Sri Lanka Archives — Page 11 of 57 — LIRNEasia


Internet in the Constitution?

Posted on February 9, 2016  /  4 Comments

Consultations are underway for devising a new Constitution for Sri Lanka. One of the contributions to the discussion, published under the heading of “A new Constitution: What’s in it for young people?” had this section: According to the latest statistics there are over 2.8 million internet users in Sri Lanka. The Internet should not belong to only 2.
We highlighted the value of interconnecting with the South Indian grid almost three years ago in a presentation made to a public hearing of the PUCSL and kept the issue alive through subsequent writing. Would have been happier if construction had commenced, but good to know at least the talk continues. There is a big opportunity here,” Damitha Kumarasinghe, director general of Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka said. “Now India is connected to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka is the country which is outside this grid at the moment and there are power deficits at various time intervals in both countries.” He was speaking at the recently concluded 22nd Steering Committee Meeting of South Asia Forum for Infrastructure Regulation (SAFIR) held in New Delhi, India.
Several years ago I stated at an Asia Pacific Telecommunity event that I was done talking about international mobile roaming. I had given so many presentations to various configurations of government officials with zero results, at least in terms of government actions. The jawboning effects were considerable nevertheless, and roaming pricing has improved to be benefit of customers and the operators. The talking had an effect. I am close to that point of frustration with Paypal’s inward payments facility for Sri Lanka.
I’ve been asked to comment on a brewing storm in a tea cup, the supposed opening of the gates to hordes of Indian IT workers. At this time, all that the government is considering is a Framework Agreement, or an agreement to work in a time-bound manner toward a technical and economic cooperation agreement. I was involved in the early stages of negotiation but have little knowledge of current state. Not having the time to engage with the issues in detail, I thought, I’d paste below the transcript of a talk I gave at the National Chamber of Commerce, along with the slideset. Addressing an audience of who I took to be diehard protectionist types from the world of commodities and goods, I had highlighted how much we had benefited from unilateral but incomplete (one still had to grovel before the BoI for most permissions) liberalization that allowed us to grow the telecom and IT & ITES sectors over the past two decades.
According to the latest data, Sri Lanka has 16 Facebook users per 100 people. According to a 12,500 household survey conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics in January-June 2015, Sri Lanka has 11.8 Internet users aged 5-69 years, per 100 people. The wording is a little ambiguous, so it may be possible that it’s 11.8 households with a Internet user, per 100 households.
Earlier today, I was asked by a TV channel to comment on the most recent (2015 H1) computer literacy and related indicators issued by the Department of Census and Statistics. I summarize below my comments. The survey, based on a sample of 12,500 households with persons aged 5-69 years, reported that computer literacy for the country was 26.8 percent. Under the previous administration, computer literacy was a fraught indicator.

Trust, elections and technology

Posted on December 7, 2015  /  0 Comments

Rather unusual topic in terms of this blog. But we do work on privacy, competition and marginalization in different technological contexts. Privacy is deeply connected to information disclosure, which is one of the primary modalities of gaining trust. So when I was asked to speak on this subject to a group of young diplomats from developing countries by the Chair of the Elections Commission, I said yes. The Department of Elections which is under the new Elections Commission is widely seen as an effective and credible organization trusted by the citizens.
The Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka and the Young Planners Association of Sri Lanka organized a workshop at the UDA premises on 4th December 2015 for LIRNEasia to share is ongoing research on leveraging mobile network big data for urban and transportation planning. The slides are available HERE.
All the fuss has been about Digital India. But India has fallen back six places to 131, despite improving its IDI score from 2.14 to 2.69 in the ICT Development Index. Nepal, which does not have a funded and actively promoted digital strategy, has advanced four places to 136th place.

Mergers sweeping South Asia

Posted on November 27, 2015  /  1 Comments

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.
Some people are surprised that after all these years of speaking, responding, discussing, I still prepare when asked to speak in public. So when I was asked to serve as a discussant at a CEPA conference on infrastructure and urbanization, I read the papers. They had very little to do with the subject matter, choosing instead to regurgitate the obsolete ideological debates of the 1970s. But one sentence caught my eye: “After seven decades of national development and an expansion of the middle-class over a couple of decades, there are more poor people in Sri Lanka today than at independence.” No reference was provided, but I started digging.
Just a few sentences but this is a new solution to a real problem. I propose to form a special purpose company under the Information and Communication Technology Authority (ICTA) to bring about sharing of telecommunication resources efficiently and to protect air waves and the environment. All the fiber optics owned by telecommunication companies and other authorities including the Ceylon Electricity Board, Road Development Authority and Sri Lanka Railways as well as spectrum and mobile towers are to be brought into this company. Here are my answers to a journalist’s questions: 1) The budget has proposed the creation of a special purpose company under the ICTA to own and operate telecom backbone infrastructure. Is this practically possible?
A systematic review of ICT integration in education in the developed world. Presented by Sujata Gamage at ICT4Education Research Dissemination Event “Strategies for optimizing benefits of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for education in Developing Asia” held on 2016 Nov 26, 2015, at the Committee Room E, BMICH, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
There is no debate that the laws governing the telecom/ICT sector in Sri Lanka are among the most convoluted. So I have some sympathy for the people who write about it. But I assume they are paid for their work and they have a duty to check their facts. The excerpt below is just one example of the erroneous analysis that is published in documents with international circulation, and then get quoted and reified as the truth about Sri Lanka: Under a constitutional amendment forced through by the Rajapaksa regime and ratified in 2011—which also removed presidential term limits—the president was able to appoint the heads and members of all commissions, subverting legislative guarantees for the independence of the TRC and other statutory institutions.[36] In April 2015, President Sirisena and his interim government were able to undo this stranglehold on democratic processes by introducing and ratifying the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which empowered independent commissions in the country and restored term limits to the presidency.
When these misguided taxes were proposed back in January in the interim budget, I protested. An example is here. They could not get the bills passed in the previous Parliament. It was the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce that labeled them as entity-based. But now they are through.

Open Data Dialogue in Sri Lanka

Posted on October 17, 2015  /  0 Comments

This past Thursday (15th October 2015) I was invited to give my comments at event, alliteratively titled “An open dialogue on open data.” The dialogue was organized by InterNews and Transparency International and held at the Sri Lanka Press Institute in Colombo. I was part of a panel that included Nalaka Gunawardene and Sanjana Hattotuwa. I was asked to speak on the challenges and issues of Big and Open Data which itself is a bit of a misnomer in Sri Lanka, since there are currently no datasets in Sri Lanka that can be considered (or even amenable to be considered) as both “big” and “open”. As a preamble to my comments I used some brief slides to highlight LIRNEasia’s ongoing big data research that LIRNEasia is is conducting, leveraging mobile network big data to produce insights for developmental policy.