Harvard Forum


Not formally part of LIRNEasia’s work, but relevant to the theme of knowledge based economies. Protected economies are not knowledge based. In addition, I start off from what was stated by Michael Spence at Harvard Forum II. This was a LIRNEasia activity. My slideset is here.
Since Harvard Forum II, we have been engaged in a low-key conversation about the liberating potential for ICTs, especially networks. For understandable reasons, the pace has picked up in recent times, especially in relation to the use of the kill switch by cornered tyrants. Now here’s a piece that is relevant to the discussion about the companies responsible for the networks we debate on and debate about: But three years later, the effort known as the Global Network Initiative has failed to attract any corporate members beyond the original three, limiting its impact and raising questions about its potential as a viable force for change. At the same time, the recent Middle East uprisings have highlighted the crucial role technology can play in the world’s most closed societies, which leaders of the initiative say makes their efforts even more important. “Recent events really show that the issues of freedom of expression and privacy are relevant to companies across the board in the technology sector,” said Susan Morgan, executive director of the initiative.
Ever since Harvard Forum II, Randy Spence and I have been kicking around Amartya Sen’s notion that ICTs have a net positive liberating potential. I have been the skeptic. But evidence is adding up in Randy’s column: For some of the protesters facing Bahrain’s heavily armed security forces in and around Pearl Square in Manama, the most powerful weapon against shotguns and tear gas has been the tiny camera inside their cellphones. By uploading images of this week’s violence in Manama, the capital, to Web sites like YouTube and yFrog, and then sharing them on Facebook and Twitter, the protesters upstaged government accounts and drew worldwide attention to their demands. A novelty less than a decade ago, the cellphone camera has become a vital tool to document the government response to the unrest that has spread through the Middle East and North Africa.
In September 2009,  LIRNEasia Chair and CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, participated in the second Harvard Forum on “Connection and human development” held at Harvard University, USA. Harvard Forum II was convened by Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Michael Spence, in collaboration with Randy Spence and theInternational Development Research Centre. Its aim was to bring together leading thinkers in the area of development to discuss how ICTs could contribute to poverty reduction in developing countries, both now and in the future. It was a follow-up to the Harvard Forum I held in 2003, where several needs in the ICT for development (ICT4D) area were identified (including ICT governance and regulatory reform, especially in the telecommunication sector).  One of the outcomes of Harvard Forum I was the funding of organizations such as LIRNEasia that seek to remove policy and regulatory barriers to the use of ICTs.
That is the phrase I brought back from Harvard Forum II that I attended on behalf of LIRNEasia a few weeks back. In 2003 they held Harvard Forum I (which, among the LIRNE.NET group only Alison Gillwald attended). One of the results was the funding of organizations like LIRNEasia that seek to remove policy and regulatory barriers to the use of ICTs. This time the focus was on “what next.