Rohan Samarajiva, Author at LIRNEasia


Image of Onno Purbo at LIRNEasia research event in Indonesia, 2005 Now in 2020, the Postel Award has been given to LIRNEasia alumnus Onno Purbo. We congratulate Onno for this well-deserved honor. What he did before and after his association with us is what won him the approbation of the jurors of the Postel Award. Onno played an important part in one of our formative wins, something that defined LIRNEasia. In this post, what we can talk about is what we know.
One of the most contentious issues in platforms is the employment status of those who offer services on them: are they employees or independent contractors? If the former, in Sri Lanka they would qualify for employer contributed mandatory retirement savings; in the US, they would get health insurance and other benefits. A state law in California said those who offer services on platforms are employers. A vote on a proposition said no. In voting to support Uber and Lyft, Californians rejected the principles outlined in a 2018 State Supreme Court ruling and enshrined in a 2019 state law that said workers who performed tasks within a company’s regular business — and were controlled by the company and did not operate their own firms — must be treated as employees.
In a wide-ranging interview, the Director General of the Sri Lanka Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC) explained the reasons for requiring mandatory registration of IMEI numbers from October 1, 2020, saying all commercial vendors of terminal devices had to be registered with the TRC and that the IMEIs of the devices they sold had to be registered as well. He stated that these actions were being taken to protect consumers. Consumer protection in a market economy is anchored on information asymmetry. The default position is caveat emptor: let the buyer beware. Each consumer has a right to decide on the price-quality bundle he/she wishes to buy.
The New York Times ran a poignant story about the travails of children unable to go to school in Indonesia. Today, about 13 million people across 12,500 remote villages have no access to the internet, said Setyanto Hantoro, president director of Telkomsel, the country’s largest telecommunications company, which is cooperating with the government to provide service in far-flung areas. Among the areas where Telkomsel is working to bring access are Kenalan, where the three girls study by the road, and the village of Bah Pasungsang, where as many as 20 students a day climb trees to study. But those efforts will not be completed until 2022, Mr. Setyanto said.
Once, the countries breaking up the Internet were China and assorted developing countries; those lecturing them not to do so were rich countries which were members of the OECD. How the world has changed. The Trump Administration is taking the hammer to the Internet. Australia is joining in a big way: With each passing day, the World Wide Web is becoming an outdated name. Facebook warned on Monday that it would block users and news organizations in Australia from sharing local and international news stories on its social network and Instagram if the country passed a proposed code of conduct aimed at curbing the power of Facebook and Google.
LIRNEasia has been entrusted with the task of developing recommendations on how best to regulate Sri Lanka’s water and sanitation services, now a high priority for the government. Because WSS involves all three levels of government, and because many different parts of the state have to be coordinated for effective performance it has been decided that the recommendations should draw from public consultations across the country. The first of these was held on the 27th of August 2020 in Kurunegala, the seat of the Provincial government of the Wayamba Province. Water consultation intro.

