Pathfinder Foundation and Carnegie India organized a conference on connectivity. I was asked to speak on air connectivity, which I was happy to do, it being a rather neglected subject. The paper is still not ready for prime time, some of the data not having yet been provided by the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka. But here is the conclusion: There may be marginal possibilities for increasing passenger and freight movements between India and Sri Lanka through reforms in air travel and visa policies which could possibly be included in the proposed Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA). The construction of additional international airports, such as those in Jaffna and Trincomalee, where significant Sri Lankan Tamil populations live may also contribute.
In our formal submission to the PUCSL in 2013, we highlighted the urgency of connecting the two grids. The case was made in public and private. Obviously we welcome the statement below, despite the fact that “plans are underway” is a favorite weasel phrase of the Sri Lankan bureaucracy: Plans are underway to connect Sri Lanka’s power grid with the Indian power grid to boost power generation within the next five years. “The Sri Lankan government is already having talks with the Indian government on this project,” according to Chairman of the Electricity Board (CEB) Anura Wijayapala. Full report.
I had heard about papers on Islamic science policy being picked as best papers and given prominence over conventional social science papers at an international conference organized by a Malaysian university. But my first direct experience of this indigenization trend came at the international conference I spoke at last week at Manipal University. A faculty member from a university in Nepal presented a paper that sought to position communication policy within some kind of Hindu scriptural framework. I thought it was just a harmless oddity and tuned out, until I heard the professors in the audience make earnest attempts to respectfully engage with the reformulation of communication policy according to scriptures. The questions were about the nation state, which is the necessary context of policy, which was the theme of the conference.
Reliance shook up India’s markets once, with what appeared to be an oxymoronic strategy of limited mobility. It worked. The market was transformed and the effects reverberated across the developing world. In a different guise Reliance is back. The market is being transformed.
India was reported to have had 638,596 villages, of which 593,731 are inhabited according to the last census. Over 9 percent of the inhabited villages, 55,000, are said to lack mobile coverage. Sinha said that, according to the 2011 Census, there are 55,000 villages that don’t have mobile connectivity. The government, he added, had drawn up a plan to ensure the villages are brought on the mobile telephony network, especially in hilly areas and Left-wing extremism-affected regions. Congress member Renuka Chowdhury pointed out that mobile towers had been destroyed in Maoist violence.
One of the first things Ashok Jhunjhunwala said when we started working together was that in India scale was everything. He should know, having spun off a number of companies and suffered some failures as well. I find it difficult to get excited about stories like this, because these initiatives addressing 16,000 women in the country of 1.2 billion people are unlikely to scale. Of course, one hopes they will succeed.
For some, Facebook is a bad thing. That was an underlying theme of the opposition to Free Basics and zero rating. I guess having less women use a bad thing is good, so they should be happy. The fact remains that Facebook is the most popular app, the killer app that everyone was looking for. So even if it does not meet the standards of the purists, very low use by women should be of concern to pragmatists.
Nandan Nilekani of Infosys and Aadhaar fame has been brought in to help the government of India accelerate the transition to e financial services in the aftermath of demonetization. 350 million with no phones and 350 million with feature phones is just the first problem. What happens when there is no signal, like in Chennai after the recent storm? The committee has a mega challenge ahead. The committee is expected to meet again this week to look at how to approach those with limited access to technology.
I am large, I contain multitudes. This is true, for sure, about India, on track to become the most populous nation in five years. India contains many visions and plans, not necessarily congruent, about connecting citizens to the Internet. The Walt Whitman line surely applies to what happens in Indian ICT policy too. Sam Pitroda worked up a plan to do the job using state-owned enterprises.
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.
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.
India is the point of transit for every submarine cable connecting Asia with Africa and Europe via Middle East. Altogether 19 submarine cables have landed in five different Indian locations: Mumbai (11 cables), Chennai (4 cables), Cochin (2 cables), Trivandrum (1 cable) and Tuticorine (1 cable). These sparsely located landing points are good enough to make India the home of a highly resilient international connectivity. Early this week Cyclone Vardah has, however, exposed India’s, notably of Bharti Airtel’s, fragility instead. Bharti Airtel has stakes in five submarine cable networks: i2i, SEA-ME-WE 4, EIG, I-ME-WE and AAG.
Replacing a phone can be postponed. Getting a new connection? That too can be postponed. It appears these things are being done. I guess we can expect a surge in purchases once the new notes are available.
It is a lot of pain, but it seems the demonetization is going to make India a leader in m-financial services. Across the country, about 70,000 merchants a day are signing up for India’s best-selling mobile payments platform, Paytm, about 14 times as many as the daily average before the currency decision, said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and chief executive of Paytm and One97 Communications, the start-up behind it. Since the large-currency ban, the number of daily transactions on Paytm has grown to nearly six million, an increase of 350 percent, and the service is adding half a million users each day, Mr. Sharma said. “Earlier, we were the innovator, now we are the mainstream,” he said.
Myanmar is the rising star in global telecoms market and anything new hits the headlines. Bharti Airtel’s claim of activating a terrestrial optical fiber cable link between India and Myanmar is one such example. An undisclosed sum has been reportedly invested in a 6,500rkm (route km) terrestrial link. It will be connected to Airtel’s landing stations in Chennai and Mumbai. Ajay Chitkara, the company’s director & CEO (global voice & data business) told the Economic Times: ‘The terrestrial cable link is a strategic fibre asset for Airtel in the SAARC region, which will enable the company to offer robust end-to-end connectivity solutions in Myanmar, which is seeing rapid uptake of digital services as one of the last growth frontiers in Asia.
I frequently use the phrase “a crisis is too valuable thing to waste” usually attributing it to Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first Chief of Staff. So I was intrigued by this column in the New Indian Express. The writer looks ahead beyond the blame game. The deed is done, however messy. Now how to make something out of it?