Vidya Jyothi Professor V K Samaranayake
University of Colombo School of Computing
Vanniarachchige Kithsiri Samaranayake was born on the 22nd of May 1939 and had his early education in Hewavitharana Vidyalaya, Rajagiriya, where his father was the principal and his mother was a teacher. He entered Ananda College in 1948 and then Royal College through a competitive examination in 1950.
Prof. V.K.Samaranayake entered the University of Ceylon to read for a degree in Science in 1956 having completed his secondary education at Ananda and Royal Colleges. He was selected to do a Special degree in Mathematics and obtained a First Class Honours degree in 1961. Prof. Samaranayake entered the Imperial College, London in 1963 on a state scholarship for his postgraduate studies and then moved on to University College, London to complete his Ph.D. in record time before returning home in 1966. At the age of just 35, in recognition of his great scholarship, the University of Colombo appointed him to its highest Academic position of Professor of Mathematics in 1974. He was subsequently appointed Senior Professor of Mathematics in 1984, invited to be the first Senior Professor of the newly created Chair in Computer Science in 1996, and appointed Emeritus Professor of the University of Colombo after his retirement in 2004. In recognition of which the University honored him with the title Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, and conferred on him the Degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa at its subsequent Convocation.
As it is not possible to confine the appreciation of his enormous service to the nation and his illustrious career as an academic and an administrator to a few pages, some of the significant milestones of his illustrious career are outlined below.
- 1987 to 1999 he held the position of the Chairman of the Computer and Information Technology Council of Sri Lanka (CINTEC). During this period he was also tasked with chairing the Presidential Task Force on Integrated R & D in Science & Technology 1997 to 2000 and the National Y2K Task Force in Sri Lanka 1998- 2000.[/sayit]
- [sayit]1992 – He initiated the participation of Sri Lankan school children in Computer Programming, by committing CINTEC funds for sending teams of 4 to the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI).]
- In 1995 he was instrumental in setting up intensive discussions with Sri Lanka Telecom, to commence Internet services in Sri Lanka. These discussions eventually brought LEARN and Internet connectivity to Sri Lanka in 1996.
- He was instrumental in forming the IT for Computer Training Organizations (ACTOS), for the Software Industry (SLASI), and for the Computer Vendors (SLCVA). He also created the umbrella organization for these associations in the form of the Federation of IT Industry Associations (FITIA).
- In 1984 he was successful in building up Academic Faculty in Computer Science at the University of Colombo. Starting with the Statistical Unit, the Statistical Computing and Data Processing Centre within the Mathematics Department, Prof. Samaranayake first convinced the University to set up a Department of Statistics and Computer Science in 1985, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka and then went onto create the first School in the university system in the form of the University of
Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) in 2002.
- Commencing in the year 2000, Prof. Samaranayake initiated another major milestone in ICT HRD in Sri Lanka with the launch of the innovative Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) External Degree programme. Apart from the prestige of a University of Colombo degree to students, the BIT programme also has the indirect but most desirable effect of standardizing ICT education of an era where commercialism is threatening the quality of education.
- In recognition of his towering contribution in the field of ICT in the country, he has been bestowed with several national awards in the form of the Lions’ Club Gold Medal for the Most Outstanding Citizen of Sri Lanka in 1986, the Vishva Prasadini Award in 1996 on the occasion of the 80th birthday of the then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and the Vidya Jyothi Presidential Award in 1998.
- Prof. Samaranayake’s inspired the government which declared an Information Technology Week in December 2004. He also continued as Chairman of the International Information Technology Conference till his untimely demise.