2017 January


I attended the Social Media and Disaster Relief Conference organized by the Indian arm of the Center for Strategic and International Studies hoping to learn something. The existence of the Emergency Telecom Cluster was one new thing I learned about. This is a specialized cluster associated with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee which seeks to coordinate the humanitarian activities of UN and non-UN agencies in the humanitarian space. One of the things it does is ensure that emergency equipment such as VSATs are moved into disaster-hit locations quickly from the Dubai Humanitarian Warehouse. Various industry partners engage in continuous capacity building activities and maintain registries of human and other resources to enable quick mobilization.
State-owned Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) is a member of the prehistoric SEA-ME-WE3 and very recent SEA-ME-WE5 submarine cable consortiums. MPT also shares the landing facilities with China Unicom, which brings a branch of Asia Africa Europe-1 (AAE-1) cable to the country. This is how the incumbent has secured the landing of two contemporary submarine cable systems. The government has also injected competition and licensed the Singapore-based Campana Group to build the Myanmar-Thailand International Connection (MYTHIC) submarine cable. Last year Campana has contracted Alcatel-Lucent to build the 1,600km MYTHIC cable, equipped with 100Gbps technology for an initial design capacity of 20Tbps.
For some, Facebook is a bad thing. That was an underlying theme of the opposition to Free Basics and zero rating. I guess having less women use a bad thing is good, so they should be happy. The fact remains that Facebook is the most popular app, the killer app that everyone was looking for. So even if it does not meet the standards of the purists, very low use by women should be of concern to pragmatists.
One of the outcomes of last October’s meeting of ITU’s Expert Group on Telecommunication/ICT Indicators (EGTI) was the formation of an EGTI sub-group to propose revisions to ITU’s methodology for collecting ICT prices. LIRNEasia research manager Shazna Zuhyle will Chair this sub-group comprising thirteen experts from academia and various national regulatory authorities. It will review and redefine the current methodology. Shazna has years of experience in ICT price benchmarking and is familiar with ITU’s current methodology. The need for the revision stems from the changing ICT landscape specifically in the use of broadband services and consumption patterns of users.
LIRNEasia researchers were in the field last week talking to vegetable farmers in Chilaw, Gampaha and Kurunegala. The discussions which took part in varying locations, are part of the LIRNEasia’s ongoing research for its ‘Inclusive information societies’ project. The project aims to assess the impact of opening up government data and making crop advisory information available to farmers through a mobile application. Initially the app will target farmers who grow cucurbits for export. Research work for the project is now underway.
A symbiotic relationship occurs when two individuals or group of people work together by helping one another with the intent of obtaining help in return. Simbi – an emerging crowd working platform has termed “Symbiotic Economy”, as an exchange of skills and services without spending cash.   Unlike other platforms, the cash earned cannot be withdrawn from Simbi.  All the earnings will retained within the symbiotic economy. Once a person provides a service, he/she can use the points earned to get another service.
The UN Data Innovation Lab invited LIRNEasia to share our experience in entering data partnerships and the challenges associated with the same, at a workshop held in Cape Town on the 19-20 January 2017. The workshop, co-hosted by UN Global Pulse, centred on designing data capacity within the UN system. The session conducted by LIRNEasia was attended by representatives from a range of UN agencies including UNICEF, UN WTO, UN Women and UNAIDS. In addition, other participants at the session included representatives from Flowminder and Facebook. I had the opportunity to share LIRNEasia’s experience in building relationships with the government and private sector data providers, particularly in terms of leveraging mobile data for urban planning and traffic management in Sri Lanka.
Mytel, the fourth telecom licensee in Myanmar, states that it intends to capacity of AAE-1 through MPT. But MPT says it’s not part of the AAE-1 consortium and does not intend to use AAE-1 capacity itself. What does that mean for Mytel? Should it ask for capacity on SEA-ME-WE 5 from its competitor instead? Mytel, which received Myanmar’s fourth telecoms licence on January 12, will also use the AAE 1 (Asia-Africa-Europe) submarine cable “so we will not have to worry about internet bandwidth”, said U Zaw Min Oo.
From as long ago as 2005, we at LIRNEasia have been talking about insurance as a critical element in disaster risk reduction. And we have been pushing this idea at ESCAP, among other places. But somehow, we did not see it gaining traction. But finally, it seems to be: For a farmer in Zimbabwe, adopting this model will entail accessing strong climate data so she knows when best to plant and harvest. By purchasing parametric insurance – that is, insurance that pays out not on proof of loss but when a defined event is above a pre-determined and measurable trigger – she will receive a pay out if rainfall is under a certain level by a certain date.
Few days back, I was on a panel discussing the past two years record of the government and what we’d like to see in the coming three years. I talked about the President’s interest in focusing everyone’s attention on the Sustainable Development Goals and the expert committee that has been appointed to advise the government on SDGs. This is a topic connected to what we’re doing at LIRNEasia. A non-evidence based statement from the floor caused me to write a column, published today in both Sinhala and English. Why would such egregious errors be made?
On the final day of UNIGF, IGF academy fellows participated in a debriefing activity to identify and look back on their journey to UNIGF 2016 and the way forward of the National Internet Governance Forums (NIGFs). At this debriefing the Asian fellows highlighted the importance of help with fund raising and having closed door meetings with potential stakeholders. Also, they said that its not possible for them to participate in all the calls of the IGF academy due to their busy schedules. The fellows suggested that its better if one fellow out of the two fellows from a given country participate in a call its sufficient and that the fellows can alternate. The fellows pointed out the importance of low emphasis in the structures and high emphasis on subject matter.
          IGF Academy organised a pre event at Day 0 of the UNIGF in Guadalajara Mexico. The objective of this pre event was to discuss and exchange ideas on the linkage between freedom of expression and other policy issues in Internet governance. The fellows participated in the newcomers track on “Freedom of Expression Online” by Professor Dr. Milton Mueller of Georgia Tech University. This session was on Internet regulation.
The IGF academy preparatory workshop took place in Hotel Morales, Guadalajara on the 4th of December 2016. The objective of this workshop was to discuss and exchange Internet governance models and mechanisms and how they influence politics. 6 fellows from Asia and 6 fellows from Africa participated in this workshop. Corinne Cath of Article 19 and Daniel O’Maley of Center for International Media Assistance made a presentation on “Governance of Freedom of Expression” at the preparatory workshop. Following the break Adam Peake, Senior Manager for Civil Society Global Engagement of ICANN, made a presentation on other Internet governance mechanisms: multi stakeholder institutions and processes.
Investment is not like charity. One does not just give investment. If Tata is to invest in Bangladesh’s 2.4 percent market share Teletalk, it will have to have answers to the following questions: 1. Will it get a controlling interest in the company?
The fourth operator in the now mature Myanmar telecom market is Mytel. Sometime back I wrote about its secret sauce. In addition to confirming the use of military facilities, the company says that it will gain access to AAE-1 to ensure a good Internet experience for its customers. The Star High – MEC connection gives MyTel access to 1,000 towers and over 13,000 kilometres of fibre, plus other MECTel telecoms assets, thus transforming the viability of the business case for the new market entrant. According to an MPT spokesperson “As a general principle, the idea is to leverage MECTel’s assets, at least those ones that can be commercially used, as well as the existing subscriber base”.
“This system is biased towards the buyer. If I didn’t deliver a good product, the buyer can cancel. If the buyer cancels, I should approve the cancellation. If we provide a good product and if he cancels it, we can contact Fiverr directly. If you are a level I seller (entry level), they don’t get back to you quickly.