I was recently asked to justify my claim that the big data debate should not be reduced to a “competition of imaginations” between hype and pessimism. The future is unknowable, so we have little alternative but to use our imaginations to discuss the future. We can extrapolate from what is known which is better than pure scenarios, but even this is not perfect. What happened yesterday need not happen tomorrow and what happened in one country under specfic conditions may not be replicated in other circumstances.inning But that is still better than scenario spinning.
Nalaka Gunawardene in his column published in Ravaya on 31 May 2015 looks at the current status, benefits and challenges of Sri Lanka’s Information Technology supported Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry. The column touches on the challenges faced by the industry and mentions the observations made by LIRNEasia Founding Chair, Prof Rohan Samarajiva at a recent panel discussion on ICT innovation and awareness organised by the Business Times Sri Lanka, where Prof Samarajiva commented on problem areas that should be a priority for Sri Lanka such as slow broadband speeds and too-high latency times. The column also touches on the need to enable PayPal payment systems and highlights the potential of the industry to create high-end jobs for skilled professionals in Sri Lanka. The full column can be read here.
LIRNEasia’s ongoing big data research was recently presented at the 13th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries held in Negombo from May 20-22. LIRNEasia researcher Danaja Maldeniya presented preliminary work on transport forecasting using  mobile network big data under the conference track ICT4D Sri Lanka : Challenges, Opportunities and Solutions. |paper|presentation slides|
WSIS is the is the UN’s annual gathering of ICT for Development stakeholders.  The main organisers are ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, though there is significant participation from other agencies such as UNDESA, FAO, UNEP, WHO, UN Women, WIPO, WFP, ILO, WMO, UN, ITC, UPU, UNODC, UNICEF and UN Regional Commission .   The 2015 WSIS Forum, held in Geneva 25-29 May, was special in that this was the place where WISIS met the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Most of the sessions at this year’s WSIS Was organised around specific SDGs that the nations of the world are considering unto at the end of this year. LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya was invited by UNCTAD to participate and give input on how c7.
Freelancing provides a reliable source of income with flexibility to the self-employed, those who are not part of a large organisation or for a person unable to work full time. This also provide a platform for unemployed youths and married women with small children to make an earning and thereby increasing inclusive growth. Payoneer, a financial services business that provides online money transfer and e-commerce payment services recently conducted a study among freelancers within 180 countries. Objective was to determine the average hourly rates charged by freelancers based on several factors. Payoneer’s Survey results were collected from the responses of 23,006 freelancers worldwide through an online questionnaire during November and December 2014.
Samarajiva, R., Lokanathan, S., Madhawa, K., Kriendler, G., & Maldeniya, D.
Ooredoo Myanmar has received two international awards for its MayMay app, recognizing their innovative approach to helping ensure that vital maternal, child health and wellness information is available to women, particularly during and after pregnancy. The app bridges the mobile and health sectors to help ensure that a wealth of useful information is readily available to women across the country both during and after pregnancy. Says Ross Cormack, CEO of Ooredoo Myanmar “MayMay’ is a great example of how our team develops innovative, home-grown solutions that speak to real issues affecting people in Myanmar today.” Today ‘MayMay’ has more than 11,000 users, emphasizing the growing demand for the service. It is free and can be accessed on iOS and Android.
Multiple authors; truly multi-disciplinary; published in the center of gravity of our work. I am excited, even though it is still behind a paywall at the Economic and Political Weekly: There is a middle path that positions the citizens who are the ultimate beneficiaries of urban development as the primary sensors. Instead of seeing the city as a clock-work machine that can be perfectly controlled, this approach recognizes the inherent complexity of the system and supports incremental changes, following the Deng Xiaoping dictum of “crossing the river by feeling the stones.” Experimentation and learning are integral to the approach. This low-cost approach is especially appropriate for the organically developed, congested cities in developing countries where the costs of installing and maintaining city-owned sensors would be quite high.
The United States has been at the bleeding edge of universal service policy ever since the term was misinterpreted from the early competitive era. It is therefore worth paying attention to the current FCC efforts. We will soon have US Aid and others promoting these ideas in our parts. More than 12 million households now participate in Lifeline, which was created in 1985 by the Reagan administration to subsidize landline telephone service. In 2008, the program was extended to cover the cost of mobile phones.
The poor state of Internet in the Philippines has received a significant amount of attention in the past few months. LIRNEasia research fellow Grace Mirandilla-Santos has been involved in multiple working groups, senate hearings and has had many interactions with the respective regulatory agency and ministry on how to introduce some form of quality measures. Operators are fighting back on compliance benchmarks. The regulator has requested for a final set of recommendations on the methodology to follow in setting standards for monitoring and compliance of broadband quality of service. Grace has submitted these recommendations (based on our previous work) on behalf of LIRNEasia.
Maldeniya, D., Lokanathan, S., & Kumarage, A.
I’m scheduled to talk about how data that is in the hands of private entities at the Open Data Conference in Ottawa May 28-29. While this next generation of “open data” is slowly emerging, key questions and persistent obstacles need to be considered. What sort of incentives lead businesses and nonprofits to decide to share their data assets? How can potential users of the data help allay concerns about privacy and competitive risks, and how should such users be chosen? What sorts of legal and technical frameworks — be they APIs, data pools, or research partnerships — are best suited to maximizing the public value of private data?
Companies are increasingly relying on business analytics to extract value from the large volumes of computer-readable and analyzable (or “datafied”) data in their possession. Big data for development (BD4D) seeks to apply these techniques to big data held by both government and private entities to answer development-related questions. Given low levels of “datafication” of transactions and records in developing countries, analysis of credit-card use or even social-media use is unlikely to yield coverage approaching n=all as in developed countries. Mobile transaction-generated data (including Call Detail Records or CDRs) are an exception. Because they can yield information on movement of people, they have great potential to inform a host of policy domains: urban and transportation planning, health policy by enabling the modeling of the spread of infectious diseases, socio-economic monitoring, etc.

