Sujata Gamage


Ethnic issues continue to provide the sub text for a presidential election scheduled for the eighth of January 2015. At this point on the dawn on 2015 it is appropriate to recall that one issue that was pivotal in setting off the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka was access to public higher education. Forty years later, the education landscape has seen much change. Urban youth, irrespective of racial divide seem to be moving on, taking advantage of new opportunities, while our rural youth are still stuck in the “school to government university to government job” paradigm. The real division among us is not about race or about who love this country most, but, it is about those who are able to exploit opportunities of a knowledge economy and those who are unable.
Recent budget announcement by President Rajapakse places high value on increasing higher education enrollments. Is this the right approach as Sri Lanka aspires to be a hub in the knowledge economy which requires an information savvy society? Information society indicators are limited by the type and quality of data that international agencies can collect. Not surprisingly, enrollment rates at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education take the center place in knowledge society /economy indicators. There are at least three big gaps in these indicators.
Big data is getting bigger. It has moved from limited use by retailers such as amazon.com or wallmart and others analysing customer behaviour to just about every sector. Scientists have always crunched large amounts of data. The genomes of species and  repositories of chemical structures and properties are two  sources of big data for scientists.
The availability massive data bases and the ability to mine those has opened possibilities of data-based research to  understand social phenomena,  but social science in its present form in the developing world may not be able to meet the challenge. While the clamour for open data and open science/social science should continue no doubt , equal attention should be paid to the demand side, the demand –side for social data. Do traditional university departments and think tanks devoted to social science and media have the capacity to use such data? Do traditional media which have the responsibility to bring the research to the public sphere have the capacity to do so? This lacuna was highlighted in the Round Table on Consultation on Science and Social Science Research organized by the Centre for Culture Media and Governance of the Jamia Millia Islamia University and Canada’s IDRC during 25-26 November, 2013.
A study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the International Telecommunication Union, and published on Oct 7, shows that only 30 percent of people ages 15 to 24 have spent at least five years actively using the Internet, the criterion used to define digital nativism. As expected, more than 90 percent of young people in high-income countries  are considered digital natives, with South Korea leading the way at 99.6 percent. But many low income countries lag far behind with an average of only 6% of youth being digital native. Interesting for us in developing Asia, is the fact that Malaysia ranks fourth globally, while most other countries rank below (Vietnam, 56 and Thailand, 85) and others well  below (Pakistan, 115; Bhutan, 123; Philippines, 124; Indonesia, 132; India, 139; Sri Lanka, 143; Afghanistan, 149).
Deyata Kirula or “Crown of the Nation” is an annual showcase of the achievements of the Government of Sri Lanka.  For the second consecutive year, the Ministry of Skills Development is presenting the skill standard for solid waste operations assistants. In 2012, Deyata Kirula was held in Anuradhapura in the North Central Province. Over 170 solid-waste workers representing the 26 local authorities in the province were awarded for solid-waste operations assistant National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 2 certificates. In 2013, the exhibition will be held in Ampara in the Eastern Province.
Creation of new knowledge by universities is typically assessed in terms of publications and citations in scholarly venues, and the same measures are used to assess capacity for future contributions. As the production and dissemination of knowledge becomes increasingly mediated by the Internet, the Internet presence of researchers is becoming a more valid and relevant measure of knowledge capacity than the conventionally used publication and citation data. This article proposes a methodology that includes the use of the scholar.google.com search engine to supplement the conventional indices for knowledge capacity in a policy-relevant field of knowledge.
Knowledge capacity is typically measured in terms of the ‘productivity’ of researchers. In a paper accepted for publication in Information Technology for International Development (ITID_1.pdf) Gamage and Samarajiva argue that researchers need to pay attention to their ‘internet presence’ and ‘connectivity’ as well. The argument is supported by data on researchers on telecom reform from Asia as found in the social science citation index and scholar.google.