big data Archives — Page 3 of 6 — LIRNEasia

LIRNEasia’s Team Leader for Big Data Research, Sriganesh Lokanathan, and our former Researcher Manager, Roshanthi Gunaratne recently published a paper in the March 2015 special issue on big data of the journal Communications & Strategies. Whilst the journal article titled “Mobile Network Big Data for Development:  Demystifying the Uses and Challenges” is not available for free an earlier version of the paper is available HERE.  
LIRNEasia’s ongoing big data research was recently presented at the prestigious NetMob conference held at MIT from April 8-10, 2015, attended by some of the foremost academics and researchers from the world working with mobile network big data. LIRNEasia research fellows Gabriel Kreindler and Yuhei Miyauchi made a presentation on their ongoing work on quantifying urban economic activity using mobile phone data. | Presentation Slides | Abstract | Our other ongoing work on understanding land use characteristics in Colombo city (being lead by our researcher Kaushalya Madhawa) was selected for a poster presentation.  | Abstract |  
Last year, I was in Dili, Timor Leste, listening to an event on big data that was partially sponsored by SciDev, a respected science communication organization. My recollection is that the speakers were talking about work done by others based on reports. So we were happy to have our research featured in an article in SciDev. The author, Nalaka Gunawardene, attended our presentation at the Sri Lanka Institute of Engineers in January and made further efforts to understand what we were doing. MNBD allows tracking and mapping of daily changes in population densities relative to midnight (‘home location’).
Last week in Bangkok (23-26th March, 2015), at the invitation of the UN Development Group (UNDG) Asia-Pacific Secretariat, I had the opportunity to brief country heads and senior staff of UN agencies as well as from the Resident Coordinator’s office on how to leverage big data, for the data revolution needed to measure the progress in achieving the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event was the Lessons Learnt Workshop for Countries Designing UN Strategic Development Frameworks (UNDAF) in 2015. 13 countries were represented: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, DPRK, Indonesia, Iran, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and Vietnam. The key point that I left with them was that National Statistical Organizations (NSOs) in developing economies are not yet set up to be the key champion for leveraging big data for development, let alone to certify standards. The UN’s role in my opinion was: to inform and catalyze the in-country discussions with examples from other countries.
Today I had the opportunity to speak to a mostly private sector audience in Tokyo, looking to leverage opportunities from geo-spatial information. The venue was at the G-Space x ICT International Symposium organized by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the apex body responsible for ICT policy in Japan. I was invited to speak about LIRNEasia’s experience in leveraging mobile network big data for public purposes. In the subsequent panel discussion, I was asked how to enable international collaboration in such efforts. My answer was two part: the very realizable possibility of sharing technical know-how both in developing human capacity as well as the infrastructure required to analyze such data sets; and the potentially long path that must be walked to enable greater sharing of such data.
Just realized that we had not provided the link to the video of the talk given on January 16th. The stream.
The specialized unit of the UN dealing with big data for development, UN Global Pulse, has constituted a data privacy advisory group. LIRNEasia’s chair and advisor to the big data for development team, Rohan Samarajiva, is a member. Among the other members are MIT’s Sandy Pentland and Umar Saif, Chair of the Punjab IT Board and Secretary IT of the Government of Punjab.

Reinventing social science

Posted on October 27, 2014  /  0 Comments

Taking research to policy is our thing; social science is a means to that, not an end. Yet, we cannot help but think of how weak an instrument social science has become, especially in South Asia. Here is something I wrote in relation to some internal discussions a few months back: Expressed demand for social science may be difficult to demonstrate, but there can be little doubt that social science is critically important for informed policy making and implementation. As evidence-based policy making receives greater acceptance, demand will increase for high-quality social science graduates or for repurposing of graduates from other fields. .

Give big data, or be forced . . .

