2011 August


False warnings and evacuations are a serious problem in disaster risk reduction. Too many, and people will not behave properly when the danger really comes. The debate appears to be joined in relation to the preparations made to face Hurricane Irene: Should those whose job it is to prepare for the worst be punished because the worst didn’t happen? What determines your judgment of politicians’ reaction is what happens to you. Those washed out from North Carolina to New Jersey to Vermont don’t think government overreacted.
The retirement of Steve Jobs from active management at Apple has been commented on by many. Paul Saffo’s comment about the reconceptualization of the Internet experience resonates with much that LIRNEasia has been talking about. The other point about not anchoring innovation on how consumers actually live their lives is more problematic. As the NYT says: Mr. Jobs did not so much see around corners; he saw things in plain sight that others did not.
The government has not backed off on the discriminatory and anti-poor “market competition factor” that was subject to a detailed critique when announced. Per Mhz spectrum charge has been set on the basis of their market share or ‘market contribution factor’ (MCF) which was previously known as ‘utilisation factor’ in the draft licensing guideline of the BTRC. According to the policy of the MCF prescribed by the telecom ministry, if an operator has more than 20 percent market share, it will have to pay additionally, while an operator with less than 20 percent share will pay at a reduced rate. The MCF for Grameenphone now stands at 1.48, Banglalink 1.
Irene was far from our areas of interest, but not far from the newspapers we read. Looks like mobile networks performed well; while fixed had trouble. Wireless phone networks held up well against Hurricane Irene despite widespread losses of power. Many people who lost electricity were able to communicate using e-mail and social networks, thanks to battery-powered mobile devices. As cleanup crews and homeowners began to assess the scope of the damage on Sunday, wireless phone companies were reporting that the storm’s effect on their networks was minimal and that most customers did not experience cellular disruptions, despite the high winds and ferocious rains.
Citizens got panicked when an earthquake rocked New York last week. They immediately started calling family and friends from mobile phones. This is how everyone reacts during emergency worldwide. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile phone. Mobile networks of New York, however, failed soon after getting overloaded with so many simultaneous calls.
We know, from our experience with teleuse@BOP surveys, that getting an accurate fix on levels of income and assets (poverty) is not easy. An experiment in Indonesia suggests that asking the village to decide is superior, because it is almost as accurate as the standard method which uses household assets and generates greater buy-in (less complaints). One thing I did not get from the writeup was relative cost. Convening a community meeting is not costless. Neither is the asset-based method.
Reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a rite of passage for college students (should still be). The key point I took away from it was the need to focus on quality. My most favorite economics book is Exit, Voice and Loyalty, by Albert Hirschman. Also a discourse on quality. Perhaps because I read Zen at an impressionable age .
Jeffrey Sachs is a superstar. His advice contributed to the mess in post-Communist Russia, but that did not hinder him in any way from dispensing advice elsewhere (I met him when came to Sri Lanka in 2002; after I told him what we had done or were doing on telecom, he moved on to dispense advice on other topics). His opinion matters much. He has described the mobile as the single most transformative technology for development. He expands on this statement in an interview on AllAfrica.
My colleague who made the previous post had neglected to look at the cause of the so-called spike in inactive SIMs. The cause is a change in definition, plain and simple. The market revaluation has been triggered by rule changes in the activity period allowed for prepaid users and the effect of mandatory SIM registration. Previously, users would see their services terminated if they had not recharged their prepaid cards or placed/received a call within a period of 180 days. In 2010, that period was reduced to 90 days and, recently, the TRAI has reportedly reduced the period to just 20 days.
Findings of Wireless Intelligence suggests that India’s mobile subscriber base is 30% lesser than what it appears to be. It said India has long been perceived to be trailing China in terms of gigantic mobile market. The fact is: nearly a third of the estimated 850 million Indian mobile customers are inactive. Almost 250 million mobile connections were inactive in the fourth quarter – the equivalent size of major mobile markets such as Brazil and Russia – Wireless Intelligence said, citing figures from TRAI. If these figures are accurate, it means India’s mobile penetration would be more accurately 48%, compared to the official estimate of 68%.
The Libyans are about to share the best gift of Eid – freedom. If blood is the currency of liberty, the Libyans have overpaid compared to  the Tunisians and Egyptians combined. Renesys’ CTO Jim Cowie, writing in the Huffington Post, has been trying to track what’s been happening to the country’s Internet connection in the midst of the chaos. Stop Press: the net is back. Read full report.
A research article that will shortly be published in Information Technology and International Development got me thinking about Engel’s Law, which states that as income rises, the proportion of income spent on food falls, even if actual expenditure on food rises. The article is by Aileen Aguero, Harsha de Silva and Juhee Kang. It’s not about food prices, per se, but about some extensions that allow the identification of necessary goods and luxuries. Their interesting finding is that voice telephony is a necessity in Asia (in the six countries covered by LIRNEasia’s teleuse@BOP research), while it is still a luxury in Latin America. How could the same thing be a luxury in one place and a necessity in another?
Everyone has got an opinion on Google’s takeover of Motorola Mobility. But according to a report, it has the blessings of Martin Cooper, the man who invented the mobile phone. We had one post on him, but given all the effort we devote to mobile phones, that surely is not enough. One link led to another and then to a very nice piece that not only tells about Martin Cooper, but also locates the equipment that made the first mobile call possible.
The “mobiles in support of Sentinel Site Surveillance (mS-cube)” project, following the success of the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP), investigated the scalability and institutionalization issues. The mS-cube project was carried out in the Wayamba Province of Sri Lanka. The Infectious Disease Control (IDC) nurses, in the province, were given training on the “mHealthSurvey” mobile application and provided with mobile phones for submitting digitized all outpatient and inpatient health records. The findings are that the relatively older IDC nurses find it difficult to enter data with the mobile keypad and do not have an incentive to submit all patient records (i.e.

Fixing the post

Posted by on August 18, 2011  /  1 Comments

In the 13 years I lived in the US, I saw the postal service change. It was a horrible, rude bureaucracy when I moved there; and I saw the reengineering at work in the last few years. Counter staff were actually trained to smile and be nice to customers (and those who could not be converted, were sent to back offices where they could “go postal”). You stood in a line, staff would come up to the line with handheld devices to serve customers with minor needs such as a sheet of stamps, shortening the line for people with complex problems that had to be dealt with at the counter. They started selling wrapping paper and tape and creating spaces for people to wrap gifts according to USPS rules.
Market share is never the final determinant of market power. It is used as a screen for further investigation and/or to shift the burden of proof. So, for example, an HHI (Herfindahl Hirschman Index) greater than 1700 or 1800 is triggers anti-trust investigations by the US government in the case of mergers and acquisitions. In the case of determining significant market power in telecom regulation (LIRNEasia is quite skeptical about the value of this approach in developing countries), market shares of around 35-45 percent shift the burden on the operator to prove that it does not have market power (the ability to set and maintain prices in simple language). But in Bangladesh 20 percent market share is the magic number.
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