General — Page 8 of 245


What will come after the smartphone?

Posted on April 21, 2017  /  0 Comments

Six years ago, we were discussing how to accelerate app development in the context of a proposal we submitted to infoDev. Instead of giving the grant to us, they chose to give it to some Pakistani government outfit where the entire thing was still-born. But the relevance to the question of what comes after the smartphone is a conversation I had with Sanjiva Weerawarana, one of Sri Lanka’s ICT leaders. It is easy now to talk about how popular smartphones would be. But back in 2011 it took some foresight to claim as Sanjiva did that smartphones would dominate the marketplace.

What is innovation?

Posted on April 20, 2017  /  1 Comments

Having just heard from a funder with the word innovation in its name that a concept note in disaster risk reduction that we submitted was not innovative enough, I’ve been thinking about this slippery term. Then comes along the NYT tech columnist Farhad Manjoo: There is a rich history in this industry of taking someone else’s idea and adding your own spin on it to improve tech for everyone. Apple’s Steve Jobs and the team behind the original Mac were inspired by a bunch of ideas floating around tech research circles, including at Xerox PARC. Then Microsoft’s chief executive, Bill Gates, saw the Mac’s success and — by creating a new business model for the PC industry — he ushered in an even bigger deal: graphical computers that could get cheap enough for most people to own. Or look at the smartphone.
With massive numbers detailed in the Mobile World Live report, Tanzania is the current success story in mobile-led financial services. What caught my attention was the need for interconnection rules if the market has four suppliers. World Bank country director for Tanzania, Somalia, Burundi and Malawi, Bella Bird (pictured) said: “The mobile money revolution has made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of people who can now send and receive money and thus save at low cost. With more effort, the remaining one-third of Tanzanians could also have access.” According to the latest GSMA Intelligence statistics for Tanzania, by the end of Q1 2016 there were four competing mobile money services available in the country.
LIRNEasia is looking to fill a vacancy on a multi-country survey research project. The full job description is available here. The deadline for application is 23 April 2017.
In the course of preparing for a talk, I was entering household expenditure data on communication-related activities into a spreadsheet that contained data from the 2009-10 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). In the three years since 2009-10 many things have happened to expenditure patterns, but one thing jumped out. In 2009-10 a household reported an average expenditure of LKR 382.72 outside the home per month. In 2012-13, this had declined to LKR 17.
LIRNEasia has a culture of internal colloquia – either pertaining to one’s research or of general interest. This is good because it forces some of us to read. And think. Once ingrained, it lingers on subconsciously, is applied (if and when applicable) or in the least provides perspective. Either way, the outcome is positive.
More media in India are picking up on the importance of what we’ve learned about BharatNet. Voice and Data used information from the BharatNet study for a piece published on April 06, 2017. BharatNet (formally the National Optic Fibre Network) was meant to provide broadband internet to rural villages in India. While the existing network itself has issues, last-mile connectivity has been completely missed. LIRNEasia went in to look at the potential role of institutions to fill the gap, and found a serious lack of awareness and no significant middle-mile connections.
The following story about Ethiopia, a country still listed as a least-developed country (LDC), wanting to put up its own communication and earth-sensing satellites caught my eye, because this is a perennial story in South Asia. In January the government said it would launch a Chinese-built civilian satellite from an overseas rocket pad within the next five years. It would be designed to Ethiopian specifications and used to monitor crops and the weather, and doubtless to spy on neighbours, too. The government also wants to reduce reliance on foreign telecoms by launching its own communications satellite. In putting its own satellites into orbit Ethiopia would join the select club of African nations that have already done so.
LIRNEasia research fellow Grace Mirandilla-Santos is an advocate for better broadband in the Philippines. She was recently given the great opportunity and daunting task of presenting the consumers’ perspective on telecom service access, quality, and affordability at the Philippines’ 1st Telecom Summit. Along with results from LIRNEasia’s broadband quality of service experience studied, she used statistics and analysis from different studies and her own research for validation. Various sources arrived at the same conclusion: Internet service in the country is improving, but continues to be one of the slowest and most expensive in the world. In summary, the Philippines has: the slowest average fixed broadband speed in Asia Pacific (Akamai, Q4 2016); the second slowest 3G/4G overall speed in the world (OpenSignal, Feb 2017); the third most unaffordable internet service in Asia (EIU, 2017); unaffordable fixed broadband and mobile (post-paid) broadband services relative to average monthly income (ITU, 2016).
Akamai has been publishing its State of the Internet report since 2008. They handle 15-30% of the world’s Internet traffic that positions them well to conduct diagnostics and provides a view on what goes on, on the web. In a recent review of all the reports produced to date, the adoption of broadband of varying speeds, i.e., unique IPv4 addresses that connect to Akamai at 256 Kbps or less, 4 Mbps, 10 Mbps and 15 Mbps.

