Piyumi Fonseka, Author at LIRNEasia — Page 2 of 3


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.
In a significant move towards modernising archival governance and promoting data accessibility, a committee appointed by the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious, and Cultural Affairs, has been working on revising the National Archives Law No. 48 of 1973. Chaired by Nigel Nugawela, Archivist, the committee includes experts such as LIRNEasia Chair Prof. Rohan Samarajiva — who is also a former Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA). The draft text, which will act as the basis for a National Archives and Records Management Bill, was presented to the subject Minister Vidura Wickremanayake last week.
In a recent interview with Face the Nation on Sirasa TV, LIRNEasia Chair Prof. Rohan Samarajiva raised his concerns regarding the Online Safety Bill which is currently under debate in the Sri Lankan Parliament. Prof. Samarajiva explained why he believes the Bill, instead of addressing the issues related to harmful online content in Sri Lanka, is fixated on punishment rather than prevention and deterrence.  “I believe there are problems with online content in Sri Lanka, but this Bill does not address those problems,” said Prof.
In November last year, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court determined that the Online Safety Bill is not inconsistent with the Constitution and can be passed in parliament by a simple majority– subject to amendments made to 31 of its provisions. The second reading debate for the Bill is scheduled to take place in Parliament on January 23 and 24.   In a recent interview on the Sirasa Pathikada programme, Chair of LIRNEasia, Professor Rohan Samarajiva elaborated on the key recommendations put forth by the Supreme Court concerning several sections of the bill that require modification. He also spoke about the flaws of the Bill and reiterated that the Bill is riddled with potential for abuse.  Watch the full interview here.
LIRNEasia’s Senior Research Manager, Gayani Hurulle, recently spoke at a symposium organised by the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) titled “Poverty Alleviation in an Era of Economic Crisis.” The symposium, held in November last year, aimed at revisiting poverty-related issues, focusing on addressing the escalating poverty and vulnerability in the present crisis and beyond.   Gayani, heading LIRNEasia’s work on poverty and social safety nets in Sri Lanka participated as a discussant in a panel on building a comprehensive social protection system. The panel, moderated by Karin Fernando from CEPA, included experts such as Shalika Subasinghe of the World Bank, Mira Bierbaum of the UNICEF, and Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne of Sarvodaya.
In a recent interview on the Sirasa Pathikada programme, Professor Rohan Samarajiva, Chair of LIRNEasia, shed light on the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in addressing various challenges and emphasised the need for mindful use of this technology for public benefit.  He began by explaining the basic concepts of AI, distinguishing between general AI and narrow AI using simple examples. Prof. Samarajiva then highlighted the application of AI in disaster management, specifically in predicting floods. Drawing attention to Google’s flood forecasting system for the Ganga River in India, he described how AI utilises data from rainfall forecasts, river levels, and historical flood data to generate flood risk maps.
In a recent interview with Yarl TV, LIRNEasia Chair Prof. Rohan Samarajiva shed light on the potential impact of Sri Lanka’s new tax policy on the digital sector. The discussion extended to the taxation of multinational digital service providers like Facebook and Uber, widely used in Sri Lanka.  Prof. Samarajiva emphasised the crucial role of the government in streamlining the tax payment process for these companies.
  LIRNEasia has, over recent years, challenged the outdated and inadequate definition of computer literacy used by the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka (DCS). In a welcome move, DCS and the ICT Agency have collaborated to refine the definition of digital literacy and update assessment criteria. This decision was made by a 13-member consultative committee jointly headed by LIRNEasia Chair, and former ICT Agency (Sri Lanka) Chair, Professor Rohan Samarajiva, and Associate Chief Digital Economy Officer, ICT Agency of Sri Lanka Sameera Jayawardena.   According to the annual literacy statistics for 2021 released by the Department of Census and Statistics, one out of two Sri Lankans aged 5-69 is digitally literate, accounting for a digital literacy rate of 57.2%.
LIRNEasia recently unveiled “Dissect” – a cutting-edge web tool employing advanced artificial intelligence (AI) tailored for effective fact-checking. What sets this tool apart is its compatibility with Sinhala websites, and its accessibility to anyone from anywhere in the world, making fact-checking accessible to a wider audience. Developed by Appendix Pvt. Ltd. under Watchdog Sri Lanka, the web tool is currently being tested for effectiveness by LIRNEasia.
“Creating regulatory bodies that issue orders with short time frames backed up by large penalties is likely to shut off the opportunities for collaboration. If the costs of complying with the directions of the regulator from a small and insignificant market are excessive, the platform companies are likely to withdraw their services from Sri Lanka causing significant harm to users. Such outcomes will not endear the responsible politicians to the active youth demographic that is likely to be decisive in the coming elections. The Government claims that some individuals experience significant harm caused by online content. Some, if not all, critics of the Government’s Online Safety Bill will agree.
LIRNEasia’s Senior Research Manager, Gayani Hurulle, has been featured in a recent documentary by Channel News Asia, delving into the dynamics of Sri Lanka’s debt crisis. The documentary seeks to explain the debt crisis, whilst exploring the human cost associated with a country grappling with economic challenges, and looking forward as to what happens next. In the documentary, Gayani shares findings from LIRNEasia’s recent research on poverty and social safety nets in Sri Lanka. Our nationally representative research adds a crucial layer to the understanding of the complexities surrounding the country’s economic challenges. Watch the full documentary Read our research on social safety nets and poverty rates in Sri Lanka
Authored by a former research intern at LIRNEasia Ali Hakim, this research article delves into the strategic linkages between social information systems and livelihood-related databases, shedding light on innovative approaches to enhance the efficiency of welfare structures. This article explores the dynamic intersection of social registries and labour programmes in Chile, the Philippines, and Sierra Leone. Ali, in his article has highlighted the successes in these countries but also underlines the potential blueprint these systems provide for other nations seeking to refine their information structures and optimise safety net targeting. This research was conducted as a part of LIRNEasia’s social safety nets, to understand the state of social safety nets in the country and make recommendations for their reform, in the wake of the 2022 economic crisis. Read the full article.
On the occasion of the International Day for Democracy, the International Observatory on Information and Democracy (OID) announced the appointment of 19 influential leaders in policy, research, and academia to its Steering Committee. Among the appointees is Helani Galpaya, Chief Executive Officer of LIRNEasia, who will bring her expertise to shape the global discourse on information and democracy. The steering committee consists of thought leaders from diverse geographies and disciplines, encompassing fields as wide-ranging as political science, ethics, journalism, engineering, anthropology, economics and data science. The group will oversee the process of completing an authoritative report evaluating and synthesising scientific contributions related to the challenges faced in the information ecosystem. According to the Forum on Information Democracy, ‘the Observatory’s work on information and democracy is equivalent to the IPCC for climate change, and just as urgent – as underscored by the generous commitment from this globally eminent group of thought leaders.
This policy paper addresses the urgent need for a new social compact in response to the global challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Emphasising the pivotal role of digital inclusion and equity, the report underscores their significance in mitigating health and economic risks associated with pandemic-related lockdowns. It explores how the digitalisation of public services and access to them are crucial for citizens’ effective participation in the economy and society, both during the pandemic and in the subsequent economic reconstruction. Despite the transformative potential of digital strategies, the study reveals missed opportunities by governments in Nigeria, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Peru, and Colombia to effectively deploy digital solutions during the crisis. The report sheds light on how deficiencies in leveraging digital technologies have exacerbated social and economic inequalities, providing insights to rectify these shortcomings.
  LIRNEasia is currently looking to fill the role of a Senior Statistician and Project Manager. The full job description is available here. The deadline for applying is 15th November 2023.