Sri Lanka Celebrates 20 years of Internet Connectivity

abhaya-22014 was a landmark of occasions for the Internet; the World Wide Web hit the age of 25 with the Internet itself reaching its 45th birthday. This milestone year also saw Dr Abhaya Induruwa, of Canterbury Christ Church University, inducted into the ‘Internet Hall of Fame’ for his pioneering academic contributions and research into networking, but most of all the deployment of the Internet into Sri Lanka. Dr Induruwa’s contributions and success are renowned in Sri Lanka, so much so he is known as the ‘Father of the Internet in Sri Lanka’.

This year Dr Induruwa’s efforts and achievements, alongside other individuals, blossomed as Sri Lanka celebrated 20 years of the Internet. To mark such an astonishing achievement and revolution achieved towards a dedicated connection to the Internet, the Internet Society-Sri Lanka Chapter organised an event themed to take a walk back in time through the technical triumphs over the past two decades in honour of the pioneers; one our very own Dr Induruwa. He spoke at INET 2015 in Colombo reminiscing over ICT policies, the birth of LEARN (Lanka Experimental Academic and Research Network) which he proposed to the Sri Lankan government in 1989; as well as the struggles, moments of truth and history in technological advancement for what was then, very much, a country in turmoil with significant hardships generated from civil war.

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Policies were populated in 1984 by the Council for Information Technology (CINTEC) of which Dr Induruwa served as an inaugural Board Member, and data communications as well as the Internet were key requirements within the Department of Computer Science and Engineering founded by him at the University of Moratuwa in 1985. Donations were provided by CINTEC and grants to deploy LEARN to set up a country-wide network for research and academia. However he notes that the initial efforts for funding around 1989/90 were in vain. Further developments were made in 1990 with LEARNMail, the first IP-based email service, though be it through a dial-up connection, offering services to academic and research groups. These efforts and advancements led to further funding, which enabled the establishment of LEARN “the first IP Wide Area Network (WAN)” in Sri Lanka in 1994/5, connecting the University of Colombo, Open University of Sri Lanka and University of Moratuwa. LEARN served the important function as the test-bed for networking and data communication research and development during the formative years of Internet in Sri Lanka.  In 1995 Lanka Communication Services became the first public Internet Service Provider (ISP) within the country to permanently connect people to the Internet while LEARN serving the research and academic communities.

From the struggles to the achievements, Sri Lanka has now been permanently connected for the past two decades. Talks at the INET Colombo 2015 further discussed the move to the next generation of the Internet. However several issues were identified and discussions were presented over priorities, technological advances and key services which need to be implemented for the Sri Lankan citizens.

Further to Dr Induruwa’s induction to the Internet Hall of Fame, at the 20 year milestone celebration in June 2015, he was honoured to be awarded the Internet Pioneers Award.

Bibliography

Biyagamage, H. (2015) ‘Sri Lanka celebrates 20 years of internet’, 23 June. Available at: http://www.ft.lk/article/436213/Sri-Lanka-celebrates-20-years-of-internet (Accessed: 3 July 2015).

Singh, R. (2015) ‘INET Colombo – Celebrating 20 years of the Internet in Sri Lanka’, Internet Society Asia-Pacific Bureau, 11 June. Available at: http://www.internetsociety.org/blog/asia-pacific-bureau/2015/06/inet-colombo-celebrating-20-years-internet-sri-lanka (Accessed: 3 July 2015).

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