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.
Zero-rating is a hot topic in the ICT policy and regulatory discourse. When a specific application or content is zero-rated, the user may consume an unlimited amount of that specific content without incurring data charges. One school of thought believes that zero-rated content acts as an on-ramp to the Internet, others argue that it violates the principles of net neutrality by promoting some content over others. Mozilla funded research in seven countries to feed into this somewhat evidence starved policy debate. LIRNEasia carried out the research for this global study in Myanmar and India.
Many see the promotion of innovation simply in terms of increasing reported R&D expenditures. I disagree. That is why I like the Global Innovation Index which is a composite index that looks not only at inputs, but also at outputs and innovation efficiency. Sadly, Sri Lanka is failing according to the GII. When compared with lower-middle-income countries, Sri Lanka is not in the top ten in anything.
I recently had the opportunity to participate at the Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Institute 2017 held at the University of Oxford thanks to the generous funding from the Ford Foundation. A variety of topics pertaining to Internet governance such as Internet architecture, net neutrality and multistakeholderism were discussed.  The sometimes-divergent views from those from those from different backgrounds (such as civil society, government, corporates) served as food for thought. The conversation that ensued on balancing between the freedom of expression and hate speech will serve as a useful input to LIRNEasia’s upcoming work on online behaviour in Myanmar. Here I also got the chance to present LIRNEasia’s research on free and subsidized data in Myanmar and India.
“We are very poor. We have lost touch with the world. We need the World Bank to catch up.” This is a quotation from Julian Gewirtz’s book, Unlikely Partners, that I will be using in my keynote address at the University of Peradeniya Humanities and Social Sciences Conference on 28 July 2017. It was in a conversation between Deng Xiaoping and Robert McNamara.
When Anders Henten decided to publish one of the outputs of our research project in a print-only journal as Henten, A.; Samarajiva, R.; Melody, W.H. (2002), The next step for telecom regulation: ICT convergence regulation or multisector utilities regulation?
We first wrote about the phenomenon back in 2006, in relation to the conflict areas in Sri Lanka and Kashmir. We started formulating the issues in terms of Gyanendra’s Law and its various exceptions around the time of the Arab Spring. I wrote the main piece on the subject, sitting in a hotel room in Teheran in February 2011. Since those days, the practice of shutting down networks has become more common, and more sophisticated. The Global Network Initiative has put out a one-pager on the subject: “GNI urges all governments to consult our one-page guide and to weigh carefully the human rights, economic and reputational harms that can flow from the decision to disrupt public access to vital communications services and platforms,” said GNI Executive Director, Judith Lichtenberg.
A lot of the discussion in the concluding sessions focused on implementation, as intended. Here is a participant writing about the highlights in Setopati, a digital newspaper: Similarly, senior Director at Nepal Telecommunications Authority Anand Raj Khanal said broadband could be leveraged to graduate country from the least developed status to the developing on by 2022. Arguing that NTA’s primary role is the infrastructure development in terms of expansion of broadband, Director Khanal expressed doubt whether the contracts NTA had with Nepal Telecoms and other companies would be completed on time to ensure broadband access to people. According to him, contracts were signed this April and May to ensure broadband internet access for 11 quake-hit districts. He too admitted, “We’re smart in policy formulation but weak at implementation.
Somalia has suffered internet outage, as its only submarine cable – Eastern Africa Submarine System (EASSy) – has been snapped by the anchor of a cargo ship recently. Few affluent users are online through the expensive satellite backups while most of the users remain off-line. Bangladesh was also exposed to similar risk until six operators plugged the country with India across the land borders in 2012. Mogadishu should rush for overland links with Kenya for the resilience of its international connectivity. Otherwise, it will remain vulnerable to frequent outages because of the careless merchant mariners.
LIRNEasia carried out qualitative research on user perspectives of Internet use in India among respondents from low and middle income households. It is a part of a series of research looking at the use of free and subsidised data in the developing world. The research was carried out with financial support from Mozilla, the UK Government’s Department for International Development, and the International Development Research Centre, Canada. India was an interesting case in the zero rating debate. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) passed the Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Service Regulations in 2016.