Sri Lanka Archives — LIRNEasia


The report “Social Media Regulation and the Rule of Law: Key Trends in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh”, which was launched recently in Colombo, examines the balance between state security, human rights, and the role of social media across these South Asian nations. This collaborative effort involves Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s Rule of Law Programme Asia, LIRNEasia Sri Lanka, the Centre for Communication Governance (CCG) at the National Law University Delhi (NLUD) India, and the School of Law at BRAC University Bangladesh. The report provides several crucial observations and recommendations for policymakers and stakeholders alike: Key observations from the report: Bangladesh and India provide conditional liability exemptions for third-party content hosted by intermediaries, but recent legislative trends suggest a weakening of safe harbour protection. Across all three countries, centralisation of power with the executive is evident, resulting in regulatory frameworks lacking effective judicial and parliamentary oversight over blocking orders, internet suspensions, and user data requests. The centralisation of power with the executive has also fostered a lack of transparency and accountability in government actions, often justified by state security interests.
In her latest article for Daily FT, LIRNEasia policy fellow Tahani Iqbal critiques the current amendment process of Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Act, stating it “has not been transparent and open,” and calling for a comprehensive overhaul of the Act, aligning with the newly issued National Digital Economy Strategy 2030, to truly drive Sri Lanka’s digital development. “It is critical that the Government puts a stop to its conservative and traditional approach to telecoms regulation and handles it in a way that will ensure that digital connectivity spurs the development of the nation. Converged markets and services require converged authorities and approaches to governance. The amended Bill has no place in Sri Lanka’s digital future and should be sent back to the drawing board for a proper re-draft.” Despite several attempts to revise the Act, Tahani argues that the lack of substantial updates has left Sri Lanka with a “low level maturity [in] legal and governance frameworks,” as evidenced by its G2 ranking from the International Telecommunications Union.
In an insightful analysis published in the Daily FT, Professor Rohan Samarajiva, Chair of LIRNEasia, examines whether the proposed amendments to the Sri Lanka Telecommunications Act are ready for the future, or even adequate for the present. While questioning the future-readiness of the legislation in terms of consumer rights and market competition in the telecom sector, Prof. Samarajiva has also asked whether the amendments provide a clear and coordinated legal framework necessary for the future deployment of advanced telecom infrastructure, essential for smart cities. Highlighting several critical issues related to the structure, capacity, and functioning of the Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC), here are some of the key issues addressed in his analysis. 1.
With the digital world becoming increasingly intertwined with our daily lives, from studying and working to shopping, the digital economy has seen significant growth. In the global digital landscape, data often flows across borders for various transactions, meaning that data generated in one country may be stored and processed in another. This movement of data across international borders isn’t just a technical matter—it’s a major driver of economic development, innovation, international trade, and social progress. However, these cross-border data flows have raised concerns about privacy, security, and data protection. One major worry is data localisation rules, which insist on keeping data within a country’s borders.
We are inviting proposals from potential bidders to conduct a study on human factors in the information disorder and finding measures to counter. The full RFP can be found here. Please check our Technical Proposal Template, Financial Proposal Template and the Sample Contract, before sending your proposals. Proposals for the study must be received by LIRNEasia by 17.00 hrs Sri Lankan time on 7th June 2024.
The following article was originally published on the IDRC – Resisting information disorder in the Global South website. LIRNEasia studied information disorder in Asia for a scoping study on challenges of information disorder in the Global South in 2022[1]. We conducted over 80 key informant interviews, including fact checkers and journalist to gather data for the study. Fact checkers and journalists talked about use of digital tools, including AI tools in their day-to-day work. Some of their Digital tools included ‘the Social-People Index, Facebook Ad Library, Crowd Tangle, Sentione, Google fact-check tool, Claim Buster, and TinEye’.
Senior Research Manager Gayani Hurulle, in an interview with Echelon for their May issue, discussed Sri Lanka’s readiness for a digital economy. Six experts were interviewed regarding Sri Lanka’s innovation landscape, providing insights into essential components for economic transformation, challenges in digital readiness, parallels with regional models, the intersection of law and technology, climate financing opportunities, and hurdles within the startup ecosystem. Gayani focused on Sri Lanka’s preparedness to embrace a digital economy, emphasising the urgent need to address challenges such as low digital literacy, inadequate infrastructure, and limited female workforce participation. She also highlighted the findings of LIRNEasia’s 2021 nationally representative survey, conducted against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. “According to LIRNEasia’s 2021 nationally representative survey, Sri Lanka grapples with a stark reality: only a fraction of the population possesses the ability to independently perform basic online tasks.
