General


In a parable I worked up in 2012, I speculated on the possibilities of joint ventures between Internet companies such as Facebook and the last-mile access companies to enhance the user experience. Some details of a dispute in South Korea shed light on the problem: According to SKB, there were initially two ways to connect to Facebook in Korea: via a direct connection to Facebook’s server in Hong Kong and via rerouting to a local cache server in Korea operated by local telecom provider KT. The cache server is used to save online content locally in temporary storage, called a cache, and in turn improve the connection speed for accessing foreign internet services. Facebook currently pays KT to use its cache server. SKB argued that Facebook deliberately cut off its link to KT’s faster cache server last December and has since been clashing over network maintenance issues.
When I was living in US Midwest, Delphi was a familiar name. It was a company that employed thousands to make original equipment for vehicles. But now, according to NYT, Delphi is positioning itself to be a player in the data business: Delphi hopes to create a new business that can gather vast amounts of data from vehicles — about how and where they go, how they’re driven and how they’re running. The company then envisions selling insights drawn from the data trove to automakers, insurance companies and possibly even advertisers. A driver who frequently drives to Starbucks locations, for example, could be targeted with Starbucks coupons via email or text.
So there was this article in a Myanmar newspaper: Myanmar only has two undersea fibre-optic cables and two cross-border cables for its Internet traffic. By contrast regional leader Singapore has a total of 21 international fibre links, 15 of which are undersea and six cross-border. Malaysia has 17 links – 13 undersea and four cross-border; Thailand has 10 undersea and four cross-border; the Philippines has nine undersea and six cross-border; and Vietnam has five undersea and two cross-border cables. Cambodia lags behind with three undersea Internet fibre cables and one cross-border cable. In South Asia, Bangladesh has two undersea and two cross-border, while Sri Lanka has seven undersea and four cross-border cables.
The introduction of GST to replace the patchwork of state taxes is perhaps the Modi government’s greatest economic achievement. The new regime is expected to come into effect on July 1, 2017. Like everything in India, it’s complicated, with multiple bands and exceptions. It’s interesting that the 18 percent GST rate for telecom services is being challenged on the basis that it is a necessity. Imposing 18 percent tax on telecom is likely to increase the overall tax burden and therefore may have a negative impact on the consumers’ expenses.
They were extremely high to start with. But still, a good thing. Sri Lanka should be careful we don’t take over Pakistan’s position as the most taxed ICT sector. The breaks will see the withholding tax on mobile services drop from 14% to 12.5%, while federal excise duty will fall from 18.
The consequences of throwing the kill switch on the Internet are set out in Gyanendra’s Law and its various exceptions. In this context, an interview with the editor of the Kathmandu Post who experienced the throwing of the kill switch in Nepal by King Gyanendra himself is illuminating: UA: What was the impact of the internet shutdown on the media? PP: It was very, very difficult. At the time, all our correspondents were using the internet to send news and it became very chaotic to manage the newsroom. We were not in a position to send reporters to events.
The Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, the precursor to the NAFTA, was the first enforceable trade agreement to cover services. It’s always easier to negotiate with a few parties, than with many, especially when breaking new ground. But in this proposal to introduce new binding commitments in a tripartite agreement, they are proposing to take a chapter from a large plurilateral agreement and use it in a trilateral agreement. The NAFTA Parties could negotiate a new NAFTA Chapter on Digital Trade, using the Trans-Pacific Partnership e-commerce chapter as a starting point. Such provisions, which would be used in subsequent free trade agreements involving the NAFTA Parties, would provide an important counterweight to countries that are imposing unjustified restrictions on data flows; requiring that data storage be localized or that source code or other intellectual property be shared with local partners as a condition of doing business; restricting access to online content, which is creating a balkanized Internet; and undermining the private sector’s role in developing and maintaining a free and open Internet.
Linnet Taylor correctly points out that US case law does not have applicability outside the US. However, the third-party doctrine set out in the Smith v Maryland case differentiated between transaction-generated data on a telecom network and the content of what was communicated. Now there’s likely to be a different governing precedent, for those under US law: The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether the government needs a warrant to obtain information from cellphone companies showing their customers’ locations. The Supreme Court has limited the government’s ability to use GPS devices to track suspects’ movements, and it has required a warrant to search cellphones. The new case, Carpenter v.
The debate on zero rating has been heavy on overwrought analogies and light on actual evidence. Here is evidence from focus groups of people who actually use zero rating in Myanmar. Research conducted by Peter Cihon and Helani Galpaya with support from Mozilla Foundation and others. Perception and visibility aside, users do not remain within the ‘walled garden’. Most active zero-rated-content users also use other Internet services, including Google, news websites, and apps.
We have been of the opinion that electricity is an important as ICTs in putting money in people’s pockets and hope in their hearts. We have worked on how to improve electricity service and continue to work on different aspects of what is a multi-faceted problem. We would love to work on electricity in Myanmar. They sure need help. Unfortunately, Phyo Min Thein’s party, the National League for Democracy, has failed to deliver.
I have yet to receive a good answer to the question of why regulators require specific spectrum bands to be used for specific modes of “last mile” technologies. The most persuasive reasons have been tied to revenue maximization for government. The technical reasons are not very persuasive. It appears the Myanmar government is going to make USD 80 million x 3 (or 4) by giving this authorization. But anyway, it is good that 4G is being rolled out in this country where most phones are smartphones and are thus likely to be able to use 4G with just a change in settings.
I was not expecting media coverage for the discussions on BIMSTEC in Bangkok over the weekend. But there was quite a comprehensive report in a Bangladesh publication. Connectivity gaps, in terms of absent or insufficient road and rail connections, exist and need to be addressed and public-private partnerships can do so if handled intelligently, Samarajiva continued. The government must be involved to clear rights of way and because they can raise low cost money for infrastructure, while private entities can mobilise competitiveness, which he considers crucial. “Do not allow state monopolies to control them,” he said.

