Sri Lanka Archives — Page 20 of 57 — LIRNEasia


I’ve written about this earlier, but a more fleshed out argument is in my LBO column. The story was about an award. But what I noticed was the role of telephones in the story. The award winning innovation is not just one new thing; it is a collection of process improvements. Critical elements involve phones as easy ways of contacting mothers on the one hand and health workers on the other.

Ideas to save the postal service

Posted on January 29, 2012  /  0 Comments

For those who believe in bringing the dead back to life: Even better, imagine if you could email a letter to the post office, pay for the stamp online, and never set foot outside of your door? You could send mail digitally, with minimal fuss. People still like receiving letters, if it wasn’t such a pain sending them we might do it more. All of these are simple innovations which barely even amount to innovation at all. They would just bring the post office up to the operating level of a modern teenager.
It has been an unfortunate fact that Sri Lanka and India have signed many agreements that have not been implemented. This caused me to write a column some years back entitled “An MOU to implement MOUs.”. The one difference that I see in the short LBO report on cooperation between India and Sri Lanka on telecom is that the word MOU has been replaced by agreement. But I hope I am wrong and that there will be real implementation.

Skype is eating telco’s lunch

Posted on January 10, 2012  /  1 Comments

The awaited end of rapacious money making from international calls is nigh, according to Telegeography. International long distance traffic growth is slowing rapidly. According to new data from TeleGeography, international long distance traffic grew four percent in 2011, to 438 billion minutes. This growth rate was less than one-third of the industry’s long-run historical average of 13 percent annual growth. Because telcos must rely on strong volume growth to offset inevitable price declines, slowing traffic growth is making life ever more difficult for international service providers.
We have yet to see the actual questions, but this is very satisfying news. If the questions are good, it justifies our continued engagement with National Statistical Organizations since 2006. If we are still working on indicators, we’ll do our best to spread the word on Sri Lankan good practice. Sri Lanka will collect information about areas like internet access in the first nation-wide household and population census to be conducted in over 30 years, an official said. The census which is to conducted from February 27 to March 21 will have 80,000 ‘enumerators’ visiting every house in the country to count the population and also questions about amenities in the house.
We had the pleasure of participating in the 3rd Joint National Conference on Information Technology in Agriculture at the University of Ruhuna, Mapalana Campus, on the 29th of December 2011. Papers were presented by scholars in ICT (primarily from U of Moratuwa) addressing agriculture problems and by scholars in agriculture (primarily from U of Ruhuna) that had ICT either as the instrument (e.g., sensing technologies) or as object of study (e.g.
The government itself has found the early warning actions of the designated national authorities deficient and is talking of setting up workaround mechanisms. Nothing really new, other than sadness that seven years and large commitments of resources have not taken us much farther than we were back in 2004. What is even more worrisome is the lack of knowledge among all the parties about the available modes of communicating early warnings. No mention of cell broadcasting that is capable of delivering location-specific tailored information to all mobile handsets within the range of a base transceiver station. The journalist has done a good job except for repeating misinformation about poor communication infrastructure and access in rural areas.

Sri Lanka exports e-waste

Posted on December 23, 2011  /  0 Comments

Back in 2008, I had a knock-down policy debate with current Provincial Council Minister and then Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority Udaya Gammanpila (mostly in the Sinhala newspapers, so difficult to give all the links, but here is one). In the short-term he won: the two percent envi levy was not rolled back at that time. But in the long-term we won: the 2011 Budget abolished the envi levy and the dream of funding all the activities of the Environment Ministry from mobile taxes went away. In the course of the debate, Mr Gammanpila claimed that e waste could not be transported across borders and that therefore the levy was needed to fund the construction of a factory. I questioned the veracity of this claim and even challenged him to a public debate.
Based on theory and analysis, we have strongly advocated that early warning should be issued by government. I have even gone so far as to suggest that those who issue false warnings should be prosecuted. Thus, it comes as shock to read in the Sunday Times that the government itself is planning to bypass the national early warning center, issuing international weather alerts directly to fishing boats capable of receiving them. But the Minister’s reaction is fully understandable. People died needlessly, because the agency that is mandated to warn our people of hazards that may harm them willfully neglected to do so.

LIRNEasia at Random Hacks of Kindness

Posted on December 11, 2011  /  1 Comments

Last weekend 2nd – 4th of Friday, Random Hacks of Kindness events were taking place is cities across the world (New York, London, Montreal, …).  Thanks to an invitation from IDRC and Nokia (sponsors of the Montreal RHoK) , I was able to be in Montreal, in the company of 80+ software enthusiasts (geeks, hackers, call them what you will) who had volunteered 30 hours of their week end to develop ICT solutions to development problems. The problem I needed help was related our research agriculture value chains, specifically the pineapple value chain in Sri Lanka A  farmer cannot tell at the point of purchase if a pineapple sapling or sucker is “good” (that it will yield a plant and then fruit that is of adequate quality, free of disease). Only after she has bought it, planted it and many months later the pineapple plant has grown and borne fruit will it be obvious that the sucker was bad.  While there could be many perfect solutions (third party chemical testing, certifications), these are difficult to implement.
Sri Lanka’s Etisalat has been making waves in the broadband space. First it was the App Zone. Then an Android Forum that attracted 2000 applicants. Then the cheapest smartphones in the market, that resulted in 500 sales in two days. Here is the thinking behind all this: Fixed broadband connectivity alone cannot provide the Internet needs of Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka, the cheapest Huawei Android smartphone goes for around LKR 11,900 (USD 105). This comes bundled with a special software that renders Sinhala and Tamil font, so users can read local language content. The operator who is offering this handset, Etisalat, is doing all this without any compulsion: because he wants the business. Now imagine the following: he is not allowed to directly import, but has to buy through local vendors (makes it impossible to get good deals from Huawei, based on the amount of business Huawei does with Etisalat overall, rather than just Sri Lanka); he has to convince some official that every handset he offers has a local language keypad (if he’s unlucky, the official might insist on real keypad, and refuse the touchscreen version): and so on. What will be the outcome?
AT&T announced its plans to take over T Mobile in March 2011. More than five months later, the US Department of Justice filed suit to block it. Now the FCC joins the fray. While all this is going on, T Mobile must be hemorrhaging to death. In Sri Lanka, we do not have these kinds of complications.
The language on ICTs in the 2012 Sri Lanka budget (paras 50-53) is pretty vague. Basically, LKR 500 million will be added to efforts to provide IT education and all government departments and agencies will have to work with the ICT Agency when they introduce IT into their systems. And, there are plans to set up a technology city in Hambantota that will hopefully attract IT and ITES firms there. But the really good stuff is in Para 53. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission will implement policies and strategies to encourage telecommunication companies to give priority for the development of broad-band network facilities.
For several years, the Telecom Regulatory Commission has been the biggest contributor to government revenues. It continues to be biggest in 2011, though it has come down considerably in 2011 from the massive yield in 2010, according to the 2012 Fiscal Management Report. In 2010, TRC contributed LKR 13,800 million, 44% of total revenues from government enterprises. In contrast, all the state banks combined contributed LKR 5,315 million, 17% of the total. The Port (26th largest container port in the world) yielded nothing, zero.
It is very important to keep the conversation going in a field like disaster risk reduction. The Sri Lanka Disaster Management Center, in collaboration with UNDP, is organizing the Third National Symposium on Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation on 24th and 25th November 2011. The presentation from LIRNEasia is here.