ITU Archives — Page 3 of 8 — LIRNEasia

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.
Bangladesh took a giant leap in terms of redefining broadband from 128 Kbps to 1 Mbps at the end of last year. Such politically motivated administrative intervention has, however, failed to improve its abysmal broadband profile in the region. The Broadband Commission, in conjunction with ITU and UNESCO, has published the “State of Broadband 2013: Universalizing Broadband” report on September 21, 2013. Various indicators of broadband covering 194 countries until the end of 2012 have been captured in this publication. It shows that Bangladesh ranks 161 with 6.
A paper based on work Roshanthi Lucas Gunaratne and I did over the past two years is finally published in a peer-reviewed journal, info. Here is an excerpt of the abstract: Purpose – There are significant shortcomings in the current method of estimating the indicator “Proportion of internet users” by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in countries where demand-side data are unavailable. In the absence of demand-side surveys, governments calculate the proportion of internet users on the basis of the number of subscriptions and a multiplier, which leads to arbitrary values. Errors in such base indicators ripple through the system, causing significant errors in composite indicators, and should be minimised. The purpose of this paper is to propose a new evidence-based methodology, in the absence of demand-side surveys, to estimate the proportion of individuals using the internet.
Three months ago the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) of Saudi Arab has vowed to ban all VoIP applications that bypass networks. Now the regulator has lowered its axe on applications like Skype, Viber and WhatsApp. As a result, the oil rich Kingdom’s vast population of foreign workers will have to count huge cost of calling home. The regulator issued a vaguely worded directive in March warning that such tools as Viber, Whatsapp and Skype broke local laws, without specifying how. CITC did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday or when the earlier announcement was made in March.
I am writing this post sitting in Apia, Samoa, in a room packed with representatives from policymakers and regulators from 13 Pacific Island Countries (PICs), ranging from the Cook Islands to Vanuatu. I have been engaging with ICT policymakers and regulators in the PICs since 2006 and have never seen this level of enthusiasm and engagement. The subjects covered in this two-day training course were decided on by the participants. My first assignment is to discuss ITU and PiRRC indicators. The Pacific is something of a “black hole” in terms of sector indicators.
I spent more time than I had on working to fend off bad proposals to impose the sending party network pays principle on data as part of the revision of the International Telecom Regulations of the ITU. We succeeded, but I did not really think there were any winners in Dubai, really. Now that some time has passed, it is time for considered reflection. I spoke on this subject in Brussels in March, but the lecture that I gave in Bangalore to the Ford Foundation funded training course was perhaps the first time I tried to develop a full analysis. The work is not complete yet, but hopefully, I will get it into good form as a paper within a few months.
Earlier we discussed the snapping of four submarine cables in Egypt and its impact. Now we have come to know it was an act of sabotage. Telecom Egypt’s CEO Mohamed al-Nawawi has confirmed that his country’s Armed Forces have arrested three saboteurs. Among the global news outlets, Associated Press and BBC have covered it by far. There is, however, nothing to celebrate.
The ITU’s Secretary General appointed the biggest single barrier to broadband in Latin America, the wily Carlos Slim Helu, as the co-chair of the Broadband Commission. He specializes in tying up efforts to regulate his enterprises. Now that the political elites in Mexico have agreed to curb the hegemony of Telmex, his hands will be full and there may be a vacancy in the Broadband Commission. Slim, the world’s richest man, dominates Mexico’s telecommunications market, controlling 70 percent of the country’s mobile market and 80 percent of its fixed phone lines. Televisa, controlled by tycoon Emilio Azcarraga, has about 60 percent of the broadcast market.
Universal access was discussed in “Networking Revolution: Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries” of the World Bank in June 2000 as follows: In low-income countries, however, the focus should be on providing public access to services. The only realistic objective in the short term is therefore to achieve “universal access”, whereby everyone would be able to access a public booth in every town, village or vicinity or within “reasonable” distance. What “reasonable” distance actually means, what services are to be provided at every public booth (telephone, e-mail, real-time Internet), and which of these services are appropriate at what level in the hierarchy of towns and villages, will very much vary from one country to another, depending on potential demand and ability to pay for these services. The scale at present runs from access to 2 Mbps high-speed Internet lines for every home in Korea to a telephone within (distant) walking distance in some African countries. That was 13 years ago.
One of the great ironies of the present discourse on Internet/broadband is the appointment of Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s richest man and possibly the single most significant barrier to greater Internet access in Latin America, to serve as the Co-Chair of the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission. It is widely recognized that Telmex exerts significant market power to keep prices up, users out, and its profits high. I co-authored a few pieces on Mexico’s early reforms in the 1990s so I have some knowledge of the subject. Now the government has set its sights on telecoms. According to Aurelio Nuño, the president’s chief of staff, within two months the PRI will present a bill to attack the “great problem of concentration” in telephony, internet and television.
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.
An advocacy group called “De-fund the ITU” demands the US government stops funding the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). In a signature campaign they have accused ITU of leading several countries to seize the control of the Internet during WCIT 2012 in Dubai. Their goal was a coup: to overthrow the open and transparent system of internet governance that ensures the internet’s freedom and accessibility, and replace it with their own central point of absolute control, through which policies of censorship and repression could be enacted. The group claims that Germany, France, Spain, and Finland have already de-funded the ITU. American technology giants like the IBM, Cingular, Microsoft, Fox, Agilent, Sprint, Harris, Loral, and Xerox have allegedly withdrawn their private-sector contributions from the ITU.
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.
The Bangladesh delegation flew to WCIT 2012 without necessary homework. Members had, however, informally said they would “follow the crowd” in the conference at Dubai. And they kept their word while voting in favor of the new ITR. After coming home, the team leader is triumphant: Least developed countries like Bangladesh will be benefitted from the recent amendment to international telecom regulations, said an official. Subscribers in Bangladesh will enjoy reduced international roaming charges, better internet security, freedom from junk mails, and wider access to international communication.

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.
It’s a rare government servant who does not believe that his prime directive is not that of giving all possible power to his government. Refreshing. But Dr Ndemo had indicated he would not support the inclusion of internet in the ITU regulations even before he left the country for the conference. “Why would we want to change anything? This period that ITU has not been regulating internet there have been tremendous innovations.