February 2006


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Corporates plan to enter Indian agri-marketing space
Reliance Industries and ITC have expressed interest in setting up big box agri-marketing complexes, to be positioned as terminal market complexes (TMC).
Each TMC will handle fruits, vegetables, flowers, aromatics and herbs, besides poultry and meat, and may cost anywhere between Rs 60 crore to Rs 120 crore. The plan is to have eight TMCs operational in centres like Mumbai, Nasik, Patna, Chandigarh, Rai (Haryana), Bhopal, Nagpur and Kolkata. The handling capacity in each TMC ranges from two lakh tonnes annually to six lakh tonnes.


Web education for faculty members soon in India
Web based education would be shortly introduced for faculty members of private engineering colleges in India opting for higher studies in computer science and information technology.

Chennai Anna University Vice-Chancellor D Viswanathan says, the course to be started in this University in the southern Indian state Tamil Nadu would facilitate faculty members to pursue higher education (ME) in the forth-coming year.

Australians deserting IT education
Even though a large number of overseas IT students are getting permanent residence in Australia, fewer local students are choosing to enroll for computer courses.

The number of Australian students enrolling for IT courses has hit a 15-year low, according to a study. An increasingly large number of Indian students enroll for Australian IT and computer courses and apply for permanent residence after the completion of the mandatory two-year period.

Community Radio

Big investors may tune into Indian FM radio
India’s private FM radio sector is expected to get foreign investments of Rs 500 crore in the next 12 to 18 months. Now that the sector is open to foreign direct investment and the government has moved from licence fees to a revenue-share regime, the sector has become attractive to investors. The government is in the process of awarding the second round of FM radio licences. Bids for 13 cities will be opened soon.


Telecom firms stall e-Commerce growth in Zimbabwe
The slow progress of infrastructure development in the telecommunications sector has negatively affected the growth of e-Commerce in Zimbabwe.

Currently, Zimbabwe has four tele-communication companies, namely TelOne, which is the only fixed telephone line operator, and three mobile phone operators – NetOne, Econet Wireless and Telecel Zimbabwe, who are battling to adequately provide services to ICT companies.

Now insurance policy taking an e-Route
Tech-savvy insurers such as Bajaj Allianz General, ICICI Lombard and Birla Sun Life now offer their policyholders the option of buying insurance policies online.
General insurer Tata AIG has an e-Marine policy that helps an exporter secure an insurance document online. Private sector insurer ICICI Lombard offers customers the facility to log on to the company’s website www.icicilombard. com and buy all retail products online. These include motor insurance, health insurance, travel insurance (individual and student travel insurance) and home insurance.


India to open e-Stamping facility
There’s good news for those getting hassled about shortage of stamp papers, used for paying stamp duty on various instruments. Government of India is firming up plans to introduce electronic stamping (e-Stamping) facility across the country and has advised states to move towards this computer-based system.

The move towards e-Stamping will help states like Maharashtra which earn substantial revenue from stamp duty. Maharashtra has taken the lead, with the state announcing the setting up of Computerised Stamp Duty Administration System (C-SAS). Designated banks and financial institutions are authorised to sell stamps and provide information on all transactions to stamp and registration authority.

Indian President presents blueprint for virtual varsity President of India A P J Abdul Kalam has proposed an ambitious blueprint for a tele-education revolution in the country with Rashtrapati Bhavan as the nodal hub of the project to link all major universities across India.

Kalam announced the birth of the first virtual university at his New Delhi residence that aimed to network even small teaching centres in rural India. In his view this virtual university grid has the capability to trigger academic excellence and National development at an unparallel scale by expanding education to the remotest corner of the country.

Oracle announces e-Governance awards

Oracle has announced the 22 winners of the ‘Oracle Excellence in e-Governance Awards’ at the Oracle Open World event.

The winners were Indian e-Government projects, implemented by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), the Department of Information Technology
and the Government of India. The projects were assessed by Skoch Consultancy Services and judged by a panel of judges. A few of the winning projects were- Rural e-Seva project (Andhra Pradesh), Computer-Aided Administration of Registration Department (Andhra Pradesh), IT in judiciary, Customs Department, Vahan & Sarathi, etc. All these projects were based on Oracle systems.

Karnik Dataquest IT Person of the Year 2005

Dataquest has named Kiran Karnik, President, Nasscom, the apex body for the software industry, the ‘Dataquest IT Person of the Year 2005’.

The DQ Awards panel also announced the choice of Hemant Sonawala for the Lifetime Achievement Award, saying he has been a forerunner in introducing high technology products in India through strategic alliances and has essayed the role of a pioneer and an entrepreneur in the industry.  R. Chandrashekhar is selected for DQ Pathbreaker Award 2005, for initiating a model of public-private partnership, which is now being replicated to drive the country’s e-Governance agenda.

Electronic ID system for company directors in India

The company affairs ministry in India is planning to issue mandatory identification numbers for all directors on the boards of companies after a thorough verification of their credentials and antecedents.

