What is LIRNEasia?

Posted on September 19, 2004  /  3 Comments

a speech by Executive Director Rohan Samarajiva

In one of my intemperate moments I’ve said that Asia is a category that is of use only to international bureaucrats. There is little that the entire region holds in common. This is the area that has the largest concentration of poor people in the world.

Asia is seen, however, as driving the world economy. The Asian Tigers, and the Juggernauts of China and India. If you look at the ICT issues, you get into this orgy of self-congratulation, but if you really look at the number – developing Asia is a straggler. And what about people? This LIRNEasia organization is about people. We have people, the only problem is that our people flourish in Australia, in Canada. When we are here, there seems to be some problem with the system.

Taiwan, China has highest mobile penetration 110 mobiles per 100 individuals. But the Afghanistan and Bangladesh bring up the rear with 1/100 and 1.01/100.

Korea has the highest Internet, while Sri Lanka and India are way behind. They have 23.33/100 broadband connections, while India has 0.01/100. Broadband is cheapest in China (10$/month) while I was surprised to see that Sri Lanka is 11th, at 22$/Month.

What is the bottom line? The bottom line is that Asia is held back by laws, policies, and regulation. We are not poor because we don’t have natural resources.

We think LIRNEasia will be a catalyst for change. A catalyst is a small entity that reacts with larger entities to produce great change.

The immediate objective is to build a world-class team here. What we want is applied research and dissemination. The end objective is, of course, money in the pocket and hope in the heart.

We will also work on context-specific training for executives and rapid-response interventions. In Bhutan we had a wonderful demand-driven course. It got people at the time when they were interested. We need to go for those moments.

What we think is that we’ll have a little administrative core surrounded by rings of an extended network. We will emphasize Asian expertise, but we won’t be exclusive about this. We do case studies, but our policy is to abstract from the complexity to produce information that other countries can use.

Possible Projects:

* Eastern Nepal and Sri Lanka least-cost subsidy auctions
* Innovating at the markets (Indonesian WiFi)
* India’s universal service fund
* Replicating Grameen Bangladesh
* Demand-Side subsidies
* Microeconomic assesments, etc
* Focus on lack of backbone
* Annual Sector and Regulatory Performance Indicators
* Ongoing training programs
* Web

We specialize in usable, actionable knowledge.

1. Creating (research)
2. Disseminating (multi-mode)
3. Creating conditions for learning

We will be independent and respected for expertise by multiple sides and parties. We will do work that leads to implementation. We will be passionate and committed.


  1. Training…

    I am working as a regulator for the last one year.

    I believe one of the problems of being followers in deregulating telecom sector is that country specific aspects get ignored and much of the efforts is lost by learning about others’ experiences while not being able to relate them with the country specific aspects on ground.

    Issues like competition and anticompetitive activities are anybody’s interpretation and the question whether to intervene or not remains as confusing to be or not to be!

    Competition is definitely not the only issue and there is a lot more that requires a 180 degree shift and broader and deeper understanding.

    This is where training that is tailor made to adress “our issues” and not just telcom issues becomes more relevant and important if we want to be effective.

    I hope Lirne Asia cna be one such institution where south asia specific training and consultancy is available.

    I wish you all the best.

  2. Aasif, Thank you for the comments and the good wishes. The L in LIRNE stands for learning, not training. We did this purposely to emphasize the importance of the “trainee” actively assimilating the knowledge, rather than simply taking the information given as the Truth. In all our work we emphasize the active participation of the local audience, but that does not mean that we should not be looking at the experience of others. There is not much point in my coming to your country and telling you about your conditions. I have to talk about the principles and how they have been applied successfully or otherwise in conditions somewhat similar to yours. I will post the syllabus of a course I have just finished teaching here in Sri Lanka (where I know the local conditions extremely well). Even here, the emphasis is on balancing between learning from international best practice and applying to local conditions.

  3. Thanks for your reply. I see that the web layout has remarkably changed since my last visit. I agree with you on the need of understanding of the principles and also understand that we cannot have such tailor made sessions but can have “context specific trainings”.

    The reality is that in the absence of the adequate knowledge of such principles it becomes more difficult to change the regulatory slumber even if you are rightly positioned on issues.

    Most of the regulators that I know have not gone through such basic orientation either through formal “training” (including myself) or informal ways and that creates “additional” barriers to effective decision making.

    The country references are often misused or are outdated. The South African experience in implementing the USO is quite interesting because the perception was totally different. Similarly, the blind referencing to the successful USO mechanism in Chile without looking at the local regulatory framework is a problem.

    The point is that there is great need for training courses or “L” based fora where such issues can be brought up for better understanding. I hope LIRNE Asia intends to take up these issues. I am certainly interested in participating in such learning initiatives based on issues relating to Asia.

    And all this reminds me about your statement that every regulator should have copy of the principles of natural law on his desk…..i think thats a good point to start!

    Please do upload the Syllabus.