Tuesday, May 30, 2006

#1 Myth Regarding a Computer Career

It is this time of the year that frustrates me no end. Time when the 10+2 students need to opt for a career path. Inadvertently all and sundry who have secured 60% and above opt for a career either in medicine or engineering, given the society trends. Of the lot that opts for engineering, more than 50% would already have decided to pursue a job in the booming computer science field irrespective of which branch of engineering they have secured. With all this in place, I usually have a stream of visitors who drop in with their parents and guardians with a single query in mind. Though worded and mouthed differently, all of them convey this

"People of late have been saying that the computer industry has already reached saturation. So think wisely before you send your ward off to engineering. Who knows whether the industry will be flourishing by the time he/she passes out of college"

It beats me as to how people turn so naive as to believe any Tom, Dick and Harry's views on the computer industry and worry themselves to death. When I question them as to who mentioned so, I get ridiculous answers. "Our college principal told us" ( The college principal is a Sanskrit professor ) or "My neighbour warned me" ( the neighbour turned out to be a hotel owner ) or "My friend, a local press correspondent happened to mention about bad times ahead for the computer industry" ( turns out that the so-called press correspondent happens to be a small time reporter who covers local events in the town and who incidentally does not even know what an e-mail address is ). The most amazing one and common one is where the people quote with all seriousness their computer tutor, having asked them to reconsider their decision. When I investigate who this person is, it is almost always the computer teacher from the local computer center who has reconciled himself to teaching BASIC and FORTRAN all his life to students who unwittingly join his institute. Some even go to the extent of pointing out examples of students who finished a degree in computers and yet are jobless. A background check reveals that he has never even made a honest attempt to find himself a job or that he was pushed to learn computers following his parents dictum.

Gosh !!! People are indeed naive and gullible and ...I am at a loss for words. I don't blame them. I just blame the meteoric rise of the computer industry in India. Being bitten by the meteoric rise and fall of the Indian Sensex, the layman can be excused for his mistrust on anything that has gained center stage so rapidly.

I take different approaches to convince people that the computer industry though booming will never all of a sudden disappear into oblivion. The global economy, society, man's luxurious ways are too potent a force to allow such a thing to happen. My debate starts with a question that tries to draw their attention on the all too obvious. Something like this...

  • Didn't you see Narayan Murthy's concern about lack of work force in the newspapers yesterday?
  • Do you think the world will one day decide to just shut down all computers and decide to go back to stone age ?
  • Do you think that the people in the developed world will suddenly take a decision to accept salaries that Indians are paid and avoid further outsourcing?
For people who flash the "I am unconvinced" look on their face, I persist...with more sublime questions.

  • Will you stop using Microsoft Word one fine day and announce I am going back to the typewriter? That might be a strong reason for Microsoft to stop working on new software and cut down on its employees.
  • Will you accept if your bank decides to switch back to the traditional manual teller and withdraw its ATM services?
  • What if Airtel, Spice, Hutch and BSNL stop their mobile services and ask their customers to revert back to land line use?
My whole attempt is to get them to realize that the computer industry is here to stay albeit a few ups and downs. Most people realize the folly of their uncalled fears and beat a hasty retreat.

For the ones who still refuse to accept the stark reality, I serve my punch line that catches them totally off guard. I look into their eyes and ask, "Do you actually believe what your friend/neighbour just shot from his mouth?".

The majority quickly take refuge with an understandable, 'No'.

For those who answer 'Yes', I indicate that the conversation has come to an end with, "Medicine I feel would be a better option for your ward...'coz the doctor's profession has shown itself never to die as long as there are humans on this planet"

They get the message.

Monday, May 29, 2006

India IT News Capsule - May 2006, Issue 9

  • Google predicts India to become the largest Net Market : Google chief executive Eric Schmidt has predicted India to become the largest Online Market in the coming 2-3 years. He also goes on to say that Hindi along with English and Chinese would become one of the world's 3 Internet languages.
  • Government aims at 500 million phone connections : Telecom and communications minister, Dayanidhi Maran, has said that the government is aiming at 500 million telephone connection in India by 2010 at a investment of $ 11 billion. Spectrum of wavelength to accommodate 3G services too would be expanded.
  • BPO Majors eyeing Tier III cities : BPO majors like Progeon ( the BPO arm of Infosys ), Genpact are moving to Tier III cities in India like Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kochi, Nagpur, Indore and Vadodara in pursuit of rich talent, low wages and low real estate costs. Tier 1 Cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Tier II cities like the Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata have inflated real-estate costs and wages that discourage further expansion.
  • Airtel to Beam Info on FIFA 2006 Soccer : Airtel has offered its customers the chance to follow the World Cup Soccer , FIFA 2006 on their mobiles. From June 9, 2006, Airtel subscribers all over the country will be able to get two-and-a-half-minute preview clips on every World Cup 2006 match to be played till July 9, 2006. Airtel subscribers will now be able to download football games, wallpapers, ring tones, and video clips on their mobiles, on payment of Rs 10, Rs 15, and Rs 30 respectively, and payment ranging between Rs 50 and Rs 99 for games.
  • Samsung, Tata Launch WIDEO phones : The country's first wide screen CDMA phone, "Wideo," available exclusively for Tata Indicom customers has been unveiled by Samsung and Tata jointly. The Wideo is a trendy high-end phone, packed with a host of multimedia features that include 262K TFT horizontal swivel screen, one mega pixel rotating camcorder with up to two hours of video recording, dual stereo speakers, 3D gaming, MP3 player, Speaker phone, and a Pen drive memory with 45 MB storage space.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cross-Sourcing - Start of Reverse Outsourcing ?

How does transferring part of the outsourced work back to homeland sound ? Intriguing ? Baffled ? Well, don't be...For that is exactly what a Nebraska based Information Technology company has decided to do. Xpanxion, an Atlanta-based provider of global software development services, has announced plans to relocate a segment of its software testing operations and quality assurance (QA) program from Pune, India to Kearney, Nebraska.

Dubbed by the company as Cross-Sourcing, the aim is to get the best of both lands. Extract high quality top-end work from Nebraska rural community, as claimed by the company...and at the same time take advantage of the cheap labour available in India. The company's statement goes like this

"Cross-Sourcing allows us to parlay the economic value of our programming team in India, the expertise of on-site project managers in Atlanta, and the high work ethic and quality standards of the Nebraska workforce," said Paul Eurek, Xpanxion's CEO, a Nebraska native who grew up not far from Kearney. "It also allows us to take advantage of several government incentive programs in Nebraska aimed at increasing the presence of IT industries in rural areas."

