforms and the future directions for strengthening their user value.
This was followed by a vibrant panel discussion looking into strategies to unlock key bottlenecks for e-agriculture development. Prof Buddhi Marambe of Peradeniya University of Agriculture facilitated the entire workshop and the panel discussions.
Dr Olaf Heidelbach, Programme Manager at the EU Delegation concluded the workshop by stating: “It is amazing to see what has been developed over the past years by the private sector while working in cooperation with the government. My main recommendation for the future – on the country’s e-agriculture strategy – is to identify the comparative advantages of different stakeholders by establishing who is doing what, best. The development of e-Agriculture in Sri Lanka depends to a large extent on private sector initiatives. Dr Heidelbach expressed his satisfaction over the view from the government that “it wishes to play an enabling role as a regulator and ensuring a level playing field.”
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Unlimited music streaming platform in Sri Lanka
SLT-Mobitel, the nation’s ICT and Telecommunications Service Provider recently partnered with Spotify, to mark their launch in Sri Lanka. Spotify is a paid premium music streaming app which allows subscribers to listen to music to their hearts content. Both, SLT-Mobitel Post-Paid and Pre-Paid customers will now be able to enjoy Spotify by activating a monthly recurring subscription or one-time subscription plan and access unlimited music streaming and downloading facilities.
The subscription charges will get added to the user’s customary billing, where payment will be deducted in real time. Starting from the payment date, the user will be able to access Spotify and download their favourite songs, for the next 30 days. Users who sign up for their first monthly subscription will receive an additional one month, courtesy of Spotify. The one-month subscription plan is not applicable with one-time subscription plans. SLT-Mobitel data rates, depending on the user’s respective broadband charges, will apply.
Spotify also has some exciting features that will provide SLT-Mobitel customers with the opportunity to listen to ad-free music, access millions of uninterrupted music under one platform, play any song they like, anywhere they go, and also be able to enjoy their music offline.
SLT-Mobitel customers can select their preferred premium package under four categories; Individual, Duo, Family, Student. Each category has recurring and non-recurring plans. After one month of free streaming, the package will activate once the offer period terminates. While both, the Individual and Student premiums are limited to one account user, the Duo package offers two accounts and the Family premium is accessible through six accounts. To view Spotify plans, users can log on to https://spoti.fi/3aLWvce
Sri Lanka using ‘sovereign power’ over economy: CB Governor
by Sanath Nanayakkare
Anyone conversant with the elements of a political economy would know that Sri Lanka is using its ‘sovereign power’ to manage the different dynamics of the economy in a sustainable manner, Professor W. D Lakshman Governor of the Central Bank said on Wednesday.
“Some critics are saying that we adopt a so-called modern monetary theory. That’s not the case. In fact, Sri Lanka is using its sovereign power in a number of economic aspects to honour its external debt repayment commitments as well as to reduce its debt burden in the medium term as well as achieve resilient growth in the medium to long term, he said.
“We make policy decisions to boost our gross foreign reserves, meet our external debt servicing, to facilitate monetary expansion, to boost our GDP growth, to strengthen our current account balance and manage our domestic and external economic variables in a sustainable manner. This is not a modern monetary theory. This is an age-old tool used by central banks around the world when the circumstances demand it, he said.
“Certain trade-offs will be necessary when dealing with an economy which has a big fiscal gap to bridge. There are efforts to push Sri Lanka towards the IMF again which would in turn have influence on our policymaking. We have taken policy measures to stabilize the economy and we have adequate reserve levels to meet our debt repayments. Meanwhile, we are in negotiations with overseas central banks and multilateral agencies to further boost our reserve level and it would materialise within a matter of weeks,” he noted.
“One of the tools the Central Bank has introduced is in respect of repatriation of export proceeds into Sri Lanka and conversion of such proceeds into Sri Lankan rupees in order to strengthen the foreign exchange situation of the country,” he said.
The Governor made these remarks while delivering the keynote speech at a webinar organised by the Veemansa Initiative led by its Managing Director Luxman Siriwardene – the former Executive Director of Pathfinder Foundation.
The webinar revolved round the topic ‘External debt situation in Sri Lanka: Are we heading for a resolution or crisis?’
Professor Sirimal Abeyratne, Prof. Sumanasiri Liyanage, Dr. Nishan de Mel and Dr. Ravi Liyanage were the other speakers on the panel.
CSE on the rebound; indices close positive
By Hiran H.Senewiratne
CSE produced signs of a rebound yesterday with both indices closing positive, though turnover remained low. Central Bank Governor W.D Lakshman’s recent statement on managing foreign reserves gave some boost to the market yesterday, stock market analysts said.
The index experienced a zigzag movement within the early hours of trading; thereafter, it recorded a slight up-trend as it reached its intraday high of 7,439. Later, the market witnessed a down-trend at mid-day, followed by a sideways movement and closed at 7,372, gaining 43 points during the month of February, market sources said.
It is said the banking sector dominated turnover with a contribution of considerable parcel trades in Sampath Bank, Commercial Bank and HNB.
Further, the Commercial Bank’s impressive quarterly results during the recent turbulent period also built investor confidence. Commercial Bank was able to register a18 percent net interest income when other banks were reporting a decline. Its share price increased by Rs. 3 or 3.5 percent. On the previous day, its shares started trading at Rs. 85 and at the end of the day they moved up to Rs. 88. Due to the positive growth results, the bank announced a Rs. 4.40 dividend per share, plus a Rs. 2 script divergent for every share.
Further, Sampath Bank shares also appreciated in both crossing and retail. In crossings its shares appreciated by Rs. 1.At the end of the day they moved up to Rs. 154.50. In the retail market, its shares moved up by Rs. 2 or 1.3 percent. Previously, its shares fetched Rs. 154 and at the end of yesterday they moved up to Rs. 156.
Amid those developments, both indices moved upwards. The All Share Price Index went up by 104.48 points and S and P SL20 rose by 67.78 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 3 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in Sampath Bank, where 3.9 million shares crossed for Rs. 602.2 million, its share price being Rs. 154.50, HNB 375,000 shares crossed for Rs. 39.4 million, its shares traded at Rs. 105, Pan Asia Power 9.5 million shares crossed for Rs. 33.2 million, its shares traded at Rs. 3.50 and Access Engineering 1.2 million shares crossed for Rs. 28.2 million; its shares traded at Rs. 24.
In the retail market top five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Expolanka Rs. 450 million (10 million shares traded), JKH Rs. 205 million (1.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs. 199 million (34.9 million shares traded), Sampath Bank Rs. 191 million (1.2 million shares traded) and Dipped Products Rs. 137.7 million (2.8 million shares traded). During the day 101 million share volumes changed hands in 18046 transactions.
During the day, Expolanka, the biggest contributor to the turnover, saw its share price appreciating by Rs. 6.20 or 15 percent. Its share price quoted on the previous day was Rs. 41 and at the end of trading yesterday it moved up to Rs. 47.
Sri Lanka’s rupee quoted wider at 193.50/195.50 levels to the US dollar in the spot next market on Thursday while bond yields remained unchanged, dealers said. The rupee last closed in the spot market at 194.50/195.00 to the dollar on Wednesday.