The ITU’s ICT Price Trends 2019 report was just published. Below is an excerpt from an op-ed published today in the Daily FT: One cannot use data without 3G and 4G coverage. This is not available in all localities. Coverage is the necessary condition for data use. Content is the sufficient condition.
Now is the right time to rethink food-supply chains. As the expected shocks from climate change (longer droughts, more floods, etc.) we need to place greater weight on resilience. The question is whether we build resilience through decentralized market mechanisms or by command. In both cases credible real-time data are needed for decisions by all actors in supply chains.
Senior Research Fellow Sujata Gamage‘s op-ed in today’s Daily FT concludes thus: Sri Lanka and most developing countries have come a long way from a situation where owning a phone was a luxury to where, for example in Sri Lanka, 97% of households have access to a mobile phone. However, access to the internet is available for less than 50% of households in Sri Lanka. If parents see the benefits of their children learning to learn using supplementary content and note that children with better access to the internet have more and better content, those parents will go the extra mile to secure internet access for their children. According to the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey of Sri Lanka, parents in Sri Lanka already spend 50% of their education expenditure on tuition. If the need for tuition is reduced through fewer number of examinations to be faced by children and students are required to learn on their own supplementing textbooks with e-content, it could well be that education will be the driver of digitalisation of Sri Lanka.
In previous research going back to 2006, LIRNEasia has studied food supply chains, including, but not limited to, fruit and vegetable supply chains in Sri Lanka centered on Sri Lanka’s largest wholesale market in Dambulla which was recently shut down by the government along with several other wholesale markets. The closures were preceded by scenes of massive over supply, frustrated farmers throwing away unsold produce in large quantities, claims that the traditional traders were exploitative “middlemen,” and counterclaims that politicians were seeking to replace them, etc. On the other end, consumers confined to their homes under COVID-19 preventive measures were complaining not only of difficulties in getting adequate supplies but also in some cases of low quality and high prices. The government’s response included efforts to purchase unsaleable produce directly from farmers and to redistribute through government channels. Some may argue that COVID-19 is a black-swan event which is impossible to prepare for.
LIRNEasia has been studying food supply chains almost from inception. Our then Consultant Lead Economist Harsha de Silva had been trying to fix problems in the Dambulla DEC, the country’s largest agri wholesale market from even before that. So we were understandably unhappy when the government shut down the wholesale markets in the context of the COVID-19 response. First thoughts were in this op ed. Given the difficulties many potential users have had in understanding the difficulties of scaling up the customer facing side of e commerce it should come as no surprise that there is even greater ignorance about the far end of the supply chains.
E commerce vendors in Sri Lanka were having a hard time making sales. And these were companies that were dealing with items that do not go bad. The demand that spiked in the past weeks was mostly for goods such as dairy, fruit and vegetables that require care in storage and transportation. Obviously, any system that is designed for a low level of use will experience difficulties when there is a sudden spike in demand. And with perishables for which the greatest demand arose, the systems had to be developed from scratch.
Inclusion is central to everything we do at LIRNEasia. We are also cognizant of windows of opportunity for getting issues on the policy agenda. Thus this oped on elections in a time of pandemic. EVMs can be designed to allow persons with disabilities to exercise their right to vote. They can reduce errors in tabulation and speed up the release of results, but they do not eliminate the need for people to congregate.
In light of the lessons emerging from international experience, it is important to avoid local-government authorities from being tempted to sign exclusive agreements before becoming fully informed of the implications. What positive contributions can be made by higher levels of government? What network and facility sharing will be allowed? Is there value in providing general guidelines and model contracts, while allowing for normal negotiations to take place, perhaps backed up by some forms of low-cost dispute resolution mechanisms? When lamp posts and similar public fixtures become sophisticated sensing devices that pull in massive amounts of data, questions of who has access to the data under what terms will become important.
A list of selected media coverage on AfterAccess following dissemination of the Sri Lanka data and report
The biggest barrier to policing social media is language. Based on a draft LIRNEasia white paper on neural language processing. Published in Foreign Policy.
The regional gender findings from AfterAccess were recently featured in the United Nations University-Equals’ Global Partnership’s inaugural report, Taking Stock: Data and Evidence on Gender Digital Equality in Digital Access, Skills and Leadership. The report has been combined in an effort to provide a resource for decision makers who are interested in reducing gender disparities in ICT access and use. LIRNEasia contributed to a chapter, Towards understanding the digital gender gap in the Global South, based largely on the nationally representative AfterAccess survey data from 17 (of the 23 surveyed) countries. The chapter relates some of the challenges in collecting rigorous gender-disaggregated data, and then illustrates the magnitudes of the gaps in access to mobile phones, internet and social media in the three regions. The chapter also examines gender digital inequality in the three regions through different lenses and methods.
A list of selected media coverage on AfterAccess following dissemination of the data and report in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
A list of selected media coverage on AfterAccess following dissemination of the data and report in Dhaka, Bangladesh
A list of selected media coverage on AfterAccess following dissemination of the Pakistan data and report
A selection of coverage by Indian media of the AfterAccess surveys
A list of selected media coverage on AfterAccess following dissemination of the Nepal data and report