What is surprising though is that the American media has not evinced as much interest as the Indian media has done on this. When you have an American company that is fighting back total outsourcing and trying to win support of the people back at home, it is natural that it would be given a hero's welcome by the local and national press. However the way the American media choose to ignore this piece of news shows the pessimism wrought across the American media about this being just a flash in the pan and nothing more. Equally strange is the attention that the Indian media is showing it given that the coverage might just get other American companies to start thinking on the lines of cross-sourcing. Indian business leaders might already be on their toes to gag the Indian media and do some damage control.

Whether the company in question, Xpanxion, has opted for cross-sourcing as a means to get the best of both worlds as they claim to or is just a step taken under pressure from political circles in its home state back in US would remain a speculation. One look at the Xpanxion website will indicate the amount of caution the company is advocating when choosing a company to outsource to. What is more important from the Indian perspective is to do a thorough analysis of what factors in the BPO industry in India, if any prompted this backward step by the US company. It could be any of the following

  • Poor Quality processes being followed.
  • Under trained staff.
  • Less than adequate English communication skills.
  • Un tolerable English accent.
  • Poor infrastructure.
  • Lack of government response to industry problems.
  • Lack of domain specialists.
  • Breach of security with respect to data.
  • Poor work ethics.
  • Rising BPO costs due to inflated salary packages.

India Inc. cannot afford the stray incident to turn into a mass exodus. The only way to ensure that it does not happen is to do a thorough post-analysis of this incident and set right the short-comings.

Read more on Outsourcing here and here

India IT News Capsule - May 2006, Issue 8

  • Stage set for EDS acquisition of Mphasis BFL : The IT big shot Electronic Data Systems (EDS) based from Plano, Texas has shown interest in acquiring Indian IT major Mphasis BFL for $380 million. This acquisition should pave the way for EDS to enter India and establish a mighty presence here.
  • HTMT launches subsidiary in Phillipines: HTMT, owned by the Hindujas, a famous Indian business house, has opened a $25 million worth call centre subsidiary in Phillipines.
  • Dell to start PC manufacturing in India : Dell, the PC maker has unveiled plans to start PC manufacturing in India and hopes to kick start a plant by year end. This would be Dell's 8th plant across the globe.
  • MS XBox 360 gaming console to make Diwali entry in India: Microsoft India has announced plans to make the XBox 360 gaming console available to Indian gaming fans by Diwali this year. The base edition would be priced close to 20,000 INR
  • ISRO ties up with UK university: ISRO has collaborated with University of Leicester, UK to integrate special hardware developed by Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) into a X-Ray camera. This camera is planned to be flown into space aboard the AstroSat, India's first dedicated astronomy satellite later.

India churning out mobiles for world market

India seems to be hotting up as a destination for mobile giants like Nokia, Motorola and Sony these days. Everybody is making a beeline to set up phone manufacturing units in India to not only cater to the domestic segment, but also churn out a significant part of the world demand from India. Several reasons have been thrown forth by the media to explain this sudden spurt of interest among the phone companies.

  1. Distributing risks is a primary concern for most of these mobile companies that already have a unit in China. India offers them a far more stabler option when compared with the Dragon country.
  2. India has a huge domestic market that adds close to 30-50 million new subscribers to the mobile segment every year.
  3. The presence of the booming software revolution in India helps the mobile companies to reduce research and design costs by setting up firmware centres in India that take advantage of the talented human resource pool and the low wages.
    • Ex : More than 40 percent of the software that goes into Motorola Inc.'s iconic and ultra-thin RAZR handset is developed in its Indian R&D facility.
Examples of this new trend with the mobile/phone manufacturing companies is revealed by a casual glance at newspapers
  • Nokia, which controls nearly half the $2.5 billion Indian handset market, and its suppliers are investing about $150 million in its Chennai unit, which makes a few million handsets a month and has already exported phones to south east Asian nations like Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.
  • South Korean conglomerate LG Electronics Inc., for its part, operates a plant in Pune that will churn out 20 million GSM and CDMA handsets by 2010, roughly half of which are earmarked for export.
  • Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson in Stockholm is planning to make radio base stations in India.
  • Elcoteq Network Corp, an Espoo, Finland based electronics manufacturing services company, is also setting up a manufacturing facility in Bangalore, India.
Trends like these turn out to be the trickle before the flood. With Bangalore's Electronics City and Hyderabad's upcoming Fab City boosting hardware capabilities of the country, even chipsets for the phones might be available right here in India. That would be the moment that might tip the scales in India's favour. It may then be just a matter of time before India can also call itself the Mobile Manufacturing Base of the World.

Software Piracy in India - What Microsoft, Adobe and others can do?

Microsoft has come up with a multi-pronged strategy to address this key problem that has been eating up into Microsoft's India revenues for close to 15 years now. The new strategy includes

  • Launching the Windows Genuine Advantage program online: WGA or Windows Genuine Advantage program uses a software tool to detect computers that run illegal and pirated copies of Windows software and alert the user by showing nag screens on the affected computers. On clicking, the customer is directed to a website that offers legitimate Microsoft software for free on discounted rates. He can also get rid of the screen temporarily by clicking on a 'Resolve Me Later' button. Microsoft also plans to permanently display a message at the bottom of the screen that screams "You might be the victim of software piracy. The copy of Windows installed on this computer is not considered to be genuine by Microsoft.".
  • Educate the Indian Public: Microsoft also believes the reason for the thriving piracy market in India is the ignorant and gullible Indian customer. Most Indian customers don't even feel that they are committing a crime when using illegally installed Windows operations systems or Microsoft Word software. The computer vendor who sold them the PC is expected to load the software. He in turn to keep costs low and attract customers, copes the same single license software repeatedly onto several systems and keeps the customer blissfully unaware of the crime that he has unwittingly become a part of.

Other steps to tackle piracy in India
  • What remains to be seen is how Microsoft plans to tackle offline users who never go online. One way is to just wait patiently. It is not long before every computer would need to be connected to the Net for some transaction or the other. However there still lies the problem of bypassing fire walls, reaching out to anonymous surfers, etc.
  • Tie up with law enforcement authorities at grass root levels.
  • Educate students at schools on how piracy hampers growth of software. One strong example that should drive home the point would be the lack of indigenous local language software from Indian software companies who know that the rampant piracy would put a full stop to their revenue streams.
  • Conduct local awareness camps across semi-urban localities in India which not only educate and demonstrate the advantage of using genuine software but encourage participation by means of distributing massive discount coupons and other freebies.
  • Usage of hardware dongles that need to be used to print anything that has been developed using a particular software. These dongles decrypt information flowing to the printer. The dongles can also be on a subscription basis. A user having MS Word illegally installed will only be able to print a Word document if he has the dongle, else he can only view it on the screen.
  • Offer regular and highly tempting freebies online that would be provided only on verification of the installed Windows OS copy and advertising these freebies heavily via the TV, radio and newspaper media. IT should make the pirated users aware that they are missing on something they need to flaunt on their system.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Microsoft FlexGo in Indian Market

"How about a Prepaid computer concept?", asked a junior of mine who has taken up entrepreneurship as his line and is currently experimenting with software for schools. I was a bit skeptical about the idea since I could not think of any other user group other than the final year engineering college students who go hunting for computer systems that they require only for a few months.Now Microsoft has come with the FlexGo software that it plans to load into systems and market the concept across the developing nations like China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Russia. The new programs is aimed at increasing PC usage in the developing world with a new flexible payment program to lower the initial costs of buying a computer and has the backing of chip-makers and software majors alike. Microsoft has this to say on Flexgo :

"Until now, people in emerging markets have faced two formidable financial barriers to PC ownership. The first is the high entry cost in markets without widely available consumer credit. The second is the often high fixed-monthly loan payments required to finance a PC combined with uncertain paychecks from month to month. These obstacles have limited the number of households that could purchase a PC.

