2014 August


Is this a regional trend? I came across this report from Thailand, soon after reviewing a book of energy policy and politics by Minister Ranawaka from the JHU, the Sri Lankan political party which has monks in leadership positions and which got into Parliament by fielding an all-monk slate of candidates in 2004. The monk’s role in energy reform has surprised several people. Phra Buddha, who made a name for himself while leading a protest against the Yingluck Shinawatra government early this year, said he was now planning to champion for reform in this important sector. The monk had joined the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who has now also taken up saffron robes.
Bright people go into engineering in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Engineers manage incumbent telcos. When I came to Sri Lanka as the regulator in 1998, I was surprised by some of the things my bright engineer friends said about losing market share. They talked as though this was something that could be stanched. I had to tell them that market share would necessarily have to go down because that’s what competition does.
I have always been intrigued by the differences between South and South East Asian countries. We saw this over and over again when we did the Teleuse@BOP surveys. But playing around with some numbers for Facebook users in four South and four SE Asian countries, I was astounded. In all the SE Asian countries, there are more Facebook users than there are Internet users. In the case of Myanmar, the multiple is 4.
WS208: Net Neutrality, Zero-Rating & Development: What’s the Data? – Wednesday, September 3 • 9:00am – 10:30am Link to Workshop page A roundtable to explore the arguments for and against “zero-rating,” which refers to the practice of offering free access to certain popular online services for customers of particular mobile networks. Several major service providers have entered into arrangements with mobile network operators in a variety of countries to deliver low-data-usage, “zero-rated” versions of their services. In some cases, this means using those sites does not count against a subscriber’s data caps, while in other arrangements, users can access the service even if they do not have a data plan LIRNEasia will be represented by Helani Galpaya. She will bring data points LIRNEasia‘s surveys which show that at times users who claim not to use the internet are still claiming to use Facebook.
Setting the Scene Focus Session – Tuesday, September 2 • 11:00am – 12:30pm Sub-themes for IGF 2014 a) POLICIES ENABLING ACCESS Speaker: Rohan Samarajiva, LirneAsia, Sri Lanka Rohan will provide a bird’s eye view on progress and challenges in achieving affordable access for all. He will highlight controversial issues that came up in the last year, such as:  net neutrality  role of governments and regulators vs role of markets: are we getting the balance right so that the benefits get to those who need it most?  access for all: public access, access for the poorest of the poor, access for people with disability Virat Bhatia will provide a review of how the topic will be discussed at the IGF 2014 at workshops and in the ‘access’ main session. Policies Enabling Access, Growth and Development on the Internet, Main session –Wednesday, September 3, 0930-1200 Here, Rohan Samarajiva will speak on policies conducive to Internet use. Workshop No.
I have been inclined to give the new administration the benefit of the honeymoon period, but surely this is nuts. The previous administration placed all its eggs in the BSNL basket and got egg in its face for its pains. Not only did they extract enormous amounts as fees, they delayed procurement and did not give INC anything ICT to talk about during the election campaign. Now the BJP is going on that same well-trodden path: The telecom department is aiming to complete setting up of a pan-India optic-fibre network by June 2016, a year ahead of the stated schedule of the project that is critical to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ initiative. The Department of Telecommunications has sought the views of public-sector telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd whether it can complete the National Optical Fibre Network ( NOFN) project by then, according to an internal note seen by ET.
The New York Times carries this fascinating story about Hike, a new app that is being driven by Sunil Mittal’s son. Those who consider every smartphone app as a mortal threat to the telecom business should read this. In a first for messaging apps, Hike allows its users to send free text messages to people who use “feature phones” —low-end devices that lack a smartphone’s ability to download apps — and to people who usually keep their phones’ Internet connection turned off to save money. It allows chats within groups of up to 100 people, and transfer of large files, a useful ability for students exchanging homework files. India is the third-largest smartphone market by sales, after China and the United States, and since the end of last year it has been the fastest growing.
