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.
Supply-side data are relatively easy to come by in the ICT space. But just because they are there, they need not be taken as the truth. We need to apply our critical facilities to the data that we use from whatever source. The “smell test” is an important tool for a good researcher. This was the message I communicated to a group of young scholars at CPRsouth 2017 in Yangon.
The Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS) is the primary “learned society” for Sri Lankan academics. It’s a rather staid outfit where I think you need multiple nominees to support your application to join and they reject papers if they’re not in the correct font (I may be exaggerating a little because this is based on my memories from the 1980s). Anyway, Sriganesh Lokanathan, Team Leader – Big Data Research at LIRNEasia had been asked by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura to pull together a 60 mt panel discussion on big data for development. He had got an excellent panel together, Ruvan Weerasinghe from University of Colombo/Informatics Institute of Technology, Shehan Perera from University of Moratuwa, Srinath Perera from WSO2 and himself. I moderated the panel.
I understand that smartphone penetration is even higher according to the 2016 survey, where the analysis is almost complete. But here is what the ITU says about Myanmar’s ICT progress, using LIRNEasia’s 2015 data: These improvements in affordability and network availability help to explain the country’s fast Internet uptake, supported by two other trends that distinguish Myanmar from neighbouring markets. Firstly, smartphone penetration is very high, reaching 66 per cent of phone owners in early 2015 according to a survey by the independent research institute LIRNEasia.18 According to Ooredoo, as many as 80 per cent of mobile-phone users opt for smartphones (Oxford Business Group, 2015). Secondly, growth in data usage has overtaken growth in voice traffic.
It appears that Ooredoo is turning around its Myanmar operations. Qatari telecom firm Ooredoo continues to reduce losses in its Myanmar arm relative to 2015, according to the group’s third-quarter results, although the Myanmar operation saw new subscriptions dip compared to the last two quarters. Unlike rival telco Telenor, Ooredoo’s Myanmar operations are not yet consistently profitable. But the Qatari firm’s Myanmar arm is still having a much better year financially than in 2015. Across the first three-quarters of 2015, Ooredoo’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation – EBITDA – were negative Q30 million (K10.
If more than 50 percent of your customers are data users (daily? weekly? monthly), it would make sense to put weight on data. That is Telenor is going to do. What’s new in the Telegeography report is that data yields 40 percent of revenues.
There appeared to be a problem with loading the slideset, so I went to Plan B. I was just about to do a big data talk with no slides. That is the first learning: always have a Plan B and be ready to improvise. This being Oxford, I thought they could access the slides off the Internet. But then the technical problem was solved and I gave a conventional talk.
All market projections in developing countries have been wrong, and all wrong in the same way: they have underestimated demand. This was true for voice, then for data, and now for 4G. The sharp increase in 4G usage is the second time the Myanmar market has taken Ooredoo by surprise, Mr Meza said. The first was the speed of smartphone penetration across the country after the company first start operating in 2014. When the Qatari firm entered Myanmar it decided to concentrate on the urban centres and on higher-value customers with heavy data usage.
In cyberpunk novels, the world of face-to-face interactions is called meatspace. Everyone knows what cyberspace is. The doyen of cyberpunk William Gibson invented the term. Surveillance is built into cyberspace. In the case of consumption activities, surveillance allows the marketer to “know” what the prospective customer wants and to shape her desires through targeted and customized messages.
We are aware that the UN has identified tourism data as priority area in terms of exploring the potential of big data to contribute to the work of national statistical organizations (NSOs). However, this was not something we took on, given our programmatic priorities which are urban development, improved socio-economic monitoring and epidemiology. When we were asked to share ideas on tourism data and a few other areas by a major business group, we did apply our minds to the problem. Here is the slideset. What are the key ideas?
Everyone who stops to think knows that trade in services is under-counted. Services do not go through customs points in ports and airports and do not have measurement systems honed over centuries. But like the drunk who was looking for his keys not where he dropped them, but where there was light, we all have a tendency to talk about trade using only data on goods trade, because that is what is available. I’ve done it myself, despite having worked on services trade since the 1980s. That is what caught my eye in this little piece on how to explain why international trade (in goods) appears to have flattened out.
More evidence of Myanmar leap-frogging, thanks to entering the game at a later time. The Norwegian telecoms operator’s fourth-quarter results show a net subscriber growth of 1.9 million over the past three months. This equates to a SIM market share of around 37 percent, the company said. International competitor Ooredoo has yet to announce its Q4 results, but counted 4.
We used to say that the only certainty about demand forecasts for telephony in developing economies was that they were wrong. It appears the same may apply to business strategies. Telenor had more demand for data than they envisaged. Ooredoo is planning to mass market data? Ooredoo’s focus on costlier data services, however, has meant that it fell behind its rivals in signing up subscribers: MPT boasts 18 million customers, while Telenor has 12 million.
I received this as a forwarded email with no comments from a person who is influential in the ICT space. The Indian smartphone market made a 0.7 percent increase from September to October, vaulting the nation over the 1 billion user threshold to 1.03 billion users. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India just released this information yesterday, making India the second country in the world to reach this milestone.
It appears that high data use by Myanmar consumers is the surprise of 2015. But Telenor expects it to go down as they start connecting rural consumers. Will they be wrong again? Telenor’s network today covers all states and regions but Chin State, for 60 per cent of population. The customer base is expected show a slower growth rate.
I titled a piece I wrote on Myanmar a while back as “10 to 80 in five years.” Now after just one year of operations, Telenor Myanmar, not the largest operator in Myanmar, has over 20 SIMs per 100 people, all by itself. That would place the overall SIMs/100 number above 50. After just one year. So it may be time we shift our attention to more interesting and challenging things, like getting more people access to Internet.