Sri Lanka Archives — Page 6 of 57 — LIRNEasia


Misconceptions about ICT, Part 1

Posted on March 30, 2017  /  0 Comments

This post is part of series of responses to observations made during a discussion on the “Aluth Parlimenthuwa” show on TV Derana. Read Part II here. There is value in engaging with people with different worldviews. I had such an opportunity during a rare television talk show on ICT issues on Derana. A senior policymaker in the science and technology policy area stated that ICT-related exports were not in the top ten only to be quickly corrected by two other panelists.
In July of 2016, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, announced a new multi-million dollar funding initiative to support collaborative data innovations for sustainable development. The University of Tokyo and Colombo-based LIRNEasia are among the winners in the pilot round of this initiative. Their proposal, entitled “Dynamic Census,” aims to improve the existing census approach by deriving insights from mobile operators’ call detail records (CDR). It will supplement population and housing census data by adding dynamic aspects of population distribution to changes in population distribution over time, at high frequency. More details.
Preparing for a TV interview on spectrum, I checked the website of the Telecom Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka to see if I could see the National Frequency Allocation Table (NFAT) or the Master Register, which used to be publicly available from 2003. It was not available for perusal on the TRC website. This is a legal requirement deriving from Sri Lanka’s international commitments under the GATS, the relevant article being: Any procedures for the allocation and use of scarce resources, including frequencies, numbers and rights of way, will be carried out in an objective, timely, transparent and non-discriminatory manner. The current state of allocated frequency bands will be made publicly available, but detailed identification of frequencies allocated for specific government uses is not required. It appears the we are in violation of our WTO commitments.
A good friend of LIRNEasia, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, delivered a public lecture relevant to the ongoing discussions on a new Constitution for Sri Lanka. He also interacted with key actors in the process and gave interviews to the media. The event was organized by Advocata Institute, Sri Lanka’s newest think tank. LIRNEasia connections were many. Former Lead Consultant Economist, now Deputy Minister, Harsha de Silva participated in the panel discussion, which I moderated.
Informed writing on highly technical subjects is not easy to do. That is one reason we encourage journalists to participate in our courses. Here is a piece on the Loon trials in Sri Lanka by one who attended the Ford Foundation supported broadband policy and regulation course in Marawila in 2015. Appears his time was well spent, as were our resources. Sri Lanka has signed the APT spectrum plan which means the government is committed to migrate our existing television stations to a digital platform.
After two decades of sporadic efforts, Sri Lanka’s Parliament unanimously passed the Right to Information Act in June 2016. LIRNEasia responded to a call for comments on the draft Bill and offered comments on various versions of the Bill through the media as the law was being shaped, many of which were accepted. Overall, it was a successful research-to-policy intervention. But in one area, we failed. That was in convincing the drafting committee to address costs of compliance to small organizations.
Leading up to the last Internet Governance Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico, LIRNEasia and the Association for Progressive Communication collaborated on preparing participants from multiple countries for effective engagement in that multi-stakeholder event. Nalaka Gunawardene was one of the participants from Sri Lanka supported by that activity. Here are his reflections in Internet governance in Echelon. Why does Internet governance matter for Sri Lanka? Since we have enough governance challenges in the physical world, should we leave cyber governance for others to resolve?

What is the best way to measure poverty

Posted on February 13, 2017  /  0 Comments

The government of Sri Lanka has increased spending on the leading welfare scheme Samurdhi, from LKR 15 billion in 2014, to LKR 43 billion in 2016, almost a tripling. There are 1.4 million beneficiaries, classified into those can be graduated out of the scheme, those who cannot, and those in between. Apparently, another 1 million people are clamoring to be included in the scheme. In this seven-minute speech made in a Parliament recently, Dr Harsha de Silva provides a quick comparison of the three principal methods of ascertaining poverty.
The premier Sinhala newspaper of ideas, Ravaya, carried a lengthy piece by Nalaka Gunawardene on online freelancing, set in the context of the overall problem of creating high-quality jobs that could attract young Sri Lankans. This probably concludes one of our most successful dissemination efforts in the official languages of Sri Lanka, other than English.
I was included in a five-person panel discussing the university education in Sri Lanka in light of the currently heightened interest re relaxing the government monopoly. In my opening comments, I referred to research conducted in 2012 by the Human Capital Research team. I also talked about the need to allow innovation in the educational system so that we can better respond to the fast changing external environment. The video of the talk show.
We’ve been very happy we succeeded in disseminating the results of the online freelancing research in both Sinhala and Tamil. Here is an interview that was broadcast on a cable/satellite only news channel on multiple occasions, now on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZzurcU5IjA&index=98&list=PLkkCdeu97j3DUgSfk8SsOiqN6yPHwbq-K
Two ongoing projects at LIRNEasia seek to open up government data. The first is the inclusive information societies project. The second seeks to present electoral delimitation data to stakeholders in manipulable form to facilitate informed discussion. Human Capital Research Team Leader Sujata Gamage presents the big picture in a column in FT: Open data or more specifically Open Government Data (OGD) is a concept which is complementary to the Right to Information (RTI) concept. While RTI is reactive, legalistic, adversarial and costly, OGD is proactive, technical, collaborative and less costly in the long term.
On the final day of UNIGF, IGF academy fellows participated in a debriefing activity to identify and look back on their journey to UNIGF 2016 and the way forward of the National Internet Governance Forums (NIGFs). At this debriefing the Asian fellows highlighted the importance of help with fund raising and having closed door meetings with potential stakeholders. Also, they said that its not possible for them to participate in all the calls of the IGF academy due to their busy schedules. The fellows suggested that its better if one fellow out of the two fellows from a given country participate in a call its sufficient and that the fellows can alternate. The fellows pointed out the importance of low emphasis in the structures and high emphasis on subject matter.
Deputy Minister Harsha de Silva refers to evidence showing Internet taxes are counterproductive and says current excessive taxes are temporary. Video of interview.
Based on work done on electronic trading in ASEAN and extrapolation from the online freelancing research, I contributed some thoughts on budget proposals to create a government-run platform to collect taxes. That has been picked up in subsequent articles. In the face of government highhandedness, global e-commerce giants have in the past opted not to enter Sri Lanka, and experts such as LIRNEasia Chairman Professor Rohan Samarajiva have expressed concerns that new interference would lead to those operating in Sri Lanka to leave the country as well. However, some platforms such as Airbnb have a history of collecting taxation from customers and providing them to governments, if requested. Officials admitted that many budget accommodation units are not eligible to pay taxes, which would require amendments to existing legislation.
The 2017 Budget presented by the Minister of Finance of the Government of Sri Lanka proposed provision of “free Tabs for almost 175,000 students who enter the Advanced Level (AL) classes and around 28,000 A/L teachers from 2017.” LKR 5,000 million was allocated for this purpose. Given the fact that LIRNEasia had just completed a systematic review on ICTs in the classroom and had conducted an event to present the research to decision makers, we asked Kagnarith Chea, who participated in a related event to react to the government proposals. Kagnarith is . .