Misconceptions about ICT, Part 2

Posted on April 4, 2017  /  0 Comments

This post is part of series of responses to observations made during a discuss on the “Aluth Parlimenthuwa” show on TV Derana. Read Part I here. In Part 2, I address policymaker misconceptions about the contributions of ICT to economic growth. In the talk show, at around the 29th minute, the policymaker refers to a study that claimed that 10 percent growth in broadband penetration would result in some x percent economic growth. This is most likely the widely cited 2009 econometric study by Christine Qiang and Carlo Rossotto which claimed 0.
The Department of Census and Statistics has published the preliminary results of the 2016 Computer Literacy Survey. The survey has its beginnings in the e Sri Lanka initiative which supported the initial iterations starting from 2004. This is the sixth in the series. One expects indicators such as literacy and device ownership to increase every year. But not in 2016.
In our formal submission to the PUCSL in 2013, we highlighted the urgency of connecting the two grids. The case was made in public and private. Obviously we welcome the statement below, despite the fact that “plans are underway” is a favorite weasel phrase of the Sri Lankan bureaucracy: Plans are underway to connect Sri Lanka’s power grid with the Indian power grid to boost power generation within the next five years. “The Sri Lankan government is already having talks with the Indian government on this project,” according to Chairman of the Electricity Board (CEB) Anura Wijayapala. Full report.
LIRNEasia Research Fellow Grace Mirandilla Santos has had the opportunity to identify the top consumer issues at the first Telecommunications Summit organized by the newly created Department of Information and Communications Technology recently. She writes about it in TelecomAsia: Although I’m very passionate about consumer woes—and it’s very easy to get carried away—I showed the results of studies and analyses by third (mostly disinterested) parties, as researchers are wont to do. I gathered statistics from Akamai Technologies, OpenSignal, The Economist Intelligence Unit, ITU’s Broadband Commission, and Measuring the Information Society reports. For validation, I threw in some of my own research done for LIRNEasia and a latest collaboration using Big Data analytics. What was common in these studies was that the country’s internet service is improving, but continues to be one of the slowest and most expensive in the region.
We have been writing about Myanmar’s electricity problems since we started working there. I had not realized that even at this early stage, the energy nihilists are active. They know what they don’t want, but cannot tell what should be done that is practical. In a rational world such people would not be taken seriously, but in our world they are: The reasons for the delays include strong domestic opposition, including protests by people in the affected areas. This is a lesson in how local communities must be supported, and where inconvenienced, given appropriate help to reskill or resettle.
Above is a Sinhala article in Raavaya which addresses the following questions: What rules of thumb or filters may an editor or equivalent apply to choose between different intellectuals seeking opportunities to communicate to the public? The public’s attention is limited; and so is the “speaking time” that could be offered. Giving time on TV/radio or space in an online or print publication necessarily involves judgment. One putative intellectual gets the opportunity; another does not. How should that judgment be exercised?