When teaching the “low politics” of international relations, I used to begin with infectious diseases and the need for the WHO. Diseases do not respect borders; their control therefore cannot be limited to what goes on within national borders. Nation states need to cooperate. Therefore the justification for WHO. In its peculiar way, COVID-19 highlighted how connected the world has become.
It’s not for the user to worry about how services are provided; it’s for the supplier. The user complains only when service quality declines or prices go up. But for those more engaged with the industry, it is important to think about what has to be done behind the scenes for the show to run smoothly. As with all infrastructures, the real challenge is the peak. Especially when demand peaks unexpectedly.
I have been teaching regulation since the 1980s, using all kinds of text books and articles. Since around 2000, I was deeply engaged in training regulators all over the world. It was thus not a big deal to respond to a request to write an overview or pull together a bibliography. But what I found most useful was a question from a colleague about the one article/book I would say was central to understanding regulation. Not ten, not five, but one.
Social media celebrities are campaigning for unlimited data packages. Yet the reality is that more than half the country does not use the Internet. Educationists worry about whether online education will leave the children in homes with no coverage and no smartphones behind. Teachers send 12 pages of notes on Whatsapp, without thinking how it is going to be used. Middle-class parents are asking around how to buy color printers, so they can get back their phones and laptops without guilt.
Hammered by retrospective tax determinations and non-traditional pricing plans introduced by Reliance Jio, the Indian telecom sector appeared to be in some kind of death spiral. But T.K. Thomas, one of the most knowledgeable observers of the sector, sees hope in the recent infusions of funds by entities ranging from Facebook to the Government of India. Beyond the immediate cash inflows he sees the overall prospects as positive: More than 50 per cent of the market is still not connected by data services.
Why wait for the regulator to ask? It seems like common sense for telecom network operators to voluntarily publish data on network usage like the Myanmar operators do. It will help beat back stupid ideas about free data or uncapped packages. Also, mobile operators know how many smartphones are on their network and even what kinds of smartphones they are. People such as teachers and education officials who are planning to deliver content over these devices need this information.
I find myself a little defensive when I bring up the needs to access data quickly for policy-relevant research in gatherings dominated by fans of GDPR. Does not stop me, but I keep wondering what they think of me. But reading Siddhartha Mukherjee, a doctor deeply engaged in the fight against COVID-19 makes me feel much better.the System designers and lawyers have forgotten the original purpose of healthcare records: to help cure the patient. Finally, we need to acknowledge that our E.
Today, our friends in Nepal are commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Gorkha Earthquake which took the lives of around 9,000 people and injured 22,000. I was reminded of the wide-ranging relief and recovery activities undertaken by our partners in the Nepal chapter of the Internet Society, focusing on supply of emergency power and connectivity to relief workers. We had just come back from teaching an eventful course in Nagarkot. Here is what I had said when interviewed by the BBC Sinhala Service the next day: 1. The immediate priorities should be rescue and housing and care of those rendered homeless.
Today, under very different conditions of multiple channels being available, the Fairness Doctrine makes no sense. But back in the 1960s, it was right. Here’s the story of how an unknown young man’s letter to the regulatory agency eliminated tobacco advertising from US TV. I used to teach about this, using it as an example of the serendipity of policy interventions. Sometimes, there’s a Henry Geller at the other end.
As refugees moved to and through Europe in 2017, we and others commented on how indispensable smartphones were to them. Now we have the story of fishermen who wanted to get back home from Tamilnadu, who went to the Andra-Odisha border by sea. They mention the mobiles and charger, before they talk about food: The group kept within 15km of the shore and kept track of the route by watching the stars. “Our mobile phones also helped. We had brought a battery charger,” said Landa Bhaskar Rao, another member of the group, adding their staple for those five days was rice and tomato chutney.
As I was reading about Facebook becoming the largest minority shareholder of Reliance Jio, I was reminded of a piece I worked up on the flight back from Baku in late 2012 after doing serious damage to ETNO’s efforts to impose an archaic termination fee regime on the Internet. Here’s the last para (it was a parable, so the quotation may not make sense all by itself; please read the post): Parallel to this confrontation, there were those on both sides who sought common ground. Could the “big data” capabilities of the amusement park, used for marketing and for smoothening the peaks and valleys of demand for its attractions, be mobilized to better manage the demand for the trains? Could the amusement park take over parts of the ticketing and reception interfaces (the stations) of the system? Could there be joint ventures?
LIRNEasia has been studying food supply chains almost from inception. Our then Consultant Lead Economist Harsha de Silva had been trying to fix problems in the Dambulla DEC, the country’s largest agri wholesale market from even before that. So we were understandably unhappy when the government shut down the wholesale markets in the context of the COVID-19 response. First thoughts were in this op ed. Given the difficulties many potential users have had in understanding the difficulties of scaling up the customer facing side of e commerce it should come as no surprise that there is even greater ignorance about the far end of the supply chains.
LIRNEasia Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan and I have been pointing out the vulnerabilities of the many Asian countries that rely on a few undersea cables for their international connectivity since 2010. We’re happy we’ve managed to shift the discourse and include language in various resolutions, but we have yet to see traffic flowing in mesh networks. The intriguing story of a deep-diving submarine that saw all its crew die in an accident is opening up the conversation in broader way, showing the problem is not limited to Asia. Because the internet can reroute data when cables are damaged, Western analysts have often dismissed the dangers of sabotage. But considering the vital role of data in Western institutions of all kinds, Professor Zysk said, simply applying pressure by degrading the network could be enough.
I was hoping we’d get more reports about congestion caused by changing use patterns caused by people confined to their homes. Here is a report on India. Despite the impact on their business, India’s operators have complied with regulatory requests aimed at encouraging subscribers to stay at home. These included providing free voice minutes as well as making prepaid accounts valid for a longer period. While subscribers are evidently topping up their airtime less under the lockdown, they do not appear to be using their devices any less – quite the contrary.
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. Obviously, any system that is designed for a low level of use will experience difficulties when there is a sudden spike in demand. And with perishables for which the greatest demand arose, the systems had to be developed from scratch.
This tour d’horizon examines the possible of uses of data to help stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 directly. It gives weight to what can be done in the short term.