SO Jun 10 2007: The ICT industry in Sri Lanka lost its most valued member with the passing away of Prof. V. K. Samaranayake on Wednesday, aged 68, in Stockholm whilst attending a review of the Swedish government's ICT development assistance program.
Prof. Samaranayake was the Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka from 2004. He was also the Emeritus Professor of Computer Science of the University of Colombo.
He was the founder Director, University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC). He served the University of Colombo for a continuous period of 43 years since his first appointment in 1961 immediately following his graduation from the same University.
DN Mon Jun 18 2007: My association with the Professor and of getting to know him was as recent as the year 1999, when an advertisement appeared in the newspapers for the recruitment of a National Y2K Coordinator and Coordinators in different sectors in the industry which could be affected due to Y2K problems. I applied for the post of Coordinator in the sector of Power and Energy.
At the interview I was questioned by the interview panel on various aspects of how Y2K could affect computers and computerized equipment during the rollover to the year 2000.
Before I left the room Prof. V. K. Samaranayake, Chairman Council for Information Technology informed me that he had gathered from my CV that both he and I have been born on the same day May 22nd 1939.
It did not take even 24 hours after the interview, when I was informed that I have been selected as the National Y2K Coordinator, (though I applied for the post of Coordinator Power and Energy) and to report immediately to take up duties on contract basis on this World Bank Project.
It was a tall order that had to be accomplished with two assistant coordinators and support staff within a small office space. A Planning Grant of US$ 100,000 had been received and I was entrusted to prepare reports to obtain the Implementation Grant of US$ 500,000 which will benefit fourteen government institutions.
Prof. Samaranayake reviewed the work carried out by us regularly and formed The National Y2K Task Force of which he was Chairman and we shifted our office to the spacious World Trade Centre.
The Preparation of The National Action Plans and National Contingency Plan necessitated close coordination of The National Y2K Task Force and Sectoral Groups who were all professionals.
The presentations on Y2K activities to various organizations, press releases’ interviews to the electronic and print media including arrangements made to conduct seminars, workshops and media conferences were carried out under the guidance and close supervision of the Professor.
At various meetings he used to inform those present that he and I were born on the same day. When such references were made, I informed that though both of us were born on the same day, that to me the Professor was more akin to be like my father. He had ingrained in him the fatherly attitude to all the staff and was liked by all.
Towards the middle of 1999 he left for UK to obtain medical attention for a heart by-pass operation. During the two months he was away he trust on me the responsibility of handling the balance work.
The rollover from 1999 to 2000 was a resounding success.
The finale of the Y2K activities was the design and operation of the Event Management Centre which was in operation continuously for threedays from 31st December, 1999... A commendation letter was received from Roslyn Doctor, Program Director, International Y2K Cooperation Centre. World Bank Washington D C 2037 on 16-08-1999 which I quote below.
“From this information Sri Lanka seems to be preparing itself well for Y2K. You provide excellent detailed information on sectors on your page, and our web page assessment will be changed publicly to reflect this in our next press release.”
The country Web Site Assessment posted in the IY2KCC web on 24-08-1999 listed Sri Lanka with 36 countries and was categorized as highly informative.
I presume this appreciation and tribute to a great scholar and teacher will be shared by the Y2K support staff who were at the CINTEC and other Professionals who were associated with the Y2K Task Force of which the Emeritus Professor was Chairman.
DN Jun 11 2007 COLOMBO: Sri Lanka National Sciences Academy President Professor Arjuna Aluwihare issuing a condolence message on the death of Professor V.K. Samaranayake states: It is with sadness that I, on behalf of the National Academy of Sciences and in a personal capacity, have to add my comments to the many that will be made about Prof. Samaranayake - who was at the time of his untimely demise Chairman of the ICT agency (ICTA) in Sri Lanka-formerly known as CINTEC.
I last saw him a few weeks ago-active again on our Council and involved in ideas we had of strengthening Information Technology use in rural areas of this country. Professor Samaranayake was the President of the National Academy of Sciences during 1998-1999.
He was an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science of the University of Colombo and the founder Director of the University of Colombo, School of Computing (UCSC). He served the University system for a continuous period of 43 years following his graduation from the same university. He served as the Dean of the Faculty of Science.
He was the founder of the Department of Statistics and Computer Science (DSCS) and of the Institute of Computer Technology (ICT) of the University of Colombo. These two institutions were merged as the UCSC in 2002.
Professor Samaranayake was a Fellow of the Harvard information infrastructure Project and the National Center for Digital Government of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. In 2005 he was a visiting fellow of the Digital Vision Programme of Stanford University, USA.
