Editions 356 - 360

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Fashola canvasses local technology solutions

Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria challenged Nigerian Universities to provide a technological component of what society owes geniuses like the late Prof Ayodele Awojobi by delivering homegrown technologies which are capable of solving contemporary problems. 

He made the call midweek while unveiling the late Prof Awojobi’s statue which Lagos State erected at the newly constructed Ayodele Awojobi Park at Onike in Lagos.  


Government throws in weight to resolve Ministers’ fracas 

THIS DAY newspaper reported during the week that the Presidency in Nigeria has gone ahead to hand over a clear duty delineation for the two ministers in the Ministry of Information and Communications. The newspaper reported the Minister of State would now directly supervise communication agencies such as the Nigerian Communications Commission and Nigeria postal services while the Minister of cabinet rank superintends over all the other information agencies under the ministry.  

According to the report, there has been some stress between the two incumbents arising from the expired crisis on 2.3GHz licensing which the Presidency earlier intervened to resolve. The crisis left the Minister taking over the earlier functions of communications agencies from the Minister of State. What the Presidency has done was to reverse the Minister’s decision in that regard.  

Regardless, analysts are unable to decipher government’s policy thrust in the manner of its intervention on issues which challenge its focus on building institutions rather than building personalities.


Investment in IPv6 surprises planners

There is report from the American internet registry that the uptake of next generation internet addresses IPv6 is incredibly increasing even in the midst of global economic recession. That is to say that ISP’s are investing in the new platform more than what planners had expected. They also say demand for IPv4 is slightly on the decline.

IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion individually addressed devices on the Internet while IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses and supports 2 to the 128th power, an inconceivably huge amount of addresses.

What is surprising is that IPv6 is conceived to solve a problem which has only been forecast but not emerged yet investors appear to have embraced it even ahead of its real time. Somehow the law of cautious investment in IT emerging resources seems to have been challenged here. 



Rogue security software on the rise


Businesses and PC users have had a lot of cyber criminality to contend with this year. This site had reported the threat posed by cyber criminals who have targeted trusted websites to infect the computers of the viewer/subscribers (see cyberschuulnews 356). Now there is the added threat of rogue security software (RSS).


This is a form of computer malware that deceives or misleads users into paying for the fake or simulated removal of malware. It is believed that the threat has become serious security threat in desktop computing and is set to increase in 2010 according to a report from security firm Symantec released this week.

The report said there is a new generation of organised cyber criminals earning astronomical sums of money from tricking people profiting from a highly organized affiliate-based business model that rewards scammers for selling bogus security programs to users caught off-guard by persuasive online scare tactics. The preferred modus operandi is one where a bogus pop-up tells the user: "Your computer may be infected" and urges them to download security software that will scan their computer for viruses, protect it from future infection or both. Users are urged to buy to software which is not only useless because it provides little or no protection and in some cases dangerous because it downloads malicious code onto their computer but also information buyers enter such as name, address and credit card details are also captured by cybercriminals to sell on or use for further online fraud.

How prevalent is rogue security software? The Symantec report revealed that between July 2008 to June 2009 alone, researchers identified 250 distinct types of fake security software with 24% of the top 50 most common kinds introduced in this period and have warned businesses and other computer users to avoid becoming victims of rogue security software sold through nearly 200,000 websites. The report further states that an astounding 93% of bogus security software is downloaded intentionally (at $30 to $100 a pop) by victims who believe they are buying added protection against security threats.


A happy new year? Not for everyone - it would appear.



Technology Review
Is Cloud Computing the future?

Cloud computing is a new concept/ideology/practice, call it what you wish, doing the rounds in ICT circles. It is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that is often used to represent the Internet inflow charts and diagrams. From its inception to the present, interest in cloud computing has gathered pace primarily due to significant innovations in virtualization and network computing as well as improved access to high-speed internet. 

The distinguishing feature of cloud service that differentiates it from traditional hosting is its flexibility. Like electricity, water or indeed a mobile phone subscription where you pay-as-you-use, cloud computing is also known as utility computing where the  consumer purchases services on demand and can have  as much or as little of a service as they want at any given time typically by the minute or the hour. These services are broadly divided into three categories:

·         Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) which provides virtual server instances with unique IP addresses and blocks of storage on demand allowing customers to use the provider's Application Program Interface (API) to start, stop, access and configure their virtual servers and storage. Amazon Web Services deploys this mode.

·         Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) in the cloud is defined as a set of software and product development tools hosted on the provider's infrastructure which may be website portals or gateway software installed on the customer's computer. Developers create applications on the provider's platform over the Internet. GoogleApps is a good example of this category.

·         Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This can be likened to a huge market place. In its cloud model, the vendor supplies the hardware infrastructure, the software product and interacts with the user through a front-end portal. Services range from web-based email to inventory control and database processing. The service provider hosts both the application and the data leaving the end user free to use the service from anywhere.


But what does cloud computing mean to those of us who do not know our ISPs from our APIs? Its relevance is that a cloud can be private or public. The objective of either (and both) is the same - provide easy, scalable access to computing resources and IT services. A public cloud is another kind of market place which sells services to anyone on the Internet of which currently, Amazon Web Services is the largest whereas private cloud is a proprietary network or a data centre that supplies hosted services to a limited number of people.

In an entrepreneurial sense, cloud computing allows a company to pay for only as much capacity as is needed, and bring more online as soon as required but the phenomenon has extended to the realm of politics with several players briefing politicians. But why? For a start with governments facing severe criticism for the failure and cost of many IT projects, they are right to be interested. It is important to know why global data centres of Google, IBM and Microsoft are effective in comparison to those of EDS and Fujitsu used by many government IT projects.  Beyond this there are questions about a regulatory framework which addresses the issues of responsibility for resilience and content and liability for service failure or abuse that need to be addressed. .

But there are some fundamental questions. Are we ready for the consequences of end-users being as dependent on their broadband connection as their local PC? Are we content to have the same law on-line as off-line and the legal ramifications around liability avoidance small print and business-to-business disputes being incessantly dragged through the courts? What will we do about businesses, who in a bid circumvent all the national regulators queuing up for a slice of their profit, will attempt to move their operation off-shore? The answers to these questions are not so well defined.


However, what is incontestable is that the global financial crisis has affected businesses of all kind, and consequently it has transformed the way many firms go about with their everyday operations. As the IT industry is not immune to this, it is imperative (as it is inevitable) there will be an acceleration in transformative technologies as IT companies curtail spending.

In certain quarters cloud computing has been branded a kind of ‘disruption’. This is because with the advent Cloud Computing, business services and applications will now run on external infrastructure such as over the Internet, rather than infrastructure that they own. In other words, why own buy computer infrastructure and applications, when you can rent computing and processing time?

It will appear that the cloud computing is mirroring the ‘globalisation’ agenda – a drive to continue to evolve into the borderless, unbiased global tool but its advocates believe in the need for it to be separated from politics but currently, countries like China and the United States are legislating in a bid to try and rein in this development – get the genie back into bottle – so to speak.

Strange that politicians tell us that everything is geared toward economic growth but now we are in hard times and trying to generate economic growth, politics is holding it back. Funny isn’t it?



Google Voice: Action Speaking Louder Than Words

As the economic downturn continues to bite in the US, businesses are getting a bit more tetchy and doing all they can to make themselves more viable and not lose market share. That sometimes involves turning on, those who in less fraught times, are competitors or affiliates. With Google sending inviting subscribers to join Google Voice and the revelation that Google Voice is now available on both BlackBerry and Android smart phones, Google is signalling its intent to augment its telecommunications portfolio. The US communication authorities are investigating allegations initiated by telecoms group AT&T that Google has an unfair advantage because Google Voice is not covered by federal rules that govern phone service providers.

Earlier this month, AT&T complained Google is not playing by the same rules as its competitors by Google’s claim that its Google Voice telephony management application is not a traditional phone service as such. This affords Google the opportunity to block calls to rural areas to save access costs but competitors  are bound by a 2007 Federal Communication Commission (FCC) ruling are prohibited from doing the same.  

Opponents argue that Google Voice, though its application has a web interface, it still uses regular phone lines, unlike Skype and other systems that use internet data channels, and therefore must be bound by the FCC ruling. Robert Quinn, a senior vice president at AT&T said that excluding Google from the FCC ruling would be ineffective, legally suspect and, for all intent and purposes, a direct refutation of president Barack Obama's call for a level playing field. On the blocking of calls, Quinn said ‘"By blocking these calls, Google is able to reduce its access expenses. Other providers, including those with which Google Voice competes, are banned from call blocking [by the FCC]."

The Financial Times reported that in response to the AT&T letter of complaint on the 25th September, the FCC has asked Google to explain its reasons for blocking the calls.  Google, in its defence said in a blog post that it avoids making connections to local phone networks because they charge "exorbitant" termination rates for calls. They also said local networks partner with adult sex chat lines and conference calling centres that result in ‘ludicrously high charges’

It appears the gloves are off on this one.


Dell cuts its cloth (and plant)

One of the three largest US computer manufacturers, Dell Inc. announced this week it will close its desktop computer manufacturing plant near Winston-Salem once seen as a job generator worthy of the promise of more than $300 million in state and local inducements in four months by the end of January, shedding 905 workers- a victim of new corporate calculations.


The announcement came two days after the plant, which produces desktop units primarily for business customers, marked four years in operation. At its inauguration, politicians cited studies estimating the plant would not only employ 1,500 and generate about 500 more related jobs, it would have a $24.5 billion economic impact over 20 years. For that reason, they lavished what by some measures was the richest incentives package in state history -- a deal worth up to $318 million in tax breaks and grants. But since then, consumers have moved to laptops and handheld devices thus severely weakening the market for desktops that has also been battered by the recession and sharper competition.

