Sri Lanka has a history of producing some of the world’s finest IT graduates. However, this information is not widely known enough. There are many instances where the skill, talent and the dedication of our people have shone through and The Google Summer of Code program is one such occasion.
Google Summer of Code is an annual program that provides a platform for university students from around the world to work directly with open source organizations worldwide, to learn open source development while earning a stipend for it. Over 14,000 students have been involved in the program from over 109 countries and 651 open source organizations. (1)
“GSOC students every year go from being complete novices to being contributors for organizations,” states Carol Smith, program manager for Google. Over the course of the program, GSoC has seen a shift away from participants in the US and Northern Europe, to more students in South Asia and other developing nations. (2)
Ever since the program’s inception 14 years ago, Sri Lanka has been among the top ten countries with the most number of accepted students, thanks to University of Moratuwa. From 2005 to 2011, many students have won competitions for the program, while in 2017 it had the most amount of submissions (3). With only a yearly intake of 100 students, the university has built a reputation for consistently producing world-class IT graduates, as they not only focus on an innovative approach to education, but also honing the soft skills of their students as well (4).
Rajan Anandan, Google’s vice president for South East Asia and India, has commented that Sri Lanka’s software engineers are some of the best in the world, but should expand on their capacity of student intake, as there is much untapped potential left to be discovered (5). The island has produced many gifted IT graduates, which can be attested by the many awards they have received: from winning Hackatrips (6), Microsoft Imagine Cups (7), IEEEXtreme (8), and of course Google Summer of Code.
In an interview, Vishaka Nanayakkara, lecturer at University of Moratuwa for department of Computer Science and Engineering recalled how students kept on writing proposals and submitting it year after year. They had started out with four students joining the program, and had never imagined it growing it to the scale it had developed. She proudly announced that the University of Moratuwa had not only reached the top in 2014 in winning awards, but in terms of submissions of well, compared to countries like US that were happy to be either third or fourth (9).
It also revealed the capabilities and commitment of these young Computer Science and Engineering undergraduates, as this was not just a one-time effort, but also something they have been consecutively contributing to for years (10). Up to this date, their enthusiasm has not waned.