Rohan Samarajiva represented LIRNEasia at the Research ICT Africa (RIA!), Annual Meeting held recently in Dakar, Senegal with a view to contribute to the discussion on Telecom Regulatory Environment (TRE) assessment that RIA! is planning to undertake. The five-day workshop held from May 26-June 2, 2006, focused on three areas: the 2006 RIA! research agenda, outcomes mapping and RIA!-NetTel’s regulator’s briefing.
Samarajiva made two presentations. The first presentation [download PDF] was made on the thinking behind the TRE methodology, the lessons learned from the pilot conducted in Sri Lanka in 2004 and the plans for implementation in Asia in 2006. The presentation was made to members of the RIA! team plus the regional UNDP ICT specialist, Pierre Dandjinou. The key lesson of the valuable discussion was the need to balance the interests in collecting as much information as possible from the stakeholders with that in keeping the interaction short and straightforward. Samarajiva favoured the latter, because a procedure that is simple to understand (for the respondents) and implement (for the researchers) is one that can be done annually. More complex forms are unlikely to be done on a continuing basis.
Two days were spent on a training the network members in outcome mapping. In light of LIRNEasia’s interest in developing an alternative model of influencing the policy process through research, this session was educative. Clearly, IDRC is interested in influencing the policy process. However, according to Samarajiva, “I do not think the presentations gave adequate weight to the enlightenment function of research (Carol Weiss) and to what I call the opportunistic or demand-driven model of policy intervention, but it clearly got everyone focused on the need to engage with policy makers and regulators.” In his view, the presentations did not shed too much light on outcome mapping as an evaluation tool. In the discussion that followed, Samarajiva emphasized the role that can be played by the media.
The second presentation made on the final day of the workshop by Samarajiva, entitled Challenges of Wireless [download PDF], revolved around what regulators should be thinking about in terms of making better use of spectrum, drawing from LIRNEasia’s research from 2005. The presentation had an audience that included representatives of the regional regulatory organizations.
About 25 researchers and regulators from different countries in Africa participated at RIA!’s annual meeting.