Now, with business models enabled by FlexGo, Microsoft is removing these barriers to PC ownership. Microsoft FlexGo makes it possible to lower the entry cost of PCs and let people pay for computers as they use them. This technology supports two models today: a pay-as-you-go model enabled by prepaid cards or a subscription model with monthly payments.

With the products partners can develop using FlexGo, millions of people will now be able to enjoy the benefits of owning their own PC and participating in an increasingly digital global society.
Microsoft's plan is to basically launch a Pay-Per-Use computer in developing markets. The Microsoft FlexGo has two key components. First, there are specially-built PCs powered by Microsoft FlexGo technology that enable pay-as-you-go computing. This is like the pre-paid system where the device too is on rent from the vendor. Second, Microsoft FlexGo includes a provisioning server system that enables payment systems to add usage time to each PC with unique provisioning data. This is the pre-paid system wherein the user only buys computing time form Microsoft and the device is entirely his. For more answers, go here

I however still can't think of any takers for this idea in India unless the entire cost paid by the subscriber to this plan, say over a period of 3 years ( which is the threshold time before various market factors force you to think on an upgrade) is less than or just equals the amount you pay for a new computer. This will give the user an advantage of requesting the FlexGo vendors to replace his old system with the latest upgraded version. If Microsoft is able to tip the scale in this regard, I would be the first to sign up for this plan !!! What do you say ?? Let me know any other areas where the FlexGo system might find immediate adoption in India.

India IT News Capsule - May 2006, Issue 7

  • Infy to spend $4 mn for Campus Connect Program : Concerned over shortage of skilled manpower for IT as well as other industries, software major Infosys will spend around $4 million for its educational initiative 'Campus Connect', aimed at enhancing quality of engineering students in the country.
  • Microsoft FlexGo software eyes emerging markets : Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, plans to offer the first-ever "pay-as-you-go" computers in Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and China over the next several months. These computers will come loaded with the MS Flexgo software that allows need based computing.
  • Online legal library Ejurix launched : Legal circles can smile and get rid of the racks of law books in their cupboards thanks to Ejurix. Launched by a Delhi based legal software supply company, the library provides easy access to 250,000 judgments spread across more than 1.2 million pages via its online library.
  • India computer sales rise 30 percent in FY06 : More than 4.6 million units were sold during the 2005-06 fiscal, IDC India said in a survey. Among sellers of branded computers, Hewlett Packard Co. emerged the leader with a total market share of 18 percent, followed by HCL Infosystems Ltd. with 14 percent and Lenovo Group with 9 percent.The country is estimated to have about 17 computers for every 1,000 people.
  • MobiApps-Google to enhance GoogleMaps in 18 countries : MobiApp, is in talks with Google to start sharing Google maps data in return for data on vehicle tracking that MobiApps will provide to Google. Google plans on rolling out this new service in 18 countries.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Misplaced Computer Education Concepts - Pictures of a computer do not a computer make.

My father, the educational consultant that he is, was invited to address the staff and students of a rural private school in the Shimoga district of Karnataka state in India. The school was being funded by well-to-do philanthropists who were eager to see the school bloom as an eminent institution. I accompanied him on this trip of his. Situated in an idyllic rural setting, the school building was quite imposing with a large playground for kids and well-equipped classrooms. I must say, I was pretty delighted to see a school with such amenities in an interior region of the state. 250 kids were studying in the institution that had classes up to 7th grade.

The keynote address to teachers and students done, we were provided some refreshments by the school committee chairman and he invited us to take a round of the school. We came across one particular room that the principal announced was the computer lab. We were quite elated on hearing that the school also had computer facilities and followed them inside. The walls were adorned with labeled diagrams that explained the different parts of a computer, the 3.5" floppy disk and the long obsolete 5.25" diskette. However I could not find a single computer console. I was perturbed. I asked the chairman in the group about the computers. Without showing the slightest the embarrassment, he replied, "The students do not require them now. We just teach them the parts of the computer. In case we had them, the students will spoil them in no time by plucking at the keyboard or playing with the mouse. Hence we have not purchased them".

I went numb with anger and surprise. A computer lab with not a trace of a computer. At least a non-functional system for the students to relate parts of the computer in the diagram, the CPU, the mouse, the monitor, etc with a real life computer. I looked at my Dad. He was equally put off. He finally reasoned that there was no point giving them a passionate speech of their misplaced concepts of computer education. He started reasoning with them on their approach and I joined in too. After about 30 minutes of debate, they started seeing light in what we were pointing at. You cannot instill a real love for computers among kids by showing them pictures of computers. Allow them a free hand at computers and see them bloom. When they realize the value that computers add to their lives, they will automatically start respecting the system. I even quoted the "Hole in the Wall" experiment conducted by NIIT in the slums of New Delhi. I even added ( a bit rude of me, I must say) that they could adopt the Kyan tutor system in case they were still worried about children spoiling computers. They profusely thanked us both for enlightening them and promised that they will place orders for computers the same week.

We returned home, half elated on being able to guide a few people who would provide the biggest boon to their school in the coming weeks, but also heavy with the gnawing thought of how many educational institutions in our country are run by such individuals who do not mind spending on schools but fail to get the much needed guidance.

Intellectual Property Patent Outsourcing - India taps into an Outsourcing Gold Pot

I met a certain Mr. Padmanabha at the Australian Education Fair in Bangalore's Grand Ashoka Hotel a few months back. I had been there to get a first hand feel of what educational opportunities the Land Down Under has in store for aspiring people like me. Padmanabha and me engaged in a casual conversation and the first thing that struck me was his unique field of work. He was a lawyer who had gone to UK to complete his Master's at a prestigious institution. He had been awarded a full scholarship for securing the first place at an essay competition on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). After completing his Master's, he was now contemplating a Post Graduation program in the same field from Australia. When I probed him on his post Australia plans, he mentioned that in the coming years, Intellectual Property (IP) and the Patenting field would turn hot and India would be a sizzling market. He went on to reason that with Indian companies catching the globalization virus, the only way for them to survive the competition in the world market would be to patent their processes and products before others latched on to them. This, he said, would kick off a billion dollar Intellectual Property Processing market in India. I was amazed at this vast untapped market.

