2013 January


LIRNEasia and its people have been intimately involved in the spurts and starts of the policy discussion on Bangladesh’s international connectivity. We were early in pointing to the need for an additional cable, pointing to the multiple vulnerabilities created by the single undersea cable controlled by the government-owned BTCL and the non-ring architecture of the dry link from Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar. Now, with 3-4 of the terrestrial cables coming online, we have a natural experiment running in what addressing redundancy means. Renesys has shown the results for those with backup and those without. Neat.
At LIRNEasia, we have had the making of place irrelevant as an organizational objective. We think we have more or less succeeded. But the government of Thailand seems to have done way better. Millions of people across the globe have cut the tethers to their offices, working remotely from home, airport lounges or just about anywhere they can get an Internet connection. But the political party governing Thailand has taken telecommuting into an altogether different realm.
Organized by LIRNEasia and the Indian Journal of Law and Technology, National Law School of India University, Bangalore, supported by Ford Foundation. For persons residing in India only. The objective of the four-day residential course on How to engage in Broadband Policy and Regulatory Processes is to produce discerning and knowledgeable consumers of research who are able to engage in broadband policy and regulatory processes. At the end of the course attendees will:  Be able to find and assess relevant research & evidence  Be able to summarize the research in a coherent and comprehensive manner  Have an understanding of broadband policy and regulatory processes in India  Have the necessary tools to improve their communication skills  Have some understanding of media function and how to effectively interact with media Who may apply? 20 junior to mid-level participants (including junior to mid-level officers of government and regulatory agencies, university students and media personnel) and 5-10 senior-level participants from civil society groups (including senior officers of government and regulatory agencies, academics and senior media personnel) will be selected to participate in the course.
An advocacy group called “De-fund the ITU” demands the US government stops funding the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). In a signature campaign they have accused ITU of leading several countries to seize the control of the Internet during WCIT 2012 in Dubai. Their goal was a coup: to overthrow the open and transparent system of internet governance that ensures the internet’s freedom and accessibility, and replace it with their own central point of absolute control, through which policies of censorship and repression could be enacted. The group claims that Germany, France, Spain, and Finland have already de-funded the ITU. American technology giants like the IBM, Cingular, Microsoft, Fox, Agilent, Sprint, Harris, Loral, and Xerox have allegedly withdrawn their private-sector contributions from the ITU.
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have embarked on government funded e-government and telecenter initiatives, with internet access at telecenters as a central delivery channel for e-Gov services. However, are telecenters still relevant in the delivery of citizen services and should they be subsidized by government? To answer this, a survey was conducted amongst 2,750 poor citizens, who have had a government interaction and who live within 5km of 275 randomly selected telecenters in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Higher awareness and use of telecenters was seen in Bangladesh, with 68 percent of the Bangladeshi sample having heard of the telecenter, and 52 percent having visited a telecenter and used its services. Telecenter awareness in the Sri Lankan sample was lower, at 46 percent, with usage even lower, at 16 percent amongst those who were aware.
Internet activist and computer prodigy Aaron Swartz, who co-developed RSS 1.0 at the age of 14, has died at 26. He has committed suicide. He has earned the fame of an online icon after hacking 18 million pages of documents from the U.S.
Civil servants across the developing world squarely blame inadequate resources for inefficient delivery of services. It doesn’t sell to India’s state government of Karnataka, which has captured the willingness to serve at the core of its principle. And it has partnered with Tata Teleservices for SMS and interactive voice response (IVR) to fast track the delivery of services. The Indian media has all the reasons to be upbeat about the impressive results of this pilot public-private partnership. The Hindu said: While 96.
There has been a lot of press on an Intel funded research report on ICTs and gender. Before we get too excited, it may be worth looking at their data collection. 1800 face to face interview and 400 telephone interview for a ‘global report’ which covers three countries. The rest all based on World Bank/ITU data… very self-congratulatory panel of State Department, UN and ITU broadband commission… no acknowledgement of problems of supply side data or of the existing demand side data in the global south. .