The director identification number (DIN) will be used to keep a constant eye on them as the ministry’s e-Governance system takes off on January 16. It will help the government track whether a director sits on the boards of more than 15 compa-nies or whether a director on the board of a company, which has defaulted on its statutory obligations, is violating the law by sitting on the board of another company.

Company Affairs Ministry in India in egov mode

The Ministry of Company Affairs in India is coming up with a major e-Governance project, known as MCA21, on March 1. The project aims at transforming the Ministry into a paperless, modern, service-oriented, quality-conscious and customer-centric organisation.

The project envisages shifting the entire business process of the Registrar of Companies (RoCs) to e-Governance mode. On completion, the project will all but eliminate the physical interface between companies and the RoCs and all services, such as registration of new companies, filing of annual returns and balance-sheets and also viewing of documents, would be online. This is expected to enable transparency as well as speedy monitoring of non-compliance by the companies.

Parliament Website remains closed in Kenya

Kenya is the only East African country without a website for its Parliament. The National Assembly’s official website was shut down last September after The Standard published education backgrounds, hobbies, ages and other details of MPs from the site.

The site was shut down after complaints that the information was “too sensitive” and that MPs had been embarrassed. Posted on the website, http://www. parliament.go.ke, are the words: “… We are currently updating this site… visit us shortly.” Kenya’s Parliament now lags behind its Ugandan and Tanzanian counterparts, which have websites that have detailed information on MPs.


Using technology for blood donation

Creating and maintaining a good voluntary blood donor base is a major problem for blood banks and hospitals. Lack of communication with donor groups is perhaps the most daunting challenge. A Technopark-based company has come forward to use its technological expertise for a unique venture to support blood donation.

Named Fastblood, the project is the latest initiative from Torque Incubation Technologies, a start-up company promoted by seven engineering students in the southern Indian city Thiruvananthapuram. The project will leverage a blend of rapid information delivery streams. Fastblood will link the 132 licensed blood banks in the State with other localities.

Online birth certificates through hospitals in India

With the online registration and issuance of birth certificates becoming the in thing in the Indian state Kerala, long wait for birth certificates at corporation and municipal offices is turning a thing of the past. The Ernakulam General Hospital, the only one in the Ernakulam district where the pilot project is being implemented, will soon issue on-the-spot birth certificates through the hospital kiosk.

The State Government is implementing the project in 52 Government hospitals and 130 private hospitals in the five corporation areas of the state, as part of its efforts at improving the service delivery related to civil registrations in the corporations.


Website to enable the disabled

With more than 30 years’ experience in specialised education, Leon du Toit, the Jan Kriel school principal in South Africa has established a website called www.enabler.co.za to assist people with disabilities to get employment.

The website is designed to help people with disabilities register their CVs online for employment opportunities. In turn, businesses and companies registered by the website browse and peruse the CVs online to get suitable candidates for the jobs available.

Philippine ICT sector gene-rates 41,000 jobs in 2005

About 41,000 jobs were generated through ICT-related services in Philippines in the first nine months of 2005, according to the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT).

The Philippine ICT sector is led by the outsourcing industry, which covers business process outsourcing, medical transcription, animation and software development. The jobs generated this year equaled 95 percent of the 43,000 projected new workers needed in the ICT sector this year.

Open source

French police go open source

The French Gendarmerie Nationale, the national military police force which employs 115,000 staff, has opted for the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client.

The agency will deploy Firefox and Thunderbird to 70,000 and 45,000 seats respectively. Every gendarme will have four tools at his disposal, an (office) suite for writing documents and doing procedural work, a browser to access the information systems, a mail client to communicate and an antivirus package. The goal is to migrate all the upper layers of the workstation to open source software to be independent of the operating system.

ATMs recognising fingerprints

Pune-based Axis Software, has developed an innovative biometric automated teller machine (ATM). The machine works by recognising fingerprint rather than the usual ATM card.

Axis is the first Indian company to develop such an ATM machine. There is no need to insert card to operate the biometric ATM. This system supports a very user-friendly interface with both audio as well as visual display.  A person can register his or her finger print with bank and can do financial transactions through ATM very easily. Axis sotware has developed three models of this biometric ATM.


HCL introduces ‘designed in India’ desktop

HCL has introduced a range of ‘Designed in India’ desktop computers designed by the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad.

The new range of desktops has been designed keeping in view changing lifestyles, future trends and specific customer needs and preferences. Through survey NID sought direct feedback from Indian customers on factors such as user environment, buyers psyche, health factors, experience & trends before designing this desktop computer.

Satellite may link rail freight centres in India

To improve service quality and connect as many as 200 freight operation information service centres in far-flung areas, the Railways may start operating its own V-SAT hub from Delhi by March.

As the reach of the terrestrial network based on the optical fibre route was limited, it was important that remote areas be connected through the satellite. The hub would have enough spare capacity to be used for the expansion of the computerised public reservation system to remote areas. The hub might also be used to provide voice, data and video connectivity from disaster sites to all crisis control centres.