Internet versus internets

Posted by on August 10, 2020  /  0 Comments

For the longest time, US negotiators of international resolutions, statements, etc. which had something to do with the internet, used to quibble over capitalization of the word. They insisted on uppercase Internet because they said it was one single thing and therefore should be capitalized. Negotiators from countries like China and Iran, obviously disagreed. They preferred internet.
I received a cold call from a member of the public today. He began by explaining how he found my mobile number. COVID-19 had got him thinking and he wanted my advice about career progression. Somewhat befuddled, I asked why me? He said that he recalled seeing me on TV talking about new work opportunities.
We like to think we can foretell developments in the industries we study. I can recall meeting a Jio operative at Abu Saeed Khan’s home in Dhaka before they launched and chatting about what was to come. We all agreed that Reliance would disrupt the market. All I could come up with was that voice would most likely be free, or very cheap. That was nothing very insightful, because that was where the technology was at that time.
LIRNEasia entered the disability space because we recognized the transformative potential of smartphones, from our work in Myanmar. It is reassuring to see that this is what PWDs are saying in the US as well. They also talk about well-meaning outsiders proposing solutions to problems that do not exist. That also resonates with our thinking and the way we allocate the resources that we have. We spend a lot of effort to understand the problems that are important to the PWDs in the countries we work in.
For those of us who have been thinking about e commerce and the reasons for people not taking to it in large numbers for decades, the COVID-19 related lockdowns gave much to reflect on. Below is an excerpt from something I wrote in the first weeks of the Sri Lankan lockdown in the Daily FT and also in Sinhala. E commerce vendors in Sri Lanka were having a hard time making sales. And these were companies that were dealing with items that do not go bad. The demand that spiked in the past weeks was mostly for goods such as dairy, fruit and vegetables that require care in storage and transportation.
On Friday, 26 June, 15:00-17:00 Central European Time (1830-2030 IST), the International Telecommunication Union is convening leading economic experts to discuss COVID19 and the Digital Economy: James Sullivan from J.P. Morgan, Mayssaa Issa from Delta Partners, Matt Yardley from Analysys Mason, Germán Cufré from IFC – International Finance Corporation, Shaun Collins from CCS Insight, Steve Brazier from Canalys, Paul Lam, CFA, FRSA from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Tim Kelly from The World Bank, Alison Gillwald from Research ICT Africa, Alexandra Rehak from Omdia, Audrey Plonk from OECD – OCDE, Rohan Samarajiva from LIRNEasia and Guy ZIBI from Xalam Analytics will explore emerging research on: (a) COVID19 impact on Digital Economy; and (b) Impact of Digital Infrastructure on recovery. Panel will be opened by ITU SG Houlin Zhao and Telecommunication Development Director Doreen Bogdan-Martin. The rapporteur is Raul Katz.
As everyone knows, COVID-19 and associated lockdowns have reduced electricity demand and increased demand for data. Especially in countries like Sri Lanka which are dependent on imported coal/diesel for production of electricity, there is a great interest in increasing energy efficiency. The IEA has published an interesting report on energy use by data centers and in data transmission. Strong growth in demand for data centre services continues to be offset by ongoing efficiency improvements for servers, storage devices, network switches and data centre infrastructure, as well as a shift to much greater shares of cloud and hyperscale data centres. Hyperscale data centres are very efficient large-scale cloud data centres that run at high capacity, owing in part to virtualisation software that enables data centre operators to deliver greater work output with fewer servers.
I just finished talking to around a hundred students at the Sri Lanka Technological Campus on the above topic. I talked about the differences in kinds of jobs/tasks: consultants/entrepreneurs vs those working in large organizations; those whose work could be done remotely (Robert Reich’s symbol analysts) and those who required co-presence; and also in terms of how demand was affected (those in rubber gloves sector need not worry, while those in tourism services had plenty of cause to worry). And of course we ended up in the usual place: “learning to learn” Jobs for the new normal
The consumption of “fast fashion” and airline travel may decline, but Internet use and consumption of various Internet-based services is likely to rise. This is an opportunity for start-ups as well as the China-based behemoths that the US media makes a habit of ignoring. It’s our job to recognize the bias and correct it. But the actions of the American tech cos will affect our lives in multiple ways, the Facebook investment in Reliance Jio being a prime example. But again, it’s important to note who will be in the driving seat at Reliance Jio: all Facebook got for USD 5.
The problem with regulating information is its inherent slipperyness. In 2018, when invited to speak on the subject I quoted a Deputy Minister of the Malaysian Government, speaking in Parliament: Datuk Jailani Johari, the Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister, explained that fake news is information that is confirmed to be untrue, especially by the authorities or parties related to the news. He said that 1MDB has been investigated by the police and Attorney-General and the reports have been presented to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is made up of lawmakers from both sides of the divide. Jailani added that recommendations from the PAC report have been accepted and been implemented by the Government. .