2011 July


System of local government in Sri Lanka is long in history but short on achievements. Local authorities are the political institutions closest to people, but, except for a handful that keeps winning national awards, others fall short. While political actors take the center stage, taking credit for achievement or taking blame for failures, professionals in local government take a back stage. Driven by an emerging body of research that points to the power of networks in ICT enabled societies, we carried out a series of action research projects using the solid waste sector in local government as a case in point to induce connectivity among service provider professionals in the sector. Three new ideas for enabling knowledge networks emerged from our study.
Linking Knowledge to Innovation in Government Services: The Case of Solid Waste Services in Local Government in Sri Lanka
UN ESCAP hosted a whole week of events for the Asia Pacific business community in Bangkok last week. LIRNEasia was invited to speak on how ICTs can benefit small business. I focused on micro-enterprises of the type we see in our work, exemplified by Zayed Khan, the young grocer from Sonargoan so well profiled by our qualitative research partner CKS. There was the usual tendency to extrapolate from the personal experiences of speakers to the entirety of the Asia Pacific, but hopefully LIRNEasia’s research-based presentation provided a needed counterweight. The slides are here.
One of the principal rationales for the creation of LIRNE.NET in 2000, and then LIRNEasia in 2004, was to counter the tendency to transplant policy and regulatory thinking unchanged from the developed market economies into the developing world. But that never meant that we should ignore theoretical developments and policy/regulatory innovations just because they emerged in the developed market economies. It is my firm belief that theory is universal. But the application of abstract theory to concrete circumstances must always involve deep interrogation of local context and will almost always requires adaptation and innovation.
LIRNEasia has won the contract to establish the Pacific ICT Regulatory Resource Center, based at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. This assignment from the World Bank will see M. Aslam Hayat, Senior Policy Fellow, relocate to Suva (actually he should land in Suva today) to establish the center as its founder director. In line with the axiom that all problems are easy if we can solve the hardest ones, LIRNEasia has been interested in the problems of regulation in micro states. This is where capacity issues are most challenging.
In the midst of writing a unifying introduction to a special issue of a journal on how the poor use the mobile phone, I came across this sentence on the web. “Ki raflé du ki amul yeeré wayé moy ki amul nit”, as a Senegalese proverb has it, “the poor person is not the one without clothes but the one without anyone.” Seems to capture the essence of the power of social networks (I do not mean FaceBook).
I thought the Pakistani man who thought he had 2 SIMs but found 57 had been issued in his name was a story. But India does better, according to NDTV. A man in Mumbai’s suburb Thane region was found with 80,000 Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards. The SIM cards were found at the residence of Anwar Ansari, in Bhiwandi area of Thane. According to reports, Mr Ansari used to run a racket that facilitated international calls.
Nirmali Sivapragasam, Researcher at LIRNEasia for the past three years,has joined the MPP program at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. She is the third to join the LKY School from LIRNEasia on full scholarship, the others (Sriganesh Lokanathan and Tahani Iqbal) already having graduated. The LKY School with its Asian focus and high quality faculty will continue to be a favored destination for LIRNEasians.
I know this is late, but it is still relevant. The somewhat ironic* Broadband Commission has done something good. It has declined to define broadband either in terms of advertised (though rarely delivered) download speeds or in terms of specific technologies. The Commission did not explicitly define the term “broadband” in terms of specific minimum transmission speeds because countries differ in their definitions. Recognizing that broadband is sometimes also defined in terms of a specific set of technologies, many members of the Commission found it appropriate to refer to broadband “as a network infrastructure capable of reliably delivering diverse convergent services through high-capacity access over a mix of technologies”.
Today I spoke at the Future Gov, Sri Lanka conference. After a long time, I had a technical glitch (I raely do, because I work with simple slides and I go early and test; I did all that but the test was not done on the conference machine, fully. Not for the lack of asking). Anyway, here are the slides and the video that was not shown. I made a case for governments freeing up basic data on a non-discriminatory basis.
Since 2004, India has been behind Pakistan on a key indicator: mobile SIMs/100. Few in India wanted to talk about this. But we did. Now finally, India has pulled ahead, as it should. I discuss the reasons in a recent piece done for Pioneer.
Does this picture remind you of the default Windows XP desktop background? That’s what most of Mongolia looks like. Roughly 40% of the Mongolians live in Ulaanbaartar (UB). The rest are sparsely scattered in thinly populated communities in the vast open terrain. The cultures vary across the desert, meadows, and hills.
LBO.lk has carried a report on the TRE results for Sri Lanka, in relation to comparators. I understand this will also come out on TV on Lanka Business Reports. The telecom survey was conducted in seven countries including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The survey systematically captures the perception of operators, vendors and public interest groups at top management level.
The Telecom Policy and Regulatory Environment survey results have been carried in the Economic Times in India. India’s regulatory regime has been found to be the best for mobile phone tariffs but the 2G spectrum allocation controversy has pulled it down in a recent perception survey of seven nations conducted by telecom regulation and policy study firm Lirneasia. “In India, the regulator does not regulate most of the prices where as in other countries, we surveyed, there are regulatory interventions,” Payal Malik, senior research fellow of Lirneasia told PTI. India scored 3.9 for mobile phone tariffs on scale of 1 to 5.
Causation is a central concern of science. In closed systems such as those found in Chemistry and Physics, this is generally not too difficult. In open systems such those that we work on (i.e., telecom use) it is a tremendously difficult problem because multiple factors are at work at the same time and interacting with each other and with the phenomenon we’re trying to establish the cause for.
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