2011 October


We’ve been talking about inclusive development for some time now. Here, our friend W.A. Wijewardene, defines inclusive development and distinguishes it from pro-poor actions. The Commission he refers to is the Commission on Growth and Development chaired by Micheal Spence, whose work has influenced ours in many ways.
The October 13th dissemination event has generated more coverage, this time in the Sunday Times, the leading English weekly. LIRNEasia, a think tank headquartered in Sri Lanka and representing South Asian, has teamed up with the Lanka Fruits, Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association (LFVPEA) and are jointly involved in a project to find out ways and means of obtaining more money from agriculture – and to improve the agriculture value chain to make it a win-win solution. They held an open discussion programme with expert research findings last week at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Auditorium and the focus at this open forum was on pineapple growing and how to assist the pineapple smallholders to overcome the hassles in producing quality consistent fruit, and to ascertain on adequate supplies to the export market.
The 2009-10 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) is a representative sample survey based on responses from 22,000 households from all across Sri Lanka, except Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Mannar districts that were considered too dangerous because of uncleared mines. It is a veritable treasure trove of data on how Sri Lankans live, what the differences among the provinces are, and, when combined with data from past HIES, a source of trend data. It reports communication and recreation expenditures separately, but I decided to combine them since communication is recreation. When the different telecom related expenditures are combined, they amount to LKR 750 per month (around USD 7) and dwarf everything else. Households spend 17 times more money on telecom and Internet services than on books, newspapers and magazines.
The program we talked about few weeks back has been announced. It will spend USD 4.5 billion a year to connect 20 million Americans to broadband. In an effort to expand broadband Internet service, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved an overhaul of its fund that subsidizes rural telephone service, turning it into one meant to offer broadband service to the millions of Americans who lack high-speed connections. The plan could lead to higher fees for consumers on their telephone landlines because the commission also approved changes in the complex compensation system by which telecommunications companies pay one another for completing or carrying calls on one another’s systems.
The New Zealand incumbent telco has separated itself into infrastructure and access companies, according to Telecom TV. This week it was announced that the incumbent telco will demerge so that Chorus, the firm’s fixed-line infrastructure arm, would be able to participate as an independent entity in the upcoming award of government contracts for the building of a national broadband network. It’s believed that this is the first time that an incumbent has undertaken complete separation. The new structure should mean that New Zealand avoids the ‘incumbent problem’ Australia suffered when full-scale war broke out between Telstra and the government around the role of the still vertically-integrated incumbent in the development of that country’s NBN. Shareholder approval for the complete services/infrastructure split in New Zealand was gained this week.
Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan has been extensively quoted in an analytical piece on backhaul concerns in Asia, published in Capacity magazine. Coincidentally, this is directly connected to the post a short while back on the data tsunami. One man, however, has come up with an ambitious concept that could potentially dwarf any existing terrestrial projects and radically reduce Asia’s reliance on subsea cables. Abu Saeed Khan is senior policy fellow at the Asia-Pacific ICT policy and regulatory think tank LIRNEasia, and his clear vision is to utilise the extensive Asian Highway Network project by deploying an open access terrestrial optical mesh backbone alongside it. The Asian highway project brings together 32 countries in Asia and Europe and is assisted by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) which aims to create a highway system from Japan all the way to Turkey.
Hotels are sort of like countries with regard to broadband use. The guests have to obtain broadband connectivity from the hotel (let’s disregard the 3G option for now); residents in a country have to obtain broadband from providers licensed by the government. When quality drops, users hold the hotel accountable; in case of a country, the ISP is held accountable. In the case of hotels, the traveler can choose to not stay in the hotel where connectivity is poor. In the case of a country, one can switch ISPs, but if the constriction is in the cables linking the country to the Internet cloud, it may not make much difference.
Our agri value chain work starts from the agriculture side and hopes to end up with solutions that include ICTs is some form. This is not that easy. This fascinating article about how venture capital is focusing on ICT applications gives some excellent ideas. His firm has invested in RelayRides and other start-ups that stretch the definition of clean tech investing. They include the Climate Corporation, for extreme weather insurance; Clean Power Finance, which runs an online marketplace for financing residential solar panels; and Transphorm, which makes tools that reduce power loss when electricity is converted in data centers or industrial motors.
It was just a few weeks ago that reports said Asian markets had more or less saved the year for both Ericsson and Nokia. Yet the product launch focuses on Europe and US. Go figure. BTW, these handsets are LTE. Nokia’s chief executive, Stephen A.
Until the 1970s, it was customary to ensure seats for specific under-represented castes in the Sri Lankan Cabinet. It was only in 1989 that a non-leading caste politician got elected President. Caste-bloc voting has ceased to be a major factor in elections in at least the Western Province. These progressive changes are catching on in North India, it appears. South India is more progressive in economic and cultural terms, but caste is deeply embedded in the political practices in the South.