No more Mr. Nice (Tax) Guy

Posted on May 22, 2015  /  1 Comments

Although Myanmar’s Parliament had approved the imposition of a 5% commercial telecom tax on mobile phone top ups last year, the Government hadn’t previously enforced it due to the rapid sector expansion that occurred in the last 12 months. According to a press release from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), this exemption is to come to an end with the adoption of the Amendment to the Commercial Tax law last month, and the tax will be collected from the 1st of June 2015. One wonders how this will affect mobile usage in the country. According to the findings of LIRNEasia’s baseline survey on mobile usage, as many as 74% of those who access the internet do so using their mobile phones. Will the rise in cost be significant enough to reduce the amount of data going up and down?
LIRNEasia Founding Chair, Professor Rohan Samarajiva’s comments that Sri Lanka should facilitate an open data culture were highlighted in a recent issue of the Sunday Times Sri Lanka (Business Times section).  These comments were made at a Business Times panel discussion on ICT innovation and awareness held on Wednesday 13th May at the newspaper office auditorium. The article notes Professor Samarajiva’s observations that facilitating an open data culture would foster products being built out of the public Big Data resources currently restricted by the government.  Professor Samarajiva also observed that the Sri Lankan government could help local innovators by allocating pilot programmes for new technologies, pointing to the example of MillenniumIT, which received initial assistance and continued support from the Colombo Stock Exchange. The article also notes Professor Samarajiva’s comments on problem areas that are a priority for Sri Lanka, including slow broadband speeds and the need to put proper payment systems such as PayPal in place.
Yoshio Utsumi should know what he speaks of. He was elected as Secretary General in 1998. I remember casting the vote on behalf of Sri Lanka in Minneapolis. He served two terms and was succeeded by Hamadoun Toure, who was elected as Director of ITU-D also in 1998. Utsumi served two terms and stepped down in 2007.