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No Need to Lock Them in a Room, Mr. Secretary — Use IP

A lot has been said and written this month about the need for speedy adoption of interoperability standards for smart grid, but the simple fact is: Agreeing on interoperability standards doesn’t need to be this hard. Incumbent manufacturers of some niche smart grid technologies based on proprietary protocols and those companies that have built siloed systems using them have every incentive to drag out the process of identifying and agreeing on interoperability standards for smart grid. But, the answer is so obvious; it seems hard for some people to grasp: Use Internet Protocol (IP).At the center of the Internet boom in the 1990s were not only the price declines in computing and telephony, but also the transition from the use of proprietary protocols and standards to the adoption of open protocols and standards — namely IP — that allowed communications devices and systems to interoperate, spurring innovation and promoting competition. IP was an important factor in enabling the market disruption that drove Internet use — all to the benefit of consumers. Without IP, we wouldn’t have YouTube, or Facebook, or Internet banking. Who wants to wait in line at the bank anymore?… Read More »

Latin America Is Going Fiscal At Full Speed

The Challenge is how to Turn Economic Packages Into Opportunities that Create Sustainable Growth and Competitive AdvantageNumerous market indicators already signal that the global economic crisis is now impacting Latin America. Unless the U.S. economic stimulus package (or officially, the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act) works and each country in the region puts in place comprehensive counter-cyclic policies, the crisis’ impact could be even longer and more devastating. Countries across the region are experiencing a reduction in the demand on their exports in varying degree. This reduction has generated rapid increases in trade deficits and difficulties in accessing international financing, a situation that has been exacerbated by the repatriation of funds from foreign investors. These elements have combined to create major pressure to domestic currencies; in just the last six months the Brazilian real has lost 32% of its value. The immediate impact in consumption, investment and employment has been more than evident.To attack the different symptoms, countries in the region have adopted different measures. So far macroeconomic policy has been the medicine of choice. However, the crisis is so deep that for many economists and Governments, it is now clear that monetary policy will not be enough, and that the case for a major fiscal counter-cyclical policy is now essential. Read More »

Human Flesh Search Engine

Many years ago I saw, on a whiteboard, a sentence which never left me. The sentence, written by a programmer friend, said:”Never automate sharp objects”. Although, I do not totally agree with my friend, but there is a lot of wisdom buried in this phrase. The Internet is a sharp tool. The advent of the browser and worldwide web made vast amounts of information within the reach of any literate person who has access to a networked computer. Since then, listening and creating music and video, telephony and videoconferencing, search engines and social networking have made Internet easier and easier to use. We have continuously been sharpening our tool. Browsers and world wide web have become so automated that today’s children at a very young age become adept at handling it. In fact we speak of them as”Internet natives” as opposed to the”Internet migrants” of the previous generation. This automation of the Internet carries the dangers that my friend was referring to.Recently I have run in China into a phenomenon that I have never observed before. It is called the human flesh search engine. Read More »

Slumdog Millionaire & Intelligent Urbanization

Like many Indians, I woke up today with an Oscar fever, watching the live telecast of the Academy awards from Los Angeles! Most of India is toasting to the success of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars today. A staggering eight Oscars, including two for India’s most loved and my favorite music composer – A.R.Rahman. Slum dog’s story is that of a young man’s trials, tribulations and eventual triumph set in the background of Asia’s biggest slum -Dharavi in Mumbai, India. However not all of India is celebrating the success. A section of India is dismayed that the film has put a spot light on India’s underbelly -slums of urban India. The film captures in gory detail the poor living condition of urban India and many of its dark shades. Pictures that do not reconcile with the”India shining story,” pictures which renew the old”western” stereo type of India, pictures that makes you uncomfortable as an Indian. I too was initially sad when I saw the millions of dollars spent on promoting”Incredible India” by India’s Ministry of Tourism evaporate into the thin air. However I gave it some more thought and reconciled. As some one said ‘For everything said about India, the opposite is also true”. Read More »

Turning Universal Service Funds into Agents of Change

While research has shown conclusively that competition among service providers and diversity in technology platforms for connectivity are a major driver for telecom penetration, it would probably take a long time for the market to create enough commercial incentives to bring connectivity to high cost remote regions and low income households. The stakes are too high and the economic and social opportunity is huge to wait for the market to bring connectivity to all. The Universal Service Funds (USFs) will play a critical role to help governments address this challenge. I want to invite Governments around the world to move with an extreme sense of urgency to turn these”sleepers” into agents of change.Before the opening of competition the funding and allocation of USF was straightforward. One telecom supplier funded either by cross subsidies between difference services or government funds supported the program to provide fixed telephony service to high cost remote locations and low income households. This model continued to exist for many years with modest results in many markets, as evidenced by the poor growth in fixed line telephony penetration rates. Read More »