This World Bank blog throws in the new, new thing “big data.” But really with little substance. Some unthinking hack. Information technology can be a powerful tool to empower the citizen. In Pakistan, where mobile phone penetration is almost 70 percent, it is possible to reach even the poorest households.
Many talk about corruption in telecom procurement by government owned telecos. Here are details: According to a police source familiar with the probe, a suitcase containing US$2 million in cash was allegedly found in Thein Tun’s residence. Investigators are trying to establish whether the alleged funds may have originated from foreign firms, including major Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE known to be angling for potentially lucrative telecom contracts in Myanmar, according to the same source. Authorities are also trying to gain access to bank accounts in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore where kickbacks to senior ministry officials may have been deposited, according to the same source. Both Chinese companies have voluntarily given investigating authorities documents related to their previous deals with the MPT ministry, including during Thein Zaw’s tenure as minister, according to the police source.
The liberalization process in Myanmar is chugging along, with an arrest or two, bad advice from the ITU Regional Office and so on. Hope things will get better. In a poor country like Myanmar, it is hard for grassroots people to get a cell phone. The price has dropped to 150,000 kyat but there are just 1.24 million mobile phones in a country with a population of over 60 million.
Interesting post on the procurement practices of the Pakistan USF Company by its CEO: ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES I face is to convince some of those who matter that it is possible to deal in Billions WITHOUT ANY CORRUPTION. I don’t blame them. Corruption has become so pervasive that if and when it is absent, one tends to disbelieve! So what does one do? It is said that transparency helps.
One of the most significant ICT applications in the world is being pioneered in India: the Unique Identifier. “What we are creating is as important as a road,” said Nandan M. Nilekani, the billionaire software mogul whom the government has tapped to create India’s identity database. “It is a road that in some sense connects every individual to the state.” For its proponents, the 12-digit ID is an ingenious solution to a particularly bedeviling problem.
The Sri Lankan procedures for paying traffic fines are so annoying and time-consuming that they drive offenders to pay bribes instead. Now it appears that a bank and a mobile operator are trying to solve the problem. All strength to their elbows. A leading bank and a mobile company would introduce a technology when one was charged with traffic law violation could pay the fine through his/her mobile phone, sources said. Informed sources told Daily Mirror that any one charged with a traffic law violation could SMS the bank asking it to credit the amount specified as the fine to the post office account from his account.
It is asked in one of Sri Lanka’s aphorisms whether the sword that is not ready for war is to be used for cutting kos (jack fruit)? That is the same question we have to ask the Ministry of Disaster Management about its warning towers. When oh when, will the Ministry realize that these towers are a colossal waste of money and put its weight behind DEWN and cell broadcasting? But in Sri Lanka’s southern coastal village of Godawaya, a tsunami warning tower failed to emit a siren. Local fishermen who had stayed home to take part waited for a few hours and decided to go to work.
There are still some who talk about the value of government ownership of telecom operators. In their talk of national interest and local control, rarely is mentioned the word corruption. The recent case in which Siemens pleaded guilty to massive “accounting violations” and paid large fines should be of interest to all who care about transparency. More than the fines, the court record is of great significance. Investigators and the law firm for Siemens amassed massive amounts of data, starting from the five terabytes of information seized from Siemens offices at the start.