C. Clarke Center for Modern Technologies:
of Sri Lanka for Twenty-First Century
Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies
was named after Sir Arthur C. Clarke in honour
of his work who is also a resident in Sri Lanka.
He is the patron of the ACCIMT. (Sir Clarke is
with his Pepsi.)
Interview & Photographs
by Bircan ÜNVER
C. Clarke Institute
for Modern Technologies' vision for 2010:
be recognised in the South Asian region as a unique center
of excellence in modern technologies*, inspired by Sir
my visit to Sri Lanka, I had the opportunity of
visiting Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies
(ACCIMT) in Katubedda, Moratuwa on December 30,
2002, and had the great opportunity of meeting with the Director of the ACCIMT. Dr. S. Namasivayam, and the engineer Shanthi de Fonseka. The
ACCIMT is situated about an hour and a half a drive
from Colombo just opposite the University of Moratuwa.
It has two buildings, two big dish antennas,
a library, several laboratories, and a
conference hall with a seating capacity for
about a 100, along with the largest
telescope in Sri Lanka.
was very curious about the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies. When I looked at it's web site previously I was not clear as to
its purposes. "How does it serve?" "Who does it serve or does it provide an education or
some courses in its line?"
"What is Sir Arthur C. Clarke's connection
with this center. I had no idea until I arrived
talking with the
Dr. Namasiyavam and the engineer Mr. Fonseka,
and seeing some units of the Institute, clarified
its place in Sri Lankan society. Thus, I would
like to share this conservation and observations
with you. Thank you so much to Dr. Namasiyavam
and the engineer Mr. Fonseka for extending their
great attention and time to me.
director of the ACCIMT's Dr. S. Namasivayam
during the interview at his office.
Namasivayam: Information technology more commonly known as IT, today is based on transfer of information, from either within
an organization or outside using
computers or via Internet. Today, this information even does management. People make decisions based on information. So information
technology has become the basic tool for
making decisions and to make good business. Communication
technology for example, is the process in which the information
is transmitted and as such the telephone facility, facsimile methodology of exchanging or transmitting
is communication technology. And both these
use electronics to
a great extent. If you open up the computer, inside you will find a quite a
lot of chips or ICs . And that is the
If you open this camera (pointing to my manual photo-camera),
you will probably find chips inside. So electronics give
to all these fields. The three fields: Electronics, Communication,
and Information Technology. These are today's top fields
where there is major developments going on. And these developments
are so rapid today that every 18 months the capacity of these
fields becomes doubled. The growth of development is
- How do you define "Information Technology?"
I would like to open up that connection of these 3 fields
with Space a bit.
Dr. Namasivayam: The
idea is, since these
are the 3 key modern
technologies. How can Sri Lanka benefit by investing
in these three areas. The idea is to carryout
research and development, initiate, promote and
distribute these technologies for the development of Sri
Lanka's industrial sector and also for the development
of the community.
you asked, how can we improve the industrial sector for
example? What will they need? What are the requirements
for the industrial sector?
require their products to be of
high quality and to maintain
its standard always. People don't like variation. The country which uses its natural
resources and converts it to some other products (for
example if you take coconut it is the natural resource
and if you can make coconut milk or powder out of that)
if we can help in this process then you are sure of a quality product.
You add value to the product.
- How could you
directly or indirectly help in
implementing this process? How
does your involvement process
most basic step of the process would be to assure the
industry on the quality or standard of their machinery
and equipment. If you own some machinery or equipment,
how can you be assured on the quality or the standard
of the equipment. For this matter the ACCIMT is in a position
and is well equipped to assure on the qulatiy of the equipment
and also to assist in terms of preparing the equipment,
maintenance and calibration of same.
you have standard rates
for providing these industrial services?
Namasivayam: Yes. We have a specialized unit with a dedicated staff and the required
equipment to certify the standards
of industry requirement. Let's say the
Industry has an equipment, the accuracy / standard of which has to be certified.
In such a case we can assist them in certification
of the standard of the equipment. If we take the information
technology sector, there will be various needs the client
requires the IT to be adopted viz.; payroll systems, management
information systems etc.
One of our main focuses
in this area is office automation, which helps
the industry in creating and
office environment with minimum paper work or a completely digital office.
