Here is what happened when someone in a probably tsunami impact zone received a warning from the authorities in British Columbia, Canada, a few days back: Meg Devlin, who lives near Victoria’s Gorge waterfront, said she was awakened by a message at 3:02 but didn’t recognize the phone number for Victoria’s Vic-Alert emergency notification service, so she ignored it. “I unplugged my phone and rolled over and went back to sleep,” Devlin told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. There is no way for anyone to recognize the “official” nature of a number sending a text in the middle of the night. The CBC News story goes on to talk a significant number of people in the probable impact zone who received the warning not through official channels, but through friends and people knocking on doors. Tanya Patterson, the City of Victoria’s emergency program coordinator, said the Vic-Alert system is one area for improvement in the city’s emergency response.
We at LIRNEasia have been promoting cell broadcasting for a long time. It is immune to congestion, message over it can be specific to location; and it does not require prior registration of numbers. It has thousands of “channels” and can therefore handle multiple languages, including those of tourists who are visiting. Therefore, we are very happy that Canada, which has supported our disaster risk reduction research is the latest country to get behind cell broadcasting: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today directed all wireless service providers to implement a wireless public alerting system on their LTE (long-term evolution) networks by April, 2018. This system will allow emergency management officials, such as fire marshals and police agencies, to warn Canadians on their mobile devices of dangers to life and property.
It has been the common position of OECD member countries to oppose mandatory data localization. Data localization flies in the face of the logic of cloud computing. Microsoft has fought the US government on the issue in courts. Yet, when Canada wants data localization, they acquiesce. In response to the mounting public concerns, leading technology companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google have established or committed to establish Canadian-based computer server facilities that can offer localization of information.
LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya was invited to a panel discussion titled “Is Innovation Sexist” in celebration of International Women’s Day.  The event was held in Ottawa, Canada on the 8th of March, It was inaugurated by Celina R. Caesar-Chavannes, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development.
Over the last few days I had the opportunity to present our thoughts on leveraging big data for development at two different venues in Ottawa, Canada. The first was at the headquarters of Global Affairs Canada on 11th March 2016, where I along with the head of UN Global Pulse spoke to an audience of about 100 people that included staff from Global Affairs and IDRC, as well as Canadian academics and researchers. The slides I used are available HERE. The second opportunity was today (14th March 2016) at the headquarters of IDRC, where I had the opportunity to share some of work with IDRC staff from different developmental domains. The slides that I used are available HERE.
In 2005 January I asked my friend, Pete Anderson, to take a risk and come to Sri Lanka to participate in the expert forum we had convened on the 26th of January to develop policy recommendations for effective early warning. At that moment I did not have a budget line to pay out of, but I said I’ll find the money to reimburse him, and I did. That first visit is described in AQ, the Simon Fraser University alumni magazine, along with some photos we took on the trip down the coast with Asantha Sirimanne, one of the journalists who first reported the tragedy: Within days of the 2004 catastrophic tsunami that struck South Asia, killing more than 250,000 people, Anderson travelled to Sri Lanka and paced the broken shorelines in the disaster’s immediate aftermath. There he formed ideas on how to help local communities devise and implement their own emergency communications strategies, eventually collaborating with local organizations to develop the Last Mile Hazard Information Dissemination Project, designed to improve the capabilities of the country when disaster strikes. The pilot project generated a capacity-building experience that is leading to community communications improvements.
The first translation of the book Information lives of the poor, co-authored by Laurent Elder, Rohan Samarajiva, Alison Gillwald and Hernan Galperin and published by IDRC, was ceremonially released in Yangon at an event on the 25th of July. The picture shows one of the co-authors handing over the book to H.E. Mark McDowell, Canada’s Ambassador to Myanmar. MIDO, Myanmar ICT for Development Organization, produced the Myanmar version.
Ron Diebert is a friend and colleague. He gets his hands dirty looking at what actually happens on the Internet. And he thinks all governments have to rethink the way they approach Internet security. “I think Canada, like many liberal, democratic countries, is caught in a bit of a contradiction,” said Diebert, director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies at the University of Toronto. “We can’t accuse other countries of violating people’s human rights when there is no protection in our own country when it comes to law enforcement accessing data through Internet service providers.
