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We first wrote about the phenomenon back in 2006, in relation to the conflict areas in Sri Lanka and Kashmir. We started formulating the issues in terms of Gyanendra’s Law and its various exceptions around the time of the Arab Spring. I wrote the main piece on the subject, sitting in a hotel room in Teheran in February 2011. Since those days, the practice of shutting down networks has become more common, and more sophisticated. The Global Network Initiative has put out a one-pager on the subject: “GNI urges all governments to consult our one-page guide and to weigh carefully the human rights, economic and reputational harms that can flow from the decision to disrupt public access to vital communications services and platforms,” said GNI Executive Director, Judith Lichtenberg.
A lot of the discussion in the concluding sessions focused on implementation, as intended. Here is a participant writing about the highlights in Setopati, a digital newspaper: Similarly, senior Director at Nepal Telecommunications Authority Anand Raj Khanal said broadband could be leveraged to graduate country from the least developed status to the developing on by 2022. Arguing that NTA’s primary role is the infrastructure development in terms of expansion of broadband, Director Khanal expressed doubt whether the contracts NTA had with Nepal Telecoms and other companies would be completed on time to ensure broadband access to people. According to him, contracts were signed this April and May to ensure broadband internet access for 11 quake-hit districts. He too admitted, “We’re smart in policy formulation but weak at implementation.
Somalia has suffered internet outage, as its only submarine cable – Eastern Africa Submarine System (EASSy) – has been snapped by the anchor of a cargo ship recently. Few affluent users are online through the expensive satellite backups while most of the users remain off-line. Bangladesh was also exposed to similar risk until six operators plugged the country with India across the land borders in 2012. Mogadishu should rush for overland links with Kenya for the resilience of its international connectivity. Otherwise, it will remain vulnerable to frequent outages because of the careless merchant mariners.
LIRNEasia research fellow, Nuwan Waidyanatha, will be part of a panel discussion on ‘Rapidly Reconnecting the Disconnected in Disasters‘ at the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum to be held in Bangkok from 26 to 29 July, 2017. The session, titled “Cry for Help!” is meant to expose participants to low-cost, easy-to-use tech and foster an environment which challenges experts through dialogue and participatory exercises. “Rapid Restoration of Access to Telecommunication” (RREACT) – AP is highly susceptible to disasters. Telecommunications, as a critical infrastructure, is vital for crisis management.
LIRNEasia carried out qualitative research on user perspectives of Internet use in India among respondents from low and middle income households. It is a part of a series of research looking at the use of free and subsidised data in the developing world. The research was carried out with financial support from Mozilla, the UK Government’s Department for International Development, and the International Development Research Centre, Canada. India was an interesting case in the zero rating debate. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) passed the Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Service Regulations in 2016.
The big news from the last broadband course we taught in Nepal was that only 2.6 percent of all the universal service funds collected since 1998 had been disbursed.  This information, unearthed in the course of completing an assignment, was presented to decision makers in government who came to judge the mock public hearing.  It was published in the Nepali media. Two years later, the Senior Director of the Nepal Telecom Authority who spoke about the regulatory aspects of broadband rollout did not speak in vague generalities or in the future tense.
The Nepali Reporter was the first to carry a story on the Ford Foundation supported course being conducted in Dhulikhel, July 14-17, 2017. The training organized by LIRNEasia, a Sri Lankan think-tank, Internet Society Nepal Chapter and Centre for Law and Technology, is engrossed on multifarious issues relating to internet and information as inclusion in information society, affordable broadband of adequate quality, services and applications that are of value to Nepali users, broadband infrastructures, measures to enhance and assure trust and security, ICT in disaster risk reduction and disaster response, demand size research and the research techniques as searching and managing data, and utilization of internet.
Comcast has for long been cast in the role of opponent of net neutrality. But according to this report, the roles are beginning to blur. “We support permanent, strong, legally enforceable net neutrality rules,” said Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, which once successfully sued the F.C.C.
In late 2015 I wrote that: “All the fuss has been about Digital India. But India has fallen back six places to 131, despite improving its IDI score from 2.14 to 2.69 in the ICT Development Index. Nepal, which does not have a funded and actively promoted digital strategy, has advanced four places to 136th place.
LIRNE asia CEO, Helani Galpaya, was recently appointed to the board of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD).
This RFP invites Proposals from potential Bidders to conduct comparative nationwide studies of ICT access and use in 2017 in Cambodia and Pakistan. Bidders may bid for an individual country or both countries together. However, bidders that bid for both countries will be at a significant technical advantage. The full RFP can be downloaded here, with Annexure 3 and Annexure 4-5.
Inviting Proposals from potential Bidders to conduct a nationwide study of how experiences and perceptions about online security, harassment and privacy impact Internet use in Myanmar. The study is to be conducted in the months of July and August in Myanmar, with emphasis on urban areas in certain states/regions. The full RFP is downloadable here.
The first time we taught a course in Nepal, one of the participants discovered that only 2.6 percent of the universal service funds collected in 17 years had been disbursed. We are hoping for something even better this time. Here is an excerpt from the syllabus: In India, especially in the central government, telecom policies tend to be developed through consultative processes and are taken seriously. In other countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, policy formulation and implementation is weak.
LIRNEasia is calling for proposals from field research organisations for the conduct of comparative nationwide quantitative studies of ICT access and use in Cambodia and Pakistan. The deadline for submission is 0800hrs Sri Lanka time, 24 July 2017. Details of the study and instructions to interested parties are contained within the following request for proposals (RFP), which can be downloaded here. Interested parties should request Annexes 3-5 to the RFP by way of an email to procurement[at]lirneasia[dot]net.  

White spaces, again

Posted by on July 11, 2017  /  0 Comments

It was in 2007 that we first wrote about white spaces. Ten years later, the talk continues. The technology is sometimes known as “super Wi-Fi” because it behaves like regular Wi-Fi but uses low-powered television channels to cover far greater distances than wireless hot spots. It is also more powerful than cellular service because the frequencies can penetrate concrete walls and other obstacles. Promoting the white-spaces technology could reap rewards for tech companies: The remaining 24.
Big data is a team sport. We have people with different skill sets in our team. I can’t code, but I sit in on meeting where arcane details of software are discussed. Our coders spend most of their time on analytics, but think about broader issues such as fairness. So here is a snippet that had the eye of Lasantha Fernando: If you’ve ever applied for a loan or checked your credit score, algorithms have played a role in your life.