General


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?

Misconceptions about ICT, Part 1

Posted on March 30, 2017  /  0 Comments

This post is part of series of responses to observations made during a discussion on the “Aluth Parlimenthuwa” show on TV Derana. Read Part II here. There is value in engaging with people with different worldviews. I had such an opportunity during a rare television talk show on ICT issues on Derana. A senior policymaker in the science and technology policy area stated that ICT-related exports were not in the top ten only to be quickly corrected by two other panelists.
The Broadband Commission’s “Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide” is now available online. Our CEO, Helani Galpaya, consulted as an external expert to the commission on this document. The report highlights the need for urgent action to bridge the digital gender divide, and makes broad recommendations to governments/policy-makers, the private sector, NGOs, IGOs and the academia, in the following areas: Collecting and understanding the kind of data that reflects gender disparities in internet and broadband access as well as use Involving women and other relevant communities in the process of developing digital strategies, policies, plans and budget Addressing the digital gender divide in terms of key barriers including problems with accessibility, affordability, safety of use, digital skills and relevance of content Enhancing cooperation between stakeholders to share good practice and lessons Read the full report here. See more of our work on the digital divide here.
I had heard about papers on Islamic science policy being picked as best papers and given prominence over conventional social science papers at an international conference organized by a Malaysian university. But my first direct experience of this indigenization trend came at the international conference I spoke at last week at Manipal University. A faculty member from a university in Nepal presented a paper that sought to position communication policy within some kind of Hindu scriptural framework. I thought it was just a harmless oddity and tuned out, until I heard the professors in the audience make earnest attempts to respectfully engage with the reformulation of communication policy according to scriptures. The questions were about the nation state, which is the necessary context of policy, which was the theme of the conference.
While the aviation sector is “Trying to make sense of the new TSA electronics ban” – the submarine cable industry is sending an SOS. The Trump administration may ban the usage of any ship that deploys or maintains the submarine cables, unless it is built in a U.S. shipyard. It also mandates that minimum 75% of the crew are to be the U.

Dilemma of data localization

Posted on March 25, 2017  /  0 Comments

It has been the common position of OECD member countries to oppose mandatory data localization. Data localization flies in the face of the logic of cloud computing. Microsoft has fought the US government on the issue in courts. Yet, when Canada wants data localization, they acquiesce. In response to the mounting public concerns, leading technology companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google have established or committed to establish Canadian-based computer server facilities that can offer localization of information.
In a recent talk, I described the value of thinking about Internet companies such as Facebook as producers of meso-audiences: “The only revenues that come to the Internet companies are from advertisers. . . . They can describe the meso-audiences in much greater detail than can the mobile operators and can offer raw material for the production of audiences unlimited by national boundaries.
The distinction between public goods and activities with significant positive externalities was developed in conversation the our Advisory Council Member Randy Spence. I used it develop a schema that people could use as they think through what government should and should not do. I illustrated the positive externalities discussion using the postal service, because it had explicitly come up in discussions within a statist political party. People are used to government-operated postal monopolies. In country after country, they are losing money and failing to provide services of adequate quality.