Round Rock, a Texas-based company said closing the plant is part of an effort to simplify operations, improve efficiency and a drive to save $4 billion a year by 2011. It is also an expression of the business strategy to move away from hardware and into more profitable technology services. It announced last month it will spend $3.9 billion for Perot Systems Corp., adding consulting and computing services like systems integration to its portfolio.

Obviously Dell's decision did not go down well in recession-weary North Carolina characterised by jobless claims, home foreclosures, bailout dollars and an escalating health crisis wth questions about the appropriateness of the massive incentives package and how much could be recouped abound.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines issued a statement saying Dell would repay all the money the city provided to the company in upfront costs and annual incentive payments. This was corroborated by Kip Thompson, Vice President for facilities, that Dell will honor its commitment to repay the $15.56 million the city has provided since Dell agreed to build the plant.

But ardent opponents argue that millions of dollars spent on public agencies to prepare the Dell site for construction, widen roads leading to the plant, and equip community colleges to train company workers will not be recouped and are asking for a 100 percent refund if the plant closed within its first five years. That means that Dell will be handed a bill of about $20 million so far.

Bob Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice and executive director of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law who unsuccessfully challenged the Dell deal in court, said ‘No matter how big the incentives package ... with these large out-of-state companies and corporations, their loyalty is only to the bottom line and not to the community.’  Indeed.



A new global interaction is in the making 


No question the internet has made the globe a village where one person’s access to everyone else has become more up close and personal and this in turn has become the ‘talk of the global village’ – literally and metaphorically. Now Google and Facebook are collaborating to make sure all peoples of the global village speak a universal language with both designing new translation tools though adopting different approaches. 

Let us be clear about one thing. The adhesive that binds this global village rapidly disintegrates where any entity –individual, community, region or country - decides not to invest in the resources of Information and communication technology. 

Governments, some quicker than others, are discovering the power and capabilities of the internet and those with a negative disposition to people empowerment, democracy and freedoms are desperately trying to put the genie back in the bottle. Some turned to drastic means of censoring the internet usage and access wishing the technology never existed in the first place. After all nothing scares a government with tyrannical tendencies more than people being informed and able to communicate their thoughts and ideas to others – that is deemed extremely dangerous. 

According to a recent report on the CNN Facebook aims to translate the Web using an army of volunteers and some hired professional translators. Meanwhile, Google plans to let computers do most of the work.  

Where does that leave us?

It has always been said music is a universal language, There is an addition now because it means no matter what language we speak, we can buy/sell, chat/gossip, laugh/cry, celebrate/commiserate breakup and makeup on line 24/7. When John Lennon told us to ‘Imagine’, he certainly did not have anything as elaborate in mind the opportunities it leaves us with. 

There is gulf however between us and this boundless opportunity? Simply access to broadband. The interesting thing is that while Facebook uses human beings to do its own translation, Google uses mathematics to do it. 

Amazing. Isn’t it? 



Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission told journalists in Geneva midweek that the priority of Nigeria’s regulatory regime is to focus on monitoring and improving quality of services provided as well as attending to the needs of the consumer.  

He said this in a speech inviting world class investors to come to Nigeria and be part of the rapid expansion which characterized the sector in the past 10 years and which now aims at expanding the needed services in the areas of Internet and broadband services across the country. He said Telecom investments in Nigeria has reached over US$18 billion within the last eight years  on account of predictive regulatory environment and supportive government for a deregulated telecom industry.  This figure, according to him, is made up of about US$12 billon from Foreign Direct Investment while the balance is from domestic investments which tells us that the task at hand might perhaps, for a host of reasons, be beyond the capabilities of the local entrepreneurial class. 

Mr Ndukwe at another event flew the kite of a "Fibre Without Borders", FWB, initiative which emphasizes the need for the continent to evolve a solution that would ensure seamless connectivity across the continent.



O2 to trial LTE mobile broadband

Presumably as part of a fight-back to losing its exclusive deal with Apple to supply the iPhone in the UK, the network operator O2 has confirmed that it will test so-called next-generation 4G data networks next year across six countries. It confirmed it will run trials of Long Term Evolution technology (LTE) in the UK, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic and Argentina. The trials, the first to be carried out by a network operator in the UK could achieve mobile internet speeds of up to 340 megabits per second, almost a hundred times faster than the average broadband speed and 50 times faster than the 7.2 megabits per second mobile broadband connections currently enjoyed by UK consumers. Previously tests had been more smaller and localised - confined to particular geographical areas – but with the larger operators like Orange and Vodafone now joining the fray, they nave have indicated that they intend to roll out LTE networks in future

At Telefonica, O2's parent company, Julio Linares, Chief Operating Officer said “We are working with the conviction that we can only offer our clients the maximum levels of quality and innovation."


Microsoft’s Windows 7 launch - The Best is yet to come?

Microsoft’s impending launch of the impending Windows 7 has been fraught with difficulties. It had not even been released Windows Vista Service Pack 1, when a ‘leaks frenzy’ began about Vista’s successor Windows 7. MS enthusiasts rallied claiming that inadequacies highlighted were fake and we experienced something similar after when Vista was launched after Windows XP.

