General


Some time ago, Minister of Urban Development and Water Supply Rauff Hakeem announced “Kandy” would be developed as the first “Smart City” in Sri Lanka. While many projects are taking place in Kandy such as Strategic City Development Project, Greater Kandy water supply project, it is important to assess the concept of smart city, and how it can be applied to Sri Lankan context. “Smart City” as a concept emerged during the last few decades. It’s been widely marketed and adapted by private organizations as well as public organizations in cities, due to the introduction use and adaptability of information and communication technology (ICT). At the moment, more people lives in cities compared to rural areas.
Last time the BJP was in power, Pramod Mahajan was Minister of Telecom. He listened to The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), a group of IT business people primarily of Indian origin based in the US and merged the DoT (in charge of telecom) and DEITy (in charge of IT). This was portrayed as a major step toward convergence. But the offices were separate, they had different secretaries, and different cultures. All that was common was the Minister.
A box in 2015-16 Affordability Report of the Alliance for Affordable Internet includes a box on gender which begins thus: By March 2015, just over a year after liberalising their ICT sector, 40% of Myanmar’s population between the ages of 15-65 owned a mobile phone. Yet, women were 29% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. To understand the reasons for this gender gap in mobile phone ownership, GSMA and LIRNEasia conducted a qualitative study among 91 men and women in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, and Pantanaw, a small town in the southwestern part of the country. The research showed that women in Myanmar play a prominent role in the management of household finances — even if they do not earn anything themselves — and are frequently involved in the financial decision to purchase a mobile phone for the family. Yet women’s access to this family mobile phone is often limited because the phone tends to travel outside the home, with the person who is deemed to need it the most.
It was happenstance that New York Times commentator and US Academic of Turkish origin Zeynep Tufekci was in Turkey when the coup unfolded. Her reflections on the role played by the Internet and social media in defeating the coup are of great interest. But what caught my eye was a simple action mobile operators can take in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, natural or otherwise: When I was stuck at the airport in this city in southern Turkey, on Friday night, I had many things to worry about. A coup attempt had just begun and the country was in turmoil. My plane to Istanbul had almost flown into the worst of the fighting, but luckily we were prevented from taking off at the last minute when the airspace was closed.
Speed is important in entry to competitive markets. The issues have been discussed in the context of other countries. One hopes that the negotiations will be speeded up and that they will make the necessary investments fast. However, according to the Myanmar Times, negotiations are still ongoing, the venture is not yet formally established and as such has not been able to apply for an operating licence. In addition to Viettel, the JV will comprise a government shareholder, known as Star High Public Company, and a local consortium, Myanmar National Telecom Holding.
In cyberpunk novels, the world of face-to-face interactions is called meatspace. Everyone knows what cyberspace is. The doyen of cyberpunk William Gibson invented the term. Surveillance is built into cyberspace. In the case of consumption activities, surveillance allows the marketer to “know” what the prospective customer wants and to shape her desires through targeted and customized messages.
In 2012 we wrote about the dangers posed to cloud computing in our contribution to the 2013 UNCTAD Information Economy Report. When the lower court ruling mandating Microsoft to give the government access to data stored in Ireland came out in 2014, this is what we said. Now the Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Microsoft: On Thursday, Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft’s president, said the court’s ruling was a victory for digital privacy rights. He added that the adoption of cloud services by customers in some countries, especially in the public sector, had slowed as a result of the uncertainty around the privacy of their communications.
Impact of broadband on the economic development of countries is extensively focused on research. To minimize the digital divide and increase the access to broadband, regulators and governments of developed as well as developing nations launch broadband policies/ plans and guidelines.  Different organizations and entities carry out further research on this subject and produce white papers on the same. The colloquium held at LIRNEasia last Thursday focused on three white papers published on broadband and digital connectivity this year (2016). These are; Government broadband plan: 5 key policy measures that proved to make a difference: Nokia (2016) Connecting the world: Ten mechanisms for global inclusion: PWC (2016) Digital Enablement: Bridging the Digital Divide to Connect People and Communities in India: Huawei (2016) The Nokia commissioned white paper was done by diffraction analysis.
Given melting ice in the Arctic, cable laying ships are moving in. In the first phase northern communities are being connected. The plan is to extend to Asia, providing an additional layer of redundancy to international backhaul. In later phases of the project, Quintillion Networks will extend the network internationally to Europe and Asia, representing the first time the two continents will be directly linked by cable. In addition to cutting latency, these arctic cables add a layer of redundancy to our global communication systems.

