MNBD Archives — LIRNEasia

Dharmawardana, K. G. S., Lokuge, J. N.
LIRNEasia research fellow, Dharshana Kasthurirathna, Ph.D. presented a paper, ‘Detecting Geographically Distributed Communities using Community Networks,’ at the International Workshop on Mining for Actionable Insights in Social Networks that was held in conjunction with the Tenth ACM International Web Search and Data Mining Conference in Cambridge in February 2017. The paper was co-authored by three LIRNEasia research fellows (Dharshana Kasthurirathna, Madhushi Bandara, Danaja Maldeniya) and Mahendra Piraveenan from the University of Sydney. Based on the presentation, there was an invitation to extend the paper to be submitted to a special issue of the Elsevier Information System’s journal, with a draft journal paper due in April 2017.
The UN Data Innovation Lab invited LIRNEasia to share our experience in entering data partnerships and the challenges associated with the same, at a workshop held in Cape Town on the 19-20 January 2017. The workshop, co-hosted by UN Global Pulse, centred on designing data capacity within the UN system. The session conducted by LIRNEasia was attended by representatives from a range of UN agencies including UNICEF, UN WTO, UN Women and UNAIDS. In addition, other participants at the session included representatives from Flowminder and Facebook. I had the opportunity to share LIRNEasia’s experience in building relationships with the government and private sector data providers, particularly in terms of leveraging mobile data for urban planning and traffic management in Sri Lanka.
We have been engaging with local universities from the start of our big data work, not just to source researchers and collaborators, but also to broaden the horizons of students. That big data can be leveraged for public purposes is not something that they had previously thought of till we arrived on the scene. This week (18th October 2016) we continued those efforts, conducting a lecture for students at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura on our ongoing big data for development research. The slides are available HERE.
LIRNEasia is currently hosting  Dr Ayumi Arai from the University of Tokyo’s Center for Spatial Information Science. She is also a Research Fellow with LIRNEasia collaborating on our big data for development research in Sri Lanka. We took the opportunity to organize a lecture for her yesterday (14th July 2016) for the senior staff of the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) Sri Lanka, as preamble to a longer discussion with the department to collaborate with LIRNEasia and our partners on big data and official statistics in Sri Lanka. Dr Arai’s talk was on her ongoing Dynamic Census research work in Bangladesh which utilizes mobile network big data and official statistics to provide spatio-temporal insights on the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the population at high granularity and high frequency. The slides from her talk are available HERE.
LIRNEasia has been at the forefront of big data analysis for development in Sri Lanka, conducting in-house analysis to generate actionable insights across a range of policy domains. On 6th May 2016, LIRNEasia and the Health Informatics Society of Sri Lanka jointly convened a planning meeting on building better models for forecasting the propagation of infectious disease such as dengue in Sri Lanka. The meeting was intended to lay the foundation for a multi-disciplinary collaboration engaging health informatics specialists, epidemiologists, and data scientists to identify research priorities and opportunities. The participants included the following: Madhushi Bandara, Junior Researcher, LIRNEasia Prof Vajira Dissanayake (Health Informatics Society of Sri Lanka, Biomedical Informatics Programme – Postgraduate Institute of Medicine) Dr. M.
LIRNEasia was a core partner for Sri Lanka’s first national summit on “Foresight & Innovation for Sustainable Human Development” that was convened by UNDP and the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs. Held in Colombo from 24-25 May 2016, the summit brought together more than 300 people from government, private sector, and civil society from all over the country. Developing foresight and fostering innovation is a priority for the government and underscored by the Prime Minster’s attendance at the event. I spoke on the first day after the opening. My talk was on the leveraging both new and traditional data if the goal is to get towards real-time responsiveness and enhanced resilience.
The report, published in April 2016, covers a range of issues, but is perhaps unique in its emphasis on the potential of big data. This report highlighted some emerging technologies such as the use of Big Data for DRM purposes. It is one that is still being explored but has so far demonstrated immense potential. However, along with it come significant challenges that have to be overcome in order to truly benefit from real-time use of MNBD. Utilizing new sources of data such as MNBD and even social media for assisting in predicting emerging trends and shocks as well as for building greater resilience is still an emergent field.
