2015 July


At a well attended meeting in Yangon on the 29th of July, Helani Galpaya, together with MIDO’s research lead Phyu Phyu Thi and U Htun Htun of Third Eye, who executed the field research, presented the descriptive statistics from the nation-wide representative-sample survey conducted in February 2015. The results are being released in Nay Pyi Taw today, 30th July. The presentation slides will be available here shortly.
LIRNEasia participated at the 2nd meeting of the A4AI Myanmar Coalition meeting yesterday at the MICT Park in Yangon. Four priority areas were identified as being important for debate right now; 1. A Universal Access Fund 2. Infrastructure development and sharing 3. Data and Research 4.
The Myanmar government is rushing to inject competition to the nascent mobile industry by inviting bids for the fourth license yesterday (July 27, 2015), said Reuters. Local firms, with registered capital of minimum US$2.37 million, may form foreign partnership and submit their proposal by August 24 (that’s less than a month). Under the state-owned monopoly, Myanmar’s mobile penetration was just 2.5% in 2011.
There were only seven million mobile phone users in 1989. Today the global mobile subscription has reached 7.1 billion, said the newly released data of TeleGeography. And the Asia-Pacific region is the major contributor with 60% annual growth during 1Q of 2014 and 1Q of 2015. The report also claims that the number of active mobile lines will cross the world’s population later this year.
One of the advantages Myanmar has in telecom is that it can learn from the experience of others, including countries that are/were similarly situated. This was the central proposition I advanced in my first piece on Myanmar telecom reforms, published in 2012 in Myanmar. Keeping to that theme, I spoke on what can be learned from the experience of others in designing and implementing universal service/access policies at a workshop organized by the Alliance for Affordable Internet on 27th July 2015 in Yangon. Presentation slides
I will be participating in this Internet Governance Forum session in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, later this year. The session is organized by UN Global Pulse: In recent years, the potential of big data derived from the Internet and other digital devices to transform targeted advertising, recommender systems, location based services, logistics and other activities in the private sector has come to fruition. Increasingly, parallel applications in development work have emerged, proving the utility of big data for monitoring and measuring social phenomenon including disease outbreaks, food security, or migration. However, the opportunities presented by big data simultaneously raise serious concerns about privacy, especially when it comes to use of personal data. To realize the benefits of “Big Data for Development” it is important to find solutions for how to protect fundamental rights and values, including the right to privacy as recognized by the UDHR and ICCPR.
So Amazon is bigger than Walmart. When will Alibaba overtake Walmart? That will be the day, since there’ll be no help from cloud services The surge added another $40 billion or so to Amazon’s market cap. That will almost assuredly propel it to be more valuable than Walmart for the first time when the stock market opens Friday, making this a deeply symbolic moment for e-commerce and the Internet. It is also a nice present for Amazon, which celebrated its 20th birthday last week.
Here is the gist of the talk, entitled “ICT impacts in developing Asia: What we know and what we need to know”: It is known that economic growth and diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) are positively correlated. But that knowledge alone provides little guidance for the design of public-policy interventions in specific domains. Should priority be given to extension of telecom networks throughout the country or to high-speed broadband in commercial areas? Will the benefits be greater if mobile financial services are promoted or if ICTs are incorporated into primary and secondary education? These answers require more than correlation studies.
It’s been almost two months since ICTD. For some reason, this summary which had been written immediately after we concluded our session on SRs, had not been posted. There is a degree of discomfort among some academics about systematic reviews (SRs). Researchers worry about the limited resources available from funders being channeled to SRs and quantitative research, at the expense of alternative methods. We believe that the debate will be more productive if people fully understand the subject under discussion.

Myanmar, here we come

Posted by on July 20, 2015  /  1 Comments

Half of LIRNEasia will be in Yangon next week. Together wiith our lead partner MIDO and our principal funder IDRC, we will conduct a series of activities that mark a deepening of our three-year old engagement with Myanmar’s reform process intended to build a modern network nation. The work program is described here. The highlight of the week’s activities will be the presentation of the results of our baseline survey in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw. I will be speaking on universal service at the A4AI event on the 27th.
I have never been able to understand the satellite fixation some of the decision makers in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have. But Myanmar’s plans for a geostationary satellite for broadcasting makes sense. Myanmar has a population density that is very low (76 people per sq. km, compared with 1,103 for Bangladesh and 309 for Sri Lanka) and it is a vast country (676,577 sq km v 143,998 sq km in Bangladesh and 65,610 sq km in Sri Lanka). A national broadcast satellite may make sense, though they should always compare the costs against the alternative of using channels on regional satellites.
I praised the TRCSL approach to shutting down mobile networks at specified times within the wildlife sanctuary of Yala. Possibly because of my previous writing critical of the shutting down of mobile networks, Nalaka Goonawardene has challenged my position on Twitter, saying it creates a bad precedent. This has set off a whole lot of Tweets with people asking whether it is justifiable to shut down networks during peak traffic times to avoid accidents and so on. First, I have to ask Nalaka and others to actually read the post. The post praised the TRCSL approach, not the action of shutting down the networks.
Having been regaled on the wonders of non-geostationary satellites by various delegations seeking licenses for Iridium and ICO and other systems that ultimately fizzled out, I was originally skeptical about O3B. But they answered my questions well (despite a messed up presentation at PTC a few years back) and I have been promoting this solution ever since. Happy to know they’ll break even on cash flow by middle 2016. Away from the headlines, Google — an initial O3b backer — has not raised its 5 percent equity share in the company but has kept up with the capital raises to avoided share dilution. What matters to SES shareholders is the money, not the technology, and at SES’s June 17 investor conference O3b Chief Executive Steve Collar gave a snapshot of the company’s current status.
I’ve been waiting for a good example of the application of Deng Xiao Ping’s approach to policy: cross the river by feeling the stones. Fine tune policy actions based on feedback. One has come up: in Sri Lanka of all places. The department of wildlife said sightings of large mammals such as leopard are usually conveyed to other vehicles using mobile phones inside the Yala park where wild animals had been run over by speeding visitors. “When a leopard or other interesting sighting is made by one vehicle, the news is rapidly transmitted by means of mobile phones, attracting large numbers of vehicles to the site, causing severe congestion and spoiling the experience for everyone,” the department said.
When Japan’s NTT bought 35 percent of the equity of the formerly government owned incumbent operator in Sri Lanka, it radically increased the pace of investment by the company. But this was using funds generated from within the company, primarily from the money earned from its exclusivity over international telecom services. Appears Myanmar’s incumbent has worked out a better deal. Myanmar’s state-owned operator plans to expand its network by increasing the number of base stations from 2,000 to 5,000 by Q2 next year. Its Japanese partners KDDI and Sumitomo will contribute JPY200 billion ($1.
Late May in Ottawa, I was among those interviewed for an article about big data. Similarly, private telecom companies’ data on mobile phone traffic has become a crucial resource for researchers at the Sri Lanka-based think tank LIRNEasia, a long-time IDRC research partner. Using phone data that tracks traffic flows can be a low-cost means of helping governments decide where to invest in road and public transport upgrades, says LIRNEasia chair Rohan Samarajiva. Since mobile phones are ubiquitous in Sri Lanka and phone traffic data is anonymous, studies are less likely to be biased in favour of the rich, he says. “We see that a mobile phone travels down a highway at a certain speed, but whether it’s rich or poor, travelling in a car or bus or motorbike — we don’t know.
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