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.
Rohan Samarajiva, Tharaka Amarasinghe, and I attended a meeting with the Committee on Comprehensive Social Protection for Workers on 4 January 2024, following an invitation from the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment in Sri Lanka. Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment, Manusha Nanayakkara was present at the meeting, along with representatives from several agencies including the National Planning Department, Social Security Board, Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, and International Labour Organisation. During the session, we delivered a presentation to the Committee, accessible here. This article sheds light on three key points we raised, initiating meaningful discussions.  28% of workers are living in poverty  LIRNEasia’s 10,000 sample nationally representative survey conducted between August 2022 and March 2023 highlighted that 28% of the 8.
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.
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada recently launched a global south research network –FutureWORKS — dedicated to researching and addressing the challenges posed by the changing landscape of work across the global south. Through shared research, network consolidation, and collaboration in public policy processes, FutureWORKS seeks to foster innovation that advances skills for the future of work and promote decent work globally. LIRNEasia has been selected to lead in the building of the Asian segment/cluster of a global south research network over a period of five years. Through this network, LIRNEasia will commission high-quality, innovative and gender responsive research and lead a regional research network to advance skills and policies for an inclusive and sustainable future of work in Asia. LIRNEasia, will award over 12 research grants over the period of five years, through a competitive selection process to this end.
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 is known for its work on ICTs, but it works on all infrastructures. Electricity is an area we have done considerable work in. Our work is shown here. In 2002, after years of work involving all stakeholders including those working at the Ceylon Electricity Board, new legislation was enacted so that some incentives would be created for efficiency in the electricity industry. But unfortunately, this law was not implemented and following a change in government it was gutted of the key elements that would have made benchmark regulation possible.
  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%.
Last year we conducted research to explore the possibility of leveraging online job portal data for economic analysis in 13 Asia Pacific countries, as a part of a project for the Asian Development Bank. We examined the types of information available on major portals across the region, to discern the nature and format of available data. We also tested and refined methodologies to analyse a dataset comprising online job vacancies sourced from a Sri Lankan job portal, to demonstrate use cases for exploring  the impacts of shocks on the labour market. The first step in this exploration was to review where in practice online job portal data has been used, to identify the  methods and techniques available along with their strengths and limitations.  The full review is published below.

2024 Greetings!

Posted by on December 21, 2023  /  0 Comments

The first installation of the book club was based on the book ‘Whole Numbers and half Truths: What data can and cannot tell us about modern India’ by Rukmini S. The book was an exploration of the data landscape in India by answering ten fundamental questions about how India operates – from what India ‘thinks, feels, and believes’ to how much money it earns and spends, to how its demography is changing. The book not only sifts through data from various sources but uses interesting anecdotes that provide context and paints a picture of the multifaceted tapestry that is modern India with a blend of data investigation and storytelling.
LIRNEasia is pleased to issue a call for expressions of interest (EOIs) to build digital tools to strengthen pluralist, inclusive and fact-based public discourse in Sri Lanka. The detailed call for EOIs can be found here. The editable template for submissions can be accessed here. Interested parties should respond with their submissions according to the guidelines no later than 1600 hours Sri Lanka time on 8 December 2023.
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.