Piyumi Fonseka, Author at LIRNEasia


In her latest article for Daily FT, LIRNEasia policy fellow Tahani Iqbal critiques the current amendment process of Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Act, stating it “has not been transparent and open,” and calling for a comprehensive overhaul of the Act, aligning with the newly issued National Digital Economy Strategy 2030, to truly drive Sri Lanka’s digital development. “It is critical that the Government puts a stop to its conservative and traditional approach to telecoms regulation and handles it in a way that will ensure that digital connectivity spurs the development of the nation. Converged markets and services require converged authorities and approaches to governance. The amended Bill has no place in Sri Lanka’s digital future and should be sent back to the drawing board for a proper re-draft.” Despite several attempts to revise the Act, Tahani argues that the lack of substantial updates has left Sri Lanka with a “low level maturity [in] legal and governance frameworks,” as evidenced by its G2 ranking from the International Telecommunications Union.
In an insightful analysis published in the Daily FT, Professor Rohan Samarajiva, Chair of LIRNEasia, examines whether the proposed amendments to the Sri Lanka Telecommunications Act are ready for the future, or even adequate for the present. While questioning the future-readiness of the legislation in terms of consumer rights and market competition in the telecom sector, Prof. Samarajiva has also asked whether the amendments provide a clear and coordinated legal framework necessary for the future deployment of advanced telecom infrastructure, essential for smart cities. Highlighting several critical issues related to the structure, capacity, and functioning of the Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC), here are some of the key issues addressed in his analysis. 1.
With the digital world becoming increasingly intertwined with our daily lives, from studying and working to shopping, the digital economy has seen significant growth. In the global digital landscape, data often flows across borders for various transactions, meaning that data generated in one country may be stored and processed in another. This movement of data across international borders isn’t just a technical matter—it’s a major driver of economic development, innovation, international trade, and social progress. However, these cross-border data flows have raised concerns about privacy, security, and data protection. One major worry is data localisation rules, which insist on keeping data within a country’s borders.
We are inviting proposals from potential bidders to conduct a study on human factors in the information disorder and finding measures to counter. The full RFP can be found here. Please check our Technical Proposal Template, Financial Proposal Template and the Sample Contract, before sending your proposals. Proposals for the study must be received by LIRNEasia by 17.00 hrs Sri Lankan time on 29th May 2024.
It has come to our attention that a scam is circulating, falsely using the name and logos of LIRNEasia. A group claiming to work with us is creating bogus WhatsApp groups and possibly engaging in fraudulent activities. We would like to inform the public that LIRNEasia does not collaborate with any such digital marketing agencies. Please be vigilant and do not engage with such schemes. Please be informed that LIRNEasia does not maintain public WhatsApp groups and updates and announcements from LIRNEasia will only be shared through our official emails, social media accounts and website.
The following article was originally published on the IDRC – Resisting information disorder in the Global South website. LIRNEasia studied information disorder in Asia for a scoping study on challenges of information disorder in the Global South in 2022[1]. We conducted over 80 key informant interviews, including fact checkers and journalist to gather data for the study. Fact checkers and journalists talked about use of digital tools, including AI tools in their day-to-day work. Some of their Digital tools included ‘the Social-People Index, Facebook Ad Library, Crowd Tangle, Sentione, Google fact-check tool, Claim Buster, and TinEye’.
Senior Research Manager Gayani Hurulle, in an interview with Echelon for their May issue, discussed Sri Lanka’s readiness for a digital economy. Six experts were interviewed regarding Sri Lanka’s innovation landscape, providing insights into essential components for economic transformation, challenges in digital readiness, parallels with regional models, the intersection of law and technology, climate financing opportunities, and hurdles within the startup ecosystem. Gayani focused on Sri Lanka’s preparedness to embrace a digital economy, emphasising the urgent need to address challenges such as low digital literacy, inadequate infrastructure, and limited female workforce participation. She also highlighted the findings of LIRNEasia’s 2021 nationally representative survey, conducted against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. “According to LIRNEasia’s 2021 nationally representative survey, Sri Lanka grapples with a stark reality: only a fraction of the population possesses the ability to independently perform basic online tasks.
