Rohan Samarajiva, Author at LIRNEasia — Page 20 of 182


What will come after the smartphone?

Posted on April 21, 2017  /  0 Comments

Six years ago, we were discussing how to accelerate app development in the context of a proposal we submitted to infoDev. Instead of giving the grant to us, they chose to give it to some Pakistani government outfit where the entire thing was still-born. But the relevance to the question of what comes after the smartphone is a conversation I had with Sanjiva Weerawarana, one of Sri Lanka’s ICT leaders. It is easy now to talk about how popular smartphones would be. But back in 2011 it took some foresight to claim as Sanjiva did that smartphones would dominate the marketplace.

What is innovation?

Posted on April 20, 2017  /  1 Comments

Having just heard from a funder with the word innovation in its name that a concept note in disaster risk reduction that we submitted was not innovative enough, I’ve been thinking about this slippery term. Then comes along the NYT tech columnist Farhad Manjoo: There is a rich history in this industry of taking someone else’s idea and adding your own spin on it to improve tech for everyone. Apple’s Steve Jobs and the team behind the original Mac were inspired by a bunch of ideas floating around tech research circles, including at Xerox PARC. Then Microsoft’s chief executive, Bill Gates, saw the Mac’s success and — by creating a new business model for the PC industry — he ushered in an even bigger deal: graphical computers that could get cheap enough for most people to own. Or look at the smartphone.
Preparing for a session of the Privacy Advisory Group of UN Global Pulse and the UN Privacy Policy Group on 17-18 April, I had cause to reflect on some moves to develop new definitions (sensitive data, meta data and micro data). I may change my mind after listening to the deliberation, but here’s my starting position: Definitions are developed with some purpose in mind. A definition that is appropriate for one purpose may not be useful for another. Definitions embody assumptions and agendas. I believe that personally identifiable information (PII), a venerable category of data deeply embedded in privacy theory and practice is the only category of data requiring hard protection.
With massive numbers detailed in the Mobile World Live report, Tanzania is the current success story in mobile-led financial services. What caught my attention was the need for interconnection rules if the market has four suppliers. World Bank country director for Tanzania, Somalia, Burundi and Malawi, Bella Bird (pictured) said: “The mobile money revolution has made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of people who can now send and receive money and thus save at low cost. With more effort, the remaining one-third of Tanzanians could also have access.” According to the latest GSMA Intelligence statistics for Tanzania, by the end of Q1 2016 there were four competing mobile money services available in the country.
We at LIRNEasia have been promoting cell broadcasting for a long time. It is immune to congestion, message over it can be specific to location; and it does not require prior registration of numbers. It has thousands of “channels” and can therefore handle multiple languages, including those of tourists who are visiting. Therefore, we are very happy that Canada, which has supported our disaster risk reduction research is the latest country to get behind cell broadcasting: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today directed all wireless service providers to implement a wireless public alerting system on their LTE (long-term evolution) networks by April, 2018. This system will allow emergency management officials, such as fire marshals and police agencies, to warn Canadians on their mobile devices of dangers to life and property.
In the course of preparing for a talk, I was entering household expenditure data on communication-related activities into a spreadsheet that contained data from the 2009-10 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). In the three years since 2009-10 many things have happened to expenditure patterns, but one thing jumped out. In 2009-10 a household reported an average expenditure of LKR 382.72 outside the home per month. In 2012-13, this had declined to LKR 17.
The following story about Ethiopia, a country still listed as a least-developed country (LDC), wanting to put up its own communication and earth-sensing satellites caught my eye, because this is a perennial story in South Asia. In January the government said it would launch a Chinese-built civilian satellite from an overseas rocket pad within the next five years. It would be designed to Ethiopian specifications and used to monitor crops and the weather, and doubtless to spy on neighbours, too. The government also wants to reduce reliance on foreign telecoms by launching its own communications satellite. In putting its own satellites into orbit Ethiopia would join the select club of African nations that have already done so.

