I first heard about government entering the business of manufacturing phones when I was (futilely) advising the government of Bangladesh on formulating a national telecom policy. They had some bankrupt telecom equipment factories and I was asked what to do with them. I said, not much. Then my friends in India started to show me numbers for what India was spending on importing equipment for the telecom industry. This cannot continue, they said.
Bangladesh has experienced temporary outage of Internet when the government blocked popular social media sites on November 18. It could not skip the watchful eyes of the man who can see the Internet. Here is the visual of Internet outage in Bangladesh.

What is big data?

Posted on November 18, 2015  /  0 Comments

I spent the last two days at a meeting on big data in the global south. The sixty people in the room had no shared understanding of big data, which led to some interesting discussions. Then someone stated that he wished big data would be defined. Big data is characterized by volume and variety. The third part of the 3 Vs, velocity, is irrelevant, as has been argued by many including Viktor Mayer-Schonberger.
Few weeks back we reported, without endorsement, a New York Times piece about the possibility of sabotage of trans Atlantic cables. Sabotage is a real threat, says cable expert Doug Madory, but not on the US-Europe routes. The thing that might not be widely appreciated is the fact that telecommunications lines are also sabotaged with some regularity. Perhaps the most relevant incident to this discussion involved divers (pictured right) who were arrested by the Egyptian Navy in March 2013 for detonating underwater explosives off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, ostensibly in an attempt to scavenge for scrap metal. The incident damaged SeaMeWe-4, causing major disruptions to Internet service across the Middle East and South Asia.
Grace Mirandilla Santos, LIRNEasia Research Fellow, is nothing if not persistent. She has been hammering away at the broadband quality problem in the Philippines for a long time now. The big party thrown by the government for APEC leaders in Manila becomes the latest opportunity for her: A note to APEC delegates: this brand of hospitality does not, by any measure, reflect what the ordinary Filipino experience every day. Traffic navigation app Waze has branded Manila as having the worst road traffic compared to other cities that use it. NAIA airports experience congestion everyday, and most recently was plagued with the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scam that allegedly preys on tourists and overseas migrant workers.
I was a little surprised to be invited to a meeting on big data organized by the Institute of Technology and Society of Rio de Janeiro. But then I realized that the event was scheduled back to back with IGF 2015 in Joao Pessoa and that they were basically piggy-backing on the attraction of large numbers of international experts to Brazil in November 2015. With some effort, I was able to find a few people who were not lawyers participating in the event, but it was dominated by those of the legal persuasion. This meant that there was a presumption that laws and regulations were needed to avoid the bad things that could be imagined. Usually, what we have is a battle of imaginations.
In wide ranging article on multiple aspects of Facebook, the author cites Helani Galpaya’s comments on zero rating. For Facebook, releasing something, gauging reaction, and then tweaking as necessary is not only normal but also a badge of honor—after all, one of the company’s guiding principles is “Done is better than perfect.” When I ask Zuckerberg about the controversy, he says, “Internet.org is working. We’ve learned a lot from our efforts already.
Zero rating and how people get connected to the Internet appeared to be among the dominant topics of conversation at IGF 2015. Helani based her comments in the multiple sessions she participated in on the findings on research that showed that people connect because of attractive content. In my comments at the big data session, I drew extensively on our experience in working with big data. In fact, the principal point I made was that many of the people who were trying to make rules have no idea what the research involves. In another session, the discussion was on hindrances to small businesses located in the developing world seeking to join the global Internet economy.
Helani Galpaya and Shamistra Soysa participated in the second IGF (2007) held in Rio. But in 2015 our engagement was an order of magnitude higher. Helani participated in two Main Sessions and five workshops. She also spoke at a side event organized by Deutsche Welle for media personnel from Africa. Tuesday, November 10 9:00am-10:30am WS 126 Can Internet rights and access goals be reconciled?
Here is what I worked up as an opening statement for the IGF 2015 Main Session: Human Rights, Access and Internet Governance Roundtable on Day 4: 13 November, 11:00-13:00, at the Main Meeting Hall I have been engaged in the provision of access, first to voice telephony and then to Internet, over the past two decades. Compared to expansion of access to other infrastructure services such as electricity and transportation, the ICT efforts have been extremely successful. In my work in government, as well as in our work in research and policy advocacy, we have tried to be mindful of the legal obligations set out in our laws (as well as in international treaty instruments our government is party to). Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which requires government to act without discrimination and Article 25(3) on equal access to public services were among the most relevant in terms of access policies and implementation. Active government support for access is associated with a positive-rights approach.
Today I spoke at a session on Big Data for Development: Privacy Risks and Opportunities organized by UN Global Pulse and SIDA at Internet Governance Forum 2015. My presentation that sought to set the stage is here. Many interesting questions were raised, but I will here focus on one particularly uninformed one. The questioners (this is a synthesis of two questions) said that while the data holders may give data for free, they will start to charge for it soon. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the value of the data created by mobile users should be addressed and that users should get paid for their data.
I spent Nov 5-6 in Shanghai at the invitation of the Pathfinder Foundation as part of a Track 2 discussion with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. The focus of my presentation was on how the MSR could serve Sri Lanka’s economic advancement. It was not limited to research undertaken by LIRNEasia. However, the section on electronic connectivity draws from the work we have been doing with ESCAP since 2010.
Freedom house report on Internet freedom was released last week. This report was developed by Freedom house with 70 researchers and advisers around the world. Globally over 3 billion people have access to internet. This report covers 65 countries which has 88% of worlds internet population. Over 40% of worlds internet users live in China, the United States, or India.
Instagram facilitates photo/ video sharing and social networking. Instagram community consists of over 400 million and is one of the largest ad platforms in the world. Access to this ad platform provides access to Instagram user data. Based on this, we acquired Instagram user data on Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh. When comparing these four countries, Bangladesh has the highest Instagram users and Myanmar has the lowest.
It was expected. So I ignored the news that RCom and Sistema were in merger talks. What got my attention was the Aircel angle. People have been talking about collaboration between the Ambani brothers (Jio and RCom). Now that get’s real interesting.
The original plan was that we would showcase our big data for urban development research at the LBO-LBR Infrastructure Summit that started today. But it was not to be. Neither I nor Sriganesh Lokanathan could be present on the second day and our work was considered too nitty-gritty for the “high-level” discussion on Day 1. So I had to stretch to find something of relevance from the inaugural session that I moderated. One of the panelists kept saying that people appear to have forgotten this is 2015.