In most countries that we work in, the restrictions on foreign ownership are minimal. Bangladesh has become an exception in recent times. Bhutan had restrictions but they appear to be on the way out. Foreign investment and the refusal of foreign owned companies to play by the rules of the “club” resulted in the Thai market being transformed. We really do not see the point.
Every where Government agencies are territorial and fear losing their budgets and ability to stand ground. Therefore, choose to work as a silo with less lateral integration. Such structures are ineffective and lead to irresponsible behaviour at the expense of causing havoc on the citizens. Time and time again we hear of the shortcomings arising from unplanned and ad-hoc procedures carried out in the presence of hazard events. The past experience being the 2012 April 11 Sumatra earthquake.
David Ebert, the second keynote speaker at the ISCRAM2012, in his talk says – “Recently, big data analytics has become the buzz in international news and corporate campaigns as the technology to change the future. However, while necessary in our modern data deluge of over one zetabyte of digital data, the common big data analytics approach tends to utilize only computational power and algorithms to turn data into information and then knowledge and provide an answer to the responder or decision maker using the system. In contrast, visual analytics capitalizes on the best and complimentary abilities of both components of the human-computer decision-making process through iterative, interactive visual interfaces to leverage and supplement the cognitive capabilities of the human user.” In our Real-Time Biosurveillance work, this is exactly what we did; thus, take the over 100s of records coming from each clinical facility every day, then present them to Epidemiologists using temporal and spatial data visualization methods offered by the T-Cube Web Interface. Additionally, provide them with tools to drill into and apply statistical analyses methods to look for unusual patterns in the large data set.
Yesterday, I gave a guest lecture at a Carleton University using the Rann Vijay Kumar video (constituting its official launch) and the attached slides. The focus was on agriculture. I was surprised the course was required. Guess this constitutes a significant achievement in terms of establishing ICT for development as a field of study.
Conventional evaluation privileges short-term outcomes (if it gets to outcomes at all). This is unavoidable. As a teacher I used to think that the true results of my efforts would be seen five-ten-fifteen years down the road. But my university needed to know how good a teacher I was every quarter or every year, so remedial action could be taken or my good/bad teaching could be factored into my next pay raise or promotion. How my students did fifteen years later was the true test, but the time frame was wrong for what the university had to do.
LIRNEasia’s focus is infrastructure, so we don’t write much about censorship and such, except when it becomes unavoidable. There are plenty of entities that have censorship as the primary focus, but few who deal with our specialization. Yet, we are increasingly being dragged into this area, as when our book on ICT infrastructure was detained in the Sri Lanka Customs under some unstated provision, when SMS was shut down on Independence Day and so on. In the midst of the controversy about Google threatening to withdraw from China because of their approach to censorship, it was mentioned in the NYT that some Chinese twitters saw it as a withdrawal from the world by China, not as a withdrawal of Google from China: China promptly tried to censor the ensuing debate about its censorship, but many Chinese Twitter users went out of their way to praise Google. One from Guangdong declared: “It’s not Google that’s withdrawing from China, it’s China that’s withdrawing from the world.

How broad is your broadband?

Posted by on November 25, 2009  /  1 Comments

Based on LIRNEasia’s broadband QoSE research findings, we ran an advertisement in the Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka’s leading English daily) on 24 November 2009.  The advertisement focused on four facts. The first three were on value for money, advertised download speed as opposed to actual download speed and bandwidth bottlenecks.  The lack of regulation on contention ratios (how many users per “channel”) was highlighted as the fourth fact We pointed out that LIRNEasia’s recommendation about imposing contention ratios of 1:20 (Business) and 1:50 (Residential) had been adopted by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), with minor changes.  TRAI mandates contention ratios of 1:30 for Business and 1:50 for Residential.
There was a time when I worked a lot on privacy, especially privacy issues surrounding transaction-based information (TGI). The last piece of that line of research received good reviews , the quote below being an example. The next step should have been a book; I chose to come to Sri Lanka to set up the Telecom Regulatory Commission instead. Privacy was a fast moving field at that time. I knew it would be too late to get into it, after the diversion in Sri Lanka.