General


We talk about time-bound opportunities that open up for effective policy intervention: policy windows. Similar “windows” open up in public discourse. One needs to grab them before they disappear. Of course, one can seek to expand and shape the window as well. Few days back, an online publication carried a few pieces on public intellectuals.
LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya was invited to a panel discussion titled “Is Innovation Sexist” in celebration of International Women’s Day.  The event was held in Ottawa, Canada on the 8th of March, It was inaugurated by Celina R. Caesar-Chavannes, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development.
Reliance shook up India’s markets once, with what appeared to be an oxymoronic strategy of limited mobility. It worked. The market was transformed and the effects reverberated across the developing world. In a different guise Reliance is back. The market is being transformed.
In the talk that I gave at Manipal University, I emphasized the significance of audiences in today’s economy. Here is a piece that highlights what appears to be a counter-trend. Yet for much of that time, the business side of culture looked under assault. The internet taught a whole generation that content was not something you really had to pay for. So for years, digital content companies — especially those in the online news business — looked doomed to pursue a scale-only, ad-based business model.
India was reported to have had 638,596 villages, of which 593,731 are inhabited according to the last census. Over 9 percent of the inhabited villages, 55,000, are said to lack mobile coverage. Sinha said that, according to the 2011 Census, there are 55,000 villages that don’t have mobile connectivity. The government, he added, had drawn up a plan to ensure the villages are brought on the mobile telephony network, especially in hilly areas and Left-wing extremism-affected regions. Congress member Renuka Chowdhury pointed out that mobile towers had been destroyed in Maoist violence.

Smartphone or health insurance?

Posted on March 12, 2017  /  0 Comments

A US lawmaker’s comment that people should give up their smartphones and pay more for health insurance has led to an outpouring of statements about the utility of the many uses that can be made of smartphones: “A cellphone is a lifeline,” said Myla Dutton, executive director of Community Action Provo, a food bank and social-service nonprofit. Jose Valdivia, 61, said he wouldn’t be able to quickly look up the latest engine modifications when he was repairing sport-utility vehicles at the mechanic’s shop where he works. His wife said they wouldn’t be able to send photos to relatives in Mexico City. The couple spoke as they waited for an appointment at a free health clinic run by volunteer nurses and doctors two nights a week in Provo. Not surprisingly, smartphones abounded in the waiting room.
LIRNEasia is carrying out research on the use of promotional and free data use in Myanmar and India. The results from our work  in Myanmar have now been released. This piece of research was carried out with financial support from Mozilla, the Google Policy Fellowship program, the UK Government’s Department for International Development, and the International Development Research Centre, Canada. We found that differently designed zero-rated promotions elicited different behavioural responses from users. Noteworthy was that many respondents were unaware of content offered by MPT’s Free Basics other than Facebook.
We’ve written a lot about taxes on this site. We’ve even showcased studies that showed optimal revenues for government were not obtained by raising taxes. But the current Finance Minister in Sri Lanka does not appear to hear any of this. But we keep hoping. So here is another nuanced contribution from Gabe Solomons.
Our work on online freelancing also served as a probe on the emerging platform economy. Contrary to many concerns in the developed market economies, we found that almost all those participating in online freelancing were staying with their parents and doing the work part time. Concerns with variable income, uncertainty and difficulty in establishing credit were present, but in attenuated form. Which got us thinking about insurance as a mechanism to address those problems. Of course, health is one of the biggest uncertainties.
Little over a year ago, I wrote about various infrastructure initiatives linking South Asia with Central Asia. Using the gas pipelines’, power grid’s and road networks’ right-of-way of for cross-border telecoms link was central to my arguments. Now the Indian Railways has planned to create a network, dubbed as ITI-DKD-Y corridor, to operate freight train service over a stretch of 6,000 kilometers. It will connect Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey through railway tracks, according to the Indian Express. Indian Railways has called South Asian railway heads involved in the project to work out the nitty-gritty at a high-level meeting on March 15-16.
The countries in mainland Asia are mostly interconnected through submarine cables. Public and private incumbents abuse their ownership of submarine cable systems followed by hindering competition in wholesale bandwidth sales. As a result, Asia remains impaired by the lack of cross-border Internet connectivity and exorbitant bandwidth prices. Hong Kong and Singapore are the only carrier-neutral wholesale capacity hubs in Asia. Yet, their prices are higher than the corresponding European and North American outlets.
The Global Commission on Internet Governance has just published a comprehensive analysis of the controversial zero rating practice and issues by Helani Galpaya. It includes findings from original research conducted in Myanmar and India and draws from secondary sources from Africa and Latin America. In developing countries where nearly all users pay for their Internet on a capped and metered basis (rather than having the “all you can eat” unlimited Internet data packages on offer in many developed countries), zero-rating — where data is offered that does not count toward the user’s data cap — is a subsidy that can be important to operators, content providers and users. Social media and text-messaging applications are among the content that is commonly zero-rated. For users, zero-rating provides an opportunity to save money because they bear no cost of the zero-rated data.
Preparing for a TV interview on spectrum, I checked the website of the Telecom Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka to see if I could see the National Frequency Allocation Table (NFAT) or the Master Register, which used to be publicly available from 2003. It was not available for perusal on the TRC website. This is a legal requirement deriving from Sri Lanka’s international commitments under the GATS, the relevant article being: Any procedures for the allocation and use of scarce resources, including frequencies, numbers and rights of way, will be carried out in an objective, timely, transparent and non-discriminatory manner. The current state of allocated frequency bands will be made publicly available, but detailed identification of frequencies allocated for specific government uses is not required. It appears the we are in violation of our WTO commitments.

Reincarnation of interconnection?

Posted on March 2, 2017  /  0 Comments

There was a time when regulation had three priorities: interconnection, interconnection and interconnection. Was it Maeve Sullivan who came up with that line? Anyway, we fought those battles, and then we got beyond that. So anyway, looks like it’s coming back in the form of interconnection of mobile financial services. Mr Collymore agreed that the industry needs greater cross-platform interoperability even as he argued that the process should be driven by market forces rather than regulatory intervention.
I have been impatient with people who think that inform-and-consent is the end all of privacy. One of the actual greatest dangers is personally identifiable information being stolen from service providers by hackers. This is a real privacy harm. I have not gone into the details of the FCC’s decision and its competitive implications. But it’s worth knowing they were paying attention to real privacy harms.
I always thought that composite indexes were unfair to India. However much India tried and whatever were its ICT achievements, they would all be diluted by the sheer number of Indians. The e Readiness Index that used to be published by the Economist Intelligence Unit used to be one exception. But then they stopped publishing it. Now the EIU is back with the new index and unsurprisingly, India does well in it too: 36th out of 75.