Sri Lanka Archives — Page 9 of 57 — LIRNEasia


We have been kicking around the idea of giving insurance a greater role in disaster risk reduction and response since 2005. Just a few months back I raised the issue at a workshop at UN ESCAP. In an interview with a Sinhala newspaper last week, I said it was a pity we were not anchoring compensation for flood damage on insurance principles and just giving out money. But here is good news. Too often, we criticize governments for sins of omission and commission.
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.
Our disaster-relief partner Sarvodaya organized a small event at the community center at Pahala Bomiriya to hand over the remainder of the relief supplies to affected families. I was invited to say a few words. I talked about the need to build more resilient communities so that we could respond to hazards better in the future. The science of being able to forewarn people of floods exists. What we need to do is to implement the available solutions.
I was asked about Loon by a journalist from Ceylon Daily News, the government newspaper. Here is the gist of what I said. Sri Lanka has fewer Internet users than we would expect for a country at its level of income and literacy. I am all in favor of experiments and innovations that seek to address this problem. Therefore I am in favor of Loon.
A conference organized on the occasion of the retirement of a senior professor, set apart a full day for papers and discussion on the options for improving government universities. Of course, most of the audience was from the government universities and having devoted their entire lives to that enterprise, many were not willing to recognize how bad things were. Some discussed how the deck chairs could be rearranged on their beloved Titanic. Many blamed the “demand side” for not knowing how their students were and for using wrong criteria, not understanding that this itself was a symptom of a complacent monopoly. I was, of course, accused of many things.
When the biggest disaster since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami hit close to home, we responded in our customary fashion. We asked for donations to be matched by LIRNEasia and we thought about how we could contribute through knowledge. We remitted the first tranche of cash to our partner, Sarvodaya on 19th May, just as the relief effort was getting started. There is value to donations in kind, but the flexibility of cash is essential. And the first writing based on the thinking was published on the 23rd.
Nalaka Gunawardene has published a piece in SciDev on the lessons from the floods/landslides. Nuwan Waidyanatha is in the Maldives at this moment advocating that they switch on cell broadcasting in the networks. In Sri Lanka, it’s on, but not used. The Colombo-based ICT research organisation LIRNEasia has also been promoting the use of cell broadcasting for disaster communications. In this method, mobile networks can be used deliver text messages simultaneously to multiple users in a specified area.
Given below is a news release reprinted verbatim in the Daily FT. I hope to see some real writing on this very important backhaul facility soon. Abu Saeed Khan wrote about it some time back. Dialog’s investment in the BBG Cable Project exceeds $ 34.5 million (Rs.
Sahana was developed by volunteer software engineers under the aegis of the Lanka Software Foundation in the months and years after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It was handed over to an international foundation when I served as Chair of LSF. Nuwan Waidyanatha who cut his teeth on disaster research as part of the Hazinfo project, is now a leading trainer and part of the team guiding development of Sahana. Despite my best efforts to get those involved in the early development of the software interviewed for this story (triggered by one of my tweets), we are the only sources for information on Sahana in this Sunday Times story. There are allegations that the authorities could have utilised locally-available systems that could have helped to better coordinate disaster relief efforts.
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.

Lessons from the disaster

Posted on May 20, 2016  /  0 Comments

On May 14th that I retweeted a satellite image of a weather system over Sri Lanka. The tweet said “WEATHER ALERT – Severe rain over #LK will continue for next 24/48hrs. Public cautioned over flash floods & landslides.” The hazard was public knowledge, contrary to some claims now being made. WEATHER ALERT – Severe rain over #LK will continue for next 24/48hrs.
By my lights, the project should have started by now. We first went public on this two years ago. But at least they are still talking: A proposal to link the two countries’ electricity grids could ultimately see improved reliability and stability of the Sri Lanka power supply and, in the long run, allow the country to purchase and export electricity depending on variability in price. The interconnection – a high-voltage, direct current line to run from Madurai in India to Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka – is initially planned to transmit up to 500 MW, scalable up to 1 GW. Pre-feasibility studies of the proposed Sri Lanka-India transmission network have already been completed, according to Sri Lanka’s electricity regulator, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka.
Few days back, I was part of a panel discussing the Sri Lanka RTI Bill that has gone through Constitutional Review. This was on Rupavahini, the government-owned channel. The Deputy Minister in charge of shepherding the bill through Parliament and a lawyer who had intervened in the Constitutional Review were the other members. The first time I engaged with the topic was in 2007. Then I went into high gear in 2011.
The 80 percent and 160 percent increases in taxes on voice-SMS-VAS services and data, respectively, caused me to write an oped anchored on one instrument of public policy, use of fiscal means to discourage use of demerit goods. I wish to make clear that there is nothing wrong with subjecting telecom services to normal taxation such as VAT and NBT. Many years ago, that was the case. But over time various additional levies were layered on top, taking the overall tax burden to around 32%. Around 2009, the previous Government rationalised the mess, exempting telecom services from general taxation while imposing a single telecom levy.
The government-owned Sunday Observer has carried a story on the unraveling of the previous tax regime affecting telecom services that makes reference to the findings of our Systematic Reviews. “This will be the highest tax ever imposed on telecom users in the country. It is likely to reduce telecom use, especially of data. It is contrary to government policy seeking to encourage internet use,” Prof. Samarajiva said.
It appears state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have risen in salience in Sri Lanka recently. I am giving a keynote address on this topic at the launch of the Advocata Institute. The slideset that I will be using is here. The day before yesterday, I was debating on a TV talk show what should be done with the least defensible of the SOEs, the renationalized SriLankan Airlines and the misbegotten Mihin Lanka. It is interesting that the successful reform that I was associated with, telecom, keeps coming up in these discussions.