2011 June


Senior Research Manager, Ayesha Zainudeen participated at the 10th International conference on mobile business (ICMB 2011) from 20-21 June 2011. She made a presentation on Connecting Asia’s poor through the “budget telecom network model”: Innovations, challenges and opportunities, drawing from LIRNEasia’s research on the budget telecom network model, as well as Teleuse@BOP3 findings. The presentation slides can be found here. The theme of the conference was “Mobile Internet: a new paradigm in a new value network,” and explored the current mobile business models and players involved in the value network and their strategies, as well as the technological framework enabling the distribution and creation of services.
The International Telecommunication Regulations of 1865 (subjected to a major overhaul in 1988) are what underlie the ITU’s claim to be the oldest international organization. I spent a considerable number of days working on their reform when serving on the Expert Committee appointed by the then Secretary General to propose measures on how to update them. They came to nought partly because several members representing powerful governments wanted nothing to be done. The error of that decision is now becoming apparent. Prime Minister Vladimir V.
LIRNEasia’s research on agricultural value chains is in the press. Nilusha Kapugama’s response to a feature on one of the most successful rubber smallholder cooperatives has been carried in the Sunday Times. It covers the topics of start-up costs, law and order issues and the high transaction costs that prevent more auctions being conducted (and Padeniya not expanding): Our research included conversations with a key mover in the Padeniya Thurusaviya society, Mr Berty Lionel. We agree that Padeniya is a great success. Where we differ is on the likelihood it can easily be replicated across the rubber-growing areas.
Starting with a low base, but 62,000 well paying jobs is a great achievement. Sri Lanka’s information and communications technology workforce has doubled in the past four years as the island ramps up training and investment to make the sector a key export industry. A new survey said the number of ICT sector jobs increased by 100 percent to over 62,000 this year from 30,120 in 2006. Over 50,000 people are estimated to have been employed in the IT sector in 2010. The national ITC workforce survey by the state-run Information and Communication Technology Agency covered 80 state institutions, 325 private sector firms, 30 BPO (business processing outsourcing) firms, and 75 IT training institutes.
Since 2009, farmers in Sri Lanka,  have been able to benefit from a new service called Tradenet which provides agricultural market price information through mobile phones. The service is a joint initiative between Sri Lanka’s largest mobile phone operator (Dialog Axiata PLC.) and a not-for-profit called Govi Gnana Seva (GGS). GGS which means “Farmer Knowledge Service” has since 2003, been collecting and dissemination wholesale agricultural produce trade information. An evaluation of this new service by LIRNEasia found that farmers were able to get livelihood benefits by using this system.
A New York Times columnist writes about the possible use of ICTs to counter violent extremism. Not your father’s kind of public diplomacy. Being done by Google, not by a unit with Department of State. I don’t think the world’s leaders have begun to grasp the implications of unstoppable connectivity. Some people are calling this the Age of Behavior: What I do affects what you do, more directly than ever before.
How much should a teleco know about the apps you are running on your mobile? In other words, should it be able to check if you are using Skype on your mobile? According to KPN, 85 percent of the company’s customers who use a Google Android phone downloaded WhatsApp onto their handsets from last August through April. As a result, KPN’s revenue from text messaging, which had risen 8 percent in the first quarter of 2010 from a year earlier, declined 13 percent in the first quarter of this year. At a presentation to investors in London on May 10, analysts questioned where KPN had obtained the rapid adoption figures for WhatsApp.
David Pogue, my favorite writer on gadgets has reviewed the first laptop made specifically for cloud computing: no hard disk, no software. Just the cloud. And the verdict is . . .