However the focal point of criticism that appears immovable is on the issue of software proprietary. On this particular point of proprietary software, critics, like enthusiasts, argue that Windows 7 has the same problem that Vista, XP, and all previous versions have had -- its users are not permitted to share or modify the Windows software, or examine how it works inside. They further argue Microsoft ab-use their power through one or a combination of copyrights, contracts, and patents to abuse computer users.

Microsoft’s commercial practices have been under scrutiny for some time. It had always been accused of monopoly behaviour dictated by the fact that nearly every computer purchased comes with Windows pre-installed, forces updates on its users, by removing support for older versions of Windows and Office, and enforcing digital restrictions with Windows Media player, it offers the user little or no choice.

There have been claims and counterclaim that Microsoft's decision to release Windows 7 in Europe without its Internet Explorer browser is a sensible step. Microsoft says it is enhancing choice by aid yesterday enabling PC makers and consumers to install a browser of their choice. Legal minds say it is a compromise and Microsoft bent to pressure from European Union antitrust regulators. With this move, it sought to remove the European Commission's ability to attack them for bundling. European anti-monopoly authorities had already charged Microsoft with harming browser competition by bundling IE with Windows for which Microsoft could still face punitive action, including a hefty fine, by the European Commission when competition commissioner Neelie Kroes rules on the case later this year.

Regardless and amidst a lot of scepticism, Microsoft is making a last ditch attempt to wrestle some positive public attention for the release of Windows 7.

Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer has ruled out reviewing its user licenses, despite acknowledging the fine print and complexity can cause headaches for customers. In a Q&A session at a customer event to promote the launch of Window 7, Ballmer was quizzed on whether of the vendor would simplify its licensing processes. "I don't anticipate a big round of simplifying licenses. The last round of simplification was done six years ago and a lot of clauses and fine print is there to help customers reduce costs," he said.

Critics say with the launch, Microsoft is up to their usual tricks again only this time, they are also inserting artificial restrictions into the operating system itself. While not the first time they have done this, this is the first release of Windows that can magically remove limitations instantly upon purchasing a more expensive version from Microsoft.

Microsoft last week announced that Windows 7 would go on sale on October 22. How can users connect to the Internet, much less choose another browser over IE8 – now that is the question


ICT in Nigeria: A Proposed Direction of Travel
Abi Bilesanmi

From a plethora of communiqués, symposiums, data and all conceivable indices and indication, mobile telephony as a platform of development and social change is largely incontestable. How so? You may ask but the facts speak for themselves. The African mobile market is fastest growing in the world with 17 percent of Sub-Saharan population owning mobile phones. We have also reported on a host of initiatives to extend ICT revolution to broadband for Internet users. The fact that currently, less than 1 percent of Africans have access to high-speed Internet also speaks for itself.

When we ask the questions like ‘Is the web your window to the world?’ or ‘Are you struggling to connect?’ What kind of response will we get?

Without being patronising, telephony is not telecommunication but an integral part. With the advent of high speed broadband internet and its capacity to make a difference to people's daily lives, we can not rest on our laurels for we are a long way from the ‘technological promise land’

The internet is not helping most business owners expand and make links; or students study for qualifications online as educational institutions are not connected; or tourist operators attract visitors; or musicians promote their music online; or farmers grow crops and their market?

The facts are still that in Nigeria, not enough of us are connected. Those who are, feel held back by slow download speeds and expensive costs  

Political leadership (or lack of) on this issue has been well documented and so there is no mileage in ‘flogging that dead horse.’ The Telecoms industry is doing a considerable amount but because it, more than any other sector, know the cost of not embarking on this ‘ICT revolution’, it must double its efforts by putting forward a range of measures to enhance the value of ICT to the populace. The industry need to educate the Government that, like it is the case in other developed nations, it ought to run some of the country's largest computer systems. It needs to expand the political leadership’s imagination (should not have to… but hey) and enlighten them that these systems are an essential element in the delivery of public services, be it helping people into jobs or storing digital x-rays. Hundreds of thousands of public servants can use their desktop computers to work far more efficiently than we could ever dream.

The industry’s short term goal is to transform the value it offers both its members and other key communities by introducing a wide range of new qualifications, products and services designed to do this.

One such measure is to open ‘Academies’ of computing, expanding nationally. It should start a new networking group, launching a new national website and job site. It needs to fine-tune its qualifications by adding "Chartered Institute for IT" to its portfolio. This is nothing new  as individual and private organizations like The Cyberschuul in Lagos is already doing this but there needs to be a national rollout programme. Institutions like these represent a reservoir of expertise and could represent a good template for training as well as learning

This ‘reorganization’ would be in anticipation that the changes will help it to address the main issues that face the ICT industry which include the digital divide, information vulnerability, poor information management, the conspicuous absence of worthy IT projects, IT skills shortages and a lack of clear career paths for IT professionals.