3 months down the line, I stumble upon proof that Padmanabha's hypothesis might turn to reality faster than his expectations. The Sunday Express screamed, "US patent process gets Bangalored". The article was on Intellectual Property Patenting process that was being outsourced to India.

Presently law firms in the US, it siad, charge close to $ 25,000 for patenting Intellectual Property in the name of the customer company. This involves steps like research, planning, defining the patent boundaries, licensing terms and finally follow up of the registration with the US patent office.

Current Bottleneck in US patenting
The most crucial step in obtaining a patent over an intellectual propety of one's company is to speed up the process of detailing the benefits of the technology or process in crystal clear terms to the patent office. The quicker the patent office is able to appreciate the reason behind applying the patent, the faster it grants the patent. This becomes so imperative that if not properly done, the company loses a few years from the 20 year monopoly that it gets over the process/technology from the time the registration papers are filed. The patenting process is at the mercy of the patenting office that might take anywhere between 1-8 years to assign the patent to the company. So every year lost at the patent office is a huge blow to business. And US law firms are not the best when it comes to understanding and making the patent office understand technology related patent benefits. This is where the engineer in India makes an entry.

Outsourcing to India
An IIM graduate from Bangalore is the first to step into this $ 12 billion worth market. His firm employees top class engineers, trains them on the nuances of law relating to intellectual property (IP)rights. US companies have been invited to send in their patent files here to get them processed for a mere $3000. High security networks connect US law firms with this Indian startup.

With 5,00,000 patents filed by US companies a year, the market is a huge one. Companies in US would be given the bait of not only cheaply getting their patents processed, but also the aid of domain expert engineers from fields like pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and telecom. This would ensure that different sections of the patent would get preferential treatment from the concerned domain expert who would ensure that the patent office gets to understand the reason for the patent being filed, as pellucidly as possible. That in turn means a greater chance to quickly obtain the patent for the company.

So the US law firms are now left with only the actual registration and follow up with the patent office in the US.

The Intellectual Property Patent Outsourcing with the aid of Information Technology is for sure the next big wave in Outsourcing to India if Indian companies quickly latch on to the huge opportunities that this market offers. It however requires a greater investment in terms of the necessary intellectual human resource required to understand the two key facets of the Intellectual Property Rights : Information/Technology and Law. And what better place to get both of them (so as to offer the client cost advantages) than India.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

India IT News Capsule - May 2006, Issue 6

  • Intel to make India its global design hub : On the eve of Paul Otellini, the new Intel CEO's visit to India on Tuesday, Intel announced its intention to make India its Global Hub for research, design and development. Intel plans to pump in $1 billion into India in the coming five years towards this end.
  • All Petrol pumps to be automated in India soon : Following a directive from the Petroleum ministry, oil companies are on their toes to automate all petrol pumps in India. The initial phase would involove all pumps that sell more than 200 kilolitres of petrol a month.
  • Karnataka mulling setting up Tier II IT cities : Following scathing attacks from the IT honchos in Bagalore about the failing infrastructure, the Karnataka goverment revealed plans to set up Tier II IT cities across the state. The first in the list would eb the twin cities of Hubli and Dharwar which already have a IT park set up at a cost of 43 crore rupees. The next cities on radar would be Mysore and Mangalore.
  • Microsoft to host Indian cryptography meet : Eighty students from institutes like the IITs, IIIT, and BITS Pilani will spend three weeks at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, debating complex concepts in game theory, cryptography, and number theory.
  • Orissa boy invents wonder glasses : Apurv Mishra, a 16 year old from Orissa has developed unique eye glasses that track eye-muscle movement and can be used to navigate through computer menus and choose options thus eliminating the need to use hands. Termed 'Glbenator', this unique invention has secured him the third rank in the International Science and Engineering fair in the USA

Saturday, May 20, 2006

India IT News Capsule - May 06, Issue 5

  • Pantaloon to start online store : FutureBazaar.com is the new online store being planned by Pantaloon chain of retail stores in India. Scheduled to be thrown open for the general public next week, Pantaloon plans to make online prices of commodities much cheaper than those available via stores. Pantaloon is also open in making it known that it is preparing itself for competition from the likes of Wal-Mart when such giants descend on India.
  • Market Abuzz with Mobile Virus Warnings : Cell Cos are issuing warnings to mobile users to safeguard themselves against mobile viruses that pose a real threat to cell phones. The viruses infect cells via Bluetooth and MMS attachments.
  • Star TV to explore IPTV possibilities : Rupert Murdoch's Star TV has tied up with HongKong's Telecom network operator PCCW to explore the possibilities of Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) in billion plus markets of India and China where Star already has a massive presence. This move should help boost high speed internet in these nascent markets.
  • Siemens and Huawei and 3Com tie up to provide networking services to Indian companies. These services include data, voice and video services to customers.
  • Maharashtra plans Knowledge Grid : Maharashtra government is planning a Knowledge grid that would rope in educational institutions across the state into a common network, thereby ensuring free flow of information among the constituent institutions. The plan is to use the network grid initially for student services like timetable disbursement, exam form filling, etc and extend it later for hosting educational and discussion forums.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Land of COW & SARI : Rural Networking Programs

India has been the land of the COW and more recently the land of the SARI too (after Aishwarya popularised the other timeless icon of India culture, on the Oprah Winfrey talk show. The COW and the SARI have taken on a new meaning in the light of rural IT initiatives in India.

COW : Computer on Wheels

COW, the Computer on Wheels project is a Stockholm Challenge initiative that was founded to further Internet access in remote villages in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The project involves the use of motorcycles with Internet enabled laptops fixed on them. The people in and around the 21 villages surrounding Mahbubnagar district enjoy the benefits of this facility. Funded by the Seattle based non-profit organization, Digital Partners, this unique and innovative rural initiative aims to involve the millions of rural dwellers across India in the Internet revolution. The hey days saw people taking interest out of curiosity at this strange tech device riding pillion on a bike and visiting their villages twice a week. Slowly, this curiosity turned to admiration as farmers started realizing the power of the device. They now use it for querying crop prices, fertilizer information on the Internet with the aid of the technician accompanying the computer on wheels. Women Self Help Groups use the COW to find out new home based ventures that they can take up. Children are shown sites that provide them new ideas/activities to implement, using materials available in the rural setting.

The plan for the next three years involves setting up of 50 new COWs requiring operational costs of approximately 104,000$, covering about 750 villages. Setting up one COW comes to around 2000$. Surely, this COW project could turn out to be the divine cow Kamadhenu, the provider of all, for the rural dwellers in India.

