The Keys to the Future

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By Shanuka Kadupitiyage

Ceylon Today Features

Whether we like it or not, tech is key to the future. Having the ability to code will continue to become an extremely valuable skill not only in the future, but also in the present day. No one knows this better than 19-year-old entrepreneur and CEO, Bihan Mahadewa.

Completing his Master’s degree at the age of 18, Bihan first grabbed the world’s attention after becoming South Asia’s youngest university graduate at the age of 16. He has also contributed as a visiting lecturer to the Open University of Colombo.

However, his greatest accomplishment is the establishment of Metana, an organisation dedicated to equipping IT professionals with the skills needed to make the best of the web 3.0 revolution that many analysts believe we are on the brink of. 

I first heard of Bihan when he reached out to me via social media and it didn’t take long before we were sitting down to talk over video call, interested to learn more about his story. 

From playing games to making them

“I think my love for computers started with my love for gaming,” Bihan started. “I would play games for hours on end. It amazed me what computers can achieve. As time went, I thought it would be really cool to make games, not just play them. And that’s when I started getting interested in learning how to code.”

And so, young Bihan, not even a teenager, set out to start learning more about computers, including how to code with languages such as Java. It didn’t take long for Bihan to master coding and become a fully fledged software developer, managing to do this all before even sitting for his O Level examinations. In fact, he was able to complete a university degree thanks to his qualifications in coding during this time period.

In the process of this all, Bihan’s perspective changed in terms of his life. Although he didn’t create a video game – his initial goal behind learning how to code – he did start developing mobile applications and making them available on popular app stores such as the Google Play Store. One of which is SkillUp, which amassed thousands of downloads in a very short period of time.

Skillup

“Parents buy a lot of model question papers to help their children prepare for the Grade 5 scholarship exam each year,” he explained. “All I did was put those questions in a multiple choice format, in a single app. And it became a big success. Big enough that it expanded to cover exam practice papers for grade 3,4,5 (scholarship exam) and grade 11 (O/level) exams questions in all three languages.” 

He revealed that the latest iteration of the app featured high-end analytics where students can figure out where they lack the knowledge and how they can improve in their individual learning, 

“The app is no longer on the Play Store though,” he said, explaining that there the app is undergoing significant revamping as they are selling the company along with the app to a buyer.

Preparing for Web 3.0

Bihan’s interests have since shifted from developing apps to the future of the internet. 

With the introduction of blockchain technology, the internet is evolving faster than ever before, which has since spiked a demand for developers equipped for what many believe is the next revolution of the internet. 

“Just like how the web 2.0 revolution from the mid 2000s changed the way we use and look at the internet, blockchain technology and web 3.0 is going to change how we use and interact with the internet once again,” he explained. 

“The problem is, there is a massive need for people with the skills needed to work with web 3.0, and companies are looking for developers equipped with the skills for this next leap that’s bound to happen within this decade, which is where Metana comes in.”

So far, Bihan’s work with Metana has led him to travel all the way to Los Angeles, California where Metana’s bootcamp mainly operates. However, strengthening Sri Lanka’s developers to prepare them for web 3.0 has also been a goal for him.

The way forward

“IT is going to be a key to helping Sri Lanka improve on its economy,” Bihan opined. “We need developers and IT professionals ready for web 3.0 when it happens, and continue to focus on expanding this industry if the country is to overcome its economic challenges.” 

“For example, Metana may be operating mostly overseas, but it is established in Sri Lanka. It’s by doing things like this that we can bring more income flowing into the local economy.”

Early bird

Bihan certainly has achieved impressive heights, all while still a teenager, and he wishes to encourage more Sri Lankans to follow their passion and create new things with the skills and talent they have. “I was fortunate enough to find my passion early in my life, otherwise I wouldn’t have come this far,” Bihan opined. “The faster you’re able to discover your passion, the faster you’ll be able to work hard and achieve something.”

He takes inspiration from Upali Wijewaredana, who for Bihan, is “the best Sri Lankan that [Bihan] never had the chance to meet.” 

“I think we need to share more stories about personalities who are success stories like him and inspire more Sri Lankans to take risks – especially in their youth – to try new things, find what they love to do and to try to achieve something. You have to make the most of your youth by trying new things. You won’t always succeed. There were so many times where I failed along the way, even businesses I created have collapsed. But through it all, I discovered a path to success.” Bihan’s journey is far from over, and it’s clear that from what he has shared, that there is much more to come from his plans and vision for the future.