It should aim to extend its international reach, by securing proper accreditation so that its qualifications are recognized and graduates are competent enough to meet demand for IT personnel particularly at home but also abroad.  The industry should seek to establish better and deeper working relationships with domestic and international organizations that can help deliver services and qualifications to IT professionals.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a major user of energy and natural resources. As technological innovation gathers pace and computers and accessories quickly become obsolete, we have to think about the use and disposal of computers, servers and printers (simply because we will be unable to get parts for them.) This has to happen in a sustainable way and not have a negative impact on the environment. We have already heard about the green shoots of ‘green IT’ when Reime West Africa in its presentation at the Co-location of Telecommunications Infrastructure forum back in May focused on Green Telecom as a means of to reducing and fuel consumption, eliminating waste and generally improve energy management through better, smarter and greener technology. This needs to be adopted nationwide with further accreditation and incentives for green IT practitioners. 

It will be naïve as it would churlish to think that this would take place outside the context of existing woeful infrastructure, and dire economic circumstances which are the responsibilities of the government – responsibilities which they have not discharged with any veracity. The industry is already doing its fair share, but the responsibility to make the case, in no uncertain terms, that the ability to process, share and manage information will determine the success of society and its ability to face up to future challenges.

The reality is that we need a high-performing ICT education system, ICT literate policies, a respected and well-supported ICT profession and a population with the skills and the opportunities to be active and informed citizens. If the industry says this loud enough, often enough and for long enough, the government and indeed the people will have no choice but sit up and take notice


CyberschuulNews 357

NITEL: Hard times bite

NITEL’s  workers who have remained unpaid for 15 months warned during the week that they would disrupt attempt by bidders for the company to carry out due diligence unless government pays them their outstanding salaries.  

The distressed company turned to being the baton for a renewed relay race, apparently a journey to nowhere, which Vice-President Jonathan Goodluck signed on a few weeks ago in Abuja when he inaugurated  a committee of bureaucrats to go find a purchaser for NITEL in 60 days,

Migration to the digital economy:
Nigeria’s ‘slow motion’ worries the world

With work virtually abandoned on Nigeria’s march to industry restructuring of the information and communications sector, a euphemism for preparing a basis for migration to the digital economy, Nigerians in the Diaspora are beginning to raise issues with the home base now that it is becoming appreciated that ‘gsm’ is not all there is to telecommunications. Nigeria’s position on the West African Telecom Regulators’ Assembly, WATRA, is very critical especially for the leading role Nigeria played in its formation and impliedly its funding. Reform is critically required in Nigeria for other West African states to announce their reform packages which are at various stages of completion. It worries lovers of Nigeria that the country may just be retrogressing in the all important telecommunications sector.

President Obama almost said it in Ghana that that country should begin to work as if Nigeria does not exist since the latter has shown to use the snail-mail approach. He sent Mrs. Hillary Clinton to go round to wake African officials up with hard talks, perhaps they would just listen. But now they are beginning to remove Nigeria from the comity of nations. Many say that would not be acceptable as it may ultimately threaten the dignity of black peoples all over the world.

It is dangerous enough for Nigeria no to be at the United Nation’s talkshow in New York last week. The only sector of the Nigerian economy  that has a good story to tell is commencing a descent to return to where it left others. That brings up lots of issues and various efforts are known to being made to confront the issues.



In Europe. It’s Crunch Time!

There are real fears that plans to create a vibrant European digital economy may be hamstrung by reform of the telecommunications sector. Communications Commissioner Viviane Reding recently said Europe's governments had to dismantle barriers to new communications services if Europe was to release the economic potential of its 'digital natives'. "We must make access to digital content an easy and fair game," she said.

To this end, European telecommunications ministers could decide this week whether to endorse a net neutrality clause in the long-awaited Telecoms Package.

The background to this development is that for sometime now the EU Commission has tried to harmonise and reform telecommunication law across the EU. Its telecoms package - a bundle of related directives - has passed the scrutiny of the EU's two law-making bodies, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, but a section known as Amendment 138/46 is proving to be a stumbling block.

This is because Amendment 138, which protects Internet users’ rights against blocking and 3-strikes measures, has been scrapped in a back-room EU deal. Opposition centres on the view that the European Parliament has sacrificed users’ rights, in order to appease the French and UK government demands, so that they can move ahead with plans for 3-strikes and protocol blocking. Critics are impressing upon the European Parliament that it is their job to stand up for what is right for citizens or face the consequences at the ballot box – something Nigerian politicians rarely heed.

Contrary to the Commissioner’s plea and desire to dismantle barriers,  a commission opinion released last week could have the combined effects of harden the barriers, slow the introduction of new services and open the way to internet censorship, according Monica Horten, a blogger and intellectual property researcher.

She argues the text to be considered by the lawmakers next month creates a right for governments to implement "measures regarding end-users' access to or use of services and applications through electronic communications networks" with particular reference to Amendment 1.2a of the Universal Services and Users Rights directive, which will permit broadband providers to block or impose "conditions limiting access to and/or use of services and applications".
A spokesperson for Reding retorted, saying the reforms were intended to regulate the behaviour of telecommunications companies, not consumers. He said the commission explicitly rejected an earlier French proposal for a "three strikes and you are out" or graduated response to internet abusers.

