Harsha de Silva Archives — Page 2 of 5


Harsha de Silva, Eisenhower Fellow

Posted on July 26, 2009  /  8 Comments

LIRNEasia’s lead economist Dr Harsha de Silva has been selected for the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship. Our warm congratulations to Harsha on this high recognition of his potential as a decisive actor in public policy. The focus on potential for future contributions is evidenced by the fact that all Eisenhower fellows have to submit a proposal of what they will do upon their return. Mr Lalith Weeratunga who was an Eisenhower Fellow from Sri Lanka some years back is now Secretary to the President. I guess the Eisenhower process works.
LIRNEasia lead economist Harsha de Silva presented a paper on “ICT Policy for Agriculture in Sri Lanka: An Economic Perspective” at the first ever information technology in agriculture conference jointly organized by the IT Department of the University of Moratuwa and the Agriculture Department of the University of Ruhuna.  Harsha argued for mobile-centric, demand-driven, value-chain based, accurate and timely two-way information exchange systems that could lower transaction costs leading to increased efficiencies in agricultural markets to move farmers from subsistence to commercial agriculture.  His slides are here. LIRNEasia lead economist Harsha de Silva presented a paper on “ICT Policy for Agriculture in Sri Lanka: An Economic Perspective” at the first ever information technology in agriculture conference jointly organized by the IT Department of the University of Moratuwa and the Agriculture Department of the University of Ruhuna.  Harsha argued for mobile-centric, demand-driven, value-chain based, accurate and timely two-way information exchange systems that could lower transaction costs leading to increased efficiencies in agricultural markets to move farmers from subsistence to commercial agriculture.
LIRNEasia Lead Economist Harsha de Silva was recently appointed to a five-member Scientific Advisory committee for a two-year multi-country African research project, eAgriculture Network for Africa (eARN Africa): Effectiveness of Electronic-Based Interventions in Linking African Farmers to Markets. The project aims study the effectiveness of ICT-based intervention in linking African farmers to markets so as to inform policy decisions of African governments and stakeholders aimed at improving livelihood of smallholder farmers. The project is funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada; an inception meeting was recently held in Kampala, Uganda, which Harsha de Silva attended. The project will be conducted in six African countries: Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Benin, and Madagascar. The  Scientific Advisory Committee constitutes: Prof.
I may be wrong, not having conducted a systematic study of mobile advertising in Sri Lanka, but the impression I have is that while there is plenty of it, it’s all about calling to maintain relationships if not about price/quality aspects. In the short term this works, because this is where people’s heads are. But unless there is more money in people’s pockets, it’s unlikely that the mobile operators will be able to continue to make money in the long run. Voice is getting commodified and profits are declining. People are not taking up more-than-voice services because they do not have money and see mobile as a consumption good.
Preliminary findings from the Teleuse@BOP3 study conducted by LIRNEasia in November 2008, will be presented on the 4th of March (Wednesday) from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.  Presentations will be made by Rohan Samarajiva, Harsha de Silva and Ayesha Zainudeen, followed by discussion. Several senior officials of telecom companies, analysts and journalists are expected to attend the event.  For more information on how to register, please contact Ms.
Findings from the Teleuse at the bottom of the pyramid (T@BOP3) will be released at a meeting organized with the leadership of the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) on 10 February 2009. This will be followed by media interactions in Mumbai and Chennai. Ayesha Zainudeen, Harsha de Silva and Rohan Samarajiva will present at the events. Teleuse@BOP, pioneered by LIRNEasia in 2005, is a unique series of cutting edge demand-side studies on ICT use among the BOP. The 2008 study was conducted across six countries, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and most recently, Bangladesh, among a sample of 9500+ BOP (SEC D and E) users.
At Sri Lanka’s largest agricultural market a large projection screen overlooks 12 acres of stalls brimming with produce. Traders at the Dambulla market consult the screen to receive up-to-the-minute pricing information on produce being sold in the market. This information helps them negotiate fair prices at any of the market’s 144 booths, says Harsha de Silva, head economist at Sri Lanka-based LIRNEasia, a non-profit organization and IDRC partner that aims to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve the lives of Asia’s people. In the case of the Dambulla market traders, de Silva says farmers can negotiate from a stronger position because information is accessible. Such information is vital to ensuring agricultural markets work efficiently because it helps farmers reduce their transaction costs, according to de Silva.
