2016 August


I am hearing a lot of praise for Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan’s lucid explanation of the rationale for the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway. Because we’ve had an almost complete turnover of the people who worked hard on getting this topic on the UN ESCAP the priority it deserved, starting from Under Secretary General Noeleen Hayzer and most importantly Tiziana , this oral history has added significance.
The point of the post about Myanmar’s Facebook users was to make the point that it was sensible to use Facebook user numbers as floor for Internet user estimations. But someone who commented on what I had tweeted appeared to think it was some flaw on the part of Myanmar or its people: Another country where Facebook and the Internet are often mixed up https://t.co/hlJdqEJLJo https://t.co/ionuRYR0Hd — Digital Asia Hub (@digitalasiahub) August 29, 2016 I was thinking why, when I recalled what a speaker from the Thai telecom industry association had said during his presentation at the e agriculture event. In his talk, the number of Thai Internet users and Thai Facebook users was identical: 38 million.
  I was happy to moderate a thoughtfully assembled session at the FAO-ITU organized e agriculture solutions forum in Nanthaburi, Thailand, 29-31 August 2016. The objective of this session was to share initiatives on e-agriculture – the challenges and opportunities from public and private sector. There were speakers from a government research organization, a research group at a university, a trade association representing telecom operators, and a private firm. They will present a range of exciting solutions, some centered on complex computer systems that integrate multiple data streams and others that focused on the smartphone interface. One question I did not have time to ask was one I wrote down right at the beginning: “if you could pick the application that has the greatest impact from all that you have done in this space, what role was played in its success by collaboration?
LIRNEasia’s concerns re the quality of ITU’s way of counting Internet users are well known. In addition to relying on arbitrary multipliers, they are slow in producing the data. It’s now the second half of 2016, and the most current data from the ITU is from 2014. In a rapidly changing sector like ICTs, this is ancient history. So I hope I will be forgiven for claiming that Facebook user numbers which are from 2016 are a better indicator that ITU’s obsolete and questionable indicator.
Below is an excerpt of the write-up of the 2nd BIMSTEC Foundation Lecture I gave on the 24th of August. As the economies of the littoral states grow, the need for connectivity will be heightened. Greater connectivity will make possible increased economic interactions and thereby further accelerate growth. With four of the littoral states among the 10 fastest growing economies in the world as shown in Figure 2 based on IMF projections. If the adjacent states of Cambodia and Laos are included six of the 10 fastest growing economies are in the region.
UN ESCAP has just put up a video of an interview I gave them a while back. Listening to it again, it seems that they succeeded in getting me to weave together a number of strands of work undertaken by LIRNEasia over the years, including broadband quality of service, importance of low-cost reliable international backhaul, and broadband eco systems. The one additional element is a discussion of leaders of tomorrow, making reference to MIDO and what’s happening in Myanmar as well our work with big data. This starts midway in the interview (2:28). I did not recall this part.
I will be moderating the session on E-agriculture challenges, opportunities & solutions – Global experiences at the e Agriculture Solutions Forum 2016 organized by FAO and ITU in Nonthaburi, outside Bangkok, August 29-31, 2016. The objective of the session is to share initiatives on e-agriculture – the challenges and opportunities from public and private sector. I believe the invitation stems from the role LIRNEasia played in shaping FAO’s and ITU’s approach to developing e agriculture strategies. Since 2006, LIRNEasia has been working on agricultural value chains with a focus on knowledge, information and technology. Currently LIRNEasia is testing a mobile app intended to assist smallholders adhere to standards for export.
That is the title of the talk I will be giving on 24th August at 0900 hrs as the 2nd BIMSTEC Foundation Lecture at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Here I present (incomplete) evidence of the historical connectedness of the Bay of Bengal, reasons why the connectivity decreased after the Second World War, and information on current major developments in multiple forms of connectivity, including fiber optic cables. The slides are here.
As part of our big data work, we have been looking at sources other than mobile network big data for socio-economic monitoring. Night lights images from satellites was the favorite. But I’ve been always skeptical, partly because of looking down from the New Delhi-Colombo flight which flies through the middle of India and then right down the island from Jaffna. The intensity of the lights is so much higher in southern India, than in Sri Lanka. This story is about daytime images taken by satellites.
Sixth course of the series of courses funded by Ford Foundation on “How to Engage in Broadband Policy and Regulatory Processors” is currently being held in IIT Delhi. This course is co directed by Dr. Rohan Samarajiva and Dr. P. Vigneswara Ilavarasan.
All market projections in developing countries have been wrong, and all wrong in the same way: they have underestimated demand. This was true for voice, then for data, and now for 4G. The sharp increase in 4G usage is the second time the Myanmar market has taken Ooredoo by surprise, Mr Meza said. The first was the speed of smartphone penetration across the country after the company first start operating in 2014. When the Qatari firm entered Myanmar it decided to concentrate on the urban centres and on higher-value customers with heavy data usage.
The sixth iteration of the Ford Foundation supported course on how to engage in broadband policy and regulatory processes commenced today at IIT Delhi. An interesting mix of participants has been assembled by Dr Vignesh Illavarasan who is directing the course. He has also assembled a stellar cast of speakers, with perhaps the best gender balance we have achieved in this course. The assignment is a central element of the course. It allows the participants to apply the knowledge gathered in the course to a practical problem.
In most of the countries we work in, most people connect to the Internet over mobile devices and/or mobile networks. But as WiFi hotspots of various kinds become more common, it appears that WiFi is becoming the dominant mode. The Global State of Mobile Networks study, based on 12.3 billion measurements taken by 822,556 OpenSignal users in an 84 day period, found that smartphone users spent more than 50 per cent of their time connected to Wi-Fi, with Netherlands the most mobile Wi-Fi hungry country, where it accounted for 70 per cent of all smartphone connections. “You could argue that in many places Wi-Fi has become a far more important mobile data technology than 3G or 4G,” noted the report.
LIRNEasia CEO moderated a panel on “Private Public Partnerships – Getting Them Done, Getting Them Right” at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2016. The key speakers of the panel were Mr. Gajendra Haldea (Advisor, Government of Rajasthan, India), Hon. Eran Wickramarathne (Deputy Minister of Public Enterprise Development), Mr. Kamal Dorabawila (Principal Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation).
A 2 1/2 day regional workshop on “Internet Governance Processes” for national champions selected from 4 countries (Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Bangladesh) is currently being held in Renuka City Hotel, Sri Lanka. This regional workshop is the commencing workshop of the IGF Academy, Asia counterpart. This academy aims to strengthen Internet governance in global south. At the end of the 6 month fellowship, the national champions are expected to develop road maps on lessons learnt by intervening in Internet governance processes in their respective countries. Transfer guides on how to replicate what was done in this program will be developed after the fellows participate in IGF in December.
Looks like I did not get it exactly right with my parable. I thought joint ventures. Instead Google is building a parallel track. In recent years, content providers have outpaced carriers in terms of their capacity demand on major routes. Considering the scale of their bandwidth deployments, it increasingly makes sense for them to collaborate on new systems as part owners rather than as customers.
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