Governments provisioning e government services have to address two specific policy principles with regard to infrastructure: ensure universal access to their services and assure a higher level of reliability than with comparable private services. I will leave the second principle for later discussion. Unlike a decade or so ago, governments today do not have to rely solely on common-access centers (telecenters) to provide universal access. In most countries, mobile signals cover a significant proportion of the population and prompt policy action can increase the percentage quickly; many households have at least one electronic access device; the few that do not, can gain such access. Today’s smartphones have capabilities little different from the early telecenters, except for functionalities such as printing, scanning, etc.
It appears that unlike the previous government that was not of one mind regarding the centrality of mobiles, the new government has accepted it. The Digital India project that aims to offer a one-stop shop for government services would use the mobile phone as the backbone of its delivery mechanism. The government hopes the Rs 1.13-lakh crore initiative that seeks to transform India into a connected economy to also attract investment in electronics manufacturing, create millions of jobs and support trade. In an interview with ET, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to ensure a smartphone in the hands of every citizen by 2019.
It now appears that a month’s lead amounts to one million customers. While there is no bar against those customers also obtaining Telenor, MPT or Yatanarpon SIMs, one would have to conclude that not all will, giving Ooredoo a distinct advantage. While Ooredoo has focused on second-generation cellular, Telenor’s SIM cards will work with any GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phone (2G and 3G). Furberg insisted there would be enough SIM cards to meet demand and their price would remain at 1,500 kyat (Bt49). A voice call should cost no more than 25 kyat per minute, he said.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has decided not to regulate over-the-top (OTT) providers, such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp. The mobile operators claim that such apps will annually cost them  over US$822 million in lost revenues, as subscribers prefer to use free voice and messaging apps. Therefore, they demanded to regulate the OTT providers either for a revenue sharing scheme or a fee system. The TRAI, however, believes that mobile operators recover their losses through growth in data revenues. As a result, the regulator has decided not to take any action against the OTT providers.
Usually one has only the time stipulated in the consultation paper to prepare a response. In this case, the Chair is giving extra time to intervenors to get organized. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chair Rahul Khullar on Wednesday said the authority would come out with a consultation paper on broadband next month. The objective of the broadband consultation paper would be to revisit the broadband target identifying right broadband technologies, involving private and public participation, and achieving new milestone in a cost-effective way. Speaking at an ASSOCHAM event today TRAI chairman said India needs new policies in place to achieve the goal set by the new government.
Turnover of GlaxoSmithKline was US$44 billion in 2013 and it annually spends $6.5 billion in R&D. Its sales data is public information while results of R&D had been the best kept secret until October 2012. Two years ago the British pharmaceutical behemoth has stunned the scientific community when it decided to share the detailed data of its clinical trials. No, it was not a cheap marketing stunt, as MIT Technology Review reports: In May 2013, the company began posting its own data online.
I resisted the notion that we should start our work on guidelines for”big data” from the settled law of other jurisdictions. I did not do that in 1987 when I did one of the earliest policy studies on ICTs and the law in Sri Lanka, and I was not about to start in 2013. I had reservations about both the chaotic and piecemeal nature of US privacy law and the over-bureaucratic nature of European law that made even a simple list of course attendees a subject of “data protection” enforced by a Data Protection Commissioner. In addition, I sensed that big data was a qualitative jump from what existed before and it was wrong to simply extrapolate from the existing law. Looks like I was right.
The policy statement of the new government headed by Narendra Modi promised to continue the NOFN initiative and work toward a Digital India: “We will strive to provide Wi-Fi zones in critical public areas in the next five years. My government will rollout broad band highway to reach every village and make all schools e-enabled in a phased manner. … Social Media will be used as a tool for; participative governance, directly engaging the people in policy making and administration.” It appears the first public WiFi zone has been implemented at Khan Market, a pricey shopping zone frequented by expatriates. The second site in Connaught Place.
Well before zero rating, poor people in Indonesia were telling us how they used Facebook, a few minutes after telling us they were not Internet users. This seemed like a choice they had made. We reported it, and actually made it a part of the argument we used to beat back the misbegotten effort by ETNO and friends to impose sending-party-network-pays on the Internet through WCIT. At that point, no one complained about how wrong it was that the Indonesian poor was not using the full range of knowledge and information available on the web. But now they are.
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