" ITREALMS: February 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Joint efforts @ battling PC virus

Feature of the week:

The huge cost of damages incurred through infectious attacks by viruses at various stages have become a nightmare for stakeholders in their bid to encourage diffusion of Information and Communication Technology usage, reports Remmy Nweke.

STAKEHOLDERS in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are seriously concerned over the recent evolution of a deadly virus known as Conficker worm, also called Downadup computer virus.

Historically, according to an online encyclopedia, Encarta,virus is a software programme that is written purposely to “infect” other electronic data or system including computer files, usually ran as other executable programmes, structured in a way that makes it to insert a or copies of itself amidst those files.

The first virus, however, is Elk Cloner which was reportedly written in 1982 by Rich Skrenta, had attached itself to the Apple’s Disk Operating System (DOS 3.3). By 1986, the first specific Personal Computer (PC) virus known as cBrain, was discovered and macro viruses emerged in the mid-1990s. By year 2000, the Love Bug virus caused a stir globally with over $10 billion worth of damage recorded on computers and networks.

Within the computer security technology, experts at Webiq.com, for instance, described a virus as a self-replicating programme that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents. Hence, it could be said that a computer virus acts in a manner related to a biological virus, which spreads by inserting itself into living cells.

In a presumed extended analogy, the insertion of the virus into a programme is termed infection, thus, the infected file, mainly refer to as executable code that is not part of a file, becomes a host. Viruses are, therefore, one of the several types of malware also known as malicious software.

And in a layman’s parlance, as said by a Lagos-based Computer artisan, Mr. Jimo Idowu, the term virus is regularly extended to mean computer worms and other sorts of malware. This, he said, could confuse computer users, and as such viruses in the narrow sense of the word are supposedly less common than they used to be, especially when compared to other forms of malware such as worms.

He pointed out that although viruses could be intentionally destructive in terms of destroying data, several other viruses could fairly be gentle in approach or simply irritating. So, some viruses have a delayed payload, which is sometimes called a bomb. Idowu explained further by citing, for instance, that a virus could display a message on a specific day or wait until it has infected a certain number of hosts to be discovered by performing a function that could make it so discoverable or at most, hijack the system in question.

“Therefore, the prevalent harmful outcome of viruses is their unrestrained self-reproduction stanza, which most of the time overflood computer resources,” he said, stressing that nowadays, viruses have gained more popularity due to the spread of the Internet, just as anti-virus software, basically developed to guard against computer viruses, have increased tremendously.

Piqued by the dangerous trend of the likes of Conficker, software gaint, Microsoft Corporation, a fortnight ago announced that it’s aligning forces with coordinating agency for the Internet globally, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), alongside industry notables in leading an online arsenal to get to the root of this deadly virus.

To this effect, Microsoft also announced a reward of $250,000 (about N362,500) for any valuable information that could result in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the illegal and malicious Conficker. And as if this lamentation was not enough, it was penultimately reported that second version of Conficker has hit the Internet barely a week after the joint force was announced.

But association with security researchers, ICANN and operators within the Domain Name System (DNS), as well as Microsoft, disclosed that they had concluded arrangement to coordinate a response designed to disable domains targeted by Conficker.

Microsoft said that the $250,000 reward for information that results in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for illegally launching of Conficker’s malicious code on the Internet, was part of its ongoing security efforts.

The General Manager, Trustworthy Computing Group at Microsoft, Mr. George Stathakopoulos, noted that his firm had always been the forerunner in the search for ways to use a diverse set of tools and develop methodologies to protect customers.

As indicated by him,”By combining our expertise with that of the broader community we can expand the boundaries of defense to better protect people worldwide,” pointing out that as cyberthreats score raises astronomically, a greater level of industry coordination and new tactics for communication and threat mitigation are required.

He also said, multiple initiatives were being engaged across the security industry and within the academia, with Microsoft helping to unify these broad efforts to implement a community-based defense to disrupt the spread of Conficker.

Microsoft’s approach, he said, combines technology innovation and effective cross-sector partnerships to help protect people from cybercriminals, expressing the hope that these efforts would help to contain the threat posed by Conficker among other viruses, as well as hold those who illegally launch malware accountable.

Commenting on the joint force over Conficker, and likes, the chief Internet security advisor at ICANN, Mr. Greg Rattray, noted that the best way to defeat potential botnets like Conficker nicknamed Downadup, in some quarters of the industry, is by the security and Domain Name System communities collaboration. Assuring of ICANN’s support, he said, mostly in the areas of coordinating these kinds of effort to keep the Internet globally secure and stable.

Along with Microsoft, the 16 other organizations involved in this collaborative effort include ICANN, NeuStar, VeriSign, CNNIC, Afilias, Public Internet Registry, Global Domains International Inc., M1D Global, AOL, Symantec, F-Secure, ISC, researchers from Georgia Tech, the Shadowserver Foundation, Arbor Networks and Support Intelligence.

It was based on the misconceptions and threats surrounding the security of using ICT that a new fundamental role was added to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in compliance with the Action Line C-5 of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Action plans, as well as the 2006 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference which charged the Union to build confidence and security in the use of ICTs. Heads of states and governments and other global leaders who participated in WSIS as well as ITU member states entrusted ITU to take concrete steps towards curbing the threats and insecurities related to the information society.

Worthy of note is that the global business community lost estimated $1 trillion, about N148.7 tillion, to cyber criminals, especially on intellectual property and expenditures for repairing associated damages, according to a recent study by anti-virus organisation, McAfee, in the just ended year.

The outcome of the study made available to ITRealms Online showed that its projections were based on responses to a survey of more than 800 chief information officers in the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Japan, China, India, Brazil and Dubai. The respondents estimated that they lost data worth a total of $4.6bn (N684bn) in total and spent about $600m cleaning up after breaches.
Entitled ‘Unsecured Economies: Protecting Vital Information’ the study outcome was released at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Equally, there were some other interesting geographical-related results, even as over one quarter of the respondents said they avoid storing data in China, and 47 per cent of the Chinese respondents said they believed the US poses the biggest security threat to their data.

Although one may argue that Nigeria or Africa precisely was not mentioned in the study, the McAfee report was quick to caution that its discovery revealed that developing countries spend more money on protecting intellectual property than companies in Western world.

Just as respondents, noted that the ongoing recession is only increasing the security risk for corporations, with 42 per cent reporting that displaced workers were the biggest threat to sensitive information on the network.

Remarkable, also was that on May 17, 2007, ITU launched its Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) to provide a framework within which the international response to the growing challenges to cybersecurity could be coordinated and addressed in response to its role as facilitator for C.5. GCA benefits from the advice of a High-Level Experts Group (HLEG) composed by world-renowned specialists in cybersecurity, representing expertise from across a broad range of backgrounds in policy-making, government, academia and the private sector.

Above all, stakeholders at every strata of the society, be it state, nation or region and even corporate organisations, like Microsoft and some over 10 other entities did, need to seriously engage one another, so as to find a way if not ways out of the woods for a better computing in this ICT age.

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No plans to take Vista off shelf – Onyeje

Despite sudden large amount of complaints surrounding Windows Vista across the global, Microsoft Corporation, owners of the Operating System (OS), is not tinkering on taking the ‘dreadful’ version of its solution off the shelf.

This is coming as Microsoft has concluded plans to invest $7.1 billion in development of its data centre globally.

Country Manager, Microsoft Anglophone West Africa, Mr. Emmanuel Onyeje, told ITRealms Online in an exclusive chat in Lagos, weekend, that unknown to many people, Microsoft Vista sold more than ever anticipated in the history of the firm’s Operating System (OS).

Onyeje, who made these disclosures at the end of media enlightenment session organised by the Information and Communication Technology Correspondent Association of Nigeria (ICTCAN) for the first quarter, said that though there were so many security prompts in Vista, which have been taken care of in the forthcoming Windows 7, due to released before the end of this year, or at most the first quarter of next year.

According to him, Microsoft is investing heavily on data centre and has even gone ahead of hardware companies in its investment portfolio in this pecular area, which is regarded as alien to software companies like Microsoft.

“We buy about 15,000 servers every month,” he declared, stressing that it is only a company like Microsoft with global view that could make such an investment.

He also said that most of the issues with Windows Vista are well noted, even as some of them have been patched before now with upgrades. Onyeje butressed that Windows 7 has been built to cater for whatever shortfalls of Vista.

In addition, he said that most of the issues of Windows Vista, apart from the security aspect were based on perception by individuals, promising that Windows 7 has been streamlined to cushion that effect and many more.

He further advised Microsoft customers and end-users particularly to take advantage of the online services being offerred by the firm.

“Microsoft online service can reduce a customer’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO),” he said, emphasising that in recent years, customers have begun to recognise the values in Microsoft solutions.

The vision of the software giant, Onyeje said, is to create experiences that combine the magic of software, because they foresee a future connected to all sort of Information Technology (IT) devices.

He explained that what IT does to people is to make more people very agile in handling their jobs, just as Microsoft believes in the ability to allow people to communicate.

