2013 October

LIRNEasia had its first systematic review training from 18-20 October 2013 in Wadduwa, Sri Lanka. The workshop brought together 40 researchers and quantitative experts from 18 countries in Asia and Africa. The training was conducted by Hilary Thomson, PhD. The training workshop completed the first stage of an IDRC funded project to conduct Research Capacity Building in Systematic Reviews. In the second stage of the project, LIRNEasia will be conducting systematic reviews on the below mentioned topics.
A synthesis meeting on LIRNEasia’s Customer Relationship Management study was held on 26th and 27th October in New Delhi, India. LIRNEasia’s partner for its qualitative research, CKS presented their findings along with designs for service delivery improvements in the telecom, electricity and government sector. The meeting was attended by  LIRNEasia’s researchers and sector experts. The qualitative study complemented the supply side study done for the same sectors as well as the demand side quantitative survey on micro entrepreneurs, this is the first time that we have seen end to end results of the project. Dissemination strategy for the project results was also discussed though LIRNEasia will not be disseminating its findings immediately.
I was reminded of that old chestnut about a flagman having to walk in front of early automobiles when I heard some participants talk at the workshop on big data, social good and privacy. Imagine imposing inform and consent rules on transaction-generated data (big data) belonging to large corporate entities such as mobile operators. They need the data on user mobility patterns to manage their networks; they need financial transaction data to manage their finances. All these things can be covered under broad inform and consent procedures that will be presented to customers as they sign up. What will not be possible would be to permit use by third parties for traffic management, energy management, urban planning etc, since these uses could not be conceptualized at the time of signing up customers.
Today at IGF 2013 in Bali, I was part of a panel on cloud and mobile computing. We at LIRNEasia need cloud computing. But we are also realistic about the challenges. Here is the slideset I used to illustrate the quality problems. But I also talked about the weak links in the chain and what was being done to strengthen them.
When I was interviewed by a journalist from the Internet Journal, said to have one of the highest circulations in Myanmar, I offered him a short piece I had written about Myanmar. It’s now been translated into Bamar (except for the table and my name). The last few paras of the piece: The government intends to establish a regulatory agency within two years. In the interim, the Ministry of Post and Telecom will function as the regulator. There are concerns both about capacity to regulate in terms of technical skills and also in terms of ability to exercise authority over the incumbent allied with a military-backed entity.
I write this sitting in the office of the Pacific ICT Regulatory Resource Center. Thus the interest in Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). Going through the IDI rankings, I was sorry to see that only Fiji (rank 82); Tonga (rank 101) and Solomon Islands (rank 125) are included. Both Fiji and Solomon Islands have fallen back by one place, even though their scores have increased from 3.79 to 3.
Last year, there was a fuss about Bangladesh being excluded from the ITU’s IDI Index. We’ve periodically discussed the IDI even if we are not fans, exactly. We’ve periodically discussed the IDI even if we are not fans, exactly. Good news for Bangladesh this year. Not only do we know what their score last year was (1.
Saddam seems to be only physically absent in the post-Saddam Iraq. The Ministry of Communication, instead of an independent regulator, calls the shot in governing the country’s telecom sector. Recently it  erratically imposed a tax on the ISPs who procure Internet bandwidth from foreign carriers. The ISPs have immediately loaded that tax on retail prices. Bowing to  public anger, the government withdrew the tax.
That actually was said by a Verizon executive. Is this the future? Verizon’s move on this sliver of land is a look into the not-too-distant future, a foreshadowing of nearly all telephone service across the United States. The traditional landline is not expected to last the decade in a country where nearly 40 percent of households use only wireless phones. Even now, less than 10 percent of households have only a landline phone, according to government data that counts cable-based phone service in that category.
It’s always nice when someone whose work has been used in LIRNEasia wins a big award. Robert Shiller greatly influenced our thinking on risk-reduction in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It’s true that he did not get the 2013 Nobel for that work, but still we are happy that an economist who always found the time to engage with contemporary economic policy issues has been so recognized. Report.
Monthly 5.4 million online users hit Khan Academy and tens of thousands of schools use this educational video platform. But we live in a world where an estimated 65% of population lacks access to Internet. Even in the United States, not all schools have required bandwidth. It prompted Jamie Alexandre, a former intern at Khan Academy, to build a platform called KA Lite to run Khan Academy offline.
From India to Myanmar, debate has been engaged on what regulators should/should not do regarding mobile apps. Are telecom regulators the right people to promote innovation? Should mobile apps have to be licensed? Should mobile operators be prohibited from providing apps and value-added services, as was proposed in Bangladesh? These questions were discussed in the session that I presented at today at the 13th Asia Pacific Telecommunity Policy and Regulatory Forum.
A study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the International Telecommunication Union, and published on Oct 7, shows that only 30 percent of people ages 15 to 24 have spent at least five years actively using the Internet, the criterion used to define digital nativism. As expected, more than 90 percent of young people in high-income countries  are considered digital natives, with South Korea leading the way at 99.6 percent. But many low income countries lag far behind with an average of only 6% of youth being digital native. Interesting for us in developing Asia, is the fact that Malaysia ranks fourth globally, while most other countries rank below (Vietnam, 56 and Thailand, 85) and others well  below (Pakistan, 115; Bhutan, 123; Philippines, 124; Indonesia, 132; India, 139; Sri Lanka, 143; Afghanistan, 149).
These comparisons are, of course, problematic. But still engaging especially in the context of the launch of the Alliance for an Affordable Internet. Thailand yields no data. And I assume they work off advertised speeds rather than real . The Economist provides a nice interactive map.
Two journalists attended our five-day course on regulation in Taungoo, Myanmar last week. Both interviewed me on the sidelines. Below is the first, from Internet Journal. I can’t read it (cute pictures though); hope you can. Interview in Bamar
October 14 will be the first anniversary of launching 3G by TeleTalk in Bangladesh. The state-owned mobile outfit wasn’t required to pay anything for license or spectrum at that time. Authorities said that TeleTalk would pay exactly the same amount the private operators pay once the 3G auction is over. Now TeleTalk is to match the payment of Grameenphone (US$210 million + 5% VAT), as each of them use 10 megahertz 3G spectrum. The government strictly realizes payments from the private operators.
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