For this purpose you could be connected to
all units of your Industry,
Through this network you will have access to almost
anything like, salaries of employees,
personal data of employees etc..
The entire office
can use this information
system and thereby reduce the paper work involved
such as filling of forms etc., to a great
extent. Somewhat similar to a database.
you prepared against the possible computer crashes or viruses?
is an ongoing process. You have to expect such
situations and be prepared
for it. . There will be viruses when downloading, coming from emails
etc. All you got to do is to have a proper system installed in order to minimize the crashes or
which can check, detect and
destroy such viruses it is
like a building doctor. It is a part of
the system that is information technology.
is the communication technology area. At this institute our next focus will be application of communication technology in video conferencing
set up. We conduct
lot of training courses
here for the continuation
of professional development. This means bringing the Trainer (Lecturer)
and the Trainee (course participant)
in to one particular location. Large
amount of work is involved in co-ordinating
such work . Sometimes, it is not possible to get
everybody under one roof. With
the introduction of
this new communication
a video conferencing / teleconferencing can be arranged where the speaker is not available physically
but still you are able to speak to the audience. He
can be somewhere working in his environment and through the video conferencing / teleconferencing you can make arrangements to have the
training. Which actually is
a cost cutting method
of modern technology. In fact video conferencing is not new but we have to focus
much on these as a tool to improve somethings here.
How do you define the technologies you develop which functions
and adds some value into the industrial field as well as
daily life? Would you give some examples related with it?
Dr. Namasivayam: I can give
you perhaps two examples. One is if you take the case of a
apparel industry. They work
i.e. each one does
his part of the job and passes it on to the next. And it is no easy task to evaluate their efficiency
the work force some times ranges from 500 - 5000. But we have made this task
very much simple by developing a technology
where the employer is able
to evaluate the
efficiency of every single
worker. Through this newly developed
technology the information is stored in a computer,
each time the product
is taken in and sent out by the
worker. This system records
all such minute information.
This stored information once
retrieved will show the
efficiency of each individual involved
in the manufacturing of the product.
Another example is, what is known as the "smart
card." A card with a barcode at the back, where
employees record their attendance
and their movements. We have another one, using radio frequency. Its called RF ID
card which has a
micro chip embedded inside. You can use it for
many a things.
Arrival and departure times of workers in to offices or factories. Storing
your personal information, such as blood group, health information
etc is another feature
of this system. You
can use it as a doctor. The
small chip embedded inside the card has memory which
can store what ever the information you need to be fed in. You
can even expand the memory
of this chip. You can even use this so called Smart Card for your transport needs, banking purposes etc., and even for your personal requirements. If I want to make a photocopy of
a regular ID card, still it is usable for its barcode.
But you cannot duplicate the RF anyway. It's a better
system, where a high technology system is used. Talk about telemedicine this card will help you consult and see the
doctor. Basically I have to go from point A to
point B, and the doctor comes there and we talk. But you
can take this card, send it there, and he has a reader
that will read your health.
When RF card is
used for health purpose, does it get updated automatically?
- Dr. Namasivayam: Yes, it gets updated automatically. So you have to find a way to feed your current information in to this and you can send it. I'm looking for other possibilities,
it could provide. As it could store
- Beside industrial and health, what are the other areas
which are already being used or can be used with this card?
is extensively used banking and the health sectors. For
security reasons if you are the only person who needs to enter into
a certain place, this card can be used. This card can be
used only to one particular entrance but not
to another. Very unique. This is a special feature.
we come to electronics and what we are doing here. There
are many things but I am only focusing on what we are
doing here. We have what we call “smart sensors”
which can measure temperature pressure, and transmit it by radio. And send the information gathered
about weather to be received at a particular
Where will this transmission of information be useful
There are industrial processors where you cannot be at
its site due to either too
high or low temperatures
or some existence of
a gas such as ammonia
which blocks our breathing
process. So all what you got to do is to install this smart sensor and move away from the location. The card will work out your requirements. Such as measuring
of the temperature this is called remote
Who is going to be the end-user?
