2018 January


Here is what happened when someone in a probably tsunami impact zone received a warning from the authorities in British Columbia, Canada, a few days back: Meg Devlin, who lives near Victoria’s Gorge waterfront, said she was awakened by a message at 3:02 but didn’t recognize the phone number for Victoria’s Vic-Alert emergency notification service, so she ignored it. “I unplugged my phone and rolled over and went back to sleep,” Devlin told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. There is no way for anyone to recognize the “official” nature of a number sending a text in the middle of the night. The CBC News story goes on to talk a significant number of people in the probable impact zone who received the warning not through official channels, but through friends and people knocking on doors. Tanya Patterson, the City of Victoria’s emergency program coordinator, said the Vic-Alert system is one area for improvement in the city’s emergency response.
It has always puzzled me why we have to conduct expensive surveys to find out what mobile operators already know. Every CDR [Call Detail Record] captures the IMEI number of the handset. It’s nothing to report this and thereby support those who are developing apps. Here is one MNO giving the data: Huawei was the most popular mobile handset brand among Telenor customers, according to a report from Telenor Myanmar. The report shows 24 percent of Telenor Myanmar’s over 19 million subscribers used Huawei handsets in 2017.
Our work on online freelancing has provided us with an interesting lens to think about jobs of the future. The demand for the kinds of work that can be done online seem to be changing at a rapid pace, and not in an easy-to-predict manner. The threat of automation is ever present. In that context, our Human Capital Research Team Leader (who is also deeply engaged with school reform in Sri Lanka) has been getting us to think about what all this should/could mean for general education. Thomas Friedman’s column on technology had added resonance in this context: Each time work gets outsourced or tasks get handed off to a machine, “we must reach up and learn a new skill or in some ways expand our capabilities as humans in order to fully realize our collaborative potential,” McGowan said.
Every disaster and every false-warning incident is a learning opportunity. We have done these kinds of assessments after many disasters and false warnings sometimes at great length, as in the case of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and sometimes simply through a blog post. Our focus has been on naturally occurring hazards, but the recent false warning in Hawai’i was about an incoming ballistic missile. But since it was communicated over the Wireless Emergency Alert system or cell broadcasting, which we have been writing about since 2008 at least. The New York Times said: “The false alert was a stark reminder of what happens when the old realities of the nuclear age collide with the speed — and the potential for error — inherent in the internet age.
We are inviting Proposals from potential Bidders to conduct a nationally representative study of ICT access and use in Nepal with special focus on the disabled. The full RFP is downloadable below. Please also see our Technical Proposal Template, Financial Proposal Template, and Sample Locations before submitting the proposals. Deadline for submissions is 29 January 2018.
Nepal Telecom and Hong Kong-headquartered China Telecom Global has connected each other across Nepal’s northern border with Tibet through a mix of underground and all-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS) optical fiber cable network. Activation of this link on January 12, 2018 has ended the exclusivity of Tata’s and Bharti Airtel’s international connectivity to the landlocked Himalayan state. Now Nepal can procure IP-transit, interconnection bandwidth, international leased circuits and cloud services at highly competitive rates from Asia’s one of the two carrier-neutral hubs at Hong Kong (Singapore is the other one). Nepal has reportedly activated only 1.5 Gbps through the Chinese carrier, due to technical constrains of the ADSS link.
In Myanmar, the third operator overtook the second, and is close to the first. In Sri Lanka, the fourth operator reached first place within a few years and never let go of that position. That’s evidence enough that entry order is not the sole deciding factor. But the fact that MPT under new management is still in the lead shows that it’s not insignificant. One needs a new business model, a different technology or some secret sauce.
Data sovereignty, or the desire of states to exert unfettered control over data associated with natural and legal persons under their jurisdiction, was seen as an issue with the highest salience at a foresight event I participated in Bengaluru a few days ago. Several of us thought that the states will push for greater control in the immediate future and will be met with significant resistance from citizens and companies (varying across different kinds of data and different countries; health data may be easier than traffic data; states in big countries are more likely to prevail than those in small ones). We expected some kind of equilibrium to be achieved in around 5-10 years. The effort by law enforcement authorities in the US to compel Microsoft to handover the contents of email stored in Ireland and the case of the Great Firewall of China came up in discussion. Here is a discussion on recent developments in China: This is worrying not just for people who want to surf the web without annoying obstructions.
The consultation document on Myanmar’s Universal Service Strategy includes the following paragraph: For Myanmar, mobile voice and broadband data services are considered basic communications services and thus are part of the country’s universal service definition. In 2016, 83% of households have a mobile phone, and 78% of mobile phone owners have a smartphone, allowing broadband Internet services to be used on mobile devices. Clearly, the large majority of the population enjoys these services, therefore these ‘universal’ services also need to be made available for the minority that do not have these services today. Given how many countries debated whether or not broadband should be included in universal service subsidy programs, the above conclusion at the very outset of the program is quite significant. The conclusion is based on specific evidence.
Myanmar will raise up to US$121 million in five years through Universal Service Fund (USF) to implement its Universal Service Strategy. The Post and Telecommunications Department under the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) has invited public consultation for this initiative. The USF will be raised from 2 per cent levy of the service providers’ annual revenues. It will be disbursed through a clearly defined targeted subsidy scheme. Open access and technology neutrality has been mandated for the facilities to be built with USF.
Many thought that the draconian demonetization of 2016 would have moved India’s digital financial services industry into an entirely different level. It created momentum, but not as much as expected according to the NYT. According to the report only 14 percent of those able to go online (around 1/3rd of Indians) use digital payments. But what is important is that the Indian firms are focusing on consumer payments, not money transfers. There’s a much stronger contribution to the building of the eco system through this means.
I have been cautious about buying the Western media story on China’s social credit system, but I had little other than gut feeling for my caution. Now finally, here is an analysis that will balance the Western narrative, which the author says is more about what those in the West worry about and not about what is actually happening in China. Debate over the appropriate balance between security and liberty is nothing new. While technological and data management innovations have introduced new tools, it can’t surprise anyone to learn where China’s Communist Party draws the line between individual privacy and social stability. If anything, I would have thought that the plan’s faith in market forces and private business, or the efforts at government legitimacy through increasing transparency, would have been more surprising to those outside of China.
Finland is often cited as a miracle of education. Its telecommunication regulation is equally impressive. In 2011, the Finnish consulting Rewheel has predicted that the country’s mobile operators would grow data traffic without increasing investments. It has been proven right, as shown in the chart. Data traffic in Elisa’s Finnish 4G/LTE network has grown by more than 20-times between 2011 and 2017.
Privacy is a subjective thing. Some of it is from the inside of the individual; some is social. It’s not immutable. It’s not the same across societies. Now after Yudhanjaya’s reflection on the Chinese social credit system, we are more interested than ever in what is going on in China.
With the support of International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada, LIRNEasia in partnership with Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) and Vihara Innovation Network studied Online Freelancing: Challenges, Opportunities and Impact in India. The dissemination workshop of the findings of this research was held on 27th of December 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, India. Government and private sector officials of skill development and employment generation organizations participated at this workshop. Dr. K.
   LIRNEasia’s first publication for 2018 has just arrived. Summing up the learnings from multiple projects, LIRNEasia’s Human Capital Team Leader Sujata Gamage contributed a chapter to Education in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Islands, edited by Hema Letchamanan and Debotri Dhar for a prestigious book series entitled “Education Around the World” published by Bloomsbury. She is now engaged in converting these insights on general education into practical policy measures at the invitation of the Ministry of Education of Sri Lanka. The book also includes a chapter on higher education, co-authored by Board Member Vishaka Nanayakkara.
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