2016 July


Lokanathan, S., Kreindler, G., de Silva, N. D., Miyauchi, Y.
MPT is the former monopoly supplier and still has the largest customer base. But their new managers have reason to be worried whether they can hold to the customers. Telenor is a major player skilled in implementing the budget telecom network model and is nipping at MPT’s heels. Ooredoo has deep pockets. When the VietTel led fourth operator gets going, MPT can expect even more pressure.
Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer are few of the international online platforms where Sri Lankan youth are registered with and making a sizable income. LIRNEasia is currently conducting a research study to access the potential of Microwork / freelancing industry. Our study reveals on average freelancers are earning 180-200 USD per month even working as part time and the interest and willingness to work as freelancers is on rise. Understanding enthusiasm for working as freelancers among youth workforce, PODI JOBS is a local freelancing platform connecting employers and freelancers for work such as creating websites to writing copy/text, maintaining social media pages and many more. The new freelance site claims, “PODI JOBS aims to enable Sri Lankans to work from anywhere in the island.
As regional think tank, LIRNEasia sees its allegiance as being to the poor in the whole region, rather than a particular country. I’ve lived in three countries other than the one I was born in and have always been skeptical about excessive attachments to particular places. Albert Hirschman’s discussion of the nation state as a monopoly supplier of services with limited options of exit made more sense to me than most. I wrote about citizenship becoming more a matter of choice back in 2006. As the writer says, there are significant similarities between the new conception of the state and the way we use cloud services: As more countries become aggressive about attracting the digitally enabled, and build out more digital services of their own, the idea of nation-as-a-service comes into sharper focus.
The UK has been a leader in telecom reforms. Thus OFCOM’s encouragement of BT to have a de facto separate unit called Openreach to permit non-discriminatory use of the infrastructure caught the attention of many. Now, OFCOM wants to take next logical step and is proposing real structural separation: Openreach to become a distinct company. Openreach should be a legally separate company within BT Group, with its own ‘Articles of Association’. Openreach – and its directors – would be required to make decisions in the interests of all Openreach’s customers, and to promote the success of the company.
A recent report from the Myanmar Ministry of Post and Telecom states that mobile penetration has reached 90% (or 89.38% rather), and the number of Internet users has reached 39 million, according to supply-side data.  But as the Myanmar Times reporter rightly points out, multiple-SIM usership has to be taken into account to get a real picture of usage. We know multiple SIM use is nothing unusual in many markets, especially among the low income segments (we’ve seen as many as 23% of the low income segment in Pakistan owning more than one SIM in our past research), and that’s why we make sure we capture it whenever we do demand-side research. Most recently in Myanmar our 2015 baseline survey showed 17% of urban mobile owners had more than one SIM, compared with 8% of rural (or 13% of all mobile owners).
The work that we began in 2010 with UN ESCAP on improving the international backhaul capacity of Asia is continuing to move forward. The latest step is a pre-feasibility study on ASEAN connectivity conducted in early 2015 and published in 2016. The study found that Internet traffic measurement of international paths (backbone trunk lines), undertaken in early 2015 as part of an UN ESCAP initiative showed serious problems existed in Internet traffic exchange and management within the ASEAN region. The worst result showed an international backbone trunk line download speed of 0.15Mps, latency of 230 msec and Tromboning Index (TI) value of 35.
According to the government as reported by Eleven, there has been much progress made on beefing up Myanmar’s international backhaul. The report does not say what the terms and conditions of access to the backhaul is and whether the necessary licenses have been granted to make possible the use of AAE1 and SEA-ME-WE 5, which were initially conceived of as providing China with an alternative to the Malacca trap. Myanmar has expanded its fibre optic cable to 31,000 kilometres this year, according to the Ministry of Transport and Communication. Myanmar had only used the SEA-ME-WE 3 fibre optic cable previously, but people in the country will be able enjoy the benefits of the SEA-ME-WE 5 and AAE1 cables soon. The inland fibre optic cables link Muse and Myawady to Thailand, and in the 2015-16 fiscal year, a new inland fibre optic cable linked Tachilek to Thailand.
