LIRNEasia and CPRsouth were created to contribute to better laws, policies, regulation and implementation in the emerging Asia Pacific. There are many ways to do this, including the actual training of the relevant people within government. For example, from 2013 onward we have conducted multiple training and awareness programs for legislators and regulatory staff in Myanmar. To say that Myanmar legislators need help with understanding new technologies and new business models is one thing. To say that members of the US Congress do is quite something else.
Yesterday, we were discussing how a regulatory agency could become a learning organization. I was thinking of a parsimonious indicator. Why not resources spent on learning/training activities? How much did the organization spend on activities associated with training/learning? Actual money spent on fees, travel, per diems etc.
I recently had the opportunity to participate at the Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Institute 2017 held at the University of Oxford thanks to the generous funding from the Ford Foundation. A variety of topics pertaining to Internet governance such as Internet architecture, net neutrality and multistakeholderism were discussed.  The sometimes-divergent views from those from those from different backgrounds (such as civil society, government, corporates) served as food for thought. The conversation that ensued on balancing between the freedom of expression and hate speech will serve as a useful input to LIRNEasia’s upcoming work on online behaviour in Myanmar. Here I also got the chance to present LIRNEasia’s research on free and subsidized data in Myanmar and India.
Tomorrow, we start a Ford Foundation supported four-day course on “How to engage in broadband policy and regulatory processes” at a hotel located in Sohna, Gurgaon. Gurgaon, a new city that sprang up in the last few decades and is a symbol of the new ICT-centric India, was where I thought we were teaching the course. But we’re more than 20 kms further into the interior of Haryana. Driving across the narrow and pot-holed roads to get to the location, I started to think about the immensity of the challenge of realizing the real benefits of broadband in India. The occasional cuts in electricity (always short because I am in a hotel with full backup power) reminded me of the punishment electronic equipment must be taking in the non-backed up outside.
There is no debate that the developing world needs regional platforms for the multiple stakeholders to get together and come closer to agreement on what works best in regulation for their regions. We have tried to create such platforms; our sister organization has tried in Africa. We both came up short in building sustainable platforms that would be supported by players within the region, rather than subsidies from outside. Now Informa, which has quite a track record in Europe, is trying its hand and we thought we should help them in the hope this effort will stick. The program has attracted quite a few prominent speakers from the region.
When I was running a graduate program at Ohio State University in another life, we had a joke among the faculty about the convoluted ways in which we described the incoming group of graduate students. The temptation was to say this was the best incoming class ever, but then we’d get grumpy looks and protests from the previous classes. So we’d try all kinds of legerdemain to describe the incoming class, without offending the previous ones. I have a similar problem with the 30 young scholars from 13 countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan ROC, Thailand) taking part in the tutorials. This is a bright bunch.
I found it interesting how much space Helani Galpaya had given to the demand side in her study of Broadband in Sri Lanka. Looks like the problem is common to us and to the US, according to this NYT report. Only 68 percent of Americans with access to high-speed broadband Internet are using it, while in places like South Korea the rate is 90 percent. More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies — including Wal-Mart and Target — require job applicants to apply online. Various studies have shown that the major reasons people do not have broadband are: the cost of Internet services and the cost of computers; not knowing how to use a computer; and not understanding why the Internet is relevant.
LIRNEasia was happy to accept the invitation of Mongolia’s DREAM IT project to conduct a training workshop on communicating for influence on policy for researchers in six sub-projects. The workshop was held on 16-17 October in rapidly changing Ulaan Baator in conditions of light snow and high enthusiasm. This was LIRNEasia’s first formal interaction with Mongolia, outside the realm of capacity building. We hope the multiple contacts that were established, with researchers, with government entities, and with media will lead to deeper relations in the future.