Tahani Iqbal


The draft National Digital Policy proposes a target of 70% of internet users by 2025, an undeniably ambitious target. The target – pulled out of thin air as though it may seem – is actually based on a time series forecast using ITU statistics from 2000-2017. The forecast was computed using a statistical software called Tableau, which considers exponential smoothing and seasonality. The lower and upper levels were based on 95% confidence intervals. The chart below shows that the upper limit that can be achieved is 74% by 2025 if accelerated efforts are made to drive internet adoption and smartphone use in Sri Lanka.
When we do not push stories, but yet our research gets picked up by the media, that’s real success. Tahani Iqbal’s work on mobile number portability was completed in 2009, but was yesterday cited in a story on the launch of MNP in India. A study paper by LIRNEasia, a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank based in Sri Lanka, says that ARPUs in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and even Sri Lanka are at an all-time low, especially amongst prepaid users, ranging between just $ 2-5. “There is very little room then for MNP to drive price competition and push tariffs that are already at rock-bottom,” said the paper, authored by Tahani Iqbal. Iqbal says that MNP implementation is a costly venture, with high recurring costs due to the technology involved.
The common wisdom is that mobile number portability is an unmitigated good. But the whole point of doing research is challenging common wisdom. Based on evidence, we found that MNP has little relevance for our constituency, those at the bottom of the pyramid. We said so to Indian media, saying it would be a good thing for post-paid and corporate customers. We now find those ideas reflected in Indian media coverage, though not always with attribution, as for example in the Times of India: MNP works best with post-paid customers, as they are the highest paying of the lot.
Tahani Iqbal, LIRNEasia Research Fellow, has been invited to make a presentation on the “Wants and needs of women in developing markets” at a mWomen Working Group Meeting organized by the  GSM Association on 9 – 11 November 2010 in Chennai, India. She is the only non-industry speaker at the event, and will present findings from LIRNEasia‘s studies on telecom use at the bottom of the pyramid. Click here to view presentation slides.
For practical reasons, we mostly limit our dissemination to English. This is a workable strategy in South Asia as policy makers read English than local languages. Still local languages are vital in all countries we work. In Bangladesh we gave equal priority to Bangla and English. Research findings of two LIRNEasia’s mobile 2.
We now have evidence to support the claim that those at the “Bottom of the Pyramid” (and therefore, the majority of people in the developing world) are likely to enter the world of knowledge and convenience promised by the Internet through the path opened by the rapidly increasing capabilities of mobile networks and user devices. Mobile 2.0 describes the use of mobiles for “more‐than‐voice”. Mobiles are increasingly becoming payment devices which can also send/process/receive voice, text and images; it is envisaged that in the next few years, they will also be fully capable of information‐retrieval and publishing functions, normally associated with the Internet. Mobile 2.
Upon being awarded a full scholarship, LIRNEasia researcher Tahani Iqbal has moved to Singapore to commence her graduate studies in public policy at the LKY School at the National University of Singapore.  She joins Senior Researcher Sriganesh Lokanathan who is in his second year at the Lee Kuan Yew School.   He was also awarded a full scholarship. Sending our researchers to high-quality graduate programs is one way in which we operationalize our commitment to being a learning organization.
Rohan Samarajiva and Tahani Iqbal will participate at an International Workshop on ICTs and Development: Experiences in Asia, held at the Faculy of Arts and Sciences (Communications & New Media Programme Science, Technology and Society (STS) Cluster), National University of Singapore from 24th – 25th April 2008. Samarajiva will chair a session, where papers will be presented on the Development of Web 2.0 and Social Networking Websites in Thailand, Internet Adoption and Usage among Farmers in China and the Use of ICTs in Rural India. Iqbal will present a paper entitled, “Gender Inequalities in Access and Use of Telecom at the Bottom of the Pyramid?: Findings from a Five Country Study”, based on research findings from the Teleuse@BOP2 study.

Book: ICT INFRASTRUCTURE IN EMERGING ASIA

Posted by on December 16, 2007  /  0 Comments

This edited volume, based on LIRNEasia ‘s 2004-2006 research program brings together scholars, practitioners, former regulators and policy makers to address the problem of expanding information and communication technology (ICT) connectivity in emerging Asia.
Prof. Rohan Samarajiva and Tahani Iqbal discuss issues regarding implementing mobile number portability in Sri Lanka in a leading local English daily Daily Mirror. Sri Lankan mobile users and service providers can be optimistic about MNP. It has resulted in better rates even in countries which had lower rates than ours before MNP. It will result in an overall improvement of the quality of services.
14 June 2007) Rohan Samarajiva, Joseph Wilson, Harsha de Silva and Tahani Iqbal presented recent research conducted by LIRNEasia at a media and stakeholder event organized by the Pakistan Telecom Authority in Islamabad today. Following opening remarks by Chairman of PTA, Major General (R) Shahzada Alam Malik, Samarajiva and Wilson presented the new improved version of the six-country Telecom Regulatory Environment study, with emphasis on Pakistan. de Silva discussed the results of the Teleuse @ the Bottom of the Pyramid (T@BOP) survey conducted in five countries, including Pakistan. Among other things, he discussed the disparate access to ICTs between men and women at the BOP as well as the tremendous progress made in connecting large numbers of people at the BOP in the past few years. Iqbal presented comparative analysis of mobile prices in three countries of South Asia, using a basket methodology adapted from one used by the OECD since 1995.
This colloquium will be on a new paper that is being developed on tools for intelligent benchmark regulation, based on Harsha de Silva and Tahani Iqbal’s presentation on Price & Affordability Indicators at the WDR Expert Forum in Singapore. The tools under consideration are price baskets and price elasticity of demand.