3000 rural kiosks to come up in Indian state

A group of a IITians working with n-Louge Communications Private Limited are setting up kiosks offering crucial information and services in rural areas of Gujarat state in India.

The company will install around three thousand kiosks across the state by next fiscal year. Currently, it has installed 250 kiosks including one in each village of seven towns – Palanpur, Patan, Viramgam, Prantij, Mehamdabad, Vyara and Palitana. These kiosks are known as ‘Mahiti Kendra’ (information centre).

They provide information on weather, agriculture, education, computer education, astrology, photography on digital camera, certificates for land ownership and telemedicine.

ITC lines up US$1bn investment for e-Choupal

Tobacco major ITC Ltd plans to invest US$1 billion over a period of seven to ten years in its ongoing e-Choupal business.
The investment is to create village level infrastructure by establishing ‘Choupal Sagars’ as business hubs covering about 25 villages where e-Choupals have already been in operation. The company is targeting to establish about 30 Choupal Sagars by mid-2007.

CDMA majors making rural push through veg mandi operators

 The CDMA-based telephony operators like Reliance Infocomm and Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) are sailing into unchartered territories to sell their products and services. They have already roped in the most unconventional channel partners such as vegetable and grain vendors to help them sell services and offerings in every single village in India.

Reliance Infocomm, the largest CDMA-based service provider, is planning to tie-up with vegetable and grain mandis, cable operators and cooking gas distributors among others. If this move gains momentum, Reliance Infocomm would become the first company to sell a sophisticated product through this rustic channel.


Land cable to link Indo-Pak telecom

India will be linked to Pakistan with a cable laid through the Wagah border as part of an international system. Consortium submarine cable SEA-ME-WE-4 will take the land route to provide telecom connectivity between the two neighbours.

This is the fourth in a series of cable systems connecting three continents over a distance of 20,000 km of optical fibre with a capacity of 1.28 terabits per second. And this will be the first cable that crosses over to another country over a land route, which has two landing stations in India, at Mumbai and Chennai. The cable links 14 countries that include the UAE, Egypt, Algeria, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh , India and Pakistan on its route from Europe to Asia.

Indo-Nepal IT highway opens

Nepal’s first information highway built with Indian assistance has been opened, slashing phone call rates and promising a boost to e-Commerce, telemedicine, TV and radio transmission links among other things.

The information highway is the single-most important step in developing rural infrastructure in Nepal. In 2002, India had pledged US$10.3 million for the construction of the East West Telecom Information Super Highway using a network of optical fibre that ended the dependence on satellites and reduced Nepal’s domestic trunk tariff from Rs 9 to Rs 5 and international trunk tariff for SAARC countries from Rs 45 to Rs 25. The project is expected to have a triggering effect by changing the entire ICT landscape in the Himalayan kingdom, eventually making phone connections available and affordable in rural areas where people have not yet seen a telephone set. It would also boost telephone traffic between India and Nepal with a proportional growth of subscribers in both countries.


Kenya enters global Information Highway

Kenya makes a dramatic entry into the information superhighway early in the new year with the completion of an optic fibre project from the Indian Ocean town of Mombasa to Nairobi.

The commissioning of the project by March, is expected to change the face of telecommunication as it is known in Kenya today with data travelling at unprecedented speeds, super clear voices and for once a reliable fixed telephony. The fibre whose construction works has already reached Athi River-all the way from Mombasa-means that a student who has been spending five hours at a cyber cafe communicating with a foreign university will now spend less that an hour for the same output.

Britain city hotspots to offer wireless Internet use

From March, residents in nine urban centres across Britain will be able to access the internet from their laptops outdoors, without cables, and use their mobile phones to make calls over the web after a small technology firm launches the first part of a nationwide WiFi network.

The move to roll out wireless Internet technology will threaten the revenues of Britain’s mobile phone operators. Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds are among eight cities, plus three London boroughs singled out for the installation of so-called ‘WiFi hotspots’. Together, the hotspots will provide blanket coverage of outdoor areas in the city centres.


Ghana gets place in country index for offshore services

Ghana has been named for the first time among the elite countries tracked for their attractiveness as locations for offshore services. It ranked 22 according to the annual ranking results for 2005 among 40 countries tracked by A. T. Kearney, one of the world’s largest management consulting firms based in the United States.

Ghana is now tracked in the index alongwith the only other country from Sub-Saharan Africa, that is South Africa, which ranks 32. This report comes as a great boost for Ghana’s efforts to establish itself as the communications hub of the Sub-Region and major destination for ICT investment in Africa.

Vietnam passes tax free list for ICT products

The Vietnam Government has approved in principal the finance ministry’s list of information and communications technology (ICT) products and its roadmap for tariff reductions until 2010 under the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) trade agreement.

Under the ministry’s plan, 325 ICT products including computers, printers, telephones, mobile phones, cameras, and digital media discs would be tax free, in accordance with the regional agreement.

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