Presentation by Helani Galpaya at Ceylon Chamber of Commerce event on "Use of Digital Platforms for SMBs". November 2020.
Uncertain of the answer, I thought I’d write about it. Since Cable published their latest pricing league tables earlier this year my inbox seems to have a magnetic effect attracting ‘news’ from joyous announcements by the providers of the cheapest data in the world to harsh commentaries on the inaccuracy of the data being published. Following Cable’s release was A4Ai with its league tables published in March 2019 with prices for 100 MB, 200 MB, 1 GB, 2GB, 5GB and 10GB as a percentage of average income (GNI per capita reported by the World Bank). Both pricing leagues are relatively recent albeit more nuanced in some ways in comparison to the more seasoned data annually released by the OECD (with the limitation that this is only for the OECD countries) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Do we need this many pricing league tables for what appears to be the same thing?
Method. Method. Method. But it seems that rankings and the publicity that ensues takes precedence. Any methodology, for it to be meaningful, needs to be transparent and to the extent possible ensure comparability.
The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) invited LIRNEasia for its Digital inclusion roundtable, held in Mumbai on the 7th of March 2019. The objective of the meeting was to assist the WBA in defining indicators and methodologies (that will be published by the end of 2019) for (1) Digital Inclusion, (2) Food and Agriculture, and (3) Gender Equality and Empowerment, by which private sector will be benchmarked against. The event hosted by the consulate to the Kingdom of Netherlands in Mumbai, started off with an address by the Consulate General and the Executive Director of the WBA. The criticality of the WBA’s work towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and progress made was reflected upon. After two key notes that followed, the gathering was divided into 3 groups, one for each of the benchmarks that delved deeper in to the subject matter.
Methodology matters. A lot. Often, however, once league tables are released, it seems to matter less. LIRNEasia has been involved with price benchmarks, both in-house and with the ITU, for over 10 years. As catalysts, we’re always encouraged to see our work improving others’ research, even in the smallest of ways.
A month late, but this happened in Washington D.C in August 2018. 10 years ago New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) founded Measurement Lab (M-Lab) with PlanetLab (Princeton University) and Google (Open Source Research) during which time Vint Cerf was present. For all of us who attended the conference in celebration of MLab’s 10th anniversary his presence was the highlight. Greg Russell (M-Lab / Google) asking Vint Cerf a question.
The executive summary of the recently released State of Broadband report says, “Today, almost half of the world’s population uses the Internet…” yet our national representative sample surveys confirm less than 20% of the Indian population (ages 15-65) use the Internet, and it’s less in the other Asian economies surveyed with the exception on Cambodia at 36 per cent. Considering this statistic from the second largest economy in the world, the data in the report may be pointing to subscriptions as opposed to subscribers, i.e. unique number of people which is what the Sustainable Development Goals and Broadband Commission targets are centered around. One would expect the State of Broadband, to actually be about the state of broadband; yet, there is no mention about quality of service (QoS), a necessary condition to actually make use of the conveniences the Internet offers.
The Consumer Affair Authority (CAA) of Sri Lanka held a National Public Private Dialogue to on making the digital marketplace fairer on the 15th-16th March 2018 to commemorate Consumer Day. Given the expected boom of eCommerce, and in light of the recent complaints received by the CAA the objective was to hear from both public and private stakeholders the pain points in order to develop a framework by which the CAA can assure consumer protection. ITC consultant and law professor, Michael Geist was entrusted with the task of pulling together aspects discussed during the two-days that ended in a workshop styled afternoon session. His recommendations will inform the Act that is currently being revised and form the basis of the framework requires by the CAA. The objectives and intentions of the convening that LIRNEasia was invited to participate in was apt and timely.
A recent post reflected on the issues with a broadband price ranking that was seemingly issued by or, in the least, endorsed by the World Economic Forum (WEF). There were comments and debates on social media about this WEF ranking that placed Sri Lanka as the 17th least expensive for broadband in the world. Given LIRNEasia’s history and interest in ICT indicators we delved into the methodology and found it to be highly flawed. We also found out that while it was cited on the WEF website, it was not commissioned by the WEF. I presented a critique to the WEF which was published on their blog.
If you Google images for “CEO” you’ll get images of men, predominantly. And this is considered ‘normal’, backed by statistics about the ‘leaking pipeline’ when the numbers of women in the workplace start dwindling as they get into more senior roles. Family commitments is often cited as the cause irrespective of where you are in your career. At a junior level, starting a family means that you either stay at home to look after your family because you can’t afford it, or pass-through pretty much your entire salary on to childcare. When you’re in middle-management you pass on opportunities that can get you to the next level because that means more hours or time away from family or you’re not offered that promotion because you’re seen as unreliable or not really part of the team (as a result of tough choices made by placing one’s family first).
A recent article spoke of MPT [Myanmar Post and Telecommunications], Myanmar’s largest mobile service provider in terms of number of subscribers, as being the recipient of Ookla’s Speedtest winner. This is in line with our research that does shows MPT performance in terms of average download speed, upload speed and latency (or round trip time) better than its competitors Ooredoo and Telenor, however, only marginally. In fact, in some instances, for example performance on 3G networks, other operators perform better. Our results are based on a 9000+ sample crowd-sourced study. It highlights the benefits reaped by competition, the surpassing of legacy networks and 4G spectrum allocation.
LIRNEasia has a culture of internal colloquia – either pertaining to one’s research or of general interest. This is good because it forces some of us to read. And think. Once ingrained, it lingers on subconsciously, is applied (if and when applicable) or in the least provides perspective. Either way, the outcome is positive.
LIRNEasia research fellow Grace Mirandilla-Santos is an advocate for better broadband in the Philippines. She was recently given the great opportunity and daunting task of presenting the consumers’ perspective on telecom service access, quality, and affordability at the Philippines’ 1st Telecom Summit. Along with results from LIRNEasia’s broadband quality of service experience studied, she used statistics and analysis from different studies and her own research for validation. Various sources arrived at the same conclusion: Internet service in the country is improving, but continues to be one of the slowest and most expensive in the world. In summary, the Philippines has: the slowest average fixed broadband speed in Asia Pacific (Akamai, Q4 2016); the second slowest 3G/4G overall speed in the world (OpenSignal, Feb 2017); the third most unaffordable internet service in Asia (EIU, 2017); unaffordable fixed broadband and mobile (post-paid) broadband services relative to average monthly income (ITU, 2016).