DHAKA


Bangladesh’s leading English language newspaper, the Daily Star, has carried a story on what that country could gain from analysis of mobile network big data. He said a lot of people are now talking about big data, but the current models of data analysis do not cover all the people, especially the poor. Mobile networks’ big data can be used to reach this segment, he added. Big data can give organisations access to more data than they have experienced before, and thus give them the opportunity to discover data correlations and patterns. Access to more accurate information can influence their business in many ways.
This has been the week of IT and ITES (or queries related to them). A local weekly asked me about the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living survey, where Colombo had come in the lowest 20, but above Indian cities and Dhaka. According to EIU, the survey is for ‘human resources line managers and expatriate executives to compare the cost of living in 140 cities in 93 countries and calculate fair compensation policies for relocating employees.’ Companies can then apply this index to an executive’s spendable income to reach a fair cost of living allowance. The purpose of a cost of living allowance is to reimburse employees for excess living costs resulting from a foreign assignment.
LIRNEasia’s preliminary round of mobile broadband quality testing in selected locations in Western Province unveils both hopes and issues. The good news is that the quality of both key pre-paid mobile broadband services is satisfactory, in majority of locations. However, unusual quality drops in several places indicates that this performance is not always a certainty. In general, a mobile broadband user in Western Province can expect a reasonable quality unless a rare issue like the distance from a tower or a higher number of simultaneous users hinders it. LIRNEasia tested the broadband quality of the popular pre-paid High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) broadband connections of the two key providers.
The title is bold, we agree, but it is true. The FCC is asking broadband and smartphone users in USA to use their broadband testing tools to help the feds and consumers know what speeds are actually available, not just promised by the nations’ telecoms, reports wired.com. Starting yesterday (March 11), netizens can go to the FCC’s Broadband.gov site, enter their address and test their broadband speed using one of two testing tools.
We now have evidence to support the claim that those at the “Bottom of the Pyramid” (and therefore, the majority of people in the developing world) are likely to enter the world of knowledge and convenience promised by the Internet through the path opened by the rapidly increasing capabilities of mobile networks and user devices. Mobile 2.0 describes the use of mobiles for “more‐than‐voice”. Mobiles are increasingly becoming payment devices which can also send/process/receive voice, text and images; it is envisaged that in the next few years, they will also be fully capable of information‐retrieval and publishing functions, normally associated with the Internet. Mobile 2.
Rohan Samarajiva, LIRNEasia’s CEO, delivered a keynote address at the recently concluded South Asia Mobile Summit, held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 21 – 22 October 2009. The two-day event was organized by the South Asia Mobile Forum, a consortium of telecom industry players in the SAARC region, with the aim of creating a platform for market, institutional and technological issues to be discussed and progress made. Rohan made a presentation on South Asia’s  Budget Telecom Network Model, that has been adopted by many regional telcos in providing voice services to the bottom of the pyramid (BOP), and how the same can be applied to broadband services as well. The presentation drew on findings from LIRNEasia’s Teleuse@BOP, telecom regulatory environment (TRE) and mobile benchmark studies. The full presentation can be downloaded here.
LIRNEasia responded to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s (BTRC) Consultation Paper ‘Standardization of Quality of Service Parameters for Broadband Internet Services’ based on the broadband research and testing done in Dhaka, New Delhi, Chennai and Colombo. We said (a) broadband is above 256 kbps, not 128 kbps; (b) minimum bandwidth requirements should be valid beyond the ISP domain; (c) operators should maintain predetermined contention ratios; (d) bandwidth ultilisation should be above 75% on average; (e) latency < 85 ms for local and <300 ms for international and (f) user surveys are important but should be supplemented by user testing which gives a more objective measure. LIRNEasia also offered assistance if BTRC plans user testing. Downloads: Consultation Paper and LIRNEasia’s Response.
The results of the migrant study that was conducted along with the teleuse@BOP 3 study were released in Dhaka today. The first of the news coverage: Expatriate Bangladeshis called home more frequently than their Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan and Filipino counterparts, spending $48 a month to stay in touch, a survey says. The survey ‘”Teleuse at the bottom of the pyramid”, conducted by LIRNEasia, a regional ICT policy research institute, found 87 percent of Bangladeshi migrants called home at least once a week, while 34 percent called home daily. Dr Rohan Samarejiva, chairman and CEO of the LIRNEasia, disclosed the result of the survey on Sunday in Dhaka. Dr Samarejiva said the survey was conducted over 1,500 overseas and domestic migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Thailand.
