LIRNEasia is a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific

Big data for development panel and an audience of Sri Lankan academics

The Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS) is the primary “learned society” for Sri Lankan academics. It’s a rather staid outfit where I think you need multiple nominees to support your application to join and they reject papers if they’re not in the correct font (I may be exaggerating a little because this is based on my memories from the 1980s).

Anyway, Sriganesh Lokanathan, Team Leader – Big Data Research at LIRNEasia had been asked by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura to pull together a 60 mt panel discussion on big data for development. He had got an excellent panel together, Ruvan Weerasinghe from University of Colombo/Informatics Institute of Technology, Shehan Perera from University of Moratuwa, Srinath Perera from WSO2 and himself. I moderated the panel.

We addressed three issues: what was big data and what could it do to help with development problems (given the shortness of time, we mostly discussed traffic congestion and spread of infectious diseases); what were the issues around getting access to datafied records needed to conduct the analysis (here, given the difficulties of timely responses from government, I suggested invoking Right to Information as a last resort); and how the necessary skills could be developed. On the last matter it was agreed that universities alone could not do the job in a rapidly changing field and that it would be best for universities to closely collaborate with industry.

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