Onyeje who was accompanied at the parley by the public relations manager, Ms Ndidi Victoria Uwadoka, Development Platform Manager, Mr. Ken Spann, Lead, Emerging Market Services, Small and Medium Size Solutions and Partners Lead, Mr. Marius Moantsoga, Marketing Manager, Enterprise Partner Group, Mrs. Ejieke Maduka-Ezeadiugwu, and Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility Platform, Mrs. Jumia Ajijola, said that the misson of Microsoft in Africa is to ensure that it becomes a household name, so as to open Africa for the world to see.

Dwelling on essence of Microsoft evolution, Onyeje noted that at Microsoft, they create software; an instructions that helps electronic devices like computers, cars, and digital cameras work efficiently.

“Millions of people around the world use our technology every day, from multinational corporations that do business in many currencies and languages to small companies that count on just-in-time inventory systems to keep others flowing. Educators and students use our softwarre for lesson plans, homework, and collaborating on projects. In the homes, families manage their personal finances, share photographs and communicate online,” he asserted.

He recalled that Microsoft Nigeria was established in 2000 to deliver these solutions and services through local partnerships, and building local capacity in ICT.

“Microsoft Nigeria, currently works with over 1000 local partners to deliver business, eduction, communications and financial business solutions,” he submitted.

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Evaluating IGF tops agenda @ taking stock session

As door closed yesterday in Geneva on the Open Consultations for Taking Stock of the Hyderabad session of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held last December in India, assessment of how IGF faired since 2007, took the centre stage at the two-day evaluation meeting.

ITRealms Online recalled that Hyderabad meeting was the third in the series since the two-phased World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which took place in Geneva in 2003 and Tunisia in 2005. While there were IGF sessions in Athens in 2006 and Rio de Jeniro, Brazil.

Created as a follow-up for multistakeholders avenue for continuous deliberation on development and growth of the Internet in the Tunisia leg of WSIS, IG forum tends to improve the ability to foster dialogue on Internet governance.

Consultations, which was opened to all stakeholders globally commenced on Monday, February 23 and lasted till yesterday and is expected to come up with some strategies to transend beyond the Lithuania session in 2010, even as speculations are rift such sessions may come to an end.

As an intense session, stakeholders described the meeting as drifting towards the collective unconscious as the evaluation of the IGF topped agenda. Even as some others wondered if there is any value in continuing the IGF experience?Commenting on the revised synthesis paper on IGF in preparation by the IGF Secretariat, on the Open Consultations, made available to ITRealms Online, the United Nations (UN) SecretaryGeneral, Mr. Ban Kimoon, said that the forum is modest in its means, but not in its aspirations.

“Its hallmark is multistakeholder collaboration, based on the exchange of information and the sharing of best practices,” he said, stressing that this new form of international cooperation is both inclusive and egalitarian.

“And it presents governments, the private sector and civil society, including academic and technical communities, with the opportunity to work together towards a sustainable, robust, secure and stable Internet, as envisioned by the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society,” he said.

Equally on the agenda was the suggestions on how to improve IGF sessions, especially at the 2009 Meeting to be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and IGF review process.

The outcome of the additional questionnaire specifically administered to some key stakeholders after theHyderabad was released, which asked questions bordering on the processes of the IGF and the way forward in responding to the Tunis Agenda call for the SecretaryGeneral in tandem “to examine the desirability of the continuation of the forum, in consultation with forum participants, within five years of its creation, and to make recommendations to the UN membership in the regard.”

Also, it was learnt that IGF secretariat received three written responses from two organizations, two from dynamic coalitions and 26 questionnaire responses.

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Zinox introduces 13-hour battery laptops

Nigerian premier in computer manufacturing, Zinox Technologies Limited, has introduced 13-hour battery life laptops into the nation’s market.

The latest, called Zinox Bijimi PRO, according to the Corporate Affairs Manager, Zinox, Mr. Echika Ezuka, was an outcome of 18 months of extensive research, embarked upon by the company in partnership with its technical partners.

The research, he also said, came up with four additional exciting new and innovative features to the firm’s product portfolio.

The new features, he said, are designed to resolve most of the problems that users experience in their day-to-day computing activities.

He recollected that in the country, energy challenges have remained an uphill task for end-users.

“The Nigerian energy problem is permanently resolved for computing with the launch of the Zinox Bijimi PRO,” he said, describing the new product as the digital bull, Echika said it is robust but very stylish Laptop built for professionals that wish to survive the global financial crisis.

This Notebook which has been certified by Intel Corporation and Microsoft runs on latest Intel Power Processors T3400 and P8600, with 2.16GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB HDD, 15.4” display screen, Webcam, Bluetooth, Microsoft Vista Business/XP PRO. and comes standard with additional battery that gives the user a minimum of 13hrs interruptible usage of this world-class model. The Zinox Bijimi PRO, the Digital Bull, the exemplary workaholic, is exclusive to Zinox.

The Bijimi PRO adds real value to the bottom line said the Zinox Head of Corporate Communications, Mr. Echika Ezuka.

“The issue of the development of the African continent is the struggle against neo-colonialism and its agents of acculturation,” Ezuka said, while unveiling Zinox Bijimi Sage NoteBook.

He disclosed that it was designed to promote a consciousness in appreciation of the African continent’s great sages – Nelson Mandela, Jomo Kenyatta, Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Abdul Naser, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah to name a few.

“These great men laid the foundation of modern Africa and you can not appreciate Africa in the Digital Age without according them great respect. The Zinox Bijimi Sage Laptop is powered by the latest Intel Dual Core T3400 processor, with 2.16GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB HDD, 15.4” display screen, Webcam, Bluetooth, Microsoft Vista Home Basic and comes standard with additional battery that allows the user a minimum of 7hours of uninterruptible usage with one year comprehensive warranty and a specially dedicated support hotline.

This is the best way to re-brand Africa and remind all Africans that their destiny lie in providing responsible leadership for the African continent,” he said.

Ezuka further said that when size, convenience and speed are important the Zinox Smart Plus Notebook offers immense relief.

“This new generation Notebook is driven by the latest Intel Atom Processor and certified by Intel as a lead product for 2009 for highly mobile but knowledge acquisition focussed citizens,” he said.

The Zinox Smart Plus is in a class of its own. It has 10.2” screen, 1.6 GHz, 1GB RAM, 60 GB HDD, 1.3 mega pixel camera, wi-fi antenna, 2 USB (2.0) ports, headphone and microphone jacks, 6 cell Li-ion battery, Realtek audio system, a 1 year comprehensive warranty and is affordable.

The Head of Corporate Communications recommends that this model is best seen first to appreciate the wonders of digital intellectual capital in the 21st century. It comes in different certified colors of Red and pink that passed through the best coating certification laboratory in Japan and considered not expensive for the quality and design.

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ABC goes e-ticketing on InterSwitch

The Nigeria’s pioneer leading electronic payment company, InterSwitch has powered the leading transport firm in the country, the Associated Bus Company (ABC) Plc, with the introduction of electronic ticketing (e-ticketing).

Chief executive, ABC, Mr. Frank Nneji, made this known in Lagos, noting that road travellers using its fleets may no longer need to be physically present at bus terminals before they could book and pay for trips as the company has launched an e-ticketing service that enables customers to book and pay on-line and real time.

He also said at a press conference to announce ABC 2009 Travel & Win Promo last week, that the e-ticketing service was introduced to make life more convenient for its customers. “Once you have an InterSwitch enabled Nigeria Debit Card (ATM) or Verve card, you can buy ABC ticket on-line, real time from the convenience of your home, office or cyber cafe,” he explained.

Nneji commended InterSwitch, Nigeria’s premier transactions switching company and Fidelity Bank for a successful implementation of the e-ticketing platform. He also added that ABC is currently implementing a call centre to further make life easier for its customers and has completed full integration of GPRS tracking system in all ABC buses.

ABC e-ticketing platform is powered by InterSwitch’s PayDirect solution (Web Channel). PayDirect (Web Channel) is a secure internet payment gateway developed by InterSwitch to facilitate payments on the Internet (across various banks), using debit cards issued by banks on the network.

Currently, all Nigerian Debit or ATM Cards, Cash Cards and Verve chip and PIN cards are supported by this solution.

PayDirect (Web Channel) provides the simplest and quickest method of integrating e-commerce websites to the InterSwitch payment platform. It plugs-in seamlessly with existing websites and acts as a bridge between a merchant’s website and financial institutions (banks) that process payment transactions. Fidelity Bank is the processing financial institution for ABC e-ticketing services.

In her remarks, InterSwitch’s Chief Marketing and Client Engagement Officer, Mrs. Tito Adeniyi-Aderoju commended ABC for putting in place a loyalty scheme tagged “Travel & Win Promo” in order to reward loyal ABC customers. She added that ABC’s culture of enhanced customer convenience has continued to endear it to the travelling community in the country.

Aderoju said that InterSwitch is ready to collaborate with ABC to further make life easier for its customers by deploying various state-of-the-art electronic kiosks (e-kiosks) at the company’s terminals across the country. “Through the e-kiosks, customers would be able to check and send e-mails, pay bills and subscriptions (DSTV, HiTV and PHCN), recharge their mobile phones and perform electronic transactions while they are waiting to board the bus.”  

