ESCAP is part of the UN. By design, it is better positioned to work across silos than specialized agencies such as the ITU and WHO. One of the key points made about the sustainable development goals that were recently adopted is that they require working across silos. Big data naturally cuts across disciplinary boundaries. It transcends organizational silos.
The notional ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ under One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative connects China with Central Asia, Russia and Europe. It also links China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean through Central Asia and West Asia. Trains carrying goods as well as the Block Trains between Chinese and European destinations via Kazakhstan under OBOR have set a new paradigm to the transcontinental cargo shipments. Therefore, portraying Kazakhstan as ‘buckle’ of the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ should not be exaggerating. ESCAP has invited me to discuss Central Asia’s potentials as a trading hub.
I spent Nov 5-6 in Shanghai at the invitation of the Pathfinder Foundation as part of a Track 2 discussion with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. The focus of my presentation was on how the MSR could serve Sri Lanka’s economic advancement. It was not limited to research undertaken by LIRNEasia. However, the section on electronic connectivity draws from the work we have been doing with ESCAP since 2010.
China Unicom has built the US$50 million China-Myanmar International (CMI) terrestrial link. But it is yet to be activated for unknown reasons and Myanmar keeps suffering from outages. Now Beijing has ceremoniously announced its plan to build a Sino-ASEAN submarine cable network without revealing any details. South Asia and Southeast Asia has become the hotbed of Sino-Japanese rivalry, especially after the formation of AIIB. This new development bank has gained unprecedented global membership at a lightning pace.
Myanmar is breathing on Malaysia’s neck in terms of unique mobile subscribers. Its unique mobile subscription is already ahead of Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia – according to GSMA. Nielsen also advises its clients to bet on “rapid up-take of mobile technology” by Myanmar’s youngsters. Repeated outages of Internet, however, stain the country’s digital profile. Doug Madory of Dyn Research compares the situation to closing a highway at rush hour.
Washington Post refers to Doug Madory as, “The man who can see the Internet.” Unsurprisingly he has been monitoring Nepal’s state of Internet since earthquake struck on April 25. Outages of Nepalese data centers, ISPs and enterprises have been graphically diagnosed in Doug’s report. A recent evaluation of Internet infrastructure in South Asia commissioned by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) classified Nepal’s international connectivity as ‘weak’ and its fixed and mobile infrastructure as ‘limited’. While the loss of Internet connectivity pales in comparison to the loss of life, the ability to communicate both domestically and internationally will be crucial in coming days for the coordination of relief efforts already underway.
It’s interesting that Chinese Internet users have to protest the blocking of what I thought would be illegal workarounds. But earlier this week, after a number of V.P.N. companies, including StrongVPN and Golden Frog, complained that the Chinese government had disrupted their services with unprecedented sophistication, a senior official for the first time acknowledged its hand in the attacks and implicitly promised more of the same.
Are still slow, but how will they be lagging behind? And once the Americans screw up the data confidentiality safeguards, cost may be the decider. In terms of performance, Alibaba cannot come close. For a Chinese site, it does impressive work, handling $5.8 billion in commerce on China’s heaviest shopping day.
We’ve been writing about the dangers posed by the governments of the places where data are stored wanting access. Now, with US courts trying to exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction, it looks like China might be a safe place? Apple Inc has begun storing personal data for some Chinese users on servers provided by China Telecom, marking the first time that the company has stored user data on mainland Chinese soil. Apple attributed the move to an effort to improve the speed and reliability of its service. It also represents a departure from the policies of some technology companies, notably Google Inc, which has long refused to build data centres in China due to censorship and privacy concerns.
A fascinating interview with the Chinese financier Zhang Lei by the Financial Times highlights the need to learn about and keep up with China’s ICT industry. Now Zhang is taking the Chinese template offshore. “The Chinese model, which is mobile-driven, is more suited to emerging markets than the US model, which is desktop driven,” he says. “The socio-economic profile is more similar. We can help companies like Tencent go abroad and accelerate the growth of the mobile internet elsewhere and others also can leapfrog.
When talking about the preconditions for the success of the Internet, I have talked about the need to develop an an ecosystem, with trust as one element. These issues were also explored in the work on e commerce. The Chinese solution to the problem of trust in virtual transactions is quite interesting. Almost makes one wish we had enough time to monitor Chinese developments in Chinese. The ubiquity of counterfeits points to a serious problem in China today: an absence of good faith.
Appears Facebook will have competition in Asia. “Even if Facebook had permission, it’s probably too late,” says Wang Xiaofeng, a technology analyst at Forrester Research. “Weixin has all the functionality of Facebook and Twitter, and Chinese have already gotten used to it.” Weixin is the creation of Tencent, the Chinese Internet powerhouse known for its QQ instant messenger service and its popular online games. Tencent, which is publicly traded and is worth more than $100 billion on the Hong Kong exchange, is now seeking to strengthen that grip in social networking and expand into new areas, such as online payment and e-commerce.
I thought 35 billion was a bit much. That was what the now under-radical-revision NBN was going to cost the Australian taxpayer. Even for a country with more than 60 times the population of Australia, USD 323 billion seems excessive. But, hey, they have to do something with the cash that’s piling up . .
How can a person be responsible for, and have his punishment decided by, what others do? But this seems to be the thinking of the Chinese Communist Party. “They want to sever those relationships and make the relationship on Weibo atomized, just like relations in Chinese society, where everyone is just a solitary atom,” Mr. Hao said. In May, his microblog accounts on Sina and other Chinese services were deleted without any explanation.
Travel broadens the mind. Maybe. I doubt that sometimes. Makes me reflect, at least. Since being asked to think about Sri Lanka-China relations recently, I’ve been paying attention to the ascendant Chinese model.
We at LIRNEasia grapple with the challenge of charting the influence of our research on policy in environments where the norm is not to attribute where ideas were taken from. One solution that we have tried is that of using identifiable memes in our communication, hoping that they will reappear in policy documents. The personal slogan of a Chinese leader is pretty important, as documented by the Economist. Where did the slogan come from? Quite possibly the New York Times.