Harsha de Silva


Deputy Minister & Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka | former Consultant Lead Economist at LIRNEasia
One of the most important ways by which research influences policy is for the researcher to become a policy maker. In 2006-07 Harsha de Silva was leading LIRNEasia’s ag info research. As Deputy Minister for Planning and Economic Affairs, this is what he’s telling audiences now: Farmers are not poor because they don’t get the subsidy, farmers are poor because their agricultural markets are not working. There is no way in which officials can sit in the food department and solve the problems of the volatility of the prices in vegetables. It can never be done.
LIRNEasia’s Lead Consultant Economist, Harsha de Silva, gave a keynote speech at the 30th National Information Technology Conference being held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 9th to 11th July 2012. Talking from an national economic development perspective, Harsha articulated the role of ICTs in growth as a transformative economic catalyst that can provide a platform for more equitable development especially in Agriculture. His slides are HERE
Theme: Can ICT benefit the small farmers? “Putting Farmers First” Chair: Mr. Vikas Nath, Associate Director, Future of the United Nations Project, Switzerland Speakers: Dr. Harsha de Silva, Member of Parliament, Consultant Lead Economist, LIRNEasia, Sri Lanka Can ICT benefit small farmers? Tackling Smallholder Quality Penalty  |Presentation | Ms.
A research article that will shortly be published in Information Technology and International Development got me thinking about Engel’s Law, which states that as income rises, the proportion of income spent on food falls, even if actual expenditure on food rises. The article is by Aileen Aguero, Harsha de Silva and Juhee Kang. It’s not about food prices, per se, but about some extensions that allow the identification of necessary goods and luxuries. Their interesting finding is that voice telephony is a necessity in Asia (in the six countries covered by LIRNEasia’s teleuse@BOP research), while it is still a luxury in Latin America. How could the same thing be a luxury in one place and a necessity in another?
A LIRNEasia research paper examining the potential demand and use of mobile phones  for remitting money between migrant workers and their beneficiaries has been published in the latest issue of Info (Vol 13, Issue 3). The paper is authored by Nirmali Sivapragasam, Aileen Aguero (DIRSI) and Dr. Harsha de Silva.  The paper is based on findings from LIRNEasia‘s Teleuse@BOP3 study. The paper can be downloaded here.
Dr. Harsha de Silva, LIRNEasia’s Consultant Lead Economist, was among the invited speakers at the 34th Governing Council meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development at its headquarters in Rome from 19 – 20 February 2011.  Delegates from the 167 member states met to hear prominent international figures, high-ranking government officials and emerging leaders on topics related to ensuring food security, invigorating small-holder farming and the need to support and encourage rural youth. A press release issued by IFAD said that Dr. de Silva spoke on the need to improve the quality of life for young rural people and give them the same opportunities young urban people have.
Harsha de Silva, LIRNEasia’s Consultant Lead Economist, has made a submission in response to BTRC’s Call for Comments on a draft regulatory and licensing guidelines on renewal of mobile telecommunication services in Bangladesh. The submission focuses on a few important issues, relating to economic efficiency, transparency and good governance. The guidelines propose a license renewal fee of BDT 10 crore from each operator. An additional fee of BDT 150 crore per MHz of GSM  1800MHz band and CDMA frequency; and/or BDT 300 crore per MHz of GSM 900MHz band from each operator for the initial assignment of spectrum, and a subsequent annual fee is also proposed. LIRNEasia questions the seemingly arbitrary justification used to set the upfront lump-sum license renewal fees.
The broad objective of LIRNEasia is to bring evidence to the policy process and thereby improve it. The means by which we achieve this objective range from directly taking evidence to the policy process, through advocacy and dissemination, to building up policy intellectuals. We never quite thought that the means would extend to actually placing researchers within the supreme legislative body of a country, but with the entry of Dr Harsha de Silva to the Parliament of Sri Lanka representing the United National Front, the principal opposition party, this too has happened. We warmly congratulate Harsha and wish him the very best in continuing to improve policy discourse in Sri Lanka by bringing evidence to bear on the important questions that face our country. Harsha has been an exemplary policy intellectual, though much of his policy advocacy has occurred outside the framework of his work as LIRNEasia’s Lead Economist.
The colloquium was conducted by Harsha de Silva, PhD. Harsha began by explaining that the paper focus both on trains and buses, but in this colloquium will focus on the Bus transport. 75% of passenger transport is via public transport and of that 93% by bus and 7% by train. Roughly 5500 SLCTB and 18000 private buses. The fare is regulated by National Transport Commission (NTC).
LIRNEasia’s Lead Economist Harsha de Silva had a dream. It was that information would reduce price volatility and waste in agricultural markets and that both consumers and producers would benefit from better functioning markets. Unlike Jensen who studied the effects of price information communicated through mobiles on the market for “wild” fish and Akers who studied mobiles’ effect on grain markets (a little more complicated than fish, because the decision to grow or not is now a factor and because transportation costs are not negligible), Harsha picked perhaps the hardest of markets: small-scale production of perishable vegetables and fruits. The studies are ongoing. But we now have the ongoing research being implemented as a commercial service: Sri Lanka’s top celco Dialog Telekom is offering a trading platform based on short message services (SMS) that can help farmers to sell their produce and create a forward market for agriculture produce, officials said.
By Erwin A. Alampay Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to present my research on mobile money for remittances in two different conferences, with different audiences (the paper and PPT presentation can be downloaded here and here). On October 10, I presented my research on the use of mobile money for remittances in a panel on Mobile Adoption and Economic Development. This was for a conference held in New Brunswick on Mobile Communications and Social Policy, hosted by the Rutgers School of Information and Communication.  Harsha de Silva also presented his paper in the same panel on the “Role of social influence on mobile phone adoption: Evidence from the BOP in emerging Asia.
Harsha de Silva, LIRNEasia’s lead economist, presented a paper co-authored with Dimuthu Ratnadiwakara and Ayesha Zainudeen entitled, “Social Influence in Mobile Phone Adoption: Evidence from the Bottom of Pyramid in Emerging Asia” at an International Conference on Mobile Communication and Social Policy. The conference was held at the  Centre for Mobile Communications Studies, Rutgers University, New Jersey, 9-11 October 2009.  The paper is based on findings from the Teleuse@BOP3 study. A working paper is available here.
LIRNEasia’s 2005 research on India’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) policy, conducted by Payal Malik and Harsha de Silva, has been cited in a presentation  to the US House of Representatives, in March 2009. The paper presented, entitled, “Using Competitive Bidding to Reform the Universal Service High Cost Fund”, can be downloaded here. As a policy-oriented organization, we are indeed pleased that our research is being used to influence policy, not just in emerging Asia but in other regions as well. LIRNEasia’s paper, “Diversifying Network Participation: Study of India’s Universal Service Instruments” can be downloaded here. More on the study can be found here.
Lead Economist, Harsha de Silva and the AgInfo work that he has been leading at LIRNEasia has been featured in the International Development Research Centre’s (IDRC) 2008-2009 Annual Report. Read the full feature here (page 16)
Harsha de Silva, LIRNEasia’s Lead Economist, presented a paper at the 27th IAAE conference in Beijing yesterday (19 August 2009). His paper entitled “Role of ICT in Linking Farmers to Markets a transaction costs perspective from Sri Lanka“, based on findings from LIRNEasia’s AgInfo study, was presented at a min-symposium titled, “Role of ICT in linking smallholder farmers to markets: What do we know?” I presented a paper at the 27th IAAE conference in Beijing China yesterday; 19th August. http://www.iaae2009.