LIRNEasia at CPRsouth 10 in Taipei

Posted on August 15, 2015  /  0 Comments

It was in January 2007 that we started CPRsouth in Manila. Now the 10th conference is coming back to East Asia, to Taipei. And as it was in Manila, there will be a strong presence from LIRNEasia. The conference program. I was the only board member then.
A noted writer on technology who was quite supportive of our stand against efforts to assert strong national controls over the Internet through resolutions approved at the WCIT 2012, tagged me on a tweet about this alarmist piece about the Sri Lanka government’s MOU with Google to test Loon over Lanka that included the para below: The real effects of this deal will be seen after Sri Lanka’s citizens have tasted universal Internet access: how can Sri Lanka’s political parties be expected to formulate and push through strict legislation on issues such as local data storage, privacy and search engine neutrality when the party that will be affected the most (Google) is the one responsible for the country’s Internet coverage? While there may be no outright arm-twisting – which is not Silicon Valley’s style – Sri Lanka’s legislators will undoubtedly think twice before coming out with legislation that would require Internet companies to retain Sri Lankan data on Sri Lankan soil; a controversial notion that has seen countries such as Brazil flip-flop in the face of intense lobbying. It’s possible that my friend did not read to the end, but simply thinking that he would outsource the response to this […]
Sujata Gamage, the Team Leader of the Human Capital Research Program has started a weekly column in the Financial Times in English and in the government newspaper, Dinamina, in Sinhala. Here is an excerpt from her first column in FT. But, how do our youth really feel about the state of affairs in their country? There is a widely held belief that this age group was instrumental in turning the tide against President Rajapaksa in the 2015 presidential election, but, we have little concrete evidence. Other countries such as UK, Australia and Malaysia carry out regular youth surveys but we don’t.
A recent write up by IDRC featured our big data work. Similarly, private telecom companies’ data on mobile phone traffic has become a crucial resource for researchers at the Sri Lanka-based think tank LIRNEasia, a long-time IDRC research partner. Using phone data that tracks traffic flows can be a low-cost means of helping governments decide where to invest in road and public transport upgrades, says LIRNEasia chair Rohan Samarajiva. Since mobile phones are ubiquitous in Sri Lanka and phone traffic data is anonymous, studies are less likely to be biased in favour of the rich, he says. “We see that a mobile phone travels down a highway at a certain speed, but whether it’s rich or poor, travelling in a car or bus or motorbike — we don’t know.
In the context of LIRNEasia’s big data work, we intend to wrestle with these issues. If we are not getting our hands dirty with the data and the stories we extract from them, I fear the conversation will be sterile. First, students should learn that design choices in algorithms embody value judgments and therefore bias the way systems operate. They should also learn that these things are subtle: For example, designing an algorithm for targeted advertising that is gender-neutral is more complicated than simply ensuring that gender is ignored. They need to understand that classification rules obtained by machine learning are not immune from bias, especially when historical data incorporates bias.
While driving a car remains forbidden for women in Saudi Arabia, its tiny neighbor puts a woman behind the wheel to drive the state-owned telco. Yes, Muna Al Hashemi has been confirmed as the new CEO of Batelco (Bahrain Telecommunications Company) on Monday. Until then she had been holding the fort as acting CEO since December 2014. The appointment makes Muna the first woman to lead a teleco in the GCC region. With a Master’s degree in Telecommunications and a BSc in Electronic Engineering, Muna began her career in Batelco in 1994.
I’ve been invited to moderate a three party discussion on live TV organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, on the government SLRC channel at 10 PM today. In preparing for the task, I read through the economic proposals contained in the General Election manifestos of the JVP, the UPFA and the UNP. Given our continuing engagement with the Sri Lanka agriculture sector which started almost 10 years ago, I thought I’d use the proposals on agriculture to illustrate the approaches of the three parties. I also thought it might be useful to see if any of our ideas had percolated into the political mainstream over the past decade. Given our focus has been on the high-value fruit and vegetable segment, I will focus on that.