Harsha de Silva  discussed LIRNEasia research on  ICTs and Agriculture at a Virtual Forum on ‘Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas’, organized by the e-Agriculture.org, from 17-28 November 2008. Consisting of over 145 people from 52 nations, participants at the forum included farmers; NGO representatives; private sector; researchers, scientists and academics; governmental representatives; and UN staff. A summary report of the first week of discussion is available here.
A case-study from Sri Lanka by Harsha de Silva and Dimuthu Ratnadiwakara
An article entitled, ‘Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Beyond Universal Access’, co-authored by Harsha de Silva and Ayesha Zainudeen, has been published in Telektronikk, a leading telecommunications journal, published by Telenor, Norway. Appearing in the journal’s second issue for 2008, aptly titled, ‘Emerging Markets in Telecommunications’, the article explores the extent to which “universal access” to telecommunications has been achieved  in Asia, based on findings from LIRNEasia’s five-country study of the use of telecommunication services at the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’, namely in India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Very high levels of access, but low levels of ownership are found. The paper then looks at the potential benefits that these non-owner users are missing out on, and then goes on to look at the key barriers to ownership that are faced by them. The paper estimates that there could be close to 150 million new subscribers at the BOP in these five countries by mid-2008.
Government has released the 2008 second quarter economic performance data, which shows, again, that the telecom sector is growing the fastest, at 23.2 per cent (as against 21 per cent, 2007 Q2), followed by mining and quarrying at 19.6 per cent. In his weekly newspaper column in the Lankadeepa, Mr Udaya Gammanpila, the Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority and the main proponent of mobile-specific taxes, has posed the question to me why the mobile sector keeps growing even as they keep loading taxes on it.   For example, the mobile subscriber levy of 10 percent of every bill was in effect in 2008 Q2.
As reported elsewhere , Harsha de Silva and I had a productive time at the Mobile Preconference organized by Rich Ling (http://www.richardling.com/ ) and others. One of the outcomes was that LIRNEasia has undertaken to organize this event for the next two years, in conjunction with the ICA conferences scheduled for Chicago, May 21-25, 2009 and for Singapore in June 2010. As Jonathon Donner mentions , there is a distinct value to discussing related papers among a group of like-minded researchers for a day and a half.
The colloquium notes Lara Alawattegama (LA): Monopoly means ‘a market with a single supplier’ Why a monopoly happens: 1. No close substitutes 2. Legal barriers to entry 3. Resource barriers 4. Unfair competition -predatory pricing Rohan Samarajiva (RS) : Lack of competition leads to monopolies.
TRAI announced last Thursday(27/03/2008) that ADC (Access Deficit Charge) will be completely removed from April 1. LIRNEasia was the only non-Indian entity that sent responses to the TRAI consultation paper no. 2/2008 dated 21st January 2008 on Access Deficit Charge (ADC). Here, as the response to the first question LIRNEasia said We agree with phasing out of the ADC. Our work on the subject in 2004-05 led us to advocate this same position by questioning if the ADC was merely ‘a politically motivated tax on private operators to protect the incumbent, its employees and its copper-wire access network during a very long transition to competition.
Sri Lanka agriculture could do with dose of IT – LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE Greater use of information technology in Sri Lanka’s largely subsistence agriculture sector will help both farmers and consumers alike by reducing costs, a researcher has said. Harsha De Silva, lead economist at LIRNEasia, a think tank, said a system using IT that addresses the information needs from the decision making phase through the growth and sale of agricultural products will help balance the welfare of both consumers and farmers. “ICT (information and communications technology) can be used to reduce the information and observable transaction costs to create efficiencies in agricultural markets,” de Silva said. “And if we can create efficiencies in agricultural markets, we can create welfare on both sides of the equation,” he told a recent seminar on the role of ICT in agriculture. “The core will definitely have to be a system that marries the decision-making and selling and that is where ICT will take agriculture markets from this point on and that is where we see some variants of commodity exchanges developing.
LIRNEasia has come up with startling evidence on how transaction costs in agriculture could be reduced by simple mobile phone applications. The organization’s Lead Economist, Dr. Harsha de Silva called for a multi-stakeholder action plan to implement a series of actions that would help poor farmers as well as consumers by reducing information costs in agricultural markets and value chains. He was speaking at a panel following a public lecture by Indian Institute of Management Professor, Subhash C. Bhatnagar, who spoke on the benefits of ICT applications to farmers, taking India as an example.