LIRNEasia‘s recent research on ICT use and remittances among migrant workers was released in Dhaka on 28 June 2009. The study of over 1,500 domestic and overseas migrant workers in six Asian countries (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka) has yielded some interesting insights in Bangladesh, with important policy implications. Demand for communication among Bangaldeshi migrants surveyed was particularly high compared to the other countries surveyed; a significant number of overseas migrants even used the Internet to call home. Bangladeshi migrants were sending home around half of their salaries on average, mostly through banks, and hand-carried in cash. Mobiles play a key role in coordinating remittances; a small number of overseas migrants were even sending money home through their mobiles.
In the third round, LIRNEasia has extended the testing to one more location. With that we have tested two packages in New Delhi (MTNL and AirTel), two in Chennai (BSNL and AirTel), five in Colombo (SLT ADSL, Dialog WiMax, Dialog 3G, Dialog 3G Unlimited and Mobitel Zoom 890) and two in Dhaka (SKYbd and Sirius). A strenuous task for five teams, no doubt, who took readings at different times staring from 8 am and went up to 11.00 pm (some had to spend nights at offices) but results are worth the effort. What did we learn?
The download speeds that customers get in Chennai, Colombo and Dhaka are not very different, if you carefully examine the results of the October 2009 results of broadband QOSe using the Ashokatissa methodology jointly developed by IIT Madras and LIRNEasia. What differs is the level of truth in advertising. In Sri Lanka, everybody is lying. In India, they are closer to the truth. The difference is regulation.
LIRNEasia’s ‘Rapid Response Program’ is exactly what the name suggests. We react to immediate information needs of telecom regulators, at short notice. The response might not be lengthy and as comprehensive as we would like it to be, but nevertheless helpful, as Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) have realised. LIRNEasia saw BTRC’s move to issue three new Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licenses a positive development, as Bangladesh is certainly not a country that can boast of quality and affordable broadband. This is what we learnt from our research: Exceptionally high cost of broadband remains a key barrier that prevents the development of the BPO industry in Bangladesh.
10000 is too many.  But it does look like lots of lives were saved by the early warning system that is one of the major achievements of Bangladesh.  Yes, if it worked better, fewer people would have died.   But which other country which is in the path of cyclones like Sidr has cyclone shelters for 1.5 million people?
It appears that early warning and evacuation were effective in coastal Bangladesh. With so much attention focused on tsunamis, it is important not to neglect this very real hazard. PS:  Now with reports coming in that deaths will exceed 1000, judgment on the efficacy of warning and evacuation will have to be reserved.   While one death is one too many, we must remember that 300000-500000 died in the 1970 Bhola cyclone which hit, the coast on November 12th.   The fact that casualties will be be counted in the 1000s and not 100,000s is progress.
The “Evaluating Last-Mile Hazard Information Dissemination” (HazInfo) project full-length video documentary, “The Long Last Mile”, is now available on YouTube. TVE Asia Pacific, a HazInfo partner, has also published an article on the premiere of the video in Dhaka, Bangladesh. More coverage of the Dhaka HazInfo Dissemination Workshop event on 25 October can be found at the Bangladesh Network Office for Urban Safety of BUET.
On October 25, 2007, LIRNEasia’s Rohan Samarajiva, Nuwan Waidyanatha and Natasha Udu-gama traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh to present findings from the “Evaluating Last-Mile Hazard Information Dissemination” (HazInfo) pilot project in the first international dissemination workshop for HazInfo entitled “Sharing Knowledge on Disaster Warning: Community-Based Last-Mile Warning Systems” at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) through its Bangladesh Network Office for Urban Safety (BNUS) directed by Dr. Mehedi Ahmed Ansary. The report summarizes the workshop and its sessions. Overall, the workshop was a success in familiarizing the Bangladeshi audience with the HazInfo pilot project and meeting the objectives.
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