He has served the Council for Information Technology (CINTEC), the apex National agency for IT in Sri Lanka as its Chairman for a period of 12 years. In the field of IT he has pioneered work on IT Policy, Legal Infrastructure, EDI/E-Commerce, Security, Internet Technology, Computer Awareness and IT Education.
He was actively involved in the formulation of the WASO 10646 standard for Sinhalese Characters and in the development of multilingual web sites. He has also been instrumental in helping to apply computers in many areas of governance, including in national elections.
He was currently involved in introducing ICT to rural communities and was engaged in developing Multipurpose Community Tele-Centers. He was a member of the advisory panel of the Asia IT&C programme of the European Commission.
He chaired the National Y2K Task force that coordinated the very successful crossover to year 2000. More recently he initiated the External Degree of Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) of the University of Colombo, which in its very first year of operation has attracted 5000 registrations. He was the Chairman of the Project Management Committee of the sida funded project to enhance the internet connectivity of Sri Lankan Universities.
All in all, it was very clear that Professor Samaranayake pioneered IT application, its usage and industry in Sri Lanka and thus can be considered as the "Father of Information Technology" in Sri Lanka.
Professor Samaranayake was the President of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science during its golden jubilee in 1994. He was also the current President of Infotel Lanka Society.
The Government of Sri Lanka has honoured Prof. Samaranayake for his contribution to IT in the country by the award of Vidya Prasadini in 1997 and the national honour Vidya Jothi in 1998.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has presented its President's Award for International Cooperation to Prof. Samaranayake in 1996 in recognition of his contribution.
The University of Colombo at its convocation held in January 2005, conferred on Prof. Samaranayake the Degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) for his outstanding contribution to the University of Colombo.
Our very sincere condolences go to Mrs. S. Samaranayake her two sons who are doing higher studies in IT in America.
Sunday Observer June 10 2007
It is with profound sorrow and gratitude, I pen this tribute over the sudden demise of Professor V.K. Samaranayake (68), widely known as `Father of Information and Communication Technology in Sri Lanka'.He breathed his last on June 6 (Wednesday) in Stockholm, Sweden attending a review of the Swedish Government's ICT development assistance programme.
A product of Royal College, Colombo, Prof. Samaranayake entered the University of Ceylon in 1957 and graduated with a First Class Honours in Mathematics. He was the Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka from 2004. While serving as the Emeritus Prof. of Computer Science of the University of Colombo, he proceeded to Imperial College London for his Post Graduate studies and research.
He also served the Council for Information Technology, the Apex National Agency as its chairman for a period of 12 years. In the field of IT he had pioneered work on IT policy, Legal Infrastructure,
E-Commerce, security, Internat Technology, Computer Awareness and IT Education. He was a member of the advisory panel of the Asia IT and C program of the European Commission.
In recognition of his tremendous service for the development of IT in Sri Lanka, the Government honoured him with the award of 'Vidya Prasadini' in 1997 and the 'Vidya Jothi' in 1998.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency also presented its `President's Award for International Cooperation' to Prof. Samaranayake in 1996. The University of Colombo conferred him with the Degree of Doctor of Science for his outstanding contribution to the University.
Although I was not closely associated with Prof. Samaranayake as a personal friend, I had close contacts with him officially during my days at the Daily News Editorial and also at the Sunday observer Editorial where I am serving at present.
I was very fortunate to conduct an interview with him for `Sunday Observer' on 'Information Technology' at a media briefing, conducted by the ComputerLand International Ltd at hotel Taj Samudra on May 8 around 5.00 pm.
During my short association with the Professor, I found that he was not interested in talking on politics. However, I would like to say that Prof. Samaranayake was reluctant to answer my final question on that day, as it was related to the field of politics in our country. He only said "My field is IT, ask a question with regard to that", and not politics.
May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
Ananda Kannangara, Sunday Observer Editorial
SAMARANAYAKE - VIDYA JYOTHI PROFESSOR V.K., Emeritus Professor of Computer Science, University of Colombo and Chairman, Information and Communiction Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), son of late Mr and Mrs V.W. Samaranayake, brother of Prof. V.A. Samaranayake (University of Missouri, Rolla, USA), husband of Sriya (Retired Deputy Commissioner, Inland Revenue), father of Samitha (Oracle Corporation, USA) and Nayana (Google Inc, USA), son-in-law of late Mr and Mrs Don Coranelis Abeyaratne of Kathaluwa, expired in Sweden. The remains will lie at 929/21, Jayanthi Mawatha, Ethul Kotte from 6.00 p.m. on Monday 11th June until 10.00 a.m. on Wednesday 13th June and thereafter at the Professor V.K. Samaranayake Auditorium of the University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) from 11.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. Cremation will take place at the General Cemetery, Kanatta at 5.00 p.m. No flowers by request. SO Jun 10 2007