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NCC plans ‘One-way’ number porting

Telecommunications regulator in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), may be tinkering on implementing what industry observers described as ‘one-way’ Number Portability (NP) among operators.

Sources close to NCC informed ITRealms Online at the weekend that number portability would come in phases.

According to our sources, the 33-page consultation paper on ‘Implementation of Number Portability in Nigeria’ released recently was clear on the modules operandi to be used in the implementation of the project.

Our sources further noted that Number Portability (NP) allows subscribers to change their service provider without changing their telephone number.

“Number Portability offers immense benefits to subscribers because they can more easily change service providers without having to notify all of their friends and colleagues of a number change,” our source declared, stressing that this is very crucial to business subscribers.

In addition, ITRealms Online was told that NP is another tool to further increase the tempo of competition, among telecom service providers on issues of concern to the subscribers based on quality of service (QoS), cusotmer care, Value Added Services (VAS) to name a few.

Although our source was emphatic that most of the operators would not be smiling at NCC on this plan, but said that NCC is determined to go ahead with the initiative basically because it serves as stimulus for service providers to improve their quality of service and customer care options as well as availing them the option of entering into more roaming agreements through investment of some of their profits wisely.

“Typically, Number Portability (NP) rewards those service providers having better customer services, network coverage, service quality and pricing,” our sources said.
As indicated by NCC in the initial consultation paper, Number Portability will be implemented by all operators eventually in the country including exchange operators, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Next Generation Networks (NGN) operators and mobile operators.

“Transit or interconnection operators will also implement Number Portability as it relates to direct routing of calls to the proper serving or terminating network as calls traverse their network avoiding unnecessary rerouting of calls,” our sources further said.

Although NCC has concluded plans to deploy Number Portability, our sources said that it will be done in phases, which entails that under the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and between Fixed line Number Portability schemes respectively, would exist differently in the main time.

“Biomodal Number Portability, which means mobile to fixed or fixed to mobile will not be implemented at this time,” ITRealms Online was told, just as NCC is considering including the porting of Toll-Free/Free phone as well as Premium Rate Numbers and seeks comments from the industry regarding its implementation and timing.

“Mobile NP will be implemented first in Nigeria allowing mobile customers to port their numbers between the mobile operators, however, fixed and interconnect operators will implement within their networks the ability to perform direct routing of calls originating in or transiting through their networks to the proper terminating mobile network,” our sources submitted.

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Zain begins free internet access offer

As the tide for competition takes a new turn, Zain Nigeria, has begun its free Internet access offer to subscribers on the network.

Head, Corporate Communications at Zain Nigeria, Mr. Emeka Oparah, said the offer would last for one month in order to support the operator’s recent launch of Third Generation (3G) data services.

He said that from February 16 through March 15, 2009, subscribers on the network would have the rare chance of activating data services on their handsets and even migrate to its mobile internet offers on their computers.

Zain internet users, he said, would surf the net, access mobile friendly sites, download music and video, make video calls and generally enjoy the internet technology.

He also said the demand for the company’s internet data card and internet-enabled handsets since the launch of the 3G data service on January 28 this year, has been tremendous.

“We thought we should encourage this demand by easing subscription for one month in appreciation to the response,” he said.

Oparah explained that the flexibility of usage gives it a major edge over competition, “because Zain Mobile Internet service plans give users the option to choose their usage preference namely; Pay As You Use; Zain Day; Zain Lite; Zain Plus and Zain Max, where the difference lies in the total number of bytes, hours of usage and cost.”

Enlightening on the Zain Day, Oparah said it has been designed for customers who desire to have access to the internet on a 24 hours basis, while Zain Lite is designed for those that need to have access to internet and emails monthly with their mobile handset.

“‘Zain Plus’ is for subscribers who require moderate internet speed using the GPRS/EDGE technology and ‘Zain Max’ is designed for those who desire to have high speed internet connectivity in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt where the 3G network is available,” he said.

Oparah noted that at the end of the free access period, subscribers will have the opportunity to pick their preferred price plans upon activation of the service.

He further said the availability of the internet service to its subscribers across the country was another major boost to the record uptake of the service, because “all users can conveniently experience the service, no matter where they are in Nigeria.”

Except for video calling, which he said, is currently available to customers in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt presently, all other internet-based services are available wherever the customer may be nationwide.

Equally, he said, to enjoy the free Zain Internet offer, customers who prefer to activate the service on their computer should simply purchase Data cards and a data SIM card at any of the company’s retail outlets across the country.

For those who prefer the use of their mobile handsets, all that is required is to get their SIM cards activated for data services via SMS by simply texting the string – ‘internetphone typephone model’ to 232, and follow the instructions contained in the SMS response.

“We are also encouraging them to take advantage of the Zain Big Bang Promo which provides subscribers an opportunity to own an internet-ready HP Laptop through the HP/Zain Data card bundle promotion financed by Diamond bank,” he said.

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Glo ends Valentine promos

The Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) arm of the Second National Operator (SNO), Glo Mobile, has announced the conclusion of its dual Valentine promos for this year, which ended last Thursday, February 19.

Director, Marketing at Globacom, Mr. Jagatjit Singh, made this disclosure in Lagos, noting that Glo Mobile’s special Valentine promotions tagged “Valentine Getaway Promo” and “Valentine to Valentine Offer” have been brought to a close.

He said that the two promotions were launched on February 10 to celebrate the Valentine season and reward subscribers for their loyalty to the network.

In the Valentine to Valentine Offer, he said, all existing and new customers on the prepaid and postpaid platform who recharged with N500 and above daily from February 10 to 19 qualified for a daily draw to pick 100 winners who would be given N1,000 worth of airtime every month until the next Valentine in 2010.

Singh equally said that the total number of subscribers who were picked in the 10-day draw was 1,000, while the total value of airtime to be enjoyed by each beneficiary for the 12-month period is N12,000, adding, however, that the airtime is for Glo-to-Glo calls or Short Messaging Service (SMS).

On the Valentine Getaway promo, he said it offered subscribers the opportunity to be one of the lucky five who would spend an all-expenses-paid weekend with their spouses at the prestigious Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State.

Singh explained that a draw would soon be held to determine the five lucky winners out of the hundreds of thousands of subscribers who participated in the promotion.

The Valentine Getaway offer required subscribers to call 32001 and answer correctly three out of five short questions to stand a chance to have a Romantic Getaway, courtesy of Globacom.

“When the winners emerge via the raffle draw, they will then be asked to include the names of their partners they are taking along on the weekend getaway,” Singh explained.

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Windows Vista suffers set back

•As analysts skip

Software analysts have described the current buzz being generated by the Windows 7 as a challenge for Microsoft Corporation, as the software giant seem to be facing lots of obstacles in making Windows Vista, a business success.

According to a Gartner survey conducted in October last year and released recently, about 30 per cent of large businesses were likely to skip Vista and a significant number of other companies still hadn’t decided what to do, while anticipating that the main Windows 7 comes on board soonest to remedy upgrade situation.

Cnet reports that Plaudits for Windows 7 combined with a weakening economy, could mean as many as half of businesses deciding to skip Vista entirely, according to Gartner analyst Michael Silver.

“Anyone who was on the fence ... is now pretty much likely to skip,” Silver said, stressing that Microsoft is not trying to discourage businesses from going from XP to 7, but the company is offering a couple of warnings.

“They are incredibly excited [about Windows 7],” says Gavriella Schuster, a senior director in the Windows unit said. “We’re just trying to temper that ... so they are very realistic.”

Although Windows 7 is getting strong early marks, it is not a panacea yet for all of Vista’s pain, Schuster said.

“Businesses have to work through the same application compatibility issues to go from XP to Windows 7 as they would to move from XP to Vista. Although Windows 7 is designed to be highly compatible with Windows Vista, all the things that have made going from XP to Vista a challenge for businesses are also present when going from XP to Windows 7.

Schuster also notes that some of the business-oriented features of Windows 7 only really light up when a business also moves to Windows Server 2008 R2 and starts using Internet Protocol version six (IPV6) networking.

Furthermore, Schuster says, businesses that are going to wait for Windows 7need to pay close attention to their schedule for moving off of Windows XP.

Silver notes that companies find the end of life for the older operating system “kind of sneaks up on them”. In part, that is because Microsoft offers support for its software for so long. Typically Windows releases are supported, at least in some form, for a decade or more. Third-party software makers, however, are keen to support as few operating systems as they need to.

By 2012, he said, many software makers are going to be aiming to drop support for XP, particularly for the latest versions of their products.

In general, Microsoft said those close to deploying Vista should move ahead.
“Keep going,” Schuster said, adding that businesses that move to Vista will find that they will be in good shape to move those same machines to Windows 7.

In addition to the fact that many of the early compatibility and other challenges have been worked out, Schuster notes that many businesses now find themselves with a large number of Vista-capable machines — something that wasn’t the case when the software was initially released.

Schuster said many IT departments have been looking to Microsoft for some support that it still makes sense to move to Vista.

