World Bank


Myanmar is the rising star in global telecoms market and anything new hits the headlines. Bharti Airtel’s claim of activating a terrestrial optical fiber cable link between India and Myanmar is one such example. An undisclosed sum has been reportedly invested in a 6,500rkm (route km) terrestrial link. It will be connected to Airtel’s landing stations in Chennai and Mumbai. Ajay Chitkara, the company’s director & CEO (global voice & data business) told the Economic Times: ‘The terrestrial cable link is a strategic fibre asset for Airtel in the SAARC region, which will enable the company to offer robust end-to-end connectivity solutions in Myanmar, which is seeing rapid uptake of digital services as one of the last growth frontiers in Asia.
I am sitting here at a World Bank consultation on setting priorities for Bank lending in 2017-22. I was shocked by some of the comments, an example being: why isn’t there government-provided training for BPM? It seems that people are still stuck in government-centric thinking. What is the track record of government in providing training for globally-competitive industries? It has been a spectacular failure, except perhaps the case of the German Tech Institute, which is an extraordinary resource for Australia.
I moderated a panel session on “Affordable International Backhaul” at ITU’s annual event in Doha on December 8, 2014. Success of a moderator solely depends on the panel members’ participation. I am truly indebted to all of them. Doug Madory, Director of Internet Analysis, Dyn Research, pointed out, from a purely technical perspective, when it comes to creating an ICT hub, there is little difference whether a country is landlocked or on the coast. “It is wishful thinking to design developmental projects without the regulatory framework and basic best practices which enable investment in the sector, “ said Khaled Naguib Sedrak, CEO and Founder, NxtVn.
The latest data compilation from the World bank is out. I found particularly interesting Table 5.11 which reports electricity and ICT indicators. Despite all the talk of the power of the Internet, only fixed and mobile voice indicators are reported. I guess that is better than reporting bad data on Internet users.
This World Bank blog throws in the new, new thing “big data.” But really with little substance. Some unthinking hack. Information technology can be a powerful tool to empower the citizen. In Pakistan, where mobile phone penetration is almost 70 percent, it is possible to reach even the poorest households.
We know how much pent up demand there is in Myanmar for voice and data communication. The government has fast-tracked reforms to respond. World Bank and others, including LIRNEasia in our small way, are striving to help. Some tunnel-visioned do-gooders are trying to hold back informed reforms that will learn from the experiences of countries that have liberalized their markets before Myanmar, but we hope they will fail. Giving the people of Myanmar what most people take for granted poses significant challenges.
A short piece I wrote on my own time (IDRC is subject to Canadian government restrictions against any expenditures of Canadian funds in/for Myanmar) was just published in English in the Myanmar Times. I am hopeful the Bamar translation will also be published. The text is below: In 2010, I worked on a section of an ITU report about information and communication technologies in the least developed countries (ITU, 2011). Analyzing the countries that were at the bottom of the league tables in telecom, I found to my unhappiness that Burma was one before the last in mobile telephony. Hearing that N Korea was reaching 1 million active connections by end 2011, I checked the data again.
The World Bank is a classic big bureaucracy. It’s rare for a single person to change the direction of this aircraft carrier (McNamara and Wolfensohn came close). Here’s the new front runner. Interesting choice by Obama: Born in Seoul, Korea in 1959, Jim Yong Kim moved with his family to the United States at the age of five and grew up in Muscatine, Iowa. His father, a dentist, also taught at the University of Iowa, where his mother received her Ph.
Yesterday I heard a speaker at the ICTD 2012 conference in Atlanta say that 80% of the USD 4.2 billion spent by the World Bank on ICTs had been labelled as a failure by the Independent Evaluation Group. I had read the study in detail, and had blogged about it. I still wonder how language such as that below, taken from the report, can be interpreted thus: In other priority areas, including ICT applications, the Bank Group’s contributions have been limited. Targeted efforts to increase access beyond what was commercially viable have been largely unsuccessful.
The World Bank – Google collaboration seems a brilliant idea; key to its success is how national government react. But if even some cooperate . . . .
LIRNEasia has always believed in the efficacy of engagement and in the futility of boycott. Even when the conditions of our funding prevented us from spending money on citizens of Burma, we spent from our meager overhead funds to maintain engagement. We are continuing this practice at CPRsouth6 in Bangkok this month. Thus we are more than pleased to see the US removing the blocks on engagement with Burma: The steps Mrs. Clinton announced on Thursday were modest in scale but important symbolically.
The office of the Pacific ICT Regulatory Resource Centre (PIRRC) was officially opened for business on 10 November 2011 on the campus of the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva by Ms. Elizabeth Powell, Permanent Secretary for Public Enterprises, Communications, Civil Aviation and Tourism, Government of Fiji. Earlier this year, LIRNEasia won the contract to establish the PIRRC with initial funding from World Bank and relocated its Senior Policy Fellow M. Aslam Hayat to act as PIRRC’s founder director. The distinguished guests included Regulators and representatives of Pacific Island Countries, Representatives of the World Bank, the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association, the International Telecommunications Union, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Japan International Co-operation Agency as well as the Vice Chancellor and representatives of USP.
It’s always a challenge to decipher the special language of evaluation reports, but this para in the recent evaluation report on the ICT activities of the World Bank does seem like an indictment of universal service programs. 4.28 Equity and integration of marginalized groups have been more effectively supported by Bank support for ICT policy and sector reform than by operations specifically designed to achieve these goals. ICT operations that supported reforms to introduce competition into the sector, when successful in supporting those reforms, have had significant impact, especially in access to cellular telephony services. This increase in overall access has had a spill-over effect of providing access to the underserved.
LIRNEasia has won the contract to establish the Pacific ICT Regulatory Resource Center, based at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. This assignment from the World Bank will see M. Aslam Hayat, Senior Policy Fellow, relocate to Suva (actually he should land in Suva today) to establish the center as its founder director. In line with the axiom that all problems are easy if we can solve the hardest ones, LIRNEasia has been interested in the problems of regulation in micro states. This is where capacity issues are most challenging.
When one only reforms only a part of an interconnected sector, the unreformed parts start to atrophy. Because of union resistance and the perception that the post was not that much of a money maker to start with, the hitherto conjoined posts and telecom were bifurcated and reform efforts focused on telecom. So 30 years after bifurcation, what has happened to the post, saved from from the depredations of foreign capital and World Bank advice? Sri Lanka’s state-run postal service lost 3.0 billion rupees in 2010 up 22 percent from a year earlier, while revenues fell 6.
We work with data, so we see the evidence: more people have phones, more houses have permanent roofs, more homes have refrigerators, and so on. Yet, the everyday conversations harp on the failures. We too talk about them, because we must, but we do so in the form of “what could have been better” rather than failure. Charles Kenny, an economist whose work we have been following for some time, has written a new book called Getting Better, dealing with this problem. Here is an excerpt from the review: Among the seven major regions into which the World Bank divides the planet, life expectancy has grown more since 1980 in the Middle East and North Africa than anywhere else (12.
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