2005 January


The original purpose of the visit was to participate in a super session on “Strategies for implementing universal access.” The session was well attended and useful. My presentation was Expanding Access to ICTs (Powerpoint) Along with Bill Melody’s forceful comments it clearly established the importance of market and regulatory reforms, a position that may otherwise have been deemphasized as a result of the Chair’s interest in subsidies. The visit was also used to pursue the disaster warning-communication issues that have come to the fore in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. On the 18th of January I visited the Big Island’s Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center and the Pacific Tsunami Museum accompanied by Bill Melody and at the invitation of Dr George Curtis, a tsunami expert at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.
Adapting to an ICT based Emergency Warning System by Priyantha K. Weerabahu , Daily News, 25 Jan 2005 read article

The Permanent Disaster

Posted by on January 30, 2005  /  4 Comments

Here is an interesting article recommended by Nalaka Gunawardene: Four years ago, this magazine’s editor, environmentalist Anil Agarwal, wrote a scathing comment after the Bhuj earthquake: “Disasters come and go but our government has become a permanent disaster”. While we are vulnerable to natural disasters — cyclones, earthquakes, floods or droughts, and now the tsunami — these temporary and preventable disasters turn into massive calamities because of the “perpetual disaster that this country’s governance system has come to represent”. Why? Because earthquakes do not kill, the buildings do. Anil put the question: why, then, do we not build, in areas identified as seismic, earthquake-resistant structures?
The Vanguard Foundation and LIRNEasia held an Expert Consultation, on January 26th 2005 (Crystal Room, Taj Hotel, Colombo Sri Lanka) to obtain views and ideas on a national all-hazards warning system for Sri Lanka. Four presentations were made, providing a broad framework for discussion with participants, to provide input for a concept paper that Vanguard Foundation and LIRNEasia will produce, with recommendations for such a system. This draft concept paper will be available on the web for public comment in the first week of February. The presentations can be viewed by following the links: What Lessons from the 2004 Tsunami? Dr Harsha de Silva, LIRNEasia National Warning System Parameters Prof.
Published in The Sunday Times “Vanguard Foundation and LIRNEasia will conduct an expert consultation as a part of the process of developing a concept paper and specifications for a Disaster Warning System with adequate regional and global linkages. We earnestly request those who have expertise in the areas of Disaster Management to take part in this exercise.”
I was on the closing plenary at the Pacific Telecom Council, with Peter Anderson (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Stuart Weinstein (Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, Honolulu, USA) and Charlie Kagami (Japan). Plenary Talk Photo The topic was “Disaster warning: how can we get it right the next time?” The talk is What happened in Sri Lanka: And Why it won’t be so bad next time.
Conference on “Higher Education, Information Technology and Sustainable Development: The central role of universities in building knowledge societies in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” January 10-14, 2005, De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines I was invited to this event, I think, primarily because of the perception of LIRNE.NET as a university-based, effective organization for applying knowledge to problems of ICT4D. The presentation that I made was entitled “LIRNE.NET: ICT4D with or without universities” (Manila Presentation), which should give a clue about what I think of the role of Asian universities in this task. The conference was attended by enthusiastic academics (majority), NGO representatives seeking more support from universities, and education administrators.
The BBC world service programme ASSIGNMENT this week is about the tsunami and emergency communications in Sri Lanka and includes an interview with Rohan. You can hear it at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/meta/tx/nb/assignment_au_nb.
The press conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka and Washington DC of the World Bank President, Mr. Wolfensohn is available in its entirety via Audio and Video streaming. More details on post-Tsunami reconstruction effort can be found on World Bank’s website. Detailed damage assessments will follow initial estimates WASHINGTON, January 12th, 2005-World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn said Wednesday that reconstruction in the tsunami-hit countries of Asia and Africa must be driven by the local communities affected by the disaster, adding that the process of rebuilding should be transparent and ensure accountability for the funds pledged.
SMS enlisted for Tsunami warning system? By Ben Charny, CNET News.com Monday, January 10 2005 11:55 AM At least five countries have begun developing an alert system using cell phone text messages, a response to the catastrophic Asian tsunami that exposed flaws in present-day early warning schemes. Discussions among officials in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, which were hard hit by the killer tsunami, along with France, have begun in just the last few days, according to a source familiar with the plans. The goal is to supplement older systems that proved little help for nations in the path of the immense waves in late December that have so far killed more than 140,000 people in 11 countries.
Led to the Colombo Regency Rotary Club’s successful web relief operation. This has been featured in Rotary International’s publication, without either of their names . We, in our small way, seek to correct this by this post. Good work, guys. You are appreciated, by us as at least.
Rohan: Vanguard Foundation was recently created which has a center for disaster management. The work I have done at TRC on disaster management will be leveraged in the current context, and we will prepare a document. Pete Anderson is disaster communication expert who will be brought in to design a concept paper to set up parameters of a disaster management system. We are moving very fast on this. Sequence: Disaster happens, analysed, and transmitted in a secure communication mechanism to the media.

Design of eSri Lanka

Posted by on January 6, 2005  /  10 Comments

An article describing the thinking behind the design of e Sri Lanka, with emphasis on e government and infrastructure is at . As the title note states, this was a collective design that many contributed to. So, I cannot take credit for the design, though I will have to take responsibility for any errors in the article. This is a good journal for those working on developing country infrastructure issues. Subscribe.
From www.timesonline.com Telecom charity forges links for tsunami victims by Elizabeth Judge Vodafone and its industry peers are backing a new kind of aid for striken areas AS EARLY images of the Asian tsunami disaster were flashed around the world, an aircraft loaded with equipment touched down in Sri Lanka at Colombo international airport. Within minutes, technicians had set up an emergency telecommunications centre with satellite phone lines and high-speed internet connections. Relief organisations were quick to avail themselves of the service.
Question asked by a journalist: is there any basis for expecting that Sri Lanka’s very successful ICT strategy will in fact help in the economic recovery from the tsunami? For example, could ICT-enabled industries provide opportunities to replace the jobs/industries that have been damaged, or could the telecom structure help speed rebuilding efforts? In other words, have Sri Lanka’s efforts in building a digital economy put it in a better position to recover from this disaster? Answer: The fisheries industry that got almost wiped out had very low productivity. It’ll come back, hopefully with better productivity.
Saving Grace Lanka Business Online 28 December 2004 15:22 hours Thirty six stranded British tourists were rescued in Sri Lanka thanks to a mobile phone with one of them and technology that could pin-point the user, an official involved in the rescue told AFP…. see full story
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