Cash-strapped Sri Lanka announced a two-week halt to all fuel sales except for essential services starting Monday and called for a partial shutdown as its unprecedented economic crisis deepened.
The South Asian nation is facing its worst economic meltdown since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, and has been unable to finance even the imports of essentials since late last year.
As fuel reserves hit rock bottom with supplies barely enough for just one more day, government spokesman Bandula Gunawardana said the sales ban was to save petrol and diesel for emergencies.
He urged the private sector to let employees work from home as public transport ground to a halt.
“From midnight today, no fuel will be sold except for essential services like the health sector, because we want to conserve the little reserves we have,” Gunawardana said in a pre-recorded statement.
He apologised to consumers for the shortages: “We regret the inconvenience caused to the people.”
The sudden fuel ban came as the loss-making state-run electricity monopoly asked for a massive price increase for its poorest customers.
The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) lost 65 billion rupees ($185 million) in the first quarter and sought a nearly tenfold price hike for the heavily-subsided smallest power consumers, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL) said.
Currently, anyone using less than 30 kilowatts a month pays a flat 54.27 rupees ($0.15), which the CEB sought to raise to 507.65 rupees ($1.44).
“A majority of the domestic consumers will not be able to afford this type of steep increase,” PUCSL chairman Janaka Ratnayake told reporters in Colombo.
“Hence we proposed a direct subsidy from the Treasury to keep the increase to less than half of what they have asked.”
As part of measures to ease the forex crisis that led to the energy crunch, the CEB will be allowed to charge users who earn foreign currency, such as exporters, in dollars.
The move is aimed at helping the electricity utility collect dollars to finance imports of oil and spare parts it desperately needs, but is unable to secure because of the country’s forex crisis.
The country is also facing record high inflation and lengthy power blackouts, all of which have contributed to months of protests — sometimes violent — calling on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down.
Last week, all government schools were shut down and state institutions operated with skeleton staff to reduce commuting and preserve oil.
The state sector shutdown was meant to end this week, but it is now being extended till July 10, when Gunawardana promised to restore fuel supplies.
– Broken promise –
On Sunday, the government promised it will implement a token system to ration distribution of limited fuel stocks, but it failed to take off.
There have been long queues outside the few pumping stations which still had supplies.
Sri Lanka is seeking cheap oil from Russia and Qatar.
Earlier this month, the United Nations launched an emergency response to the island’s unprecedented economic crisis, feeding thousands of pregnant women who were facing food shortages.
Four out of five people in Sri Lanka have started skipping meals as they cannot afford to eat, the UN has said, warning of a looming “dire humanitarian crisis” with millions in need of aid.
Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April, and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.
mesh conference hits Toronto next week — here’s what’s in store
In one week, innovators and digital transformation leaders from across North America will gather at the Symes in Toronto for the mesh conference.
In one week, innovators and digital transformation leaders from across North America will gather at the Symes in Toronto for the mesh conference. With a focus on four threads — business, media and technology, society, and marketing — mesh will connect, share, and inspire others to think about changing how we think, organize, operate and behave.
The mesh conference differs from your typical transformation and innovation event in part thanks to two simple rules: no slide decks and canned presentations, and no pay-to-play sessions. The result? Lively sessions where the audience is encouraged to engage with speakers throughout.
The theme for this edition is “Human-powered, tech-enabled.” Speakers and attendees will explore the pivotal role of technologies in augmenting human capabilities to improve workplace diversity, enhance competitiveness, and even turn back time on human-induced environmental damage through “de-extinction”.
The full mesh speaker lineup
Over the course of two days, more than 20 speakers will take part in the Toronto event on December 6-7, 2023. The full run-of-show, with speakers and sessions, includes:
Canada’s digital policy has gone off the rails. What should the engaged community be doing?
