OPA Annual conference | Sunday Observer

OPA Annual conference

Easing traffic congestion in urban areas

CILT is keen to support the introduction of flexible hours

* SL’s Logistics Performance Index ranking slips from 86 to 94

* Digitalisation plans keep changing

By Lalin Fernandopulle

Gayani de Alwis 
Pic: Sarath Pieris

Calling for consistency in policy and determination to implement them, Chairperson Chartered Institute of Logistics (CILT) Gayani de Alwis said the country loses around Rs. 360 billion each year due to traffic congestion in cities leading to loss of valuable man-hours for productive work and waste of fuel which is a drain on foreign exchange.

She said Sri Lanka’s Logistics Performance Index ranking in the World Bank’s recent Connect to Compete  Report slipping down from 86 in 2014 to 94 in 2018 from among 180 countries is very disappointing and added that the CILT intends to  work with the authorities to elevate the current ranking to a satisfactory position in the coming years.

Speaking on ‘Modernisation of Transportation and Infrastructure Development’ at the 31st Annual Conference on ‘Innovative Digitisation’ conducted by the Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka (OPA) in Colombo last week, she said currently there are lot of investments being made on improving transport infrastructure. However, land acquisition issues, lack of infrastructure facilities such as bus stops and service areas, poor design and maintenance of roads, road safety issues are some of the major concerns that need to be addressed.

An expert in the transportation and logistics sector, de Alwis said people are reluctant to use public transportation due to its appalling state, lacking quality, connectivity, improper infrastructure, overcrowded and outmoded designs of buses, poor peak hour management and non conducive for persons with disabilities.

She said the country invested ahead of time on ports and airports but it has not thought of the future. Land transport connectivity to ports and airports is poor. Thought has not been given to providing infrastructure facilities for recreational aviation and shipping activities such as cruise tourism operations.

She said that the country has brought in 4G mobile technology ahead of the other South Asian counterparts and 5G testing has commenced and expected to be available by 2019but there is inadequate digital connectivity and the digitalization plans keep changing from time to time. A number of projects have been undertaken by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation and under the master plan of the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development.

While some projects are being implemented others are yet to be implemented.  Work has commenced on bus modernization, Multi-modal Transportation Hub (MMTH) and with JAICA funding feasibility studies have been completed for Light Rail Transit (LRT) system. The 16km Malabe to Fort corridor will be built first and is expected to be completed by 2024 through JAICA funding at a cost 1.7Bn USD, which will improve the travel time by 30 minutes. However, de Alwis said the country cannot wait till the LRT is operational. The use of public transportation has dropped to 44 percent, which shows people are shifting to private modes of transportation. To get people back to use public transportation, bus modernization and the facilities need to be improved. The Millennium Challenge Corporation of the US government is supporting the government in developing bus priority lane infrastructure in Sri Lanka.

Vehicle parking machines, which are being used on the Galle Road and intersection management, are vital to ease traffic congestion in the city. According to transport experts congestion is created when the speed of vehicles fall below 30 kmph. The current speed of vehicles in the city is between 8-10 kmph, which creates a bumper to bumper scenario.

She said the use of mobile apps for real time traffic management could help ease congestion in the city. The shifting of many government institutions to Battaramulla has helped ease traffic congestion in the city. But the impact to transport has not been thought of in advance in the area. CILT intends to work with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the private sector to explore flexible working hours to address the congestion issue in the city.

“The decision by the government to get all public sector vehicles to shift to electric vehicles by 2040 is a good move. Time to come there will be electric powered three-wheelers in line with the policy of the government to shift to electric vehicles. However, these policies need to be consistent,” de Alwis said.

We cannot look at transportation in isolation; we need to look at transportation from a holistic point of view and how it has been done in other countries. The Curitiba city in Brazil is a success story for the bus rapid transportation system. The concept developed by the mayor of the city uses excess fruits and vegetables grown in the cityroad-side in exchange for bus tickets.

“The zero car policy in Helsinki and many other European cities has helped people to shift to public transportation. There are companies that are using digital solutions to improve transportation infrastructure and providing visibility to public. According to National Transport Commission, Google maps will be available for public transport in Sri Lanka during this year.Transportation is no longer considered an asset today. Mobility is a service and not an asset any longer. Car and bike sharing, peer to peer ride sharing and on-demand ride services are transportation modes today.


Quoting the Colombian Mayor Enrique Penelosa who said a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars, it’s where the rich use public transportation, De Alwis said improved public transportation is a key development driver in the country.