Namasivayam: Let's say that I am manufacturing a
product out of metal. And this metal has to be heated by a 1000 F degrees. Obviously it is not possible to stay close to metal
and to check on the temperature due to it is heating process. By putting the sensor there you can find out the exact temperature. The sensor will do the needful. Measuring the
Climatic conditions is a perfect example. By
using this sensor, daily you can monitor the
temperature variations. How
the weather condition rises
and comes down, how it changes
everyday. This sensor
will even help you to transmit
this information gathered to
present we are engaged in this new technology. But we will venture
on some other things
soon. It's called the incubator project. Hospitals
use this apparatus to keep
premature babies. We hope to develop this further
with full conditioning; temperature,
pressure, air flow
- What will be different in yours than what already exists?
Namasivayam: We are going to improve what already exists today. In
Sri Lanka we do not have sufficient incubators and it
is costly. Bulk purchasing cannot be done due to
its high cost.
Bulk importing is not possible for a country like ours. What we
intend to do here is to manufacture
this locally with improvements
which will indicate danger
level, of a
required information of the baby can be measured
and sent, so
that the hospital staff are in a position to monitor the condition of the
baby. That will be our next step in this area.
We are exploring ways
and means of improving
on this further.
Do you conduct
any classes or training programmes here?
societies and school societies contact us for visits and
programmes. Even our staff go on field visits and educate the school children by using the mini telescope available at
the ACCIMT. Field visits are mainly done to villages where they are given some overview
in the astronomy field. We also have
the largest telescope installed here.
It is not movable and is
not always possible for everyone to come and observe through this.
Hence we use the mini telescopes which
is moveable on our field visits
to remote schools. These
classes / programems are done free of charge as a service to the most remote village
We also have undergraduates who
specialize in coastal erosion.
They work with our staff of the Space Applications
division and analyze data through
satellites. So you can see, we have students,
university students, astronomy students; working in that group.
How do they get this opportunity or how can they get this
opportunity to work with the ACCIMT? Is it by appointment.?
And how long does these projects last?
important contributory factor to this. Certainly they
can come by appointment but
everything depends on the climatic
condition of that particular day.
Observation sessions can never be held as a planned programme due to
the unpredictable weather conditions
Although times slots are given depending on the weather conditions only the
programme could be conducted.
We must be a little flexible.
But the portable telescopes are a different story. We have 2 or
Who produced the biggest telescope?
Dr. Namasivayam: The telescope was a gift from the Japanese government. It is a unique one and is the largest in Sri Lanka.
It is now sitting at
the top of our building right now.
You said that you were going to link all of these technologies
Dr. Namasivayam: The satellite, today, has become the need by which you can transmit
connectivity between two different places. Two opposite
sides of the earth can be connected through satellite.
Connectivity gives you communication. That means you can
communicate through satellite, you can exchange or obtain information management systems through the same means
and you are using electronics to achieve that. If you
take computers, they are made with electronics or if you
take any telephone exchange, it is with electronics. Even
the satellite itself is with electronics. The electronic
idea is that you can create programmability in a small
space, you can store information and you can change that
information. That is called programmability. The information
that we receive from the satellite about the earth is
also information. We can use that to analyze. I may be
interested in fishing, you may be interested in putting
up buildings, and somebody else may be interested in forestry:
How are the forests growing or reducing? The information
from the earth or the geological information can be taken
out and transmitted. By using different types of filters
and software you can use what you need and look for what
Who initially founded the ACCIMT?
This institution is not funded by Sir Arthur C. Clarke
but is fully funded by the government. The government
need to establish this institution in order that this institution will introduce
modern technologies to the country. The ACCIMT
was named after Sir Arthur C Clarke in honour of his work who is also a resident in Sri Lanka. He is the patron of this institution. He has contributed immensely
towards the establishment of this Institution and also towards the sustenance of same
by way of contributing generously
with large sums of money, and even encouraging sponsors to
fund certain areas of the ACCIMT.
Do you have a satellite?
Namasivayam: We are at present
with the Indian authorities
for information about this area. We can also get
information from them. We do not have satellites. India is the
closest one available to us.
If you do not have a satellite yet, then who owns the Clarke
Dr. Namasivayam: It
is not owned by Sri Lanka. The Clarke Orbit is called the
Geo-Station Orbit. It is the other countries which have
in to space.
Sri Lanka has no satellites in space, not yet.
Laboratory at the ACCIMT
How many employees do you have at the Arthur C. Clarke
Institute for Modern Technologies today?