Dr. Michael Geist (Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, University of Ottawa) will join Tyler Chisholm (clearmotive marketing) to discuss the Meta ban on news, Google’s newly announced search policy around news (backed by $100 million for the industry) and podcasting regulations. Dr. Geist will explain why he has described the law as a “total policy disaster” and an “epic policy blunder” by the government. On the heels of his testimony before the CRTC, he’ll share his insights on what we might expect next and what engaged communities should be doing. Gain a greater understanding of the policy landscape and its impact on how we live and work.
Leveraging AI to create a more diverse and inclusive tech industry
Marissa McNeelands (CEO of Toast) will be joined by Elena Yunusov (Human Feedback Foundation) to discuss how her company works to eliminate gender bias in tech hiring. TOAST, Canada’s first female-focused talent partner, uses a unique AI-driven recruitment tool to help organizations diversify their tech teams and support women in tech careers. This session will explore the role that data and algorithms could play in fostering a more inclusive workforce.
AI, Creativity, and Inclusivity: Empowering Tomorrow’s Marketing Leaders
This panel explores how AI and creativity can foster economic empowerment through tech skills training and career growth. The panel will delve into the impact of AI on marketing, the importance of diversity and inclusivity in its design, and the role of continuous education. The session aims to understand economic empowerment through tech skills training, career growth, and a nurturing environment. Features Natalie Black (Mia), Liberty White (CHOZEN MEDIA), Prieeyya Kaur Kesh (Mia), and Anne-Marie Enns (Mia)
Innovating for Canada’s Competitive Edge
Join Dana O’Born (Council of Canadian Innovators), Tracey Bodnarchuk (Canada Powered by Women), and Stuart MacDonald (Narrative Fund) as they discuss the future of Canadian competitiveness through the lens of innovation and transformation. This session will explore the technology and energy industries and why innovation is a team sport. Looking at both growing and transitioning sectors, they will explore how Canada can leverage its strengths and overcome challenges to maintain a competitive edge in the global market and create a sustainable, prosperous future.
Why ‘de-extinction’ is vital to fighting climate change
Join Ben Lamm (CEO of Colossal) and Chris Hogg (DJG) for a riveting discussion on de-extinction and its role in combating climate change. Could the woolly mammoth, the Tasmanian tiger, and the dodo bird be agents of change? Learn about Colossal’s groundbreaking work in reviving extinct species and how this contributes to biodiversity restoration. We will delve into the technology behind halting extinction, preserving animal DNA, and reversing human-induced environmental damage. Explore how de-extinction can restore lost ecosystems, increase biodiversity, and contribute to environmental sustainability. This session promises to spark insightful discussions on the future of biotech and environmental conservation.
AI in Marketing: Magic Wand, Double-Edged Sword or Pandora’s Box
Darnel Moore will explore customer marketing strategies in the context of AI. We will delve into how AI can personalize content at scale and analyze customer behaviour while highlighting the importance of human insight and intervention in marketing. Have we crossed the line when the computer tracks, predicts and influences customer behaviours? Where and when is it best to deploy machine learning and AI in your marketing strategy? At what point in the process is it still best for humans to drive the process? How do we ensure that AI supports the customer journey and that the tools we deploy do not undermine an authentic, transparent relationship? Join us as we aspire to find where the balance is best placed between AI tools and human intention, avoid repeating the mistakes of social media and aim to harness the power of AI responsibly.
The Almighty AI: Friend or Foe for the Sustainability Agenda?
While headlines are dominated by the thrill and alarm of the rise in Artificial Intelligence applications and utility across industries, they have overshadowed another existential hot topic: Sustainability and ESG. This fireside chat will examine AI’s role in the Sustainability agenda for communities, businesses, and national states, and in what ways leaders across sectors are taking action today for impact tomorrow. We might even imagine new kinds of futures where artificial and collective intelligence collide in this unique chat forum. Features Amy Peck (EndeavorXR) and Rika Nakazawa (NTT).