What will happen when the payment problem is solved in places where mobile devices are the only option? Tablets in particular have significantly changed the way people shop. While in 2011, people spent more money making purchases from smartphones than from tablets, shopping on tablets surpassed phones last year: $13.9 billion was spent from tablets and $9.9 billion from phones.
We just beat back a misguided attempt to break the Internet on the basis of some retrograde conception that equated the Internet with circuit switched telephony. But there is no debate that the Internet is under strain. We’ve been working with UN ESCAP, among others to address some of the problems. But the more fundamental questions of moving massive amounts of data from multiple devices are being addressed in the universities that begat the Internet. These are the solutions, not ETNO’s proposals, now seeping into European policy, to tax OTT players.
The decline of telecoms tariff has been a universal trend. State-owned BTCL has, however, decided to double the monthly line rent and increase the call charges across the board. And they did it without giving a damn to the regulator. The usually rowdy BTRC is unusually calm about BTCL’s blatant noncompliance: The (BTRC) officials said they overlook the flouting of the law by the BTCL as the high-ups of the telecom ministry are involved with the latter’s policy making. The industry is unimpressed: According to the telecom act, PSTN operators have to take prior approval of BTRC for any kind of tariff and charges.
We were early in talking about mobile being the principal vehicle for Internet access. The continuing discussion about the FTC terminating the investigation of Google has some detailed discussion on how search is being shaken up by mobile: Nowhere has technology changed as rapidly and consumer behavior as broadly. As people abandon desktop computers for mobile ones, existing tech companies’ business models are being upended and new companies are blooming. “Mobile is very much a moving target,” said Herbert Hovenkamp, a professor of antitrust law at the University of Iowa who has been a paid adviser to Google. “This is a market in which new competitors come in a week’s time.
Two new infoDev-led studies provide insight into the use of mobile phones at the BOP in Kenya and another in 12 countries in Africa including South Africa The Kenya study (carried out by iHub Research and Research Solutions Africa) found that over 60% of the Kenyan BOP owns a mobile phone. However only 25% of them use Internet on their mobile phone. This is quite high in comparison to LIRNEasia’s 2011 Asian study where less than 4% of the South Asian BOP surfed the Internet via the mobile with Java been the exception where 10% accessed internet via the phone. Further more it was found that at least 20 per cent of the Kenyan BOP respondents felt it was necessary to make real sacrifices to recharge their mobile credit. The estimated value of the sacrifice  the respondent was willing to make, in foregoing other activities, was an average of  84 US cents.
I have always considered Disney to be operating at the cutting edge of service delivery and crowd management. According to the NYT, it appears that they are planning to transform both using location-sensitive technologies and big data. The ambitious plan moves Disney deeper into the hotly debated terrain of personal data collection. Like most major companies, Disney wants to have as much information about its customers’ preferences as it can get, so it can appeal to them more efficiently. The company already collects data to use in future sales campaigns, but parts of MyMagic+ will allow Disney for the first time to track guest behavior in minute detail.
We have consistently argued that human beings must be associated with, and be accountable for, SIMs. The imperatives of the Budget Telecom Network Model cause companies (or more, the thousands of resellers who actually interact with customers) to give away SIMs without too many controls. Therefore, one must be judicious in enforcing the rules. We have been pointing to Pakistan as a model. Kenya, it appears, is exemplary of what not to do.
For too long the government of Bangladesh has hesitated to accept the fact that the only realistic way a majority of its people can be connected to the Internet is over wireless media and has tended to treat the mobile industry as a cash cow to be taxed in order to fund Digital Bangladesh and other general expenses. Therefore, it is heartening to hear the new BTRC Chair recognizing the reality in a report carried in the Daily Star. One hopes that he is not talking about FTTH (except to apartment blocks and such) when he refers to optical fiber in the same sentence. One seriously hopes that he is talking about optical fiber in the backhaul network. Ensuring open access to the existing optical fiber network within Bangladesh operated by BTCL should be a priority for the BTRC if it wishes to improve Internet access.
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