Abhaya Induruwa: Thank you very much. Good evening fel­low inductees, my fam­i­ly. Especially my grand­daugh­ter Kiara who’s with us. And also my friends here.

Imagine a word before the World Wide Web. Imagine a time before you had smart­phones. And imag­ine a life where you had to live at X.25. And this was the time I was dream­ing of a research aca­d­e­m­ic net­work for the Sri Lankan aca­d­e­m­ic community. 

It was in 1983, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, Professor Willie Mendis, asked me to set up a depart­ment to teach com­put­ing. And at that time, I came from elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing, so I’d been teach­ing Fortran but not com­put­ing or com­put­ing sci­ence. So I looked around and found that there were cours­es in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia at that time. So I came to Hong Kong in 1984. And I vis­it­ed the Hong Kong University, stud­ied their cur­ricu­lum. And that was the first time I got a taste of research and aca­d­e­m­ic networking.

It was fas­ci­nat­ing to see, even in 1984, that all the non-standard, dis­parate tech­nolo­gies that were some­how exchang­ing infor­ma­tion. And in 1989, I pro­posed to the Sri Lankan gov­ern­ment the set­ting up of what I called LEARN, Lanka Experimental Academic and Research Network. You can imag­ine being a devel­op­ing coun­try, funds are not easy to come by. So in 1990, with the very lim­it­ed resources I had, we launched LEARNmail, the first IP-based email for aca­d­e­mics and researchers in the country.

Initially, of course, we missed Sri Lanka in the list. But Andy was always help­ing us to con­nect through UCP. So we were send­ing mail by IDD, which was very expen­sive at the time, con­nect­ing three times a week. Now of course the vol­ume explod­ed, and with­in a few months we were con­nect­ing three times a day. And because it was expen­sive, we had to seek sup­port. And I must men­tion the sup­port we got from the Computer and Information Technology Council of Sri Lanka. At the time I was an inau­gur­al board mem­ber, so I was able to twist their arms, get some funds. The University Grants Commission of Sri Lanka. And also the LAcNet, a not-for-profit orga­ni­za­tion set up in the US to sup­port new ICT endeav­ors in Sri Lanka. 

In 1992, I refor­mu­lat­ed the pro­pos­al and sub­mit­ted to the gov­ern­ment again. But this time call­ing it LEARN Internet. Now, X.25 was gone, and I was hap­py. And that time I was lucky. The gov­ern­ment was hap­py to pro­vide three mil­lion Sri Lankan rupees, about thir­ty thou­sand, forty thou­sand US dol­lars at the time. And we were able to buy routers and three 64 kilo­bits per sec­ond wire­less links.

And again, I should men­tion here the devel­op­ing coun­try work­shops orga­nized and fund­ed by The Internet Society. That’s where I met great peo­ple like Randy, and George Sadowsky. And I came to know about Steve. And with peo­ple like Ben Segal help­ing us, we were able to set up the first IP WAN in Sri Lanka, con­nect­ing my uni­ver­si­ty University of Moratuwa to the University of Colombo, and Open University. And the rest as they say is history.

So I’m stand­ing here today, cer­tain­ly not because of only my effort. It was cel­e­brat­ing this col­lec­tive effort that we put in. So, I’m not going to men­tion names but at least I should men­tion the bil­lion stu­dents I had. Most of them are pro­fes­sion­als in their own right today. Professor Gihan Dias, Professor Lalith Gamage, Professor Nimal Attanayake. They were all help­ing me at the time set it up. And I’m very glad that the coun­try has ben­e­fit­ed. I’ve been able to make a sig­nif­i­cant impact on socioe­co­nom­ic devel­op­ment in that coun­try. And I’m very delight­ed to be here today. I’m deeply hon­ored to be part of this cel­e­bra­tion. Thank you Internet Society, and thank you very much.

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