LIRNEasia

LIRNEasia is a think tank working on digital regulation and policy issues, including access, digital rights, misinformation and data protection among others, across the emerging Asia Pacific while being based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Since its inception, LIRNEasia has earned a reputation for being an independent and effective think tank, with a track record of bringing robust evidence to the policy process, to enable greater and more meaningful change among the people of the Asia Pacific. LIRNEasia is incorporated as a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, under the Sri Lanka Companies Act.
Our work on misinformation began in 2018 with the investigation into automated bad actors around social media following ethnic riots that took place in Digana, Sri Lanka, examining hundreds of thousands of tweets to understand their impact.

In 2020, with access to Facebook data, LIRNEasia published a corpus of 28 million words from a decade of Sri Lankan Facebook, including separate Sinhala-specific corpora and stopwords – the first of its kind. This corpus is now being used as the basis for sentiment detection modelling in Sinhala. Our research also examined the use of AI for misinformation, including the state of the art and the design and testing of 400+ machine learning models to examine algorithmic efficacy, data requirements, and hardware and liveware costs. Funded by the Asia Foundation, the project also built new misinformation datasets and models for Sinhala and Bengali. As a part of the research, LIRNEasia explored the challenges faced by regional fact checkers. As phase 2 of the same project, LIRNEasia will be evaluating a fact-checking tool to assess the use of AI in countering misinformation.

LIRNEasia completed a scoping study funded by IDRC to understand the nature of information disorder, measures to counteract it and the gaps in action and research in Asia Pacific. The study output consisteda map of actors and frameworks; an evaluation of the current approaches and tools used by stakeholder groups to counter information disorder and an overview of the research landscape.
We also undertaking an experimental approach with quantitative and qualitative methods to understand human factors in the information disorder. This approach will lead to new knowledge to find measures to counter information disorder. Our division is equipped with extensive computing and experimental testing facilities which enable research and development work over a wide range of relevant fields.

LIRNEsia research team

Helani Galpaya is the CEO of LIRNEasia. She serves on the Board of Editors of the Information Technology and International Development  (ITID) journal, is on the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), a member of the Working Group on Innovation and Commercialization of the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI), and a Board Member of the Women’s Chamber for Digital (Sri Lanka). She was a member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) of the UN Internet Governance Forum, the Advisory Board of the Harnessing and Sharing Economy for Local Development initiative of the Centre for Implementation of Public Policies promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC), Argentina and an Advisor to the UN Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Bridging the Gender Divide.

Helani researches and engages in public discourse on issues related to net neutrality, policy and regulatory barriers in Internet access, e-Government and broadband quality of service, human rights online, misinformation and digital and political participation. She also studies and speaks on how knowledge and information disseminated via ICTs can improve inclusiveness of SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises) in global agriculture value chains, and how labor is changing due to digitization and entry of digital platforms that reduce transaction costs. She has also led a scoping study to understand the nature of information disorder and measures to counteract it. The study maps the actors and frameworks; evaluates the current approaches and tools used by stakeholder groups to counter information disorder and provides an overview of the research landscape. She is currently researching how access and use of digital technologies impacted households and individuals during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Helani previously worked at the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka implementing the World Bank’s e-Sri Lanka initiative.  Prior to that she was a management consultant at Booz&Co (formerly Booz Allen Hamilton), New York, and worked at Citibank and Merrill Lynch in New York and Miami. She has an MSc in Technology & Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA and a BA (Cum Laude) in Computer Science from Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, USA.

Isuru Samaratunga is a Research Manager at LIRNEasia. He is currently engaged in ICT-related qualitative research projects in Asia and the Pacific. Some of the major qualitative research projects he has led have been for global funders such as ESCAP, GSMA, Ford Foundation, IDRC, USAID, Asia Foundation, UNFPA and UN-Habitat. The projects include landscape study and assessment of ICT capacity building needs, developing Mobile solutions for persons with disabilities, online privacy and security of marginalized communities, countering misinformation using AI, empowerment through online platforms, developing communication strategies for family planning programs and social impact assessments of development projects.

Isuru’s main interest is in enhancing the value of qualitative data in research projects. Isuru holds an MSc in Sociology from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and post-graduate qualifications from University of Cambridge, United Kingdom and University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.

Viren joined LIRNEasia as a Junior Researcher in May 2023. He is currently working on the Social Safety Nets project and Countering misinformation project at LIRNEasia.

He graduated in June 2021 with a BSc (Honours) Economics from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Following which, he completed his Masters at King’s College, London in September 2022 (MA International Political Economy).

Viren was awarded Honorary Life Membership from the University of St. Andrews Students’ Association. He was the Vice Convenor and Chief-Whip of the Union Debating Society (UDS) of the University of St. Andrews- one of the oldest English speaking debating societies in the world.

Viren was an intern at Pegasus Tech Ventures, a leading venture-capital firm with its headquarters in Silicon Valley between June and September, 2020.

Isuru’s main interest is in enhancing the value of qualitative data in research projects. Isuru holds an MSc in Sociology from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and post-graduate qualifications from University of Cambridge, United Kingdom and University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.