Converting all educational institutions to use open source software in Sri Lanka

Recently, I read this post about Richard Stallman’s (RMS) visit to India. I then decided to educate myself about how RMS’s visit impacted India. I read this very, very interesting thing that happened in Kerala. An excerpt from wikipedia:

In August 2006 at his meetings with the government of the Indian State of Kerala, he persuaded officials to discard proprietary software, such as Microsoft’s, at state-run schools. This has resulted in a landmark decision to switch all school computers in 12,500 high schools from Windows to a free software operating system.[45]

Then, I was wondering why this did not happen in Sri Lanka? If it did I’ve never heard about this. All open source Operating Systems are now usable enough for even novices to use it, and most of the software available for it is free.

This would be a brilliant move, not just to cut costs but to ‘fix’ our future generations. Every school child that is above 13 is able to program with his knowledge of basic algebra and such, if he or she has proper guidance. The use of Open Source Operating Systems allows all these children to have access to all development tools for free (Eclipse, vim, emacs, etc.), thus forming a generation with a high computer literacy rate. The other advantage of this is the low barrier to entry in the software world. How cool would it be to see a 15 year old in Sri Lanka creating this amazing app for Android and making a multi-million dollar business out of it? This move would not just make children more computer literate but also allow talented kids to build their entrepreneurial skills as well.

I hope that the leadership in this country grabs this opportunity.

How the Sri Lankan Police can make use of Big Data Analysis?

I thought of writing this post after reading that SL police decided to offer 1 million rupees (~9500 USD) to anyone who offered a clue about the infamous robbery of the Colombo museum.

After reading this I thought what an awesome use it would be, if we could use big data analysis to solve crimes in this country. Let’s map out a simple scenario to see how this can be done.

Let’s say a burglary happened similar to the one at the museum. After the burglary was detected, the police is notified and they come in to begin investigations. After a while, it seems that the thieves involved are very good. No traces at all. Definitely, not an amateur job. But, there is one small scrap of evidence, a small finger print is uncovered. And that’s all we have to go on.

Let’s assume that the police has all criminal records in a data base including each criminal’s finger print. We run our finger print from the crime scene against the criminal data base. Now, for our bad luck the finger print does not match. At this point, it seems like all clues lead to a dead end (?).

Not necessarily. This is where the power of big data analysis comes in. The technology that allows to wire a set of inexpensive computers and analyze data sets in parallel.

So, with this enhanced data analysis ability, our finger print still can help us. Now we get to compare the finger print against, the entire nation’s finger prints. Now, can’t we do this without all this “big” data analysis? The answer is you can, but it would take you years to get to an answer. There is an amount of data that a single computer can process at a time, and a task like finger print matching is a task that requires a lot computing time. So, matching a finger print in a criminal database which would contain about 100,000 records of known and living criminals would be possible, at least after a day or two of computing time. But, comparing it against 20 million records would take many months or even years.

Let’s get back to our crime. We can now start out finger print matching against the general population’s database. We can start from the vicinity of where the crime has occurred and expand out. And all this can be computed in a matter of hours. Even if we had to match finger prints of the whole 20 million population of Sri Lanka, it shouldn’t take too much time considering we have a sizable network of computers. And after that time, we probably would have at least one definite match of the finger print that would aid us in the investigation.

Of course, this whole exercise assumes that all details of all citizens are computerized (I heard that this initiative is already under way). So, this kind of crime solving will be practically possible in the not too distant future (hopefully), creating crime fighting big data analysts in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan president’s 2nd term celebrations

It is a great day for the reigning president Mahinda Rajapaksa as he took oaths to officially start his 2nd term in office. I wish him all the best for his term.

The streets have been lit up and various festivities are organized to commemorate this occasion. I’ve noticed that this brought some criticism among the people that it’s a waste of public funds. I think that is an unfair call. I compare this to a situation where the British monarchy celebrating theta special moments with all grandeur. When this happens we all watch in joy and the British also enjoy it thoroughly. They don’t claim it to be a waste of public funds. The head of the state should celebrate special occasions and we as responsible citizens should not be so narrow minded. After all, It is the president elected by a significant majority.BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop