2010 November

Today at the IITCOE workshop Ashok Jhunjhunwala made a strong argument that the Indian government must hive off the backhaul networks of BSNL and have them be managed by a separate company. Interestingly Masayoshi Son, the Japanese entrepreneur has made more or less the same argument in Japan. Great minds think alike. The government is expected shortly to unveil a scheme to loop the country with fibre-optic lines that will support internet access at up to 100 megabytes a second, ten times the speed of the technology being replaced. Mr Son argues that to guarantee fair access to this network—and thus the most efficient use of it—it should be run by an infrastructure firm hived off from NTT, owned jointly by all the telecoms operators.
The common wisdom is that mobile number portability is an unmitigated good. But the whole point of doing research is challenging common wisdom. Based on evidence, we found that MNP has little relevance for our constituency, those at the bottom of the pyramid. We said so to Indian media, saying it would be a good thing for post-paid and corporate customers. We now find those ideas reflected in Indian media coverage, though not always with attribution, as for example in the Times of India: MNP works best with post-paid customers, as they are the highest paying of the lot.
LIRNEasia COO, Helani Galpaya was recently invited by the ITU to present LIRNEasia‘s proposed methodology for measuring Internet users of the world (WSIS Target 10). The current methodology measures the Internet users as a multiplier of the number of Internet subscriptions. At present, the multiplier is an arbitrary number proposed by national administrations. As a result, there is a wide range of unjustified multipliers even between countries that are of a similar status. The proposed methodology developed by Prof.
LIRNEasia Senior Research Manager, Ayesha Zainudeen, was recently invited to speak at a seminar organized by DIRSI, LIRNEasia‘s Latin American sister organization, to mark their five-year anniversary. Ayesha spoke on the various demand and supply-side mobile and broadband indicators LIRNEasia measures to guage sector performance in emerging Asia. The full presentation can be viewed here. The seminar, titled, “Telecommunications in Latin America: Persistent Gaps, Commitment and Opportunities” was organized within the framework of the 3rd Ministrial Meeting, eLAC, 2010. The seminar brought together scholars, practitioners and government officials from various countries in the region.
LIRNEasia Chair and CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, will make a presentation on “The Budget Telecom Network Model and its Extension to Wireless Broadband” at a workshop entitled, “Mobile Broadband: Igniting the Service Revolution” to be held on 26-27 November 2010 in New Delhi, India. Organized by the IIMA IDEA Telecom Centre of Excellence (IITCOE), the workshop brings together several key senior executives from the corporate, government and non-for-profit sectors in India. The PPT presentation is available for download here. More information on the event can be found here.
In September 2009,  LIRNEasia Chair and CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, participated in the second Harvard Forum on “Connection and human development” held at Harvard University, USA. Harvard Forum II was convened by Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Michael Spence, in collaboration with Randy Spence and theInternational Development Research Centre. Its aim was to bring together leading thinkers in the area of development to discuss how ICTs could contribute to poverty reduction in developing countries, both now and in the future. It was a follow-up to the Harvard Forum I held in 2003, where several needs in the ICT for development (ICT4D) area were identified (including ICT governance and regulatory reform, especially in the telecommunication sector).  One of the outcomes of Harvard Forum I was the funding of organizations such as LIRNEasia that seek to remove policy and regulatory barriers to the use of ICTs.
An external evaluation of the Pan Asian Networking program under which LIRNEasia was funded since 2006 has just been published on the IDRC website.  There are many references to LIRNEasia, one of the larger projects funded by PAN, but I found the para below the most intriguing: Influence on telecommunications policy reform has been one of the strongest areas of the program’s outcomes, at least in terms of explicit causality, specifically from the work of LIRNEasia.  According to many informants, however, LIRNEasia, is a special case given the organizational culture, the numbers of people devoted to working almost exclusively on policy issues, the specific policy arena in which they work, and the strong personality at the center of the group. While LIRNEasia successes are notable, the external review panel urges the program not to set LIRNEasia as a standard for outcomes, since their achievements would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. The quotation has been taken from the Findings Brief, prepared by the IDRC Evaluation Unit, though the same sentiments are also found in the External Review Report.
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.
I just received my copy of the book: Biosruveillance methods and case studies edited by Taha Kass-Hout and Xiaohui Zhang. I first met Taha in cyberspace when he was with InSTEDD, we had started a Google group: Biosurveillance, which we use as a knowledge-base. Their approach to disease surveillance was through “event-based surveillance” and our approach was through “indicator-based surveillance” but both converging at finding signals for timely public health alerts that would advocate early control measures. We had contributed three chapters in the context of the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program pilot (RTBP) – Chapter 9: “The role of Data Aggregation in Public Health and Food Safety Surveillance” – Artur Dubrawski Chapter 13: “User Requirements towards a Real-Time Biosurveillance Program” – Nuwan Waidyanatha and Suma Prashant Chapter 14: “Using Common Alerting Protocol to Support a Real-Time Biosurveillance Program in India and Sri Lanka” – Gordon A. Gow and Nuwan Waidyanatha.
Kentaro Toyama argues that so-called ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) doesn’t ensure the alleviation of poverty.  He presents a long list of failed projects – like telecenters and OLPC – to substantiate the argument.  He says: Technology—no matter how well designed—is only a magnifier of human intent and capacity. It is not a substitute. The myth of scale is the religion of telecenter proponents, who believe that bringing the Internet into villages is enough to transform them.
The bandwidth prices in Asia remain more than 300% expensive than the western hemisphere, said TeleGeography that has been constantly reporting this constant gap. But the Asian leaders seem unmoved about this fundamentally flawed and potentially dangerous trend across the continent. TeleGeography reports only the wholesale prices up to the gateway. Once the backhaul and licensing costs are taken into account, the Asian Internet bandwidth prices become far more expensive. Spectrum had been the only raw material of ICT until the 2G mobile became pervasive.
LIRNEasia CEO, Rohan Samarajiva will deliver a keynote address on broadband development in the Asia-Pacific at an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) organized by UNESCAP’s Committee on Information and Communications Technology in Bangkok, Thailand. Click here to view presentation slides. More information on the event is available here.
Findings from the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program was presented in the poster session at the mHealth Summit 2010 (Fig 1). Our partners from Auton Lab were creative in affixing an iPad to the poster to show a video of the working solution. Thanks to the marketing abilities of our friends from Auton Lab, our work caught the special attention of delegates from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, UN Foundation and several other global development agencies. The Gates Foundation’s video crew made an exclusive appearance to capture our poster content and interviewed Prof. Arutur Dubrawski, which made all others presenting their work a bit jealous.
The first keynote address at the CEO Conclave organized by Voice and Data included an announcement that India’s National Broadband Plan will be released in a few weeks.  Dr. J.S. Sarma, the Chair of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, said in addition that optical fiber will reach every Panchayat with more than 500 people.
PTTs wore the hat of “natural monopoly” until last century.  They firmly believed, “I am monarch of all I survey; My right there is none to dispute.” That was ended during the post-mobile era. Internet has further disrupted the orthodox dominance. Since then the new breeds of giants kept on emerging: Google, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook, Apple and others.
In its latest QoSE report, LIRNEasia compared download speeds, Round Trip Time (RTT, or the time delays in data transfer), Jitter (the variation in time between the arrival of data packets) and Packet Loss (the percentage of data packets that did not reach its destination) of broadband packages in 11 cities across 7 countries in South and Southeast Asia. RTT is a particularly important measure in systems that require two-way interactive communications and the methodology sets the threshold at a maximum of 300 ms. A high RTT means performance degradation in some of the Internet’s most popular applications such as the World Wide Web (www) and e-mail. Both packages tested in Manila, Philippines Smart’s 2 Mbps and BayanDSL’s 768 Kbps perform badly in this regard, with the latter going up to 570 ms RTT – the worst among the packages tested in the region. Access the QoSE and price benchmark reports here.
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