I was in Thimphu, speaking to more than half of the small regulatory agency’s professional staff. I’ve been engaged with BICMA since its inception in 2001 and I routinely volunteer to do something with the staff when I visit. This time, I offered to talk about systematic reviews, centered on one that we completed recently on the economic benefits of mobiles in rural areasbust re
Bhutan had spent 80 percent of its universal-service funds on rural rollout and BICMA was interested in demonstrating to government what impacts the rollout had achieved. I guess the most effective in terms of persuading politicians would a new study that specifically looks at the results in Bhutan. But given the nature of this Himalayan country, around 800,000 people distributed across a series of valleys that are separated by mountain ranges, this would be a costly exercise. I said that the aggregated evidence on the benefits of extending networks was clear enough that such a study could be dispensed with.
On the other hand, the evidence we were able to glean from the studies that dealt with the benefits of handsets and the introduction of specific information services such as Reuters Market Lite were not robust enough to base such definitive conclusions upon. If the government of Bhutan was indeed introducing handset subsidies or rolling out agricultural or other information services, it would be good to design new studies, learning from the shortcomings identified in the Systematic Review.