25 July, 2024

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Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery, Fourth Industrial Revolution & Professor Siegfried Zuern

By Lionel Bopage

Dr. Lionel Bopage

I will start with citing a brief speech I made as an associate of FabLanka Foundation in welcoming Professor Dr Siegfried Zuern to FabLab and Sri Lanka today. As an associate of FabLanka Foundation, I Welcome Professor Dr Siegfried Zuern to FabLab and Sri Lanka.

Professor Zuern, Director of the International Centre and the Graduate School of Esslingen University, Germany in coordination with FabLanka Foundation in Makandura, particularly with Mr Chaminda Hettiarachchi, Director and Co-founder of FabLanka Foundation, has engaged and doing excellent work in creating awareness about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. During the last two weeks, Prof Zuern has been very busy with teaching many aspects of Industry 4.0, at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, and also having a session at the Faculty of Engineering, one of my almae maters.

If I may digress a bit here.

In many parts of the world, manufacturing industry has engaged with Industry 4.0 or is in the process of doing so. We know that it is mainly driven by using digital technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Machine-Learning, Artificial intelligence (AI), and big data analytics in manufacturing. Such technologies enable manufacturers to improve efficiency, automate processes, and even create new innovative products and services.

As you know I am also a political and human rights activist. I firmly believe that advances in science and technology, and improvements in productivity and competitiveness need to be holistically used mainly for the benefit of the world, and not for its destruction.

Historically, during the second phase of the Industrial revolution the world went through rapid scientific discovery, standardisation, mass production and industrialisation. Sri Lanka is still to benefit from such advancements. So far, only the apparel industry in Free Trade Zones appears to have benefitted from those advancements. Sri Lanka is still in its preliminary phase of reaching out to the fourth industrial revolution. However, it is unfortunate that many professionals do not appear to comprehend the significance of Industry 4.0.

Once at a public seminar, I raised this issue with a world-recognised economist. His response was that Sri Lanka must first pass through the second Industrial revolution. This, in my view, is a complete misunderstanding of technological, scientific and social advancement. From a political perspective, this is like the argument about the theory of “combined development” during the Russian Revolution, about rescuing Russia from the “backwardness” of a largely precapitalist economy paving the way for a post-capitalist economy, thus telescoping the two distinct stages of social development.

Even to build an export-oriented economy in Sri Lanka, we need to be competitive by adopting the best practices engendered by Industry 4.0. I welcome and congratulate Professor Zuern for the marvellous work he does in explaining the opportunities and challenges developing countries such as Sri Lanka encounter in adopting Industry 4.0, in managing it and how Germany can be of help in the process. This I know through my experiences gained during several online interactions with Prof Zuern at FabLanka and other forums held in relation to Industry 4.0.

Welcome, Prof Zuern!

Now I digress even further

Sri Lanka is still passing through the preliminary phase of reaching the fourth industrial revolution. Still, in Sri Lanka there are strong advances made by the IT industry, by the IT professionals and their diverse enterprises employing digital technologies. As pointe out in my welcome, Russia advanced from a preliminary capitalist economy to a powerful industrial country with nuclear power in several decades. It was able to move away from its pre-capitalist “backwardness” paving the way for an advanced post-capitalist economy, by telescoping two distinct stages of social development.

Sri Lanka is currently faced with serious economic as well as other crises. According to the government, it wants to build an export-oriented economy to come out of the economic crisis. The regime has been uttering this mantra since 1977, though one cannot see much benefits Sri Lanka gained out of the process. However, given Sri Lanka has IT professionals using advanced digital technologies, Sri Lanka is able to easily telescope the current development phase of Industry 2.0 with Industry 4.0. Sri Lanka mainly relies on fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil for its energy production. However, reaching out to Industry 4.0 will require utilising renewable energy even while in the process of transition. We must move away from thinking in silos to systems thinking.

Systems Thinking embraces Industry 5.0 and moves beyond efficiency and productivity. It focuses on industry and society, as a system that is sustainable in terms of the role and the contribution industry plays in society. However, the current policy in Sri Lanka, if there is one, appears to be focussed simply on an export-oriented economy that will enhance locally manufactured products that will comply with international standards. Industry 4.0 is not about simply integrating advanced technology. It requires a paradigm shift in our thinking, a thinking that will fundamentally alter the way we plan and execute industrial, agricultural and manufacturing processes.

