Presented by Helani Galpaya, Ayesha Zainudeen and Tharaka Amarasinghe on 5 November 2018 in Colombo, Sri Lanka
LIRNEasia. (2018). AfterAccess: ICT access and use in Asia and the Global South (Version 2.0). Colombo: LIRNEasia
LIRNEasia. (2018). AfterAccess: ICT access and use in Asia and the Global South (Version 1). Colombo: LIRNEasia
We have been writing about network shutdowns for a long time. We even formulated a law to explain its workings. Now finally a court has ruled: The judgement reads as, “For what has been discussed above, the instant appeal and the connected petitions are allowed. Consequently, the actions, orders and directives issued by the Federal Government or the Authority, as the case may be, which are inconsistent with the provisions of section 54(3) are declared as illegal, ultra vires and without lawful authority and jurisdiction. The Federal Government or the Authority are, therefore, not vested with the power and jurisdiction to suspend or cause the suspension of mobile cellular services or operations on the ground of national security except as provided under section 54(3).
With less than a million citizens, Djibouti struggles with the abysmal ICT indicators. Its internet hums with 12% penetration while mobile SIM penetration is 36% only. Now flip the page. Nine submarine cables transit at Djibouti to link Africa, the Middle East and Asia with Europe. Australia is coming soon!
This RFP invites Proposals from potential Bidders to conduct comparative nationwide studies of ICT access and use in 2017 in Cambodia and Pakistan. Bidders may bid for an individual country or both countries together. However, bidders that bid for both countries will be at a significant technical advantage. The full RFP can be downloaded here, with Annexure 3 and Annexure 4-5.
They were extremely high to start with. But still, a good thing. Sri Lanka should be careful we don’t take over Pakistan’s position as the most taxed ICT sector. The breaks will see the withholding tax on mobile services drop from 14% to 12.5%, while federal excise duty will fall from 18.
I and many others have been critical about the performance of universal service funds. One of the main criticisms has been their inability to efficiently disburse the collected funds. Having USD billions stagnating in these funds does not make any sense. In previous comments I have simply referred to the massive accumulations in the Indian and Brazilian funds, but I always thought it would be a good idea to develop an index. The data are not always easy to get a hold of, but we are proposing an index, or actually two.
Multinet Pakistan, an Axiata company, and state-owned Omantel are deploying a new subsea cable system, dubbed Silk Route Gateway (SRG-1). It will have two pairs of fiber with a design capacity of 10 Tbps each. The system will be commercially launched by the end of 2017. The SRG-1 will stretch over one thousand kilometers between Muscat and Karachi, with a planned extension to link the newly built deep-sea port at Gwadar (Pakistan). That will make it the country’s first submarine cable with double landing stations.
LIRNEasia has had a deep commitment to decentralized innovation. Specifically in relation to Pakistan, we advocated more reasonable revenue splits for app developers and actions to reduce the transaction costs for them as far back as in May 2010. We are happy to see actions on those lines reported from Pakistan. Irfan Wahab Khan, Deputy CEO of Telenor Pakistan, while speaking with ProPakistani, confirmed the plans and said that Telenor Pakistan is determined to play a role in nurturing and strengthening startups ecosystem in Pakistan. “In addition to giving these startups an access to our assets, such as distribution channels, retail network, Telenor Pakistan has bundled a tool-kit with payment, location and other similar APIs, that will be made available to these selected startups”, explained Irfan Wahab Khan.
We do not believe the ITU’s ICT Development Index is perfect, but we write about it every year. This year, the web interface has been jazzed up. But even more interesting is what has happened with Myanmar. In 2010, Myanmar ranked 150th in the world, and was second to last in the Asia Pacific. Bangladesh was just ahead at 148 and Pakistan was well ahead at 138.
First it was Bangladesh: Robi and Airtel. Then it was India: Reliance and Sistema plus maybe Aircel. Sri Lanka: SLT/Mobitel and Hutch. Now Pakistan: Mobilink and Warid. VimpelCom is looking to combine Pakistani unit Mobilink with local rival Warid Telecom, claiming the first merger in the country’s telecoms sector.
I first heard about government entering the business of manufacturing phones when I was (futilely) advising the government of Bangladesh on formulating a national telecom policy. They had some bankrupt telecom equipment factories and I was asked what to do with them. I said, not much. Then my friends in India started to show me numbers for what India was spending on importing equipment for the telecom industry. This cannot continue, they said.
Pakistani researchers have developed a solar-powered portable mobile phone network that can be used when the regular mobile phone networks are down due to natural disasters. Dubbed as the Rescue Base Station (RBS) for Pakistan, the system has been jointly developed by a team from the Information Technology University (ITU) in Lahore and the University of California. “When the RBS is installed in a disaster-struck area, people automatically start receiving its signals on their mobile phones. They can manually choose it and then call, send messages and even browse (internet) data free of charge,” said Umar Saif, ITU vice chancellor and an adviser to the project. The RBS is a lightweight, compact rectangular box fitted with an antenna, a signal amplifier and a battery, which can be carried easily and even dropped by helicopter in hard-to-reach disaster zones.
I was reading the 2014 Annual Report of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, where on page 37 the PTA reports that international calls being terminated on Pakistani mobile networks has decreased dramatically since 2011-12, from 10.8 billion minutes to 5.6 billion minutes in 2013-14. The PTA even says that “one view is that this is due to the introduction of the International Clearing House (ICH).” But no reaching of the obvious conclusion: abolish the ICH and stop playing ineffective cartel manager.
I did not know how bad things were in Pakistan until I read this essay by my friend Parvez Iftikhar, the greatest universal service fund evangelist there is. Coming to home, the level of utilization of USF funds in Pakistan, at this time, is actually worse. According to a careful estimate, since 2006 an equivalent of US$ One Billion has been collected (including the interest earned on the collections) – excluding those millions that were collected by PTA in the initial years and deposited directly with the government. Out of this One Billion, US$ 160 Million has been disbursed to the telcos. Another US$ 110 Million is committed in signed contracts of on-going projects, and is lying with the Government of Pakistan.