Big data for development panel and an audience of Sri Lankan academics

Posted on December 9, 2016  /  0 Comments

The Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS) is the primary “learned society” for Sri Lankan academics. It’s a rather staid outfit where I think you need multiple nominees to support your application to join and they reject papers if they’re not in the correct font (I may be exaggerating a little because this is based on my memories from the 1980s).

Anyway, Sriganesh Lokanathan, Team Leader – Big Data Research at LIRNEasia had been asked by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura to pull together a 60 mt panel discussion on big data for development. He had got an excellent panel together, Ruvan Weerasinghe from University of Colombo/Informatics Institute of Technology, Shehan Perera from University of Moratuwa, Srinath Perera from WSO2 and himself. I moderated the panel.

We addressed three issues: what was big data and what could it do to help with development problems (given the shortness of time, we mostly discussed traffic congestion and spread of infectious diseases); what were the issues around getting access to datafied records needed to conduct the analysis (here, given the difficulties of timely responses from government, I suggested invoking Right to Information as a last resort); and how the necessary skills could be developed. On the last matter it was agreed that universities alone could not do the job in a rapidly changing field and that it would be best for universities to closely collaborate with industry.

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