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  LIRNEasia has, over recent years, challenged the outdated and inadequate definition of computer literacy used by the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka (DCS).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.
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.
Data is essential for defining and measuring poverty. It provides the foundation that is necessary to understand the extent and nature of poverty in a given region or community. It also provides a basis for informed decision-making, effective policies, targeted interventions, and ongoing evaluation. Without good data, it would be challenging to establish poverty thresholds or determine who is living in poverty. By extension, it will be challenging to make meaningful progress in combatting poverty.
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.
  An article authored by LIRNEasia researchers Helani Galpaya, Gayani Hurulle and David Gunawardana was recently published in the IDS Bulletin, published by the Institute of Development Studies. This article is a reflection by LIRNEasia, a thinktank working in the developing Asia Pacific, on factors enabling and hindering its ability to influence policy during two separate but related crises in Sri Lanka: the Covid-19 pandemic and the fully fledged economic collapse that the country underwent in 2022. The article discusses LIRNEasia’s readiness and ability to respond to the unprecedented situation of crisis in the country it is headquartered in and where most of its staff are located. We detail the specific actions LIRNEasia took during each crisis in terms of research (both new and repurposed) and dissemination of research in order to frame debates and influence policy. Read the full article below.
  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.