Featured — LIRNEasia


In a significant move towards modernising archival governance and promoting data accessibility, a committee appointed by the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious, and Cultural Affairs, has been working on revising the National Archives Law No. 48 of 1973. Chaired by Nigel Nugawela, Archivist, the committee includes experts such as LIRNEasia Chair Prof. Rohan Samarajiva — who is also a former Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA). The draft text, which will act as the basis for a National Archives and Records Management Bill, was presented to the subject Minister Vidura Wickremanayake last week.
Rohan Samarajiva, Tharaka Amarasinghe, and I attended a meeting with the Committee on Comprehensive Social Protection for Workers on 4 January 2024, following an invitation from the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment in Sri Lanka. Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment, Manusha Nanayakkara was present at the meeting, along with representatives from several agencies including the National Planning Department, Social Security Board, Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, and International Labour Organisation. During the session, we delivered a presentation to the Committee, accessible here. This article sheds light on three key points we raised, initiating meaningful discussions.  28% of workers are living in poverty  LIRNEasia’s 10,000 sample nationally representative survey conducted between August 2022 and March 2023 highlighted that 28% of the 8.
In November last year, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court determined that the Online Safety Bill is not inconsistent with the Constitution and can be passed in parliament by a simple majority– subject to amendments made to 31 of its provisions. The second reading debate for the Bill is scheduled to take place in Parliament on January 23 and 24.   In a recent interview on the Sirasa Pathikada programme, Chair of LIRNEasia, Professor Rohan Samarajiva elaborated on the key recommendations put forth by the Supreme Court concerning several sections of the bill that require modification. He also spoke about the flaws of the Bill and reiterated that the Bill is riddled with potential for abuse.  Watch the full interview here.
LIRNEasia’s Senior Research Manager, Gayani Hurulle, recently spoke at a symposium organised by the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) titled “Poverty Alleviation in an Era of Economic Crisis.” The symposium, held in November last year, aimed at revisiting poverty-related issues, focusing on addressing the escalating poverty and vulnerability in the present crisis and beyond.   Gayani, heading LIRNEasia’s work on poverty and social safety nets in Sri Lanka participated as a discussant in a panel on building a comprehensive social protection system. The panel, moderated by Karin Fernando from CEPA, included experts such as Shalika Subasinghe of the World Bank, Mira Bierbaum of the UNICEF, and Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne of Sarvodaya.
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada recently launched a global south research network –FutureWORKS — dedicated to researching and addressing the challenges posed by the changing landscape of work across the global south. Through shared research, network consolidation, and collaboration in public policy processes, FutureWORKS seeks to foster innovation that advances skills for the future of work and promote decent work globally. LIRNEasia has been selected to lead in the building of the Asian segment/cluster of a global south research network over a period of five years. Through this network, LIRNEasia will commission high-quality, innovative and gender responsive research and lead a regional research network to advance skills and policies for an inclusive and sustainable future of work in Asia. LIRNEasia, will award over 12 research grants over the period of five years, through a competitive selection process to this end.
LIRNEasia is known for its work on ICTs, but it works on all infrastructures. Electricity is an area we have done considerable work in. Our work is shown here. In 2002, after years of work involving all stakeholders including those working at the Ceylon Electricity Board, new legislation was enacted so that some incentives would be created for efficiency in the electricity industry. But unfortunately, this law was not implemented and following a change in government it was gutted of the key elements that would have made benchmark regulation possible.
  LIRNEasia has, over recent years, challenged the outdated and inadequate definition of computer literacy used by the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka (DCS). In a welcome move, DCS and the ICT Agency have collaborated to refine the definition of digital literacy and update assessment criteria. This decision was made by a 13-member consultative committee jointly headed by LIRNEasia Chair, and former ICT Agency (Sri Lanka) Chair, Professor Rohan Samarajiva, and Associate Chief Digital Economy Officer, ICT Agency of Sri Lanka Sameera Jayawardena.   According to the annual literacy statistics for 2021 released by the Department of Census and Statistics, one out of two Sri Lankans aged 5-69 is digitally literate, accounting for a digital literacy rate of 57.2%.