SARI : Sustainable Access in Rural India

A program that aims to empower villages by not only providing them Internet and telephone connectivity, but also by networking hundreds of villages together. A joint collaborative effort between the IIT, Chennai, MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts and Centre for International Development, Harvard, the project in its pilot phase, has covered about 50 villages in the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu state in India

The ultimate goal of the project is to create a local network effect by putting at least one connection in each village, offer access to schools and health clinics at low or no cost and unleash local champions and entrepreneurs.

The pilot project deploys in each community a multipurpose community telekiosk. Each telekiosk includes a desktop PC, monitor, battery-backup power supply, and wireless internet connection. Soon voice telephone connections will also be provided via franchise arrangements with basic service operations. Keeping the cost of the telekiosk low is central to the project's self-sustainability. The current technology suite is priced at approximately $1,000 per telekiosk. Many kiosks boast additional computers, printers, and a web camera.

The technology to achieve the network effect has been developed by IIT Chennai. Named corDECT, this low cost technology that forms the backbone of the SARI project provides cost-effective, simultaneous high-quality voice and data connectivity in both urban and rural areas. A corDECT access center is located roughly 25 kilometers from the kiosks. Optional relay base stations are located approximately 10 kilometers from kiosk village information centers or 15km from the Access Centre.

ICT backed initiatives like these are slowly but surely changing the perspective of the rural folk on the benefits that Information Technology can have on lives.

Read about other Rural Initiatives like Tarahaat, ITC e-Choupals.

India IT News Capsule - May 06, Issue 4

  • Videocon group to set up BPO unit : The Videocon group, whose core interest is manufacture of home appliances, plans to set up a BPO unit at Salt Lake, employing 25,000 people.
  • Two multimillion dollar deals clinched by Indian ICT firms :
    • ORG Informatics Ltd. has secured a $5 million order from a Tanzanian telecom firm to help roll out a CDMA network in Tanzania.
    • Mid-sized Indian software services firm, Megasoft Ltd. won a multi-million dollar contract from European telecom firm Sonetel.
  • Dell to Use Chip Made by A.M.D. :Dell has agreed to use Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron chip in multiprocessor servers by the end of the year, ending a long-standing policy of sticking exclusively with Intel. This comes in the wake of flagging sales of Dell PCs over the last year. This move should boost AMD's sales in countries like India.
  • Microsoft releases the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor :Worried that the PC that recently burnt a hole in your pocket might not be able to run Windows Vista ? Let Microsoft worry for you. Microsoft has released the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor that not only scans your PC/laptop and okays it for a vista upgrade but also suggests the right version of Vista for your laptop.
  • World Cup fans warned not to buy tickets on Ebay :With this World Cup's soccer tickets being personalized with the user's name printed on the ticket, German officials have cautioned fans from buying tickets over eBay as the ticket would already have somebody else's name on them. This may result in them being denied admission.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Answers to the India IT Quiz Dated 12th May 2006

The response to the India IT quiz was very encouraging as revealed below

No of People who viewed the Quiz : 232
No of People who sent in their entries : 152
Entries that got atleast 50% right : 35 (shows that the quiz was on the tougher side :-))

Best Entry
: Kaps who got 16 of the attempted 18, right.
Other noteworthy entries : Paurna , Soumya, Icarus, Krithiga

Congratulations all of you. You deserve a toast !!

A BIG Thanks
to everyone who participated and be on the lookout for the next surprise activity right here on this blog.

  1. Which state in India was the first one to put forth a dedicated Information Technology policy and when was it? Karnataka in 1997
  2. Which prominent IT city in India is nicknamed Cyberabad? Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh
  3. Expand STPI. Software Technology Parks of India. Special IT zones created with all the necessary infrastructure for IT companies planning to open offices in India.
  4. A MNC that outsources to India is colloquially said to have been..........Bangalored - Coined after the city of Bangalore
  5. Of what significance is the phone number 1551 in India? It is the first of its kind toll free number dedicated to the farmers of the nation, inaugurated by erstwhile Prime Minister, A B Vajapayee in 2004. Read more about it here
  6. What was the famous Indian Auction site that Ebay bought over and re-christened it as ebay.co.in when it wanted to make its presence felt in India? Baazee.com - www.ebay.co.in
  7. Which was the first Indian movie to release its soundtrack on the Internet for sale before it being released offline via cassettes and CDs? Allaipayuthey. It was available at www.Fabmall.com
  8. What is the name of India's indigenous accounting package that has thwarted attempts by international software packages like Mircosoft Money to gain control of the Indian market? Tally
  9. What is the name of the Microsoft spearheaded project that aims to empower major Indian languages in the computing arena? BhashaIndia - Surf more on it here.
  10. Drishya, Tarang, bFone, CallNow are all names of ICT (Information communication and Technology) related services provided by which ICT company in India ? BSNL
  11. Which global IT company re-entered India in 1992 after having been banned (along with another MNC Coca Cola) from conducting business in India in the 1970s? IBM - International Business Machines
  12. What famous item in South Indian hotel menus often gets abbreviated on the computerized bill to spell a famous Operating System? Masala Dosa - Abbreviated as MS DOS on the computerized bill.
  13. Which Indian IT company's name when expanded stands for Western India Products? Wipro - A company that diversified from vegetable oil production initially to IT and consumer care products.
  14. What famous Linux based hand held is used by Bangalore traffic cops to book traffic rule offenders? Simputer - Read about the Simputer here
  15. What did India's C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) in Pune develop after US placed heavy hardware embargo on India following its first nuclear test way back in 1974? PARAM series of SuperComputers - Read more about it here
  16. A conversation with a CEO of an Indian IT major helped Thomas L Friedman, the popular New York Times columnist, realize that the 'The World is Flat' (he subsequently penned a book with that very phrase as its title). Who is the CEO in question ? Nandhan Nilekani of Infosys
  17. What is common between the IT companies American Management Systems (AMS), NerveWire, The Reference ? They all are American IT companies acquired recently by Indian IT majors. The first two by Wipro and the last one by Patni computers.
  18. Which Indian IT company adopted a painting made by a spastic child as its logo? MindTree - Adopted from the cerebral palsied child, Chetan's creation. Read more about it here
  19. What is the name of the ambitious satellite program envisaged by the Karnataka government to create IT employment opportunities for the thousands of engineers passing out of its colleges? VTracU ( We Track You ) - Read more about VTracU here
  20. What do you think is India's single most important contribution to IT? Zero - Without which there would have been no Binary system and everything IT, as we know it, would have come crashing down ( Bit of a Googly !!! - I had to prove the title of this quiz right, you know ;-)).

