Report on the 12th Executive Course on Telecom Reform, 10 – 14 June 2008, conducted by LIRNEasia and CONNECTasia Forum (Pte.) Ltd. Rohan Samarajiva, Course Director The 12th Executive Course on “Telecom Reform: Strategies to achieve connectivity and convergence,” co-organized by LIRNEasia and Connectasia, and funded by the IDRC, was successfully completed by 21 persons from 13 countries, ranging from Brazil to Fiji and from Kenya to Kyrgyzstan. It was held from June 10th – 14th, 2008 at the Changi Village Hotel, Singapore. Participants consisted of 12 persons from research organizations, four from Public-interest organizations, three from the management of telecom operators and two from regulatory agencies.
LIRNEasia researchers participated at the International Telecommunications Society (ITS) 17th Biennial Conference in Montreal, Canada, from June 24-27 2008. The theme of the conference was on, ‘The Changing Structure of the Telecommunications Industry and the New Role of Regulation’. The picture above shows Professor Sudharma Yoonaidharma, Commissioner, National Telecommunciations Commission of Thailand commenting on the presentations made at the second of the two LIRNE.NET sessions, watched by (from left) Rohan Samarajiva and Payal Malik from LIRNEasia, Roxana Barrentes from DIRSI and Anders Henten from LIRNE Europe. The session was chaired by Hank Intven, Partner at the leading Canadian firm of McCarthy Tetrault (not in the picture).
An article, co-written by Anu Samarajiva, and LIRNEasia researchers Ayesha Zainudeen and Harsha de Silva, has been published in the Information for Development (i4d) magazine, on the efficacy of telephones in expediting socio-economic development and buttressing accessibility. Based on findings from the Teleuse@BOP study conducted in 2006, the article illustrates that while previous studies have provided strong evidence for the connection between phone access and development at a macro level, the link is less clearly visible at a micro-level, with low income users at the BOP failing to perceive the potential financial and economic benefits arising from access to telephony. The PDF version of the article can be accessed HERE. Results from the survey responses of 8,660 households do not manifest a strong correlation with the macroeconomic evidence that access to phones carries significant economic benefits. Where then is the disconnect coming from between what households perceive as the limited economic benefits of phone use, and the significant increases in macro-level output?
The New York Times documents a recent study conducted by Nielsen Mobile among 30, 000 wireless customers, that estimates over 3.6% of all mobile phone users in the United States have used their phones to pay for goods and services. This figure is expected to grow in the future, with nearly half of all users of text messages and mobile internet, stating that they hope to make a mobile phone purchase in the future. However, security concerns remain. 41 percent of the consumers who transmit data said security was the reason they didn’t buy things via their mobile phone.
An interesting article on the use of ICTs among those at the BOP, has been written by Syed Mohammed Ali, a participant at the 12th Executive Course on Telecom Reform, held recently in Singapore. The article explores the potential benefits users at the BOP can enjoy from the use of mobile telephony, as well as the current gender divide that exists in some developing countries. Development through mobiles | Daily Times, Pakistan Unless the prevailing range of gender-related hurdles in availing the opportunities being provided by communication technologies, it is likely that women may become further marginalised from the economic, social, and political mainstream of their countries. Citing LIRNEasia research, he argues that that the simplicity and affordability of mobile technology has allowed it to penetrate developing markets fairly quickly. However, an evident gender divide exists with regards to mobile accessibility in both Pakistan and India, and to a lesser extent in Sri Lanka.
An Expert Forum on ICT Sector Indicators and Benchmarks Regulation for SAARC Regulatory Authorities, co-organized by LIRNEasia and Connectasia, and funded by the IDRC, was held from June 14 – 15, 2008 at the Changi Village Hotel, Singapore. The forum brought together representatives from National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs), in addition to participants attending the 12th Executive Course on Telecom Reform, held prior to the event, at the same venue. Photos taken of the event can be viewed HERE. The presentations made are available for download below; a report outlining the day’s proceedings will follow shortly. 14 June 2008 Setting the Stage: Intelligent Regulation – Rohan Samarajiva (Dinner speaker) 15 June 2008 Collecting & Reporting Indicators: Problems & Potential – Helani Galpaya Broadband Quality of Service – Rajamanickam Thirumurthy Broadband QoS Test Results Illustration – Chanuka Wattegama NRA Website Survey: Asia- Pacific – Chanuka Wattegama and Lara Alawattegama Benchmarking broadband/data prices – Helani Galpaya Benchmarking telecom prices: The South Asian case – Tahani Iqbal Asian ICT Indicators Database: An introduction – Sriganesh Lokanathan
Grace Mirandilla, ICT4D researcher from the Philippines, has been a frequent face at LIRNEasia’s capacity building programs since 2005. Currently an Economic Policy Associate at the Policy Reform Program (PRP) of The Asia Foundation – Philippines, Grace’s research interests include community telecenters, ICT applications for rural areas, and policy reform in general. Her commitment to making an impact on the policy process has paid off significantly. Through consistent effort, she has established herself as a high-quality policy researcher. Grace exemplifies the success of LIRNEasia’s capacity building efforts.
The 12th Executive Course on Telecom reform organised by LIRNEasia and CONNECTasia FORUM gets underway in Singapore. The course will be held at Changi Village Hotel from 10-14 June, 2008. This year’s participants will have the added benefit of being part of the Expert Forum for SAARC region regulatory agencies on sector and regulatory performance indicators. The Expert Forum will be on 14-15 June, 2008. In addition to Dr.
Yesterday, LIRNEasia successfully concluded 1.5 day Knowledge sharing workshop on methods for ICT user research in emerging markets in Negombo, Sri Lanka. The workshop brought together researchers from the region to share methods (quantitative as well as qualitative) for accurately capturing the teleuse experience of those at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) or in emerging markets. In conducting its previous research (Teleuse@BOP1 and Teleuse@BOP2), LIRNEasia has found that this kind of research requires a different approach to that in more mature markets. Experience with research in developed markets has involved (in addition to sample surveys, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions) the analysis of telephone bills as well as call logs on mobile phones, and even the deployment of real time technologies such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR).
Rohan Samarajiva and Tahani Iqbal will participate at an International Workshop on ICTs and Development: Experiences in Asia, held at the Faculy of Arts and Sciences (Communications & New Media Programme Science, Technology and Society (STS) Cluster), National University of Singapore from 24th – 25th April 2008. Samarajiva will chair a session, where papers will be presented on the Development of Web 2.0 and Social Networking Websites in Thailand, Internet Adoption and Usage among Farmers in China and the Use of ICTs in Rural India. Iqbal will present a paper entitled, “Gender Inequalities in Access and Use of Telecom at the Bottom of the Pyramid?: Findings from a Five Country Study”, based on research findings from the Teleuse@BOP2 study.
EU Allows Mobile Phones on Airplanes, ABC News The European Union on Monday opened the way for air travelers to use mobile phones to talk, text or send e-mails on planes throughout Europe’s airspace. Under the plan approved Monday, cell phone users could make and receive calls through an onboard base station. They will be allowed to turn their phones on after the plane reaches 10,000 feet, when other electronic devices such as portable music players and laptops are permitted. But a host of issues remain, from the cost of mid-flight phone service, to backlash from those who dread the thought of being trapped for hours listening to one-sided conversations.
Unserved by Banks, Poor Kenyans Now Just Use a Cellphone, The Christian Science Moniter One of the world’s first cellphone-to-cellphone cash-transfer systems has been launched in Kenya. The system, called M-PESA, allows customers to transfer cash via their mobile phone, through an agent or store which supplies the cash. Launched by Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile service provider, the numbers of customers using this system has exceeded previous expectations, with over 450, 000 customers making use of this service, as of October 2007. However, despite its promising outlook, there are concerns regarding the regulation in place – or rather lack thereof – which could serve as a hindrance to future growth of this system.
23/03/08: Mobile phone service costs in Sri Lanka are cheap, even for the poor (Sinhala), Ravaya, Sri Lanka 25/03/08: Mobile is cheaper in Sri Lanka, even for the poor, The Daily News, Sri Lanka Two recent studies have found that Sri Lanka is among four countries that offer the most affordable mobile services to the poor in emerging Asia and the world. The first study conducted the LIRNEasia, a regional policy and regulation think tank, has found that the costs of using mobile telecom services are among the lowest in South Asia for all types of users. For the low user, essentially the poorer user, the average monthly cost of using a mobile in Sri Lanka is as low as US$ 3.83 per month if using prepaid. Sri Lanka came in fourth place in the affordability rankings for low users, not too far behind Bangladesh (USD2.
LIRNEasia’s practice on research –> policy Rohan Samarajiva The research that LIRNEasia does will never get a Nobel Prize. We work on applied research topics that are theoretically informed, but involve for the most part close engagement with what is actually happening on the ground in some country, preferably one that is in Emerging Asia. This allows not only a focus on policy and regulation as actually practised (a signature of our work), but also more effective communication to policy-makers using analogies. However, this does not mean that we do not generate new knowledge. Aggressive interrogation of applied research allows us to abstract certain concepts and methods that are of general applicability.
Sri Lanka agriculture could do with dose of IT – LANKA BUSINESS ONLINE Greater use of information technology in Sri Lanka’s largely subsistence agriculture sector will help both farmers and consumers alike by reducing costs, a researcher has said. Harsha De Silva, lead economist at LIRNEasia, a think tank, said a system using IT that addresses the information needs from the decision making phase through the growth and sale of agricultural products will help balance the welfare of both consumers and farmers. “ICT (information and communications technology) can be used to reduce the information and observable transaction costs to create efficiencies in agricultural markets,” de Silva said. “And if we can create efficiencies in agricultural markets, we can create welfare on both sides of the equation,” he told a recent seminar on the role of ICT in agriculture. “The core will definitely have to be a system that marries the decision-making and selling and that is where ICT will take agriculture markets from this point on and that is where we see some variants of commodity exchanges developing.
Beyond Tunis: Changing Policy Rohan Samarajiva Government is about the sustenance of hope. Yet in too many places, government is about killing hope: “you can’t make it because you’re poor/ your ethnicity is wrong / you aren’t from the right school.” When hope is dead, when the pie looks like it’s not expanding, and the game is zero-sum, the path that remains is hatred. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) shake things up. Not necessarily for the better; but with prodding of the right kind and possibly some luck and happenstance, the equilibrium can be broken in a positive way.