Now that the telecom markets in emerging Asia have matured and now that the potential of easily deployable apps is within reach because of the fast spreading smartphones, we must make access by the disabled a priority. The key to independent living is technology. Our current work in Nepal, supported by the Ford Foundation, has accessible and inclusive access as the principal focus. The workshop held 16-17 March in Kathmandu sought to prioritize the problems amenable to ICT solutions. This will feed into a pre-hackathon being organized March 18-19 at the Tribhuvan University Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus: Here are some reflections on problems faced by the disabled in Nepal which are amenable to ICT solutions.
Organized by LIRNEasia and Internet Society Nepal (ISOC Nepal) (with support from the Ford Foundation). Dates: 14th – 17th July 2017 Location: To be decided OBJECTIVES The objective of the four-day residential course is to produce discerning and knowledgeable consumers of research who are able to engage in broadband policy and regulatory processes. At the end of the course attendees will: − Be able to find and assess relevant research & evidence − Be able to summarize the research in a coherent and comprehensive manner − Understand broadband policy and regulatory processes in Nepal − Have the necessary tools to improve their communication skills − Have some understanding of how media function and how to effectively interact with media WHO MAY APPLY We will be selecting 25 participants (including junior – mid level officers of government and regulatory agencies, university students, lecturers, academics, media personnel and other civil society officers working in related fields) to participate in the course. We hope to have a group of participants diverse in experience and discipline as this would enrich the discussion and give different perspectives of the issues related to broadband. FUNDING • Lowest-cost airfare to and from Location (where applicable).
Informed writing on highly technical subjects is not easy to do. That is one reason we encourage journalists to participate in our courses. Here is a piece on the Loon trials in Sri Lanka by one who attended the Ford Foundation supported broadband policy and regulation course in Marawila in 2015. Appears his time was well spent, as were our resources. Sri Lanka has signed the APT spectrum plan which means the government is committed to migrate our existing television stations to a digital platform.
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.
Just a few days before we presented our research to senior policy makers at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Indian Express carried a story highlighting some shortcomings in the implementation of BharatNet. This was possibly linked to a parliamentary question that had been posed around then. Now in a follow up piece, the journalist has directly quoted our research: A survey conducted by think-tank LIRNEasia and IIT-Delhi suggested that the use of BharatNet was in single-digits across areas surveyed. “Institutional users are pertinent as they would take the broadband from the gram panchayats to the individual consumers and households. The survey reveals that only one third of them use internet and nearly 70 per cent of non-users do not have any intention to use internet in near future.
This was the fourth (or fifth if one broadens the definition) broadband course we had taught in India. But there was something different about this course. Possibly it was because NOFN/BharatNet was becoming real on the ground. But it was not yet real in terms of connecting people as indicated by the report below. Out of the 65,475 gram panchayats where optic fibre cable has been laid, only 14,569 gram panchayats across 22 states have active connectivity as on December 6, according to Bharat Broadband Network Ltd.
The sixth iteration of the Ford Foundation supported course on how to engage in broadband policy and regulatory processes commenced today at IIT Delhi. An interesting mix of participants has been assembled by Dr Vignesh Illavarasan who is directing the course. He has also assembled a stellar cast of speakers, with perhaps the best gender balance we have achieved in this course. The assignment is a central element of the course. It allows the participants to apply the knowledge gathered in the course to a practical problem.
We have taught with sequential and simultaneous interpretation in Myanmar. But our Marawila course was the first in terms of handling three languages. We were still feeling our way, but we did get into stride by Day 3. The above picture shows the interaction that this fostered. The picture below shows our team of interpreters who made it possible.
The four-day course on how to engage in broadband policy and regulation included as one of its most important elements a team project. Each team was asked to make evidence-based presentations that we hoped would form the basis for a public consultation organized by the Ministry of Telecom and Digital Infrastructure. The teams were assigned different aspects: 1. Affordable broadband of adequate quality throughout Sri Lanka 2. Services and applications that are of value to Sri Lankan users 3.
