2010 August


Much of the work of LIRNEasia must be seen on the context of connectivity fueling growth.   Connectivity does not mean simply electronic connectivity, but also the removal of barriers, including barriers to trade and investment.  Using comments by Nobel Laureate Micheal Spence at Harvard Forum II last September as the anchor, Rohan talks about how best South Asia, and Sri Lanka in particular, can position itself to ride out the after effects of the Great Recession. Details of the event here. Click here to view presentation.
A month or so back, I wrote the following Voice calls will be “free” in the future. The quotation marks signify that nothing is really free. In the natural evolution of the industry, there will come a time when customers will pay for connectivity in various forms, either by data volumes or time. Voice will simply be one among many applications they can use as part of this connectivity bundle. I didn’t think the future would come so soon.
We would like your comments and suggestions in helping us define a methodology for benchmarking ILC prices. As part of our annual international voice and broadband price benchmarking reports (Indicators continued) we have decided to include ILC prices for selected countries within the region (Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia). The first step was to compare available ILC benchmarking methodologies and use this comparison study as a base to create our own. The lack of freely available information on the same (Sources explored were OECD, ITU, APCC and TeleGeography), prompted us to define a methodology irrespective to what may be available elsewhere. What we’d like to compare are leased line prices for given speeds (E1: 2Mbps, DS-3: 45 Mbps or STM-1: 155Mbps, where applicable) from the cities LIRNEasia works in, to cities around the world based on traffic flow – another data set that is not freely available.
We have been saying for sometime that telecom operators urgently needed to think beyond their core voice business. Mobile, beyond voice, is what we wrote about incessantly in the past two years. Here’s more reason: Google entered a new business beyond Internet search on Wednesday with a service within Gmail to make phone calls over the Web to landlines or cellphones. The service will thrust Google into direct competition with Skype, the Internet telephone company, and with telecommunications providers. It could also make Google a more ubiquitous part of people’s social interactions by uniting the service for phone calls with e-mail, text messages and video chats.
Last week, LIRNEasia’s lead scientist and the director of the knowledge to innovation project, Dr Sujata Gamage, made a presentation to the annual sessions of one of Sri Lanka’s oldest social science associations, the Social Scientists’ Association (SSA), on the literature pertaining to Research to Policy and how to take research to the policy process. Given the preoccupation of those associated with the SSA with the ethnic issue in the past decades, the very fact that they invited Sujata to react to the papers that were presented suggests a transition is underway from Right to Protect (R2P) to Research to Policy (R2P). The presentation is likely to be useful for anyone wanting a quick and comprehensive overview of the literature. It uses the work being done at LIRNEasia on the delivery of government services with IDRC support as an exemplar and is possibly the first publication of some of the findings of her research on self-organizing networks that are emerging among Sri Lankan local government authorities.
The Kim-family-owned North Korea has the world’s lowest mobile penetration despite having issued a 3G license to Orascom. Right next to them at the bottom of the league table is Myanmar, which used to charge a horrendous fee to get connected only to postpaid. Now it appears that they have started offering some kind of non-renewable prepaid. Even mothballed Myanmar is coming along, albeit slowly. Until recently, its military rulers did not permit pre-paid mobile services on its network.
There was talk that India would get 4G mobile before 3G mobile, given all the delays in licensing. That won’t happen. But 4G is not pie in the sky, according to the Economist: WHILE much of the world is still rolling out the third generation (3G) of mobile networks, some countries have already moved on to the fourth (4G). Russia offers an intriguing example. Yota, a start-up with no old voice business to protect, has built a 4G network from scratch, burying 3,000km (1,864 miles) of fibre-optic cables to connect its wireless base stations.
The colloquium was led by Sriganesh Lokanthan. The objective of this colloquium was to develop an appropriate methodology for conducting value-chain analyses in the agricultural sector, in the context of mobilising ICTs, in particular, for developing an inclusive knowledge-based economy. The objectives of the study are: Achieve an in‐depth understanding of how innovations related to ICTs and related infrastructures are used (and may be used) to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of studied agricultural value chains; the specific focus is on increasing the participation (inclusiveness) of small players (especially MSEs/SMEs) within the value chain through various forms of value addition and the reduction of various forms of transaction costs. Harsha – When we do research, not all of our innovations will be implemented. Main reason is the transaction cost of disseminating knowledge.
