General


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.
The ill-considered proposal in the 2017 Budget to compel all e commerce transactions to be conducted over a yet-to-be-designed government platform has come up for discussion again. Lahiru Pathmalal, CEO of Takas, one of the Sri Lanka’s more visible e-commerce businesses had this to say to the Sunday Times: “What is ideal is a tax holiday for e-commerce/tech related business that makes heavy investments into growth,” he said. “There has been discussion in regard to travel related booking engines being taxed such as AirBNB and Bookings.com. I believe taxing of booking engines is be ill timed,” he claimed.
Expression of opinion is one of the things one can do on the Internet. We at LIRNEasia use it to communicate our evidence-based views. Our website is basically a blog. Evan Williams was a co-creator of Blogger and the largest shareholder of Twitter. He believes the model is broken.
The second panel was on digital rights and multistakeholderism. I did not think there can be much debate about a Rorschach inkblot so I devoted only one slide to it and made some passing comments, which still managed to elicit some response from the people who live under the protection of the concept. Digital rights was where the robust exchange occurred. Not because of the relatively uncontroversial issue of governments being prevented from arbitrarily shutting down the Internet and the underlying telecom networks that I proposed. But it was because one of the panelists proposed the wholesale importation of the European data protection regime and rights such as the “right to be forgotten.
Yesterday I participated in two panel discussions at the Sri Lanka Internet Governance Forum 2017. IGFs are primarily intended to permit an exchange of ideas among public, private and civil society stakeholders, helping to make the overall process of governance better. Government was represented on both panels as was the private sector. The audience was not the most informed or energetic, but that was possibly because the organizers conducted proceedings in English. In the first panel the theme was SDGs.
The sane faction of the opponents of trade liberalization had organized a Citizen’s Commission to work up a report on what Sri Lanka’s national trade policy should be. But it was not a qualified or balanced Commission, with only one economist (even that, an ideological economist, as evidenced by the manner in which he introduced me) and one person with experience in international trade. Every single protectionist appears to have been invited to present their views before the Commission. I was preceded by one of the leaders of the anti-CEPA protests in 2010. There is value in these kinds of fact-gathering and report preparation activities outside government.

Asia rising

Posted on  /  0 Comments

This was a key point I made in yesterday’s presentation to the “Citizens’ Commission on a National Trade Policy”: 1.0 The future is Asia. Most models of international trade assume that greater trade will occur with nearby countries than with those which are far distant. At present, Sri Lanka’s goods exports violate this assumption, going primarily to the US and Europe. This was also the case with Mode 2 service exports in tourism until recently.
I can’t recall exactly where (possibly Barcelona where I may have moderated a session she was in), but there was this memory of a conversation with the dynamic Omabola Johnson, about performance contracts that had been entered into by Ministers in her country. It was triggered during a TV talk show last week. Part 2 of show is still not online. As I was working on comments on the Myanmar Communication Regulatory Commission bill (basically embedded in the context of principal-agent theory), it came to mind I should throw out the idea in relation to the difficult principal-agent problem represented by the Sri Lankan Cabinet. So I did: There is precedent.
A man buys himself a Rs 40 knife, and uses it to kill his wife. He later tells the police that she used her mobile phone too much – he suspected she was being unfaithful. He intended only to cut her ear off. But in a rage he killed her. A “reporter” calls LIRNEasia Chairman, Rohan Samarajiva, to ask him what constitutes “appropriate” use of mobile phones.
My advisor was one of the principal expert witnesses testifying against AT&T in a series of court cases that led to the breaking up of what was then the world’s largest company. William Baumol was the principal expert witness testifying on behalf of AT&T. He was thus a familiar name. I read his work and critiqued it. What was an easy target was his theory of contestable markets.
Yesterday, a woman journalist from a Sinhala weekly newspaper called me to seek comments on appropriate phone use. I asked why. She said that excessive phone use had caused a man to kill his wife by knifing her. She wanted to write a piece about appropriate phone use, with quotes from me. I said many things in response.
A predominantly Muslim village in Uttar Pradesh, India, has announced that women seen talking on a mobile phone in public will be fined INR21,000 (approximately USD 325). The khap panchayat, or self-proclaimed community court, has labeled the act a “crime”, according to this NDTV article. A member of the Panchayat, Ghaffar Khan, offers justification that many would describe as outrageous. “Most of the women that we have here are uneducated. Why would they need a phone?
The tragedy of a garbage mountain slide generated a great deal of interest in solutions for the solid waste disposal problems in Sri Lanka. Given prior work in this area, we were ready. Here is Dr Sujata Gamage on Face the Nation on TV1: Part 1 and Final Segment.
MPT claims to have 25 million active SIMs and 98 percent population coverage. From the refusal to answer the question re data usage, it appears that the data consumption is less than on Ooredoo and Telenor. But this is a strong performance and testimony to the wisdom of the decision to change the internal culture of the company by bringing in external management. “We have thousands of towers, the number of which is increasing almost daily,” Amamiya said. “We use the 900MHz spectrum that can cover a greater area with fewer towers needed.
For some time we have been pointing to the fact that , the Bay of Bengal is one of the least connected by cable despite being home to six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. Something is being done about it: a private company and the Bangladesh government’s undersea cable monopoly are entering into a joint venture to connect the landing point of SEA-ME-WE 4 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and the capital of the Rakhine State in Myanmar. The private entity will own 90 percent of the cable, presumably because BSCCL could not come up with more money. It is a good thing, and meshes with the UN ESCAP vision of a Asia Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS) which is redundant and low cost. The cable will be 250 kilometres long and will connect Cox’s Bazar and Myanmar’s coastal city of Sittwe, said Monwar Hossain, managing director of BSCCL.
For a number of reasons, I’ve been thinking about Sri Lanka’s unusually low female participation in the labor force. As is common among policy people, I was emphasizing the benefits for households from having multiple incomes and to various sectors from having less constraints on labor inputs. Here, Janet Yellen talks about the macro-economic benefits directly: The sweeping movement of women from the home to the workplace during the mid-20th century, she said, was a “major factor in America’s prosperity.” But that progress has stalled in recent decades, leaving women less likely than men to hold paying jobs. Bringing more women into the work force with policies like expanding the availability of paid leave, affordable childcare and flexible work schedules, she said, could help to lift the American economy from a long stretch of slow growth.