General


US Government Accountability Office (GAO) provides Congress with thorough and balanced analysis of technological and scientific developments that affect the society, environment, and economy. A new report of GAO has detected “that the statistics on Internet access availability and access in America provided by the US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), are over-egged and misleading figures that routinely overstate reality.” As so often is the case, it is the detail in a comparatively small and niche case study that highlights the falsifications hidden the bigger picture. Simple extrapolation of the figures and evidence presented in the September 2108 GAO report “Broadband Internet: FCC’s Data Overstate Access on Tribal Lands” indicate that the regulator’s figures are a gross distortion of the reality of broadband access, speeds and competition across not only the report’s subject area but also across the entirety of the nation. Martyn Warwick of Telecom TV has written, “US regulator’s broadband statistics: Rubbish in – Rubbish out – Rubbish throughout.
Data traffic in Finland’s Elisa 4G mobile network has grown by more than 20-times from 2011 to 2017 but the operator’s CAPEX and OPEX remained flat during this period. Mobile industry engineers should make their hands dirty, as the Finns do. The bad culture of buying off the shelf solutions to meet internal KPI should be stopped. Engineers are smart, networks are not. And the world will not collapse if it waits until the over-hyped 5G technology gets matured.
Cybersecurity of developing countries is most at risk! Gartner projects that more than 20 billion IoT devices will be connected by 2020. The security of these Internet Of Things (IOT), relating to cyber security, in a broader sense hinges on service continuity and availability. Whether it be a DDoS attack that affects the availability or a malicious attack on the configuration that brings down the IoT device(s) or exposes private data, they all converge on the concept of cybersecurity. LIRNEasia partnered with Vanuatu Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, Prime Minister’s Office, Netherlands Radio communications Agency / University of Twente and the Internet Society (ISOC) in introducing the Raster Tool and engaging the participants in an IOT cybersecurity assessment exercise.
In an overview of studies on India in the United States, Devesh Kapur of the University of Pennsylvania has some less than complimentary things to say about RCTs. They mirror some of my comments about systematic reviews here, the next layer of RCTs, though I do not say anything about the benefits to reseachers like Devesh does. By contrast, there has been a considerable increase in India-related work in the social sciences. The field has become much more empirical and India offers several advantages for a researcher: large sample sizes, heterogeneity in multiple dimensions, relatively low cost of gathering data, and weak official oversight (which, in any case, is unlikely to be enforced). It would be hard to do many of these trials in the US or China.
Since 2016, we at LIRNEasia have had a strong engagement with the post-conflict Northern Province. In my role at ICTA, I was invited to inaugurate the incubator space established by the Northern Chamber of Information Technology on 26 June 2018. The seven-hour one-way journey did not justify a single event. So we crammed in a whole series of interactions, including a structured discussion organized by our partner Jaffna Managers’ Forum. Among the invited senior professionals and politicians were the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Provincial Council members, senior academics, etc.
Trade unions are supposed to level the playing field for workers. But it’s something else that happens with unions in monopoly services provided by government. They engage in what is very close to extortion. Government doctors in Sri Lanka go on strike, harming innocent patients, demanding and getting privileged access to popular schools for their children and duty exemptions for the cars they buy. Railway workers demand salary increases even when the losses exceed total revenues.
We have been writing about network shutdowns for a long time. We even formulated a law to explain its workings. Now finally a court has ruled: The judgement reads as, “For what has been discussed above, the instant appeal and the connected petitions are allowed. Consequently, the actions, orders and directives issued by the Federal Government or the Authority, as the case may be, which are inconsistent with the provisions of section 54(3) are declared as illegal, ultra vires and without lawful authority and jurisdiction. The Federal Government or the Authority are, therefore, not vested with the power and jurisdiction to suspend or cause the suspension of mobile cellular services or operations on the ground of national security except as provided under section 54(3).
Better late than never. Why it took multiple decades after the establishment of the Universal Service Fund to spend the money to connect the unconnected in India’s North East is the question. It’s not that there was a shortage of money. Bharti Airtel Ltd will set up 2,000 mobile towers across villages and national highways in the North East with the help of government funding, the company said in a press statement on Sunday. The telecom operator has signed an agreement with the department of telecommunications and the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) to provide mobile services in 2,100 villages across Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh over the next 18 months.
While in Manila for an APCICT-UNESCAP expert group meeting (6-7 Dec 2017) to provide input into a course module on data driven smart government, I had the pleasure of also delivering a public lecture on big data for development. The lecture was held on 8 Dec 2017 and was sponsored by the Center for Local and Regional Governance (CLRG) of the University of Philippines’ National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG). The two events and in particular the public lecture was a useful opportunity to interact with diverse stakeholders such as civil servants, government officials from DICT (Philippines’ apex ICT government body and regulator), and university faculty regarding the enhanced use of data in policy making. My slides from the event are HERE.
Following Beniger, I have pointed to the need for control in soft sense as the driver for much of what is going in ICTs these days. But is China understanding control in a hard sense? China Telecom showed off its ability to measure the amount of trash in several garbage cans and detect malfunctioning fire hydrants. Investors and analysts say China’s unabashed fervor for collecting such data, combined with its huge population, could eventually give its artificial intelligence companies an edge over American ones. If Silicon Valley is marked by a libertarian streak, China’s vision offers something of an antithesis, one where tech is meant to reinforce and be guided by the steady hand of the state.
Governments want to be seen as doing things. A government that does things is not necessarily better than one that does little or nothing. It is important that the government takes actions that are well considered both in terms of causing the intended results and in terms of not causing unintended harm. The benefits must also be balanced against the costs of the policy action. I examine the proposal to impose a 0.
We have been talking about the absence of clear market-exit rules in the countries we work in. The examples keep piling up. Indian operator Aircel may have no other option but to shutter its operations following the collapse of its merger with Reliance Communications (RCom). The operator has debts of around US$3.7B and continues to make losses.
Google’s core competence is search. But the millions now joining the Internet in India and similar countries do not appear to value search as much as the early adopters, according to company research. So Google is offering other products specifically designed for the Indian market, according to NYT: Many of the new Indian users have basic phones, which make it difficult for them to run certain apps or to store big files like videos. Data plans are limited, and despite a telecom price war that has cut the price of a megabyte of data by as much as 97 percent, some customers are unable to afford more data when they run out. Google’s Android software and apps like the Chrome browser, Maps and YouTube are often included with smartphones.
Mytel, the fourth entrant in the Myanmar market, aims to be first. According to them, the question is not whether, but when. The fourth telecom operator, Myanmar National Tele and Communications Co Ltd (Mytel), said its investment has reached to about US$1 billion (1.36 trillion kyat) including the license fee in Myanmar. The telecommunication sector has the highest level of foreign investment.
Celebrations of the birth centenary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke will take place across the world, including Colombo where he lived and died, this month. Sriganesh Lokanathan will be speaking on Future Data at the Colombo event. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, our resident SF writer, is also playing a role. I thought of contributing to the celebrations with this eulogy I wrote for the now-defunct Montage back in 2008: Sir Arthur C.