The fourth industrial revolution in its essence is about integrating cutting-edge technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and big data analytics into manufacturing to improve efficiency and automate production processes. It is underpinned by four basic principles which cannot be detailed here. However, in brief, the principles are Real-time interconnectivity; Information transparency; Technical assistance and Decentralized decision-making.

We have to understand that Industry 4.0 is significantly different from the previous ones in terms of transformation. Industry 2.0 and 3.0 were mainly to do with standalone machines and improved centralized processes. In Industry 3.0, processes are automated using logic processors and information technology, often mostly operating without human interference. However, still there is a human aspect involved behind it. Industry 4.0 denoted the availability and use of vast quantities of data on the production floor.

Industry 4.0 is to do with interconnected systems, collaborations, flexibility and sustainability driven by a host of cutting-edge technologies including Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) and Augmented Reality (AR). Yet, there are many challenges that need to be overcome in adopting and implementing Industry 4.0. If not, the challenges will make the whole implementation process stall.

In Sri Lanka, one of the major challenges is the skills gap in the work force, particularly in an environment where most of the skilled people and professionals are leaving Sri Lankan looking for greener pastures while regimes appear to be encouraging such emigration simply for the survival of the ruling elite by earning foreign exchange so that their lifestyles based on corruption, wastage and mismanagement of the economy can be sustained.

Environment of Industry 4.0 requires a workforce equipped with new skills and capabilities. Upskilling the existing workforce via training, education and development in the use of new technologies can be a highly significant challenge to overcome. The workforce when upskilled should be well-equipped to handle big data analytics, interconnected systems, and automation, among other technologies. On the other hand, the country should provide an environment where they will be able to use their newly acquired skills and survive without leaving the country seeking better opportunities to survive from the calamities they face domestically.

Industry 4.0 is about rapidly evolving technology that requires advancements in a variety of disciplines to improve process efficiency across all industrial sectors, services, and products, including education. Sri Lanka commenced discussing this aspect several years back, but with the current poly-crises, these discussions have gone backstage. The transition needs to modify the existing traditional educational systems to incorporate innovations. The focus needs to be on transforming education’s future through advanced technology and automation. This requires equipping the future generation of students with science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) skills. Convergence of these disciplines is necessary to address the interdisciplinary problems that would be posed. As such, STEAM skills become significant in transforming education systems through new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning methods currently used in the system of education.

Industry 4.0 relies on data-driven decision-making. So, it is not only the quantity of data that is collected that will matter. It is imperative to use that data effectively throughout all aspects of manufacturing. It will provide the foundation of informed decision-making through subjecting the data to analysis guiding the decision- making process to form actionable insights. It will lead to accuracy and precision as those insights will minimize the guesswork. We live in an environment where all phases of life rapidly changes including trends, demands and market dynamics. That is where Industry 4.0 will provide a competitive edge via the collection, analysis and utilisation of real-time data.

Another challenge is data security. Collection and exchange of vast amounts of data poses an increased risk of data breaches due to espionage and hacking. This will lead to cybersecurity issues and increased vulnerabilities. Therefore, protection of data and critical operations from potential cybersecurity risks will become a non-negotiable aspect of adopting Industry 4.0. Even in industrially advanced countries this has become a real risk.

Most of the organisations in Sri Lanka in manufacturing and other industries still rely on technologies and systems that may not be compatible with Industry 4.0 technologies. Finding the right balance between the need for innovation and leveraging existing technologies may pose a complex challenge. A seamless integration of the existing and the new will become critical in this regard.

Initial investment in Industry 4.0 can be costly, though it may bring considerable benefits in terms of productivity, efficiency, competitiveness, and overall quality returns. Hence, careful cost-benefit analysis of such transformations will be essential.

Thus, on a broader level, several factors need to be taken into consideration when implementing Industry 4.0. Furthermore, effectively managing the transition to Industry 4.0 requires understanding the dynamic relationship between the many factors discussed above to gain the much-needed in-depth knowledge.

