The study by our bd4d team built on the Social Connectedness Index concept introduced by Michael Bailey (the team lead for economics research at Facebook) and others.
I was not expecting media coverage for the discussions on BIMSTEC in Bangkok over the weekend. But there was quite a comprehensive report in a Bangladesh publication. Connectivity gaps, in terms of absent or insufficient road and rail connections, exist and need to be addressed and public-private partnerships can do so if handled intelligently, Samarajiva continued. The government must be involved to clear rights of way and because they can raise low cost money for infrastructure, while private entities can mobilise competitiveness, which he considers crucial. “Do not allow state monopolies to control them,” he said.
At the end of a conference celebrating 20 years of BIMSTEC and 100 of Chulalongkorn University, I was on a panel that was tasked with identifying priorities for the organization. Given there were seven panelists each proposing three priorities and some more suggestions coming up from the audience, there was then a need to develop a rule to rank them. I proposed that we ask what tasks could only be done by a plurilateral organization and give those priority. For example, lowering of non-tariff barriers affecting simple trade in goods could be done bilaterally or even unilaterally. But creating the conditions for global production networks could not be done bilaterally.
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.
That is the title of the talk I will be giving on 24th August at 0900 hrs as the 2nd BIMSTEC Foundation Lecture at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Here I present (incomplete) evidence of the historical connectedness of the Bay of Bengal, reasons why the connectivity decreased after the Second World War, and information on current major developments in multiple forms of connectivity, including fiber optic cables. The slides are here.
In the context of LIRNEasia’s work, connectivity is usually understood as electronic connectivity. But as the quote below exemplifies, in most contexts it means everything other than electronic. It is our challenge to merge these two conceptions. It is now normal in road design to include conduits for fiber. We hope that this will be written into the Asian Highway legal documents shortly.