General


Coding for a cause

Posted on September 21, 2015  /  0 Comments

While the rest of the Sri Lanka slept peacefully, a considerable number of young and enthusiastic programmers gave up sleep this weekend – but for a good cause. Anyone dropping in to the WSO2 offices in Colombo the early hours of Saturday or Sunday morning would have been greeted by the sight of exhausted but determined coders hunched over laptops, tapping away. Among them were three teams working on a problem put forward by LIRNEasia. This was the scene of the Code4good hackathon which started on Friday evening (18th) and ran non stop until Sunday evening. Though the intense work happened this weekend, preparation began much before.
China Unicom has built the US$50 million China-Myanmar International (CMI) terrestrial link. But it is yet to be activated for unknown reasons and Myanmar keeps suffering from outages. Now Beijing has ceremoniously announced its plan to build a Sino-ASEAN submarine cable network without revealing any details. South Asia and Southeast Asia has become the hotbed of Sino-Japanese rivalry, especially after the formation of AIIB. This new development bank has gained unprecedented global membership at a lightning pace.
The European Union Joint Research Center-Institute of Prospective Technological Studies is convening a workshop in Sevilla on Big Data for the analysis of Digital Economy and Society on 22 September 2015. LIRNEasia has been invited to speak on Big data for development: New opportunities for emerging markets. The slideset is here.
It has been estimated that submarine cables carry traffic associated with over US$10 trillion in transactional value globally per day. It is being also claimed that submarine cables transport 99% of the international data worldwide. These are largely true, yet exaggerated marketing pitch. Terrestrial cables also carry huge volume of international data traffic across the borders, especially within Europe and across the Eurasian routes. It, however, makes no difference with the consumers as long as they remain online.
The Doing Business Report, published annually by the World Bank, analyses laws, regulations and administrative requirements affecting various aspects of private enterprise in 189 countries. Lawyers, judges and notaries are the main data sources for this report due to its focus on legal and regulatory arrangements. This data is used to create a composite index to rank countries based on how pro-business their legal environment is. However, do de jure processes adequately represent the true functioning of an economy? This question is addressed by Mary Hallward-Driemeier and Lant Prichett in their paper, How Business is Done in the Developing World: Deals vs Rules.
Back in 2013, UN ESCAP, in partnership with the ITU, published an online map of the cables that carry Internet traffic in the Asia Pacific. We at LIRNEasia were very happy about this because we had been working with ESCAP since 2010 and Senior Policy Fellow Abu Saeed Khan who worked up the idea of highlighting the importance of international backhaul has been engaged with the process ever since. One usually expects novel policy initiatives to occur in the developed market economies and then to be replicated in the developing regions. In this case the order was reversed, though it is possible that the ESCAP-ECA-ITU maps may lack the level of granular detail the US map appears to be backed by. It may not look like much at first glance, but a map created by University of Wisconsin computer science professor Paul Barford and about a dozen colleagues took around four years to produce.
An online publication has written about Grace Mirandilla Santos’s presentation at a recent Youth Congress on Information Technology: Citing various studies, Santos also revealed that 80% of all elementary schools or some 38,000 schools nationwide are not connected online. According to Santos’ study at LIRNEasia, ISPs give us 70% to 80% short of what they promise. “Ideally, there are more kilobytes per second you receive for every piso you pay. But it shows here that one kilobyte per peso is what we get, which is very low compared to other countries,” Santos explained. She added: “Of all the ISPs we tested, Philippine ISPs offer the lowest value for money, and that means that Filipino Internet subscribers are pretty more oppressed.
The Eleven News recently carried an article on propaganda being spread on Facebook. LIRNEasia disseminated the findings of a nationwide ICT baseline survey in July this year, and the numbers related to users of the Internet, and users of Facebook which we highlighted at the dissemination has been quoted in this news item. The original Myanmar version of the article can be accessed here. The translated English version is available here.
Myanmar takes another giant leap in telecoms. Burst Networks of Myanmar has engaged Swedish telecom infrastructure specialist Flexenclosure to build a multi-million dollar Tier 4 data center. This customized prefabricated modular facility will be built in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Yangon. Construction will take place at Flexenclosure’s factory in Vara, Sweden, with deployment in Myanmar in early 2016. It will comply with the Uptime Institute’s highly stringent classification of redundancy, fault tolerance and availability.

Google Global Cache in Myanmar

Posted on September 13, 2015  /  0 Comments

With 70 percent of mobile users having smartphones, Myanmar is possibly the fastest growing Internet market in the world. With rudimentary international links, this can cause all sorts of problems. One (partial) solution is content delivery networks. Internet users in Myanmar have received a speed boost as Norway’s Telenor and local company Yatanarpon Teleport (YTP) go live with Google Global Cache (GGC). This represents the first active content delivery network (CDN) resource in one of the last untapped telecommunications markets in the world.
The state of Internet in the Philippines has been subject to scrutiny by civil society and more recently the Senate office which has led the national regulatory authority to take action (link) through multiple stakeholder consultations. LIRNEasia research, through research fellow Grace Mirandilla-Santos, has been instrumental in the memorandum circular issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). Being a pertinent topic in the Philippines Grace was invited to the 13th Youth Congress on Information Technology 2015,the biggest IT event in the country, attended by computer science, IT, and engineering college students nationwide. Her presentation titled “PH Internet is bad and it’s not your fault” is available here.     Photo credits: Noel Feria
Bangladesh keeps talking about launching a satellite. Sri Lanka threw some money at it, but backed off. Myanmar is talking. Now India wants to gift SAARC member countries with a satellite to be launched using ISRO’s innovative, low-cost launch capabilities. Something Keynes wrote about economics gave me the answer to the puzzle of why our region’s decision makers are so enamored with telecom satellites.
Yesterday, there was a significant announcement in Bangladesh: Robi and Airtel announced they were discussing a merger that could result in the creation of two more or less equal sized competitors to the market leader, Grameenphone. Here is my full response: This is what I said in response to a question about the number of operators in a market four years back. The market should determine the number of suppliers in a market, not government officials. This requires two things: (1) an orderly policy on market exit, whereby, for example, suppliers have clear rules on what can be done about the assigned spectrum, existing customers, and so on; and (2) transparent license and renewal procedures that allow for as many licenses to be issued as possible within the constraints of spectrum. These principles are as valid today as they were then.

Why not local data storage?

Posted on September 9, 2015  /  0 Comments

The first I heard of this issue was back in the 1980s when the Government of Canada wanted banks and companies to store data within the country and not in the US where it was cheaper. One of the arguments was the need to simplify access to data for law-enforcement purposes. Technology has changed much, but the issues remain the same. Now it’s the United States Government that wants access to data stored by US companies wherever the data is. Russia wants all companies operating in Russia to store data within Russia.
A trade body is sure to know subscriber numbers. But how good is it on Internet users? May be they actually mean subscribers? India has added 52 million Internet users in first six months of the year, taking the total user base to 352 million as on June 30, 2015, industry body IAMAI said on Wednesday. Interestingly, 213 million (over 60 per cent) users accessed the worldwide web through mobile devices.
It used to be that people contributed to or initiated policy debate through the media. Now it seems that Linked In or Facebook posts are the preferred medium. There is a shortcoming in this approach in that it is not truly public, but it may bleed into the public media through journalists who participate in these private fora. Something is better than nothing. My eyes were drawn to one of the three points raised recently for the attention of Sri Lanka’s ICT Agency: ICT is not another subject anymore.