2008 May


LIRNEasia , in association with the School of Economics and Management, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunication (BUPT) , is organizing the third CPRsouth conference, in Beijing, China from December 5-7, 2008. The conference aims to provide a forum for senior, junior and mid-career scholars to meet face-to-face and exchange ideas, establish networking opportunities and improve the quality of their scholarly work, in order to facilitate the long-term objective of fostering the next generation of active scholars and in-situ experts capable of contributing to ICT policy and regulatory reform in the region. To see how you may participate in this event and join an emerging community of scholars committed to improving the lives of people in Asia through information and communication technology, visit the CPRsouth 3 conference page . Please note that the deadline for Young Scholar Applications has been extended to Friday, June 6, 2008.
The central question of whether ICTs do any good, is discussed in relation to always-on broadband connections in the OECD. The question is, of course, of even greater importance in developing countries. The OECD released its latest report on May 19th. It surveys the broadband landscape to December 2007, and tells a warm tale. The number of broadband subscribers in the world’s 30 biggest countries grew by 18% to reach 235m, or one-fifth of those countries’ total population.
Researc h to practice is the central preoccupation of LIRNEasia. We differ from conventional researchers in our fixation on how to convey our research to policymakers, regulators, senior managers of operators and to the symbolic universe they live in. We choose our research questions and methods with this end in mind and we conduct our research on schedules determined by the need for effective communication to these key stakeholders. We measure success by whether the research that we communicate catalyzes changes in laws, policies, practices and worldviews . In this light, the SSRC organized pre-conference seemed an ideal academic event to attend after many years.
An inevitable outcome of mobile phone penetration among BOP is longer average life time of a unit. At that level replacing cost is significant. The only alternative is to repair and use the same for a longer period. This explains the mushrooming of mobile repair centers in many developing countries.    Internet has loads of technical information about repairing, but in English.
Worried over the growing grey market for mobile phones due to illegal imports from countries like China and India, Sri Lankan Customs has decided to confiscate such cell phones being brought in as accompanied or unaccompanied baggage or as gift. The Sri Lanka Customs has announced that all goods for commercial purposes/commercial quantities have to be imported in accordance with the provision of the Import Control Act and regulations framed there under. It is estimated that over 20,000 mobile phones are entering the country through illegal channels every month. “We are optimistic that this initiative will help in combating the grey market in Sri Lanka with strong implementation Directo/ Chief Executive Officer of Softlogic Communications Samantha Rajapaksa told the “Daily News”. Softlogic an authorised dealer for Nokia phones in Sri Lanka.
Helani Galpaya is attending the 2008 Global Event on Measuring the Information Society in Geneva, Switzerland on 27 – 29 May. She is acting as a Facilitator in a session on Advancing the ICT Agenda . The Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development is an international, multi-stakeholder initiative to improve the availability and quality of ICT data and indicators, particularly in developing countries. It provides an open framework for coordinating ongoing and future activities, and for developing a coherent and structured approach to advancing the development of ICT indicators globally. George Sciadas of StatsCanada also made a presentation at this event.
LIRNEasia’s Lead Economist presented the findings on the percieved benefits of telecom access at the bottom of the pyramid at ‘The Global and Globalizing Dimensions of Mobile Communication: Developing or Developed‘ a pre-conference program at the ICA 2008 conference in Montreal on 20-21 May 2008. The paper presented, ‘Perceived economic benefits of telecom access at the Bottom of the Pyramid in emerging Asia‘ takes a look at what BOP phone owners gain from telecom access from their own perspective. One of the most interesting findings here, is that although they see efficiency gains stemming from phone access/use, they don’t relate these to economic gains. This is puzzling, because we know from macro-level studies that a positive relationship exists between phone penetration and national income; additionally, theory suggests that for example saving time or a physical trip to convey a message or obtain information, can translate to economic savings. However, there seems to be some kind of ‘disconnect’ in BOP perceptions of the value of a phone.
LIRNEasia’s Executive Director will present a paper on the gendered aspects of telecom use at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) in emerging Asia, at the 58th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA), ‘Communicating for Social Impact’ in Montreal, Canada, on 26 May 2008. The paper ‘Who’s got the phone? The gendered use of telephones at the bottom of the pyramid’ explores the so called gender ‘divide’ in telecom access at the BOP in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Thailand, finding that that a significant gender divide in access to telephones exists in Pakistan and India , to a lesser extent in Sri Lanka , but is absent in the Philippines and Thailand. The authors argue that perhaps as penetration levels increase, overall the gender divide may reduce, although in some cases like Pakistan, culture will override. The paper also looks at difference is usage patterns between men and women at the BOP, and challenges some of the findings of studies which claim that women’s and men’s use is fundamentally different.