Posted on October 24, 2014  /  1 Comments

We’re thinking about how we can leverage mobile network big data to help manage infectious diseases. Now the Economist has gotten on the case: Doing the same with Ebola would be hard: in west Africa most people do not own a phone. But CDRs are nevertheless better than simulations based on stale, unreliable statistics. If researchers could track population flows from an area where an outbreak had occurred, they could see where it would be likeliest to break out next—and therefore where they should deploy their limited resources. Yet despite months of talks, and the efforts of the mobile-network operators’ trade association and several smaller UN agencies, telecoms firms have not let researchers use the data (see article).
The Hindu Businessline, a newspaper with sophisticated business coverage especially on ICT issues, has introduced our big data work to its readers. Can telecom networks be used for better urban planning? Colombo-based ICT think tank, LIRNEasia, has completed a project which used data from telecom networks in Sri Lanka to generate patterns related to population movement that showed concentration of people in a city at any given time of the day. LIRNEasia used data generated from mobile usage to create heatmaps that showed for example, how Colombo city acts as a sink, sucking people out of the surrounding suburbs during work times and North Colombo, which is the poorest part of the city, is integrally connected to the southern part of the city, providing labour to the rest of the city. Full report.
Two weeks back I was invited to give a guest lecture by the Department of Management Studies at IIT Delhi. The topic of my lecture was based on our ongoing work in using mobile network big data for development in Sri Lanka. Attended by 60+ graduate students and faculty from various departments (Management, Economics and Computer Science), the lecture garnered a large amount of interest from people trying to understand how big data can be used in various domains (both public and private). Whilst the focus of my talk was very much on development, there are still many implications and cross-over learnings for businesses and this came out more in the discussion following the lecture. The issue for many though (and which will remain for sometime) is getting access to big data rather than the tools.
Turnover of GlaxoSmithKline was US$44 billion in 2013 and it annually spends $6.5 billion in R&D. Its sales data is public information while results of R&D had been the best kept secret until October 2012. Two years ago the British pharmaceutical behemoth has stunned the scientific community when it decided to share the detailed data of its clinical trials. No, it was not a cheap marketing stunt, as MIT Technology Review reports: In May 2013, the company began posting its own data online.
As someone old enough to remember the 1984 Apple ad that assailed IBM as big brother, I am willing to bet Big Blue will pull through and to be amused by Apple collaborating with IBM. The areas IBM is betting heavily on include data analytics, cloud computing and corporate mobile and social computing. At a meeting with analysts in May, company executives called them its “strategic imperatives.” They span IBM’s services, software and hardware businesses and mostly contribute to the revenue of the services and software units. Steven Milunovich, an analyst at UBS, estimates that these businesses account for 21 percent of IBM’s revenue.

Building the big data eco system

Posted on July 9, 2014  /  5 Comments

Yesterday, Sriganesh Lokanathan and I spent the day at the inaugural event of a business analytics group, pulled together by the Sri Lanka Ministry of Higher Education and the School of Information and Business Analytics at Deakin University. Seven Sri Lankan universities were represented by faculty as were several Sri Lankan IT firms. When the issue of university-industry collaboration came up, Srinath Perera of WSO2 said that they were already collaborating effectively, including through the three-way relationship with LIRNEasia and University of Moratuwa. Clearly, partnerships are critical in a a field like big data where we are all operating at the frontier of knowledge. The data resides inside firms and government organizations.

A better way to define rural

Posted on July 6, 2014  /  3 Comments

Nalaka Gunawardene asks good questions. So I paid attention when he tweeted: Where does urban end & rural begin in #lka? Not silly admin demarcations, but in REAL terms? What decides: Tele-density? Purchasing power?

Why big data?

Posted on July 4, 2014  /  0 Comments

Every time I hear people agonizing over the possible ill effects of big data, I think of Dhaka, a city that is being choked by traffic. We all know that the solutions to transport management are among the most difficult to implement. We know that, in fact, there are no perfect solutions. Public transport is part of the answer but not all of it. Congestion pricing, by itself, cannot solve problems.