Rohan Samarajiva


There is little doubt that China has made achievements in the telecom sector. Their reforms were based on managed competition between state-owned companies. Now we will see the model replicated in a poor country. It will be good to see if it will work. In addition, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that the state operator would be split in two in order to foster greater competition in the market, saying: “There will be two telecom corporations and shares will be sold in both.
Two years ago, when I presented a paper on Myanmar’s policy challenges at the LKY School of Public Policy in Singapore, the key point that came up in discussion was what role of the military would play in the fourth operator. What we speculated is coming true, according to Frontier Myanmar: It is unusual for a country’s military leaders to attend the launch of a telecoms company. But at the launch of Mytel, Myanmar’s fourth telecoms operator, around 50 high-ranking military officers were in attendance, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Defence Minister Lieutenant General Sein Win. Lieutenant General Tran Don, Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Defence, also attended the June 9 ceremony. Telecom International Myanmar Company Limited, which operates under the brand name Mytel, is 49 percent owned by Viettel, which is wholly owned by Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense.
Google alerted me that a new article had been published on Upgrading Myanmar’s internet connection by the well-funded and hyperactive A4AI. I had the alerts on because I’ve been working in Myanmar since 2012. I was surprised. The article reminded me of what the lawyers in the Attorney General’s Department in Sri Lanka call a balloon opinion. The words are there.
Many of today’s civilian communication technologies had their beginnings in battlefield communications. So it is always a good idea to keep an eye on what’s being developed for the military. Here is one that does away with the need for hubs. MOBILE armies need mobile communications. Those communications, though, must be secure—and not just from eavesdropping.
Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka, a think tank within the Ministry of Defense, convened a half-day symposium on Managing Fake News last week, at which I was asked to speak. This subject is outside the remit of the ICT Agency. It is broadly within the interest area of LIRNEasia, which has ongoing work on hate speech. I never use the term popularized by the current President of the United States without enclosing the words in quotation marks. Newspapers were purveying fantastical stories for more than a century (today these stories would be described as “click bait”).
This was an issue that came up in the discussions leading up to our Nepal Hackathon. But the idea that apps should be developed to read currency notes did not go too far. Electronic payments should, of course, be designed with all disabled persons in mind. Here is a report on how the debate in playing out in India: Currency notes should be of different lengths and widths or have simple symbols embossed on them for easy identification, as this would be simpler than a separate device to recognise them, according to associations representing the visually impaired. The comments come after the Reserve Bank of India, in its bimonthly Monetary Policy Review, said it would look into the feasibility of developing a device or mechanism to help the visually challenged easily identify currency notes.
Hate speech on Facebook has been an incendiary issue. The latest action is unlikely to be received quietly. Nor is it likely to quell the problem completely. It banned the Buddhist nationalist movement Ma Ba Tha from its platform, as well as a pair of prominent monks known for stoking hatred towards the Rohingya. “They are not allowed a presence on Facebook, and we will remove any accounts and content which support, praise or represent these individuals or organisations,” said content policy manager Mr David Caragliano.
Few days back, I spent time at the Dompe District Hospital (a modest 100 bed hospital where people go for clinic visits but not for surgery) observing the impressive progress made in re-engineering work processes and introducing ICTs. The story is well told in Roar.lk. All the doctors worked with laptops and barcode readers. Each patient presents a barcode.
Trade unions are supposed to level the playing field for workers. But it’s something else that happens with unions in monopoly services provided by government. They engage in what is very close to extortion. Government doctors in Sri Lanka go on strike, harming innocent patients, demanding and getting privileged access to popular schools for their children and duty exemptions for the cars they buy. Railway workers demand salary increases even when the losses exceed total revenues.
A trade publication, Satellite Today, has written about an agreement between a satellite provider and the Ministry of Transport and Communication of Myanmar. Under the new multi-year, multi-transponder agreement, Intelsat 39 will host both C- and Ku-band satellite services for Myanmarsat-2, which will enable the government of Myanmar to significantly enhance its existing network as well as the networks of other mobile operators and media companies. This will advance the expansion of affordable, high-speed broadband and internet connectivity to government agencies, businesses and communities throughout the country. It will also support and advance the MOTC’s goal of ensuring that 95 percent of its population will have access to broadband connectivity by 2022. By integrating satellite solutions into its own mobile networks, the MOTC will be able to dramatically increase its overall network bandwidth, speed and reliability as it expands 3G and 4G services into the more remote areas of Myanmar.
We’ve been talking about competition as one of the major policy issues in the data analytics space. But this is an angle we had not thought about: China. Still, with the European Union enacting tough new privacy laws, and some in the United States eager to follow, Google and Facebook could soon be forced to find ways to make money beyond selling users’ personal information to advertisers, said Raj Rajgopal, president of digital business strategy at Virtusa Corporation, a consulting firm. “As profitability reduces, they’ll say, ‘Now I need to monetize my customer base,’” Mr. Rajgopal said.
India keeps shutting down the Internet. This necessarily involves shutting down Facebook. Few pay attention. Sri Lanka has never shut down the Internet. But it restricted access to some social media including Facebook in March 2018.

BRIEF: Open Electoral Data

Posted on May 31, 2018  /  0 Comments

I was recently listening to some Microsoft officials asserting that they would be fully compliant with the new European General Data Protection Regulation, implying that it could be applied here too. There is no doubt that countries that seek to do business with Europe will have to pay special attention to GDPR. But that does not mean that we should simply do a cut and paste. The GDPR bears the marks of its birth. It may be appropriate for Europe (this article suggests, that too will be a problem).
Is this a sign that Facebook is moving into transactions and payments in an even bigger way? Under Facebook’s new emerging technologies group, Mr. Zuckerberg has also created a new team focused on blockchain, a digital ledger that underpins virtual currencies like Bitcoin. The group will be led by David Marcus, who had been overseeing Facebook Messenger, with the mandate of examining how Facebook can incorporate blockchain. Over the last six months, three people who have had conversations with Mr.
We’ve been thinking about the implications of differential access to data for a while. Here‘s a detailed discussion: Some scholars said Facebook’s recent privacy changes may have gone too far by also cutting off academics who behaved responsibly. “Academics would argue that we need access to primary data,” said Dr. Nielsen of Oxford. He said the changes might lead to an asymmetry, with internal Facebook researchers accumulating mounds of data while outside academics would not.