The new pan-European regulatory regime could be in force by March 2010, but some experts believe that the whole package could fail if there is no agreement on Amendment 138/46. Watch this space.


If you can’t join them, beat them

The arrangement which gave mobile phone operator O2 exclusive rights to sell Apple's iPhone in the U.K and had been in place since 2007, has come to end with the announcement that the British mobile phone carrier Orange has reached an agreement to ‘gatecrash the party’ later this year.

On its website, Orange says the iPhone 3G and 3GS will be available to its British customers "later this year," but doesn't mention a launch date or price.

Orange, which is owned by France Telecom and announced earlier this month that it had agreed to merge with T-Mobile, owned by Deutsche Telekom (see cyberschuulnews 354) to  create the UK's largest wireless provider, surpassing O2 -owned by Spain's Telefonica – seems to have wasted no time publicly flex it’s new-found commercial muscle.

O2 will continue to sell the iPhone but the end of the exclusivity agreement signifies the synchronization of the U.K. market with countries in Europe and South America where multiple carriers offer the iPhone. In China, Apple's iPhone will arrive via China Unicom, which signed a three-year service deal with Apple in August and will start selling the iPhone in October.



IT disasters: 5 of the best (or worst) 

It was more than three decades ago that computers and related information technologies were introduced to most of us. Today, in most parts of the developed world it is almost inconceivable to think of schools, government departments, institutions – public and private - which do not use computers of some description.

In the developed world, technology has been shown to have positive effects not only on the socio-political and economic process, but has also changed the very nature of these societies – a template to be emulated and replicated.

But while measures of evaluation are overwhelmingly positive and justifiably so, we discount that the developed world have sometimes been ‘asleep behind the wheel’ and experienced and overseen IT projects and incidents that have been monumental disasters sometimes costing hundreds of millions. We have covered many positive IT stories but in the interest of balance, below are the exceptions to the rule – 5 ‘big’ ones. They do not better define the role of technology in its wider context, but to be acknowledged nevertheless – and yes they all occurred in the developed world.

Faulty Soviet early warning system nearly causes WWIII (1983).

We have all watched some sci-fi film where the threat of computers coupled with military egos purposefully starts World War III. Inexplicable software glitches have brought us perilously close. A little over 25 years ago, a software bug in the USSR’s early warning system incorrectly told their military that the US had launched five ballistic missiles.  How close we came to an apocalyptic disaster, we will never know.

The AT&T network collapse (1990).

Those in the US who made an apocalyptic premonition that the millennium bug will pose huge IT problems were a decade late. Their premonition had come 10 years earlier on January 15, 1990 when AT&T's long-distance telephone switching system crashed. This was a monumental unprecedented event which those in the know say occurred for no apparent physical reason. In the nine long hours of frantic effort that it took to restore service, 60,000 people lost their telephone service completely and some seventy million telephone calls went uncompleted. The crash was a grave corporate embarrassment especially coming at the first month of a new, high-tech decade

The explosion of the Ariane 5 (1996)

It was ‘egg-on-faces’ for The European Space Agency back in 1996 when Europe's newest and unmanned satellite-launching rocket, the Ariane 5, was intentionally blown up just seconds after taking off on its maiden flight from Kourou, French Guiana. The estimated total cost of developing the Ariane 5 was about $8bn (£4bn). On board Ariane 5 was a $500m (£240m) set of four scientific satellites created to study how the Earth's magnetic field interacts with Solar Winds. According to a piece in the New York Times Magazine, the self-destruction was triggered by software trying to stuff ‘a 64-bit number into a 16-bit space’. Oops!

EDS – Take your Pick

EDS one of the largest IT services companies in the world, has a reputation that precedes it. Its illustrious list of major project failures in the UK and to which it has owned up includes the slipshod Armed Forces Pay Administration Agency - an EDS-run contract -which bungled the pay of Armed forces personnel and the infamous CS2 computer system somehow managed to overpay 1.9 million people, underpay around 700,000 and cost the taxpayer over a £1 billion. This IT disaster was a knell that summoned the destruction of the Child Support Agency (CSA). The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said of the wreckage left behind: "Ignoring ample warnings, the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP), the CSA and IT contractor EDS introduced a large, complex IT system at the same time as restructuring the agency. The new system was brought in and, as night follows day, stumbled and now has enormous operational difficulties."

Exploding laptops (2006)

It was like something from ‘Mission Impossible’ (with Greg Morris not Tom Cruise) when a laptop manufactured by Dell internally combusted at a trade show in Japan. Rumors of laptops catching fire had been circulating, but the Dell laptop managed to do it for real in the full glare of publicity.