Yesterday Sriganesh and I had the pleasure of presenting LIRNEasia’s big data work at the 3rd session of the Colombo Big Data Meetup, a prominent local meetup group focusing on big data and data science, domains still very much in their infancy in Sri Lanka. We spoke to a diverse audience of nearly 150 IT professionals, academics, statisticians and enthusiasts. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion which included Sriganesh, Dr. Shehan Perera of the Computer Science Department of University of Moratuwa, and myself. The discussion touched on a range of topics including practical aspects of running a successful big data operation,  learning data science, democratization of data and collective privacy.
For many, daily travel is a product of routines that have been established over time. From commuting, getting the kids to school and back home to the occasional shopping trip much of our movements follow a predictable pattern. Attempts to map human movement in different regions across the world using emerging sources of big data such as mobile network call detail records (CDR) show that in general aggregate human movements change very little from one week day to another or from one weekend to another. Our work on human mobility using a large CDR dataset have shown that Sri Lanka is no different. However during some days of the year such as during festivals, holidays and natural disasters routine travel behavior gives way to unique travel behavior.
Over the last few days I had the opportunity to present our thoughts on leveraging big data for development at two different venues in Ottawa, Canada. The first was at the headquarters of Global Affairs Canada on 11th March 2016, where I along with the head of UN Global Pulse spoke to an audience of about 100 people that included staff from Global Affairs and IDRC, as well as Canadian academics and researchers. The slides I used are available HERE. The second opportunity was today (14th March 2016) at the headquarters of IDRC, where I had the opportunity to share some of work with IDRC staff from different developmental domains. The slides that I used are available HERE.
A LIRNEasia report will be the centerpiece of the Workshop on Knowledge and Policy Gaps in Disaster Risk Reduction and Development Planning organized by the ICT and Disaster Risk Reduction Division of ESCAP on 8-9 March 2016, at United Nations Conference Centre, Bangkok. Link to workshop information. LIRNEasia will also make presentations on uses of mobile network big data for disaster risk reduction and on improving international backhaul. The MNBD Talk.
It’s always a pleasure to hear LIRNEasia research cited by others.  Its even more pleasing when the person mentioning it is a senior government official (in this case the Chairman of Mongolia’s National Statistics Office) and that too at a briefing for senior government officials at Mongolia’s Parliament. Without knowing that LIRNEasia too was in the room, Chairman Mendsaikhan showcased some of LIRNEasia’s ongoing big data research as examples that were relevant for Mongolia and which should be ideally replicated. The briefing was part of a series of events on Data for Development held in Ulaanbaatar on 24th and 25th Feb 2016. The events were jointly organized by the World Bank and the Cabinet Secretariat of Mongolia, who had invited me to share our experience in leveraging big data for development in Sri Lanka.
The Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka and the Young Planners Association of Sri Lanka organized a workshop at the UDA premises on 4th December 2015 for LIRNEasia to share is ongoing research on leveraging mobile network big data for urban and transportation planning. The slides are available HERE.
Today I had the pleasure to talk about LIRNEasia’s ongoing multi-disciplinary big data for development research at the IDRC Asian Regional Office in Delhi. The work that we have been doing in this space has been funded primarily by IDRC. It was engaging talking to experts with interests in different domains (agriculture, health, governance, climate change adaptability, urban and transportation policy, electricity, livelihoods) working in India as well as elsewhere. The slideset I used is here.
As part of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) distinguished lecture series, Sriganesh Lokanathan, Team Leader- Big Data Research at LIRNEasia will be giving a talk in Delhi (Ramalingaswami Conference Hall, International Development Research Centre, 208 Jor Bagh, New Delhi 110003) on Monday, 2nd November 2015. Sriganesh will be speaking on the topic of “Leveraging mobile network big data for developmental policy: opportunities & challenges.” Anyone who wishes to attend should RSVP to Pratibha Shukla – email or call +91-11-2461 9411 (extn: 7406) Program: 11.00 am        Welcome and introductions: Dr.