Amplifying Community Actions: Case Study of the Second Harvest Food Rescue App
Lori Nikkel (CEO of Second Harvest) and Winston Rosser (VP, Second Harvest) will join Mark Evans (Marketing Spark) to discuss their innovative approach to combating food waste and insecurity, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. They’ll share how their technology platform has facilitated partnerships between food donors and non-profits, enabling them to scale the redistribution of surplus food from coast to coast to coast. Learn about the increased efficiency that allowed them to connect 5,600 donors with 3,400 non-profits–rescuing 24 million pounds of food, averting 79.3 million pounds of greenhouse gases, and saving 13.2 billion litres of water in the last year alone.
AI & Procurement: The Intersection of Innovation, Risk and Law
Join Colleen Pound (CEO of Proxure), Mary Jane Dykeman (INQ Law) and David Potter (Vog) for an enlightening session on the transformative role of AI and technology in professional services. They will delve into how these tools are levelling the playing field, particularly in procurement and legal services. Colleen, with her expertise in automation and predictive analytics, will shed light on procuring AI solutions. Mary Jane, a seasoned health and data lawyer, will discuss the legal and risk management aspects of AI adoption. This session promises a rich blend of insights from the tech startup and healthcare sectors.
Digital Journal is an official media partner of the mesh conference. Learn more and get tickets to the mesh conference, happening December 6-7 in Toronto, at meshconference.com
AI is taking the world by storm — unless you’re in finance, Gartner survey finds
61% of finance leaders aren’t using AI and Gartner explores why in their latest survey.
We’ve seen plenty of studies, industry updates, and tech investments pointing to an AI revolution in virtually every industry, especially IT and customer service.
But one Gartner survey shows a lag in AI adoption by the finance industry. The technology research and consulting firm conducted a survey of 130 finance leaders and noticed “limited” AI implementations:
“Despite AI’s potential, most finance functions’ AI implementations have remained limited. As they begin to chart out a plan for how best to prioritize that additional investment, CFOs should partner with their finance leadership teams to compare their current progress against their peers’ and identify concrete recommendations from early adopters on how best to accelerate AI use in their function.”
- Marco Steeker, Senior Principal, Gartner Finance Practice
Here are a few highlights from the report:
Most finance leaders using AI are only in early stages
Gartner found that only 8% of finance organizations are using AI in production, which is much less than the 20% in other areas like HR, real estate, and procurement. This speaks to finance being over two times behind in AI use compared to the rest of the departmental functions. Additionally, a mere 1% of finance leaders say they’re in the scaling phase.
Finance leaders prioritize other initiatives over AI
The survey asked respondents why they haven’t used AI in primary finance functions, and the majority of answers included these four reasons:
- Lack of technical capabilities
- Low-quality data
- Insufficient use cases
- Other priorities
The latter reason felt the most problematic within finance leaders’ perspectives:
“What this perspective underappreciates is that AI can be a critical enabler of finance leaders’ “other priorities,” such as more dynamic financial planning or close and consolidation efficiency.”
- Marco Steeker, Senior Principal, Gartner Finance Practice
A recent Dye & Durham report suggests AI could help stabilize the financial sector as interest rates and economic indicators sway by offering efficiency, cost reduction, and accuracy — but the hesitancy remains. Their report also found that a majority of skilled professionals, including lawyers, doctors, and financiers, express discomfort with incorporating AI into their services.
Existing AI use in finance varies across different functions
The Gartner survey found that finance departments don’t use AI for one main function across the board. Instead, it’s use cases are varied and include:
- Accounting support
- Anomaly/error detection
- Financial analysis
Learn more about the Gartner survey here.
Veronica Ott is a freelance writer and digital marketer with a specialization in finance and business. As a CPA with experience in the industry, she’s able to provide unique insight into various monetary, financial and economic topics. When Veronica isn’t writing, you can find her watching the latest films!
mesh conference to explore animal ‘de-extinction’ and how Canada’s digital policy has gone off the rails
Today the mesh conference announced that biotech leader Ben Lamm and prominent lawyer Michael Geist will keynote at the Dec 6-7 event in Toronto.
