2015 May


Samarajiva, R., Lokanathan, S., Madhawa, K., Kriendler, G., & Maldeniya, D.
Ooredoo Myanmar has received two international awards for its MayMay app, recognizing their innovative approach to helping ensure that vital maternal, child health and wellness information is available to women, particularly during and after pregnancy. The app bridges the mobile and health sectors to help ensure that a wealth of useful information is readily available to women across the country both during and after pregnancy. Says Ross Cormack, CEO of Ooredoo Myanmar “MayMay’ is a great example of how our team develops innovative, home-grown solutions that speak to real issues affecting people in Myanmar today.” Today ‘MayMay’ has more than 11,000 users, emphasizing the growing demand for the service. It is free and can be accessed on iOS and Android.
Multiple authors; truly multi-disciplinary; published in the center of gravity of our work. I am excited, even though it is still behind a paywall at the Economic and Political Weekly: There is a middle path that positions the citizens who are the ultimate beneficiaries of urban development as the primary sensors. Instead of seeing the city as a clock-work machine that can be perfectly controlled, this approach recognizes the inherent complexity of the system and supports incremental changes, following the Deng Xiaoping dictum of “crossing the river by feeling the stones.” Experimentation and learning are integral to the approach. This low-cost approach is especially appropriate for the organically developed, congested cities in developing countries where the costs of installing and maintaining city-owned sensors would be quite high.
The United States has been at the bleeding edge of universal service policy ever since the term was misinterpreted from the early competitive era. It is therefore worth paying attention to the current FCC efforts. We will soon have US Aid and others promoting these ideas in our parts. More than 12 million households now participate in Lifeline, which was created in 1985 by the Reagan administration to subsidize landline telephone service. In 2008, the program was extended to cover the cost of mobile phones.
The poor state of Internet in the Philippines has received a significant amount of attention in the past few months. LIRNEasia research fellow Grace Mirandilla-Santos has been involved in multiple working groups, senate hearings and has had many interactions with the respective regulatory agency and ministry on how to introduce some form of quality measures. Operators are fighting back on compliance benchmarks. The regulator has requested for a final set of recommendations on the methodology to follow in setting standards for monitoring and compliance of broadband quality of service. Grace has submitted these recommendations (based on our previous work) on behalf of LIRNEasia.
Maldeniya, D., Lokanathan, S., & Kumarage, A.
I’m scheduled to talk about how data that is in the hands of private entities at the Open Data Conference in Ottawa May 28-29. While this next generation of “open data” is slowly emerging, key questions and persistent obstacles need to be considered. What sort of incentives lead businesses and nonprofits to decide to share their data assets? How can potential users of the data help allay concerns about privacy and competitive risks, and how should such users be chosen? What sorts of legal and technical frameworks — be they APIs, data pools, or research partnerships — are best suited to maximizing the public value of private data?
Companies are increasingly relying on business analytics to extract value from the large volumes of computer-readable and analyzable (or “datafied”) data in their possession. Big data for development (BD4D) seeks to apply these techniques to big data held by both government and private entities to answer development-related questions. Given low levels of “datafication” of transactions and records in developing countries, analysis of credit-card use or even social-media use is unlikely to yield coverage approaching n=all as in developed countries. Mobile transaction-generated data (including Call Detail Records or CDRs) are an exception. Because they can yield information on movement of people, they have great potential to inform a host of policy domains: urban and transportation planning, health policy by enabling the modeling of the spread of infectious diseases, socio-economic monitoring, etc.
Although Myanmar’s Parliament had approved the imposition of a 5% commercial telecom tax on mobile phone top ups last year, the Government hadn’t previously enforced it due to the rapid sector expansion that occurred in the last 12 months. According to a press release from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), this exemption is to come to an end with the adoption of the Amendment to the Commercial Tax law last month, and the tax will be collected from the 1st of June 2015. One wonders how this will affect mobile usage in the country. According to the findings of LIRNEasia’s baseline survey on mobile usage, as many as 74% of those who access the internet do so using their mobile phones. Will the rise in cost be significant enough to reduce the amount of data going up and down?
LIRNEasia Founding Chair, Professor Rohan Samarajiva’s comments that Sri Lanka should facilitate an open data culture were highlighted in a recent issue of the Sunday Times Sri Lanka (Business Times section).  These comments were made at a Business Times panel discussion on ICT innovation and awareness held on Wednesday 13th May at the newspaper office auditorium. The article notes Professor Samarajiva’s observations that facilitating an open data culture would foster products being built out of the public Big Data resources currently restricted by the government.  Professor Samarajiva also observed that the Sri Lankan government could help local innovators by allocating pilot programmes for new technologies, pointing to the example of MillenniumIT, which received initial assistance and continued support from the Colombo Stock Exchange. The article also notes Professor Samarajiva’s comments on problem areas that are a priority for Sri Lanka, including slow broadband speeds and the need to put proper payment systems such as PayPal in place.
Yoshio Utsumi should know what he speaks of. He was elected as Secretary General in 1998. I remember casting the vote on behalf of Sri Lanka in Minneapolis. He served two terms and was succeeded by Hamadoun Toure, who was elected as Director of ITU-D also in 1998. Utsumi served two terms and stepped down in 2007.
LIRNEasia recently conducted a nationally representative survey of ICT and knowledge use in Myanmar.  Some of the top-line results were presented for the first time at the ICTD2015 conference last week. The panel was organised by Rich Ling, PhD and Elisa Oreglia, PhD of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Slides can be found here. This is an updated version of the slides which were presented on 18 May 2015.
On Monday (May 18, 2015), 60 people from digital-rights groups in 28 countries including India, Pakistan and Indonesia have strongly protested against internet.org in an open letter to Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It is our belief that Facebook is improperly defining net neutrality in public statements and building a walled garden in which the world’s poorest people will only be able to access a limited set of insecure websites and services. Further, we are deeply concerned that Internet.org has been misleadingly marketed as providing access to the full Internet, when in fact it only provides access to a limited number of Internet-connected services that are approved by Facebook and local ISPs.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has deferred the auction of 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz spectrum until June 10. Its warning of bringing new entrants has already failed to tame the boycotting mobile operators. Now the regulator is blackmailing the mobile industry on QoS. Sunil Kanti Boss, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, said the mobile phone operators need more spectrum, and if the leading operators do not take part in the upcoming spectrum auctions, they cannot offer quality services. “If operators fail to ensure quality services, they will be penalised for it,” the BTRC chairman said at a press conference at his office yesterday, on the eve of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2015.
I was listening to a presentation on Work-related Use and Positive Livelihood Outcomes among Mobile Phone Users in Asia by Komathi Ale*, Uni. of Southern California, at ICTD 2015 in Singapore. I was pleased to see some of our publications being cited, but that was just the beginning. After the literature review, the author announced that the entire paper was based on the LIRNEasia teleuse@BOP data set that was publicly available. We have made all datasets open since the beginning of the teleuse@BOP work.
I had to read this op-ed that ran in a Nepal newspaper several times. The author, a former advisor to the former President of South Korea, believes that an application that picks up on fluctuations in Internet traffic to give people advance warning of 30 seconds to two minutes has relevance to post-quake Nepal. I was just wondering how the warning would be transmitted in a country where Internet access is not ubiquitous (according to latest ITU data Nepal had 13.3 Internet users per 100 people); and what one can actually do with 30 seconds to two minutes warning even if one had a computer, it was connected to the Internet and one was at the machine. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on ensuring buildings are built to code?