It’s been a long time coming. The paper that Sangamitra Ramachander presented at CPRsouth 2011 based on Teleuse@BOP research has finally been published. We are happy, both for a young researcher getting published in a prestigious journal and for the fact that it gets our research out to academic readers. The private sector in developing countries is increasingly interested in extending mobile telephony services to low income and rural markets that were previously considered unprofitable. Determining the right price is a central challenge in this context.
In our article published last year on big data for urban development in the developing world, we said At one extreme of smart-city initiatives lies the vision of a centrally coordinated city resting on pervasive use of specialized sensors (e.g., one under each parking space; multiple sensors at intersections), real-time or non-real-time analysis of the resultant big-data flows, and reliance on mathematical models. South Korea’s Songdo is the exemplar. Reports of plans for green-field developments indicate that the Modi government is leaning toward this vision.
Usually, these are not subjects that are seen as connected. But I connected them at a talk I gave at the Colombo Club today. When the losses in one year from one SOE that serves a limited clientele are almost double the total spent on the social safety program that touches over one million families, it is not a difficult case to make. My slides are here.
Some time ago, Minister of Urban Development and Water Supply Rauff Hakeem announced “Kandy” would be developed as the first “Smart City” in Sri Lanka. While many projects are taking place in Kandy such as Strategic City Development Project, Greater Kandy water supply project, it is important to assess the concept of smart city, and how it can be applied to Sri Lankan context. “Smart City” as a concept emerged during the last few decades. It’s been widely marketed and adapted by private organizations as well as public organizations in cities, due to the introduction use and adaptability of information and communication technology (ICT). At the moment, more people lives in cities compared to rural areas.
I was asked by a journalist from the Express Group to comment on the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Center’s use or non-use of available technological solutions, specifically some kind of VSAT facility in Padukka. I said I was not in a position to comment on this, but said I would comment their good use of DEWN and their inexplicable non-use of Sahana. Both DEWN and Sahana were technological solutions developed within Sri Lanka by Sri Lankans in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. DEWN is a CAP-compliant robust method for communicating with first responders. It was handed over to the DMC in 2009 and has been well used since.
Last time the BJP was in power, Pramod Mahajan was Minister of Telecom. He listened to The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), a group of IT business people primarily of Indian origin based in the US and merged the DoT (in charge of telecom) and DEITy (in charge of IT). This was portrayed as a major step toward convergence. But the offices were separate, they had different secretaries, and different cultures. All that was common was the Minister.
A box in 2015-16 Affordability Report of the Alliance for Affordable Internet includes a box on gender which begins thus: By March 2015, just over a year after liberalising their ICT sector, 40% of Myanmar’s population between the ages of 15-65 owned a mobile phone. Yet, women were 29% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. To understand the reasons for this gender gap in mobile phone ownership, GSMA and LIRNEasia conducted a qualitative study among 91 men and women in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, and Pantanaw, a small town in the southwestern part of the country. The research showed that women in Myanmar play a prominent role in the management of household finances — even if they do not earn anything themselves — and are frequently involved in the financial decision to purchase a mobile phone for the family. Yet women’s access to this family mobile phone is often limited because the phone tends to travel outside the home, with the person who is deemed to need it the most.
It was happenstance that New York Times commentator and US Academic of Turkish origin Zeynep Tufekci was in Turkey when the coup unfolded. Her reflections on the role played by the Internet and social media in defeating the coup are of great interest. But what caught my eye was a simple action mobile operators can take in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, natural or otherwise: When I was stuck at the airport in this city in southern Turkey, on Friday night, I had many things to worry about. A coup attempt had just begun and the country was in turmoil. My plane to Istanbul had almost flown into the worst of the fighting, but luckily we were prevented from taking off at the last minute when the airspace was closed.
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