In cyberpunk novels, the world of face-to-face interactions is called meatspace. Everyone knows what cyberspace is. The doyen of cyberpunk William Gibson invented the term. Surveillance is built into cyberspace. In the case of consumption activities, surveillance allows the marketer to “know” what the prospective customer wants and to shape her desires through targeted and customized messages.
In 2012 we wrote about the dangers posed to cloud computing in our contribution to the 2013 UNCTAD Information Economy Report. When the lower court ruling mandating Microsoft to give the government access to data stored in Ireland came out in 2014, this is what we said. Now the Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Microsoft: On Thursday, Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft’s president, said the court’s ruling was a victory for digital privacy rights. He added that the adoption of cloud services by customers in some countries, especially in the public sector, had slowed as a result of the uncertainty around the privacy of their communications.
LIRNEasia is currently hosting  Dr Ayumi Arai from the University of Tokyo’s Center for Spatial Information Science. She is also a Research Fellow with LIRNEasia collaborating on our big data for development research in Sri Lanka. We took the opportunity to organize a lecture for her yesterday (14th July 2016) for the senior staff of the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) Sri Lanka, as preamble to a longer discussion with the department to collaborate with LIRNEasia and our partners on big data and official statistics in Sri Lanka. Dr Arai’s talk was on her ongoing Dynamic Census research work in Bangladesh which utilizes mobile network big data and official statistics to provide spatio-temporal insights on the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the population at high granularity and high frequency. The slides from her talk are available HERE.
The National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) in collaboration with the Ministry of Primary Industries organized a seminar on 5th of July at the Galadhari Hotel, Colombo to discuss the ways to become “Export Giants Through Modernization”. The seminar comprised of more than 30 leading exporters of export agriculture crops, fruits and vegetables. An Expert panel was set up to have an interactive session. The expert panel consisted of the Honorable Daya Gamage, Minister of Primary Industries, Eng. Bandula Wickramarachci the secretary to the Ministry of Primary Industries, Mr.
Impact of broadband on the economic development of countries is extensively focused on research. To minimize the digital divide and increase the access to broadband, regulators and governments of developed as well as developing nations launch broadband policies/ plans and guidelines.  Different organizations and entities carry out further research on this subject and produce white papers on the same. The colloquium held at LIRNEasia last Thursday focused on three white papers published on broadband and digital connectivity this year (2016). These are; Government broadband plan: 5 key policy measures that proved to make a difference: Nokia (2016) Connecting the world: Ten mechanisms for global inclusion: PWC (2016) Digital Enablement: Bridging the Digital Divide to Connect People and Communities in India: Huawei (2016) The Nokia commissioned white paper was done by diffraction analysis.
The second day of the symposium organized by the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies and Pathfinder Foundation involved interaction between the Sri Lankan delegation and representatives of the provincial governments in China. The presentation I made is here.
I was asked to speak about Sri Lanka’s economic strategies and the Maritime Silk Road, here at the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies – Pathfinder Foundation symposium today. I am not sure this is just about Sri Lanka, but connectivity, if it is to be effective, has to work for all who are connected, so it does not have to be. I guess I could do a slightly different version of this for Myanmar and Bangladesh. Anyway, here‘s what I presented in eight minutes. It covers marine, aviation and telecom connectivity.
Given melting ice in the Arctic, cable laying ships are moving in. In the first phase northern communities are being connected. The plan is to extend to Asia, providing an additional layer of redundancy to international backhaul. In later phases of the project, Quintillion Networks will extend the network internationally to Europe and Asia, representing the first time the two continents will be directly linked by cable. In addition to cutting latency, these arctic cables add a layer of redundancy to our global communication systems.
Last week Parliament adopted the Right to Information Law without division. I have been engaged with RTI in Sri Lanka since 2007, when I chaired a Pathfinder Sanvada discussion. We went deep into the subject in 2011 when we proposed to implement RTI for the City of Colombo. RTI was a key element in the manifesto of the Common Candidate in the January 2015 Presidential Election. There was considerable consultation over the drafts since early 2015.
The results of the systematic review on the impact of mobile financial services in low- and lower middle-income countries were disseminated on 17 June 2016 at the Microtel Libis in Quezon City, Philippines. Dr. Erwin Alampay, who led the systematic review team, shared the results of the study that showed significantly higher volumes of remittances being received by m-financial service users compared to non-users. The slides can be accessed here. The event was also used as a platform to discuss the status of and issues pertaining to mobile money in the Philippines at large.

