2010 May


Just a few weeks ago, we highlighted that the Pakistan Universal Service Fund was an exception to the rule of poorly performing USFs that were good at collecting money, but were terrible at spending intelligently. Looking back, there were two reports, not one. The above was written by an Indian journalist. The one written by a Thai journalist went into greater depth, partly because he created a debate between me and the CEO of the Pakistan Fund. Not withstanding, it appears that the Minister wants to drag down the Pakistan Fund to the level of its dysfunctional peers.
Parliamentarian Vasudeva Nanayakkara wants telecom tariffs down. Quoting an unnamed ‘prominent mobile operator’ who placed the operational cost of a phone call at LKR 0.20 (Less than one fifth of a US cent) at a meeting at the Treasury, Mr. Nanayakkara asks why not the telecom firms reduce the mobile phone charges. LIRNEasia welcomes this move and plans to present the research findings of its own and those of Nokia on the telecom tariff and mobile phone ownership costs at the public hearing.
The old man is back. And he is talking about a tablet, which is powered by Marvell chip and run by Android OS, for the poor kids. Nicholas Negroponte’s OLPC has not delivered the way it had created the hype. The organization has also suffered from internal bleeding but it seems to be alive and kicking. Now OLPC has announced its plan for a sleek and cheap touch-screen tablet for the poor school children.
It’s nice to have the New York Times and Wall Street in our corner in the debate about the future of the Internet. Our argument does not rest on the success of i phones, but on the whole idea that the days of the desktop computer, which was irrelevant to the BOP are over. Wall Street has called the end of an era and the beginning of the next one: The most important technology product no longer sits on your desk but rather fits in your hand. The moment came Wednesday when Apple, the maker of iPods, iPhones and iPads, shot past Microsoft, the computer software giant, to become the world’s most valuable technology company.
ITU said nearly 90 per cent of the world’s population is covered by mobile networks and more than half the rural households have a mobile telephone today. While focusing on Bangladesh, the World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report 2010 further says: Grameenphone’s EDGE network, launched in 2005, covers 98 per cent of the population, so almost every Bangladeshi has potential access to the Internet. Grameenphone has over 4.5 million EDGE subscribers, making the company the largest Internet service provider in the country. The above statement in page 23 of the ITU’s report refers to Grameenphone’s February 11, 2009 press release.
Bangladesh is amending its telecoms law that scraps the operators’ right to appeal. The regulator or the police can register a case, even on suspicion, and arrest any official of any telecom operator without a warrant. The regulator will be the investigator and can decide on any form of punishment. And the operators will not be allowed to have a say if the regulator changes or even scraps the licenses. The proposed amendment is likely to get parliamentary approval next month.
Mobile banking services are on average 19% cheaper than services from traditional banks, according to a new research conducted by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). It has found that the lower the transaction value, the cheaper mobile banking is in comparison with formal banks. At a transactional value of $23, branchless banking is on average 38% cheaper than commercial banks, the report found. Mobile banking is also 54% cheaper than informal options for money transfer, said the report. Many challenges face financial institutions looking to develop mobile money management capabilities.
Colloquium was conducted by Sriganesh Lokanathan. Data was collected from Jan – Apr 2009. Profile of Afghanistan. 25 Mn Population. Land locked country.
LIRNEasia researcher Joseph Wilson will talk at IDRC on the ‘Economic and Governance Challenges Facing Pakistan’ on June 1, 2010. Pakistan has achieved some economic success – mainly in agriculture and industry – despite recurring political instability since the country’s independence in 1947, says Wilson. Yet millions of Pakistanis still live below the poverty line. Inadequate basic infrastructure –notably electricity supply- and low levels of social development continue to constrain economic growth. Pakistan ranks among the worst performers on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index and is beset with a range of governance challenges.
A Sri Lanka newspaper article reporting on a talk I gave last week that was based on the Budget Telecom Network Model used the headline “Poor is the future.” Pity the newspaper did not pick up what I said about “more-than-voice” services offered by telcos making the poor less poor; not taking money from their pockets, but putting money in their pockets or at least allowing them to keep their money. The poor is the market for the telecoms industry, a former regulator said. Professor Rohan Samarajiva, former Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (T.R.
Bangladesh government will issue 3,000 – that’s right, three thousand – international gateway (IGW) licenses, said bdnews24.com and the Daily Star. The telecoms secretary would not disclose the “official” fees per IGW license at this stage. But he believes up to US$3,600 of CAPEX will be required for each gateway. Evidently the authorities perceive IGW some sort of a cottage industry.
Payal Malik, LIRNEasia’s Senior Research Fellow resident in India, has written an op-ed analyzing the spectrum mess in India and proposing that it be cleaned up in tandem with license renewals that are coming up. Pakistan used the opportunities afforded by license renewals to clean up some policy mistakes made prior to 2004. We hope to feature a piece by a person involved in that process shortly, in an Indian newspaper and/or here. However, there is one window of possibility of cleaning this pricing conundrum. Very soon, many licences will be coming up for renewal.
The Bangkok Post has carried a report on the exchanges about universal service funds at the Islamabad Mobile 2.0 Expert Forum. The reporter initiated the exchange between the CEOs of the Pakistan universal service fund and LIRNEasia. Here is his account. Rohan Samarajiva, CEO of Lirne-Asia, has been a long opponent of USO funds and has often stated that they are a waste of money which distort the market, and that USO-type projects should be funded from central budgeting process instead.
Are there benefits of connecting buses to a mobile network? That’s a question that the city government of Curitiba in Brazil posed before deciding to make it the first city in the world to implement a brand new public transportation solution Ericsson has developed with Dataprom, the Brazilian supplier of public-transport solutions. The solution, which is already in use in Curitiba, connects public buses to 3G mobile broadband networks, and is equipped with Ericsson mobile broadband modules for high speed access. By supplying the Electronic Ticketing and Fleet Management Systems, Dataprom and Ericsson will enable controllers to access a wide range of information about their fleet and monitor the route, stop time, speed, distance travelled, date of departure and arrival. The largest city in southern Brazil, Curitiba has a unique public bus service which has raised much interest and received worldwide recognition.
The Grand Trunk Road, which covers a distance of 2,500 km today, says Wikipedia, is one of South Asia’s oldest and longest major roads. For several centuries, it has linked the eastern and western regions of the Indian subcontinent, running from Bengal, across north India, into Peshawar in Pakistan. The road also passes through the only road boarder between the two most powerful South Asian nations, Wagah. Wagah border point, often called the “Berlin wall of Asia”, is a ceremonial border where each evening there is a retreat ceremony called ‘lowering of the flags’. At that time there is an energetic parade by the Border Security Force (BSF) of India and the Pakistan Rangers soldiers.
An interesting article appearing in the New York Times’ documents the life of a 311 call center operator in New York City. 311 is the city’s online website and phone number which can be used by anyone for obtaining government information and non-emergency services. Last week, the service celebrated its 100 millionth call since its inception in 2003. Each operator takes an average of 90 calls a day and costs $46 million a year to run. As she humourously notes: I had my moments of doubt: should government, for example, really be in the business of telling people when museums are open?
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