A4AI has published all the slidesets used at the universal service workshop, that LIRNEasia attended. The presentations are here.
In terms of research techniques, Mobile and online communities continue to dominate the methodological shift, but research clients are demanding big data insights. Themes from this year’s GRIT Report highlights the impact on research industry: speed, new platforms, and the quest for insights in a sea of data. Researchers recognize the need for speed as the businesses are moving fast.  Therefore, we need to see consumers, brands, categories and markets in real-time to provide optimal guidance for competing and winning in this complex world.  As new platforms, especially in the social and mobile realms with increased ubiquity, marketers and researchers must seize new opportunities and respond to the constraints of the new media and platforms.
Many of the public services that would be delivered under Digital India are those under the purview of state governments which are not necessarily under the control of, or even aligned with, the Modi government. It’s good that they are working across the lines. Congress-ruled Karnataka wants to be the flagship for the Digital India initiative. Pushed by chief minister Siddaramaiah, the state’s e-governance department is set to roll out 376 government services under the e-district programme within the next three months. This will be four times more than BJP-ruled Maharashtra’s 85 services, the highest in the country, currently.
Sri Lankan ICT entrepreneurs have been asking that inward payments by Paypal be facilitated. I’ve pushed it in various settings. Government has promised it would do this many times. But nothing has happened. Here is the latest promise: Speaking at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce under the theme, ‘The power of social media for exports’, Canagey emphasized they were committed in creating financial and social inclusivity through the platform.
The first nationally representative survey of ICT use in Myanmar was conducted by LIRNEasia in Feb/March of 2015.  The results were presented to stakeholders at a series of events and meetings held in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw between the 28 – 30 July 2015. Download report here The links provide the updated slide-set, detailed methodology note, questionnaire in English and in Myanmar language.   Media ICT Survey: LIRNEasia nationwide ICT survey results released| Mitv News, Myanmar | July 29th 2015 LA on Democracy Today, Myanmar | August 6th 2015           LA on the Mobile Guide, Myanmar | August 5th                     LA survey data being referenced in an item about hate speech on Facebook | Eleven News, Myanmar |September 13th 2015 The English translation of this item can be found here.  
A few months back Telenor Group asked whether we would be interested in working up a document that would focus thinking on Digital Bangladesh and identify priority areas for cooperative action by different agencies of government and the private sector, including in particular Telenor’s Bangladesh affiliate Grameenphone. We did not have to think much because this was an opportunity to crystallize seven years of ongoing discussions and help advance the process of accelerated implementation. The government should relax the rules to attract more foreign firms to invest in Bangladesh, said a report developed by Grameenphone and its major shareholder Telenor Group with the support of LIRNEasia. The government should also form a well-planned spectrum roadmap and introduce tech neutrality to boost the telecom, IT and IT-enabled services, the report suggested. The report, Realising Digital Bangladesh, also advised the government to liberalise international gateways to allow one-stop shopping services and ensure the quality of services.
At a well attended meeting in Yangon on the 29th of July, Helani Galpaya, together with MIDO’s research lead Phyu Phyu Thi and U Htun Htun of Third Eye, who executed the field research, presented the descriptive statistics from the nation-wide representative-sample survey conducted in February 2015. The results are being released in Nay Pyi Taw today, 30th July. The presentation slides will be available here shortly.
LIRNEasia participated at the 2nd meeting of the A4AI Myanmar Coalition meeting yesterday at the MICT Park in Yangon. Four priority areas were identified as being important for debate right now; 1. A Universal Access Fund 2. Infrastructure development and sharing 3. Data and Research 4.
The Myanmar government is rushing to inject competition to the nascent mobile industry by inviting bids for the fourth license yesterday (July 27, 2015), said Reuters. Local firms, with registered capital of minimum US$2.37 million, may form foreign partnership and submit their proposal by August 24 (that’s less than a month). Under the state-owned monopoly, Myanmar’s mobile penetration was just 2.5% in 2011.