India IT News Capsule - May 06, Issue 3

  • Bangalore, Chennai and Gurgaon are the leading centers for writing code that is finding its way into the next generation smart cars being produced by General Motors (GM), Daimler Chrysler, Ford and BMW. These include software controls for infra-red vision in head lamps and in-car Bluetooth applications.
  • Indian railways has taken the next big step in going online next to its e-ticketing services. Customers will soon be able to track packages sent via Indian railways. The Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) is looking to make available the entire Freight Operation Information System (FOIS) online, so that users can keep track of their packages via the Internet.
  • Reuters reports that Indian mobile firms have added another 3.9 million (39 lakhs) new subscribers in the month of April, taking the total subscribers to 94.4 million, more then the combined population of Greece and Germany. Experts attribute this rapid growth that has made India the fastest growing mobile market in the world, to the ridiculously cheap mobile rates anywhere in the world. Just 2-3 cents per minute !!!
  • Infosys director, Mohandas Pai, has warned of a severe human resource crunch that might slow down the pace of growth among ITES companies in the coming years. Though close to 5 lakh students come out of engineering colleges each year in India, only 2 lakh students are eligible for employment. This means that the industry that requires 3 lakh new engineers every year based on current growth might find itself stifled.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

E-Petition : Democracy Tool for Indian Netizens

Do you feel injustice is being meted out to you? Do you feel there is no one to hear your voice in the government? Do you feel the need for a platform where you can not only make yourself heard, but also garner support for your cause ? Do you need to bring the nation's attention to the polluting unit near your locality? Whatever be the reason, in case you need to be heard in a democracy, Internet has given a voice to the voiceless millions.

The chief drivers in this direction new age e-media, the quick fire SMS mode and the blogs and discussion forums where people can vent their suppressed emotions and provide justifications to their perspective on a subject. There is one other system that is slowly gaining popularity in India and the West too. The e-petition system, a electronic makeover of the regular petition system that has been a key pillar of any democracy. It serves as a direct vehicle that puts the strength of thousands its supporters behind it when it is being handed over to the government.

I found several sites that offer free e-petition services on the Net. The Petition Site, Petition Online, e-Petition are some of the international sites. Jantaraj is a Indian petition site that offers free services for the Indian netizen. The site is intuitively designed and allows free registered users to kick start a petition. An online petition has several advantages
  1. The online petition has the same credibility as a offline petition. Governments across the world are recognizing the power of e-petitions
  2. An e-petition will reach out to like minded people not just in your locality but every nook and cranny of the globe. It is a smart case of "Think Local, Act Global".
  3. The weightage of the site adds to your petition.
  4. The site takes care of handing out copies of the petition to the concerned authorities and government bodies.
  5. Allows absolute anonymity to the supporters of the petition in case they wish to exercise it.
  6. Allows netizens to also throw in a piece of comment while signing the petition.
  7. Signing in e-terms refer to just endorsing the petition with your name and e-mail address.
  8. A netizen can also forward a petition to his friends and relatives via the site and let the petition gather steam.
  9. One can also view the comments left behind by other people who have endorsed the petition.

Feel like lending voice to some of the hot debates going on in the media right now ? Be it the Reservation Issue, UK Visa restrictions, Change of Syllabi in schools, or any other issue. Find them here and stamp your support for issues you strongly feel about.

India IT News Capsule - May 06, Issue 2

  • People in Punjab have a new mobile vernacular offering. Tegic Communications, a subsidiary of America Online India has launched T9 text input facility in Punjabi language.
  • Airtel has launched a new "Save my contacts" service for Delhites. For a mere Rs 30 per month, Airtel users can store their mobile contacts on Airtel servers and receive them via SMS. There would be no cost for the SMS involved in retrieving the contacts.
  • Reliance WebWorld, one of the key cybercafe chains across India(242 cafes in 111 cities) is offering a kids certificate program this summer. Called "Little Genius", the program teaches kids in the age group of 5-13 years stuff like surfing internet, searching for news, accessing e-mail, etc over a period of 7 days
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is the latest among the afflictions found to affect IT workers who sit on their chairs for lengthy periods of time. DVT occurs most commonly in the veins of the legs, which can be caused when blood flow is restricted, such as by a chair digging into the back of the legs. It is characterised by excruciating pain in the lower back.
Today is the last day for the India IT quiz before the answers are out. So try your hand at it before you get complacent of having known all the answers once they are published.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

History Helped Emergence of Indian IT Powerhouses

History, though considered drab by the majority, sometimes offers answers to unique questions that unexpectedly pop up during tea-time chats with friends. The questions by themselves appear simple and within reach, but somehow the answer eludes us.

Tea time last Sunday along with a few friends from fields other than IT threw up a similar question.
"When the IT boom began about a decade and half earlier, in the 90s in India, we saw the emergence of small IT players like Wipro, Infosys, TCS, HCL , Satyam, etc that have today gone on to establish themselves on the global stage as key players in the ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) segment. Why is it that other global IT bell weathers like IBM were late in recognizing the emergence of these new age Indian companies? Why did they not make an entry into the Indian market early enough to stamp their authority and smother all competition?"
Everybody set their eyes on me expectantly seeking an answer. I was thrown off guard at this sudden attention. I sipped on an empty tea cup hoping for some tea that was not forthcoming. I cut a sorry figure. Later in the evening when I was having my summer shower, my mind was still working hard on the question. It was then that I had a brainwave. The emergence of the Indian IT companies was in the years between 1985 and 1990. When did IBM enter the Indian market ? No.....no...I remember that IBM was there in the Indian market long before that. I wasn't sure....My brain was providing me confusing inputs.

I cut short my shower, switched my computer and within seconds was plugged into the World Wide Web (WWW). A few searches and clicks later, I was there with enough material on my Firefox browser tabs to tackle the issue at hand. A clear picture emerged...one that sure took me by surprise.

It was the year 1974. Operation 'Smiling Buddha' was unleashed by the then PM, Indira Gandhi. On May 18 that year, India exploded her first nuclear bomb that had the world gaping in horror. Repeated assurances from India that it was a peaceful explosion found no-takers in the world's bureaucratic circles thanks to the ceaseless US lobbying and arm-twisting. The West immediately imposed sanctions resulting in severe and comprehensive economic and technology related curbs by a number of states.

India retaliated by embarking on a process of nationalization that became the political mantra cutting across party lines in India. Even after Indira Gandhi's Congress party suffered a overwhelming election loss and Morarji Desai of the Janata Dal was elected Prime Minister, India was univocal on its resolve on nationalism. The first companies to bear the brunt of this swift government policy change, that was a Indian tit-for-tat against the nuclear embargo were the foreign MNCs like Coca Cola and IBM. These business power houses were asked to place 60% of the India operations of the company under domestic ownership or leave the country. Unable to cope with the stringent regulations, these multinationals were thrown out of the country in 1977 not to return for another 15 years.

