Rohan Samarajiva


I could not find a better illustration of the positive externalities of broadband than this story about Detroit, a once great American city: Detroit has the worst rate of Internet access of any big American city, with four in 10 of its 689,000 residents lacking broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission. While difficulties in connecting to the Internet in rural areas are well known, Detroit is becoming a case study in how the digital divide in an urban setting can make or break a recovery. Bridging a Digital Divide That Leaves Schoolchildren Behind FEB. 22, 2016 The deficiency of Internet access in Detroit is particularly glaring given that broadband is now considered as basic as electricity and water. Last year, the F.
As promised, here is the full piece in FT on the lessons of the latest disaster: When citizens pay no heed to alerts, warnings and evacuation orders, the normal reaction is to blame the citizens or ponder the possibilities of forcible means. But what we learned through our research and from reflective practitioners is that people have good reasons not to act on warnings. So if we want to design effective messages, we have to start from the minds of the recipients. We must practice empathy. Evacuation, the primary means of getting people out of harm’s way, is a major disruption of the evacuee’s life.
Reading a story about how profitable DTAC in Thailand found the up to 5 million Myanmarese living in Thailand to be, I was reminded of what LIRNEasia-MIDO had submitted in response to the draft International Gateway regulations in January 2016. Imposing non-cost reflective termination rates for international incoming calls is counterproductive especially in the market conditions found in Myanmar where over 50 percent of the subscribers of major mobile network operators are daily data users. Most international communication will shift to “over-the-top” (so called OTT) services, accelerating the decline of the international communication services offered by fixed and mobile network operators. Toward the end of the story they do get to our point: DTAC’s main competition is arguably not other telecom operators but rather new technologies, which are making old-fashioned IDD calls an unnecessary expense. “Nowadays Burmese people in Thailand, whether they are migrant workers, activists or academics, are using less costly methods such as Facebook Messenger, Viber or LINE to communicate with friends and relatives in Burma,” said U Soe Aung, a long time Thailand resident and spokesman for the Forum for Democracy in Burma.
On May 14th that I retweeted a satellite image of a weather system over Sri Lanka. The tweet said “WEATHER ALERT – Severe rain over #LK will continue for next 24/48hrs. Public cautioned over flash floods & landslides.” The hazard was public knowledge, contrary to some claims now being made. WEATHER ALERT – Severe rain over #LK will continue for next 24/48hrs.
By my lights, the project should have started by now. We first went public on this two years ago. But at least they are still talking: A proposal to link the two countries’ electricity grids could ultimately see improved reliability and stability of the Sri Lanka power supply and, in the long run, allow the country to purchase and export electricity depending on variability in price. The interconnection – a high-voltage, direct current line to run from Madurai in India to Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka – is initially planned to transmit up to 500 MW, scalable up to 1 GW. Pre-feasibility studies of the proposed Sri Lanka-India transmission network have already been completed, according to Sri Lanka’s electricity regulator, the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka.
We started working on the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) back in 2005. Nuwan Waidyanatha was running workshops on CAP by mid 2006. We made mobile operators and software firms working with them aware of the value of CAP. Nuwan kept teaching how to use it all over the world. But with Nuwan moving to Kunming and funded research ending, the activity tapered down.
Based on its longstanding relationship with Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka’s largest community-based organization, we have already remitted the first tranche of cash support (donations matched 100:50 by LIRNEasia) already used in urgent relief work (bottled water and dry rations) in four priority districts: Colombo, Gampaha, Kegalla and Puttalama. We trust that Sarvodaya is best positioned to identify priority needs and deliver the relief in a reliable manner based on its strong values and years of experience. Sarvodaya has informed us that it is already looking beyond relief, to actions needed to get he affected people in Sarvodaya villages back on their feet. This will require more commitment of funds and energy than what is needed for immediate relief. We will be with Sarvodaya as they build back better.
Yesterday I gave the keynote address at the University of Colombo MBA Alumni Association conference. I covered global value chains, need for trade agreements and the problem of state-owned enterprises. The slides are here. Here is some of the media coverage. “I believe that Samurdhi is an important infrastructure.
We carried a related story in February, but that lacked specifics on AAE-1. This Chinese report provides the details. But China Unicom cannot provide connectivity to Myanmar operators under the present arrangements. The Asia-Africa-Europe Cable System (AAE-1) cable landed in Myanmar on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, according to China Unicom, the Landing Party in Myanmar for the cable.
This past week, a three-day tech camp for persons with disabilities was held in Yangon. Around 50 participated in this tech camp representing different disability organisations. Half of the participants were from Yangon, while the rest of the participants were from other areas of Myanmar.   Htaike Htaike Aung of MIDO, with help from our invaluable disabilities  consultant Nirmita Narasimhan, made a well received presentation on how ICT applications in the local languages can be used to make persons with disabilities (any disability) more independent. This was a continuation, and one of the most gratifying outcomes, of Nirmita’s work in Yangon a few months back during which both Htaike Htaike and I received a superb training in how ICTs can be used to make information societies more inclusive.
When governments do it, it’s called censorship. But when companies do it, it’s only problematic. Back in 2007, Verizon declined to give Naral Pro Choice America a short code so their supporters could receive texts (this was long ago, before smartphones). Verizon was a common carrier. It was licensed.
Few days back, I was part of a panel discussing the Sri Lanka RTI Bill that has gone through Constitutional Review. This was on Rupavahini, the government-owned channel. The Deputy Minister in charge of shepherding the bill through Parliament and a lawyer who had intervened in the Constitutional Review were the other members. The first time I engaged with the topic was in 2007. Then I went into high gear in 2011.
One of the most critical steps in an inquiry on anti-competitive practices or a merger/acquisition is the definition of the relevant market. For example, did the relevant market for a newspaper merger include radio and TV stations? In the 1950s, Dupont was ruled to be non-dominant in the relevant market which was defined as wrapping material, not clear, waterproof cellophane. Just based on that the government case collapsed. In the case below, the government lawyers wanted to define the relevant market narrowly to stop a merger.
The 80 percent and 160 percent increases in taxes on voice-SMS-VAS services and data, respectively, caused me to write an oped anchored on one instrument of public policy, use of fiscal means to discourage use of demerit goods. I wish to make clear that there is nothing wrong with subjecting telecom services to normal taxation such as VAT and NBT. Many years ago, that was the case. But over time various additional levies were layered on top, taking the overall tax burden to around 32%. Around 2009, the previous Government rationalised the mess, exempting telecom services from general taxation while imposing a single telecom levy.
Few days back, I had a Twitter exchange with a journalist about news. "More than one-sixteenth of the average user’s waking time is spent on Facebook" https://t.co/mLtxgxcbc2 — Rohan Samarajiva (@samarajiva) May 7, 2016 @ChandaniKirinde Primary srce of news for 18-24 grp in #LKA WP is Facebook, acc repre survey. Unless u consdr news unproductive . .
There is doubt whether the fourth operator can mount a credible entry, given delays that are a necessary feature of 13 partners being involved. But they are supposed to have a trump up their sleeve: the military, which is a partner through Star High Public, may give the yet-to-be-named fourth operator exclusive access to military sites for their towers. This seems anti-competitive, on the face. But because the regulator and the competition authority are not in place, they may get away with it. Three telecom companies, including Myanmar National Telecom Holding Public Ltd, Star High Public Co Ltd and Viettel from Vietnam are negotiating a business plan to form the fourth telecom company to operate in Myanmar.