I received a cold call from a member of the public today. He began by explaining how he found my mobile number. COVID-19 had got him thinking and he wanted my advice about career progression. Somewhat befuddled, I asked why me? He said that he recalled seeing me on TV talking about new work opportunities.
We like to think we can foretell developments in the industries we study. I can recall meeting a Jio operative at Abu Saeed Khan’s home in Dhaka before they launched and chatting about what was to come. We all agreed that Reliance would disrupt the market. All I could come up with was that voice would most likely be free, or very cheap. That was nothing very insightful, because that was where the technology was at that time.
Report by Vignesh Ilavarasan on the estimation of the potential for automation in the Indian economy, December 2019.
Ramathi Bandaranayake presented the following paper at the 3rd International Conference on Gender Research, held July 16 – 17 2020. The conference took place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper discusses the findings of our qualitative research related to female online freelancers in India and Sri Lanka.   Bandaranayake, R., Iqbal, T.
LIRNEasia entered the disability space because we recognized the transformative potential of smartphones, from our work in Myanmar. It is reassuring to see that this is what PWDs are saying in the US as well. They also talk about well-meaning outsiders proposing solutions to problems that do not exist. That also resonates with our thinking and the way we allocate the resources that we have. We spend a lot of effort to understand the problems that are important to the PWDs in the countries we work in.
A great deal of our work starts off with rigorous demand side research; knowing what, how and why users engage with digital technologies provides us with a solid evidence-base to make our policy recommendations. For example, the nationally representative data that we had collected through our AfterAccess surveys in six Asian countries, provided us with a solid evidence base to argue for various policy changes as soon as the pandemic hit. https://lirneasia.net/AfterAccess-COVID19. But going forward with current projects getting off the ground, and in the midst of designing new ones, we’ve had to think about what the pandemic, lockdowns, social distancing, etc.
This policy brief details guidance on making decisions in a pandemic.
Sometime in March 2018, the Sri Lankan government blocked access to Facebook, citing the spread of hate speech on the platform and tying it to the incidents of mob violence in Digana, Kandy. While some lauded the idea, the reality was that Sri Lanka has had a long history of racial violence cultivated by political actors. It has also long since had the powers to arrest instigators of racial violence – the ICCPR Act 56 of 2007 – and did precisely nothing, choosing instead a form of collective punishment for the entire population while shifting the blame away from criticism over lack of police protection for the citizens under attack, something it did again in even more dire circumstances. Nevertheless, it did something interesting: it brought Facebook to the table. To set the record straight, the Data, Algorithms and Policy team at LIRNEasia has engaged with Facebook before.
Wijeratne, Y., de Silva, N. (2020).  Sinhala Language Corpora and Stopwords from a Decade of Sri Lankan Facebook. LIRNEasia.
Disasters wreak havoc and destroy full-scale infrastructures, homes, schools, hospitals, communication systems, and disrupt access to food, clean water, electricity, and transportation. Individuals with disabilities are disproportionately affected in disaster, emergency, and conflict situations due to inaccessible evacuation, response (including shelters, camps, and food distribution), and recovery efforts (Robinson, 2020; Samant Raja et al., 2013; Stough & Kang, 2015; Wolbring, 2009).  The primary focus of this study was reviewing literature on PWD and DiDRR (Disability inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction) specifically involving Asian countries to find gaps in inclusive crisis communication Additionally, the study explored other relevant literature all of which is discussed in the literature review. Thereafter, the method involved synthesizing the findings to propose a conceptual architecture for ICT-enabled assistive technology in support PWDs facing crisis situations.
For those of us who have been thinking about e commerce and the reasons for people not taking to it in large numbers for decades, the COVID-19 related lockdowns gave much to reflect on. Below is an excerpt from something I wrote in the first weeks of the Sri Lankan lockdown in the Daily FT and also in Sinhala. E commerce vendors in Sri Lanka were having a hard time making sales. And these were companies that were dealing with items that do not go bad. The demand that spiked in the past weeks was mostly for goods such as dairy, fruit and vegetables that require care in storage and transportation.
The new normal for education would necessarily involve a heightened awareness of and a focus on sanitation and social distancing. Will the new normal include transformative use of ICTs for learning? Our research shows that it depends on how well policymakers learn from the experience of organically formed teacher-parent-student networks in using ICTs for teaching at a distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Use of ICT for teaching is different from the use of ICTs for learning. Teachers have been increasingly using multi-media, e-blackboards, learning management systems and student management systems for efficiencies in teaching, but the effectiveness of teaching is in the learning experienced by students.
On Friday, 26 June, 15:00-17:00 Central European Time (1830-2030 IST), the International Telecommunication Union is convening leading economic experts to discuss COVID19 and the Digital Economy: James Sullivan from J.P. Morgan, Mayssaa Issa from Delta Partners, Matt Yardley from Analysys Mason, Germán Cufré from IFC – International Finance Corporation, Shaun Collins from CCS Insight, Steve Brazier from Canalys, Paul Lam, CFA, FRSA from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Tim Kelly from The World Bank, Alison Gillwald from Research ICT Africa, Alexandra Rehak from Omdia, Audrey Plonk from OECD – OCDE, Rohan Samarajiva from LIRNEasia and Guy ZIBI from Xalam Analytics will explore emerging research on: (a) COVID19 impact on Digital Economy; and (b) Impact of Digital Infrastructure on recovery. Panel will be opened by ITU SG Houlin Zhao and Telecommunication Development Director Doreen Bogdan-Martin. The rapporteur is Raul Katz.
Both high and low trust may have a role to play in effective pandemic response.
The Internet has been a means of providing continuity in employment and education to many in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stakeholders throughout the Internet ecosystem have had to step up to provide connectivity—both to those previously unconnected, and those already connected but with increased demand. Internet service providers (ISPs) in Sri Lanka have been no exception. Responding to a request of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), many fixed and mobile Internet service providers began providing special packages targeting those working and studying from home. The basic premise is that these packages should allow for cheaper access to the Internet to allow individuals to engage in their work and/or studies.
As everyone knows, COVID-19 and associated lockdowns have reduced electricity demand and increased demand for data. Especially in countries like Sri Lanka which are dependent on imported coal/diesel for production of electricity, there is a great interest in increasing energy efficiency. The IEA has published an interesting report on energy use by data centers and in data transmission. Strong growth in demand for data centre services continues to be offset by ongoing efficiency improvements for servers, storage devices, network switches and data centre infrastructure, as well as a shift to much greater shares of cloud and hyperscale data centres. Hyperscale data centres are very efficient large-scale cloud data centres that run at high capacity, owing in part to virtualisation software that enables data centre operators to deliver greater work output with fewer servers.