Misconceptions about ICT, Part 2

Posted on April 4, 2017  /  0 Comments

This post is part of series of responses to observations made during a discuss on the “Aluth Parlimenthuwa” show on TV Derana. Read Part I here. In Part 2, I address policymaker misconceptions about the contributions of ICT to economic growth. In the talk show, at around the 29th minute, the policymaker refers to a study that claimed that 10 percent growth in broadband penetration would result in some x percent economic growth. This is most likely the widely cited 2009 econometric study by Christine Qiang and Carlo Rossotto which claimed 0.
The Department of Census and Statistics has published the preliminary results of the 2016 Computer Literacy Survey. The survey has its beginnings in the e Sri Lanka initiative which supported the initial iterations starting from 2004. This is the sixth in the series. One expects indicators such as literacy and device ownership to increase every year. But not in 2016.
In our formal submission to the PUCSL in 2013, we highlighted the urgency of connecting the two grids. The case was made in public and private. Obviously we welcome the statement below, despite the fact that “plans are underway” is a favorite weasel phrase of the Sri Lankan bureaucracy: Plans are underway to connect Sri Lanka’s power grid with the Indian power grid to boost power generation within the next five years. “The Sri Lankan government is already having talks with the Indian government on this project,” according to Chairman of the Electricity Board (CEB) Anura Wijayapala. Full report.
LIRNEasia Research Fellow Grace Mirandilla Santos has had the opportunity to identify the top consumer issues at the first Telecommunications Summit organized by the newly created Department of Information and Communications Technology recently. She writes about it in TelecomAsia: Although I’m very passionate about consumer woes—and it’s very easy to get carried away—I showed the results of studies and analyses by third (mostly disinterested) parties, as researchers are wont to do. I gathered statistics from Akamai Technologies, OpenSignal, The Economist Intelligence Unit, ITU’s Broadband Commission, and Measuring the Information Society reports. For validation, I threw in some of my own research done for LIRNEasia and a latest collaboration using Big Data analytics. What was common in these studies was that the country’s internet service is improving, but continues to be one of the slowest and most expensive in the region.
We have been writing about Myanmar’s electricity problems since we started working there. I had not realized that even at this early stage, the energy nihilists are active. They know what they don’t want, but cannot tell what should be done that is practical. In a rational world such people would not be taken seriously, but in our world they are: The reasons for the delays include strong domestic opposition, including protests by people in the affected areas. This is a lesson in how local communities must be supported, and where inconvenienced, given appropriate help to reskill or resettle.
Above is a Sinhala article in Raavaya which addresses the following questions: What rules of thumb or filters may an editor or equivalent apply to choose between different intellectuals seeking opportunities to communicate to the public? The public’s attention is limited; and so is the “speaking time” that could be offered. Giving time on TV/radio or space in an online or print publication necessarily involves judgment. One putative intellectual gets the opportunity; another does not. How should that judgment be exercised?

Misconceptions about ICT, Part 1

Posted on March 30, 2017  /  0 Comments

This post is part of series of responses to observations made during a discussion on the “Aluth Parlimenthuwa” show on TV Derana. Read Part II here. There is value in engaging with people with different worldviews. I had such an opportunity during a rare television talk show on ICT issues on Derana. A senior policymaker in the science and technology policy area stated that ICT-related exports were not in the top ten only to be quickly corrected by two other panelists.

Indigenous scholarship

Posted on March 29, 2017  /  0 Comments

I had heard about papers on Islamic science policy being picked as best papers and given prominence over conventional social science papers at an international conference organized by a Malaysian university. But my first direct experience of this indigenization trend came at the international conference I spoke at last week at Manipal University. A faculty member from a university in Nepal presented a paper that sought to position communication policy within some kind of Hindu scriptural framework. I thought it was just a harmless oddity and tuned out, until I heard the professors in the audience make earnest attempts to respectfully engage with the reformulation of communication policy according to scriptures. The questions were about the nation state, which is the necessary context of policy, which was the theme of the conference.

Dilemma of data localization

Posted on March 25, 2017  /  0 Comments

It has been the common position of OECD member countries to oppose mandatory data localization. Data localization flies in the face of the logic of cloud computing. Microsoft has fought the US government on the issue in courts. Yet, when Canada wants data localization, they acquiesce. In response to the mounting public concerns, leading technology companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google have established or committed to establish Canadian-based computer server facilities that can offer localization of information.