Myanmar Times Opinion by Namali Premawardhana Namali Premawardhana’s op-ed based on the ITU’s Measuring the Information Society 2017 report and LIRNEasia’s own survey results has been published in Myanmar’s leading English newspaper, the Myanmar Times. Here are two of the summary paras: Two important aspects of ICT development which the ITU does not address are women and digital literacy. Myanmar’s story of ICT access, use and skills among women and other marginalised communities is less impressive than the broader narrative. The 2016 LIRNEasia data revealed that although more women in Myanmar own a phone now than in 2015, men were 28pc more likely to own a mobile phone. In addition, nearly half of mobile handset owners require help to perform basic activities with a phone, such as installation of an app, creating logins and passwords and adjusting settings.
I’ve been on some kind of budget binge this past week. Part of the problem with Sri Lanka public administration is that no assessment is done of the budget proposals. Last year’s budget increased the allocation for the Ministry of Telecom and Digital Infrastructure by 479 percent. What are indicators that this was a wise and useful expenditure of the people’s money? The first thing is, it’s difficult to even find out whether the money has been spent.
The economist celebrates Bangladesh’s achievements, caused in part by Pakistan’s census showing that it has more people than earlier estimated, thus decreasing the per-capita GDP. When the new population numbers are applied to the indicators that contribute to the ITU’s 2016 ICT Development Index, it is likely that the current virtual tie between Bangladesh and Pakistan will change to a significant lead for Bangladesh. This is nonetheless a good moment to celebrate Bangladesh’s economic progress. Its annual growth has averaged more than 6% over the past ten years and has run above 7% over the past two. Industry accounts for 29% of its GDP.
In late 2015 I wrote that: “All the fuss has been about Digital India. But India has fallen back six places to 131, despite improving its IDI score from 2.14 to 2.69 in the ICT Development Index. Nepal, which does not have a funded and actively promoted digital strategy, has advanced four places to 136th place.
Multiple SIM ownership has been a topic we have given much thought to over the years. Unlike the ITU, we never thought it was a good thing in and of itself. We tried to understand why people bothered to juggle multiple SIMs. We found it had many causes, not just high interconnection charges as suggested by Telegeography below. Gaps in coverage and discounts for calling friends and family were among the factors identified.
Myanmar is ranked 140th in the ITU’s ICT Development Index, just 0.16 away from India, which is ranked 138th. It is now ahead of all South Asian countries, except Maldives (86th), Sri Lanka (116th), Bhutan (117th) and India (138th). It is no longer the lowest ranking country within the ASEAN; Lao PDR is ranked 144th. Sri Lanka is running in place.
In 2012, I wrote in a Myanmar newspaper that according to the latest ITU data, Myanmar had less mobile SIMs in service for 100 people than every other country except St Helena, which had no mobile service at all. There was nothing to say about Internet. Three years later, Myanmar has leaped ahead of both Pakistan and Bangladesh in the ICT Development Index (IDI), driven principally by a 15-place advance in the Use Sub-index. It is now ranked 142nd among the countries that are included by the ITU in the Index. The massive increase in the number of mobile SIMs per 100 people increasing from one in 2010 to 49.
Bangladesh has not done too well in the IDI rankings, but a Bangladesh newspaper has been fast off the mark. On a global ranking of ICT usage, Bangladesh falls at 145 among a total of 166 countries, according to the latest report published by the International Telecommunication Union today. In Measuring the Information Society (MIS) report, Bangladesh has also ranked at the 27th position among 29 nations in the Asia-Pacific region with an ICT development index (IDI) of 1.97 and Afghanistan being the lowest in the region with an IDI ranking of 1.67.
We deal with a subset of ASEAN countries, the most prosperous among them being Thailand. So I looked at the performance of the not-so-rich ASEAN in the ICT Development Index. Thailand has advanced from 91st place in 2012 to 81st in 2013. Very significant. Then comes Viet Nam (101; down two places from 2012), Philippines (103; down one place), Indonesia and Cambodia holding steady at 106 and 127, respectively; Laos, down four to 134; and sadly Myanmar at 150, two places down from the last place in the region it held in 2012 — 148.
The 2014 Measuring the Information Society report is out. No surprises at the top: Denmark is now at 1 and Korea is now 2; just changed places from 2012 ranking. Significant movement from the Gulf countries: UAE goes from 46 to 23 and Qatar from 42 to 34. UAE is almost too difficult to believe. No good news from South Asia, sadly.
I write this sitting in the office of the Pacific ICT Regulatory Resource Center. Thus the interest in Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). Going through the IDI rankings, I was sorry to see that only Fiji (rank 82); Tonga (rank 101) and Solomon Islands (rank 125) are included. Both Fiji and Solomon Islands have fallen back by one place, even though their scores have increased from 3.79 to 3.
Last year, there was a fuss about Bangladesh being excluded from the ITU’s IDI Index. We’ve periodically discussed the IDI even if we are not fans, exactly. We’ve periodically discussed the IDI even if we are not fans, exactly. Good news for Bangladesh this year. Not only do we know what their score last year was (1.
There is so much wrong with the IDI. It gives a higher ICT development rank to Cuba (106) and Zimbabwe (115) well ahead of India (119). I ridiculed the predecessor of the IDI in the past, but they keep churning it out unfazed and people keep paying attention, which then causes me to pay attention too. There was even a fuss in the Bangladesh media about how that esteemed country managed to get itself excluded from IDI coverage in 2012. Few months back I promised to analyze the S Asian IDI rankings in more detail, so here goes.
The ITU publishes an annual ranking of ICT development, with ICT access and use being given 40 percent of the weight each and a sub-component known as skills, made up of education indicators, given 20 percent. Of the SAARC countries, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are not covered. Of the six that are covered, Maldives and Sri Lanka hold on to their 72nd and 105th places, showing no improvement nor regression. Bhutan falls back one place to 118; India three places to 119; Pakistan two places to 127 and Nepal brings up the rear at 137th place (a regression of 3 places from 2010). It is not that their scores have not improved.
It was just two years ago that Bangladesh was elected to the Council of the International Telecommunication Union. One would think that Bangladesh would be treated with added respect as a result. However, it appears that it has been excluded from the ITU’s annual compilation of the ICT Development Index for 2012. It is not completely absent, being included in the comparisons of price baskets. But on the main index, it’s absent.
Because of excellent performance on many indexes such as the AT Kearney Service Location Index, I have made a habit of checking on Vietnam’s performance on comparative rankings. True enough, the ITU’s ICT Development Index showed Vietnam advancing from 91st place to 81st place, a dramatic 10 place advance from 2008 to 2010. This prompted me to probe deeper to find out what good things were happening in Vietnam that others could emulate. Instead of finding lessons to emulate, I ended up with deep disquiet about the IDI methodology. Vietnam’s score and ranking on the Skills subindex remained unchanged (value of 5.