Policy and Regulation


It is natural to think of state entities as the key actors in south-south cooperation (SSC) for improving public-service delivery. But as the highlighted example of Bangladesh’s Union Digital Centers (UDCs) shows, non-state actors can play important roles in public-service innovation. If true innovation is the objective, it would behoove the UN Office for South-South Cooperation and other interested parties to cast the net wider to include innovative organizational mechanisms as well as government innovations.
Better late than never. Why it took multiple decades after the establishment of the Universal Service Fund to spend the money to connect the unconnected in India’s North East is the question. It’s not that there was a shortage of money. Bharti Airtel Ltd will set up 2,000 mobile towers across villages and national highways in the North East with the help of government funding, the company said in a press statement on Sunday. The telecom operator has signed an agreement with the department of telecommunications and the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) to provide mobile services in 2,100 villages across Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh over the next 18 months.
Governments want to be seen as doing things. A government that does things is not necessarily better than one that does little or nothing. It is important that the government takes actions that are well considered both in terms of causing the intended results and in terms of not causing unintended harm. The benefits must also be balanced against the costs of the policy action. I examine the proposal to impose a 0.
The Myanmar Constitution is a highly centralizing document. For example, tourism, a subject that is given over to sub-national units to administer in many countries, is assigned solely to the union or central government. But it goes beyond that, assigning authority over hotels and lodging houses solely to the union government. Therefore, there should be no surprise that telecommunications is a union subject according to the Myanmar Constitution. In all countries, with the limited exception of the United States, telecommunications is the responsibility of the highest level of government.
Improving the quality of policy proposals in the Budget Daily FT Opinion by Rohan Samarajiva I have been immersed in discussions in various media platforms about the 2018 Sri Lanka Budget. A budget speech seeks to communicate the direction of government policy to other economic actors. While it is a coherent and forward-looking document overall, the 2018 Budget does contain some problematic proposals that will have to be walked back or quietly buried. In this op-ed published in the Financial Times, I discussed a solution: Every Budget Speech includes complex policy measures. Given the traditions associated with the Budget Speech, it is not possible to conduct public consultations on each of the measures beforehand.
It was in 1998, almost 20 years ago, that I was invited to a meeting at the Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka in my capacity as Director General of Telecommunications. They had identified a high point in the city of Colombo to locate ALL the cellular antenna towers and they wanted me to concur with their plans. I explained that the very concept of cells required multiple towers in multiple locations. Twenty years later, the same ignorance is being displayed again. A Minister of the government is making speeches in Parliament about how all of Sri Lanka can be served by nine towers.

Vision and implementation

Posted on November 5, 2017  /  0 Comments

In much of what we do, we have to deal with visions/strategies/roadmaps/plans/etc. and of course implementation. This vision I was asked to discuss is not about ICTs per se, but about a whole country. I tried to provide a structure to the discussion. Here are the slides that will be the basis of the talk I will give tomorrow for the Association of Sri Lankan Sociologists at the Sri Lanka Foundation at 1430.
Most of the organizations that were given time at the First Session of the Steering Committee meeting used the time to advertise themselves. I chose instead to present our broad range of contributions to AP-IS in the form of a short presentation of work done under the Project on Myanmar as an Inclusive Information Society. I briefly described some findings from the baseline and endline surveys, pointing out that much of what came out from the ITU on Internet users was worthless. We are not expecting to do such surveys again, though there is value in surveys being done periodically. My second point was on the need to develop an understanding of broadband quality of service experience.
Research first presented at the CPRsouth conference in Yangon in September 2017 was cited by LIRNEasia's senior policy fellow Abu Saeed Khan in a presentation made to senior government officials, environmental officers, mobile operators and academics of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Reports on systematic reviews published

Posted on October 26, 2017  /  0 Comments

The final reports on three systematic reviews have undergone review and have been published on the website of the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre). The three systematic reviews focused on ICTs & MSMEs, ICTs & education and ICTs and mobile financial services were funded by IDRC and DFID. The links to the final reports are given below. The impact of mobile financial services in low- and lower-middle-income countries Strategies for training or supporting teachers to integrate technology into the classroom Does access to business-relevant information through networked devices enhance the internal effciency and business growth of urban MSMEs in low- and middle- income countries?    
The decision of a significant court case with relevance to regulatory practice was issued recently. The Chairman and Director General of the Sri Lanka Telecom Regulatory Commission were sentenced to jail and were required to pay substantial fines after being found guilty of criminally misappropriating USD 3.9 million from the stand-alone fund of the Commission. Because this is of relevance to regulatory practice, I wrote up a short note and am thinking of fleshing it out as a journal article. Suggestions and comments are welcome.
The Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU - BDT) took a significant step towards more inclusive ICT price basket (IPB) benchmarking methodology, last week. All member states will adopt the methodology in 2018. Our research manager Shazna Zuhyle led the sub-group which presented the recommendations at the Expert Group for ICT Indicators (EGTI) meeting in Geneva. 
I was pleased to that the journalist had chosen to report on how we obtained the data on the massive amounts of money lying fallow in government accounts. More researchers should consider using RTI requests to obtain data. “The money has been collected, and it’s in the Treasury not being spent,” LIRNEasia Chairman Professor Rohan Samarajiva said at the 2nd Sri Lanka Broadband Forum organized by the Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure Ministry and Huawei. According to Telecommunications Regulatory Commission data he obtained through a Right to Information request, the government had collected US$351 million by the end of 2015. Sri Lanka’s Universal Service Fund is less burdensome on telecom companies—compared to other countries where a fee is levied from annual revenue—since just US$ 0.
Regulatory staff: Compensation & career development Rohan Samarajiva Course on Regulatory Design and Practice Nay Pyi Taw September 2017
Understanding the Myanmar telecom environment with emphasis on users Phyu Phyu Thi Course on Regulatory Design and Practice Nay Pyi Taw, September 2017