Making a Real Difference in the Lives of People: Janakie Karunaratne

This is part of a series highlighting the valuable work that Microsoft’s Community Affairs Managers are doing in Asia. This piece was contributed by Nikolay Premyanov and Jason Jun Sik Eum, two student interns who spent time with the Microsoft Area HQ Citizenship team in July 2013.

This piece was contributed by Gayatri Sitaraman, a student intern who spent time with the Microsoft Asia HQ Citizenship team in July 2014.

Janakie Karunaratne has been at Microsoft Sri Lanka for more than seven years fulfilling her role as Community Affairs Manager with enthusiasm and dedication. Initially, Janakie worked in sales at a telco, but ever since she started managing Microsoft’s social initiatives she has never looked back, finding her role fulfilling and important. In her own words, “We are one people – all of us have a responsibility to care for and share information between each other, therefore a large firm like Microsoft, through its corporate citizenship programme, has the responsibility to pro-actively share its immense knowledge among the community in order to improve lives.”

Janakie manages projects all over Sri Lanka, in cooperation with the government, other private sector companies, or Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) – and sometimes all three. One of her main initiatives is setting up workshops that teach information technology (IT) skills to young people, raising their employability and giving them opportunities to fulfill their ambitions, changing not only their own lives, but also their family’s lives as well.

Sri Lanka has suffered through a long civil war that recently ended and there is much rebuilding to do; not only physical but also the mental rebuilding of young people. To help in this sphere, Microsoft Sri Lanka cooperates with HSBC to empower young adults who have been affected by the war to help them become the leaders of the future, as well as providing them with the means to rebuild their lives.

The company is helping NGOs run their own social initiatives by providing them with up to date IT solutions and the means by which they can improve their services to people in need. This provides a huge benefit to NGOs and serves to show the importance of IT to any organization in modern times. One such initiative is the work done with Sri Lanka’s foreign employment bureau to teach important skills to workers leaving to other countries, which improves their employability and makes them more likely to send back money to Sri Lanka, further improving their family’s lives.

According to Janakie, the most successful initiative has been GAMATA IT; Sinhalese for ‘IT for the village’. This is a programme that aims to bring technology to remote villages and teach the local populations how to use IT, giving them the power to improve their own lives. This programme is run in conjunction with the ministry of education, an NGO and 2 private sector firms. This is one of the largest initiatives supported by Microsoft Sri Lanka, touching the lives of many.

It is this aspect that Janakie finds the most enjoyable and fulfilling in her job: touching the lives of many and making a real difference in communities. Even if she never meets the individuals personally, she knows that the work she and Microsoft are doing will improve opportunities across the country. The work provides the right amount of challenge coupled with the need for her to think of ideas and solutions that the company can implement to continue reaching members of the community. In her eyes, a perfect job.

Comments (8)

  1. Gavin Britto - Lak Aruna Foundation says:

    Well done Janaki! It was such a pleasure meeting you at the Microsoft-World Bank Youth Solutions competition 2013! Keep up the good work!

  2. Janakie Karunaratne says:

    Thanks Gavin. Your proposal at the grant finals was pretty impressive as well. I truly believe if we all do our bit we can truly make a difference. I draw energy watching young people like you in action.

  3. Carlyle Wells-Peris says:

    Simply wonderful I have no words to describe such a  initiative. May God bless you abundantly.Love to all.

  4. Yasanthi Nugawela says:

    Your work sounds very interesting and I am sure it is not easy. I work for a INGO in New Zealand and would love to see some of your work when I come on holiday. Will that be possible?

  5. Belinda Gorman - Microsoft NZ says:

    Hi Yasanthi – looking forward to lunch on Thursday! When you are next in Sri Lanka I think it would great if you and Janakie were able to connect. She and I share the same role here at Microsoft, only at different ends of the world. You both have much in common. Hope all is well at UNICEF NZ and look forward to catching up soon.

  6. Anonymous says:

    In This Issue… In honour of International Women’s Day this month, we bring you stories and

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