Abu Saeed Khan, Senior Policy Fellow, who has been with LIRNEasia from the very beginning, has been appointed as the first Secretary General of AMTOB, the mobile operators association of Bangladesh. We congratulate Abu and wish him the very best in contributing to the advance of Bangladesh through productive private-public partnerships. Knowing Abu, we are confident that he will use this prestigious position to steer Bangladesh away from unproductive confrontations of the type we have seen over the past years, to one where the mobile operators who have done the heavy lifting in getting the people of Bangladesh connected electronically will also be allowed to play their due role in the government’s plans to reach middle-income status by 2021 (the fiftieth anniversary of the republic) through actions such as the implementation of Digital Bangladesh. AMTOB is an industry body and he will have to represent the industry. But we are confident that one can represent an industry and also serve the public interest, especially in the context of a rapidly expanding pie.
Sri Lanka has a peculiar media structure. The government has its own TV stations (2), radio (2) and also an entire newspaper publishing company. These have no similarity to the BBC and CBC, on which they were modeled. These are out and out propaganda operations. I cut my media teeth at the government radio station in 1978-79 (it was a monopoly back then, so I had no choice) and have done many programs there since.
A fascinating discourse among five researchers on how ICT use may or may not affect the brain, while being completely cut off from electronic communications (except for one satellite phone). A long piece, but well worth the read. “Attention is the holy grail,” Mr. Strayer says. “Everything that you’re conscious of, everything you let in, everything you remember and you forget, depends on it.
Occasionally a piece on what the Internet is doing to our brains catches our attention. Sometimes we address topics of censorship and privacy though it is not our main focus. A review of a book on the early days of the printed book in Europe (not Korea) caught our attention. Should be interesting reading–the book. The review definitely is.
We want your comments and suggestions in Teleuse@BOP4 questionnaire design In our most recent demand-side ICT study, Teleuse@BOP3, we asked bottom of the pyramid (BOP) phone owners if and how often they used their phone (mobile or fixed) for business purposes or any other financial or work-related purposes. The responses we got were quite encouraging: Teleuse@BOP4 is almost underway. This time, we have decided to seek out the wisdom of the crowds in designing and fine-tuning some of the questions that we ask in Teleuse@BOP4. Responses to the question of business use of phones are important in this research cycle, where we are trying to understand , inter alia, what services (including telecom) would better equip SMEs (many of which are owned by or employ people at the BOP) to participate in the knowledge based economy. Similarly as important are the reasons that prevent greater use of phones for these purposes (trust, alternatives, cost, culture, etc).
The International Telecommunications Union – Development (ITU-D) has published the “Evaluating a Real-Time Biosurveillance Program” (RTBP) in their newest eHealth case study: “Land Scape of Tele-Health Infrastructure at points-of-service in India“.  ITU discusses only the component of the study taking place in Southern Tamil Nadu, India; while identical work is being carried out in North Western Province of Sri Lanka. This is a two country comparative study, made possible through a grant from the International Development Research Center of Canada. The RTBP introduced affordable mobile technology and fast responding statistical data mining algorithms to increase the efficiencies in the present day sluggish disease surveillance and mitigation systems in the respective countries.
It took us a long time to adopt a position on net neutrality, but finally we did, based on the lessons for policy we drew from the Budget Telecom Network Model (BTNM). We concluded that it was not appropriate for countries that relied on BTNM and the high volumes of use and extraordinarily low prices associated with it. Now it appears that two of the main protagonists of the fight over net neutrality in the US are crafting a compromise that will in effect end the debate. Google and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege. The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers.
Workaround, a term that describes an improvisation when the optimal solution is not available, is a key element in LIRNEasia’s work. Not that we particularly like them, but it seems that workarounds are all there are in our region, because governments fail to provide the optimal solutions. I was planning to write a short piece on the workaround that connected Sri Lanka first to email and then to the Internet back in the early 1990s based on a talk I gave at the .lk conference early July. But since the paper doesn’t look like it will get written right now and because I want to crowdsource the fact checking, I am posting the slides here: Dot LK .
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