2016 November


Presentation for Sarvodaya Board 30 November 2016  
CEO Helani Galpaya gave the opening presentation at the Alliance for Affordable Internet’s workshop on ICT and Gender in Myanmar. Her slides can be found here. The following day, Helani participated in a public consultation on the design of the Universal Fund in Myanmar where she called for a design of a fund with a either a sunset clause or declining revenue contribution from the telecom operators. She also participated in A4AI’s Myanmar Coalition Meeting held on the 18th of November, where she worked with Htaike Htaike Aung (Executive Director, MIDO) to develop a set of indicators that would help monitor progress in Myanmar’s ICT sector.
Government dictates the rate of international calls being terminated in Bangladesh. And it is always way above the hyper-competitive international wholesale voice rate. The regulator also takes away 40 per cent of the gross international revenue. Both the elements have been strongly incentivizing illegal bypass. Moreover, the international gateway (IGW) operators have been allowed to form a cartel named International Gateway Operators Forum (IOF).
I recall telling the story of the US court that required a man with a light (and maybe a bell) to walk ahead of new-fangled motor cars to Sri Lanka’s Solicitor General. Was it apocryphal or true? But it worked. I prevented him from giving me a ruling that would have basically killed satellite-based personal telephony. So often, the vested interests (ah, an old word, going into desuetude) try to force fit new things into old boxes in order to kill them.
LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya was an invited speaker at the opening panel at the Digital Citizen Summit (http://dsummit.defindia.org) organised by the Digital Empowerment Foundation (India) and the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit. The event was held in Bangalore, India 11th of November 2016.  The opening panel focused on data, citizenship and freedoms online.
Despite a few errors such as the claim that Ericsson had “subscribers” (said to be 35 million), Buzzfeed had an interesting story on Myanmar’s experiences in fast takeup of Internet. Myanmar has a “low media and information literacy rate,” according to an interview given by an unnamed official in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the Myanmar Times. Often called “digital literacy,” the term measures how well people using the internet understand what they are doing, and how to stay safe online. Countries like Myanmar, which come online quickly and without many government-backed programs to teach safe internet habits — like secure passwords and not revealing personal details online — rank among the lowest in digital literacy. They are the most likely to fall for scams, hacks, and fake news.
I frequently use the phrase “a crisis is too valuable thing to waste” usually attributing it to Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first Chief of Staff. So I was intrigued by this column in the New Indian Express. The writer looks ahead beyond the blame game. The deed is done, however messy. Now how to make something out of it?
  Sri Lanka’s first ever International Chemical & Process Engineering Conference was organized by the Department of Chemical and Process engineering of the University of Moratuwa in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on 25th of November 2016 from 1 pm to 5.30 pm at BMICH. The conference was organized under four main thematic areas adopted from Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); (1) Zero hunger (2) Clean water and sanitation (3) Clean and affordable energy and (4) industry, innovation and infrastructure.   Dr. Chatura Rodrigo, Senior Research Manager at LIRNEasia led the panel on “Future with Food Security”, under the SDG of Zero hunger.
As is common with people in this line of business, all the emphasis is on technology, not on business case. Mundane stuff like revenue streams, customer care, etc. are ignored. Also bad reporting: no one in Sri Lanka has “seen” Internet service over Loon in 2016. But hey, there’s about 40 days left.
The CEO of the Campbell Collaboration, perhaps the leading promoter and facilitator of systematic reviews, has written a short comment on the prospects of evidence-based policy in the aftermath of Brexit and Trump. It has been our observation that the really big decisions that are taken at the political level have never been based on evidence in the form understood by proponents of systematic reviews. The evidence is used at the more technical levels, as described below. So nothing new, really. First, much of evidence-based policy, and especially evidence-based practice, can get below the politician’s radar.
As a civic duty more than as the more mundane CSR, LIRNEasia has been assisting the Elections Commission on Sri Lanka since 2015 March by donating intellectual work on various aspects of improving the functioning of the electoral system, including a Constitutional changes and the working through of a strategic plan. Thus when I was invited to present the Indian Constitution Day Lecture at the University of Colombo, representation and stability was the topic that I picked. The lecture is on Friday, 25 November, 2016 at 5.00 p.m.
So the Daily Mirror, the leading English language daily, carried my comments on the illogical tax proposals. “Around 2010, the Government considered the complexity of taxes affecting the telecommunication sector and exempted telecom from the Value Added Tax. Instead a twenty percent tax was imposed for telecommunication which was remitted to the Government” said Former Director General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and Telecommunication Expert Prof. Rohan Samarajeeva. “The previous Government also considered the data issue as separate from voice and value added services.
    The 2017 budget proposals for agriculture speak many right and necessary words. However, one would wonder whether they carry the essential implementation characteristics. The attempt of the article therefore is to critically evaluate five most significant agricultural budget proposals of 2017. Please read more from the below link: http://www.ft.
Europe has been the fount of data protection absolutism. Not a problem for anyone else but countries such as Thailand and Indonesia are well on the way to model their legislation on the European model. But Chancellor Merkel has seen that the absolutist approach poses dangers to European consumers and businesses as well. Europeans are famous for banning things, Merkel said. These bans are put in place for good reason, she said, but can be damaging if taken to excess.
  Research shows many reasons for agricultural value chains to fail. Some popular reasons are: lack of motivation, lack of financial strength, lack of planning, little evaluation of market opportunities and even lack of business management skills. However I argue that transaction costs are the main reasons for agricultural value chains to fail. LIRNEasia’s research work on transaction costs dates back to 2006. These research works looked at identifying key transaction costs in agricultural value chains, especially the smallholder vegetable growers associated with the largest wholesale market of the country.
I understand that smartphone penetration is even higher according to the 2016 survey, where the analysis is almost complete. But here is what the ITU says about Myanmar’s ICT progress, using LIRNEasia’s 2015 data: These improvements in affordability and network availability help to explain the country’s fast Internet uptake, supported by two other trends that distinguish Myanmar from neighbouring markets. Firstly, smartphone penetration is very high, reaching 66 per cent of phone owners in early 2015 according to a survey by the independent research institute LIRNEasia.18 According to Ooredoo, as many as 80 per cent of mobile-phone users opt for smartphones (Oxford Business Group, 2015). Secondly, growth in data usage has overtaken growth in voice traffic.
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