Looking back, I now realize how significant those 15 years were for Indian based companies to emerge as shakers and movers on a global scale. I do not want to undermine other factors like WTO agreements, the throwing open of Indian economy by the Narsimha Rao government and the globalization effect that served to provide the necessary impetus to the Indian IT industry. However my point here is that all these later factors might have fizzled out in producing the necessary effects, had it not been the single important decision of the Indian governments in the 1970s to take an draconian stand on nationalism. Come to think of it. Had India not conducted the nuclear tests, the Western powers might have never imposed the nuclear embargo. The wave of nationalism might never have swept the nation and giants of the likes of IBM would have had a stranglehold in the field of IT in India. With the economy opening up in the 90s, IBM in India would have just killed competition at first sight. We might never have had the opportunity of seeing the likes of Wipro, Infosys and TCS as they stand today. Even if they would have survived the heat from IBM (given the presumption of its continued presence in India since the 70s and all through the 80s and 90s), they might have had to contemplate a minnows existence in their own country.

The Hindu in 2001, mentions HCL India quoting, (on the eve of the 25th anniversary of HCL)

"Fortunately for us -- sometimes you need luck in this business -- IBM, along with Coke, was asked to leave the country. That created a huge void. Those days, IBM used to sell refurbished computers in India. And we went into that void and quickly tapped that market. That was a huge piece of luck. We had an amazing response from Indian companies for our new product."
So, don't you think that Indian IT companies need to be thankful to all the Western governments of the 70s for having forced severe sanctions on the country. Had the Western powers some inkling of what the future held, they might have had second thoughts before imposing the sanctions. What do you feel ? Throw in your comments.

India IT News Capsule - May 06, Issue 1

I am starting a new feature on this blog that provides India centric Information Technology News. This feature will limit itself to providing glimpses of the latest happenings in the Indian Information Technology scenario. Two factors pushed me into contemplating this India IT news capsule feature
  1. The Information and Communication Technology field in India is so rapidly changing that blogging on everything is next to impossible.
  2. The readers of India-IT Pulse have been continuously shooting mails to start a service that would report the latest news items. They want India-Information Technology Pulse to be their single stop for all India related IT news.
The current plan is to release this news capsule every time my clipboard has at least 5 interesting news items that I feel that the readers must know about. So here goes...

  • Wipro buys Quantech, the US based mechanical design services firm in an all-cash dealing worth $10 million. The move is expected to further its intent on grabbing major outsourcing work from the global automobile giants like GM, Toyota, Ford and Daimler Chrysler
  • IT Investors meet to be held in Hubli, Central Karnataka on May 20th to discuss IT ventures that can be set up in the city. Kiran Karnik, the President of NASSCOM is set to deliver the key note address.
  • Infosys all set to recruit 300 college graduates from universities in the United States this year and 25 graduates from the United Kingdom in 2007 as part of an ongoing commitment to create a diversified, global workforce.
  • Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore is hosting special summer school that aims to teach cutting edge courses like cryptography, factoring, signalling, elliptic curves, game theory, etc. Experts in these domains have been invited to deliver the lectures. The course is attracting a lot of interest among engineering student circles
  • RailTel and BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) are working on a feasibility study to offer Internet services on Indian Railways. The project is looking at BSNL's GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) system to offer the Internet service. Initial studies are being conducted on the Delhi-Mathura section.

Friday, May 12, 2006

IT Powers Election Commission of India

Jyoti Basu, the erstwhile West Bengal chief minister and unquestioned head of the Communist party in West Bengal had shouted to the media while targeting the Election Commission of India, "Bengal is not Bihar". In retrospect, his flare up was incidentally due to the decision by the Election Commission (EC) of India to depute the best of their officers, task force and information technology infrastructure to keep vigil over the assembly elections that recently concluded in West Bengal. This step of the EC was following the lessons they had recently learnt from the assembly elections that had got conducted in Bihar.

Rediff has come out with a beautiful story, "How Bihar was Won" that speaks of how EC has transformed from managing the elections at a macroscopic national level in the past to booth level management during the recent years. The difference was chiefly observable in the Bihar assembly elections

  1. The chief difference was the availability of voter rolls in electronic form and technology-savvy officers which made it easier to scour the rolls for duplicate names and suspicious entries.
  2. A software programme generated a list of households showing more than 10 to 15 voters and these were also verified to eliminate the names of dead and migrated voters.
  3. Photo matching software was used to diligently comb out possible duplicate entries in the Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC). This single exercise allowed the EC to eliminate 1.831 million voters ( duplicate, dead or migrated ).
  4. The EPIC program was made popular through extensive campaigning and that helped the EC to rope in new voters into its electronic rolls, raising the percentage of people covered by EPIC in Bihar from 57% to an amazing 84% in one single sweep.
  5. Usage of Electronic Voting Machines and distribution of voting over a span of 7 days almost completely avoided incidents of booth capturing.

This truly is an indicator of how information technology if efficiently used can give credibility to the processes of any organization.

As N Gopalaswamy, one of the chief election commissioner puts it

"India will be a sham democracy if the very foundation of a democratic polity, namely free and fair elections, are missing from the scene. It needs the coming together of all the stakeholders -- the citizens at large, the Election Commission and the political class. When that happens our dream of seeing free, fair and peaceful polls like it happens in many other countries will turn to reality.

That will be the day when Indians could proudly say that India is also truly a democracy."

Basu I am sure will have to eat his words now that the same procedures duly applied by Election Commission helped his party retain power in West Bengal.

Read more about the powers of the Election Commission on Wikipedia

Thursday, May 11, 2006

India Information Technology Quiz - Betcha you can't answer all !!!

For a change lets have an Information Technology Quiz centred on India. I have selected 20 of the best questions from my repository. Let's see how intensely you keep track of the Indian IT Pulse. Mail me your answers at vijayblogs@gmail.com. ( And please, no Googling allowed !!! ).

So here are the questions...