- Dr. Namasivayam: 60, but
we should have roughly about 120 people. So we are running
at the 50% capacity.
Why do you need 120 people?
Dr. Namasivayam: We
need to fill the balance 50% since
there are several divisions here and
most of the
positions of heads of divisions have not been filled. At
present there are 5 active divisions; Electronics, Space
Application Technology, Communication Technology, and
Information technology. Today, the world communicates
electronic apparatus and through communication
technology. We are all exchanging information. So this institution was
set up with that purpose to
the introduction of
Modern Technologies so that these four areas
can help to bring development to this country and to the
community by way of upgrading the quality of life.
you talk about satellites, we
think it is cheaper to have a satellite in space rather then connecting
underneath the cable in China. If you are talking about
new development in Sri Lanka you will need a satellite
in terms of raising the quality of industrial product
or raising the quality of life. Then you have to know
what is the quality of life elsewhere. And you must have
some targets and try to reach a certain degree performance
levels. That's what we are trying to do with this project.
So this Institute was set up with that purpose. And the
idea was to promote, to initiate, to do research and development
in these areas. And you got something which will be useful
for the country, the development of the country and the
development of the towns, rural areas, the villages and
Who will be funding this project?
How do you operate this?
We will select two villages,
which do not even have basic electricity, what we are planning and what we hope to do with this project is to provide
electricity using solar cell, have a communication set
up so that they can communicate using satellites. And
see how that community will grow. So you are starting
basically with nothing but
people in a group and see the
that take place when given them the electricity, what happens when you give them the communications
and what and how will they develop.
Namasivayam: Japan will be our funding country for this project. And
the funding source is JICA
International Corporation Agency). They will visit here and select
two villages which
will need their support primarily.
Then they will bring in foreign assistance groups to both
monitor and evaluate the progress taking take place, and
then they will bring in equipment like solar cells.
What is a solar cell?
Dr. Namasivayam: It
is something that can convert the energy from the sun
into electricity. The efficiency of conversion is not
very high but it still does that. Today, you are going
to have cars which operate on solar cells . Using this
method will certainly create an unpolluted environment.
It is not becoming very popular and have already manufactured
some. The skin or the roof of the car is made with solar
cells which will convert suns energy.
You dont need to be in the tropics for solar cell.
Most of the people who are using solar cell energy are
in Europe. They are building houses with solar cell roofs
to provide heat inside.
antennas are between two building of the ACCIMT.
Engineer Shanthi de Fonseica is with the largest
telescope of Sri Lanka at the ACCIMT.
The engineer Shanthi de Fonseka
has joined us, and he continues on the Arthur C.
Clarke Center for Modern Technologies contributions to
Sri Lanka, and also its continuing education as well as
- Fonseka: It's a common problem.
You have to give them a lot of options. Here the education
system is done in such a way that your ultimate goal is
to enter a university. So it is very competitive. Only about
2% of the total who sit through the examination get inside.
Less than 2% even. So the question is what do you do? There
are other levels like national diplomas. Automatically the
98% will find other ways to survive. They will go to other
diplomas. We are giving training courses for such personnel.
- When I asked some youth
if they went to school, they said until
the 10th grade.
What does 10th grades imply for you? Some also
said education qualifications are too high in this country
so they can't continue after high school. Would you give
a general information related to these?
Can we open up this training issue a little bit more?
Now what we mean by practical
electronic course is, we take in people at school level,
not necessarily they
should have gone through G.C E (O/L) successfully.
Anybody can enter. There are people around 50 years old.
How long is one training?
- Fonseka: This training is conducted on
full-time basis during weekends.
i.e. Saturdays and Sundays and continues
for about 5 - 6 months.
we have scheduled our training for the whole year including
the courses for next year as well. And we are in the process of exploring the needs of institutions
we could enlighten them
of the types of courses we conduct here and also
design customize courses using
our expertise to suit their needs. For instance, television institution or telecommunication
will require telecom related topics not power related
or not other topics. Power related topics will create
interest with electricity board and other consumers or
electronic manufacturers. We circulate our
course syllabus to these places. This is something we
have already commenced.
