LIRNEasia ’s 2004-2005 research program centered on the World Dialogue on Regulation [WDR] theme of approaches to network extension has yielded substantive findings that have been well received by stakeholders and will be developed into a book, in addition to multiple journal articles [some already under review]. LIRNEasia made a significant contribution, along with its sister organizations in Africa and Latin America, to the side events organized in conjunction with WSIS. The findings have received news coverage in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
The 2004-2005 research program lays bare the policy and regulatory conditions necessary for the successful mobilization of ICTs to serve the needs of people in specific emerging-economy contexts. The research has identified hitherto unknown aspects of telecom use by low-income users, analyzed various non-optimal, but best-available, workaround options to connect people to access networks in the context of dysfunctional policy, regulatory and market environments, and provided critiques of large scale policy and regulatory actions for building out backbone and access networks.
Significant pressure is being exerted on the policy processes in multiple countries through media interventions and rapid response actions, among others. Rapid response actions were undertaken in five countries, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In India, the rapid response intervention and the draft findings of the research on the universal service fund and access deficit charges found a receptive audience in the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), to the extent that little difference exists between LIRNEasia ’s recommendations and TRAI’s recommendations to government and decisions on the same subjects.
‘Disaster and ICTs’ as a research theme was added to LIRNEasia ’s research program in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, assisted by IDRC . Two completed research projects on ICT and disasters laid the groundwork for substantial policy impacts, publications and dissemination, and further funding for disaster-related research. The biggest impact was in shifting Sri Lanka’s largest CBO, Sarvodaya, from a preoccupation with relief and recovery to active engagement with crucial issues of preparedness and warning, including a central role in the LIRNEasia -led consortium implementing the IDRC funded pilot project. LIRNEasia may have also contributed to the broad acceptance of an all-hazards [versus tsunami-specific] approach by around April 2005 and to the higher importance now being given to dam-related hazards within Sri Lanka and the issue of the ‘last-mile’ in disaster warning, internationally.