NOTE: updated slideset available here.
Gyanendra’s Law states that network shutdowns after a certain level of penetration has been achieved results in the political authority responsible for the shut down losing power. The underlying reason may be the economic harm that is caused. Appears this effect is seen is shut downs of Internet-based services too: Telegram tried to thwart the blockage by shifting its service to two giant American web hosts, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, while at the same time repeatedly changing its IP address to skip ahead of Roskomnadzor. In response, rather than chasing individual IP addresses — a unique set of numbers that identifies a computer, smartphone or other device connected to the internet — the watchdog agency elected to shut down enormous blocks of addresses, called subnets. The collateral damage hit a variety of other sites, like Viber, another messaging app, as well as small businesses including a language school and a courier service, all of which suffered financial losses.
My colleagues and I at LIRNEasia are delighted that Rohan Samarajiva has been appointed as the Chair of the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka.  As a frequent commentator on ICTs, development and regulation, it’s well known that he has a strategic vision of what the ICT sector can achieve and contribute to Sri Lanka’s people and our country’s place in the world.  As a former regulator, he knows the important role government (or a government agency like ICTA) can play in enabling that vision. But at the same time (and what I consider an important facet) is that he is a firm believer in what government does NOT have to do, if the private sector, well-functioning markets, and a civil society are available.  So ICTA is in good hands in terms of finding it’s “place” in the world, and hopefully enabling the ICT-actors in Sri Lanka and citizens reaching their maximum potential.
Supporting evidence-based policy making and implementation by governments in the emerging Asia Pacific is an important part of LIRNEasia’s raison d’etre.  This support is extended in many ways.  The latest is the acceptance of the Sri Lanka government’s invitation extended to founder chair Rohan Samarajiva to serve as Chairman on the countries apex ICT Agency.  Rohan was a member of the original Board of the ICT Agency, which was established in 2003 to implement a pioneering integrated ICT development initiative called e Sri Lanka.  He contributed to its design.
I do not appear to have blogged about it, but the first time I brought up this issue was at the 2013 (Bali) or 2014 (Istanbul) IGF. If consent-based privacy rules are imposed on the existing concentrations of behavioral transaction-based data, there will be considerable to negative implications for SMEs and start ups on one side and for those engaged in data analytics for the public good. It is interesting that the Economist is highlighting this issue: Along with other tech firms, it should create an industry ombudsman whose jobs would include making access to platforms easier for independent researchers. Instead of opening up, however, the risk is that Facebook will throw up walls: its decision to kick third-party data-brokers off the platform has the convenient effect of both protecting users’ data and entrenching its power as a source of those data.
LIRNEasia and CPRsouth were created to contribute to better laws, policies, regulation and implementation in the emerging Asia Pacific. There are many ways to do this, including the actual training of the relevant people within government. For example, from 2013 onward we have conducted multiple training and awareness programs for legislators and regulatory staff in Myanmar. To say that Myanmar legislators need help with understanding new technologies and new business models is one thing. To say that members of the US Congress do is quite something else.
I probably learned more useful things from working as a lowly assistant for an expert witness in US v AT&T, than from my formal education. So I was all agog when the next big anti-trust case came up, US v Microsoft. But that was also when I began to realize the need rethink of the core concepts. This article in Medium (I hope it will not be paywalled) makes an insightful comparison between the tying arguments that were central the Microsoft case and the loose claims of monopoly being bandied about in relation to Facebook now. While some of the questions and concerns echoed those the senators had two decades ago, Microsoft and Facebook’s situation could not be more different.
Here is what Mark Zuckerberg said in his testimony before a Senate Committee: He also said that while Facebook is beefing up its use of AI to spot and remove offensive content, it will be five to 10 years before the company will have tools to do this automatically. So I was correct in my phrasing in the New York Times op ed: Media companies of all kinds must accept responsibility and deploy artificial intelligence and plain old elbow grease to the task. And people of good will must play their part by calling out falsehoods and reporting those responsible. So let’s apply the elbow grease while working on the AI.
Firms have always had an interest maintaining the loyalty of their customers. This has also involved knowing more about the customers. In a discussion of subscription models, the Economist, refers to what may happen because of restriction on data that may emerge because of the Cambridge Analytica imbroglio. Subscription models are becoming more popular, in part because technology has made it easier to rent rather than own assets. Instead of buying software, for example, users can get access to it as a cloud-based service.
Iran is considering a permanent ban on Telegram. To make it effective, they will probably have to go after VPNs too. Interestingly, a lot of the opposition seems to have an economic basis. Is this the basis of Gyanendra’s Law and its various exceptions? For the many small-business owners who use Telegram to market their services and communicate with clients, the ban adds to their financial woes.
Our paper on bulk surveillance is under review and will be public soon. We did not go deep into predictive policing because most of the extant material was US-centric. It is interesting that the Economist, which keeps putting out city-level murder data, has chosen to publish a piece on the use of data in controlling violence in Latin America’s cities: Rodrigo Guerrero, the city’s mayor and a surgeon by training, launched a plan inspired by the epidemiological approach some North American cities were taking at the time. He set up “violence observatories” where police, public-health officials, academics and concerned citizens could study crime data. This revealed that most of the city’s murders took place in drunken brawls, not in conflict between gangs, and that they were late at night a day or so after payday.
Rohan Samarajiva Festival of our Future 5 April 2018 Colombo
Occasionally, I accept invitations to speak on subjects I am still exploring in my mind. The talk I am going to give today at an event called Festival of our Future falls into that category. Should I apologize for not knowing the full and complete answer on how to fix politics? Not really. This is from a book review written by one of the world’s leading political philosophers: In recent decades, American public discourse has become hollow and shrill.