India Archives — Page 10 of 43


Digital India

Posted on June 10, 2014  /  0 Comments

The policy statement of the new government headed by Narendra Modi promises to continue the NOFN initiative. It makes specific mention of the use of social media for more closely engaging the people. 22. E-governance brings empowerment, equity and efficiency. It has the power to transform peoples’ lives.
It was not the best time to disseminate research results in New Delhi, with the news media preoccupied with the accession of power by the new government. But, as Helani Galpaya said in her introductory comments at the media event, one has to get back to governance at some point. The first news report that resulted highlights the potential of using the ubiquitous mobile phones to improve communication between electricity discoms and their customers. The headline referred to the value of transferring lessons from mobile to electricity, for example by offering prepaid service to those who could not meet the current criteria for connections. The body is meeting state-level energy regulators from Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra to discuss the findings of the survey, which covered 1,279 people in India (Delhi and Patna).
Bangladesh has abundant international Internet bandwidth while Bhutan generates surplus electricity. Newly appointed Bhutan’s Ambassador to Dhaka, Pema Choden, has expressed interest in importing surplus bandwidth from Bangladesh. In that meeting, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam also showed interest in Bhutan’s plentiful electricity to meet the growing energy demand of Bangladesh. Both the neighbors are now poised to be the friend in mutual needs. Bangladesh currently consumes only 40Gbps of its 200Gbps capacity of the SEA-ME-WE 4 submarine cable.
I was a little surprised by the report in the Hindu Business Line that the Department of Telecom is planning to set up a testing and payment infrastructure for mobile apps, along with a subsidy/investment scheme funded from the Universal Service Fund. I was surprised about the DoT taking the lead when apps seem to be more within DEITY’s subject area. I was also surprised that funds from the USF were being used, when one would think that converting the universal service fund into an investment vehicle is an unusual choice. I was also surprised that many of the topics had been discussed in great detail by Rajat Kathuria and Sughanda Srivastva at the Expert Forum we conducted in Delhi on March 12th, 2014. DoT senior officials were present, but it seems that a month and half is little too short a time for policy recommendations to be transformed into actual policy in India.
We rely on Kingdon’s concept of policy windows a lot. To effectively take research to policy, the necessary condition is a policy window: some kind of opening created in the “minds” of the relevant decision makers. It does not require much knowledge to postulate that current Indian election that will yield a new Prime Minister and Cabinet, whatever be the outcome, is such a window. But there is more. All the parties are promising improved governance and delivery of government services using ICTs, as the attached slideset shows.
I have never been a great fan of NRI type indices where the components are somewhat opaque and some are subjective. Instead of going into the details of the method and weaknesses of components such as the mythical (for the most part) numbers of Internet users, I thought I’d check in against four countries that have launched major initiatives on broadband promotion using government subsidies: Australia, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. Australia’s plan is the winner in terms of public money committed and Malaysia is the winner in terms of households already connected. Case studies conducted with Ford Foundation support should be on the web shortly. Australia is holding steady at 18th place.
As long as I can remember, India has been ahead of Sri Lanka in the WEF Network Readiness Index. But no more. Sri Lanka is now ranked 76th while India is ranked 83rd. The bad part of the story is that both countries have dropped in the rankings: Sri Lanka from 69th place to 76th, a fall of seven places, being overtaken by countries such as South Africa, Indonesia and Thailand. India’s fall has been more dramatic: a 15-place retreat from 68th to 83rd.

Chicken or egg in broadband policy

Posted on March 13, 2014  /  0 Comments

Many new issues worth further exploration emerged at the Expert Forum we concluded in New Delhi yesterday. One thing that was stated by officials was that the private sector was not stepping up to purchase the capacity offered by the National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN). Unlike in other countries, the access offer is not complete (supposedly, some tariffs have been published; with some serious discounts on offer). Imagine offering a service without full information on what to do if the NOFN fails. So, what comes first: NOFN access rules or the private operators lining up to buy capacity?
A presentation and discussion of LIRNEasia research from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh  

Why is India the biggest user of VPNs?

Posted on February 8, 2014  /  0 Comments

The mass surveillance apparatus promised by the Government of India has yet to kick in, but according to a survey (the method is not fully reported, so we cannot vouch for veracity), Indians are already taking precautions. Asia accounts for four of the world’s top five VPN-using countries, although Indian netizens are more likely to hide their location than those in China, according to new research. Out of 28 per cent of global users who tunnel through the internet, only one fifth do so because they don’t want to be spotted by government snoopers, according to a Global Web Index study of 32 countries (H/T to TechInAsia). Presumably the other four-fifths are either very security conscious or trying to get on BBC iPlayer. In descending order, the top five are India, Vietnam, Thailand, China and Turkey – all of which have usage figures of a little over 20 per cent, according to the sample surveyed.
Government agencies are slow with procurement. This is common knowledge. Despite this common knowledge, the Telecom Minister and Mr Sam Pitroda decided to implement the NOFN using government entities only. It is also common practice for government entities to engage in the blame game, diverting precious effort from fixing the problems. All these not-unexpected things are happening right now.
Given the slow start and the pushing back of deadlines for the NOFN, one would have thought the BJP would bash the UPA on wasting public funds on fiber. But no, they want to do more. I guess Modi will claim he can get it done, without having to distinguish Congress and BJP policies. Read the article. The feel is that Modi and Reliance Jio are on the same wavelength.

Two more years for Bharat Broadband?

Posted on January 7, 2014  /  0 Comments

A few weeks back, we wrote about how late the NOFN train was running. It appears the USOF has accepted the reality that it cannot accelerate from 60 to 25,000 in 12 months and is asking for a two-year delay. We all know why government programs have tight deadlines. It has to do with the electoral cycle. What Nilekani achieved, Pitroda could not.