Dell put a brave face on and launched an investigation which concluded that there was a problem with the battery/power supply on the individual laptop that had overheated and caught fire. This episode proved to be very expensive issue for Dell. As a result of its investigation, it decided that it would be prudent to recall and replace 4.1m laptop batteries. The ensuing ‘blame game’ led Dell to the door of the battery cells’ manufacturers – Sony. This happened at the same time many PC suppliers reported the same problem including Apple who reported issues with iPods and Macbooks. Sony estimated at the time that the overall cost of supporting the recall programmes of Apple and Dell would amount to between ¥20bn (£90m) and ¥30bn

Others left out of this infamous list and which one may argue do not constitute an IT disaster but rather was down to human boo-boo include: HMRC data loss (2008) where two CDs which were password protected but not encrypted, containing names, addresses, dates of birth, child benefit numbers, National Insurance numbers and bank or building society account details personal details of 25 million Britons had been "lost in the post" allegedly by a junior employee at the HMRC; The Airbus A380 and incompatible software issues (2006) where a ‘niggling’ problem arose due to incompatibility  between a German system that used an out-of-date version of software and the French system used the latest version resulting in a problem which was eventually fixed, but only at a cost that nobody seems to want to put an absolute figure but all agreed was a lot; The two-digit year-2000 problem (1999/2000) when rumors and scaremongering aplenty about the impending disaster at  the sound of clocks striking midnight in time zones around the world sparked astronomical contract rates and retainers but when the moment came, predictions of doom came to a big fat …naught; Siemens and the passport system (1999) which brought about a summer of  discontent in 1999, when half a million British citizens were  discovered that their new passports could not be issued on time because the Passport Agency had brought in a new Siemens computer system without sufficiently testing it and training staff first.

The moral of this story is that regardless of countless success stories, IT can go wrong. When it does go wrong, it does so spectacularly and at a huge cost.





CyberschuulNews 356

ITU’s conference
to focus on ‘Cybersecurisation’

The global meltdown has brought to focus the interdependence of all peoples of the world. Such flow of people and money has brought positive economic benefits just as it has increased the vulnerability of the cyberspace. The developed economies have built huge software to contain virus, spy and intrusion while developing ones do not have the means or expertise to do all these. But do they have the will? Six leading experts in cyber-laws development will on October 8 2009 speak on the issues at the ITU TELECOM WORLD 2009 in Geneva. One of them is Nigeria’s Mr Basil Udotai, Managing Partner, Technology Advisors, ICT Lawyers & Consultants, Nigeria.

Mr Udotai is a well known advocate of local and cross-border laws to contain the evils of cyber criminality. He will speak on the subject 'Interconnected and vulnerable: Managing the weakest link of Cybersecurity in Africa"


Cyber-criminals change tact in the US

Trusted websites which people view are increasingly at the mercy of cyber criminals who now choose to infect the computers of the viewer/subscribers. This is proving to be a successful strategy exemplified  by a high-profile security lapse at the top US newspaper site.

Thousands of visitors to The New York Times website last weekend had their screens fill with what appeared to be an automated scan for computer viruses, followed by warnings the scan had uncovered infections and a recommendation that the PC owners buy protection. Clicking on the offer probably installed a program designed to badger the consumer into buying worthless “scareware” in the future, the Times reported Tuesday.

With increasing sophistication of cyber tools for online innovation comes slicker cybercrime.  A multimillion dollar virtual crime wave targeting small and mid-size companies has been reported by NACHA-The Electronics Payment Association--a task force representing over 15,000 institutions in the financial industry.

NACHA reports that cyber-criminals have been swiping small business usernames and passwords associated with corporate accounts at banks using malware and tools that record keystrokes. The gangs organizing the bulk of the million-dollar criminal mischief have been siphoning off U.S. small business funds and sending the funds overseas using money transfer services.

Website attacks have replaced the deceptive emails as the preferred modus operandi for financially motivated attacks. The trust that consumers have of websites as more people do more things online makes it easier to fool consumers and also to circumvent defensive systems.

Criminals, by means of familiarity, (they are reported to have posed as an existing advertiser to gain access to The New York Times’ network), are using dedicated audiences as their mode of target.

Once inside a corporate computer, malicious software can take further advantage of unfixed security gaps in various existing applications. Corporations that ignore security problems in their operating systems, do so at their peril as they are slower to resolve flaws in applications. Sometimes the lag in response is because they fear that taking action may seriously and adversely affect their key internal processes.

There is also the case of crime rings that are data-stealing programs sent via emails aimed at a targeted company’s named executives. The payouts from either combined approach are growing larger, according to law enforcement testimony before the Senate’s homeland security committee, which is plotting new cyber-security legislation.

The FBI and a panel charged with warning financial institutions about new criminal methods issued a joint bulletin last month alerting banks to a spate of electronic intrusions in which cyber-criminals gained control of the bank accounts of small and mid-sized businesses, panel chief William Nelson testified. Senator Joseph Lieberman, the committee chair, said emailed password-grabbers recently led to fraudulent account transfers totaling $700,000 at a Pennsylvania school district and $1.2m at a Texas manufacturer.

President Obama’s former cyber-security coordinator Melissa Hathaway who recently resigned warned a private conference last this week that the US needed “to prepare for a digital disaster” such as a cyber-attack on infrastructure that she said could cost $700bn.

