2009 April

“Leptospirosis is out and Dengue is in” – these are the words of the Sarvodaya Research Assistant – Pubudini weerakoon – working in Kurunegala District of Sri Lanka on the real-time biosurveillance program (RTBP). This report on Leptospirosis in Sri Lanka gives a full account of the past events. The aim of the RTBP is to gather patient case information through the m-Healthsurvey mobile application and subject that data to real time analysis for rapid detection of emerging health events. The automated analytic and detection is driven by the T-Cube software, developed by Carnegie Mellon Universities Auton Lab, based on data mining principles. We took the weekly epidemiological reports (WER) from the past two years and put T-Cube to the test.
We’ve always wondered how new smart mobile phones, the technological marvels they are, go for so cheap. According to the teleuse@BOP3 study, the average price paid for a new phone by people in SEC groups D and E in Pakistan is USD 47 (down from USD 77 in 2006). The price of a second-hand phone is USD 27 (down from USD 45 in 2006). Counterfeit phones (HiPhone, instead of iPhone) may be part of the answer: Although shanzhai phones have only been around a few years, they already account for more than 20 percent of sales in China, which is the world’s biggest mobile phone market, according to the research firm Gartner. They are also being illegally exported to Russia, India, the Middle East, Europe, even the United States.
The special issue of info focusing on the theme “Network development: Wireless applications for the next billion users” edited by Bill Melody and Amy Mahan is now published. It contains several articles of interest, including a piece on SMS and cell broadcasting in disaster warning by LIRNEasia’s Samarajiva and Waidyanatha and a review of the ICT infrastructures in Emerging Asia book by Kammy Naidoo.
The World Bank has committed USD 2.6 million (or USD 10 per intended beneficiary) in grant funds for rural public access telephones in Cambodia according to a recent news release. The amount is not too steep and the local official in charge is Deputy Minister Chin Bunsean, an alumnus of LIRNEasia’s regulatory training course in 2005 (Mr Chin is dead center of the picture on the course page), which among other things discussed the lessons that should be drawn from the Nepal output-based aid project, so I guess we can surmise that the lessons have indeed been learned. But it still makes us wonder why the World Bank is funding rural payphones, when the evidence is abundant that cheap mobiles are what will connect poor people, not payphones? Poor families in four of the poorer provinces of northern and northwestern Cambodia – Banteay Meanchey, Otdar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, and Pursat – will benefit from a US$2.
For some time we have been talking about the scarcity and cost of international bandwidth. Looks like it is going to cost people in our part of the world access to sites such as Facebook and YouTube (full article). It appears that distance does matter. And everyone is not actually as close to everyone else as we were told. Of course, distance can be overcome, with money, not the user’s money but the money of the advertiser who believes that particular audiences are worth paying for.
A paper authored jointly by Professor Subhash Bhatnagar and Nupur Singh titled “Results from a study of impact of eGovernment projects in India”, was selected as the Best Paper at ICTD 2009 held recently in Doha. Our warm congratulations to Professor Bhatnagar and his co-author. Subhash, who is leading the work on one of our Mobile 2.0 components, had a 20 minute one-on-one with the Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates. ICTD 2009 was attended on a scholarship by Nirmali Sivapragasam of LIRNEasia.
This photograph taken few weeks back at Talawakele, on the way to Nuwara Eliya, 180 km from Colombo, tells a long story. What you see are the lined residences of the estate workers, colloquially known as ‘lines’ or ‘layim’ in local language. Estate workers are among the least privileged and poorest communities in Sri Lanka. Note the five TV dishes. That means they are still connected to electronic networks, though it is largely one-way.
Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2009 – H.E. Ms Angela Bogdan, High Commissioner for Canada, will be officially launching the book on “Knowledge to Policy: Making the Most of Development Research, copublished by Sage and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).  The book is authored by Fred Carden, Director of Evaluation at IDRC.  The launch of the book will take place in Colombo on: Date: Monday, April 27, 2009 Time: 1130 – 1300 hrs Where: Dukes Court 2, Hotel Trans Asia, Colombo, Sri Lanka Does research influence public policy and decision-making and, if so, how?
A public seminar will be held at the Institute of Engineers, Sri Lanka auditorium on the 29th April 2009 from 5.30 to 8.00 PM. The seminar will be conducted by Prof. Timothy Gonsalves and R.
Press Release 2009 from Brown Lloyd James. ICTD2009 highlights new developments in technology for developing countries “Dr. Artur Dubrawski, Director of the AutonLab at Carnegie Mellon University and Mr. Nuwan Waidyanatha, Senior Researcher and Project Director of LIRNEasia in Sri Lanka, are presenting their collaborative project using mobile telephony. The project uses the T-Cube Web Interface, a tool developed by Carnegie Mellon University to visualize and manipulate large scale multivariate time series datasets, to support real-time bio-surveillance.
Nokia, the leading mobile handset maker, is experiencing the effects of the global economic crisis. But Asia is showing the lowest declines. In the three months through March, the company said its profit declined to 122 million euros ($162.3 million) from 1.2 billion euros a year earlier.
A public lecture I gave last night has been reported in quite an interesting way, with a headline “Govt, regulation irrelevant in telecoms,” that is not quite correct. As can be seen from the quote below (from the same story), I did not exactly say that government should cease and desist from all policy and regulatory acts: These include allowing for as many players in the market as possible; finding more flexible and creative ways in which to allocate spectrum; having a light market hand, but dealing with competition issues firmly; and generally staying out of the running of the industry The presentation slides of the public lecture can be downloaded here (some embedded video components may not work; this will be fixed shortly).
Ideas picked up at Euro CPR from our African colleagues, coming out in multiple fora/countries/forms. Without direct government action, other than enabling policies such as the abolition of international gateway monopolies, and the kind of fuss that has accompanied the regulation of roaming charges within Europe, roaming has been abolished in East Africa. Why not in South Asia? Why can this not be done in South Asia? Telenor has a presence in three of the major markets in the SAARC region: dominant in Bangladesh; significant in Pakistan and getting established in India.
Right from the concept stage Carnegie Mellon University’s Auton Lab has been engaging with LIRNEasia and other project partners in developing the “Evaluating a Real-Time Biosurveillance Program: Pilot Project (abbreviated as RTBP) proposal. In the month of July 2008, the International Development Research Center of Canada made available a grant to carry out the RTBP research project. The RTBP research aims to answer the question: “Can software programs that analyze health statistics and mobile phone applications that collect and report health information potentially be effective in the early detection, intervention, and prevention of disease outbreaks?” This project is a pilot aiming to study the technology, human, and policy predicaments in introducing the RTBP to Sri Lanka and India. Conventional aggregated reports on disease counts or the paper based notification systems in India and Sri Lanka have not proven to be effective in providing the much needed near real-time detection for containing disease before it takes the lives of a few patients.
The 13th telecom reform course for regulators and stakeholders offered by LIRNE.NET in collaboration with the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town will start on the 14th of April 2009. The LIRNE.NET courses started in the Netherlands, moved to Denmark, then were offered in multiple locations in Africa and the Caribbean, until settling in Singapore since 2005. Now the baton has passed to our colleague Alison Gillwald at the EDGE Institute in South Africa.
Lots of people talk about predicting earthquakes. Here’s the science. Why should we be in interested in earthquake prediction? Because we live in a bad neighborhood: there has been a tsunamigenic earthquake every year, except 2008, since 2004 in the Sunda Trench. Until the prediction issue is resolved all we can do is focus on warning and preparedness.
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