General


We have been writing about network shutdowns for a long time. We even formulated a law to explain its workings. Now finally a court has ruled: The judgement reads as, “For what has been discussed above, the instant appeal and the connected petitions are allowed. Consequently, the actions, orders and directives issued by the Federal Government or the Authority, as the case may be, which are inconsistent with the provisions of section 54(3) are declared as illegal, ultra vires and without lawful authority and jurisdiction. The Federal Government or the Authority are, therefore, not vested with the power and jurisdiction to suspend or cause the suspension of mobile cellular services or operations on the ground of national security except as provided under section 54(3).
Following Beniger, I have pointed to the need for control in soft sense as the driver for much of what is going in ICTs these days. But is China understanding control in a hard sense? China Telecom showed off its ability to measure the amount of trash in several garbage cans and detect malfunctioning fire hydrants. Investors and analysts say China’s unabashed fervor for collecting such data, combined with its huge population, could eventually give its artificial intelligence companies an edge over American ones. If Silicon Valley is marked by a libertarian streak, China’s vision offers something of an antithesis, one where tech is meant to reinforce and be guided by the steady hand of the state.
Governments want to be seen as doing things. A government that does things is not necessarily better than one that does little or nothing. It is important that the government takes actions that are well considered both in terms of causing the intended results and in terms of not causing unintended harm. The benefits must also be balanced against the costs of the policy action. I examine the proposal to impose a 0.
We have been talking about the absence of clear market-exit rules in the countries we work in. The examples keep piling up. Indian operator Aircel may have no other option but to shutter its operations following the collapse of its merger with Reliance Communications (RCom). The operator has debts of around US$3.7B and continues to make losses.
Google’s core competence is search. But the millions now joining the Internet in India and similar countries do not appear to value search as much as the early adopters, according to company research. So Google is offering other products specifically designed for the Indian market, according to NYT: Many of the new Indian users have basic phones, which make it difficult for them to run certain apps or to store big files like videos. Data plans are limited, and despite a telecom price war that has cut the price of a megabyte of data by as much as 97 percent, some customers are unable to afford more data when they run out. Google’s Android software and apps like the Chrome browser, Maps and YouTube are often included with smartphones.
Celebrations of the birth centenary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke will take place across the world, including Colombo where he lived and died, this month. Sriganesh Lokanathan will be speaking on Future Data at the Colombo event. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, our resident SF writer, is also playing a role. I thought of contributing to the celebrations with this eulogy I wrote for the now-defunct Montage back in 2008: Sir Arthur C.
The economist celebrates Bangladesh’s achievements, caused in part by Pakistan’s census showing that it has more people than earlier estimated, thus decreasing the per-capita GDP. When the new population numbers are applied to the indicators that contribute to the ITU’s 2016 ICT Development Index, it is likely that the current virtual tie between Bangladesh and Pakistan will change to a significant lead for Bangladesh. This is nonetheless a good moment to celebrate Bangladesh’s economic progress. Its annual growth has averaged more than 6% over the past ten years and has run above 7% over the past two. Industry accounts for 29% of its GDP.
Just a few days ago, I wrote about an Australian scholar expressing skepticism about the importance of Facebook as a news channel. I referred to Pew Research on the subject from 2016. Now the 2017 results are in: As of August 2017, two-thirds (67%) of Americans report that they get at least some of their news on social media – with two-in-ten doing so often, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. This is a modest increase since early 2016, when (during the height of the presidential primaries) 62% of U.S.
Shazna Zuhyle, a researcher from Colombo-based LIRNEasia, a regional policy research body will chair an International Telecommunication Union expert group meeting. The 8th meeting of the Expert Group on Telecommunication/ICT Indicators will start on September 12 in Geneva. It will consider a revision to the current data, messaging and voice price benchmarks, which are used by international organizations to rank countries and built composite indices to measure development goals. EconomyNext report.
Yesterday, we were discussing how a regulatory agency could become a learning organization. I was thinking of a parsimonious indicator. Why not resources spent on learning/training activities? How much did the organization spend on activities associated with training/learning? Actual money spent on fees, travel, per diems etc.
Christoph Stork of Research ICT Africa/Research ICT Action gave a master class in how to communicate complex research findings to policy makers, based on the policy briefs submitted by the presenters in the CPRsouth 2017 Conference Session 8 “ICTs to achieve broader public-policy objectives.” Here is the slideset.
I was amused to hear a senior scholar from Australia questioning a claim in a CPRsouth paper that Facebook was a source of news. In Myanmar, of all places. In his defense, I guess he was not aware of the LIRNEasia demand-side results on how people in Myanmar actually get their news. I’ve been using CPA survey data in my writing and speaking in Sri Lanka to show that the trend is for young people to get their news on Facebook. But is it different in developed countries?
Social media, especially Twitter, is not optimal for nuanced discussion of policy options. In the context of a talk I gave at the 2017 Sri Lanka Economic Summit on innovation, broadly defined, someone suggested co-working spaces as the priority. My response was: Tech and innovation cannot be reduced to ICT innovation — Rohan Samarajiva (@samarajiva) July 26, 2017 For reasons unclear to me this is being interpreted as an outright rejection of co-working spaces 2/ when I raised this once on Twitter Dr. @samarajiva outright rejected saying, Tech co-working spaces is not a priority! — Sesiri Pathirane (@Sesiri) August 26, 2017 So I thought it would be good to look at what I had actually said at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit.
In the little regulatory teaching I do, I have now shifted from deriving regulatory priorities from conventional industrial organization and administrative law principles to business models now prevalent in our countries. The below quotation from Business Insider shows ignorance of business models is not a problem limited to developing countries: Buried in pages of amendments to the European Union’s latest privacy proposal, the ePrivacy Regulation, members of the European Parliament recently recommended language that would strip European publishers of the right to monetize their content through advertising, eviscerating the basic business model that has supported journalism for more than 200 years. The new directive would require publishers to grant everyone access to their digital sites, even to users who block their ads, effectively creating a shoplifting entitlement for consumers of news, social media, email services, or entertainment. The language may seem confusing to the uninitiated. “No user shall be denied access to any [online service] or functionality,” the proposed amendment says, “regardless of whether this service is remunerated or not, on grounds that he or she has not given his or her consent […] to the processing of personal information and/or the use of storage capabilities of his or her […]

Human capital

Posted by on August 12, 2017  /  0 Comments

LIRNEasia has a human capital research focus. In this context, the Economist’s succinct exposition of the ideas of Gary Becker is worth reading: Simply put, human capital refers to the abilities and qualities of people that make them productive. Knowledge is the most important of these, but other factors, from a sense of punctuality to the state of someone’s health, also matter. Investment in human capital thus mainly refers to education but it also includes other things—the inculcation of values by parents, say, or a healthy diet. Just as investing in physical capital—whether building a new factory or upgrading computers—can pay off for a company, so investments in human capital also pay off for people.

AI in governance

Posted by on August 7, 2017  /  2 Comments

Our colleague Nalaka Gunawardene has written a Facebook post where he asks “Robots in politics? Why not?” This provides a gateway for a substantive discussion on the role of technology in governance. First, we have to rephrase the question. I understand politics to be the art of contributing in various ways to governance.