Supposing we are conducting a course on telecommunication
the course details are sent to telecom related organizations. That is Sri Lanka telecom, etc.
but power related is something like UPS (Uninterrupted
Power Supply.) We send more details to the industry and
end users of ups. UPS is a source of clean power. This part of the world
you need UPS because power is not clean. It is a box and
it has batteries inside. It can become very large
but basically it has got one connector to the plug
so that when the power is on it is coming through. When
the power is off, the batteries inside provide a power.
And it has to deliver very clean power.
Are there any other projects in the program
for the future which are important for the development
of the people?
We are not going to be
the only ones doing this but we are going to support education
system through the Internet to every village. That means
through every village they will be able to access the
page and want
the education system to be propagated. It doesn't matter
how far you are from Colombo or any major city, you will
have access to the education.
Is this going to be in Sinhalese?
The idea is that it will
be in all languages with more emphasis in English. I think
we have to build world cities. If you are going to use
Internet a lot you have to do it in English.
What do you consider your contribution to this country through
this institution? Also, what are your future plans?
First of all I
should say, I joined this institution in September 2001
so it's only more than one year here. I have been involved
with various courses as a resource person since September
1993 to 1994.
According to what I see, number one is satisfying
the technological advancements of
the industry. That is imparting the newest know-how
on technologies to the engineers and technicians in the
industry. And conducting part-time courses for school leavers that is to repairing of television, VCR
etc. And hardware courses for school leavers and engineers
in the industry. That is as far as the transfer of technology
has got us in the teaching part is concerned. Then in
addition, we have got involved with technological developments,
requirements from the industry. That is when the industry
needs something to be developed, we have assisted them by using newer technologies or newer techniques to achieve
last, but not the least, you saw telescopes. Telescopes
and astronomical knowledge was transferred to schools
and school children especially in difficult areas where
the children have no access to literature and such.
with our new Director we are trying to be more dynamic
in a sense oriented to work on industry demand. The industry
demand means, we look at what the industry wants and assists
them to produce them using new technologies. Let's suppose
they want a power car with special features, we try to
manufacture and give it to the industry.
In Sri Lanka there are many effective "baby
incubators", most of them with defective electronics.
What we are trying to do is develop the electronics
which will fit in and give it to the industry to manufacture
we will cater to demand oriented needs.
What is your overall expectations Dr.
- I think that
you have to always look at expectations in a very positive
ways. Otherwise you have no success. So we always tend to
look that tomorrow will bring a better day, and we have
to make sure that tomorrow comes, and that we are planning
to make it a better day.
term Modern Technologies is defined in the ACT to include
electronics, communications and related sciences, information
technology, microelectronics, space technology, photonics,
robotics and new materials.
- - - -
Based on the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Modern Technologies
main divisions are:
Institute’s objectives for the future are reflected
in its Vision and Mission statements. The Vision represents
ACCIMT’s long term ambitions. It provides guidance
and focus for consistency in the organization’s
actions over time.
be recognized in the South Asian region as a unique center
of excellence in modern technologies,* inspired by Sir
Arthur Clarke. (*The term Modern Technologies is defined
in the Act to include electronics, communications and
related sciences, information technology, microelectronics,
space technology, photonics, robotics and new materials.)
Mission statement reflects the aspirations of the Institute
over the period 2001 to 2006, identifying the specific
areas of focus in both local and international operations.
ACCIMT will contribute to national capability
development in modern technologies through, locally, becoming
the most respected Institute for assisting technology
transfer in the related technologies by:
* establishing Industry
* conducting research and
* developing technology
know-how of targeted sectors
* implementing Continuing
Professional Development (CPD) activities.
* Supporting the formulation
and implementation of the industrial policy and assisting
the implementation of the educational reforms by the Government
enhancing the infrastructure and image of the Institute,
with external support and self –generated funds.
becoming a regional center of excellence in specialized
areas and contributing to subject development, world-wide.
A Brief History:
Arthur C. Clarke Institute
for Modern Technologies (ACCIMT) was established
in 1984 by an Act of Parliament to accelerate
the process of introduction and development of
modern technologies in the fields of Communications, Computers,
Energy, Space Technologies and Robotics, through the provision
of training and research facilities. Basic infrastructure
was established in 1986 and the technical activities commenced
early 1987. Today the center is actively involved in the
areas of communications, computers and applications of
microelectronics where a team of electronic engineers
and other related professionals are working towards self
reliance in the areas related to modern technologies.
- . -
The Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies
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