regulation Archives — Page 2 of 7


Been thinking about AI for a while but realized there was nothing on the record. It’s good to have some record of what we are thinking about, as illustrated by the recent tweet I sent showing our first post following the launch of the iPhone. What is artificial intelligence today? Roughly speaking, it’s technology that takes in huge amounts of information from a specific domain (say, loan repayment histories) and uses it to make a decision in a specific case (whether to give an individual a loan) in the service of a specified goal (maximizing profits for the lender). Think of a spreadsheet on steroids, trained on big data.
Just yesterday, I wrote about the new regulation being rolled out by Facebook. Here is a description by Farhad Manjoo of the nuts and bolts of its operation. The people who work on News Feed aren’t making decisions that turn on fuzzy human ideas like ethics, judgment, intuition or seniority. They are concerned only with quantifiable outcomes about people’s actions on the site. That data, at Facebook, is the only real truth.
Facebook has published a 13-page “white paper” on the ways by which its platform has been, and continues to be, used for information operations by various actors including state actors. The document presents certain remedial actions being taken by Facebook, most relying on anomaly detection techniques from data analytics and natural language processing. Providing a platform for diverse viewpoints while maintaining authentic debate and discussion is a key component of Facebook’s mission. We recognize that, in today’s information environment, social media plays a sizable role in facilitating communications — not only in times of civic events, such as elections, but in everyday expression. In some circumstances, however, we recognize that the risk of malicious actors seeking to use Facebook to mislead people or otherwise promote inauthentic communications can be higher.
I recall telling the story of the US court that required a man with a light (and maybe a bell) to walk ahead of new-fangled motor cars to Sri Lanka’s Solicitor General. Was it apocryphal or true? But it worked. I prevented him from giving me a ruling that would have basically killed satellite-based personal telephony. So often, the vested interests (ah, an old word, going into desuetude) try to force fit new things into old boxes in order to kill them.
“The digital economy will empower our nation – through providing affordable and secure Internet connectivity to every citizen in any part of Sri Lanka, removing barriers for cross-border international trade.” The above quotation from the Prime Minister’s Economic Policy Statement in Parliament on 27 October 2016 suggests the government sees ICTs playing a vital role in the country’s progress. Sri Lanka has been a leader in ICTs in the region. The Prime Minister gave enthusiastic leadership to the e Sri Lanka initiative, which when launched was a pioneering effort. It is known that he played a valuable role in connecting Sri Lanka to the Internet in the 1990s.
The legislation creating the Public Utilities Commission and the Telecom Regulatory Commission specifically provide for the regulatory bodies to have their own funds. The Minister of Finance in the 2017 Budget has announced he intends to expropriate the money in the funds and give it out on request. My response in today’s Daily FT: It is customary for independent, sector-specific regulatory agencies to have a separate fund. The agency is operated with fees and other payments from the entities that it regulates that go into this fund. The principal rationale is insulation from pressure that could be exerted by the Government which could use disbursements from the consolidated fund as a carrot or a stick.
IIC is an organization that provides a platform for discussion of ICT policy and regulation with a specialized focus. They are spending a week in our neck of the woods, Bangkok. The main conference will be on October 12-13. Here are the two sessions I am participating in on Day 1. SESSION 2: LINKING ICT POLICY AND REGULATION WITH SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS AND INCLUSIVE GROWTH – WHAT MUST BE DONE DIFFERENTLY TO ALLEVIATE OBSTACLES TO UNIVERSAL CONNECTIVITY AND ACCESSIBILITY?
The sixth iteration of the Ford Foundation supported course on how to engage in broadband policy and regulatory processes commenced today at IIT Delhi. An interesting mix of participants has been assembled by Dr Vignesh Illavarasan who is directing the course. He has also assembled a stellar cast of speakers, with perhaps the best gender balance we have achieved in this course. The assignment is a central element of the course. It allows the participants to apply the knowledge gathered in the course to a practical problem.
Myanmar, having completed the “big bang,” initial reforms is in the process of establishing a regulatory agency to be known as the Myanmar Communication Commission (MCC). Due to years of enforced isolation from the world and neglect of education, Myanmar suffers from severe constraints in terms of skilled personnel. Having already achieved good results by learning from the experience with previous reforms, the government may benefit from learning from the experiences in the design of regulatory agencies and the conduct of ex-ante, sector-specific regulation. From desk research and questionnaires administered to informed respondents, this paper assembles relevant evidence from National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs) in member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which Myanmar is a member. In addition, the paper identifies negative aspects of conventional solutions and suggests ways to address them.

