Many of you must have already watched the video by now. This is for those who missed with the transcription of the speech.
Hello. It’s a great privilege to join you by video to celebrate the “Year of English and IT Services” in Sri Lanka. I was very excited to learn about plans for the year which have a clear focus on IT, because this initiative demonstrates that His Excellency, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his government recognize the extraordinary potential that information technology has to dramatically improve people’s lives in the country.
Some of you may know that I now focus my full time work on the foundation. But I’m still very connected and very excited about the work going on at Microsoft. As I reflect on these thirty-three years of great innovation since Microsoft was started, I am amazed at how far we’ve come and the many ways in which IT is transforming how people live and work all over the world and the pace of progress continues to increase. The personal computer we have today is already over a million times more powerful than the original PC that Microsoft wrote software for back in 1981. I’m confident that even more dramatic changes are yet to come and that the future of technology will be far more exciting than even the past.
At the same time, it’s also clear that large segments of the world’s population have not reaped the full benefits of technology. Only about a billion of the roughly six billion people in the world have regular access to sophisticated forms of Information Technology. IT skills lag far behind where they need to be in an increasingly competitive and globally interconnected economy.
Sri Lanka has an advantage though, with a government that’s committed to investing further in IT, as outlined in President Rajapaksa’s vision statement. Like President Rajapaksa, I am optimistic that the country is poised for greater economic growth and development, and much of that will be fueled by the use of software and the power of IT. Sri Lanka’s high literacy rate, at over 90%, and its high standards of education and healthcare give it a strong economic foundation. The country’s IT literacy rate is nearing 20%, which represents a significant jump from 8% only a few years ago. English language speaking skills are also a crucial part of the foundation for future growth. I am pleased to see that the government has identified the importance of English language skills by declaring 2009 the Year of English and IT Services.
So, let me take this opportunity to congratulate President Rajapaksa for his leadership in declaring 2009 the Year of English and IT Services in Sri Lanka, and to wish those involved in the implementation of this very important initiative every success moving forward.
For its part, Microsoft stands ready to fully support the initiative and Sri Lanka’s broader IT-objectives over the long term. The theme of the work we do in Sri Lanka is “Creating Employability.” Through our Partners in Learning and Community Technology Skills Programs and our other initiatives, Microsoft has partnered with educational and non-governmental organizations in Sri Lanka to bring IT skills and training to over a million people across the country. These efforts have reached students, teachers, academia, rural communities, IT professionals, and migrant workers. To date, Microsoft has invested over 450 million rupees in Sri Lanka towards these programs and plans similar investments over the coming years. We have already made Windows Vista Sinhala enabled, and we are currently localizing our Office Suite for Sri Lanka.
Microsoft’s presence in Sri Lanka continues to grow in many ways, and we are committed to deepening existing partnerships and building new ones. Working together, there is a lot we have already achieved, and much more that we’ll accomplish in the future. Thank you and good luck.