  1. Which state in India was the first one to put forth a dedicated Information Technology policy and when was it?
  2. Which prominent IT city in India is nicknamed Cyberabad?
  3. Expand STPI.
  4. A MNC that outsources to India is colloquially said to have been..........
  5. Of what significance is the phone number 1551 in India?
  6. What was the famous Indian Auction site that Ebay bought over and re-christened it as ebay.co.in when it wanted to make its presence felt in India?
  7. Which was the first Indian movie to release its soundtrack on the Internet for sale before it being released offline via cassettes and CDs?
  8. What is the name of India's indigenous accounting package that has thwarted attempts by international software packages like Mircosoft Money to gain control of the Indian market?
  9. What is the name of the Microsoft spearheaded project that aims to empower major Indian languages in the computing arena?
  10. Drishya, Tarang, bFone, CallNow are all names of ICT (Information communication and Technology) related services provided by which ICT company in India ?
  11. Which global IT company re-entered India in 1992 after having been banned (along with another MNC Coca Cola) from conducting business in India in the 1970s?
  12. What famous item in South Indian hotel menus often gets abbreviated on the computerized bill to spell a famous Operating System?
  13. Which Indian IT company's name when expanded stands for Western India Products?
  14. What famous Linux based hand held is used by Bangalore traffic cops to book traffic rule offenders?
  15. What did India's C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) in Pune develop after US placed heavy hardware embargo on India following its first nuclear test way back in 1974?
  16. A conversation with a CEO of an Indian IT major helped Thomas L Friedman, the popular New York Times columnist, realize that the 'The World is Flat' (he subsequently penned a book with that very phrase as its title). Who is the CEO in question ?
  17. What is common between the IT companies American Management Systems (AMS), NerveWire, The Reference ?
  18. Which Indian IT company adopted a painting made by a spastic child as its logo?
  19. What is the name of the ambitious satellite program envisaged by the Karnataka government to create IT employment opportunities for the thousands of engineers passing out of its colleges?
  20. What do you think is India's single most important contribution to IT?
Last Date : 18th May,2006 - Answers are Out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Google woos Indian Cricket Fans

For all you Indian Google admirers who swear by Google Desktop, here's a treat that Google has come out with to gain the attention of the cricket lover in you. Google has just released the Live Scores Google Desktop Plugin that will beam live scores of all One Day International Cricket matches that would involve India henceforth. Cool, na ?. Grab the plugin here

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

INVITE Students for E-Governance Participation

e-Governance will be a reality sooner than later if the latest scheme adopted by the Karnataka state government captures the imagination of engineering students across the state. IBM (International Business Machines), BITES, (Board for Information Technology Education Standards) a state government board under the aegis of Department of IT, Karnataka have come up with an innovative measure to tap the huge engineering student resource in the state's engineering colleges to develop projects for e-Governance.

The program dubbed INVITE - Initiative to Nurture a Vibrant Information Technology Ecosystem, calls upon final year engineering students to work on projects for e-Governance that cater to different departments in the government. The government has also given 22 project areas that can be utilized by students as the basis for the projects. Sample areas include G2C (Government to Citizen) and G2B (Government to Business) projects

  • Anganawadi - Women & Child Welfare department
  • PROFIT - Portal for Regular Faculty Improvement & Training, Department of Collegiate Education
  • SSAS - Sarva Sikshana Abyaan Software
  • SPTS - Sports Performance Tracking Software, Youth Services Department
  • Agriculture Information - Comprehensive Agriculture Information Kiosk (CAIK) - Department of Agriculture & Horticulture

Each project would be evaluated by a panel of judges that would comprise of members of BITES, IBM and Department of IT, Karnataka.

IBM has provided the necessary e-Mentors who the students can consult via e-mail to clarify and overcome technical obstacles. IBM also has thrown open its huge e-Resources that the students can refer to. The official site also lists open source freeware that students can make use of to develop their projects. The entire exercise aims at providing students an opportunity to work on real projects of social and e-governance significance, provide the government with industry validated software to roll out e-Governance projects and finally provide an industry giant like IBM the opportunity to nurture young talent and provide for their career progression.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Opera Internet Browser - India Specific Features Loaded

It has been close to month since Vasuki had earnestly suggested that I blog about the "out-of-this-world" features of Opera. It was then that I had told him how I myself have been a fan of this browser for two reasons. One (and without doubt) the rich feature-set of this browser that puts to shame even established players like Internet Explorer and Firefox. Two, and the more important reason for my usage of this browser - The Indian context. Now that might come surprising, but wait till I tell you the entire story.

Fetch the website - Whatever the Internet bandwidth
Blazing Fast Internet or Agonizingly Slow Internet - Whatever be the case. Call it the "Pull Pull till you Get" technology, but the folks at Opera have designed a browser that is conducive to the Internet conditions in the developing world. Having been in the US for a considerable period, the luxurious Internet speeds that I enjoyed had lulled me into a complacency that speeds in India too would not differ by a lot much. Moreover technology too was playing its part and there were everyday stories of broadband making its presence felt in India. However the picture was grim. The dialup had not yet vanished and broadband was "Broad" only on paper. No site opened up on Firefox or Internet Explorer without giving up 3-4 times midway between page load and throwing up the infamous "404 - Page not found error". But Opera was technically designed differently. It keeps hammering away at a site, fetches and loads the pages albeit a tad slower than its better known cousins. I don't mind that as long as it saves me from manually asking the browser to re-try. Opera automatically does it for me. And now I have Opera 9 Beta version that is a much more improved descendant. (You can also tweak around with the number of connections that Opera opens with the website that allows for faster downloads and prefetching of links.) I really appreciate the Opera team's forethought on this one.

Opera for the Indian Cyber cafes
There are hardly any cyber-cafes in the developed world. However the masses in developing nations like India access Internet via the neighborhood kiosk or cyber cafe. With Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox, one needs added features to restrict user modification of the browser. Opera comes bundled with is the Kiosk mode that it offers. Full-screen mode is enabled by default when Opera is started in this mode. Desktop and system access remains disabled as the shortcuts like "Alt+Tab", "Ctrl+Esc" and "Alt+Esc" are not honoured. User is not allowed to exit from full screen mode. For a full set of features in this mode go here

Also, a technically un-superseded browser
And for the technically inclined, Opera at a mere 5 MB download offers features that even Internet Explorer 7 ( a 11 Mb download ) fails to. The absolutely stunning features are listed below ( Opera 9 )

  1. Tabbed browsing that allows a preview of what is contained in a tab when you just hover your mouse over the respective tab ( Scores over the Internet Explorer 7 thumbnail tab )
  2. Reload every ... seconds feature that allows you to set Opera to reload a particular web-page repeatedly every few seconds or minutes. ( Great feature to have in case you want to increase the visitor count to your page. I suppose that is the devil in me speaking )
  3. AJAX Widgets that allow nifty functionalities to be added to your desktop, quite similar to Firefox extensions. The difference though is that their functionality is available via any application on Windows through a neat little button at the top of the desktop.
  4. Inbuilt Bit Torrent download abilities.
  5. Mouse Gestures can be used to browse and navigate within Opera.
  6. Browsing and navigation can also be voice enabled by downloading a voice recognition package ( a additional 10 MB download ).

And as a parting word, for the few like me who in spite of all these features had not taken to Opera due to the lack of shortcut standardization and standardized CSS style sheet display, Opera 9 Beta fixes all this. Hooray !!!! Now a "Ctrl+Enter" adds the 'www' and the '.com' at the start and end of a website name. And a "Ctrl+T" opens a new tab instead of the former "Ctrl+N". For the complete list go here

Impressed? Download Opera 9 Beta or Opera 8.5 and forget all your bandwidth woes for once.

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