Technology

Call for India: converge all regulators















NEW DELHI: The Roundtable on Policy Development and Regulatory Capacity, part of the discussions at the Commonwealth Connects 2007 Summit that ended here today, saw some general issues being discussed, had one major message for India: converge the regulators.


Yesterday the revelation was that South Africa now has just one single regulatory authority, which covers everything from postal to telecom, broadcasting and internet.


Paris Mashile, chairperson of the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa had told indiantelevision.com on the sideline of the panel discussion that due to convergence being the rule of the day, the regulatory authorities have all been merged into one, just like the ministry of communications is the umbrella for all communication platforms.

 

Today, Vincent Waiswa Bagiire of CIPESA, or Collaboration of International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa) said that Uganda has a single Ministry of ICT.


India still has separate ministries for telecommunication, broadcasting, postal system, etc., observed the participants and the chairperson for this roundtable, Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, CEO of Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisations, called for governments across the Commonwealth to converge regulators.

 

Spio-Garbrah also called for what he termed cooperative collaborative regulatory process, which perhaps derived from a problem raised by Bagiire, that there are countries (in Africa) where the executive goes ahead and issues all rules and laws by itself, without consultation with the judiciary or the legislature.


He also pointed out that this means that when the drafts are issued and problems are pointed out, they are held back and "they just remain drafts". ICT is not emerging also because projects are initiated, but after the pilot stage, "they just remain pilots".


In this context, what BV Raman of CDMA Development Group said during his presentation was significant. Speaking on the issue of digital divide between urban and rural areas, and to ensure that the teledensity imbalance is handled progressively, there should be regulatory incentive for rural rollout.


Raman projected some of the vital policy vistas uncrossed so far. He said that licensing should be made technology neutral on any spectrum. Earlier, the Indian government had been issuing licenses specific to technology.


Raman said that pricing, a crucial factor for bridging the digital divide, would have to be lowered which would imply that there ought to be intense competition, and one of the ways in ensuring competition is to make licensing technology neutral.


He added too, that tariff should be revenue-linked, and there should be few players with deep pockets for the rural sector to grow enough before the companies saw profit.


But most importantly, Raman demanded that there should be as a matter of policy, a Rural Rollout Obligation, though he did not discuss the specifics.


Speaking ahead of Raman, in fact, Upasna Kakroo senior researcher at the Centre, Development and Media Studies, had said that their research showed that there is a lot of differences between the urban and rural markets, and if the teledensity imbalance (38 : 2) has to be handle appropriately, there must be different policy frameworks for urban and rural development.


Kakroo, citing their researches said that it is OK to talk about CDMA, 3G or other higher technology, but there is need for two crucial things on the issue of balancing teledensity: low-cost equipment and rural content.


There should be a policy approach to tap rural potential, Kakroo held.


Yunkap Kawankan, who runs a WHO sponsored Corporate Social Responsibility project, Hinari, in Africa, who spoke first today, did not really spoke of policy issues, but did enlighten on how ICT can transform have-not countries, a case study worth mentioning.


He said that there was a study that showed that many medical colleges in Africa were found to be teaching with just two journals, simply because they were too costly for the students there.


Hinari initiated a process in which it asked medical book publishers to give it access to their publications online free of cost.


"Today, we have access to books from 123 corporate partners, with a list of 3,500 journal titles, for students in 2,500 institutions across 130 countries. If you compute the total value, it comes to six billion dollars!"


Kawankan appealed to the industry for the health sector to donate the intellectual properties where they do not have a market, such as nations so poor their students will never be able to buy the books.

 

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