2010 July


Don Sambandaraksa passionately speaks and writes about the state of telecoms in his country, Thailand. Recently he unveiled how the state-owned telecoms entities have been extorting from the industry and also from the USF. Such a Thailand is a stranger to the world. Its tourism, airlines and hospitality have set a unique benchmark across the service industries. Thai telecoms sector, however, seems to be the black ship.
ICT for Disaster Risk Reduction (ICTD Case Study) Published by: United Nations Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (UN-APCICT/ESCAP) Demonstrating the true impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in any other field has never been easy. Robert Solow’s cynical remark has certainly outlived its time. If not for ATMs, credit cards, online check-ins and unprecedented drop of snail mail we would still have been arguing whether computer age is seen in productivity statistics. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is one area where ICT’s role is more evident. ICTs are important tools for lessening the risks brought on by disasters through early warning, coordinating and tracking relief activities and resources, recording and disseminating knowledge and experiences, and raising awareness, says a joint preface by the publishers, Xuan Zengpei, Director, IDD-ESCAP and Hyeun-Suk Rhee, Director, UN-APCICT/ESCAP.
Trade in services came on the policy scene in the 1980s. It played an important role in reforming telecom sectors across the world, especially because of the Regulatory Reference Paper that was an integral part of the Basic Telecom Services agreement. Trade agreements are simply one more element used to lock in regulatory commitment, thus facilitating investment and thereby good performance. The famous story about how one can trade hair-cutting services across borders illustrates the connection with ICTs. How can one trade hair cuts, a service that is consumed at the moment of production?
The FDI has dropped by 36% in Bangladesh last year, according to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2010. It further said that foreign investment in telecoms sector has nosedived by 60% at the same time. Such abysmal consequence is the result of a sequential blunder at the policy front. Foreign investment was explicitly prohibited in the ILTDS policy in 2007. It has also banned the expatriate Bangladeshi citizens from investing in the international long distance businesses violating their constitutional rights.
India has come up with the world’s cheapest “laptop,” a touch-screen computing device that costs $35. The touchscreen gadget comes with Internet browsers, PDF reader and video conferencing facilities but its hardware was created with sufficient flexibility to incorporate new components according to user requirement. The Linux based computing device was expected to be introduced to higher education institutions from 2011 but the aim was to drop the price further to $20 and ultimately to $10. The Hindu reports.
The key take home from the workshop were: the Regional Epidemiologist – Dr. P. Hemachandra – stressing the need for Syndromic surveillance; especially, the ability to monitor escalating fever like disease and geographic clusters of increase in common symptoms. Dr. Lakshman Edirisinghe (Deputy Director Planning) emphasized the need for comprehensive patient clinical data for becoming a data driven organization that can optimize the resources opposed to speculative expert opinion.
A latest study of GSMA reveals that consumers in Bangladesh are punished with 55% sector-specific taxes while subscribing a new mobile connection. It is worst among the other five countries – Malaysia (6.1%), South Africa (15%), Mexico (16%), and Brazil (43.3%) – the GSMA has studied. Bangladesh is among the very few country worldwide and certainly the only country in this group that has brought nearly 100% of its population and landmass under 2G mobile coverage.
I was in Lyon, France presenting our mHealth paper – Real-Time Biosurveillance pilot in India and Sri Lanka – at the IEEE-HealthCom conference, which took place 01-03, July 2010 (click to view the slides). I spent an extra day in France to travel down to Grenoble, accompanied by my friend and research partner – Artur Dubrawski – an ex-scholar from Grenoble,  in search of a Joseph Fourier’s statue for a photo opportunity. Why? Jean Baptist Joseph Fourier (21 Mar 1768 to 16 May 1830) was a French mathematician and physicist best known for the “Fourier series” – a way of writing a function as a sum of frequency components; i.e.
Now that telecom networks have a bigger footprint than electric power networks, the question of power sources is assuming increasing importance. Quite a lot of work is being done in our region on reducing the power requirements of base stations and of substituting for expensive diesel generators. In Pakistan, using renewable sources at base stations are mandatory for those obtaining subsidies. The power is also made available for the recharging of handsets. But would it not be wonderful if handsets require no external power and no batteries?
Apps are referred to applications. And applications are no different than appliances. Buy your fridge, TV, air cooler, music system, toaster, iron, microwave oven or whatever. Bring them home, plug and play. You don’t give a damn to the power utility company.
Ban Ki Moon will be surprised to learn how far Sri Lankan government goes to ensure the human rights of its people. It may not necessarily make him an activist, but the chief of Telecommunication Regulatory Commission makes it clear why Facebook should not be banned: Access to it is a human right. Mark, did you hear that? There is another reason too. As Anusha Pelpita says to Daily Mirror online blocking sites will reduce internet speed.
Regulators often forget the difference between “Dictation” and “Regulation” in Asia. As a result, competition becomes the fist victim of such hegemony and the consumers get punished. For example, the monthly rental and installation cost for 2Mbps circuit would cost an operator in Malaysia US$4,564 while it is only US$374 in Hong Kong. Indonesia is also equally bad. Comparing the regulatory environment of these two countries unveils the cause of such disparity.
Rohan Samarajiva, PhD. CEO of LIRNEasia will be making two presentations at APT Policy and Regulatory Forum (PRF) to be held from 14-16 July 2010 at Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He will be making a presentation,  Lessons from the mobile-voice success for policymakers, regulators, operators, applications providers & manufacturers at the Business Dialogue Innovative Regulation: what industry needs session and another presentation titled Roaming: Regulate or not? at the International Connectivity session. An online version of the agenda can be viewed here.
Rohan Samarajiva, Ph.D. CEO of LIRNEasia will speak at the International Seminar on Information and Communication Technology Statistics , to be held from 19 – 21 July 2010 in Seoul, Korea, at the session ‘Enhancing ICT Data Availability.’ He will be speaking on ICT indicators: LIRNEasia’s perspective. An online version of the agenda can be viewed here.
The chicken and egg question when one asks about BOP use of the Internet has always been whether there is relevant content in languages those at the BOP understand. Help is on the way. Both the Wikimedia Foundation and Google are promoting local language content and translations. Rather than look to experts to get its mojo working, the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates the Wikipedias in more than 250 languages, is aiming at the underserved populations of the globe to meet its ambitious goals for growth. In a speech on Friday at the start of Wikimania, in the restored home of the Polish Baltic Philharmonic, the foundation’s executive director, Sue Gardner, said the foundation planned to double in size in the next year by adding 44 employees and hoped to raise more than $20 million in donations.
The “Evaluating a Real-Time Biosurveillance Program” (RTBP) research team meet in Chennai, July 6 – 7, 2010 to discuss the interim findings of the evaluation work (click to read workshop report) carried out in Tamil Nadu India. In addition to the workshop a news conference was organized to disseminate the pilot project findings. The links below are some of the news prints (click on the thumbnails to view news clippings) :: – Mobiles on Health Calls, The Hindu Business Line, September 13, 2010 – Pilot study in using mobile technology for disease reporting shows promise, Thehindu.com, July 07, 2010 – Pilot study on epidemiological early disease warning system, Chennaionline.com, July 07, 2010 – New tech to keep tab on diseases, timesofindia.
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