Before we dive into natural language understanding, the theory, and its applications–it is important from a pedagogical perspective that we understand the historical trajectory of the ideas that led us there. While it would be interesting to go as far as back to Aristotle, we will skip ahead to what is considered the most important flashpoint in modern philosophy & science–referred to as the ‘linguistic turn’. It begins with our Wittgenstein, inspired by Gottlob Frege: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. […]” While this line is almost used to the point it has become a cliche in modern NLP research papers, Indeed Wittgenstein himself would go on later to re-write and almost rethink all of the ideas he posited in the original Tractatus–which is why the irony is sweet when you see his famous quote plastered on the beginning of most modern research papers; but it is undeniable that Wittgenstein’s first posit changed the face of philosophical debate, effectively ending the practice of continental philosophy, and the birth of the more ‘logical’ analytic philosophy. In our rush to understand reality, we had lost sight of the tool we were bound by during our examination and […]
Abu Saeed Khan has taken leave of us. We celebrate a life well-lived and mourn the loss of a valued friend and colleague. The public sphere of Bangladesh and the region is diminished by his demise. I met him in September 2000 in Dhaka, my first visit to Bangladesh, where I had been invited as a former regulator to a regional event organised to welcome and encourage the just-established Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC). Learning that the World Bank had pulled its funding to signal displeasure about some last-minute chicanery to create openings for political interference in the governing statute, I did not limit myself to bland good wishes as is customary.
Gayani Hurulle, Senior Research Manager at LIRNEasia, recently discussed the challenges facing Sri Lanka’s digital economy in an interview with Yarl TV. Gayani highlighted various policy challenges and opportunities pertaining to the digital economy, drawing on LIRNEasia’s research. She also highlighted the need for policy reforms to align with the rapidly evolving digital landscape. One of the pressing issues she addressed was digital taxation. She underlined that the current tax laws are not designed to/being used to collect taxes from large technology multinationals that don’t have a local physical presence, creating an uneven playing field.
LIRNEasia concluded its first workshop (30 March, 24’), its first and part of a larger series of initiatives on ‘Artificial Intelligence for Social Good’; intended to raise interest and awareness on the potential of AI to benefit society at large. The event featured a keynote speech by Dr. Romesh Ranawana, Chairman of the national AI strategy committee (Sri Lanka, 2024-28). Dr. Ranawana outlined Sri Lanka’s tactical roadmap for AI development, including its synergies with existing digital policies, the challenges still ahead.
The FutureWORKS Collective was officially launched at an inception workshop organised by the JustJobs Network on March 6-9, 2024 in Negombo, Sri Lanka. The workshop was the first in-person convening of the five regional hubs that will form the Global South research network.  The FutureWORKS Collective seeks to foster innovation that advances skills for the future of work and promote decent work globally. It will do this through Southern-led interdisciplinary research, network consolidation, and collaboration in public policy processes. This network, the FutureWORKS Collective is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.
In response to the alarming surge of information disorder affecting online platforms, LIRNEasia is exploring to provide evidence-based recommendations to policymakers on how best to equip Sri Lankan early adolescence with skills to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly. This is through a two-year research project on digital literacy among Sri Lankan adolescents aged 11 to 18. In partnership with Sarvodaya Fusion, LIRNEasia is taking an experimental approach, using qualitative methods. This initiative involves the comparison of two cohorts of early adolescents with varied demographics, including language and sectors like urban, rural, and estate. While one group undergoes intensive digital literacy training, the other serves as a control group without such training.
In a recent episode of “Samata IT” (IT for All) on Jathika Rupavahini, LIRNEasia’s Senior Research Manager and Data, Algorithm, and Policy Team Lead Merl Chandana shed light on the dynamic landscape of data science and how it offers ample opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds. “Data science is an evolving field which is still being developed. Therefore, there are not many seasoned experts in this filed, which means there is a significant scope for newcomers to make their mark,” Merl said. Contrary to conventional perceptions, he stressed that one doesn’t necessarily need prior experience in data science to pursue a career in the field. “What matters most is not the years of experience, but the willingness to learn.
In a significant move towards modernising archival governance and promoting data accessibility, a committee appointed by the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious, and Cultural Affairs, has been working on revising the National Archives Law No. 48 of 1973. Chaired by Nigel Nugawela, Archivist, the committee includes experts such as LIRNEasia Chair Prof. Rohan Samarajiva — who is also a former Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA). The draft text, which will act as the basis for a National Archives and Records Management Bill, was presented to the subject Minister Vidura Wickremanayake last week.
In a recent interview with Face the Nation on Sirasa TV, LIRNEasia Chair Prof. Rohan Samarajiva raised his concerns regarding the Online Safety Bill which is currently under debate in the Sri Lankan Parliament. Prof. Samarajiva explained why he believes the Bill, instead of addressing the issues related to harmful online content in Sri Lanka, is fixated on punishment rather than prevention and deterrence.  “I believe there are problems with online content in Sri Lanka, but this Bill does not address those problems,” said Prof.