south asia


Pew Research, based on the Global Attitudes Survey, reports that 22 percent of the adult population in India owned a smartphone in 2017. This finding mirrors the findings of our AfterAccess surveys conducted in India
   LIRNEasia’s first publication for 2018 has just arrived. Summing up the learnings from multiple projects, LIRNEasia’s Human Capital Team Leader Sujata Gamage contributed a chapter to Education in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Islands, edited by Hema Letchamanan and Debotri Dhar for a prestigious book series entitled “Education Around the World” published by Bloomsbury. She is now engaged in converting these insights on general education into practical policy measures at the invitation of the Ministry of Education of Sri Lanka. The book also includes a chapter on higher education, co-authored by Board Member Vishaka Nanayakkara.
The following story about Ethiopia, a country still listed as a least-developed country (LDC), wanting to put up its own communication and earth-sensing satellites caught my eye, because this is a perennial story in South Asia. In January the government said it would launch a Chinese-built civilian satellite from an overseas rocket pad within the next five years. It would be designed to Ethiopian specifications and used to monitor crops and the weather, and doubtless to spy on neighbours, too. The government also wants to reduce reliance on foreign telecoms by launching its own communications satellite. In putting its own satellites into orbit Ethiopia would join the select club of African nations that have already done so.
LIRNEasia’s concerns re the quality of ITU’s way of counting Internet users are well known. In addition to relying on arbitrary multipliers, they are slow in producing the data. It’s now the second half of 2016, and the most current data from the ITU is from 2014. In a rapidly changing sector like ICTs, this is ancient history. So I hope I will be forgiven for claiming that Facebook user numbers which are from 2016 are a better indicator that ITU’s obsolete and questionable indicator.
Have not had the time to do the usual analysis, so was happy to see this report in the Financial Times. The recently released 2015 edition of the Global Information Technology Report of the World Economic Forum has placed Sri Lanka at 65th position in networked readiness among 143 economies surveyed. Singapore is ranked as the topmost country in networked readiness and replaces Finland, which had been number one since 2013. Japan, which climbs an impressive six places on a year-on-year basis to 10th position, also joins the top 10. Sri Lanka is the highest-ranked South Asian nation this year and eighth among the Asian nations, beaten only by Singapore (1st), Japan (10th), Korea (12th), Hong Kong (14th), Taiwan (18th), Malaysia (32nd) and China (62nd).
All the plans for advancing the lives of people in South Asian countries, including Internet access, are not likely to achieve fruition unless the electricity problems are solved. For this, one essential action is the the tapping of the abundant potential of the southern slopes of the Himalayas. Another is interconnection of the national grids of the South Asian countries. The Economist wrote about this, focusing on sub-continent, and leaving out Sri Lanka. A second reason, says Raghuveer Sharma of the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank), was radical change that opened India’s domestic power market a decade ago.
In 2010 I wrote a piece of science fiction. It was published in an academic book, so it came out in 2013 as “e South Asia: A social science fiction,” in South Asia in 2060: Envisioning regional futures, eds. Najam, A. & Yusuf, M., chapter 26.
The NYT piece is focused on the intellectual property issues. But what I sense is the coming of age of 3D printing. As I wrote in a column in November, people will soon be able to download files of physical objects and print them out at home. Although being able to print out a new mug or toothbrush at home sounds magical, I said that there would surely be copyright problems that occur as a result of this technology’s going mainstream. This theory struck oil this week when the Pirate Bay, a notorious peer-to-peer file-sharing Web site that is a source of free copyrighted music and movies, said it was creating a new download section on its site that would enable people to freely take files a 3-D printer can recreate into physical things.
A company has done real download speed tests in multiple US cities and Idaho has come last at 318 kbps. This is in the same range as much of South Asia. The slowest city, by the way, was also in Idaho: In Pocatello, it would take nearly 12 seconds to download that music file, according to the study by Pando Networks, a company that helps consumers accelerate downloads. In the nation’s fastest city, Andover, Mass., a Boston suburb, it would take just over one second.
We have been talking about the Budget Telecom Network Model for sometime. But as the Economist points out, the story is bigger than just telecom. South Asian innovation, driven by the need to sell to poor people, may remake the economic landscape in rich countries too. Most strikingly, Indian companies have produced a new type of innovation, variously dubbed “frugal”, “reverse” and “Gandhian”. The essence is to reduce the price of a product or service by a breathtaking amount—80% rather than 10%—by removing unnecessary bells and whistles.
Something that has been going on South Asia (efficiently or not) is now going to happen in China too, according to the NYT. The Chinese government on Wednesday began to require cellphone users to furnish identification when buying SIM cards, a move officials cast as an effort to rein in burgeoning cellphone spam, pornography and fraud schemes. The requirement, which has been in the works for years, is not unlike rules in many developed nations that ask users to present credit card data or other proof of identification to buy cellphone numbers. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that about 40 percent of China’s 800 million cellphone users were currently unidentified. Those users will be ordered to furnish identification by 2013 or lose their service, according to The Global Times, a state-run newspaper.
Rohan Samarajiva is in Pakistan. Near the border, once marked by Mountbatten’s sharp knife, his cell phone links him to India. Airlines do not understand this proximity. Indian participants, to Expert Forum Meeting jointly organized by LIRNEasia and Pakistan Regulator, first travel led west (3 hours to Dubai) and then east (another 3 hours) to cover 678 km between Islamabad and Delhi – a one hour flight if existed. In the backdrop of Thimpu SAARC summit Rohan asks the same question he has been asking for sometime.
The 2nd South Asia Broadband Communications Conference and Workshop will be held at the Taj Samudra, Colombo, 26-27 November 2009. We participated in the 1st conference in 2007 and found it to be quite useful. Our work on broadband benchmarking started as a result.
Prof.  Rohan Samarajiva discuss about Reducing roaming rates in South Asian regional in his article Regional Roaming for the Choices column in Lanka Business Online. In 2006, Zain Africa took a step that led to the abolition of roaming charges and made a significant contribution to economic integration of the East African region. They did more for making the East African Community real than several meetings of government leaders and officials combined The Article can be found here   
As researchers with a focus on government and private-sector actions that benefit the bottom of the pyramid, LIRNEasia has an interest in understanding poverty and who is poor.   This summary report by the Economist gives a good overview of World Bank and ADB research on the subject.  Of course, those interested are recommended to go to the sources for the real thing. BTW, for those who wonder why we keep saying that South Asia is the home to the world’s largest concentration of poor people, the answer is that the World Bank states that 595.5 million people live on below USD 1.