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.
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.
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
Presentation Rationale for ex-ante, sector-specific regulation Rohan Samarajiva Course on Regulatory Design and Practice Nay Pyi Taw, September 2017
Managing relationships with Ministries and Presidents: contributing to policy development Alison Gillwald Course on Regulatory design and practice Nay Pyi Taw September 2017
Unlike many countries, Sri Lanka did not impose a universal-service levy on customers of telecom services, directly or indirectly. One reason was the clause in the SLT privatization agreements that no universal-service levies would be imposed on the company. When you exempt the biggest player, you can’t then go and impose levies on the competitors. So that was an intended good result of the privatization. However, when the international telecom market was liberalized in 2003, the government imposed certain fees on incoming and outgoing calls that were to be kept in a fund and given to the companies which generated the calls when they provided documentation that approved rural infrastructure investments had been completed.
Agenda – Broadband Forum 2017 It has been a while since we have engaged with telecom policy and regulation in Sri Lanka. The Ministry of Telecom and Digital Infrastructure invited me to speak at their flagship event sponsored by Huawei. Our research has been on broadband in countries in the region. So the talk seeks to draw out the lessons from the region for Sri Lanka.
Course Report Regulatory design and practice Sharing international experience with Myanmar 4-6 September 2017 Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar
Shazna Zuhyle, a researcher from Colombo-based LIRNEasia, a regional policy research body will chair an International Telecommunication Union expert group meeting. The 8th meeting of the Expert Group on Telecommunication/ICT Indicators will start on September 12 in Geneva. It will consider a revision to the current data, messaging and voice price benchmarks, which are used by international organizations to rank countries and built composite indices to measure development goals. EconomyNext report.