LIRNEasia is ready to start Phase 2 of its Broadband QoSE testing methodology development. In Phase 1 we developed AshokaTissa methodology and tested broadband performance of key players in India, Sri Lanka and (partially) Singapore. We used tools like Bandwidth Monitor, Ping and Tracert. The tests were done manually. Each link was tested for two weekdays and two weekend days.
LIRNEasia today handed over items worth of USD 1,500 to the fund established by the Lekhadikari of the Amarapura Nikaya, Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa thero to be distributed among victims of the cyclone Nargis in Burma. Cyclone Nargis was a strong tropical cyclone that caused the deadliest natural disaster in the recorded history of Burma. The cyclone made landfall in the country on May 2, 2008, causing catastrophic destruction and at least 80,000 fatalities with a further 56,000 people still missing. However, Labutta Township alone was reported to have 80,000 dead and some have estimated the death toll may be well over 100,000.
Nalaka Gunawardene calls mobile phone a murder weapon. According to him, what the mobile has already stabbed, and is in the process of effectively finishing off, is the development sector’s over-hyped and under-delivered phenomenon called the ‘telecentre’. So how is the mobile phone slowly killing the telecentres, asks he, into which governments, the United Nations agencies and other development organisations have pumped tens of millions of dollars of development aid money in the past decade? Well, it’s rapidly making telecentres redundant by putting most or all of their services into literally pocket-sized units. If everyone could carry around a miniaturised, personalised gadget that has the added privacy value, why visit a community access point?
Railtel Corporation of India, the communication arm of the Indian Railways, is planning to set-up cyber cafes at over 200 major railway stations across the country by the year-end, Railway Minister Nitish Kumar said on Thursday. “The first cyber cafe will be inaugurated on Friday at New Delhi Railway Station. Based on the feedback of the users, we are intending to extend to over 200 important stations in the country in the first phase by the end of this year,” Kumar told reporters at the commissioning of the “optic fibre communication link on Bangalore-Secunderabad, Secunderabad- Vijayawada-Chennai and Chennai-Ooty-Bangalore” here. The railways would also experiment by providing broadband Internet access on moving train, the first such instance in the world, he said. The service would be launched on a train this year.
Despite being a technical book that addresses complexity out of sheer necessity, the text remains readable, sometimes entertainingly so. Phrases such as ‘governance badlands of South and Southeast Asia’ sum up our grim reality, conjuring images that we are all too familiar with. The editors have also done an excellent job in cross-referencing across chapters, so that the book reads more than a mere amalgamation of chapters. I would have preferred the graphs to be larger and clearer, but then, this comes out from an academic publisher. As the editors say, the book is an introduction, not a conclusion, “to a new way of governing, especially in areas that rest on specialised, yet incomplete, knowledge such as infrastructure.
Remember in Star Trek Dr. Leonard McCoy, nicknamed Bones, would use a handheld device (shaped like a mobile phone) to scan the vital signs report of a patient; the little screen on the device would make some electronic noises and display some random illuminated pixels, which he would interpret to diagnose the condition of the patient; thereafter, he would use the same device or the wrist device to call “Sick Bay” tell them what to do with patient diagnosed outside of the facility. He would even transfer the diagnostic report to Sick-Bay for the on duty staff to pickup to get ready before the patient arrived. A team of researchers at the University of California, Berkley are using mobile phones that display faint blue dots on the screen received through a text message to diagnose signatures of Malaria. The Science and Technology article of the Economists tells the story about Dr.
LIRNEasia’s Executive Director will speak at the International Conference on Information, Communication and New Media & the First Annual Convention of the Information and Communication Association of Taiwan, being held in Taipei on 17 May 2008. His presentaiton, Asia at the leading edge of communication and new media developments? can be downloaded by clicking on the link.
LIRNEasia might not be as high tech as some of the big IT players but in our own way we have made a successful effort to make ourselves a virtual team. Not a choice – that was the only way we could operate in multiple countries (For example, in this cycle, TRE surveys will be in nine countries –  Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand; not to mention CPRSouth 3 in Beijing)without budgets comparable to what INGOs use to run regional networks. We also thought our own experiences will be useful for others. Hence the Virtual Organisation (VO)  project. It had two aspects; developing the VO and using it to conduct LIRNEasia’s other research projects.
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