Priorities for BIMSTEC

Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on May 28, 2017  /  0 Comments

At the end of a conference celebrating 20 years of BIMSTEC and 100 of Chulalongkorn University, I was on a panel that was tasked with identifying priorities for the organization. Given there were seven panelists each proposing three priorities and some more suggestions coming up from the audience, there was then a need to develop a rule to rank them. I proposed that we ask what tasks could only be done by a plurilateral organization and give those priority. For example, lowering of non-tariff barriers affecting simple trade in goods could be done bilaterally or even unilaterally. But creating the conditions for global production networks could not be done bilaterally.
It was almost seven years ago that Under Secretary General Noeleen Hayzer opened the door for our conversation on how to lower what we paid for Internet in Asia with ESCAP. Now we have a formal resolution: At the 73rd Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) member countries expressed support to developing seamless regional broadband connectivity, by adopting the resolution titled “Implementation of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative through regional cooperation”. The resolution was presented by Bangladesh, co-sponsored by China, Fiji, Islamic Republic of Iran, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation and Thailand. ESCAP member States recognized that access to information and communications technology (ICT) are fundamental to reducing the digital divide, alleviating poverty and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other internationally agreed development goals in Asia and the Pacific. For us, this is good, but symbolic.
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Pathfinder Foundation organized a roundtable on social market economy and SMEs in Colombo today. Among the Sri Lankan research that was shared was a shortened version of a slideset from our 2011-13 research program. With regard to social market economy, I said that the German model could not be transplanted here. Lacking their almost religious fiscal discipline, we were likely to create an even bigger mess by guaranteeing social and economic safeguards in the Constitution. Their model rested on tripartite decision making system that gave a powerful role to trade unions.
Call for young scholar applications for CPRsouth2017 from Myanmar citizens and residents Selected Young Scholars will participate in an interactive training program, along with international participants. The curriculum will emphasize practical aspects of taking ICT-related research to policy. Young scholars will then attend the conference, which showcases policy relevant research. Tutorials are scheduled for the August 28-30, 2017, prior to the CPRsouth conference.  The conference – which is an integral part of the training – begins on August 30 and ends on September 01.