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SAP partners UNN on skills acquisition

Leader in business software provider, System Applications Products (SAP), is partnering with University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), to commence training of young and prospective students of higher learning as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Regional Manager, West Africa at SAP, Mrs. Olayemi Keri, said in Lagos, at a reception in honour of senior delegates from its African market who were in the country recently on a working visit.

She said that with a strong presence in Nigeria and as part of its CSR project, SAP in alliance with the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) have commenced the training of young and prospective students of higher learning as well as the Heads of Departments, in business solution programmes, which cuts across financial, oil and gas, human resource management that are useful in the operation of their businesses.

Just as SAP also train corporate companies, private enterprises and agencies.
The delegation which include Simon Paris, senior vice president SAP & Head Emerging Market EMEA, Pfungwa Serima, MD/CEO SAP Africa, Maphum Nxumalo, Chief Operation’s officer, SAP Africa were in the country as an expression of their commitment to the region with the intention to deploy more resources to the nation.

Mrs. Keri noted that SAP’s ambition in Nigeria is to invest in indigenous Information Technology (IT) organizations, financial services, telecommunications companies, oil & gas, including the small and medium organizations.

Pointing out that SAP was established in 1972 but came into Nigeria in 1998 with a vision to develop standard application software for real time business processing for diverse business industries with the aim of enhancing everyday transactions.

“Over 50 organizations in Nigeria use SAP as business solutions, some of which are FIRS-Debt management office, Delta State Government project e-Delta and Oceanic Bank Plc as well as Standard Bank Plc,” she said.

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How DOREGOS produced youngest MCP students

TITUS ELEWEKE reports in Daily Champion on the upsets made in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) by two pupils at Doregos Private Academy.

WHEN we read about young people making break-through and achievements in various fields such as medicine and Information and Communications Technology (ICT), most times we feel that such feat can only come from outside the shores of Nigeria.

However, this notion is fast changing gradually. When you talk about achievement in the field of Information Technology, the name Bill Gates is a household name considering the fact that he started at a very tender age of 13 and today owes the biggest computer corporation in the world, Microsoft.

Many Nigerians would like to know when a young Nigerian comes up with such an outstanding achievement considering the myriad of challenges facing the Nigerian child and the country’s level of involvement and development in ICT. For us, Nigerians, it would seem impossible at least for some years to come, but with the recent development, we do not need to wait for so long as the much awaited ICT revolution in Nigeria has began to take place from the Doregos Private Academy, Lagos.

On Friday 13th February, Davidson Oseremen and Alade Oluwaseun, aged between 12 and 13 respectively, emerged as the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) in the country.

The two students are in Senior Secondary one (SS1), Science students from Doregos Private Academy. In its bids to make in-road in ICT the school is one of the first to embrace ICT training for her students as introduced by New Horizons Systems Solutions Limited, the initiator and brain behind training of Information Technology courses in Nigerian schools; from primary to tertiary institutions.

The school, thus, started the ICT partnership programme with New Horizons Systems Solutions Limited in 2005, thereby making her one of the first schools in Nigeria to integrate ICT training into her academic curriculum from JSS 1.

It could be recalled that the proprietress of the school, Mrs. C.A. Doregos made a statement that “as a result of our ICT partnership with New Horizons Systems Solutions Limited, we stand a greater chance of retaining all the trophies and medals we have won in various ICT competitions in the past ...., our students also have a professional touch to computer training.”

The decision to embrace ICT by the school has endeared it to the hearts of many parents and guardians as records have shown that for some parents who came late to enroll their children in the school it was a case of being first come first serve as many were turned back because most of the classes were already filled to capacity.

This development is traceable to the disciplined, leadership and excellent management style of the management and staff of the school coupled with the partnership with New Horizons.

According to the proprietor of the school, Mrs. C.O. Doregos, since it started partnership with New Horizon, the school has won several awards both at the state and international levels. In 2008, the school won the best ICT students award in Lagos State.

She said Agu Agatha and Davidson Oseremen have assembled Personal Computer System at Sheraton Hotel and Towel in 2007. The school came first in the Young Science Technology Association competition held in Ibadan and later represented Nigeria in Brazil for the International Science EXPO where Nigeria won five medals and two trophies.

The school won three medals out of the five carted home by Nigeria and it came first in the National Secondary Schools Intellectual Capacity Building competition, and Nigerian Science Fair.

New Horizons, one of the world leading IT company and the first to fully integrate professional ICT certification courses into Nigerian universities and schools academic curricula has expressed happiness to be associated with these achievements, particularly the success of Alade Oluwaseun and Davidson Oseremen, for being the youngest MCPs’ in Nigeria.

New Horizon company implements world class-standard ICT curriculum using certified IT instructors with original courseware certified by IT vendors for training both primary and secondary students.

This achievement is in fulfillment of the vision of Bill Gates who desired that Information Technology be taught to young people across the world at a very early stage in life would bring about the sharpening of young Nigerians’ minds in IT related issues.

According to the principal of the academy, Mr. J.O. Adebayo ‘New Horizons no doubt packages World class ICT curriculum for our students and we are enjoying it’.

Also, the proprietress stated that she is happy and excited that her school has produced the youngest Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) in the country.

She said her students are doing well in ICT and other areas of education, because New Horizons has been a blessing to the school in terms of developing the ICT skills of the students

She advised school owners and administrators to allow professionals to handle their ICT training rather than allowing all comers to continue to teach their students, adding that this will have a great effect in developing technology in Nigeria by providing the right skills, knowledge and tools for the students.

She recommended New Horizons ICT Partnership programme to all schools, so that they can breed world class students that would be innovative in technology to change face Nigeria.

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Of financial Tsunami, recision and technology

Like the lava of an active volcano, the on-going global economic violence, which erupted in the second half of last year in the United States of America, the headquarters of capitalism and market economy, has become a monumental catastrophe sweeping away a whopping 51 million jobs world-wide according to the CNN survey.

There seems to be unanimity of opinion that the crises are unprecedented; no replica of it in History -not even the Great Depression of the 1930s. This will probably be the first time in living memory when the world will be contending with the twin-problems of untold financial famine vis-à-vis economic recession of this magnitude simultaneously.

Further more, no one knows how messy it will get before it starts getting better: are we actually at the beginning of the end, as Wilson Churchill, one time British Prime Minister once asked - or the end of the beginning?

Suffice to say that this is made in America crisis – even though the whole world is catching cold. It will be recalled that the chain of events arising from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the re-capitalization of AIG, CDOs, the merger between Citi and the Bank of America, the Madoff fraud juxtaposed with the sub prime mortgage crisis served as the immediate cause.

But by benefit of hindsight, the remote causes of this systemic failure could partly be linked to the rapacious greed of the business elite (the CEOs) and their irrational exuberances. Sadly enough, the US has not found the right formula with which to solve the current complex economic quadratic equation.

I will explain. When the Asian Tigers bubble went burst in the 1990S the three solutions prescribed by the ‘doctors’ of capitalism from the US to the then Japanese and Korean leadership were: one, do not throw good money against bad money, that is, allow all the sick companies and banks to die a natural death. Two, raise the lending interest rate. And three, increase consumption. That was then.

Now that the chicken has come home to roost and the ‘doctor’ is sneezing contagiously, it is amazing that the ‘doctor’ is administering the exact opposite of what it once prescribed: throwing tax payer money (good money) to save (bad money) the likes of AIG, GM, and Chrysler motors among others. Two, reduce the lending rate to below one percent. And three, reduce consumption. Even then the world leaders that gathered in Davos failed to come up with concrete actionable steps that can take us out of the woods.

This is a session of job losses; it poured on week4 of 2009: Caterpillar Company uprooted 20,000 of their staff in one day; the Japanese foremost computer maker, NEC shifted 20,000 staff into the labour market, while 19000 jobs were fumigated to death by Pfizer, ING bank sent home 2,500; Microsoft deleted 5000 jobs in one day; Phillips ‘electrocuted’ about 10,000 jobs; Intel, the Chips maker, interred 7000 jobs, while 5000 jobs were crushed by Honda car, UK. Boeing dropped 10,000 staffs; and Kodak offloaded 4,500 staff. ; About 20 million jobs in China and another 10 million in India are now history. The list is endless.

Almost all the FORTUNE 500 companies are bleeding. The crisis had consumed one European leader while the charismatic French President, Nicolas Sarkozy is sweating because of the on-going workers strike in his country. The French’s fear that bread may soon disappear from the table in France if a quick solution is not found to stop the rain of job loss is real.

Recall it was shortage of bread that led to the French revolts of 1830, 1884 and 1871 In Britain the new .slogan as people demonstrated on the streets is: ‘British jobs for the British people’.

Already, Americans are groaning. Just a few days ago, an American, Ervin Lupo killed his entire nuclear family in five minutes. when he shot dead his three girls and two boys together with his wife before he turned the revolver on himself. Reason? Lupo and his wife were among the thousands of Americans that were badly beaten by the Week4 2009 rain of job losses.

In his suicide note, Lupo called his family situation as tragic: ‘so after a horrendous ordeal, my wife and I feel it better to end our lives and why leave our children in someone else’s hands’. Another Lupo must not happen in the States otherwise the kitchen may get too hot, too early for President Obama.