Shabbir Syed Abdul, is an academic we know; he’s of Indian origin but living in Taiwan; working with a team of Bioinformatics researchers at the National Yang Ming University. Him and his team have leveraged Facebook to engage the masses in getting their Health Minister to change health policy – “… Early on one of the members posted “Is there any use of these posts? Does our minister have time to read Facebook?” The Minister replied by posting “every message is read by me and my staff”. This modest gesture satisfied the emergency-room staff that their concerns were being taken seriously by the Department of Health, and further motivated them to engage in discussing the issue…“; The Lancet, Volume 377, Issue 9783, Click to read full story
If you wish to believe that Syriatel will henceforth be owned by the poor of Syria, you can. Mr. Makhlouf said that he would offer shares of Syriatel, Syria’s largest phone company, to the poor and that profits would go, in part, to families of people killed in the uprising. He said profits from his other endeavors would go to charitable and humanitarian work. He vowed not to enter into any new business that would bring him personal gain.
LIRNEasia’s book, ICT INFRASTRUCTURE IN EMERGING ASIA: Policy and Regulatory Roadblocks is now fully downloadable in PDF from IDRC’s website. This edited volume, based on LIRNEasia‘s 2004-2006 research program brings together scholars, practitioners, former regulators and policy makers to address the problem of expanding information and communication technology (ICT) connectivity in emerging Asia. It centrally engages the widespread claim that technology by itself—independent of policy and regulatory reform—can improve access to ICTs. In doing so, it shows that while complex workarounds are possible, they are significantly less effective than the appropriate policy and regulatory reforms. More information on the book here.
This is not exactly BOP applications, but the spirit is the same. In our current research on how ICTs can help bridge information and knowledge gaps in agricultural value chains, we would like to come up with practical suggestions through which suppliers can make their customers happier and both can improve their financial condition, and who knows, even become happier human beings (I have been spending time in Bhutan, as you can see). The excerpt comes from a longer story. “It’s not true anymore that only the Procter & Gambles of the world can afford to do this,” he said. “You don’t have to run a wave of $100,000 focus groups across the country to learn things anymore.
According to the Nokia Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) study 2011, Ethiopia’s mobile prices bring it to the very threshold of membership in the “Under USD 5 club” of 11 countries. The TCO in Ethiopia in 2010 was USD 5.02. This is a puzzle and appeared to pose a challenge to the entire explanation of the conditions for the emergence of the BTN business model. Because Ethiopia is a member of another exalted “club,” the “bottom-ten” in terms of mobile connectivity.
Usually politicians like low prices. But the Kenyan President dislikes them so much that he could not wait for the Task Force established by the Prime Minister to examine a decision by the “independent” regulator to lower mobile termination rates, an esoteric wholesale price determined by technical methods. I have not looked at the Kenyan legislation in detail, but I’d be surprised if the legislation permits review by a Prime Minister’s Task Force, let alone the President acting after a meeting with a few of the stakeholders behind closed doors. With its “independence” in tatters, the regulatory agency did the one thing it can do to recover: it ratified the President’s unlawful act. A mass resignation would have been the more appropriate response, methinks.
Doing good research is of utmost importance. Conveying the research results to the right audience is equally important if change is to be effected. LIRNEasia’s study on Broadband Quality of Service Experience (BBQoSE) began in 2007. Since then, more than six rounds of testing has been conducted in over five countries, using the AT-Tester (developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras). LIRNEasia has used multiple means on conveying the results.
In early April, Nirmita Narasimhan, Program Manager on accessibility at the Center for Internet and Society based in Bangalore, visited Sri Lanka at LIRNEasia’s invitation. Below is an excerpt from her reflections on the visit and her interactions with the Telecom Regulatory Commission, the ICT Agency and the Jinasena Trust: Why is there such a communication gap between persons with disabilities and the policy makers? Even in India, we come across projects where the government of India is spending precious funds developing technology which they feel is required for the blind, while the blind in fact are already using more advanced technology. For instance, there is a project of the government to develop a special browser for the blind, when the blind and visually impaired are already navigating the internet using screen readers like Jaws and NVDA. My meetings with the regulator and other agencies confirmed for me that persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka and India are facing similar problems.