Sri Lanka does not need to be simply a spectator stagnating in the current Industry 2.0 environment, rather it can be an active participant and a performer in the fourth industrial revolution with a vision, expertise, and determination to overcoming the current poly-crises the country is faced with

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Latest comments

  • 3
    3

    Lionel Bopage’s forward thinking is good. The essay is talking about how to “ensure not missing the tomorrow”. But where does this essay fit into anywhere in Lankans’ today’s life? Aren’t we losing the “Today’s life” at this very moment?
    Langkang politics is built on disinformation. I wrote here many times about the central bank’s misinformation from earlier governor Cabal to the current one. When the Central Bank’s robbery was leaked during the Tamil Governor’s in Yahapalanaya time, it was discovered in the previous regime’s time a 1000 times bigger fraud had occurred. if not any financial improvement, still it helped having appointed a Tamil governor, so somebody took the responsibility to whistle blow and at the end these all came out to light. But now once again the government and governor are jointly acting in hiding the true financial information or spreading misinformation. The people are paying for a goods & services 200% price increase from 2019, but CB campaign they are keeping the inflation in negative territory compared to earlier years. The Bank is unwilling to function as an independent organization but wants to be the right hand to the kleptocracy UNP-SLFP union Aanduwas.)

    • 1
      3

      What a bunch of Bunk from Bunk Bopage about AI.

      Better to keep you phone numbers written down in a book, because once the Submarine Data Cables (UDC) are cut and the internet and US stock Markets crash like the US dollar also given US 34 trillion Debt, and the internet is down we will be back to the days before all this Big Data and Fake Debt narratives.
      Then we will know who is really rich, producing real wealth with real resources and who has piles of useless USD paper money! The day is not far off with the AI hubris will be called out.

      • 0
        0

        Yep!…..AI: America’s next economical survival plot.

  • 3
    4

    A commission was set up to investigate central bank theft of April 2015 and later for the 1000 time larger, Chitanta time thefts, (, but no correction took place, but was decided not to have any Tamils any more in CB so the whistle blowing will not take place. That is condition of racism in Langkang). The interesting part is that big financial fraud happening became possible coming out to the public only by employing a Tamil Governor. Then some whistleblowers prepared to reveal the secret and let the people know of it. If Yahapalanaya had employed a Sinhala Buddhist governor, like now, in its time, the Central Bank’s thefts of Yahapalanaya times or its predecessor’s 1000 times larger frauds would have had a chance to come out. The Central Bank is still the chief warehouse of misinformation campaign headquarters for the contemporary, UNP-SLFP unions’ political campaign. The Central Bank has not released any correct information about the country’s financial conditions or the status of its bankruptcy. Central Bank is the primary PR firm to create and float the most bogus political campaign of “Wonder of Asia, Rice from Moon” like utter immoral-stupid political talks. For the past few decades any information that came out of the Central Bank was cooked up for the needs of the incumbent political party (just like the Lake House News media).

    • 1
      1

      D
      The personal insult was uncalled for.

    • 0
      1

      Oh!
      Tamil whistleblowers too?
      Has anyone heard of them?

  • 4
    3

    Recently Lelavinodam denied that Langkang is in bankruptcy, because he did not declare that the country is in bankruptcy. What childish talk of the governor of a central bank! If a country defaulted on its first payment obligation, then it is deemed bankrupt. It is such a stupid thing to tell the Langkang Modayas that the foreign country traders and governments willingly sit in the dark without knowing until Langkang tell them that it is bankrupt. In fact, Moody’s and Fitch Rating long ago has placed Langkang in bankruptcy level. True, America stopped the Hamilton Reserve suing Lanka for the defaulted payment, in order to help Langkang from facing an avalanche of default payment law suits and class actions. America thought by now Lalavinotham would have arranged a loan restructuring so Langkang might have escaped into safe territory financially. But he could not have a loan restructuring plan forged and let the public know for the last two years. He is kept as the central bank governor of a bankrupt country only to satisfy the conditions imposed on Langkang by the IMF and keep lying to the public on behalf of the Evil Administration. He was never known for eminent breakthrough administration but being a slave for bosses. He basically quit his earlier job and went to Australia.

  • 3
    3

    The President prorogued parliament only for one purpose, to deliver a throne speech when re-convening it. (Evil is such a cheap-chaff publicity seeker while 50% of the masses fear for their food security. M.A Sumanthiran PC has posted his speech in parliament in CT, on this game of the President. It is uncommon in a republic to make a dominion style throne speech.) Then Evil wasted talented officials’ time in preparing the needed self-aggrandizing fake speech. The figures presented in that speech were cooked up in the president’s own ministry, to trick the people with his misinformation. Is there anybody who will be punished to take responsibility for such a shameless deed of playing with the 22 million stomachs? No! Because the president is in that, like the 2015 Central Bank Robberies. Media is not talking about these, but only singing the same tune of the Aanduwa, fearing the Evil administration’s harsh punishments with newly introduced laws. Can Lionel Bopage tell us when the Central Bank is running the financial misinformation camp for the UNP-SLFP union, from where is information needed to Industry 4.0 going to come?