Six CPRsouth alumni at ITS 2016

Posted on June 29, 2016  /  0 Comments

I did not have to go looking for them. They came up to me and fondly spoke of what they had learned at previous CPRsouth events. In some cases the interactions had happened more than five years ago. I was gratified. The objective of CPRsouth is not to equip young people for the academic industry; it is to encourage and equip them to take research to policy.
Myanmar, having completed the “big bang,” initial reforms is in the process of establishing a regulatory agency to be known as the Myanmar Communication Commission (MCC). Due to years of enforced isolation from the world and neglect of education, Myanmar suffers from severe constraints in terms of skilled personnel. Having already achieved good results by learning from the experience with previous reforms, the government may benefit from learning from the experiences in the design of regulatory agencies and the conduct of ex-ante, sector-specific regulation. From desk research and questionnaires administered to informed respondents, this paper assembles relevant evidence from National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs) in member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which Myanmar is a member. In addition, the paper identifies negative aspects of conventional solutions and suggests ways to address them.
Martin Fransman gave a good keynote on what causes innovation at today’s ITS conference. One question that arose from his discussion of Apple and a low-tech (low expenditure on R&D) company was how we could objectively measure innovation. Fransman answered by saying R&D expenditures were a bad indicator, being (a) an input measure, and (b) excluding a lot of service innovation expenditures (Apple was high here). No one would be misled into believing that Apple did not innovate. After the session I was chatting about this with Michael Latzer of U Zurich.

Does mobile use make us sick?

Posted on June 25, 2016  /  0 Comments

It was a challenge to teach about the health issues associated with mobile networks to over 80 members of the Yangon Regional Hluttaw (regional Parliament), including the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. I am not qualified in medicine, but I keep getting asked whether a new mobile BTS being erected in a neighborhood or a son’s or daughter’s “excessive” mobile use is likely to cause health problems. I realize the questioner, generally a member of the public who has made the effort to find my number and call me me cold, is highly worried and is also placing a great deal of trust in me. Therefore, I have made the effort to keep up with the research and respond based on the best possible evidence and with sensitivity to their fears. The slides that I used in my talk are based primarily on the writings of the brilliant Siddhartha Mukherjee, supplemented by a recent Australian study.
Over 80 sitting MPs of the Yangon Regional Hluttaw participated in a two day course on e-government organized by LIRNEasia and MIDO. The course took place on 22 and 23 June within the parliamentary premises and saw the participation of representatives from National League for Democracy (NLD), the Military and  Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Rohan Samarajiva and Helani Galpaya of LIRNEasia, Pranesh Prakash of CIS and Htaike Htaike Aung and Yatanar Htun of MIDO made presentations to the MPs over the two days. The presentations were well received and lively discussions followed. Many MPs also visited the digital security clinic for one to one consultations on how they could secure their social media accounts.
MIDO and LIRNEasia offered a one day program that addressed issues of telecom and Internet policy and regulation, along with e government and social media in Yangon to around 20 legislators from the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament. The slides used are given below: What is the significance of ICTs to legislators?: Rohan Samarajiva What to people in Myanmar do with ICTs? Results of field research: Helani Galpaya Legislation, policies, plans, strategies, regulation: Rohan Samarajiva What is independent regulation? Why is it needed?

Hope for Sri Lanka Post?

Posted on June 20, 2016  /  0 Comments

In contrast to the usual tales of woe, increasing losses and strikes, an online publication had this optimistic story: Sri Lanka Post has done its homework. According to Shervyn Senadheera, Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Posts, Postal Services & Muslim Religious Affairs, a survey conducted between 2013 and 2014 with a sample size of 1,122 participants found that only 15 – 18% of the population has the capability of getting their services online, through the internet, mobile phones and apps. The rest of the population faces immense hurdles in terms of language, computer literacy, access to hardware, and confidence with technology. Senadheera is of the opinion that whatever the technology introduced, basic problems like those mentioned above need to be addressed first. And there is truth to the statement: even a giant technological development drive will need to tackle computer literacy before the people can enjoy its benefits.