2018


It was four years ago, in March 2014, that LIRNEasia organized an expert forum on broadband initiatives in New Delhi as part of our work supported by the Ford Foundation. The presentations included one on the design of Mexico’s unique experiment of building a single network using 700 MHz frequencies which was to be used by all operators. So it cannot be said that we were behind in spotting new developments in telecom. Four years later, the shared network is live. Here is the Economist’s account.
The Consumer Affair Authority (CAA) of Sri Lanka held a National Public Private Dialogue to on making the digital marketplace fairer on the 15th-16th March 2018 to commemorate Consumer Day. Given the expected boom of eCommerce, and in light of the recent complaints received by the CAA the objective was to hear from both public and private stakeholders the pain points in order to develop a framework by which the CAA can assure consumer protection. ITC consultant and law professor, Michael Geist was entrusted with the task of pulling together aspects discussed during the two-days that ended in a workshop styled afternoon session. His recommendations will inform the Act that is currently being revised and form the basis of the framework requires by the CAA. The objectives and intentions of the convening that LIRNEasia was invited to participate in was apt and timely.
It’s a natural progression from big data to AI. Also from thinking about the broad social implications of big data to thinking about ethical issues of AI. So we’re happy that Microsoft is putting a focus on AI ethics. The formal relegation of the Windows franchise, said Michael Cusumano, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, “has been a long time coming.” And such a transition, Mr.
We generally credit smartphones for making camera and audiovisual players irrelevant. But we often forget that every smartphone is also, by default, a GPS receiver. Quite correct, if not precise, latitude and longitude of the device is being instantaneously updated and displayed. This standard feature is embedded in every smartphone regardless being Android or iOS. It has prompted Battalgazi Yildirim, a (literally young Turk) geophysicist from Stanford, developing a mobile-based IoT application named Zizmos for earthquake’s early warning system.
I said in my NYT piece that banning was not the answer. We needed to work with them to address the very real problems that are facing our societies, based in part on the accelerant qualities of social media. Who is “we”? Not just governments, but also researchers (I cited some MIT research) and civil society. But that was before Aleksandr Kogan.
Social science trains its adherents to be cautious. The dictionary meaning of “to determine” is “to cause (something) to occur in a particular way or to have a particular nature.” We are very careful is ascribing causation, though it is of course of the greatest interest. Lawyers are said to use word like surgeons use scalpels. But the lawyers sent out on Asian missions by the UN appear to use words like meat cleavers.
We are inviting Proposals from potential Bidders to conduct a qualitative study on ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities in Myanmar. The full RFP is given below. Please also see our FGD Sampling Table, Technical Proposal Template, Financial Proposal Template, and Draft Contract before submitting the proposals. Deadline for submissions is 09 April 2018.  
LIRNEasia has been engaged with the knowledge and information aspects of agriculture since 2006. There have been times when questions have been raised about whether this should continue to be a priority for us. But this summary of research on the cost of living in Africa (by extension, poor countries) published in the Economist suggests we were right to focus on agriculture. Whereas Balassa and Samuelson divided economies into two (manufacturing and services), Mr Hassan divides economies into three, by also distinguishing agriculture. Like manufacturing, agricultural productivity can grow vigorously.
LIRNEasia was proud to partner on Sri Lanka’s first national symposium on Data for Sustainable Development. Held over two days (March 20-21), the event offered a unique platform to share LIRNEasia’s views and experience on the use of data for the SDGs, particularly in relation to our big data work. Sriganesh Lokanathan, Team Leader – Big Data research moderated the first session of the symposium, and was part of a panel discussion on day 2. I had the opportunity to showcase LIRNEasia’s experience on using Big data for SDGs at a session that was co-presented with UN Global Pulse. At the first session, Sriganesh moderated a panel that emphasized the importance of data to achieve the SDGs, and set the tone for the symposium.
I first started talking about Facebook being the Internet for many people in our countries in 2012. But the story by Quartz is what really hit the big time. Now it is appearing in debates around the debate de jour: Should we all just leave Facebook? That may sound attractive but it is not a viable solution. In many countries, Facebook and its products simply are the internet.
The hearing or speech disabled require sign-language interpretation to communicate with the normally-abled world. But sign-language interpreters are scarce. Unless there is a sign-language competent person in the household (e.g., a child who can communicate through the spoken word who also knows sign language), it is quite challenging.
Now that the telecom markets in emerging Asia have matured and now that the potential of easily deployable apps is within reach because of the fast spreading smartphones, we must make access by the disabled a priority. The key to independent living is technology. Our current work in Nepal, supported by the Ford Foundation, has accessible and inclusive access as the principal focus. The workshop held 16-17 March in Kathmandu sought to prioritize the problems amenable to ICT solutions. This will feed into a pre-hackathon being organized March 18-19 at the Tribhuvan University Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus: Here are some reflections on problems faced by the disabled in Nepal which are amenable to ICT solutions.
All cultures and religions have prohibitions: Not eat these kinds of food; not do these things at these times, and so on. It used to be a requirement of membership. There was always some coercion involved. But it was more in the form of peer pressure, rather than outright coercion. Your behavior would be regulated by those within your own immediate community, rather than by distant authorities.
Hate speech is one area where our thinking was strongly influenced by work in Myanmar. I recall listening to a passionate presentation by Nay Phone Latt on the subject at an awareness program for legislators in Yangon and discussing the issues with Phyu Phyu Thi in relation to her research presentation at IGF in Joao Pessoa. When our researchers were on the field in Myanmar, the problems in the Rakhine emerged. This is a hard problem, requiring balance between prior restraint of speech and control of hate speech leading to violence. We will continue to engage with the topic.
After a weeklong blackout, the Sri Lankan government lifted its nationwide ban on social media on Thursday. Facebook and several other platforms had been shut down after days of violence targeting Muslims in the Kandy district, a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims.
Online hate speech has become commonplace in Myanmar. PEN Myanmar (2015) analysed posts from Facebook over a year, noting that the incidence of hate speech pertaining to a topic was often tied to a controversial, topical event– the appearance of posts regarding politics, for instance, increased during the elections held in November 2015. LIRNEasia and MIDO, along with Kantar TNS Myanmar, were on the field carrying out qualitative research in Myanmar in late August 2017 when conflict in the Rakhine region escalated.  Many accounts revolved around the prevailing conflict came up in the interviews with 95 respondents in Yangon, Mandalay and Myitkyina. A few respondents openly expressed their displeasure regarding the situation, and spoke of how the posts they encountered online pushed them to want to incite violence.