Research Fellow Vigneshwara Ilavarasan shared the findings of the demand side study on BharatNet in the pilot sites in an open seminar hosted by Center for Internet & Society, Delhi office. The study examined the absorptive capacity of potential and current users of BharatNet in the pilot sites and offered policy suggestions on the basis of empirical data collected through rigorous sampling methods. The talk was attended by entrepreneurs, anthropologist, programmers, research scholars and civil society activists. The attendees were surprised by the poor awareness among the potential institutional users of BharatNet and followed up with lively discussion on policy suggestions. The slide set from the presentation is here.
It’s been a while since LIRNEasia research has been featured in Indian newspapers. We’re making up for that: “70% of the institutional players such as schools, banks and health centers in rural India are not aware of government’s BharatNet initiative,” IIT Delhi professor and co-author P Vigneswara Ilavarasan of a survey by a think-tank LIRNEasia, told ET. He added that the overall Internet usage was low in areas where broadband has already reached. The findings were based on a survey conducted in the BharatNet pilot areas that included 1,329 institutional respondents in the Arain, Rajasthan, and Vizag and Parvada in Andhra Pradesh village blocks. “Of the overall scale, 30% of the respondents said that they are aware of the BharatNet scheme of which 8% claimed to have known the mega project very well,” the LIRNEasia survey found.
A study of mobile use by poor micro entrepreneurs in five cities has revealed surprisingly high levels of smartphone use, indicating fast take-up of mobile applications and services beyond voice when competitive network roll-out gathers momentum in the coming weeks. The results of ethnographic research, interviews and focus groups conducted earlier this year by LIRNEasia, a regional think tank based in Sri Lanka, were released by CEO Helani Galpaya in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon in conjunction with the launch of the Myanmar version of a book summarizing research on mobile conducted in three continents. Of the 124 people interviewed for the study, 57 already owned their own phone while the others used other people’s phones or payphones. Of the 57 owners, 42 (73 percent) owned phones that could be categorized as smartphones, with touch screens and browsers. As recently as in 2011, only 15 percent of 10,000 poor people surveyed by LIRNEasia in six South and South East Asian countries had these features.
There has been a lot of press on an Intel funded research report on ICTs and gender. Before we get too excited, it may be worth looking at their data collection. 1800 face to face interview and 400 telephone interview for a ‘global report’ which covers three countries. The rest all based on World Bank/ITU data… very self-congratulatory panel of State Department, UN and ITU broadband commission… no acknowledgement of problems of supply side data or of the existing demand side data in the global south. .
The Gulf News, a leading publication in Dubai, interviewed both Hamadoun Toure, the Secretary General of the ITU and me on December 4th, on the second day of the WCIT conference. One of the resulting articles very clearly sets out the causes of divergence between the Geneva-based UN specialized agency and the Colombo-based regional think tank that I head. First, let us look at the ITU’s position. The objective is that of getting broadband to the next billions. No disagreement on our part.
My comments at the Main Panel session at IGF 2012. Question 1: What does it take to attract investment in infrastructure and encourage innovation and growth of ICT services, including mobile technology and how can these technologies best be employed to address development challenges? Indonesia is a success story in Internet use. In a six-country, representative-sample survey we conducted in 2011, we found the highest use of the Internet among the poor among the six in Java, where the most of the Indonesian population lives. Indonesia is one of the heaviest users of Facebook, in the top five.
We have yet to see the actual questions, but this is very satisfying news. If the questions are good, it justifies our continued engagement with National Statistical Organizations since 2006. If we are still working on indicators, we’ll do our best to spread the word on Sri Lankan good practice. Sri Lanka will collect information about areas like internet access in the first nation-wide household and population census to be conducted in over 30 years, an official said. The census which is to conducted from February 27 to March 21 will have 80,000 ‘enumerators’ visiting every house in the country to count the population and also questions about amenities in the house.
I was too gentle the first time. I thought the UN University was taking a cheap short cut to get publicity in the tough Indian media market. But if people are talking about this comparison of toilets and mobiles one year later, it appears that the cheap shortcut has been effective, more effective than I thought. Mobiles are personal devices; toilets are generally a household amenity. Except in Mukesh Ambani’s house, the number of toilets is generally lower than the number of people living in the house.
I found it interesting how much space Helani Galpaya had given to the demand side in her study of Broadband in Sri Lanka. Looks like the problem is common to us and to the US, according to this NYT report. Only 68 percent of Americans with access to high-speed broadband Internet are using it, while in places like South Korea the rate is 90 percent. More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies — including Wal-Mart and Target — require job applicants to apply online. Various studies have shown that the major reasons people do not have broadband are: the cost of Internet services and the cost of computers; not knowing how to use a computer; and not understanding why the Internet is relevant.
The spread of mobile telephony, especially among the poor, is one of the greatest public-policy successes of all time. Not because government officials went around identifying the deserving poor and handing them telephones manufactured in government factories, but because they focused on removing barriers to participation in the supply of communication services and allowed private suppliers and customers to collectively evolve new business models that connected hitherto unimaginable numbers of people at hitherto unthinkably low prices. The mobile revolution was building up a head of steam from the 1990s, but really took off at the turn of the century, with massive growth occurring in South Asia since around 2004. That is when LIRNEasia started work, with a focus on South Asia. At the urging of Randy Spence we began the Teleuse@BOP demand-side survey.
I’ve been thinking about m applications for two full days. Not the normal crowd I hang with, regulators, ministry officials, operators; but people who are starting new companies and various people helping them. People working on energy startups, agri-market incubators, and, yes, also ICT entrepreneurs. Two ideas that came up: Most people who think about m apps are still stuck on the Apple App Store. Great model but requires two things LIRNEasia’s people (BOP in emerging Asia) do not have at the present time: smartphones and credit cards to make payments from.