Suddenly, economists have started taking another look at the viability and sustainability of American brand of capitalism in the New World. Is this the end of capitalism as a system as Karl Marx earlier predicted? True, Marx had earlier predicted that Capitalism in the ultimate analysis will go into self-liquidation as a result of apparent contradictions and lopsidedness in the distribution of income.

Some economists are advocating for social market economy- the Germany brand of capitalism.

President Sarkozy is calling for ‘moralization of capitalism’ with emphasis on entrepreneurship, work, and corporate governance. All said the videos of recession which we are watching life daily does not signify the demise of capitalism as a system. However, the unbridle globalization which has created bigger inequalities among nations and peoples, and therefore, makes it possible for the Americans and Europeans to eat themselves to obesity at the expense of the rest of the world should be reviewed with dispatch.

Where does all this leave Nigeria? The fact that we have not been badly hit like the Americans, the Europeans and the Asians in this crisis should not be celebrated by our rulers as a sign of sound economic heath. Rather, it epitomizes how inconsequential Nigeria and Africa economies are. The G20 nations control 86% of the world economy. We are not yet connected to the global economy grid.

FORTUNE 500 companies use Nigeria as a dumping centres not a production base. It is tantamount to deceit for CBN leadership to submit that the ‘fundamentals of Nigeria economy are strong’- one wonders from which Hymn book they are singing. Ours is a‘boju-boju economy’ (hide and seek): nothing is real-what you get is what you get and not what you see or hear.

The symptoms of grave illness are very glaring on our economy. With 70 per cent graduate unemployment rate, a dying real sector, a feeble financial sector, and a shrinking Oil sectors- we do not need a soothsayer to tell us there is fire on the mountain. All motion, no movement.

Going forward, for Nigeria to join the train of globalization it must transit from a manually-driven, oil-based economy to a technologically-savvy, knowledge –based economy with accent on productivity and accountability. We must come up with new set of values and principles that reward honest handwork, innovation and entrepreneurship and punish rent-collectors.

We need to re-define our relationship in the context of the emerging new globalization; a situation where we sheepishly open our doors to all sort of imported junks from China and India to the detriment of local factories should be reviewed. We are still lackadaisical and ad-hoc in our approach to the development of ICT in Nigeria.

Outsourcing can generate thrice the amount of dollars we make from oil annually if we remove the economic, cultural and attitudinal barriers that make cost of doing business in Nigeria prohibitive. The nations that will thrive in this chaos are the smart ones with vibrant middle class, leadership that are frugal and forward- thinking.

To become an outstanding outsourcing destination, Nigeria must infuse information communication technology in its DNA. Time to wear our thinking cap is today!

•Akano, CEO New Horizons, is a Leadership coach and seminar presenter on Innovation & Winning. timakano1@gmial.com / timakano@newhorizonsnigeria.com.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Benefits of call forwarding

Features of the week:

At the inception, it was in vogue to have more mobile handsets around, but these days, call forwarding, a Value Added Service (VAS) feature across mobile operators reduces the burden of carrying several phones around all the time, reports REMMY NWEKE.

IN the first six years of liberalizing the nation’s telecom sector, one thing that has assumed a fashionable daily feature of most Nigerians, is adorning themselves with as many mobile phones as possible in order not to miss any call except where they are ready to call back.

This attitude was attributed to the inability of the first national carrier, Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) to meet the demands of the people due to monopoly for over 40 years. Thus, the advent of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), over eight years ago, propelled most Nigerians now to have several mobile phones from different networks, simply because they want to keep in touch at all times and invariably save their own call credits as well as due to unreliability of networks.

Another significant aspect of the GSM advent has been the gradual unbecoming to carry all or more than two phones at once, and because they were already known with the different mobile numbers, as they found succour in call forwarding, which is in-built on their mobile handsets.

Call forwarding or call diverting as mostly used in various and modern handsets is a telephone feature on almost all telephone networks in the country today, which when activated permits any incoming call to a called party, which could be otherwise unavailable, not reachable, busy or even switched off in some instances, to be redirected to a given mobile or telephone number where the desired called party, that is the call recipient, is situated.

Today in Nigeria, the forwarded line could ring as many times as three times or as set time of one to five minutes, depending on handset manufacturer, before initiating call forwarding thereby re-routing the call, even as some inform the caller that his call is being forwarded through voice prompt or screen display.

Therefore, experts and mobile phone users agreed that diverting calls could increase one’s availability to a caller. The main alternative is an answering machine or voicemail, unfortunately, most callers do not like to leave a recorded message, suspecting that the party will delay in returning their messages, even as they would not have immediate access to the called party, in addition that retrieving such voice messages at times prove difficult.

Equally, it has been discovered that human touch could improve contacts, moreso personalized, hence, sales experts, for instance, believe that personal contact makes a relationship better, especially in a developing economies like Nigeria, no thanks to the current wave of economic meltdown sweeping across the globe.

Nevertheless, the traditional wired answering services were reportedly expensive, hence, people have their calls forwarded to a call center, so the client could reach an operator instead of an answering machine or voice mail.

Some services offer international call forwarding by allocating the customer a local virtual phone number which is forwarded to any other international destination, especially when the offices are closed on weekends or holidays.

A virtual telephone number or “virtual number” is a telephone number without a directly-associated phone line. Usually, these numbers are programmed to be forwarded to either a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, or to a different phone line, fixed or mobile.

Virtual numbers are sometimes used in conjunction with mail forwarding services to create a “virtual office” in a remote location. For instance, a company may purchase a virtual phone number with area code 01234, together with a mail forwarding service in Lagos, to give the impression that the company is located in Nigeria, when in fact it may be located in an entirely different country or continent. Toll-free phone numbers often are virtual phone numbers.

Consequently, virtual numbers are principally appealing to technology companies due to technical support for their services, which gives the feeling that the company is local and service companies such as call centers. Often, calls to toll-free support numbers in most countries of the world are actually connected to somewhere in India, especially from the United States, as a means of outsourcing.

Before now, the Universal Personal Telecommunications (UPT) numbers, Personal Numbering and Non-geographical telephone numbers in the United Kingdom (UK) are probably good instances of Virtual Numbers. Also, Vonage, SkypeIn (worldwide), Grandcentral of United States (US) and Flextel (UK) were prominent implementations based on significantly different business models of Virtual Centres, according to experts at Wikipedia Online, an open source encyclopedia.

However, with the present state of economic downturn, it has tremendously forced a lot more people to cut down on certain expenses including telephone bills by looking inward. While some still very much use their answering features, most telecom consumers in a poor country like Nigeria, have since turned home telephone numbers into liability which could be avoided by using one of those mobiles to connect other ones, that could still be left at home, after all, if a subscriber with multiple phones is attacked by robbers, tendency is that they would first of all take away all the handsets no matter how cheap they could be in the market.

But with call forwarding features, telecom consumers could without doubt forward all incoming calls to another phone, with definition of how they would want them to be forwarded. Take for instance, with most phones one could get to the tools’ settings from where you can choose phone with an outline of call, call divert, call barring and network.

By clicking on call divert, another options of voice calls, data and video calls as well as fax calls await you, but because most people would prefer to divert voice calls, it is advised that voice calls be picked, followed by the display of “all voice calls, if busy, if not answered, if not of reach or if not available.”

Thus, depending on the needs of individual telecom consumers, industry observers advised that if the need is to leave the phone at home, “you can pick on all voice calls” so as to forward every call to the mobile that is handy, basically the primary line.

Whichever that is chosen from the displayed option, the next step is either to activate, cancel or check status. And if the choice happens to be ‘all voice calls,’ another option of channeling the diverted calls to voice mailbox or to other numbers is available. To ‘other number’ is mostly useful for those who wish to have a given number permanently forwarded to another or precisely to primary line.

Hence, it was not surprising that an international businessman, Ogbuefi Stan, once found this as a solution to his challenges of carrying about five mobile phones, for the five GSM networks in the country, namely Zain, MTN, Glo, MTel which he replaced with ZOOMmobile and lately Etisalat, especially across the borders, but ready to pay the roaming charges. This is apart from other Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators existing in the country presently.

Ogbuefi Stan, was exposed to the benefits embedded in call forwarding when he traveled home last Xmas break and wanted to travel light, for fear of misplacing his expensive handsets. So, he was advised to make sure that there are credits on each one to be left behind in the city of Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of South-East and then divert all voice calls to the one he prefers, especially the network that has optimal service at Ideato, his home town in Imo State.

Luckily, he recently bought a dual Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) mobile phone, so he had the option of inserting his most anticipated networks available at Ideato on the phone after diverting the other three – Glo, MTN and Etisalat, thereby traveling with Zain and ZOOMmobile.

All through the duration he spent in the East, his phone was always on and he never missed any call until his return to Onitsha. That done, he soon was expected to travel to South Africa and having been there last quarter, where he even bought an MTN’s SIM, Ogbuefi Stan did not bother to approach any network operator for roaming purposes and repeated the call forwarding experiment on the international leg by embarking on the journey with his South African MTN’s SIM and Glo.

