General Archives — Page 15 of 244 — LIRNEasia


I recall telling the story of the US court that required a man with a light (and maybe a bell) to walk ahead of new-fangled motor cars to Sri Lanka’s Solicitor General. Was it apocryphal or true? But it worked. I prevented him from giving me a ruling that would have basically killed satellite-based personal telephony. So often, the vested interests (ah, an old word, going into desuetude) try to force fit new things into old boxes in order to kill them.
Despite a few errors such as the claim that Ericsson had “subscribers” (said to be 35 million), Buzzfeed had an interesting story on Myanmar’s experiences in fast takeup of Internet. Myanmar has a “low media and information literacy rate,” according to an interview given by an unnamed official in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the Myanmar Times. Often called “digital literacy,” the term measures how well people using the internet understand what they are doing, and how to stay safe online. Countries like Myanmar, which come online quickly and without many government-backed programs to teach safe internet habits — like secure passwords and not revealing personal details online — rank among the lowest in digital literacy. They are the most likely to fall for scams, hacks, and fake news.
I frequently use the phrase “a crisis is too valuable thing to waste” usually attributing it to Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first Chief of Staff. So I was intrigued by this column in the New Indian Express. The writer looks ahead beyond the blame game. The deed is done, however messy. Now how to make something out of it?
  Sri Lanka’s first ever International Chemical & Process Engineering Conference was organized by the Department of Chemical and Process engineering of the University of Moratuwa in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on 25th of November 2016 from 1 pm to 5.30 pm at BMICH. The conference was organized under four main thematic areas adopted from Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); (1) Zero hunger (2) Clean water and sanitation (3) Clean and affordable energy and (4) industry, innovation and infrastructure.   Dr. Chatura Rodrigo, Senior Research Manager at LIRNEasia led the panel on “Future with Food Security”, under the SDG of Zero hunger.
As is common with people in this line of business, all the emphasis is on technology, not on business case. Mundane stuff like revenue streams, customer care, etc. are ignored. Also bad reporting: no one in Sri Lanka has “seen” Internet service over Loon in 2016. But hey, there’s about 40 days left.
The CEO of the Campbell Collaboration, perhaps the leading promoter and facilitator of systematic reviews, has written a short comment on the prospects of evidence-based policy in the aftermath of Brexit and Trump. It has been our observation that the really big decisions that are taken at the political level have never been based on evidence in the form understood by proponents of systematic reviews. The evidence is used at the more technical levels, as described below. So nothing new, really. First, much of evidence-based policy, and especially evidence-based practice, can get below the politician’s radar.
So the Daily Mirror, the leading English language daily, carried my comments on the illogical tax proposals. “Around 2010, the Government considered the complexity of taxes affecting the telecommunication sector and exempted telecom from the Value Added Tax. Instead a twenty percent tax was imposed for telecommunication which was remitted to the Government” said Former Director General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and Telecommunication Expert Prof. Rohan Samarajeeva. “The previous Government also considered the data issue as separate from voice and value added services.
I understand that smartphone penetration is even higher according to the 2016 survey, where the analysis is almost complete. But here is what the ITU says about Myanmar’s ICT progress, using LIRNEasia’s 2015 data: These improvements in affordability and network availability help to explain the country’s fast Internet uptake, supported by two other trends that distinguish Myanmar from neighbouring markets. Firstly, smartphone penetration is very high, reaching 66 per cent of phone owners in early 2015 according to a survey by the independent research institute LIRNEasia.18 According to Ooredoo, as many as 80 per cent of mobile-phone users opt for smartphones (Oxford Business Group, 2015). Secondly, growth in data usage has overtaken growth in voice traffic.
Myanmar is ranked 140th in the ITU’s ICT Development Index, just 0.16 away from India, which is ranked 138th. It is now ahead of all South Asian countries, except Maldives (86th), Sri Lanka (116th), Bhutan (117th) and India (138th). It is no longer the lowest ranking country within the ASEAN; Lao PDR is ranked 144th. Sri Lanka is running in place.
Various players are speculating about and trying to come to terms with the “pause” in Fiber initiatives by Google. Hopes that Google would establish a nationwide model for fiber Internet service were dashed last month, when the company suddenly declared a “pause” in its plans to lay fiber in as many as 18 municipalities, beyond the eight metro areas where it already is building or has completed its system. The disappointed suitors will have to wait for this strategy to play out or move ahead on their own. They would be well advised to keep an eye on San Francisco. What of its developing world counterpart, Loon?
Following the online posting of my articles on the government’s 2017 Budget proposals affecting the ICT sector a rich discussion occurred over Twitter, which included participation and fact gathering by one of Sri Lanka’s leading journalists, Namini Wijedasa who writes in the highest circulation English newspaper. Thanks mostly to a valiant social media spokesperson from the Ministry of Public Enterprise Development who tried, to the best of his ability, to defend the indefensible. Examples below. Lot more Tweets. @Nimilamalee @samarajiva @groundviews 2013-2014 saw an increase of 1.
“The digital economy will empower our nation – through providing affordable and secure Internet connectivity to every citizen in any part of Sri Lanka, removing barriers for cross-border international trade.” The above quotation from the Prime Minister’s Economic Policy Statement in Parliament on 27 October 2016 suggests the government sees ICTs playing a vital role in the country’s progress. Sri Lanka has been a leader in ICTs in the region. The Prime Minister gave enthusiastic leadership to the e Sri Lanka initiative, which when launched was a pioneering effort. It is known that he played a valuable role in connecting Sri Lanka to the Internet in the 1990s.
As can be seen, the language used by Sujata Gamage in her op ed on the education proposal in the 2017 Budget Speech was very nuanced and academic. But the problem was that politicians tend not to read to the end, choosing to form their opinion from the headline. In this instance, the headline was “Can tabs do what PCs or bricks could not do for education?” But looking at that headline, I do not see anything near the kind of attack common in many of mine. It after all ends with a question mark.
The legislation creating the Public Utilities Commission and the Telecom Regulatory Commission specifically provide for the regulatory bodies to have their own funds. The Minister of Finance in the 2017 Budget has announced he intends to expropriate the money in the funds and give it out on request. My response in today’s Daily FT: It is customary for independent, sector-specific regulatory agencies to have a separate fund. The agency is operated with fees and other payments from the entities that it regulates that go into this fund. The principal rationale is insulation from pressure that could be exerted by the Government which could use disbursements from the consolidated fund as a carrot or a stick.
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka is in charge of national policies and economic affairs. The Minister of Finance is in charge of finance, the money the government raises and the money it spends. As a result, the Prime Minister presents an economic policy statement before the budget is read. So it was with some surprise that I saw many policy proposals that did not have direct revenue/expenditure implications in the 2017 Budget, such as extension of the duration of visas issued to spouses of Sri Lankan citizens. The digital commerce proposal is also a policy proposal, but given the objective of ensuring the collection of relevant taxes, one could see a rationale for it being in the Budget Speech.
Our lead on international backhaul, Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan, has been talking about data centers along with fiber cables for some time. Here is the back story, as explained by APNIC’s Geoff Huston. The original motivation of the exchange was to group together a set of comparable local access providers to allow them to directly peer with each other. The exchange circumvented paying the transit providers to perform this cross-connect, and as long as there was a sizeable proportion of local traffic exchange, then exchanges filled a real need in replacing a proportion of the transit provider’s role with a local switching function. However, exchange operators quickly realised that if they also included data centre services at the exchange then the local exchange participants saw an increased volume of user traffic that could be provided at the exchange, and this increased the relative importance of the exchange.