2013 September

Ranjula Senaratna Perera CRPsouth2013 Mysore, India
The survey was conducted among the low-income, urban micro-entrepreneurs (MEs) in three countries, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. The study defined micro-entrepreneurs as those who employed less than ten hired workers, i.e 0-9. The hired workers are paid employees or full-time equivalent, excluding the owner. This is an adaptation of international definition followed by World Bank and European Commission1.
During ESCAP’s Expert Consultation in Manila last week, I was often asked in private if terrestrial networks can deliver what the submarine cables do. I always answered affirmative citing EPEG or Europe-Persia Express Gateway. A scholarly publication by James Cowie of Renesys has coincided with ESCAP’s event and objective: EPEG is now the Internet’s fastest path between the Gulf and Europe, shaving at least ten percent off the best submarine cable round trip time from Dubai to Frankfurt. It follows the terrestrial great circle path through Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Ukraine, and Germany. EPEG’s greatest selling point this year isn’t the 10% latency reduction; it’s simply that it doesn’t go through Egypt.
Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan and I participated in the ESCAP consultation that sought input on three documents: a report on the state of optical-fiber-based connectivity in the ASEAN region, a new interactive map of international and domestic fiber cables in Asia and a report by LIRNEasia on resilience of ICT infrastructures. The agenda and links to presentations are here. Following revisions, our report too should be published.
The Economist has a piece on mobiles and banking in Myanmar. This is the world’s leading popular publication on economics, but in this case, it appears the hype has overtaken logic. What is banking? It is the business activity of accepting and safeguarding money owned by other individuals and entities, and then lending out this money in order to earn a profit. Mobile can play a role in this, but does the Economist really believe that phone companies will actually do well as deposit-taking and credit-extending entities?
It is easy for Filipino researchers to care about 1 GB of IP transit costing eight times more in Manila than in Singapore. But it not so easy to understand why working to establish a mesh network that includes multiple cables across the continental Asian landmass has any relevance to this archipelagic country. This is the discussion we had today during a presentation organized by the Phil ICT Research Network at University of the Philippines Diliman Campus. The slideset is here.
The Packet Clearing House is a great repository of knowledge about the way the Internet is developing. Being a decentralized network there is no central entity that decides on things or even collects data about what is happening. So entities such as PCH play an important role. The recent UN General Assembly speech by President Rouseff was perhaps the strongest response to spying by the NSA. The commentary by Bill Woodcock of PCH provides an excellent framework to understand the issues.
We’ve been working with UNESCAP since 2010 on addressing a key condition for affordable and reliable broadband in Asia. Today, I was impressed by how far UNESCAP has advanced the process. I am a strong believer in the power of image. They had, together with ITU, commissioned a map of the existing fiber optic cables. This will, after all the necessary approvals have been received (good luck on presenting a map of India that won’t upset somebody!
Bangladesh took a giant leap in terms of redefining broadband from 128 Kbps to 1 Mbps at the end of last year. Such politically motivated administrative intervention has, however, failed to improve its abysmal broadband profile in the region. The Broadband Commission, in conjunction with ITU and UNESCO, has published the “State of Broadband 2013: Universalizing Broadband” report on September 21, 2013. Various indicators of broadband covering 194 countries until the end of 2012 have been captured in this publication. It shows that Bangladesh ranks 161 with 6.
It has been reported that the CEO of Yatanarpon Teleport, until now believed to be 100% government owned, has stated that is company has been privatized, with the government now holding only 5 percent of the equity. However done (auction or negotiation), privatizations are not this secret. The fact that no one seems to know who the owner(s) of the 95 percent of the company are adds to the mystery.
Cuba has activated its first submarine cable early this year and we covered the island’s digital divide. That is Castro’s Cuba under US economic sanction since Kennedy’s era. Part of Cuba named Guantanamo has been under America’s control where a naval base is housed since 1903. The prison of ‘war on terror’ is also located there. It will be now connected with the mainland of USA through a submarine cable.
I thought 35 billion was a bit much. That was what the now under-radical-revision NBN was going to cost the Australian taxpayer. Even for a country with more than 60 times the population of Australia, USD 323 billion seems excessive. But, hey, they have to do something with the cash that’s piling up . .
The US is where most ICTs were invented and put to use. But, it is proving difficult to clearly specify how the benefits flow. If it is difficult in the US, it cannot be easy in our countries. We also have access to far more sophisticated consumer goods, from the iPhone to cars packed with digital devices. And the cost of many basic staples, notably food, has fallen significantly.
LIRNEasia is not known as an energy shop, but we’ve been getting into electricity issues gradually. In a week or so, LIRNEasia will be making a presentation to the Public Utility Commission of Sri Lanka on the best ways to introduce demand-side management. This NYT article shows how difficult deviating from the conventional path is and how much care has to be taken in effecting reforms in this critical area. German families are being hit by rapidly increasing electricity rates, to the point where growing numbers of them can no longer afford to pay the bill. Businesses are more and more worried that their energy costs will put them at a disadvantage to competitors in nations with lower energy costs, and some energy-intensive industries have begun to shun the country because they fear steeper costs ahead.
I first publicly presented the proposal of terrestrial connectivity between Asia and Europe at CommunicAsia 2011 in Singapore. Laying fiber along the Asian Highway, being fostered by ESCAP, across the seamless Eurasian terrain has been central to my advocacy for affordable broadband in Asia. It drew ESCAP’s attention, as Rohan has acknowledged. As a result, I was invited to explain my study in two ESCAP workshops during 2012. I have been consistently emphasizing on Asia’s increasing Internet connectivity with Europe.
In 2010, Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan proposed that we address the problem of expensive and unreliable international backhaul in Asia. UN Under Secretary General Noeleen Hayzer of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) understood the importance of the issue and we began to work with ESCAP. By 2013, the initiative has quite a bit of wind behind its sails. Two studies have been done on South East and Central Asia. The link between the lack of redundancy in backhaul and disaster management is being explored.