2011 September

We immersed ourselves in agriculture for 3-4 hours yesterday in conversation with visiting colleagues from the University of Alberta, working up a proposal on food security. When asked for a definition of food security, they responded in terms of shorter distances food was transported. I was reminded of the archetypal “bad” food value chain that got much play when there was fire in one of the Swiss road tunnels: potatoes grown in Poland, transported by truck (despite Europe’s vaunted and subsidized railways) to Italy for processing, and then hauled back as French Fries across those same tunnels back to Germany and Poland. It seems common sensical that food that puts on less miles would be better. So what are such value chains in Sri Lanka?
Perhaps the program should have been named for Wael Ghonim. A bus branded with the Google logo will be traveling across 10 governorates in Egypt starting this week, including stops at universities in Cairo and Alexandria, scouting for the next generation of technology entrepreneurs with homegrown ideas on the scale of Facebook or LinkedIn. “We will put someone’s dream through a seven-month crash course that will help turn it into a commercially viable business,” said Wael Fakharany, Google’s manager in Egypt. “We have been working on this concept for nine months. We had signed a contract with the Egyptian government in 2009 to invest in the country’s Internet ecosystem and this is part of that commitment.
We knew of the use of mobiles to check the authenticity of drugs in Africa, but this is the first we heard of it being used in India. Before buying a Sproxil-verified medication, the consumer scratches off the label to reveal a unique code, then texts it to a free number. Seconds later, a response comes back from Sproxil’s computer servers. If the text message is an approval, the medication is real and the customer buys it. If not, she can report the fake.
Our work on broadband QoSE showed that quality deteriorates when one has to communicate with the Internet cloud. We’ve been pushing for action to reduce the prices of international backhaul from Asia, which 3-6 times the prices in Europe and N America. Another solution is to bring the data centers closer. Appears that is happening, to some extent, according to a NYT report. But China?

mPayments in Sri Lankan Busses

Posted by on September 26, 2011  /  0 Comments

Following research conducted by Dr. Harsha de Silva on the potential techniques of introducing electronic bus passes, the Private Bus Owner’s Association of Sri Lanka scheduled the launch of its implementation for the 24th of September 2011. The solution however, has multiple aspects that need to be considered. The immense cash flow brought upon such a service for instance, calls for at least one bank to be involved, without which this solution will not work.  The technical side there are 2 potentials: the use of NFC (Near Field Communication) enabled mobile phones or smart cards.
The idea of using information supplied by people for early warning is extremely attractive. So much so that one politically-correct person wanted us to rename our project from “last mile” to “first mile.” We didn’t because in our model it was the last mile, the end of the warning chain, and we have little tolerance for people who think the world will change simply because we rename it. But that does not stop us from thinking about the possibilities of detecting hazards through crowdsourcing. Seems quite appropriate for “unnatural” hazards of criminality as described in this report: “Avoid Plaza Las Américas,” several people wrote, giving the location.
Big data was what caught my attention at the talk by IBM Fellow C. Mohan at WSO2Con. The talk was good. But the exhibition would have been better. It turns out that the initial “data wall,” as it is called, offers a series of displays culled from “live data streaming,” some from sensors around Lincoln Center.
Sriganesh Lokanathan and I made a presentation on remedies to the problem of grey market traffic (international incoming calls coming into countries on illegal routes) at a Tata Communications organized industry event in Colombo. Sriganesh did the heavy lifting, presenting a case study we developed for Bangladesh, based on publicly available data (not that I didn’t try to obtain proprietary data, but luckily no one gave. So we are free to talk!). The slides are HERE.
In our traceability work we used to debate whether bar codes should be on the cucumbers or on the crate. Then came QR. What new things can we do with QR among the BOP, I was wondering. This is one of the things the TOP is doing: Weeks earlier, a model walked a runway in Barcelona with a QR code emblazoned on the bodice of her Frans Baviera gown; meanwhile, a company called Skanz began selling silicone bracelets embellished with QR codes that enable anyone with a smartphone to scan your wrist and instantly access a Web page with your contact information, social media links, even favorite photos and videos. In other words: you’ve become a human hyperlink Report.

Good Google? Bad Google?

Posted by on September 22, 2011  /  2 Comments

My entry to telecom policy and regulation was through the AT&T Divestiture case, where the US Department of Justice broke up the world’s largest company with my advisor, Bill Melody, as a key witness. The good guys and the bad guys were clear. While I was teaching the big Microsoft antitrust case came up and Lessig was appointed as Master to assist the judge. The lines were not as clear, but I could see the leveraging of the operation system being problematic. Google’s case is much harder to take a position on.
Most people are electronically connected to each other and to their governments. This happened in our countries in the past decade. How does this translate into being treated with more respect as a citizen? Almost everyone has experienced the frustration of going to the wrong office; of going to the right office but being told the right official is absent; of finding the right official and being told the documentation is not complete; of having the required documents but not having the payment in the right form, and so on. For those whose language is not Sinhala, there is the added frustration of not being able to communicate, not being able to read the forms.
The US has hundreds of airports. My country has one. I know where things are at that airport, I don’t need apps to guide me. What I’d like to know is where things are in the Asian airports that I frequent, like the maze that goes by the name of Suvannabhoomi or the upstairs section of Terminal 3 in New Delhi. Most likely some kind soul will soon come up with a nice mobile app that I can use to find a decent place to eat or buy a book or whatever.
We haven’t written much about energy here, but increasingly one cannot discuss development or even ICTs without factoring in energy availability and costs. Global energy demand will increase 53 percent from 2008 through 2035, with China and India accounting for half of the growth, the United States Department of Energy said on Monday. China and India will consume 31 percent of the world’s energy by 2035, up from 21 percent in 2008, the department’s International Energy Outlook projected. In 2035, Chinese energy demand will exceed that of the United States by 68 percent, it said. Report.
It’s not only in developing countries that getting organizations and people to change behaviors to accommodate e gov and e commerce is a problem. Consumers who still pay bills via snail mail. Hospitals leery of making treatment records available online to their patients. Some state motor vehicle registries that require car owners to appear in person — or to mail back license plates — in order to transfer vehicle ownership. But the White House is out to fight cyberphobia with an initiative intended to bolster confidence in e-commerce.
Interesting post on the procurement practices of the Pakistan USF Company by its CEO: ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES I face is to convince some of those who matter that it is possible to deal in Billions WITHOUT ANY CORRUPTION. I don’t blame them. Corruption has become so pervasive that if and when it is absent, one tends to disbelieve! So what does one do? It is said that transparency helps.
We’ve never been fans of all you can eat pricing, because that does not fit the Budget Telecom Network business model. Here‘s the story on the only remaining all you can eat plan for mobiles (not for tablets) in the US ALL the data you need on a smartphone, at full speed, for a single price — Sprint Nextel is the only major wireless carrier in the United States that still offers this with new cellphones. And by the way, Sprint has not made a profit in a long time.