Big data policy discussed at ITS

Posted on June 26, 2016  /  0 Comments

I am speaking on a big data panel at the 21st ITS Biennial Conference in Taipei, described below: If Big Data can open up opportunities at the same time it raises serious policy issues. Big Data raises concerns about the protection of privacy and other values and may drive a rethink of traditional approaches to data governance: a shift from trying to control the data itself to focusing on the uses of data. Prevalent data standard protection may have become higher as legal standard may be inadequate. Openness of the data and data ownership are pending issues. Besides, the rise of the “Data Barons” is triggering market concentration and data oligopolies issues: “Dark Side of market concentration and data oligopolies.
MIDO and LIRNEasia offered a one day program that addressed issues of telecom and Internet policy and regulation, along with e government and social media in Yangon to around 20 legislators from the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament. The slides used are given below: What is the significance of ICTs to legislators?: Rohan Samarajiva What to people in Myanmar do with ICTs? Results of field research: Helani Galpaya Legislation, policies, plans, strategies, regulation: Rohan Samarajiva What is independent regulation? Why is it needed?

Regulating through design

Posted on June 10, 2016  /  0 Comments

It was in the 1990s that Larry Lessig put into beautiful form an idea that was bubbling up all over the place among people thinking about emerging technology. This was the idea of West Coast Code versus East Coast Code. Both regulated what could and could not be done on various tech-mediated spaces. But East Coast Code sought to do so through law, courts, regulatory agencies and the old paraphernalia of the regulatory state. There are obvious problems in this approach.
Current research on micro-work platforms has given LIRNEasia much to think about. The conditions for successful participation in platforms are quite different in developing economies than in the developed economies they originate in. But that does not mean we should over regulate them, or regulate them badly. There is a lot of good innovation happening here, that requires space. We hope to address the questions raised in this article in the Economist, that concludes as follows: Regulators still have much to learn about how to deal with platforms.
I was given the task of talking about policy challenges to using mobile communication advancing socio-economic development in the ASEAN, at the research meeting on mobile communication in the ASEAN at the LKY School. Given the tremendous heterogeneity within ASEAN (ranging from Singapore to Myanmar) I decided it would be more useful to do a deep dive into one ASEAN country, rather than skate over the lot. Also, given the peculiar state of the “single market” in the ASEAN where policy and regulation are not in any way harmonized, a pan-ASEAN discussion would result in a load of platitudes. So I talked about the policy challenges in Myanmar. In the slides I presented data from the 2015 baseline survey to address what socio-economic development effects would be like.
LIRNEasia Senior Research Fellow Payal Malik has written a thoughtful op-ed about how and when regulatory action is required in an economy that is does not assign centrality to static consumer surplus. Shall the choice of competition rules in India be also guided by some ideological underpinnings or there are some bright line rules that can guide regulatory philosophy? The normative basis of regulating the digital economy will finally depend on what ideology the Indian regulatory governance subscribes to. If it considers concentrated markets, by their very nature, to be undesirable, then an interventionist approach would be adopted and competition rules would impose visions of an ideal market upon economic agents. But if the regulators ascribe to a dynamic view of competition, concentrated markets will have to be traded off for consumer benefit.
I was a little surprised to be invited to a meeting on big data organized by the Institute of Technology and Society of Rio de Janeiro. But then I realized that the event was scheduled back to back with IGF 2015 in Joao Pessoa and that they were basically piggy-backing on the attraction of large numbers of international experts to Brazil in November 2015. With some effort, I was able to find a few people who were not lawyers participating in the event, but it was dominated by those of the legal persuasion. This meant that there was a presumption that laws and regulations were needed to avoid the bad things that could be imagined. Usually, what we have is a battle of imaginations.