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I said in my NYT piece that banning was not the answer. We needed to work with them to address the very real problems that are facing our societies, based in part on the accelerant qualities of social media. Who is “we”? Not just governments, but also researchers (I cited some MIT research) and civil society. But that was before Aleksandr Kogan.
Social science trains its adherents to be cautious. The dictionary meaning of “to determine” is “to cause (something) to occur in a particular way or to have a particular nature.” We are very careful is ascribing causation, though it is of course of the greatest interest. Lawyers are said to use word like surgeons use scalpels. But the lawyers sent out on Asian missions by the UN appear to use words like meat cleavers.
We are inviting Proposals from potential Bidders to conduct a qualitative study on ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities in Myanmar. The full RFP is given below. Please also see our FGD Sampling Table, Technical Proposal Template, Financial Proposal Template, and Draft Contract before submitting the proposals. Deadline for submissions is 09 April 2018.  
LIRNEasia has been engaged with the knowledge and information aspects of agriculture since 2006. There have been times when questions have been raised about whether this should continue to be a priority for us. But this summary of research on the cost of living in Africa (by extension, poor countries) published in the Economist suggests we were right to focus on agriculture. Whereas Balassa and Samuelson divided economies into two (manufacturing and services), Mr Hassan divides economies into three, by also distinguishing agriculture. Like manufacturing, agricultural productivity can grow vigorously.
LIRNEasia was proud to partner on Sri Lanka’s first national symposium on Data for Sustainable Development. Held over two days (March 20-21), the event offered a unique platform to share LIRNEasia’s views and experience on the use of data for the SDGs, particularly in relation to our big data work. Sriganesh Lokanathan, Team Leader – Big Data research moderated the first session of the symposium, and was part of a panel discussion on day 2. I had the opportunity to showcase LIRNEasia’s experience on using Big data for SDGs at a session that was co-presented with UN Global Pulse. At the first session, Sriganesh moderated a panel that emphasized the importance of data to achieve the SDGs, and set the tone for the symposium.
I first started talking about Facebook being the Internet for many people in our countries in 2012. But the story by Quartz is what really hit the big time. Now it is appearing in debates around the debate de jour: Should we all just leave Facebook? That may sound attractive but it is not a viable solution. In many countries, Facebook and its products simply are the internet.
The hearing or speech disabled require sign-language interpretation to communicate with the normally-abled world. But sign-language interpreters are scarce. Unless there is a sign-language competent person in the household (e.g., a child who can communicate through the spoken word who also knows sign language), it is quite challenging.
Now that the telecom markets in emerging Asia have matured and now that the potential of easily deployable apps is within reach because of the fast spreading smartphones, we must make access by the disabled a priority. The key to independent living is technology. Our current work in Nepal, supported by the Ford Foundation, has accessible and inclusive access as the principal focus. The workshop held 16-17 March in Kathmandu sought to prioritize the problems amenable to ICT solutions. This will feed into a pre-hackathon being organized March 18-19 at the Tribhuvan University Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus: Here are some reflections on problems faced by the disabled in Nepal which are amenable to ICT solutions.
All cultures and religions have prohibitions: Not eat these kinds of food; not do these things at these times, and so on. It used to be a requirement of membership. There was always some coercion involved. But it was more in the form of peer pressure, rather than outright coercion. Your behavior would be regulated by those within your own immediate community, rather than by distant authorities.
Hate speech is one area where our thinking was strongly influenced by work in Myanmar. I recall listening to a passionate presentation by Nay Phone Latt on the subject at an awareness program for legislators in Yangon and discussing the issues with Phyu Phyu Thi in relation to her research presentation at IGF in Joao Pessoa. When our researchers were on the field in Myanmar, the problems in the Rakhine emerged. This is a hard problem, requiring balance between prior restraint of speech and control of hate speech leading to violence. We will continue to engage with the topic.
After a weeklong blackout, the Sri Lankan government lifted its nationwide ban on social media on Thursday. Facebook and several other platforms had been shut down after days of violence targeting Muslims in the Kandy district, a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims.
Online hate speech has become commonplace in Myanmar. PEN Myanmar (2015) analysed posts from Facebook over a year, noting that the incidence of hate speech pertaining to a topic was often tied to a controversial, topical event– the appearance of posts regarding politics, for instance, increased during the elections held in November 2015. LIRNEasia and MIDO, along with Kantar TNS Myanmar, were on the field carrying out qualitative research in Myanmar in late August 2017 when conflict in the Rakhine region escalated.  Many accounts revolved around the prevailing conflict came up in the interviews with 95 respondents in Yangon, Mandalay and Myitkyina. A few respondents openly expressed their displeasure regarding the situation, and spoke of how the posts they encountered online pushed them to want to incite violence.
5G will make many demands of spectrum managers. It will also pose challenges in terms of the over-reliance on microwave in the backhaul segment. The debate has started. It’s time for developing-country regulators and policy makers to start engaging: Companies still have room to influence 5G technology because it has not yet been deployed. As of now, a group called 3GPP — staffed by engineers from many companies — has been defining the specifications so that devices that operate with 5G technology can “talk” to one another.
I was asked by the FT about the Facebook shut-down decision of the government. Here is my response: It is true that Facebook as well as Viber, etc. have been, and are being, extensively used by various extremist groups to organize. The climate for this conflagration was created by mainstream media such as Divaina, which gave coverage to hate speech as well as by hate speech messages that were circulated among their circles of friends and family without central direction by members of the majority community using social media, not limited to Facebook. The root cause of the problem lies in this insidious spread of falsehoods and hate over multiple years, not solely in the specific messages being communicated now.
Back in 2002-03 when we were designing the e Sri Lanka initiative, we worried a lot about a ubiquitous mechanism that could enable small online payments. I was hearing more or less the same concerns about the lack of a good payments infrastructure at a digital strategy meeting last week. It appears the India government has solved the problem: WATCHING money drain from your bank account has never been so much fun. On WhatsApp, a messaging service ubiquitous in India, sending rupees is now as easy as posting a selfie. Set-up is a breeze, because all Indian banks have been corralled onto a common payment platform on which anyone, from Google and Samsung to local payment firms and banks themselves, can build their own user interface.
The first post on big data on this website was in September 2011. By 2012, we were working on the topic with mobile network big data in hand. Six years ago, we were alone in the field. The meetings we had in multiple countries with multiple operators did not yield the additional data we desired. But we can be happy that our efforts such as an early dissemination effort at ITU Telecom World may have contributed to a more enlightened attitude that made possible the effort described below: The GSMA has announced that more operators have joined its “Big Data for Social Good” initiative and that the first wave of trials have been conducted by Bharti Airtel, Telefonica and Telenor.