  • 3
    3

    For decades, starting from Siri Ma O’s, the 1970s government, they have been digging oil in Mannar beach’s sand. When it was confirmed, there was no pumpable oil in the attainable depths, Siri Ma O had motor mechanic to bring waste oil and pour it over there for photo opportunity as evidence for having extracted crude petroleum. When there is some budgeting of financial problem, UNP-SLFP union governments have had a habit of discovering oils and gas in Mannar. During Chitanta government time, Champika and Ganapathipillai made lot of contribution on this social service. They all are utter rascals in coming up with innovative ideas of how to fool the Modayas. Didn’t they send SuperSat wrapped in Chinese flag to moon? But the 100 Oil Tanks were rusting for more than 100 years in China Bay without these kleptocracy governments coming out with a plan to use them. Now the government has given big land for China to Build a massive Oil Refinery for Chinese export need. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59RwnbhU1U4.

  • 3
    3

    Evil President and Central Bank Governor, supported by the IMF, have not released any useful information on the country’s bankruptcy that could be used by voters in the coming election. The opposition, mainly SJB, is fearing there are internal, secret coups taking place to dodge the presidential election and take over the government. The atmosphere suggests that major outside players who long had interest in the governments installed in Langkang will just watch this time without any action if the current government captures the power without election, with one of their usual un-constitutional coups. To induce this silence, the governments which have allowed projects only for China until now, have bribed the Indian and even American governments with bogus, white elephant projects. None of these are going to bring any change in the frozen coldness of the bankruptcy situation or any additional food on the plates on the dining tables. The government hopes to duct tape the mouths of countries that call them “the champions of democracy and free world” with these petty projects so it can continue skimming the cream for its acolytes. SJB members are being scared by the threat of the government that “join us now or lose for life time” in order to break the SJB opposition.

  • 3
    3

    What is Lionel Bopage proposing here? A “Miracle of Asia or Richest nation in the world by 2048? What currently urgent is finding a way to send the government home and have the country released from the steel handhold of the Evil administration. The man has relentlessly choked the UNP for 25 years and has killed it. Now has his hand on the country. The current Central Bank governor and the president have successfully demonstrated that they are not the candidate to bring any solution to loan repayment and to end the country’s bankruptcy. Any rosiness created so far in the last two years are from the Indian loan($4.5B) which the Evil said was unwanted, some IMF and World Bank loans and rest are squeezed out of the masses who are already dried out by the belt tightening from the 2019 Covid Pandemic.

  • 3
    3

    So, all opposition has to come into one unit to force the government to conduct an election before it launches its constitutional coup. The Labor unions, if they want to protect their future employments, if they want the government to stop forcing their members to abandon their jobs and leave to foreign countries, have to come under opposition and demand the government to leave. International NGOs have to help the local NGOs bring the truth out of the country, surpassing the information choke hold the government is using to hide their loot and the true economic situation of the country. It is not time to propagate for an innovative industrial revolution. It is long past to have a real political revolution to disengage the UNP-SLFP Sinhala Buddhist Viyathmahas racists’ choke hold on the country.
    (I think some commentators have already advised Lionel to drop out the “Dr. “and write in his adorable earlier style. Pompous topics are for past retired Central Bank Governors for leisurely time spending, not for a past JVPyer.)

  • 6
    3

    The venture capital to finance any fourth industrial revolution will have to come from outside, and that is a hard sell.The Commie government of JVP or NPP or whatever is coming will not have the capital build datacenter and other vital IT infrastructure.

  • 0
    3

    Dr. Bopage’s thinking seems to be quite contemporary but his acquaintances are not as half as impressive as he is…

  • 0
    0

    What are the first (1.0), second (2.0) and third (3.0) industrial revolutions?

    Soma

    • 0
      0

      Where does the money come from for the 4.0 ?

      Soma

      • 0
        0

        Where does the “0” (zero) come from?

        Soma

    • 1
      0

      //So far, only the apparel industry in Free Trade Zones appears to have benefitted from those advancements.//
      .
      You IMPORT, machines, fabric, string, buttons, zips etc.etc. and peddle in sweatshops for EXPORT and call it ‘industrial advancement’? What knowledge base have we acquired? This is different from producing machines and raw material as in China or India or producing mother machines that produce machines as in Japan and Germany.

      Soma

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