connectivity Archives — Page 2 of 2


Since 2004, India has been behind Pakistan on a key indicator: mobile SIMs/100. Few in India wanted to talk about this. But we did. Now finally, India has pulled ahead, as it should. I discuss the reasons in a recent piece done for Pioneer.
According to the Nokia Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) study 2011, Ethiopia’s mobile prices bring it to the very threshold of membership in the “Under USD 5 club” of 11 countries. The TCO in Ethiopia in 2010 was USD 5.02. This is a puzzle and appeared to pose a challenge to the entire explanation of the conditions for the emergence of the BTN business model. Because Ethiopia is a member of another exalted “club,” the “bottom-ten” in terms of mobile connectivity.
A decade ago, not having a phone was normal. Now it’s abnormal. Indian media highlight the absence of connectivity as one of the clues that identified Osama bin Laden’s hideout in a Pakistani suburb. A large mansion in a massive compound with 12 feet to 18 feet tall walls topped with barbed wire. No telephone or internet connection to the house.

Sri Lanka: Assumptions of connectivity

Posted on January 19, 2011  /  4 Comments

I just got back from observing extended focus groups on the knowledge and information gaps faced by small-scale rubber growers in the Galle and Monaragala districts of Sri Lanka. The locations were quite remote, if one checks the map of Badalkumbura (we were several km further to the interior). The remoteness is exemplified by the fact that it took me six hours of driving to get back to Colombo. It is too early to talk about the results of the focus group research, which will be released in due time. What struck me was how Sri Lanka had changed in terms of telecom.
Some people celebrate 25 years of anything: dead marriages, inert regional groupings, just occupying space. We don’t. SAARC must be assessed by its fruits. On internal connectivity it fails. Here’s the evidence, carried in op-ed articles in Bangladesh’s Daily Star, Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror and also in a PTI dispatch: It is always easier to do things within one’s own country than outside, or at least it should be.
Back in 2004, LIRNEasia got on the WiFi bandwagon. Ours was one of the first WiFi offices in Colombo (we had trouble getting suppliers who knew what they were doing) and we installed WiFi temporarily at the Mount Lavinia Hotel for our launch conference. One of the unexpected results was that it caused people to hang around the conference room, including after the sessions ended (a rather surprising outcome in an exceptional beach hotel). It seems that WiFi and the easy connectivity it gives has this effect universally: Students endure hundreds of hours on yellow buses each year getting to and from school in this desert exurb of Tucson, and stir-crazy teenagers break the monotony by teasing, texting, flirting, shouting, climbing (over seats) and sometimes punching (seats or seatmates). But on this chilly morning, as bus No.
Talk in the Bangladesh telecom sector has been focused on taxes these days because the government had proposed a 25% tax on handsets and the retention of the controversial TK 800 tax on SIMs. These are counterproductive taxes both in terms of improving government revenues and connecting people electronically; their combined effect is to make it a lot more expensive to get connected. It’s only people who are connected who generate usage-based taxes, they are counter-productive for the government and they absolutely go against plans for a Digital Bangladesh. At the end of all the efforts to change the government’s mind, all that happened is the reduction of the handset tax. Full report in the Daily Star.
A few days ago, we learned that Major General Shahzada Alam Malik (Retd.) had stepped down from the leadership of the Pakistan Telecom Authority. We believe that his seven-year tenure at the helm of the PTA merits an assessment. It begins thus: Pakistan’s recent telecom developments constitute a South Asian success story. From two million in 2002, the number of active mobile SIMs increased to 79 million by end 2007.