Mergers : Three the Hard Way
(Hitachi, Casio and NEC  become NEC CASIO Mobile Communications, Ltd.)

A trio of Japanese electronics groups Hitachi, Casio and NEC have announced plans to merge their mobile phone operations to cut costs and become more competitive. The deal leaked earlier sees NEC join an existing Casio and Hitachi joint mobile phone venture created in 2004 but will largely take it over. The new business, capitalized initially at 1 billion yen ($11 million) will be 66 percent owned by NEC, 17.34 percent by Casio and 16.66 by Hitachi. By June 2010, that will be raised to 5 billion yen ($55 million), with NEC owning a 70.74 percent stake, Casio 20 percent and Hitachi 9.26 percent.

  The three companies, which are relatively small players in the mobile phone market, have suffered badly during the downturn because Japanese makers have largely failed in selling handsets overseas, partly because the mobile technology in Japan is different from U.S. and European systems. Mobile phones here also tend to be loaded with and have very localized features and complicated interfaces that are not popular abroad. NEC is in the process of cutting 20,000 jobs worldwide, while Hitachi recently announced that it expects to make a loss of 270bn yen ($3bn; £1.8bn) this year.

 A merger will ensure that all three companies pool both technology and resources. Such consolidation is both a reaction to Japan's own phone market and to the presence of outsiders. It will also bring about ‘lower development costs and boost their competitiveness and brands’, they said


ICT to deliver more for less

Due to current global economic climate where public spending cuts will be the norm rather than the exception, there are increasing calls (particularly from the private sector which has been undergoing this process for the last 20 years, that the public sector must be able to deliver tangible returns from all investment decisions, considering both the latest technologies available to improve performance and efficiency targets which demand cost savings from all areas of the organisation.

To this end a conference called ‘Unified Communications and Collaboration in the Public Sector’ was held in London this week for Senior public sector managers of IT/ICT, Procurement, Operations, e-Government/t-government, enterprise architects and systems managers and analysts involved in implementing and developing integrated data systems

The objective was to demonstrate best practice with real business case studies to provide delegates with a clear view of how they can, and why they should, implement a unified solution to deliver cost and time savings across the sector.

Delegates were to discover practical solutions for reducing costs whilst improving delivery levels, explore how integrating technologies can enable remote working, learn how to ensure converged systems are resilient enough to guarantee full continuity and most importantly, prepare to take big steps to overcome cultural objections to new ways of working


The conference represents a template especially for countries where e-government is in its infancy to learn and develop practical ideas that will drive change and cost reductions through exploring new ways to work smarter for less, embedding business needs into ICT investment and improving the effectiveness and speed of response times


The International Conference and Exhibition
on Power and Telecommunications ( ICEPT ) 2009

Theme : Improved Power and Telecommunications capabilities as key drivers for global economic competitiveness.
Venue : Shehu Musa Yar' Adua Conference Centre, Abuja.
Date : 13th to 15th October 2009
Time : 9am to 5pm Daily.

WITSA Global Public Policy Summit,

Date: October 30-31 - Pre-Summit events
Nov 1-3, 2009 - Summit events
Nov 4-7, 2009 - Trade/Tech Visit to TechAmerica - Washignton, USA (Optional)


Broadband: Enabler for freedom and security of the citizen

Selected top players of the communications industry in Nigeria recently brainstormed on the way forward in improving the Nigerian citizen and their environment.

In a lead presentation paper, Ernest Ndukwe, EVC of NCC drew a correlation between freedom and security on one hand, and between security and capability to apply knowledge as these apply to the human being on the other. He said if the application of ICT was to solve human problems, the focus must necessarily be on the human beings who use technology and not on the technology itself. It is for this reason that value-added services are key to the major revenue streams of service providers.

He believes this is how the all-important issue of how ICT’s are used to enhance e-health, education, industrial development, and transportation. To aspire to world standard services in all of the applications areas, policies must favour citizens’ application of these technologies, and we must continue to grow and expand our ICT facilities, thus enabling our people to emancipate socially, politically and economically.

Consequently all the above leads to the conclusion that the ability to feel secure and to be free in the 21st century, is inevitably tied to the availability of information and communications facilities.

Other panelists among who were Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr., DG Nigerian Economic Summit Group and Former Minister of Information and Communications; Mr. Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, Managing Partner, Grand Central; Dr. Uju Agomoh, Founder of Prisons Rehabilitation and Welfare Action; Dr. Ken Ife, IT Consultant and Mr. Ibrahim Dikko, Executive Director, Etisalat have the opinion that Education is the major information technology factor and more resources need to be channeled towards educating the youths on the benefits of ICT. Security is all about creating an educated population that can create what they need to solve their problems.

Mr. Frank Nweke Jr. in particular recalled his days in office as Minister of information and Communication when Nigerian telecom industry was always a model to be proud of in the comity telecom regulators. After recognising the commendable work done so far in promoting internet access from dial up through GPRS, the need to migrate to broadband access was emphasised.


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