In a wide-ranging interview, Htaike Htaike Aung and Phyu Phyu Thi talk about MIDO and how they approach policy problems in the ICT space. The article.
India is the point of transit for every submarine cable connecting Asia with Africa and Europe via Middle East. Altogether 19 submarine cables have landed in five different Indian locations: Mumbai (11 cables), Chennai (4 cables), Cochin (2 cables), Trivandrum (1 cable) and Tuticorine (1 cable). These sparsely located landing points are good enough to make India the home of a highly resilient international connectivity. Early this week Cyclone Vardah has, however, exposed India’s, notably of Bharti Airtel’s, fragility instead. Bharti Airtel has stakes in five submarine cable networks: i2i, SEA-ME-WE 4, EIG, I-ME-WE and AAG.
The evidence is strong about positive impacts on livelihoods from simply the connectivity enabled by existence of mobile networks in rural areas. With regard to information services provided over those networks, by the government or by the private sector, the evidence is not as clear. It’s not that the evidence shows no positive impact, but that the research has not been able to capture the evidence. The news releases describing the findings in Sinhala Tamil English
The book “Tubes” by Andrew Blum has been in the LIRNEasia office since 2013. The idea that there was a hard infrastructure making the Internet possible is not novel for people like us who live with the Internet failing for our people in Myanmar and Bangladesh and various other places frequently. But this is a good read in Quartz: Mobile networks and cloud computing make the internet feel seamlessly invisible. But behind phones, apps and laptops lies a physical infrastructure with cables and buildings that shuttle and store our all of our information. For its ubiquity, the nuts and bolts of the web isn’t necessarily the most immediately visible.
Despite a few errors such as the claim that Ericsson had “subscribers” (said to be 35 million), Buzzfeed had an interesting story on Myanmar’s experiences in fast takeup of Internet. Myanmar has a “low media and information literacy rate,” according to an interview given by an unnamed official in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the Myanmar Times. Often called “digital literacy,” the term measures how well people using the internet understand what they are doing, and how to stay safe online. Countries like Myanmar, which come online quickly and without many government-backed programs to teach safe internet habits — like secure passwords and not revealing personal details online — rank among the lowest in digital literacy. They are the most likely to fall for scams, hacks, and fake news.
So the Daily Mirror, the leading English language daily, carried my comments on the illogical tax proposals. “Around 2010, the Government considered the complexity of taxes affecting the telecommunication sector and exempted telecom from the Value Added Tax. Instead a twenty percent tax was imposed for telecommunication which was remitted to the Government” said Former Director General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and Telecommunication Expert Prof. Rohan Samarajeeva. “The previous Government also considered the data issue as separate from voice and value added services.
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.
“The digital economy will empower our nation – through providing affordable and secure Internet connectivity to every citizen in any part of Sri Lanka, removing barriers for cross-border international trade.” The above quotation from the Prime Minister’s Economic Policy Statement in Parliament on 27 October 2016 suggests the government sees ICTs playing a vital role in the country’s progress. Sri Lanka has been a leader in ICTs in the region. The Prime Minister gave enthusiastic leadership to the e Sri Lanka initiative, which when launched was a pioneering effort. It is known that he played a valuable role in connecting Sri Lanka to the Internet in the 1990s.
Our lead on international backhaul, Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan, has been talking about data centers along with fiber cables for some time. Here is the back story, as explained by APNIC’s Geoff Huston. The original motivation of the exchange was to group together a set of comparable local access providers to allow them to directly peer with each other. The exchange circumvented paying the transit providers to perform this cross-connect, and as long as there was a sizeable proportion of local traffic exchange, then exchanges filled a real need in replacing a proportion of the transit provider’s role with a local switching function. However, exchange operators quickly realised that if they also included data centre services at the exchange then the local exchange participants saw an increased volume of user traffic that could be provided at the exchange, and this increased the relative importance of the exchange.
A four-minute clip recorded immediately after my keynote at APNIC 42 is now out. Sound quality is much much better than in the talk and, with the help of good editing, I seem to get the key points out in less than five minutes. The APNIC video.
My daughter took this picture outside a hotel in Havana in the evening. She says it was like this around all hotels with Internet and WiFi.
I once wrote a parable to make sense of the positions the various players were taking on Internet developments. After the dust settled, I expected them to work together to make money, rather than run behind the ITU or national governments asking for favors. Facebook has been explaining what it wants to do to make the Internet experience better for all users. Subramanian outlined a couple of its many bold network initiatives it is working on to bring access to the estimated 4.2 billion people who aren’t connected.
In most of the countries we work in, most people connect to the Internet over mobile devices and/or mobile networks. But as WiFi hotspots of various kinds become more common, it appears that WiFi is becoming the dominant mode. The Global State of Mobile Networks study, based on 12.3 billion measurements taken by 822,556 OpenSignal users in an 84 day period, found that smartphone users spent more than 50 per cent of their time connected to Wi-Fi, with Netherlands the most mobile Wi-Fi hungry country, where it accounted for 70 per cent of all smartphone connections. “You could argue that in many places Wi-Fi has become a far more important mobile data technology than 3G or 4G,” noted the report.
It was in the 1990s that Larry Lessig put into beautiful form an idea that was bubbling up all over the place among people thinking about emerging technology. This was the idea of West Coast Code versus East Coast Code. Both regulated what could and could not be done on various tech-mediated spaces. But East Coast Code sought to do so through law, courts, regulatory agencies and the old paraphernalia of the regulatory state. There are obvious problems in this approach.
A recent report by TIE, summarized in Mint, echoes many of the conclusions we reached about the challenges of increasing Internet connectivity in India, with emphasis on the bottom of the pyramid. It is important that Bharat Broadband Network stays at the backhaul level and does not seek to directly provide access services to end users. This is not only to safeguard the principle that all access providers should have non-discriminatory, cost-oriented access to the backhaul but also to ensure that the NOFN rollout does not slow down any further. It is silly to ask a bunch of bureaucrats to market Internet access. Private operators are not interested in providing access at the ends of the NOFN wire for various reasons.
Helani Galpaya presented the findings of the joint research by GSMA Connected Women & LIRNEasia on “Mobile phones, internet & gender in Myanmar” at the Chatrium Hotel, Yangon on 8 April 2016. The event organized by LIRNEasia and MIDO was used as a forum to discuss issues pertaining to gender and ICTs in Myanmar at large. Khin Sandar Win & Htla San Htwe presented the rationale behind and the workings of the UNDP iWomen application while Htaike Htaike Aung of MIDO spoke of the role of women as app developers, hackers and coders. The event was well attended despite it being held on the last working day prior to the New Year Water Festival holidays. Noteworthy was the large media presence, with the event being covered by multiple print, television and online media outlets.