A presentation and discussion of LIRNEasia research from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh  
Abstract In spite of many policy interventions and proactive legislations by the Central Government aimed at encouraging Urban Local Bodies (ULB) to play an active role in promoting orderly growth of the Micro Enterprise Sector in India, the ground reality is that most ULBs have not accepted the new mandate. Even though the sector is important contributor to the economy, particularly towards the growth of employment, there is little focus on the wellbeing of the sector by the ULBs which are responsible for the regulation and growth of the sector. The law requires that all micro enterprises-shops, establishments, and hawkers need to register themselves with the local government. The intent of the law is that the ULBs can plan for an orderly growth of the sector as well as regulate the sector. However, it is universally accepted that there is virtually no compliance of the law.
Obama administration wants to digitize the bureaucracy for all practical purposes. With federal budgets under fire in Congress, the government’s move to the Internet has gained pace. An electronic payment, for instance, costs the government only 9 cents to process, compared with $1.25 for a paper check, the Treasury Department says. At Treasury, which last year suspended most paper mailings for all but the very aged and those with “mental impairments,” officials estimate the shift will save $1 billion over 10 years.
The “twittersphere” has been abuzz, with claims of anti-intellectualism and a few admissions of fault since Nicholas Kristof’s philippic appeared. “Political science Ph.D.’s often aren’t prepared to do real-world analysis,” says Ian Bremmer, a Stanford political science Ph.D.
Every few months (or longer, depending on whether I am in the country) I serve on judging panels for a televised debating competition run by a private TV channel. Today, the topic was one that we had actually done research on: “mobile phones have positive effects on the efficiency of daily life.” The proponents had done their home work and were citing Jensen’s Kerala study, Aker’s Niger research and so on. To beat back the opposition, they were citing the Danish cancer study and so on. They could have cited our work that directly dealt with the subject, but I was not going to hold it against them.
This World Bank blog throws in the new, new thing “big data.” But really with little substance. Some unthinking hack. Information technology can be a powerful tool to empower the citizen. In Pakistan, where mobile phone penetration is almost 70 percent, it is possible to reach even the poorest households.
Skype’s acquisition by Microsoft was a big story. This should be, too. Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten acquired Viber for $900 million, just days after the CEO of the mobile messaging player denied it was in acquisition talks. Rakuten said the deal is aimed at strengthening its global platform by bringing Viber’s user base to its e-commerce and digital content services. Viber has 280 million global registered users in nearly 200 countries and more than 100 million monthly active users.
LIRNEasia wishes to understand how the capabilities of information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be leveraged to create the conditions for hitherto excluded groups to participate in new economic opportunities in global supply chains in agriculture and services.
So it’s done. More smartphones were sold in 2013 than feature phones. Does this mean that smartphones outnumber feature phones on the world’s networks? No. But that too will happen.
The Pew Research Center does surveys within the US that contribute valuable information to US policy processes. In this news release, they also present worldwide data. Smartphone adoption, however, shows a different picture. More than half of Americans (55%) have a smartphone, 34% have a feature phone, and 9% have no phone. Elsewhere in the world, a smartphone is less common.

Military-telecom complex in Cuba?

Posted on February 12, 2014  /  1 Comments

Now that Myanmar is on the move, Cuba’s position in the telecom league tables is likely to decline further. Or will it? Minority partnerTelecom Italia (who says Communists are against foreign investment?) has been given USD 706 million to go away by Raul Castro’s son-in-law’s company. If they have that kind of change, perhaps they are planning to invest in the sector as well?

Korea no model to emulate

Posted on February 11, 2014  /  0 Comments

We’ve been talking up the need to look beyond Korea as THE model to emulate because their vaunted successes have been achieved with massive long-term subsidies that are difficult for most countries to replicate. But here are some other less known features of the Korean Internet environment that one would not want to emulate: Every week portions of the Korean web are taken down by government censors. Last year about 23,000 Korean webpages were deleted, and another 63,000 blocked, at the request of the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), a nominally independent (but mainly government-appointed) public body. In 2009 the KCSC had made just 4,500 requests for deletion. Its filtering chiefly targets pornography, prostitution and gambling, all of which are illegal in South Korea.
Prepaid has diminished the appeal of Mobile Number Portability (MNP). A recent study of GSMA suggests that merely 25% of developing markets have introduced MNP, while only a further 15% are known to be implementing it in the future. It means about 60% of regulators in the developing world have either decided against introducing MNP, or have made no progress to date. Sri Lanka Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (SLTRC) has found no value in MNP. The director-general of SLTRC, Anusha Palpita, told local media: ‘The main beneficiary of [MNP] and those demanding it [would be] post-paid mobile subscribers.
We know how much pent up demand there is in Myanmar for voice and data communication. The government has fast-tracked reforms to respond. World Bank and others, including LIRNEasia in our small way, are striving to help. Some tunnel-visioned do-gooders are trying to hold back informed reforms that will learn from the experiences of countries that have liberalized their markets before Myanmar, but we hope they will fail. Giving the people of Myanmar what most people take for granted poses significant challenges.
There was something Steve Jobs had said to Steven Levy 30 years ago that stuck in my mind: ”You know we’re constantly taking. We don’t make most of the food we eat, we don’t grow it, anyway. We wear clothes other people make, we speak a language other people developed, we use a mathematics other people evolved and spent their lives building. I mean we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful ecstatic feeling to create something and put it into the pool of human experience and knowledge.
This is stuck at the end of a New York Times article on how the new FCC Chair has been doing in his first months. Worth pondering over. But he has yet to speak plainly about his plans to overcome the net neutrality decision. Critics say that in doing so he has hidden just how much power the F.C.