Last year we conducted research to explore the possibility of leveraging online job portal data for economic analysis in 13 Asia Pacific countries, as a part of a project for the Asian Development Bank. We examined the types of information available on major portals across the region, to discern the nature and format of available data. We also tested and refined methodologies to analyse a dataset comprising online job vacancies sourced from a Sri Lankan job portal, to demonstrate use cases for exploring  the impacts of shocks on the labour market. The first step in this exploration was to review where in practice online job portal data has been used, to identify the  methods and techniques available along with their strengths and limitations.  The full review is published below.
LIRNEasia recently unveiled “Dissect” – a cutting-edge web tool employing advanced artificial intelligence (AI) tailored for effective fact-checking. What sets this tool apart is its compatibility with Sinhala websites, and its accessibility to anyone from anywhere in the world, making fact-checking accessible to a wider audience. Developed by Appendix Pvt. Ltd. under Watchdog Sri Lanka, the web tool is currently being tested for effectiveness by LIRNEasia.
“Creating regulatory bodies that issue orders with short time frames backed up by large penalties is likely to shut off the opportunities for collaboration. If the costs of complying with the directions of the regulator from a small and insignificant market are excessive, the platform companies are likely to withdraw their services from Sri Lanka causing significant harm to users. Such outcomes will not endear the responsible politicians to the active youth demographic that is likely to be decisive in the coming elections. The Government claims that some individuals experience significant harm caused by online content. Some, if not all, critics of the Government’s Online Safety Bill will agree.
LIRNEasia’s Senior Research Manager, Gayani Hurulle, has been featured in a recent documentary by Channel News Asia, delving into the dynamics of Sri Lanka’s debt crisis. The documentary seeks to explain the debt crisis, whilst exploring the human cost associated with a country grappling with economic challenges, and looking forward as to what happens next. In the documentary, Gayani shares findings from LIRNEasia’s recent research on poverty and social safety nets in Sri Lanka. Our nationally representative research adds a crucial layer to the understanding of the complexities surrounding the country’s economic challenges. Watch the full documentary Read our research on social safety nets and poverty rates in Sri Lanka
This policy paper addresses the urgent need for a new social compact in response to the global challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Emphasising the pivotal role of digital inclusion and equity, the report underscores their significance in mitigating health and economic risks associated with pandemic-related lockdowns. It explores how the digitalisation of public services and access to them are crucial for citizens’ effective participation in the economy and society, both during the pandemic and in the subsequent economic reconstruction. Despite the transformative potential of digital strategies, the study reveals missed opportunities by governments in Nigeria, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Peru, and Colombia to effectively deploy digital solutions during the crisis. The report sheds light on how deficiencies in leveraging digital technologies have exacerbated social and economic inequalities, providing insights to rectify these shortcomings.
  LIRNEasia is currently looking to fill the role of a Senior Statistician and Project Manager. The full job description is available here. The deadline for applying is 15th November 2023.  
In an era marked by the rapid growth of the digital economy, the issue of taxation on technology multinationals has taken centre stage. However, many countries in the Global South find themselves unequipped to harness tax revenue from these digital giants. Several policy options are available to countries. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations (UN) have proposed treaty-based solutions, but questions have emerged about the revenue potential of these multilateral proposals, the feasibility of their timely implementation, as well as whose interests they serve. Meanwhile, several countries — including some in the Global South — have implemented their own domestic solutions.
In the ever-evolving landscape of data-driven progress, the promise of harnessing private sector data to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is crucial. However, it has become evident that the road to effective public-private data partnerships in the Global South is laden with challenges. LIRNEasia together with CEPEI recently held a roundtable discussion at the 18th International Governance Forum (IGF) in Kyoto, Japan, on October 9, 2023 with the participation of a diverse panel of stakeholders from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, who discussed many areas, including the private sector’s role in the data revolution, policy and practical challenges, and methods to overcome them. The session was moderated by LIRNEasia CEO, Helani Galpaya. The panelists included: 1.
On 2nd October 2023, Research Manager and Team Lead (Data, Algorithms, and Policy) Merl Chandana, alongside Junior Researcher Chanuka Algama, held a session titled ‘Applied data science research for social good’ at the University of Kelaniya’s Department of Statistics and Computer Science. The session delved into LIRNEasia’s journey of forming a data science team and using large datasets to yield critical insights for public policy. They contrasted LIRNEasia’s applied data science approach with traditional academic research and private sector practices. Additionally, they highlighted the emerging ‘AI for Social Good’ movement and its potential as a career avenue. The slides used can be accessed below.