Use modern technology to explore, expand, excel - Prof. Dharmasiri

By Sanjeevi Jayasuriya

The country should look at how best it can use modern technology to explore, expand and excel in today’s context. It could gain from creativity and critical thinking, the two sides of digitalisation with the support of digital technology available, Immediate Past President and Director of the Institute of Personnel Management, Prof. Ajantha Dharmasiri said.

Prof. Ajantha Dharmasiri 
Pic: Vipula Amerasinghe

He was speaking at the technical sessions of the Organisation of Professional Association’s annual conference on the theme ‘Innovation a core strategy for digital HR’ in Colombo last week.

“The man-machine interface is necessary to ensure the best out of this combination. Now we need to begin with a strategic and integrated approach in acquisition, development and engagement of talent, using relevant tools, with proper policies, practices and processes in creating a conducive climate towards achieving organisational excellence and societal well-being,” he said.

There are seven Gs in human resource management, he said and they include goal, give, grow, glue and guard.

“It is important to get the right talent at the right place. We are suffering from lack of meritocracy. The organisation needs to give the right reward, grow talent and use technology. It is also necessary to glue to the organisation through performance and have right checks and balances. Meaningfully connecting digital HR is an opportunity for the organisation to transform HR by maximising to a digitally driven one,” he said.

Data driven decisions are important in today’s context where high tech, high touch harmony is essential. We need to ensure HR accountability as the triple trend of lean, green and see in digital HR has taken center stage. The paradox navigation is the future of HR where multi cultural, multi generational and multi skilled workforce will be there in modern organisations, he said.

Chairman and CEO Micro Image (Pvt) Ltd., Harsha Purasinghe said, “Organisations of today have to re-invest and re-imagine to stay connected to the transforming digital era. The cloud, social, mobile apps and analytics will disrupt everything in a workplace.”He was speaking on the theme ‘Building new digital HR platforms’ and said that technology is moving fast and it will drive the change.

“There will be a tremendous challenge in dealing with new generation talents. Data will bring real time analytics and it needs to leverage new generation power. Only 13 percent of worldwide employees are engaged and employment engagement is at a low level,” he said.

“We need to have digital tools to facilitate a flexible working system which will be the future trend globally. Corporate learning is a key priority and needs to invest in continuous learning. The building of a digital platform by powering and leveraging analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) is necessary,” he said.

“We are in an early stage of AI. The Western world is incorporating wellness in HR as a vital component. The benefits could be gained by leveraging the power of machine data and by harnessing the power of data analytics. Values and ethics are the most critical thing in this environment. The new generation is much more tech savvy than the present generation,” he said.


Need for a national digital policy highlighted

By Sanjeevi Jayasuriya

The need for a national digital policy was highlighted at the inauguration of the annual conference of the Organisation of Professional Association of Sri Lanka in Colombo last week.

“There is a need for a national digital policy to enable the country to move forward. With the rapid changes taking place, we need to leap into the digital future. The transition in the political, trade and technology arena has created emerging challenges,” Minister of Science, Technology, Research, Skills Development and Vocational Training and Kandyan Heritage, Dr. Sarath Amunugama said.

Dr. Sarath Amunugama
Pic: Chaminda Niroshana

This is a changing world and he queried as to how prepared we are to face this situation.

“Are we ready to face this transformation today? Could we make our voice heard more? As professionals we could contribute more towards the growth and development of the country and the policy changes,” he said.

He went onto say that we need to disrupt traditional thinking to embrace new things. This is the ‘norm’ of today. The country should have a relaxed and new approach to innovation. However, due to lack of will, foresight and cowardliness, Sri Lanka has become the sick man of Asia, he said.

Managing Partner and Country Head InHelm, India Dr. D. Prasanth Nair said, “The organisations in the digital world will make a difference in today’s structure and the digital technology could help the organisations and the society to move forward in more meaningful manner and improve performance.

The importance of technology could be ascertained by the fact that the market value of top five companies being technology companies.

“Globalisation is a reality today and we live in a connected world. 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created daily and we are entering into a new technological era.

The social dimension of utilising the skills of retired people will enable the country to benefit. However, there are benefits and challenges,” he said.

The Indian start-up eco system is the third largest in the world currently and by 2025 it will be the second largest in the world. The society will move towards people-less, cashless and presence-less scenario where it will reduce the transaction time and processing time.

The average age of organisations will be reduced from 70 years in 1980 to 10 years by 2020 and 50 percent of the jobs will not exist in the near future. All automated and robotic jobs will be created by 2030 and departments and functions will also be non-existent by then,” he said.

“Special emphasis should be made in relation to human and machine interaction and co-creation where the future will be about mathematics, skills and spirituality. We will be living in a very disruptive world and the future of work will be different to what it is at present,” he said.