One does not expect a simple assignment in a course to yield a news story that is distributed by a news service, but that is what happened at the broadband course we taught 28-31 March in Nagarkot, Nepal. The assignment required the team members to, inter alia, Assess the likelihood of success of the following elements of the Broadband Policy Draft of the NTA, by assembling evidence on the past performance of the Rural Telecommunications Development Fund (RTDF) (including disbursement efficiency (i.e., what percentage of money was spent within a defined time period) The extraordinarily low disbursement rate caught everyone’s attention. Given the presence of journalists in the course, it was not surprising that it made the news too: The government has spent only 2.
In a previous post I wrote about there being more Facebook users than Internet users in South East Asia. I also said that this was not the case in South Asia. But I was wrong. I had relied on data from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It was only recently that I looked at the data for Nepal.
A four-day course on broadband policy and regulation for Nepali participants commences in Nagarkot on the 28th of March. The course is the fourth in the series supported by Ford Foundation, and the first to be held outside India. It is co-organized with the Internet Society Nepal. The course seeks to enable members of Nepalese civil-society groups (including academics and those from the media) to marshal available research and evidence for effective participation in broadband policy and regulatory processes including interactions with media, thereby facilitating and enriching policy discourse on means of increasing broadband access by the poor. Five assignments form the centerpiece of the learning activities.
This op-ed article contributed by a LIRNEasia associate, places more emphasis than we would on fixed wireless as a means for achieving broadband in Indonesia. This could possibly be because the author is immersed in European policy thinking, having been educated in Sweden and now working for the EU in Spain. But nevertheless it is a valuable contribution to policy discourse. And it comes at the right time, just as President Jokowi gets to work. The background document, funded under a Ford Foundation project, is here.
Tomorrow, we start a Ford Foundation supported four-day course on “How to engage in broadband policy and regulatory processes” at a hotel located in Sohna, Gurgaon. Gurgaon, a new city that sprang up in the last few decades and is a symbol of the new ICT-centric India, was where I thought we were teaching the course. But we’re more than 20 kms further into the interior of Haryana. Driving across the narrow and pot-holed roads to get to the location, I started to think about the immensity of the challenge of realizing the real benefits of broadband in India. The occasional cuts in electricity (always short because I am in a hotel with full backup power) reminded me of the punishment electronic equipment must be taking in the non-backed up outside.
Organized by LIRNEasia and the Indian Journal of Law and Technology, National Law School of India University, Bangalore, supported by Ford Foundation. For persons residing in India only. The objective of the four-day residential course on How to engage in Broadband Policy and Regulatory Processes is to produce discerning and knowledgeable consumers of research who are able to engage in broadband policy and regulatory processes. At the end of the course attendees will: Be able to find and assess relevant research & evidence Be able to summarize the research in a coherent and comprehensive manner Have an understanding of broadband policy and regulatory processes in India Have the necessary tools to improve their communication skills Have some understanding of media function and how to effectively interact with media Who may apply? 20 junior to mid-level participants (including junior to mid-level officers of government and regulatory agencies, university students and media personnel) and 5-10 senior-level participants from civil society groups (including senior officers of government and regulatory agencies, academics and senior media personnel) will be selected to participate in the course.
LIRNEasia exploits the wisdom of the crowd, or at least of the informed crowd. Its launch, back in 2004, was at an Expert Forum that brought in knowledgeable regulators, policy makers, stakeholders and researchers to discuss seeds of research ideas and give ideas for new research. Keeping with that tradition, we brought in a number of experts to discuss some initial cuts on papers being developed in the context of the Ford Foundation funded project, “Facilitating and enriching policy discourse on increasing broadband access by the poor in India”. The meeting was attended by senior officials of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Chairman Dr Rahul Khullar and Advisor Mr Sudhir Gupta. The topics covered included regional specificities of broadband development, contributions that could be made to an improved investment environment by licensing policies, the opportunities presented by the “digital dividend” repurposing of frequencies for broadband development and metrics to assess efficacy of broadband policies.