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Full video of the IDRC International Women's Day panel on "Is innovation sexist?" is now available online. Our CEO Helani Galpaya was part of this panel.
It’s been a few years since LIRNEasia had funded research on waste management. But that does not mean that the knowledge that was accumulated has gone away. In the context of increased salience of knowledge on waste management, Human Capital Research Team Leader Sujata Gamage has been much in demand. Here is a voice clip, in Sinhala, that was broadcast and is making the rounds in social media.
It’s not possible to give people what they want from ICTs (connectivity, quality, low price) without investment. So we are always happy when investment in telecom increases, especially in countries where the sector has been starved of investment for long like Myanmar. But we have to keep in mind that what the sector produces is not internationally tradeable (except for roaming services). The consumption occurs within the country. It contributes to the advancement of all other sectors, and thus indirectly to growing the entire economy including exports.
Professor Gregg Vanderheiden has a record of achievements in enabling the differently abled to use technology such as personal computers and automated teller machines. Through Raising the Floor, an international organization that he established, Professor Vanderheiden is working on an ambitious initiative to create a platform that will make it possible for various interfaces to “morph” into forms accessible to users with disabilities (which includes many people who are not so identified ordinarily). For the interfaces to be fully responsive to the unique needs of each of the users, the platform would have to know about their preferences and behaviors. Raising the Floor is taking the issues of putting in place strong safeguards for these data and to ensure that harms are avoided. For this purpose, they convened expert groups in Geneva and Washington DC.
We have argued that zero rated services that don’t discriminate against providers of similar content are less problematic than the ones that do. So, for example, a zero-rated service that allows users to stream music for free without discriminating based on who provides (produces, distributes or aggregates) the music is less problematic because music from any content provider has an equal chance of being streamed, as long as the users like it, without interference from a gatekeeper. The Netherlands courts appear to agree – today they ruled that T-Mobile’s zero rated music service is allowed, even though it is against the country’s net neutrality rulings.   More info at mobileworldlive.com  
I’ve been working on privacy since 1991. I guess when one has been engaged with a subject deeply, one escapes the bubble effect: that of believing that one particular issue/value is paramount. But I interact with many people now, who seem to think that privacy is a paramount value even if some of the “safeguards” they want to put in place would basically make it impossible to use big data for the public good. Humans understand through analogical reasoning. So perhaps understanding about what we want to do with big data for the public good can be understood by this analogy with medical research using leftover materials from medical procedures?
In 2008-10 LIRNEasia completed a research project on knowledge to innovation, that had a major focus on solid waste disposal. Following the garbage landslide just outside Colombo a week ago, the country has been aflame in debate on solid waste management. The PI of the solid waste project was invited to participate in a TV talk show two days ago. Her principal point was that there were too many government entities involved. Now we see the President making the same point.
Six years ago, we were discussing how to accelerate app development in the context of a proposal we submitted to infoDev. Instead of giving the grant to us, they chose to give it to some Pakistani government outfit where the entire thing was still-born. But the relevance to the question of what comes after the smartphone is a conversation I had with Sanjiva Weerawarana, one of Sri Lanka’s ICT leaders. It is easy now to talk about how popular smartphones would be. But back in 2011 it took some foresight to claim as Sanjiva did that smartphones would dominate the marketplace.

What is innovation?

Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on April 20, 2017  /  1 Comments

Having just heard from a funder with the word innovation in its name that a concept note in disaster risk reduction that we submitted was not innovative enough, I’ve been thinking about this slippery term. Then comes along the NYT tech columnist Farhad Manjoo: There is a rich history in this industry of taking someone else’s idea and adding your own spin on it to improve tech for everyone. Apple’s Steve Jobs and the team behind the original Mac were inspired by a bunch of ideas floating around tech research circles, including at Xerox PARC. Then Microsoft’s chief executive, Bill Gates, saw the Mac’s success and — by creating a new business model for the PC industry — he ushered in an even bigger deal: graphical computers that could get cheap enough for most people to own. Or look at the smartphone.
Young Scholars Applications are now open for “CPR south 2017: The Next Billion”. Twenty Young Scholars from the Asia-Pacific and Africa will be selected to participate in a tutorial program which will emphasise interactive and practical aspects of taking research to policy. Dates: 28, 29 and 30 August 2017 These Young Scholars will also participate in the CPR south 2017 “Next Billion” conference at Inya Lake Hotel, Yangon, Myanmar from 30th August to 1st September 2017. More information is available on the CPR south website.
Preparing for a session of the Privacy Advisory Group of UN Global Pulse and the UN Privacy Policy Group on 17-18 April, I had cause to reflect on some moves to develop new definitions (sensitive data, meta data and micro data). I may change my mind after listening to the deliberation, but here’s my starting position: Definitions are developed with some purpose in mind. A definition that is appropriate for one purpose may not be useful for another. Definitions embody assumptions and agendas. I believe that personally identifiable information (PII), a venerable category of data deeply embedded in privacy theory and practice is the only category of data requiring hard protection.
With massive numbers detailed in the Mobile World Live report, Tanzania is the current success story in mobile-led financial services. What caught my attention was the need for interconnection rules if the market has four suppliers. World Bank country director for Tanzania, Somalia, Burundi and Malawi, Bella Bird (pictured) said: “The mobile money revolution has made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of people who can now send and receive money and thus save at low cost. With more effort, the remaining one-third of Tanzanians could also have access.” According to the latest GSMA Intelligence statistics for Tanzania, by the end of Q1 2016 there were four competing mobile money services available in the country.
We at LIRNEasia have been promoting cell broadcasting for a long time. It is immune to congestion, message over it can be specific to location; and it does not require prior registration of numbers. It has thousands of “channels” and can therefore handle multiple languages, including those of tourists who are visiting. Therefore, we are very happy that Canada, which has supported our disaster risk reduction research is the latest country to get behind cell broadcasting: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today directed all wireless service providers to implement a wireless public alerting system on their LTE (long-term evolution) networks by April, 2018. This system will allow emergency management officials, such as fire marshals and police agencies, to warn Canadians on their mobile devices of dangers to life and property.
LIRNEasia is looking to fill a vacancy on a multi-country survey research project. The full job description is available here. The deadline for application is 23 April 2017.
In the course of preparing for a talk, I was entering household expenditure data on communication-related activities into a spreadsheet that contained data from the 2009-10 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). In the three years since 2009-10 many things have happened to expenditure patterns, but one thing jumped out. In 2009-10 a household reported an average expenditure of LKR 382.72 outside the home per month. In 2012-13, this had declined to LKR 17.