RPS


The World Economic Forum recently published some broadband price comparisons that generated some social media conversation, mostly because Sri Lanka, which had the lowest broadband prices according to the ITU, was now the 17th cheapest. LIRNEasia Research Manager Shazna Zuhyle who is active in the ITU’s indicators committees had this to say: The WEF has employed a consulting consultancy firm to gather the data that was then analysed by cable.co.uk. They have simply captured all fixed residential broadband plans per country, averaged the monthly cost and converted to USD.
 
People are talking across borders more and more. But the minutes carried the old-fashioned way by telecom operators are on a downward trajectory. It won’t be long before conventional calling will go the way of the telegram. Telcos terminated 547 billion minutes of international traffic in 2013, and Skype plus carrier traffic totaled 761 billion minutes. If we assume that total international (carrier plus OTT) traffic has continued to grow at a relatively modest 13 percent annually since 2013, the combined volume of international traffic would have reached 1.
The results of our 2016 nationally representative survey were quoted extensively in Myanmar’s Universal Service Strategy document released in January 2018. This work has fed into the Government’s proposals in multiple areas including affordability, ownership of devices and digital skills. The manner in which our work on digital skills contributed towards the Government’s recommendations is depicted  in the table below. A more comprehensive document which includes the linkages between our work in affordability and ownership of devices can be found here.
We had proposed standard comparative metrics for universal services because we said they would lead to improved performance and changes in programs. Some academic reviewers rejected our article on the ground that metrics could not improve performance. It’s difficult to educate ignorant peer reviewers because they are anonymous. But who knows, they may stumble upon this blog. The Centre’s quest to identify the top 100 cities for its smart city projects has states vying for maximum entries.
Many of the discussions at organizations such as ours that are driven by the need to influence policy through research, center on indicators. We need to be able to communicate quickly and effectively how things have changed for the better or for worse, ideally in comparison with benchmarks. The best way to do this is through an indicator. In academic settings, it is common to bemoan the incompleteness of various indicators, when those same academics are faced with the task of communicating their research to policy makers or the general public, they fall back on one or at most two indicators to tell their story. One thing I say about indicators is that they are all imperfect.
Here is what happened when someone in a probably tsunami impact zone received a warning from the authorities in British Columbia, Canada, a few days back: Meg Devlin, who lives near Victoria’s Gorge waterfront, said she was awakened by a message at 3:02 but didn’t recognize the phone number for Victoria’s Vic-Alert emergency notification service, so she ignored it. “I unplugged my phone and rolled over and went back to sleep,” Devlin told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. There is no way for anyone to recognize the “official” nature of a number sending a text in the middle of the night. The CBC News story goes on to talk a significant number of people in the probable impact zone who received the warning not through official channels, but through friends and people knocking on doors. Tanya Patterson, the City of Victoria’s emergency program coordinator, said the Vic-Alert system is one area for improvement in the city’s emergency response.
It has always puzzled me why we have to conduct expensive surveys to find out what mobile operators already know. Every CDR [Call Detail Record] captures the IMEI number of the handset. It’s nothing to report this and thereby support those who are developing apps. Here is one MNO giving the data: Huawei was the most popular mobile handset brand among Telenor customers, according to a report from Telenor Myanmar. The report shows 24 percent of Telenor Myanmar’s over 19 million subscribers used Huawei handsets in 2017.
Our work on online freelancing has provided us with an interesting lens to think about jobs of the future. The demand for the kinds of work that can be done online seem to be changing at a rapid pace, and not in an easy-to-predict manner. The threat of automation is ever present. In that context, our Human Capital Research Team Leader (who is also deeply engaged with school reform in Sri Lanka) has been getting us to think about what all this should/could mean for general education. Thomas Friedman’s column on technology had added resonance in this context: Each time work gets outsourced or tasks get handed off to a machine, “we must reach up and learn a new skill or in some ways expand our capabilities as humans in order to fully realize our collaborative potential,” McGowan said.
Every disaster and every false-warning incident is a learning opportunity. We have done these kinds of assessments after many disasters and false warnings sometimes at great length, as in the case of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and sometimes simply through a blog post. Our focus has been on naturally occurring hazards, but the recent false warning in Hawai’i was about an incoming ballistic missile. But since it was communicated over the Wireless Emergency Alert system or cell broadcasting, which we have been writing about since 2008 at least. The New York Times said: “The false alert was a stark reminder of what happens when the old realities of the nuclear age collide with the speed — and the potential for error — inherent in the internet age.
We are inviting Proposals from potential Bidders to conduct a nationally representative study of ICT access and use in Nepal with special focus on the disabled. The full RFP is downloadable below. Please also see our Technical Proposal Template, Financial Proposal Template, and Sample Locations before submitting the proposals. Deadline for submissions is 29 January 2018.
Nepal Telecom and Hong Kong-headquartered China Telecom Global has connected each other across Nepal’s northern border with Tibet through a mix of underground and all-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS) optical fiber cable network. Activation of this link on January 12, 2018 has ended the exclusivity of Tata’s and Bharti Airtel’s international connectivity to the landlocked Himalayan state. Now Nepal can procure IP-transit, interconnection bandwidth, international leased circuits and cloud services at highly competitive rates from Asia’s one of the two carrier-neutral hubs at Hong Kong (Singapore is the other one). Nepal has reportedly activated only 1.5 Gbps through the Chinese carrier, due to technical constrains of the ADSS link.
In Myanmar, the third operator overtook the second, and is close to the first. In Sri Lanka, the fourth operator reached first place within a few years and never let go of that position. That’s evidence enough that entry order is not the sole deciding factor. But the fact that MPT under new management is still in the lead shows that it’s not insignificant. One needs a new business model, a different technology or some secret sauce.
Data sovereignty, or the desire of states to exert unfettered control over data associated with natural and legal persons under their jurisdiction, was seen as an issue with the highest salience at a foresight event I participated in Bengaluru a few days ago. Several of us thought that the states will push for greater control in the immediate future and will be met with significant resistance from citizens and companies (varying across different kinds of data and different countries; health data may be easier than traffic data; states in big countries are more likely to prevail than those in small ones). We expected some kind of equilibrium to be achieved in around 5-10 years. The effort by law enforcement authorities in the US to compel Microsoft to handover the contents of email stored in Ireland and the case of the Great Firewall of China came up in discussion. Here is a discussion on recent developments in China: This is worrying not just for people who want to surf the web without annoying obstructions.
The consultation document on Myanmar’s Universal Service Strategy includes the following paragraph: For Myanmar, mobile voice and broadband data services are considered basic communications services and thus are part of the country’s universal service definition. In 2016, 83% of households have a mobile phone, and 78% of mobile phone owners have a smartphone, allowing broadband Internet services to be used on mobile devices. Clearly, the large majority of the population enjoys these services, therefore these ‘universal’ services also need to be made available for the minority that do not have these services today. Given how many countries debated whether or not broadband should be included in universal service subsidy programs, the above conclusion at the very outset of the program is quite significant. The conclusion is based on specific evidence.
Myanmar will raise up to US$121 million in five years through Universal Service Fund (USF) to implement its Universal Service Strategy. The Post and Telecommunications Department under the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) has invited public consultation for this initiative. The USF will be raised from 2 per cent levy of the service providers’ annual revenues. It will be disbursed through a clearly defined targeted subsidy scheme. Open access and technology neutrality has been mandated for the facilities to be built with USF.