In relation to past promises, USD 1.5 billion may not be much, but I place little weight on promises of investment anyway. More significant is VietTel’s promise to allow roaming at domestic-like prices in the Greater Mekong Region. Now this too has been talked about. But not acted upon so far.
Just over four years ago, in August 2013, Helani Galpaya and I came to Nay Pyi Taw to deliver the regulatory module of a multi-day course offered by a number of different organizations, including the GSMA and the World Bank. For me, it the second visit to Myanmar and the first to Nay Pyi Taw, the mysterious new capital of an enigmatic state. For Helani, it was the first visit the country. It is customary in these kinds of events for the “dignitary” who inaugurates the event to make his speech and then leave. Deputy Minister U Thaung Tin was different.
Myanmar is one of the great success stories in telecom reform. When the government set the target of 80 SIMs/100 within five years back in 2013, many people doubted it could be done. But it has been done and exceeded. Myanmar’s smartphone penetration is now similar to that of the United States. One shortcoming was the establishment of the independent regulatory body within two years, as promised in the Law of 2013.
Christoph Stork of Research ICT Africa/Research ICT Action gave a master class in how to communicate complex research findings to policy makers, based on the policy briefs submitted by the presenters in the CPRsouth 2017 Conference Session 8 “ICTs to achieve broader public-policy objectives.” Here is the slideset.
I understand universal service strategy formulation is moving forward in Myanmar these days. I looked back to see what we said four years ago. Can still live with it (though I would add some recommendations based on subsequent thinking). 3. Focus one-off subsidies solely on capital expenditures, to improve targeting and reduce leakages and avoid over-burdening the under-resourced government agencies, namely a.
I was amused to hear a senior scholar from Australia questioning a claim in a CPRsouth paper that Facebook was a source of news. In Myanmar, of all places. In his defense, I guess he was not aware of the LIRNEasia demand-side results on how people in Myanmar actually get their news. I’ve been using CPA survey data in my writing and speaking in Sri Lanka to show that the trend is for young people to get their news on Facebook. But is it different in developed countries?
Supply-side data are relatively easy to come by in the ICT space. But just because they are there, they need not be taken as the truth. We need to apply our critical facilities to the data that we use from whatever source. The “smell test” is an important tool for a good researcher. This was the message I communicated to a group of young scholars at CPRsouth 2017 in Yangon.
For the CPRsouth Young Scholar Program, I was given a series of topics such as agriculture, big data and platforms and asked to identify policy-relevant research questions. This kind of response can never be complete. And it begs the question of how good my prediction abilities are. But here goes. The slides:
Yesterday, I presented at CPRsouth 2017 a policy brief on the disbursement efficacy of universal service funds. We presented two relatively easy to develop metrics (year-on-year disbursement rate and cumulative disbursement rate) and applied them to four countries, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The conclusion was that irrespective of country and irrespective of political and administrative leadership, the funds failed to get the money out. In India, for example, USD 10 billion had accumulated in the fund by 2016 taken out of a highly competitive sector and making no contribution to connecting the unconnected. We pointed out that any tax or levy imposed on an operator that is a regular payment is passed on to customers and serves to depress demand.
Tomorrow, we start the CPRsouth Young Scholar Program at the Inya Lake Hotel, Yangon. I was asked to begin the program with a new topic, “What is policy research? What is special about communication policy research?” That proved more interesting than I thought. The slides are below.
Social media, especially Twitter, is not optimal for nuanced discussion of policy options. In the context of a talk I gave at the 2017 Sri Lanka Economic Summit on innovation, broadly defined, someone suggested co-working spaces as the priority. My response was: Tech and innovation cannot be reduced to ICT innovation — Rohan Samarajiva (@samarajiva) July 26, 2017 For reasons unclear to me this is being interpreted as an outright rejection of co-working spaces 2/ when I raised this once on Twitter Dr. @samarajiva outright rejected saying, Tech co-working spaces is not a priority! — Sesiri Pathirane (@Sesiri) August 26, 2017 So I thought it would be good to look at what I had actually said at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit.
In the little regulatory teaching I do, I have now shifted from deriving regulatory priorities from conventional industrial organization and administrative law principles to business models now prevalent in our countries. The below quotation from Business Insider shows ignorance of business models is not a problem limited to developing countries: Buried in pages of amendments to the European Union’s latest privacy proposal, the ePrivacy Regulation, members of the European Parliament recently recommended language that would strip European publishers of the right to monetize their content through advertising, eviscerating the basic business model that has supported journalism for more than 200 years. The new directive would require publishers to grant everyone access to their digital sites, even to users who block their ads, effectively creating a shoplifting entitlement for consumers of news, social media, email services, or entertainment. The language may seem confusing to the uninitiated. “No user shall be denied access to any [online service] or functionality,” the proposed amendment says, “regardless of whether this service is remunerated or not, on grounds that he or she has not given his or her consent […] to the processing of personal information and/or the use of storage capabilities of his or her […]
We love that people read our research. But we would love it more if they try to do justice to how real people use the Internet.

Human capital

Posted on August 12, 2017  /  0 Comments

LIRNEasia has a human capital research focus. In this context, the Economist’s succinct exposition of the ideas of Gary Becker is worth reading: Simply put, human capital refers to the abilities and qualities of people that make them productive. Knowledge is the most important of these, but other factors, from a sense of punctuality to the state of someone’s health, also matter. Investment in human capital thus mainly refers to education but it also includes other things—the inculcation of values by parents, say, or a healthy diet. Just as investing in physical capital—whether building a new factory or upgrading computers—can pay off for a company, so investments in human capital also pay off for people.
Baseline Survey results from the Agriculture and Open Data project can be viewed below: