The World Economic Forum recently published some broadband price comparisons that generated some social media conversation, mostly because Sri Lanka, which had the lowest broadband prices according to the ITU, was now the 17th cheapest. LIRNEasia Research Manager Shazna Zuhyle who is active in the ITU’s indicators committees had this to say: The WEF has employed a consulting consultancy firm to gather the data that was then analysed by cable.co.uk. They have simply captured all fixed residential broadband plans per country, averaged the monthly cost and converted to USD.
The Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU - BDT) took a significant step towards more inclusive ICT price basket (IPB) benchmarking methodology, last week. All member states will adopt the methodology in 2018. Our research manager Shazna Zuhyle led the sub-group which presented the recommendations at the Expert Group for ICT Indicators (EGTI) meeting in Geneva.
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.
There is no shortcut to universal access of broadband. Very distinct four segments of broadband supply chain are to be addressed in a synchronized fashion. They are: International connectivity, domestic connectivity, metro networks and access networks. We have detected international connectivity being the ‘Achille’s Heel’ in Asia’s broadband value chain. Our research has prompted the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to adopt Asia Pacific Information Superhighway (AP-IS).
Yesterday, while I was moderating a panel on ICT policy and regulation, SDGs and inclusion at IIC 2016 in Bangkok, I was surprised to hear from a speaker representing the Alliance for Affordable Internet that “six billion people were without access to broadband.” I wrote it down. In subsequent comments I said the six billion number was “arguable.” The Facebook supported “State of Connectivity 2015” Report (prepared with the participation of A4AI as well as the ITU) states that 3.2 billion people (43 percent) were Internet users.
I was asked to make one point about the way forward at the closing session of the excellent e agriculture solutions forum organized by the FAO and ITU offices in Bangkok. Here is what I said (more or less, but this is the jist): Big data in agriculture We have come a long way from being fixated on radio as the be all and end all of ICTs in agriculture. We are fortunate to be living in an age when we can even take smartphones for granted in Myanmar, a country still listed as an LDC and one which went from 10 mobile connections per 100 people to over 80 in less than two years. Our own surveys (early 2015) showed that 63 percent of all mobile owners in Myanmar had smartphones, with more computing power than the computers we used just a decade ago. The mean price of a handset was USD87, with the largest number being in the USD 50 range.
I was happy to moderate a thoughtfully assembled session at the FAO-ITU organized e agriculture solutions forum in Nanthaburi, Thailand, 29-31 August 2016. The objective of this session was to share initiatives on e-agriculture – the challenges and opportunities from public and private sector. There were speakers from a government research organization, a research group at a university, a trade association representing telecom operators, and a private firm. They will present a range of exciting solutions, some centered on complex computer systems that integrate multiple data streams and others that focused on the smartphone interface. One question I did not have time to ask was one I wrote down right at the beginning: “if you could pick the application that has the greatest impact from all that you have done in this space, what role was played in its success by collaboration?
I will be moderating the session on E-agriculture challenges, opportunities & solutions – Global experiences at the e Agriculture Solutions Forum 2016 organized by FAO and ITU in Nonthaburi, outside Bangkok, August 29-31, 2016. The objective of the session is to share initiatives on e-agriculture – the challenges and opportunities from public and private sector. I believe the invitation stems from the role LIRNEasia played in shaping FAO’s and ITU’s approach to developing e agriculture strategies. Since 2006, LIRNEasia has been working on agricultural value chains with a focus on knowledge, information and technology. Currently LIRNEasia is testing a mobile app intended to assist smallholders adhere to standards for export.
Sliding revenues from conventional wholesale services mean carriers are being challenged to find new drivers for growth. It has been the hot topic in this year’s Pacific Telecommunication Council’s Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii. I presented the Asia Pacific Information Superhighway as new avenue to revenue. Here is my presentation.
CEO Helani Galpaya was invited as an expert participant at the UN-DESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) and ITU (International Telecommunications Union) organised Expert Group Meeting held at UN headquarters in New York, June 8 – 9th. Helani was invited to talk about issues of access and affordability, and how they contribute towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). LIRNEasia and RIA household survey data, LIRNEasia’s broadband quality of service test data, big data research was used in the presentations and interventions during the two day meeting. Slides here. Numerous UN Agencies, members of Permanent Missions to the UN from various countries (e.
LIRNEasia has publicly tabled the proposal of laying fiber along the Asian Highway for universal access to broadband in CommunicAsia on June 2011. At that time we called it LION or Longest International Open-access Network. Light Reading and Total Telecom were cautiously optimistic. The then boss of ITU, who also attended the event, gave cold shoulder to our initiative. Unsurprisingly the ESCAP took us seriously.
Yoshio Utsumi should know what he speaks of. He was elected as Secretary General in 1998. I remember casting the vote on behalf of Sri Lanka in Minneapolis. He served two terms and was succeeded by Hamadoun Toure, who was elected as Director of ITU-D also in 1998. Utsumi served two terms and stepped down in 2007.
At the FAO-ITU e agriculture workshop that I am attending in Bangkok, I was asked to respond to a question on failure of ICT projects in agriculture and why. I responded, saying I will speak only about our activities. I said that the market information system Harsha de Silva started as an e Sri Lanka pilot project; kept going with his own money; and then handed over to LIRNEasia to run and study is by many criteria a success: it was picked up by a mobile operator (a rare case of sustainability being achieved); the data that it produces are reused by government organizations; the data are used. But by my criteria, it is yet to succeed. My criteria are as follows: (i) the markets must clear, the way you measure this is by measuring the waste carted off the wholesale markets at the end of business everyday; (ii) there must be evidence that the law of one price is being found to be observed in a significant number of wholesale markets that are within driving distance of the main sources of supply.
The roiling debate on Internet governance in a post-Snowden world is not one that we participate in fully. There are only so many hours in a day. But this debate caught my eye. Someone systematically engaging Richard Hill, the theorist behind the ITU’s position at WCIT 2013. It seems to me that what most bothers the statists is that the Internet has broken up the tight controls that states used to be able to exercise over thought, expression, and access to information.
I moderated a panel session on “Affordable International Backhaul” at ITU’s annual event in Doha on December 8, 2014. Success of a moderator solely depends on the panel members’ participation. I am truly indebted to all of them. Doug Madory, Director of Internet Analysis, Dyn Research, pointed out, from a purely technical perspective, when it comes to creating an ICT hub, there is little difference whether a country is landlocked or on the coast. “It is wishful thinking to design developmental projects without the regulatory framework and basic best practices which enable investment in the sector, “ said Khaled Naguib Sedrak, CEO and Founder, NxtVn.