Generally defined as a term in wireless telecommunications, roaming refers to the extending of connectivity service in a location that is different from the home location where the service was registered with its origin traced to GSM and CDMA technologies.

So, according to Ogbuefi Stan, every other phone number belonging to him was forwarded to the MTN South Africa including the Glo he was traveling with; having remembered that the last time he was in Cape Town, late last year, the South African MTN was helpful in reaching his family members. The accompanying Glo was useful to reach out while still at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos and even on arrival back home to arrange for his pick-up.

Before departing via Lagos, Ogbuefi Stan, had once again loaded all his numbers with approximated N2,000 credits each and by the time he came back there were still some good amount of airtime left of the one week sojourn abroad. Remarkably, he received nothing less than 20 calls with pretty minutes on voice calls, 10 of which were diverted from his local phone numbers left back home in Nigeria.

For most of his callers, they never believed that he was not in the country except when Ogbuefi decided to announce his location and that he forwarded the local phone numbers to the one in use in South Africa and from then onward, he never again worried about roaming charges by some network operators and attendant registration hiccups, which runs into thousands of Naira.

May be, next time when you travel outside your immediate environment, you can give call forwarding a trial and avoid the risk of carrying several mobile phones around all the time.

Although one major fear that needed to be allayed here is that most calls forwarded is billed to the individual who forwarded his calls in most networks in the country and not the caller. So, when next you call and see ‘calling forwarding’ please do not terminate the call.

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e-Learning: Africa still @ infancy – Survey

A survey supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO’s) chair in Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) at the Royal Holloway University of London, has said that electronic learning (e-Learning) on the continent of Africa is still at infancy.

The survey which began in 2007 was conducted by a German-based organization, specializing on e-learning, alongside ICT4D Collective in cooperation with the Swedish Programme for ICT in Developing Regions (SPIDER), was concluded in 2008.

Outcome of the latest survey made available to Champion Infotel indicated that 42 African countries including Nigeria took part in the study, while Kenyans leading in the number of 316 total respondents with 46, followed by South Africa with 38, Nigeria - 35 and Uganda 25 through a questionnaire circulated in 2007 to the e-Learning Africa database.

The figure of participants, the report said, represented 4 per cent of the people on the database and reflected most committed populace in the use of e-Learning within Africa.

The study also said that respondents provided a wide variety of information about their e-learning practices, which formed its three main conclusions, including that there is a wide variety of different e-learning practices in Africa; e-learning is still very much in its infancy across most of the continent; and there is much enthusiasm amongst respondents for developing e-learning potentials in their countries.

It further identified some key constraints in seeking to implement and developing e-learning strategies and practices, which comprised the lack of infrastructure, particularly connectivity and especially in the rural areas as well as the need to appropriately train and provide capacity development, lack of relevant digital content and the cost of implementation.

Out of the 316 respondents, the study revealed that 25 per cent were women while 75 per cent were men with 118 represented.

It was gathered from the survey that African countries offer various courses addressed by e-learning, comprising higher education which amounted to 53 per cent, continuing education -37 per cent, vocational - 23 per cent, secondary school - 22 per cent, informal/non-formal - 22 per cent, technical education 21 per cent, primary school – 10 per cent and special education - 9 per cent.

Meanwhile, because, many respondents were unable to say which Learning Management Systems (LMS) they were using, the management of ICWE has decided to conduct another survey on LMS.

Beate Kleessen of ICWE GmbH, said that the study highlighted rather low use of formal Learning Management Systems (LMSs) in universities, colleges and schools across most part of the continent, but another survey is underway to focus on exploration of LMS.

“We’re therefore conducting a more detailed survey to explore how LMS are currently being used, and what users would like to see in them,” Kleessen said.

The survey which has taken off, Kleessen said, has 15 questions about LMS and nine (9) questions about the characteristics of respondents.

“It should take less than 10 minutes to complete,” Kleessen declared, encouraging interested online enthusiasts to fill in the word document version which could be sent back to survey-lms@elearning-africa.com or use the online form at http://survey.rhul.ac.uk/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=m6K3l95.

Promising that all information given in the survey would be treated anonymously, unless respondents explicitly asked to be mentioned by name. The current survey would be open until February 28th.

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Microsoft, ICANN fights against Conficker virus

OBVIOUSLY disturbed by the security lapses surrounding the evolution of Conficker worm, otherwise, known as Downadup computer virus, software gaint, Microsoft Corporation, and coordinating agency for the Internet globally, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), have joined forces with other industry notables in leading an online armoury to upstage the virus.

This is coming as Microsoft, last weekend, dangled a reward of $250,000 (about N362,500) for any valuable information that could result in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for illegal and malicious Conficker.

In association with security researchers, ICANN and operators within the Domain Name System (DNS), as well as Microsoft, have concluded arrangement to coordinate a response designed to disable domains targeted by Conficker.

A press statement from Microsoft said that the $250,000 reward for information that results in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for illegally launching of Conficker malicious code on the Internet, was part of its ongoing security efforts.

General Manager, Trustworthy Computing Group at Microsoft, Mr. George Stathakopoulos, was quoted as saying that his company had always been on the vanguard of constantly looking for ways to use a diverse set of tools and develop methodologies to protect the customers.

"By combining our expertise with that of the broader community we can expand the boundaries of defense to better protect people worldwide," he said.

He pointed out that as cyberthreats score raises astronomically, a greater level of industry coordination and new tactics for communication and threat mitigation are required.

To achieve this, he said, multiple initiatives are being employed across the security industry and within academia, with Microsoft helping to unify these broad efforts to implement a community-based defense to disrupt the spread of Conficker.

Stathakopoulos stressed that Microsoft's approach combines technology innovation and effective cross-sector partnerships to help protect people from cybercriminals.

"We hope these efforts help to contain the threat posed by Conficker, as well as hold those who illegally launch malware accountable," he said.

Also commenting, the chief Internet security advisor at ICANN, Mr. Greg Rattray, was quoted as saying that the best way to defeat potential botnets like Conficker/Downadup is by the security and Domain Name System communities working together.

"ICANN represents a community that's all about coordinating those kinds of efforts to keep the Internet globally secure and stable," he said.

Along with Microsoft, organizations involved in this collaborative effort include
ICANN, NeuStar, VeriSign, CNNIC, Afilias, Public Internet Registry, Global Domains International Inc., M1D Global, AOL, Symantec, F-Secure, ISC, researchers from Georgia Tech, the Shadowserver Foundation, Arbor Networks and Support Intelligence.

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Etisalat’s Adopt-a-School Initiative kicks off

AS part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) the fifth Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operator, Etisalat Nigeria has kicked off its Adopt-a-School Initiative (ASI) with the renovation of Akande Dahunsi Junior and Senior Secondary School Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State.

The Adopt–a-School Initiative (ASI) is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between Lagos State Government and business organizations in the state. ASI is designed to improve the deplorable state of public schools in Lagos by urging corporate bodies to get involved in upgrading public schools through strategic support in whatever area they choose.

The public relations manager, Etisalat Nigeria, Mr. Yinka Ijabiyi made this disclosure, last weekend, and said that the programme, avails Etisalat to help alleviate the infrastructural challenges being faced in the nation’s education sector.

The company, he also said, begun the total renovation of the schools’ infrastructure which includes the re-tiling of walls and floors, borehole reconstruction, upgrading and renovation of toilet facilities with state of the art plumbing system.

“Etisalat also intends to build and stock a new comprehensive library as well as upgrade the schools’ science laboratory and music studio amongst other facilities,” he said.

Equally speaking, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Etisalat Nigeria, Mr. Wael Ammar noted that as a responsible corporate citizen, the telecom operator is committed to educational development in the country.

“We believe that our contribution will go a long way in ensuring that children learn in a conducive environment thereby enhancing the quality of education obtainable in public schools. Etisalat is proud to be part of this laudable initiative,” he asserted.

In addition, he revealed that Etisalat has advanced plans to undertake the refurbishment of Rabiatu Thompson and Edward Blyden Primary Schools.

“Our plan is to upgrade the facilities within all the schools we have adopted,” he said.

Just recently, Etisalat gave support to the 4th annual Student Trade Fair, which held at the University of Lagos as the major sponsor of the fair.

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CITAD’s ICT incubator opens

THE Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has announced the commencement of its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) business incubator programme.

The programme, which commenced Monday, February 2, 2009 is to take the 16 pioneer youth to the next level in their lives, according to the Executive Director, CITAD, Y. Z. Ya’u.

He disclosed this in a press statement made available to Champion Infotel, saying that the 16-youth were selected from the best of the 300 people who participated last year in the Microsoft cum United States’ Government supported Employability Programme that CITAD and LEAP Africa are implementing in Kano.

He said that the ICT business incubator initiative as conceived by CITAD is aimed at nurturing the young people to become ICT businesses entrepreneurs.

“The Incubator programme consists of three components,” he said, stressing that the first batch is a training programme on ICT entrepreneurship, which would last for three months.

He explained that during the period participants would in addition to deepening their ICT skills, gain training in such skills as website design, video/film editing, ICT equipment maintenance among others.

