Shazna Zuhyle


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.

The importance of being earnest

Posted by on February 23, 2018  /  0 Comments

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).
Akamai has been publishing its State of the Internet report since 2008. They handle 15-30% of the world’s Internet traffic that positions them well to conduct diagnostics and provides a view on what goes on, on the web. In a recent review of all the reports produced to date, the adoption of broadband of varying speeds, i.e., unique IPv4 addresses that connect to Akamai at 256 Kbps or less, 4 Mbps, 10 Mbps and 15 Mbps.
Sri Lanka has always been prone to natural disasters; more commonly droughts, floods and landslides. However, the 2004 Tsunami caused the most devastation we had witnessed in a very, very long time. LIRNEasia’s stance in the aftermath, apart from contributions in cash and kind for immediate relief, was a more longer term solution using our core strengths – research, getting the right people connected and facilitating initial efforts of implementation. The outcome was the design of a participatory concept of an all hazard-warning system. It was a joint effort getting the right people together – from government, to technology developers to communication network specialist who would then later go on to provide the platform required for the implementation of an early warning system.
Access to ICTs without bias has been a longstanding goal in many fora. There has been multiple sources of evidence that point to the value add access to ICTs bring, increase in livelihoods being one of which is most cited. LIRNEasia’s previous research on Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid, also presented at WSIS in 2013, was among the few quantitative and qualitative studies available from the global South at the time. Participating relatively early on in collecting gender disaggregated data was also cited in recommendations made by the Gender Task Force in keeping with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the time. The recently declared Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also continue to highlight the need for gender equality in terms of access to the Internet.
That’s the reaction I get when I speak of LIRNEasia’s big data research agenda – the part that focuses on communicable diseases, dengue in particular, and the use of mobile phones to reduce spread. By identifying areas of reported cases, “risk maps” can be developed for the implementation of preventive measures. The challenge is convincing health practitioners of the value of using mobile phone data and digitised data, among many others. A similar model was used with success in Pakistan in 2012. The World Bank reports; As usual dengue season came back in 2012.
“The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world.” In its latest report LIRNEasia was listed under the category “Top Think Tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific” along with IPS, RCSS and CEPA from Sri Lanka and was only South Asian think tank to be listed under “Best Policy Study-Report Produced by a Think Tank ” which was focused on our work in Big Data for Development. We were the only Sri Lankan entity to be listed “Best Independent Think Tanks” in an unranked list of 144 global think tanks. The TTCSP works with leading scholars and practitioners from think tanks and universities in a variety of collaborative efforts and programs, and produces the annual Global Go To Think Tank Index that ranks the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories. This is achieved with the help of a panel of over 1,900 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world.
The state of Internet in the Philippines has been subject to scrutiny by civil society and more recently the Senate office which has led the national regulatory authority to take action (link) through multiple stakeholder consultations. LIRNEasia research, through research fellow Grace Mirandilla-Santos, has been instrumental in the memorandum circular issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). Being a pertinent topic in the Philippines Grace was invited to the 13th Youth Congress on Information Technology 2015,the biggest IT event in the country, attended by computer science, IT, and engineering college students nationwide. Her presentation titled “PH Internet is bad and it’s not your fault” is available here.     Photo credits: Noel Feria
The poor state of Internet in the Philippines has received a significant amount of attention in the past few months. LIRNEasia research fellow Grace Mirandilla-Santos has been involved in multiple working groups, senate hearings and has had many interactions with the respective regulatory agency and ministry on how to introduce some form of quality measures. Operators are fighting back on compliance benchmarks. The regulator has requested for a final set of recommendations on the methodology to follow in setting standards for monitoring and compliance of broadband quality of service. Grace has submitted these recommendations (based on our previous work) on behalf of LIRNEasia.
LIRNEasia research fellow and board member of the Internet Society PH chapter, Grace Mirandilla-Santos participated in a roundtable discussion on the “Right to Access the Internet: Upholding a Human Right” organized by Democracy.net.ph (Philippines) and the Digital Empowerment Foundation (India). Her talk mentioned LIRNEasia’s broadband QoSE study and how its results have been used to inform policymaking and regulation in PH. This was in the context of telcos providing internet access but at what cost and level of quality (value for money).