Moment of truth for Nokia

Posted by on October 24, 2011  /  0 Comments

When we started talking about mobile devices being the primary way that people connect to the Internet, we did not think the transformation would be so difficult for the leading device maker. At a conference in London on Wednesday, Nokia intends to present at least two new phones, one aimed at high-end users and one for the midrange mass market, people with knowledge of the presentation said. Time is not an ally for Nokia in the fast-moving smartphone segment of the mobile market, which now accounts for more than half of all cellphone sales in North America and Western Europe. For Nokia, the decision to abandon its own Symbian operating system in favor of Windows Phone came at a price. Operators quickly reduced their stocks of all Symbian devices, both smartphones and basic phones, hurting Nokia’s bread-and-butter business.
It’s always a challenge to decipher the special language of evaluation reports, but this para in the recent evaluation report on the ICT activities of the World Bank does seem like an indictment of universal service programs. 4.28 Equity and integration of marginalized groups have been more effectively supported by Bank support for ICT policy and sector reform than by operations specifically designed to achieve these goals. ICT operations that supported reforms to introduce competition into the sector, when successful in supporting those reforms, have had significant impact, especially in access to cellular telephony services. This increase in overall access has had a spill-over effect of providing access to the underserved.
It used to be that we had the majority of deaths and the developed economies had the majority of economic damage from disasters. But according to the authoritative CRED-CRUNCH newsletter, Asia seems to absorbing the most of all forms of damage, including economic losses. Whereas 42% of disasters [in the first half of 2011] happened in Asia, 90% of total deaths and 73% of total people affected were from this continent. Moreover, Asia accounted for 83% of total economic damages brought by natural disasters.
The Sunday Observer reported on the dissemination workshop conducted on 13 October 2011: Kapugama said that Sri Lanka should promote high density planting and intensive management to boost pineapple cultivation in the country. Pineapple cultivators in Sri Lanka face many challenges due to the scarcity of land, healthy suckers and the absence of high yielding cultivation methods. The high cost of fertiliser is a major factor that affects the cost of production. Kapugama said that due to the problems faced by pineapple cultivators exporters and pineapple-based product manufacturers are adversely affected. “There should be a proper mechanism to obtain information on pineapple sucker providers based on their reputation”, Kapugama said.
People have been sending me pictures, not of Qaddafi dead, but of people taking pictures of the dead Qaddafi. I was among those who speculated on the role of cameras in moderating the crackdown in Bahrain (before the real crackdown): “Could the ubiquity of cameras be the differentiating factor? Cameras are everywhere in Tripoli and Manama; images keep coming out, despite confiscations of cameras, SIMs, and whatever picture-snapping gadgets there are. Prabhakaran’s captives had no cameras.” Now here is a report on the use of low-end digital cameras (not very different from mid-range mobile phones) in constraining electoral fraud.
In 1998, I was trying to improve the atrocious quality of service offered by Sri Lanka Telecom. My efforts included persuasion: I brought in a quality advocate from BC Tel, a Canadian telecom operator, and organized a public lecture. There, I recall responding to the main criticism made of my efforts by SLT engineers that I was imposing unrealistic American standards of quality on Sri Lanka. I said that no one obtains a phone to keep in the house as an ornamental object; that they went to all the trouble of obtaining a phone in order to talk to people and for that, they needed dialtone. You can imagine my surprise when I see a New York Times writer saying that fixed phones in America are becoming ornamental objects.