COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown found educators in Sri Lanka scrambling to connect with their students, and hence the state of internet connectivity of families with children was a crucial piece of data that policymakers needed. In response, LIRNEasia’s survey research team re-analyzed their 2018 AfterAccess dataset with a focus on households with children under 18. Ayesha Zainudeen and Tharaka Amarasinghe presented their analysis at a policy dialogue by the Education Forum Sri Lanka (EFSL) on “Access to distance education for children Lanka”. EFSL is the advocacy partner in LIRNEasia’s Education for the Future themed research. As Ayesha and Tharaka note, results for families with children parallel the results for all households, with 48% of households with children owning a smartphone or other device for accessing the Internet, but only 34% could access the internet.
Today I participated in a Zoom meeting organized by the Nightwatchman Society attended by around 200 participants where the above question was discussed by a panel of four, including myself. The recording of the discussion is here. I talked about COVID-19 as having offered us an opportunity to appreciate the importance of building resilient food supply chains. There will be more epidemics and pandemics. There will also be shocks caused by climate change.
The reality of online learning / e-learning in the Asian Global South is far from ideal, even in Sri Lanka, which is classed as an upper middle-income country by the World Bank and, as the AfterAccess data has shown, has high level of mobile phone ownership. AfterAccess also shows us that internet use was still less than half the population by the start of 2019, and most of the internet use was through smartphones. In Sri Lanka, where schools have been shut down from mid-March, ways of ensuring continuity of education for all are being examined. In this context, two key pieces of data from the AfterAccess nationally representative surveys become important: 1. 34% of Sri Lankan households that contain children (18 or below) had some type of internet connection by the start of 2019 (this includes connections via mobile phones, dongles, fiber connections, etc.
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.
Presented by Ayesha Zainudeen and Tharaka Amarasinghe at 3rd EDUCATION POLICY DIALOGUE hosted by the Education Forum Sri Lanka on the 16th of May 2020.
ICT access and use by Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in Sri Lanka
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.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the legislation that created the pioneering development research organization that is known as the International Development Research Centre of Canada. On behalf of all at LIRNEasia, warm good wishes and thank you for the productive partnership. LIRNEasia would not exist if not for IDRC, which made it possible for a sui generis entity like it to emerge and find its feet. But I like to think we have also contributed to achieving the objectives IDRC was created to advance. In the words of David Hopper, the first President of IDRC: “For years the West thought all it had to do was to pass out its agricultural technology.
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.
When teaching the “low politics” of international relations, I used to begin with infectious diseases and the need for the WHO. Diseases do not respect borders; their control therefore cannot be limited to what goes on within national borders. Nation states need to cooperate. Therefore the justification for WHO. In its peculiar way, COVID-19 highlighted how connected the world has become.
It’s not for the user to worry about how services are provided; it’s for the supplier. The user complains only when service quality declines or prices go up. But for those more engaged with the industry, it is important to think about what has to be done behind the scenes for the show to run smoothly. As with all infrastructures, the real challenge is the peak. Especially when demand peaks unexpectedly.
I have been teaching regulation since the 1980s, using all kinds of text books and articles. Since around 2000, I was deeply engaged in training regulators all over the world. It was thus not a big deal to respond to a request to write an overview or pull together a bibliography. But what I found most useful was a question from a colleague about the one article/book I would say was central to understanding regulation. Not ten, not five, but one.
Social media celebrities are campaigning for unlimited data packages. Yet the reality is that more than half the country does not use the Internet. Educationists worry about whether online education will leave the children in homes with no coverage and no smartphones behind. Teachers send 12 pages of notes on Whatsapp, without thinking how it is going to be used. Middle-class parents are asking around how to buy color printers, so they can get back their phones and laptops without guilt.
Hammered by retrospective tax determinations and non-traditional pricing plans introduced by Reliance Jio, the Indian telecom sector appeared to be in some kind of death spiral. But T.K. Thomas, one of the most knowledgeable observers of the sector, sees hope in the recent infusions of funds by entities ranging from Facebook to the Government of India. Beyond the immediate cash inflows he sees the overall prospects as positive: More than 50 per cent of the market is still not connected by data services.
This study explores the effect of the expansion of mobile phone signal on migration decisions in Myanmar.
Why wait for the regulator to ask? It seems like common sense for telecom network operators to voluntarily publish data on network usage like the Myanmar operators do. It will help beat back stupid ideas about free data or uncapped packages. Also, mobile operators know how many smartphones are on their network and even what kinds of smartphones they are. People such as teachers and education officials who are planning to deliver content over these devices need this information.