UNESCAP


“Panic and chaos are inherent in crises. During the critical golden 72 hours the public need ICTs to mitigate the panic but we are still ten years behind and have forgotten history” – says Mr. Naveed Haq. Progress towards resilient ICTs for emergency communication and crisis response remains poor in Asia and the Pacific. The APrIGF “Cry for Help” – “Rapid Restoration of Access to Telecommunication” (RREACT) was designed to engage the audience and a set of experts in discussing issues and strategies for empowering communities with ICT resilience in support of emergencies and crises.
We have been, officially, persuading the deployment of terrestrial optical fiber along the Asian Highway since 2011. Our point is very simple: Asian countries, unlike the ones in Europe, are interlinked exclusively through submarine cables. Deployment and maintenance of undersea networks keep Asia’s bandwidth manifolds pricier than Europe’s. As a result, the consumers of developing Asia cannot afford broadband. TeleGeography’s global bandwidth prices at major market places have been central to our argument for a pan-Asian cross-border fiber network.
UNESCAP in partnership with the International Think Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries (ITT-LLDC) held an Expert Workshop on ICT for Promoting Inclusive and Disaster Resilient Development, from 14-15 May 2015 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I represented LIRNEasia and shared our recently completed research enhancing the role of ICTs for Disaster Risk Management(DRM), that was led by Shazna Zuhyle. I made two presentations. The first looked at emerging trends in DRM including the use of mobile network big data for disaster risk mitigation and planning. The second looked at the role of ICTs for DRM in SriLanka.
India has excluded Assam and Manipur, two of its troublesome northeastern states, from the 17,500-km long Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) network. It has proposed a Bangladesh-Myanmar railway link via Tripura and Mizoram instead, according to Times of India. Indian policy makers now want to bypass the areas in Assam and Manipur. According to the new proposal, Dhaka should be connected to Jawahar Nagar in north Tripura, which is south of Mahisasan from where new lines will be laid to proceed towards Sairang in Mizoram from where it would be connected to an existing line at Ka Lay in Myanmar. “The UNESCAP plan is not final and there is room for modification.
Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in one of the first discussions on the maritime Silk Road being promoted by President Xi Jinping. I wrote up the two points I made in my five minutes. The second point described in the excerpt below suggests that governments and operators get behind the UN ESCAP Information Superhighway initiative that we’ve been working on with them since 2010. It is possible to place security teams on trains and ships to thwart the attacks of extremists. But it is not practical to guard fibre optic cables, be they placed on the ocean floor or buried underground.
LIRNEasia’s Senior Policy Fellow has been invited by the Department of Communication of South African government to speak at the “Workshop on Broadband Policy and Implementation in South Africa,” 11-12 November 2013, at CSIR Conference Center, Pretoria. He will speak on the “The Trans-Asian Terrestrial Broadband Link,” drawing on the work he has been doing as part of LIRNEasia’s partnership with UNESCAP.
Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan and I participated in the ESCAP consultation that sought input on three documents: a report on the state of optical-fiber-based connectivity in the ASEAN region, a new interactive map of international and domestic fiber cables in Asia and a report by LIRNEasia on resilience of ICT infrastructures. The agenda and links to presentations are here. Following revisions, our report too should be published.
We’ve been working with UNESCAP since 2010 on addressing a key condition for affordable and reliable broadband in Asia. Today, I was impressed by how far UNESCAP has advanced the process. I am a strong believer in the power of image. They had, together with ITU, commissioned a map of the existing fiber optic cables. This will, after all the necessary approvals have been received (good luck on presenting a map of India that won’t upset somebody!
In 2010, Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan proposed that we address the problem of expensive and unreliable international backhaul in Asia. UN Under Secretary General Noeleen Hayzer of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) understood the importance of the issue and we began to work with ESCAP. By 2013, the initiative has quite a bit of wind behind its sails. Two studies have been done on South East and Central Asia. The link between the lack of redundancy in backhaul and disaster management is being explored.
Telegeography reports that for the first time intra-Asian traffic on the Internet exceeds trans-Pacific traffic. Yet, there is also Asia-Europe traffic. When you add up the trans-Pacific and Asia-Europe, it is still larger than intra-Asia. But the trend line is clear. Next year, or the next, intra-Asian will be the biggest category of all.
We just beat back a misguided attempt to break the Internet on the basis of some retrograde conception that equated the Internet with circuit switched telephony. But there is no debate that the Internet is under strain. We’ve been working with UN ESCAP, among others to address some of the problems. But the more fundamental questions of moving massive amounts of data from multiple devices are being addressed in the universities that begat the Internet. These are the solutions, not ETNO’s proposals, now seeping into European policy, to tax OTT players.
Last month, LIRNEasia was invited to contribute to an inter-agency meeting on ICTs convened by the UN Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (UNESCAP). Among the attendees were ITU, APT, ICAO, ISDR, and UNOPS. Our presentation was on the UNESCAP priority project to improve the affordability and resilience of international backhaul capacity in Asia.
Mr Luigi Gambardella of ETNO responded to one of my tweets and asked me to relook at their proposal. I did (CWG-WCIT12/C-109 of 6 June 2012). On the face, it appears that they are concerned about broadband quality of service, a real problem that we have been working on since 2007. But then they go off the rails. The solution to QoS is supposedly treaty-level language mandating that “Member States shall facilitate the development of international IP interconnections providing both best effort delivery and end to end quality of service delivery,” and that “Operating Agencies shall endeavour to provide sufficient telecommunications facilities to meet requirements of and demand for international telecommunication services.
Ayesha Zainudeen, Senior Research Manager at LIRNEasia, spoke at the recent expert meeting of the UNESCAP in Colombo. Below is a long quote. There is more at FT. Other than voice, it’s mostly SMS use, along with missed calling. Voice connectivity is almost ubiquitous.
Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan has been extensively quoted in an analytical piece on backhaul concerns in Asia, published in Capacity magazine. Coincidentally, this is directly connected to the post a short while back on the data tsunami. One man, however, has come up with an ambitious concept that could potentially dwarf any existing terrestrial projects and radically reduce Asia’s reliance on subsea cables. Abu Saeed Khan is senior policy fellow at the Asia-Pacific ICT policy and regulatory think tank LIRNEasia, and his clear vision is to utilise the extensive Asian Highway Network project by deploying an open access terrestrial optical mesh backbone alongside it. The Asian highway project brings together 32 countries in Asia and Europe and is assisted by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) which aims to create a highway system from Japan all the way to Turkey.
Consumers in Asia get less value for money than their counterparts in N America.  One reason for this is that the key input of international connectivity is expensive (300% that in Europe and N America).  More cables, undersea and terrestrial, are needed to bring these prices down.  The Indian Ocean has fewer cables than the Atlantic and the Pacific. The Asian land mass has almost none.