Helani Galpaya, COO of LIRNEasia, was invited by the Strategic Affairs Directorate to speak at a seminar on Alternatives for Infrastructure Development and Broadband Access. Brazil is embarking on an ambitious program to increase broadband penetration, and is currently discussing various options – one of the more interesting being the provision of a government-owned backbone, using the dark fibre that is currently owned by the electricity and petroleum companies. The pros and cons of this, and other options were discussed at the seminar, and a the full day of closed-door discussions that followed between the speakers and the Strategic Affairs Directorate staff. Helani focused on the importance of thinking about the market structure (whether or not there was sufficient competition at all points in the network) and demand stimulation. For example, Nokia’s TCO study shows that Brazil has the highest cost for mobile users among all the countries studied (possibly driven by highly asymmetric interconnection rates and lack of sufficient competition, among other things). Further, the experience in Sri Lanka (through e-Sri Lanka) shows that the government’s role as a catalyst is sufficient – private sector and civil society can drive demand-stimulation with a little help from government.
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