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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 »

Data Privacy : A Difficult Balance for Asia?

In many industrialized nations, data privacy is a given. While there are occasional differences in expectations of privacy protection, for instance between the United States and Europe, or between opt-in and opt-out practices, for most, there is general consensus that privacy is an individual right, and that some form of data privacy legislation is necessary. This, however, is not something to be taken for granted among developing economies. In Asia Pacific, while Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea have data privacy provisions in place for some years, countries such as Philippines and Thailand are only in the drafting stages of their privacy bills. Others such as Singapore and Malaysia still do not have data privacy laws in their statutes even after going through the rigors of considering such legislation over many years. Speaking of which, I recall participating as a government representative at an”Asian Personal Data Privacy Forum” from as early as 2001 where among others, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand each presented the privacy law developments of their countries. Some eight years later, things are still very much on the drawing board.What makes it so difficult to put data privacy legislation in place? Read More »

US DTV Cutover: re-purposing spectrum is harder than you think

With just 20 days until US analog television broadcasting shuts down, the various parts of the federal government are in a dither over whether to hit the brakes to give themselves four more months to prepare for the dawn of the all-digital TV age. A bill pending in Congress, crafted in response to a Obama Transition Team request, would change the date from February 17 to June 12, 2009. The radio spectrum that the old analog broadcasting service is vacating is going to be made available to new, state-of-the-art commercial broadband services and to public safety for their radio interoperability needs. Both of these issues were identified as critical priorities back in 2006 when the legislation authorizing the transition was adopted. So why delay? The old triple-play of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt seems to be a factor. Read More »