ICTs


I spoke today at a workshop for media personnel organized by the Ministry of Disaster Management (DM). I just looked to see if I could link to the workshop description on the web. Apparently not. Guess that confirms what I said about the need for the DM Ministry and the DM Center to change the way they think about the web and associated new media. My slideset is here.
Knowing the importance of networks, LIRNEasia has always probed about circles of friends and contacts and the role of ICTs in maintaining those relationships. Good to see the results of a study focusing entirely on that: The survey asked 2,000 people, chosen because they were regular social-network users, and a further 1,375 adults in full-time employment, who might or might not have been such users, how many friends they had on Facebook. The results showed, to no surprise whatsoever on the part of Dr Dunbar, that the average number of Facebook friends in the two groups were Dunbar-sized numbers: 155 and (when those who did not use Facebook at all were excluded) 187, respectively. Other details matched Dr Dunbar’s earlier work, too. This described a pair of smaller socially relevant numbers—a support clique (people you would rely on in a crisis) of about five and a sympathy group (those you would call close friends) of about 15.
Key officials from the Ministry of Education and the National Institute of Education along with a range of stakeholders and suppliers of education assembled at the BMICH on the 26th of November to discuss the findings of LIRNEasia’s ICTs in the classroom Systematic Review. The findings were placed in context of other research such as the recent PISA study. Two speakers from neighboring countries, Anir Chowdhury from the Access to Information Unit of the Prime Minister’s Office of Bangladesh and Longkai Wu of the National Institute of Education Singapore, provided a comparative perspective. Sri Lankan efforts to leverage ICTs for educational purposes such as Guru.lk and e-takshilawa.
The original plan was that we would showcase our big data for urban development research at the LBO-LBR Infrastructure Summit that started today. But it was not to be. Neither I nor Sriganesh Lokanathan could be present on the second day and our work was considered too nitty-gritty for the “high-level” discussion on Day 1. So I had to stretch to find something of relevance from the inaugural session that I moderated. One of the panelists kept saying that people appear to have forgotten this is 2015.
Earlier today, I made a presentation at a well-attended lunch-time seminar at the LKY School at the National University of Singapore on the work done by LIRNEasia’s systematic review teams on mobile phone impacts in rural areas, mobile financial services and ICTs in the classroom. Sujata Gamage, the leader of the education SR team, presented the education section. The slides are here. Perhaps the most interesting thing I took away from the discussion was that generally SRs tend to systematically confirm what we already know. At most, like with our SR which showed that the evidence of impacts from mobile-based information services was not solid, it questions established knowledge.
UNESCAP in partnership with the International Think Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries (ITT-LLDC) held an Expert Workshop on ICT for Promoting Inclusive and Disaster Resilient Development, from 14-15 May 2015 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I represented LIRNEasia and shared our recently completed research enhancing the role of ICTs for Disaster Risk Management(DRM), that was led by Shazna Zuhyle. I made two presentations. The first looked at emerging trends in DRM including the use of mobile network big data for disaster risk mitigation and planning. The second looked at the role of ICTs for DRM in SriLanka.

ICT for the aged

Posted by on May 3, 2015  /  0 Comments

Japan is a country that grew rich before growing old. In the countries that we work in, the median age is rising fast and more people live long. Our fear is that these countries will grow old before they amass the wherewithal to support a good life for their elders. Little has been done mobile ICTs for the aged. It is significant that this colloborative effort is focused on Japan, perhaps the country most associated with the problem of an aging population.
It’s good that work has started on mapping out who will benefit by renting out excess capacity on assets controlled by consumers and small businesses. We have been kicking around these ideas within LIRNEasia for a while. Hopefully will get started on a project to understand how these things play out in the “real world,” as stated below. “I wasn’t the kind of person who went around everywhere in black cars,” he says. “It felt good, it felt like I was living someone else’s life.
To get the “talk show” at the FAO-ITU workshop on e agriculture rolling we were asked to give a three-minute summary of what we had learned. This was a good opportunity to distill eight years of learning. At LIRNEasia we have looked at the role ICTs can play in agriculture both at the micro and macro levels: supply chain studies where we looked for gaps that ICTs could fill (jute, gherkin, mango, pomegranate, potato, pineapple, rubber supply chains in 3 countries) and the systematic review of 7000+ research papers/articles on effect of mobiles on rural livelihoods. Our conclusion is that Ted Schultz was right. Information by itself will be change outcomes.

The reinvention of work

Posted by on January 30, 2015  /  1 Comments

The general tone of writing on the on-demand economy (much better term than the “sharing economy”) is one of regret about the demise of steady work with benefits, exemplified by Robert Reich: “I think it’s nonsense, utter nonsense. This on-demand economy means a work life that is unpredictable, doesn’t pay very well and is terribly insecure.” But we’re talking about people whose work life is unpredictable, doesn’t pay very well and is terribly insecure to start with. For them, the on-demand economy is step up, especially if they can be connected to export supply chains using the disruptive potential of ICTs. Just as Uber is doing for taxis, new technologies have the potential to chop up a broad array of traditional jobs into discrete tasks that can be assigned to people just when they’re needed, with wages set by a dynamic measurement of supply and demand, and every worker’s performance constantly tracked, reviewed and subject to the sometimes harsh light of customer satisfaction.
Complaints against the negative effects of social media (described as weapons of mass distraction) are not new. They had been leveled against the original social media: the coffee houses that were introduced in the 17th Century. Not everyone approved. As well as complaining that Christians had abandoned their traditional beer in favor of a foreign drink, critics worried that coffeehouses were keeping people from productive work. Among the first to sound the alarm, in 1677, was Anthony Wood, an Oxford academic.
A New York Times columnist writes about the possible use of ICTs to counter violent extremism. Not your father’s kind of public diplomacy. Being done by Google, not by a unit with Department of State. I don’t think the world’s leaders have begun to grasp the implications of unstoppable connectivity. Some people are calling this the Age of Behavior: What I do affects what you do, more directly than ever before.
There wasn’t much of a problem with the disabled back in the old days. They were kept behind closed doors, so there was not much demand for accessibility in public places and such. Things have changed, for the good. Now, in the developed world, every part of a building must be accessible by wheelchair. Pedestrian crossing make a noise in addition to just the color signal.
Phones allow coordination and convenience. But as politicians in many countries learned several years ago, they allow surveillance. Security isn’t just a concern in Middle East autocracies, or for would-be revolutionaries. Mobile phone surveillance, for example, is tough to escape for cellphone users anywhere, said Ethan Zuckerman, senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, and a founder of Global Voices, a worldwide group of bloggers and interpreters that has produced similarly themed guides. Mr.
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.
LIRNEasia CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, made a presentation on ICT innovations in South Asia at a conference held in Brussels on 16 – 17 February. The theme of the conference was “Asia rise in ICT R&D – Looking for evidence: Debating collaboration strategies, threats and opportunities”. More on the conference can be found, here. Click here to download presentation slides.
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