Mr. Channa De Silva is the General Manager / CEO of LankaClear. Mr. De Silva was educated at Royal College in Sri Lanka and at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was awarded Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He has also been awarded a Masters’ degree in Business Administration from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.
In the USA, Mr. De Silva met Dr. Prabath Samaratuga, who was about to start an Internet Company in Sri Lanka. Back in Sri Lanka in 1995, Mr. De Silva assisted in setting up the very first Internet Company, Lanka Internet, in Sri Lanka and also the very first commercial email server, sri.lanka.net. This Company developed the first commercial website in Sri Lanka, www.lanka.net which still remains. Lanka Internet set up the first online newspapers in Sri Lanka; the Daily News and the Sunday Observer. Lanka Internet also started the first online radio station, TNL Radio. Mr. De Silva has worked in the area of Open Source and also at Microsoft Sri Lanka and then moved to IBM.
Mr. De Silva thereafter joined LankaClear, owned by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and the CBSL licensed commercial banks in Sri Lanka. In 2002, LankaClear had commenced automating the cheque clearance process in Sri Lanka, originally carried out by CBSL. Other services which LankaClear commenced include the Sri Lanka Interbank Payment System (SLIPS), enabling same-day transfers. A real-time funds transfer switch has been enabled. Another milestone was achieved when LankaClear set up the Common ATM Switch, Lanka Pay, which includes all the banks and at present almost 98% of ATMs are linked through LankaClear. Mr. De Silva explains that the primary objective of LankaClear was to ensure financial inclusivity and take technology based payment mechanisms to rural areas in a secure manner and this is being achieved.
Video in Brief
Mr. De Silva is the General Manager / CEO of LankaClear. Mr. De Silva was educated at Royal College in Sri Lanka. Universities in Sri Lanka were closed in the late nineteen eighties due to unrest in the country. Therefore, Mr. De Silva’s University education was at the State University of Buffalo, New York. Mr. De Silva was awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.
While completing the degree Mr. De Silva was involved in a project which the university was carrying out for the US Postal Department where addresses in letters had to be scanned and converted into a bar code which required optical character recognition (OCR) techniques. (Years later he carried out research on OCR for Sinhala characters). Thereafter Mr. De Silva deviated towards communication. His final year project was on accessing Novell Netware from a KA9Q platform. And he also secured work in the University’s medical school on running their Novell network. This was his first experience in the field of communication.
While completing his Master’s Degree, Mr. Channa De Silva had an interesting encounter with Dr. Prabath Samaratuga, who was about to start an Internet Company in Sri Lanka. One of the first projects under this venture was building a website for the Company, which turned out to be the very first commercial website in Sri Lanka. This was in late 1994. The site at www.lanka.net still remains although the ownership may have changed.
Mr. De Silva returned to Sri Lanka in 1995 and assisted in setting up the very first Internet Company, Lanka Internet, in Sri Lanka and also the very first commercial email server, sri.lanka.net. The physical connection was provided by Sri Lanka Telecom but it was difficult then to get the last mile working. The launch was in April 1995. Internet access to Sri Lanka was demonstrated at the launch – by demonstrating Dr. Arthur Clarke’s website – through a dial up connection. In May 1995 the Company obtained a dedicated connection and sent their first email. Mr. De Silva notes that prior to this Universities had been using emails.
First online newspapers and online radio station
A milestone achieved by Lanka Internet was setting up the first online newspaper in Sri Lanka. The newspapers Daily News and the Sunday Observer of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon were made available online. Lanka Internet also started the first online radio station, TNL Radio.
Mr. De Silva reminisces that it was a humble beginning for Lanka Internet. A small team had to address many technical issues. They had no sophisticated equipment, and yet achieved another milestone by establishing the first WI-FI network in Sri Lanka using spread spectrum technology. They were also one of the pioneers involved in the VOIP revolution in Sri Lanka.
Open Source, Microsoft and IBM
Thereafter Mr. De Silva wanted to experiment with the Open Source movement. His idea was to build user friendly interfaces and therefore he started a Company which offered various Open Source based services. Next Mr. De Silva joined Microsoft Sri Lanka. He recalls that while he was at Microsoft, one of the interesting projects in which he was involved was the development of Sinhala user interfaces for Windows Vista and MS Office 2007, with the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA). This project was termed ‘LIP’ (Language Interface Pack) and required extensive translations of words and phrases from English to Sinhala. He then moved to IBM and was responsible for their software business.
Mr. De Silva says that thereafter he had this great opportunity of joining LankaClear, owned by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) and all the CBSL licensed commercial banks in Sri Lanka. LankaClear commenced in 2002, to automate the cheque clearance process in Sri Lanka, which was originally carried out by CBSL. Other services which LankaClear commenced include the Sri Lanka Interbank Payment System (SLIPS), enabling same-day transfers. A real-time funds transfer switch has been enabled so that a customer of a bank could transfer funds to a customer of another bank real time, where money is transferred from account to account in seconds and 24/7. Mr. De Silva illustrates that for example, a Bank of Ceylon customer could use his or her Internet portal even at midnight and transfer money to another account.
Another milestone was setting up the Common ATM Network. A single bank cannot cover the entire country with its ATMs. Therefore, CBSL wanted the State Banks to be initially connected to a common ATM switch, so that a customer of any one of those banks could withdraw cash or check balances from another banks’ ATM. Thus LankaClear set up the Common ATM Switch, Lanka Pay. This was later extended to include all the banks and at present almost 98% of ATMs are linked through LankaClear.
Mr. De Silva states the next step is to start a phone based payment revolution for which the backend is enabled. He also states that LankaClear is planning to develop a locally branded card, i.e. a Lanka Pay branded card for use in point of sale (POS) machines. LankaClear plans to partner with international card schemes so that people can use these overseas. This will bring down the costs for the banks and save foreign exchange.
Mr. Channa De Silva explains that the primary objective of LankaClear was to ensure financial inclusivity and take technology based payment mechanisms to rural areas in a secure manner and this is being achieved.