India Archives — Page 13 of 43


Asia is said to the last redoubt of belief in the Westphalian state. The Internet is fundamentally incompatible with the notion of a national state (legislature, executive and judiciary) having untrammeled authority over all that went on within its boundaries. It is therefore understandable that government officials have trouble dealing with Internet policy. But as stated by this observer of the Indian process, it appears that Indian officials have overcome these handicaps, thanks to vibrant stakeholder engagement: But a subsequent close engagement on their part with the government seems to have borne fruit. The positions that were put forward in Dubai by the Government of India in the end were far more nuanced, effectively taking into account many of the concerns that civil society and industry had put on the table.

WCIT: The debate continues in India

Posted on December 26, 2012  /  0 Comments

Many countries left the final decision on the ITRs to officials. In some case like Kenya, the officials applied their minds. In too many developing countries, it was a knee-jerk response based on maximizing national control and/or loyalty to the ITU. India is different. “ITU should only focus on telecom sector and not get into information and communication technology as they have tried to do through the Dubai convention last week,” said Subho Ray President of Internet and Mobile Association of India.

Who signed ITRs and who did not?

Posted on December 14, 2012  /  2 Comments

In the morning there was a report that the great Asian democracy, India, had not signed the ITRs. Now it looks like it did. Looks like poetic babus played a double game. Kenya’s brave lone stand is extraordinary and can be explained by what it has to lose if the Internet ceases to be seamless, as I explained in an oped in the Business Daily in October. But there are surprises: Qatar and Egypt?
I have been studying how to make Internet affordable and resilient across the developing Asia. Excessive reliance on submarine cable is the bottleneck. My study shows how to overcome it by deploying fiber across the continent, exploiting the transcontinental highways. But the control-freak governments, attending WCIT 2012 conference at Dubai, have deepened the crises of Internet. James Cowie of Renesys Corporation has categorized the countries being vulnerable to different levels of Internet shutdown risk (Click on the map).
Just a sample: The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), which represents the $100-billion IT and BPO industry, has strong views against the Internet governance model of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN), but favours self-regulation. Its president Som Mittal says: “NASSCOM does not favour oversight by an existing U.N. organisation like ITU. Internet and infrastructure have to be in the hands of expert organisations with proven experience.
Technocrats (and people like us who emphasize the rational) would prefer a rational, integrated solution. But we rarely get greenfield opportunities. In almost all cases vested interests dominate. So the reform that gets done is imperfect and messy. This is the message P Chidambaram, Minister of Finance seems to be giving to NYT.
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.
When I was asked by LMD about barriers to growth in the ICT sector, I mentioned parents who are not open to their children becoming entrepreneurs. Here is a supportive story from India. In Bangalore, a city at the forefront of many social changes in India, the young are leading a vibrant start-up culture that has taken root over the past few years, much to the dismay of a generation of parents. According to these elders, respectfully called “Aunty” and “Uncle” in India by the younger generation, the natural progression after college is to work for a short time, to get an M.B.
Having voted on behalf of the government at ITU forums, I can imagine the discomfiture of Indian officials when their decisions to go along with proposals to bring the Internet under the authority of the ITU are questioned by powerful domestic stakeholders. Opposing the government’s decision of having a global body to regulate Internet content, India Inc as well civil society groups today said that India should withdraw its consent to such a proposal. Besides, they argued that the government had taken a unilateral decision on Internet governance, without discussing it with the civil society members, industry or academicians. India had favoured an international proposal to regulate Internet content through a United Nations Committee on Internet Related Policies (CIRP) comprising 50 bureaucrats from the UN Member countries. India concurred with the CIRP on October 26, 2011 by making a statement at the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Causation in the world of policy

Posted on September 9, 2012  /  0 Comments

Establishing causal relationships is tough in social science, a field defined by open systems and knowledgeable agents. It is extremely difficult with regard to policy actions and outcomes. In 1998-99 when I was the public face of telecom reform in Sri Lanka, I used to get lots of invitations to speak at business events. In these talks I had to maintain a delicate balance, between giving the then government and its predecessor the right amount of credit for the incredible outcomes that were becoming visible. The government in power had been in place for four years and had partially privatized the incumbent operator and given its management to a Japanese investor, among other things.
Yesterday, I was talking with an Indian colleague who was involved in improving the Indian weather information system based on INSAT while working for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The trigger had been the devastating cyclone that hit Andhra Pradesh in 1977. This was also related to initiating my interest in disaster early warning because that cyclone was supposed to hit the East Coast of Sri Lanka, but veered away at the last minute. I remember tracking news of its journey while working at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. One year later the cyclone did not change track and we lost over 900 people on the East Coast.
We were flattered to see the highest authority for telecom in India use an image from our Teleuse@BOP research, unacknowledged, on the front page of its website. The image appears to have been taken from a post from our partner on this project, Nalaka Gunawardene. We have more good images. We’d happy to share them with an entity as prestigious as the DoT. Just ask.
I was pleased to read that detection devices for nuclear hazards are to be set up in Sri Lanka, even if it was from a foreign publication. I have been one of the few to point out that Sri Lanka lives in the shadow of nuclear reactors, while getting none of the benefits. This announcement indicates that someone in authority is paying attention. Following the request of AEA, International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) decided to help Sri Lanka set up seven early warning detectors and provide equipment worth 72,000 Euros, said Warnakulasuriya. “With nuclear leakage at Fukushima in Japan last year the region felt the need for nuclear disaster warning systems.

A caution on Jugaad

Posted on June 21, 2012  /  1 Comments

Workaround was a key theme across the chapters in our 2008 book. People were doing all sorts of things, like using WiFi to haul data over long distances in Indonesia, that made sense in the specific circumstances, but had no other value. As soon as the Indonesian telecom incumbent provided leased lines, the WiFi use stopped. This was a classic jugaad. A contrast is the budget telecom network model, that came about because companies were trying to deal with the low purchasing power of their customers and the low transaction cost afforded by pre-paid mobile.
The Ford Foundation has made a grant to LIRNEasia for facilitating and enriching policy discourse in India on increasing broadband access by the poor. The work will cover documentation and archiving of key texts from India and elsewhere, the conduct of several short courses to improve the ability of civil society groups to participate in the policy discourse and the holding of expert fora that will bring together decision makers and stakeholders. The project commences this month and goes on for two years.
Yesterday, the Indian Cabinet approved the National Telecom Policy, with five changes. I really would like to comment on it (and see if any of our suggested changes were incorporated) but at this point the Department of Telecom site says nothing. So all we have are news reports.