Before we dive into natural language understanding, the theory, and its applications–it is important from a pedagogical perspective that we understand the historical trajectory of the ideas that led us there. While it would be interesting to go as far as back to Aristotle, we will skip ahead to what is considered the most important flashpoint in modern philosophy & science–referred to as the ‘linguistic turn’. It begins with our Wittgenstein, inspired by Gottlob Frege: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. […]” While this line is almost used to the point it has become a cliche in modern NLP research papers, Indeed Wittgenstein himself would go on later to re-write and almost rethink all of the ideas he posited in the original Tractatus–which is why the irony is sweet when you see his famous quote plastered on the beginning of most modern research papers; but it is undeniable that Wittgenstein’s first posit changed the face of philosophical debate, effectively ending the practice of continental philosophy, and the birth of the more ‘logical’ analytic philosophy. In our rush to understand reality, we had lost sight of the tool we were bound by during our examination and […]
Abu Saeed Khan has taken leave of us. We celebrate a life well-lived and mourn the loss of a valued friend and colleague. The public sphere of Bangladesh and the region is diminished by his demise. I met him in September 2000 in Dhaka, my first visit to Bangladesh, where I had been invited as a former regulator to a regional event organised to welcome and encourage the just-established Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC). Learning that the World Bank had pulled its funding to signal displeasure about some last-minute chicanery to create openings for political interference in the governing statute, I did not limit myself to bland good wishes as is customary.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Abu Saeed Khan, a renowned telecommunications expert, and Senior Policy Fellow at LIRNEasia. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. Over the course of his career, Abu held several significant roles, including Secretary General of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) and Strategy Analyst at Ericsson’s Southeast Asian head office in Malaysia. He also served as the Technology Editor for bdnews24.com and conducted research analysis at EMC World Cellular Database.
Gayani Hurulle, Senior Research Manager at LIRNEasia, recently discussed the challenges facing Sri Lanka’s digital economy in an interview with Yarl TV. Gayani highlighted various policy challenges and opportunities pertaining to the digital economy, drawing on LIRNEasia’s research. She also highlighted the need for policy reforms to align with the rapidly evolving digital landscape. One of the pressing issues she addressed was digital taxation. She underlined that the current tax laws are not designed to/being used to collect taxes from large technology multinationals that don’t have a local physical presence, creating an uneven playing field.
LIRNEasia concluded its first workshop (30 March, 24’), its first and part of a larger series of initiatives on ‘Artificial Intelligence for Social Good’; intended to raise interest and awareness on the potential of AI to benefit society at large. The event featured a keynote speech by Dr. Romesh Ranawana, Chairman of the national AI strategy committee (Sri Lanka, 2024-28). Dr. Ranawana outlined Sri Lanka’s tactical roadmap for AI development, including its synergies with existing digital policies, the challenges still ahead.
The FutureWORKS Collective was officially launched at an inception workshop organised by the JustJobs Network on March 6-9, 2024 in Negombo, Sri Lanka. The workshop was the first in-person convening of the five regional hubs that will form the Global South research network.  The FutureWORKS Collective seeks to foster innovation that advances skills for the future of work and promote decent work globally. It will do this through Southern-led interdisciplinary research, network consolidation, and collaboration in public policy processes. This network, the FutureWORKS Collective is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.
In response to the alarming surge of information disorder affecting online platforms, LIRNEasia is exploring to provide evidence-based recommendations to policymakers on how best to equip Sri Lankan early adolescence with skills to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly. This is through a two-year research project on digital literacy among Sri Lankan adolescents aged 11 to 18. In partnership with Sarvodaya Fusion, LIRNEasia is taking an experimental approach, using qualitative methods. This initiative involves the comparison of two cohorts of early adolescents with varied demographics, including language and sectors like urban, rural, and estate. While one group undergoes intensive digital literacy training, the other serves as a control group without such training.
During the annual conference of the ICRIER Prosus Centre for Internet and Digital Economy (IPCIDE), which held in New Delhi on February 16, LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya stressed on the need to address both demand and supply sides of internet use, advocating for education reform and digital literacy initiatives to bridge access gaps.  Helani Galpaya is a member of the Advisory Board of IPCIDE. The focus of the event was the launch of the “State of India’s Digital Economy (SIDE) 2024” report, a comprehensive analysis of India’s digital transformation journey. Co-founded by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) and Prosus, a global consumer internet group, IPCIDE aims to shape policy by providing empirical evidence to guide India’s digital evolution.  The 2024 report highlights that India’s digital economy is only second to that of the USA when viewed as a whole, but it falls behind when digital dividends are considered on a per capita basis.
In a recent episode of “Samata IT” (IT for All) on Jathika Rupavahini, LIRNEasia’s Senior Research Manager and Data, Algorithm, and Policy Team Lead Merl Chandana shed light on the dynamic landscape of data science and how it offers ample opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds. “Data science is an evolving field which is still being developed. Therefore, there are not many seasoned experts in this filed, which means there is a significant scope for newcomers to make their mark,” Merl said. Contrary to conventional perceptions, he stressed that one doesn’t necessarily need prior experience in data science to pursue a career in the field. “What matters most is not the years of experience, but the willingness to learn.