“They are also to be couched in Small Scale business management and marketing as well as in communication and negotiation skills,” he said.

During this period, Ya’u said participants would be encouraged to sit for relevant professional examinations such as those organized by the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN).

Stressing that at the end of the three months, “they will undergo a 3-month business internship during which they are expected to produce business plans.”

He emphasized that these business plans would be discussed with a team of CITAD business advisers and once agreed upon, his organization would then provide the needed business support on grantorship.

At the end of the business internship, he said, the successful participants are expected to set up their own businesses.

“At this stage CITAD would provide business mentoring support, networking, professional upgrading and virtual office space for the participants,” he said.

Equally, he said that six months preceding the establishment of own businesses, they would be used to incubate and it is expected that at the end of the year the participants would graduate to full business entrepreneurs.

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New Horizons takes X-project to FCT

REPUTED Information and Communications Technology (ICT) training firm, New Horizons Systems Solutions Limited, has finalized plans to host another round of X-project also tagged Infotainment, at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

Managing Director, New Horizons, Mr. Tim Akano said all is now set for the Abuja version of the event bill for Friday, February 20, 2009, at the Veledrome Centre, Abuja National Stadium beginning by 4p.m.

According to him, the musical jamboree cum information technology concert is expected to have all the glitz, glamour and quality entertainment synonymous with Musical Rave of the moment X-Project.

"The event will feature a one-of-a-kind performance by the host of the day and multi-talented radio presenter Steve Onu a.k.a. YAW of WAZOBIA FM, " he said.

Akano also noted that the programme would attract over 10,000 young Nigerians from across the country and will give these teeming youths the much needed information that will help them take the right steps towards self fulfillment and actualize their dreams.

Major highlight of the event will be the award of 500 tuition free scholarships to first to register candidates.

Other events at the programme, he said, would be the delivery of various topics one of which is “The Seven IT Skills of Fortune.”

“Our goal, each year, is to surprise ourselves and others by the creativity, distinctiveness, and reach of those we identify and support, in this case the Nigerian Youths and the young at heart in general and our Century Nigeria project, "he said.

Pointing out that the “Century Nigeria” is aimed at reaching and empowering the Nigerian youth through Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in a bid to develop the future workforce of the country.

“The goal is to make the Nigerian youth understand the challenges underlining poverty and provide them with skills on how they can use ICT to solve those challenges, thereby making Nigeria a better country to live in,” he said.

Akano recalled that in 2008 alone, New Horizons conducted five seminars on ICT and attracted a crowd of more than 120,000 participants in 10 locations across the nation.

The company which began operation locally about four years ago, prides itself as the first and only training institution in Nigeria to integrate ICT Certification based training with academic training in the universities and secondary schools.

Currently, he said, his firm partners with some institutions including University of Ibadan, Lagos State University, Babcock, Covenant, Crawford, Crescent, and Lead City Universities.

“As a result of this initiative, New Horizons trains over 20,000 students annually in several universities and secondary schools in Nigeria,” he said.

New Horizons also provides comprehensive and cost-effective training for individuals and corporate bodies that want to expand their IT skills in their current professions or to take the first step towards new careers.

The company equally has partnership with Microsoft, Oracle WDP Programme, Cisco Academy, Sun Java Academy, EC-Council University, and EC-council and has won many awards in recent times.

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Ejoh wins jackpot @ MTN Treasure Hunt promo

MOBILE telecom provider, MTN Nigeria, has rounded off its suspense filled Treasure Hunt promo with a presentation of N10 million jackpot winner.

The jackpot marked the full course of the 100 day promo, with Mrs. Taiwo Temitayo Ejoh, a civil servant, emerged the star winner in the MTN Treasure Hunt promotion which ended last week Tuesday February 3, 2009.

She was pronounced the winner of the N10 million jackpot prize at the final presentation ceremony, which took place penultimate Wednesday, February 11 2009 in Victoria Island, Lagos.

Reacting to the prize, Ejoh said, she had expected to win because she played with the aim of winning the ten million naira as she believed strongly in MTN.

“It took a lot of time, money, psychology, luck and prayers, because winning the MTN Treasure Hunt promo was business for me,” she said.

She appreciated her family and friends whom she had deployed to play for her while she was at work.

Other winners who emerged at the final prize presentation ceremony include Ezekiel Adebo and Pieston Ikogho, who won N2m each and five other people who won consolation prizes of handsets, Television set and Digital Video Display [DVD] .

Presenting the cheques to respective winners, General Manager, Consumer Marketing at MTN, Mr. Kolawole Oyeyemi, said that MTN prides itself as a brand that impacts people and that the objective is to better the lives of Nigerians.

He reiterated that the short messaging service [sms] -based consumer promotion which begun on the 27, October 2008 and ended on February 3, 2009 has produced over 325 winners and that selection of winners was done randomly until the emergence of the N10m winner.

Mr. Oyeyemi noted that the MTN promo was a promo that defied fraudsters who tried to manipulate participants in the promo. He said “subscribers were advised to visit the authentic MTN website for information – www.mtnonline.com. Only a big brand like MTN could promise and deliver on it.”

In all, 100 people emerged N1 million winners, 14 people emerged N2m winners and 1 person emerged the jackpot winner of N10m.

He further said MTN spent a total of N145 million in running the MTN Treasure Hunt promotion, the 100 days promo aimed at making a millionaire a day for 100 days. The company spent that amount of money because it believed in keeping its promises.

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Senate, NCC to host telecom forum

SENATE Committee on Communication in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Ministry of Information and Communication, have concluded plans to host stakeholders forum at the nation’ Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja next month.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Sylvester Anyanwu, gave this indication in a chat with newsmen in Lagos, last weekend.

He said that the proposed two-day telecom stakeholders’ forum has been scheduled to hold between March 26 and 27, this year, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

This, he said, became paramount to usher in a new wave of development in the nation’s telecommunications sector, also assured on the positive efforts of his committee in ensuring that the on-going review of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 is improved upon to uplift the socio-political situation of the citizenry.

Anyanwu said the forum is expected to attract who-is-who in the telecommunications industry including sub-sector individuals to brainstorm on the way forward for the nation.

Stressing that the standardized review of the Act would pave the way for both political and economic co-existence and development for the country.

“Since Nigeria is the largest growing telecommunications country in Africa, it makes it necessary for the country orchestrate the review of the Communications Act 2003, in order to comfortably lay claim to our behemoth position,” he declared.

According to him, the forum promises to buttress the promises to further encourage development in the country.

Responding to questions, Anyanwu noted that telecom sector has been one of the most active, and most talked about sector of the economy in the country for the past eight years.

“I guess, and I know remarkably well that by 1999 we had just 250,000 telephone lines working and today, I can assure you that we have over 60 million people using telephone in this country and so that growth is very remarkable within a stretch of eight years or less,” he said.

Pointing out that the sector has also a lot of challenges that could be surely corrected if the will and the commitment are there.

One of such challenges, he said, is the issue of power supply which the federal government is working seriously to address, “because power constitute almost 50 per cent of the running cost of all the business here in Nigeria, including telecom and secondly the issue of providers with their very high tariff and that of dropped calls and incomplete calls, that has bothered the committee a lot.”

He recalled that in 2007 there were a stakeholders meetings and public hearings where these issues were discussed, we have had series of meeting with all the providers both the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and fixed operators on this issue.

“And that Nigerians are getting worried about the level of service delivery and we need to get the valve of money in whatever we spend, so we decided to talk to them, and in 2007, you remember the 2007 December – January 2008, it was terrible so we had to come out with a blue print of 12.7 million dollars sent to subscribers by air time,” he submitted.

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Bizman tasks FG on substandard CDMA phones

A concerned Nigerian and international businessman, Mr. Christopher Chukwurah, has raised alarm over substandard phones being flooded in the markets by Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators. He also warned that the Federal Government should take drastic action so as to save the lives of its citizenry.

The businessman, who trades on mobile phones told newsmen recently in Lagos that those phones do not have anti-radiation devices and can cause brain cancer to their users in the long run.

“When you use these phones to make call for about two to three minutes it would start getting very hot, showing that the phone doesn’t have anti-radiation. And that carries radiation directly into someone’s ear, which can in future cause a lot of brain complications, resulting in brain cancer in the country.

“They sell these phones as cheap as N1,500 in the name of bonanza, while competing among themselves. I have dismantled the phones and found out that they don’t contain a lot of ICs mobile phones are supposed to have.

“Federal Government should act quickly by stopping these companies from bringing these phones into the country for the safety of lives of its citizenry, since the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) is not doing its job,” he said.

Chukwurah further urged the government to lift the ban on some contraband, especially vehicles, adding that such ban encourages high level corruption among Custom officials.

“I cannot understand why government should place a ban on importation of vehicles that are above eight years whereas vehicles that are as old as 30 years are still being used in the country.

“You can only put such embargo when you are producing your own, but here in Nigeria, we are not producing. So, what alternative has government provided?,” he wondered.

He advised Customs officials to shun feeding fat from contraband goods and extorting huge amount of money from importers while the government and its citizens lose.

