A personal reflection on the people of CPRsouth
The Young Scholars’ Program conducted alongside the annual CPRsouth conference has been offered eleven times since January 2007, with the support of IDRC. The purpose of both events is to develop policy intellectuals in the global south. A tracer study conducted in 2016 found that those who had participated in the Young Scholars’ Program before presenting papers at the conference were the most policy engaged. The program was re-conceptualized accordingly, and the Young Scholars’ Program placed firmly in the foreground starting August 2017. View the full report here.
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.
I was amused to hear a senior scholar from Australia questioning a claim in a CPRsouth paper that Facebook was a source of news. In Myanmar, of all places. In his defense, I guess he was not aware of the LIRNEasia demand-side results on how people in Myanmar actually get their news. I’ve been using CPA survey data in my writing and speaking in Sri Lanka to show that the trend is for young people to get their news on Facebook. But is it different in developed countries?
Supply-side data are relatively easy to come by in the ICT space. But just because they are there, they need not be taken as the truth. We need to apply our critical facilities to the data that we use from whatever source. The “smell test” is an important tool for a good researcher. This was the message I communicated to a group of young scholars at CPRsouth 2017 in Yangon.
Yesterday, I presented at CPRsouth 2017 a policy brief on the disbursement efficacy of universal service funds. We presented two relatively easy to develop metrics (year-on-year disbursement rate and cumulative disbursement rate) and applied them to four countries, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The conclusion was that irrespective of country and irrespective of political and administrative leadership, the funds failed to get the money out. In India, for example, USD 10 billion had accumulated in the fund by 2016 taken out of a highly competitive sector and making no contribution to connecting the unconnected. We pointed out that any tax or levy imposed on an operator that is a regular payment is passed on to customers and serves to depress demand.
Tomorrow, we start the CPRsouth Young Scholar Program at the Inya Lake Hotel, Yangon. I was asked to begin the program with a new topic, “What is policy research? What is special about communication policy research?” That proved more interesting than I thought. The slides are below.
Myanmar’s ICT sector has been transformed over the past few years as a result of policy reforms that learned from the experience of countries in similar circumstances. Now scholars from abroad are interested in learning from Myanmar’s successes and in contributing to evidence-based solutions for the remaining challenges. In late August, around 70 scholars from 20 countries across Asia and Africa, including four former telecom regulators, will converge at Inya Lake Hotel for the 2017 Communication Policy Research south Conference. The theme of the conference is “Connecting the next billion.” In the inaugural session (1330-1500 hrs, 30 August 2017), the delegates will hear of the Myanmar experience from the Deputy Minister of Transport and Communication, U Kyaw Myo.
Call for young scholar applications for CPRsouth2017 from Myanmar citizens and residents Selected Young Scholars will participate in an interactive training program, along with international participants. The curriculum will emphasize practical aspects of taking ICT-related research to policy. Young scholars will then attend the conference, which showcases policy relevant research. Tutorials are scheduled for the August 28-30, 2017, prior to the CPRsouth conference. The conference – which is an integral part of the training – begins on August 30 and ends on September 01.
Young Scholars Applications are now open for “CPR south 2017: The Next Billion”. Twenty Young Scholars from the Asia-Pacific and Africa will be selected to participate in a tutorial program which will emphasise interactive and practical aspects of taking research to policy. Dates: 28, 29 and 30 August 2017 These Young Scholars will also participate in the CPR south 2017 “Next Billion” conference at Inya Lake Hotel, Yangon, Myanmar from 30th August to 1st September 2017. More information is available on the CPR south website.
The purpose behind our work in CPRsouth and the broadband policy courses we have been offering in the South Asian region is catalysis. We speed up or initiate. The participants in the courses do the heavy lifting. Here is evidence it’s working. Preeti Mudliar has published a report on the Indian NOFN/BharatNet: This study visits the three pilot project sites to find out how the NOFN infrastructure is faring three years after it was first rolled out to 58 gram panchayats (village local bodies) in India.
I did not have to go looking for them. They came up to me and fondly spoke of what they had learned at previous CPRsouth events. In some cases the interactions had happened more than five years ago. I was gratified. The objective of CPRsouth is not to equip young people for the academic industry; it is to encourage and equip them to take research to policy.
A early paper based on LIRNEasia’s work on big data was presented at the 2014 CPRsouth conference in Maropeng, South Africa. The journal article based on that has just been published. The abstract: Rapid urban population growth is straining transportation systems. A big data–centric approach to transportation management is already a reality in many developed economies, with transportation systems being fed a large quantity of sensor data. Developing countries, by contrast, rely heavily on infrequent and expensive surveys.
Two members of CPRsouth, Ibrahim Kholiul Rohman and Hasib Ahsan Nadeem, have collaborated on an evidence-based op-ed published in Indonesia’s leading English daily. I am very pleased about this. This kind of decentralized initiative is what we sought to foster through CPRsouth. But decentralized initiative also means that the policy recommendations may not be in line with what LIRNEasia would say, based on its research. Here is one such divergence.
I moderated CPRsouth 10’s opening plenary that looked at the competitiveness, privacy and marginalization issues associated with the emerging field of big data. Attached are the questions that I circulated beforehand to the experts who participated in the discussion. Here is an excerpt. The document also contains several annexes that provide examples and definitions about the terms that are used. 5.
Today, I had to field questions on behalf of Shazna Zuhyle and Grace Mirandilla Santos who made a canned presentation at CPRsouth 10 in Taipei on Measuring Broadband Performance: Lessons Learnt, Challenges Faced, because they could not be present in person. The principal question asked by the discussant (from Australia) and Enrico Calandro (Italy/South Africa) was why Zuhyle and Mirandilla Santos were proposing that national regulatory agencies (NRAs) should take on the responsibilities of broadband quality monitoring. Another person from the floor asked why Philippines and Asian broadband quality and value for money were so poor. I saw the answers to both questions as being connected. I said that the paper very clearly established that there was no one single method that was objectively superior to the alternatives.