Six CPRsouth alumni at ITS 2016

Posted on June 29, 2016  /  0 Comments

I did not have to go looking for them. They came up to me and fondly spoke of what they had learned at previous CPRsouth events. In some cases the interactions had happened more than five years ago. I was gratified. The objective of CPRsouth is not to equip young people for the academic industry; it is to encourage and equip them to take research to policy.
Myanmar, having completed the “big bang,” initial reforms is in the process of establishing a regulatory agency to be known as the Myanmar Communication Commission (MCC). Due to years of enforced isolation from the world and neglect of education, Myanmar suffers from severe constraints in terms of skilled personnel. Having already achieved good results by learning from the experience with previous reforms, the government may benefit from learning from the experiences in the design of regulatory agencies and the conduct of ex-ante, sector-specific regulation. From desk research and questionnaires administered to informed respondents, this paper assembles relevant evidence from National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs) in member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which Myanmar is a member. In addition, the paper identifies negative aspects of conventional solutions and suggests ways to address them.
Martin Fransman gave a good keynote on what causes innovation at today’s ITS conference. One question that arose from his discussion of Apple and a low-tech (low expenditure on R&D) company was how we could objectively measure innovation. Fransman answered by saying R&D expenditures were a bad indicator, being (a) an input measure, and (b) excluding a lot of service innovation expenditures (Apple was high here). No one would be misled into believing that Apple did not innovate. After the session I was chatting about this with Michael Latzer of U Zurich.

Big data policy discussed at ITS

Posted on June 26, 2016  /  0 Comments

I am speaking on a big data panel at the 21st ITS Biennial Conference in Taipei, described below: If Big Data can open up opportunities at the same time it raises serious policy issues. Big Data raises concerns about the protection of privacy and other values and may drive a rethink of traditional approaches to data governance: a shift from trying to control the data itself to focusing on the uses of data. Prevalent data standard protection may have become higher as legal standard may be inadequate. Openness of the data and data ownership are pending issues. Besides, the rise of the “Data Barons” is triggering market concentration and data oligopolies issues: “Dark Side of market concentration and data oligopolies.

Does mobile use make us sick?

Posted on June 25, 2016  /  0 Comments

It was a challenge to teach about the health issues associated with mobile networks to over 80 members of the Yangon Regional Hluttaw (regional Parliament), including the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. I am not qualified in medicine, but I keep getting asked whether a new mobile BTS being erected in a neighborhood or a son’s or daughter’s “excessive” mobile use is likely to cause health problems. I realize the questioner, generally a member of the public who has made the effort to find my number and call me me cold, is highly worried and is also placing a great deal of trust in me. Therefore, I have made the effort to keep up with the research and respond based on the best possible evidence and with sensitivity to their fears. The slides that I used in my talk are based primarily on the writings of the brilliant Siddhartha Mukherjee, supplemented by a recent Australian study.
Over 80 sitting MPs of the Yangon Regional Hluttaw participated in a two day course on e-government organized by LIRNEasia and MIDO. The course took place on 22 and 23 June within the parliamentary premises and saw the participation of representatives from National League for Democracy (NLD), the Military and  Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Rohan Samarajiva and Helani Galpaya of LIRNEasia, Pranesh Prakash of CIS and Htaike Htaike Aung and Yatanar Htun of MIDO made presentations to the MPs over the two days. The presentations were well received and lively discussions followed. Many MPs also visited the digital security clinic for one to one consultations on how they could secure their social media accounts.