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Vision Tech introduces WydeVoice

VISION Telecommunication Technologies (VTT) Limited has introduced WydeVoice, a seamless conferencing facility which accommodates about 10,000 callers at the same time into the market place.

This, the company said was in the move to expand the front line of individual and corporate communications, trainings and other information sharing needs nationwide.

Managing Director, VTT Limited, Mr. Michael Adesola Dada said at the launch in Lagos, that the WydeVoice is available presently in two sizes, namely the VM1000 and the VM3000 with audio conferencing bridges and web conferencing with voice biometric security and real time audio ad insertion.

“With 16 bit 16 kilohertz (khz) voice quality and carrier grade reliability, WydeVoice allows easy integration with third party web applications and accesses conference calls via headphone, softphone, Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and by its design facilitates flexible call flow,” he said.

Also, he said, unique features and capabilities of that WydeVoice is the first of its kind in Africa and that its introduction into the Nigerian market was borne out of the determination to contribute to the growth of the telecommunications industry by creating a more robust, reliable, qualitative voice communication and audio conferencing technology to end users at the cheapest cost.

Noting though that there had been some conferencing products in the market already, he said that WydeVoice offers a broader, multifunctional and secured communication option to users with its unique features of voice biometric security, thousands of Virtual Meeting Rooms on a single appliance enabling it to deliver qualitative services at minimal cost.

“The coming of this product will usher in a new vista of information sharing and business opportunities to individuals and corporate organizations in such a way that would enable them to leverage their market competitiveness, strategic collaboration and training at all levels of their operations,” he said.

Additionally, he pointed out that the product could generate income for investors who use it for commercial purposes.

“This is a new technology that is coming to Africa and Nigeria is the first point of entry. We should be proud as Nigerians for having the product delivered to us with full technical support and after sales services,” he declared.

Stressing that when GSM technology came at the wake of liberalizing the sector, a few years back, many people said it is not going to work.

“From our observation, a lot of companies came in and are now reaping the benefits while those that doubted are now left in the cold,” he said, advising that Nigerians, particularly the network providers, legislators, bankers, oil and gas operators, and those at the helm of affairs at tertiary institutions to take advantage of the immense benefits associated with this product in areas of information sharing, learning, training and other areas of our national endeavours as a means of achieving sustainable development in the country.

“As we all know, information is power and it is only those who have access to it and manage it efficiently that will continue to determine the fate of others who have no access. Our appeal therefore goes to all Nigerians to work together with us and make us reap the immense socio-economic benefits of the technology”, he said.

Dada further explained that Vision Telecommunications Technologies Limited is a non-exclusive representative of the United States (US)-based WydeVoice, the manufacturers of the product, in the African continent.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

MainOne Cable acquires landing sites in Lagos, Accra

Telecommunications infrastructure provider, MainOne Cable Company, has acquired landing sites in both Nigeria and Ghana where it has requisite rights from the regulatory organs in these countries.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), MainOne Cable Company, Ms. Funke Opeke, made this disclosure in Lagos, at the weekend, saying that work has commenced on the project with initiation of survey in Portugal and surveys of the landing sites in both countries.

"We had an engineering team working with us in Accra last week and this week the team has been busy conducting detailed surveys and design reviews at our sites in Lekki-Lagos, where we will land the cable and build our cable station to house the equipment to power the cable and interconnect our network with those of other operators," she said.

Opeke also said that work on site has gone well and her company will finalise the designs on schedule, so as to apply for necessary approvals and plans for construction.

Stressing that the actual cable to be deployed in the project would be manufactured according to laid down engineering specifications before the end of the year.

In addition, she said that between Nigeria and Ghana, the regulatory environment is relatively the same with regards to the granting of pioneer license in the two West African countries.

"The fees were not onerous in Nigeria and Ghana in terms of obtaining pioneer licenses and its more or less and there is a high degree of responsibility," he said.

Ms Opeke further said that her firm has a vision to build the first private sector led and funded international telecommunications highway between West Africa and the rest of the world.

"We have established a group holding company across several countries in Africa and Europe to make this happen," she said.

Emphasizing that the operational headquarters will be based in Nigeria, highlighting the fact that MainOne has secured pioneer international fibre optic cable landing licenses in Nigeria and Ghana.

"We’re well positioned to be the premier and preferred wholesale international bandwidth provider in these markets," she said.

Assuring that the make up of the combination of the firm’s team of highly experienced professionals and selection of world class companies to work with, makes the company confident about successful delivery of the network.

The mission of the company, she said, is to bridge Africa’s digital divide by providing telecommunications infrastructure that enables cost effective access to global information, while its goal centres on building the most trusted, scalable and professionally managed international fibre optic network on the continent.

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Intercontinental Verve card debuts

Intercontinental Bank Plc has launched a multiple chip and Personal Identification Number (PIN)-based electronic card, known as ‘Intercontinental Verve Card,’ thus making it the first bank in the country to introduce such a card.

Speaking during the launch at the bank’s corporate headquarters in Lagos, the Group Chief Executive, Intercontinental Bank Plc, Dr. Erastus Akingbola, said his bank is the first to officially launch the Verve chip and PIN loyalty card, which is created by Nigerians for the global market.

Describing the occasion as a feat for the bank, Akingbola commended the electronic banking cum card services group of the bank for their spirited efforts at ensuring that Intercontinental remain a trail blazer in the deployment of Verve cards.

“Today’s ceremony is another celebration of another feat as Intercontinental Bank through today’s event becomes the first Nigerian bank to issue the Verve chip and PIN with loyalty card created in Nigeria for the world,” he said.

Stressing that with this development, a new symbol of technological progress is making headlines in the Nigerian e-banking industry.

Recalling that last year, the apex bank in the country, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had mandated all banks to comply with the issuance of chip and PIN based and Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV) compliant cards, before the end of second quarter of 2009.

In line with this, he said, Intercontinental Bank Plc has upgraded all its channels to honour transactions initiated from these kinds of cards.

“Our staff from relevant departments were also trained on different aspects bordering on card operations, card issuance, business and product development dynamics set around the functionalities of these cards,” he said.

Presently, Akingbola pointed out that his bank has taken delivery of two brands of chip (Verve) cards and is working on the modalities involved in migrating all its customers to the new enhanced and more secured EMV chip and PIN Verve payment card on the InterSwitch platform.

Also speaking, Managing Director of pioneer electronic payment switching company, InterSwitch Limited, Mr. Mitchell Elegbe, explained that Verve is a chip based card that offers more security to the end-user than was ever available in the e-payment solution in the country.

“Verve was manufactured by Nigeria for the world,” he said, reiterating that the product debut was in compliance with the CBN directive to banks to migrate all card in the country to a truly global chip card.

“We want to ensure that Verve is used across Africa and I want to assure you that it could be used in any Intercontinental Bank Automated Teller Machines (ATMs),” he said.

According to him, the card has the ability to execute biometric functions, noting that Intercontinental cards could be identified with the bank’s name and logo, even as the reward system is built into the Verve card.

“Verve card is a step up from what currently existed,” he said, pointing out that there exist various reward formula including instant discount, coupon, point accumulation.

Equally, Divisional Head, e-banking at Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mrs. Chinyere Don Okofo, said that the bank is not likely to introduce any form of additional charge to migrate to Verve card.

“Our customers have been using their cards well discounted,” she said, assuring that Verve has a strong loyalty platform upon which the bank intends to reward customers who use it through Point of Sale (PoS), web purchases and ATM transactions very handsomely.

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Experts predict boom for Open Source

Experts at the just concluded Intellect Annual Regent Conference 2009, which held in London, have predicted that traditional technology vendors face tough times as the occasion calls for alternative technologies available in Open Source.

Chairman of analyst house TechMarketView, Mr. Richard Holway, was quoted as saying in a report by ZDNet that in a recession people would actually get an accelerated adoption of new technologies.

Chief research officer and senior vice president at IDC, Mr. John Gantz, concurred, saying that the economic crisis would force some companies to make technological changes they may not have made.

Some of these alternative technologies, experts listed to include software-as-a-service (SaaS), open-source software and cloud computing, all of which go against the business models of the tech old guard or at best the proprietary methods.

Holway also said some companies would find it increasingly difficult to remain relevant as businesses realize the benefits of this technology during and after the economic slump.

These emerging technologies will provide better value for money as businesses struggle with cash flow but could also prove to be better bets in the long term as well.

"Leading technology users will use the downturn to pull further ahead," Gantz said.
Holway noted that he thinks there are now bigger opportunities for change than ever before, warning "I believe the power of Microsoft over the next period will be severely weakened. The whole model that Microsoft has got is under severe threat."

Ian Smith, ex-regional senior vice president for Oracle UK and now managing partner at AndersonBick Consultants, said: "SAP, Oracle — if they're not prepared to change, potentially, they are dinosaurs. If these companies aren't smart, they could become dinosaurs."

Kate Craig-Wood, managing director of hosting company Memset, said open-source technology could also be a big winner as a result of the economic crisis.

She said: "I think the current period could be a catalyst for a large move to open source. Again, I think that's a big threat to Microsoft."

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