On December 6-7, all innovation roads lead to the mesh conference in Toronto, and today the event unveiled more detail on two featured keynote speakers.
Joining the mesh conference as a keynote speaker is Colossal CEO, Ben Lamm. Known for his pioneering work at the intersection of biotechnology and conservation, Lamm’s presence promises to ignite discussions and offer unparalleled insights into the future of biotech, de-extinction, and environmental sustainability.
Also joining mesh as a keynote speaker is Dr. Michael Geist, a prominent lawyer and leading authority on technology law and policy. Geist has been a regular columnist on digital policy with leading publications such as the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star and is the creator and host of Law Bytes, one of Canada’s top technology podcasts.
With a focus on four threads — business, media and technology, society, and marketing — the mesh conference hosts Canadian digital transformation leaders who will meet to connect, share, and inspire others to think about changing the way we think, organize, operate and behave.
“De-extinction” is vital to fighting climate change
Colossal Biosciences’ Ben Lamm will join the mesh conference for a conversation about the work his company is doing to bring back the woolly mammoth, the Tasmanian tiger, and the dodo bird.
Lamm is a serial entrepreneur who started Colossal in 2021 with George Church, a biologist at Harvard Medical School. The company is working to advance the field of species de-extinction in order to bring back biodiversity and reintroduce species to Earth to help fight climate change.
Colossal’s work comes at a time when the world has entered the sixth extinction crisis, where the loss of species can have devastating effects on biodiversity that is crucial to human survival.
Colossal is building technology to stop the extinction process, secure animal DNA, and reverse environmental damage created by humans.
“In addition to bringing back ancient extinct species like the woolly mammoth, we will be able to leverage our technologies to help preserve critically endangered species that are on the verge of extinction and restore animals where humankind had a hand in their demise,” Lamm says.
De-extinction reverses plant and animal extinction by creating new proxy versions of these lost species. By bringing back extinct animals, the goal is to restore ecosystems that have been lost. By bringing back extinct animals, the goal is to restore ecosystems that have been lost, while increasing biodiversity and restoring ecosystem resilience.
Learn more about Colossal:
Canada’s digital policy has gone off the rails
Dr. Michael Geist will join the mesh conference for a keynote conversation on Canada’s digital policy where he will share his views on why he thinks it’s gone off the rails, and advice about what engaged communities should be doing.
Geist is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-Commerce Law, a Faculty member at the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, and a Professor at the University of Ottawa.
At the mesh conference, Geist will lead an engaging discussion that will delve into the current landscape of Canadian digital policy, focusing on the repercussions of the Online News Act, known commonly as Bill C-18. The removal of Canadian news from major platforms like Facebook and Instagram by Meta, as well as the anticipated response from Google involving a ban on Canadian news in search results, will be explored in depth.
Geist, a recognized authority in technology law and policy, will also shed light on the implications and nuances of the Online Streaming Act, formerly known as Bill C-11 that imposes new rules on certain online streaming services.
This session aims to foster a comprehensive understanding of the challenges posed by evolving digital policies in Canada and to propose actionable steps for proactive engagement and advocacy.
Two weeks until we mesh
The mesh conference is a two-day event that will feature a series of inspiring talks, interactive workshops, and panel discussions that delve into how technology and innovation can be used to augment human capabilities to improve our world.
Attendees will gain insights into the latest digital trends, emerging technologies, and strategies for achieving human-centered digital transformation.
The mesh conference is back in Toronto on December 6-7 after relaunching earlier this year in Calgary where more than 200 people met to connect, share, and inspire.
The mesh conference recently announced it will be donating all proceeds from the event to Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization and leader in perishable food redistribution.
See more speakers and get your tickets at meshconference.com
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