Monday, October 31, 2005

The 2005 WSA catalgue is out!

Coming home from Brussels, I discovered five boxes in the corridor to the office. They were very heavy. First thought: it must be printed matter. And it was. The boxes contained the 2005 catalogues of the World Summit Award. They are right in time for Tunis and for the Fill the Gap III event in The Hague on Thursday.

The catalogue has the same format as the 2003 edition, which was published for the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Genf (Geneva). Of course it contains all the 40 best practices selected by the Grand Jury in Bahrain last September. It also presents 25 Special Mentions, distributed over geographic regions.

In all, 65 best practices are being presented in screen dumps and text with information and contact details about the producer. New in the catalogue is the flash backs on 2003 best practices and what happened after Genf. The Chilean product Easy Procedures led to a significant increase in visits. The Estonian Doc@Home application for monitoring of patients at home is now being sold through a subsidiary in the UK to countries like Finland, Germany and Portugal. The fabulous encyclopaedic game TimeHunt considered winning the WSA a fantastic honour; pitiful they did not gain more funding, which they should. The Indian N-Logue project setting up kiosks in villages has gained credibility with the government and project people are now working on 3.000 kiosks serving 90 million people in the next two years.

The winning 40 best-practices will be celebrated at Tunis during the second leg of the WSIS with a great Gala. After that they will be demonstrated on a world wide road show for the next two years.

The catalogue is a handy tool for people involved in content production. Too often new projects are branded unique. In practice this usually means: we did not look around. The catalogue gives some nice hints for projects in e-government, e-culture and the other categories. Together with the 2003 catalogue it presents a nice overview of the best practices in the past years.

The title of the catalogue New Media for a Better World also bears out the mission of the WSA. It is not just a competition to compare technologies or design. But it is an initiative to inspire the world to use the technique and design in the best interactive contents and innovative applications in the world.

Where can you get the catalogue? The catalogue will be online from Tunis onwards as is the 2003 version on the WSA site. But if you want to get the print issue, there are two messages. One message is that the catalogue is for free. Second message is that you will have to undertake some effort to get it: this week in The Hague at the Fill the Gap III manifestation on November 3rd, 2005 and of course at the WSA exhibition booth at the WSIS in Tunis and during the WSA Gala at November 16, 2005. And if you cannot be there, watch out for the various roadshow events, which will be announced at the WSA site.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Dutch press discussion

A new discussion on the press rages in the Netherlands. The newspapers are concentrating in large corporations. Roughly five companies dominate the market nationally and regionally. Some small players are active in the niche markets. Three companies De Telegraaf, PCM and Wegener hold 86,7 per cent of the market. As these companies see their daily run go down for more than four years, they look at other expansion opportunities. So far De Telegraaf has expanded into magazines, Internet and mobile content. PCM has moved into book publishing, not exactly with great success. Wegener has expanded in direct marketing.

One reason for these expansions is the rule in the Netherlands that a newspaper company can only have a market share of 33 per cent with all its titles. Now there is some talk about upgrading the rule from 33 to 35 per cent and opportunities to expand into broadcasting. In this way cross-ownership will be possible for newspaper companies. In a fourth report on Media concentration in sight, it says that newspaper companies should be able to develop themselves into multimedia companies; this is a typical misunderstanding of publishers: multimedia means here many media instead of a combination of digital media (text, images and sound).

While the discussion on upgrading to 35 per cent of market share and involvement in broadcasting rages on, Theo Bouwman, the CEO of PCM, made a statement in an interview this weekend: internet will not yield relevant revenues (for PCM, JB). In fifteen years the majority of revenues will still come from subscriptions and advertisement of the newspapers”. He expects more expression opportunities for the newspapers, but his message is: print is there to stay.

Theo Bouwman has never been a fan of the digital media. In 2001 he closed the Internet department of PCM. It was a good decision, but for the wrong reasons. He compared Internet information to teletext like information (a broadcasting text information service). He does not believe that newspapers will move integrally to Internet.

I completely disagree with him. First of all the printed circulation of the newspapers is going down already for the fourth year. In the Netherlands the newspapers live from subscription rather than street sales. So far the subscriptions go down radically, except the street sales on Saturday newspapers are going up. Subscriptions of digital newspapers during the week combined with a printed newspaper on Saturday are on the rise, but do not compensate for the loss.

The income of Internet is not even breaking even with the costs. But PCM has hardly developed a strategy of producing newspaper related sites like the Telegraaf. This newspaper is working on a strategy and has now Habbo Hotel as a source of income. The site has been on the market since 1999 and was only picked up by De Telegraaf two years ago. De Telegraaf and a regional newspaper group NDC have bought a license for Fitclub from a Swedish company. Wegener has an Internet joint venture with a real estate company Funda. But PCM does not really have a hit. It makes some shy steps in video and audio, but blames legal restrictions for not starting Internet news television and radio nor theme cannels.

Now everyone is concentrating on newspaper companies buying themselves into broadcasting companies. However, PCM needs a hostile offer from a commercial broadcaster as pepper to spirit the company into the 21st century.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Week in Brussels: Adieu

Adieu Bruxelles,

It is Saturday and the end of the EU assignment. I have travelled home by train as it is a 3 hours trainride with 3 times changing.

Police preparing in the morning for the big manifestation of the afternoon

Yesterday it was a disaster in Brussels. The unions were on strike for their pensions. Presently the Belgians retire at 58 years; the government is now setting 60 years as a deadline. The unions do not agree with this measure and have called a series of strike, preferably on Friday. The strikers come in the morning to Brussels with their red capes and whistles, have a big manifestation and go home, thus starting the weekend early. In the neighbourhood of the hotel the police started to prepare early for the manifestation. I believe one of the offices of a union is located in this area.

The EU assignment is over. The proposals have been evaluated, scored and a ranking has been made up. So some companies and institutes will be happy, while others will be very disappointed and come back to the EC officials asking them why they were not selected. Over the years the habit has been developed to present the scores to the proposers with some basic comments. So for the time being no evaluation of STREPS, NoEs, SSAs and CAs.

But the EU business is not over yet. By November 24, 2005 there is the deadline of the e-ContentPlus programme. This is a section I am very interested in as it I right in the heart of my work. I wonder how many proposals will be entered for this call.

For the time being it is: Adieu Bruxelles.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Week in Brussels: Diamond content

Last night I was the guest of the Belgian World Summit Award ceremony in Belgian city of Gand (Gent), a 40 minutes ride out of Brussels by train. I was invited by the national expert and Grand Jury member Rudi Vansnick to speak on the World Summit Award (WSA).

It was good to see Rudi, who is also chairman of the Belgian ISOC, again after the Bahrain Grand Jury. He had just been in Bangladesh and met WSA colleagues over there: Alexander, Josie, Andy and of course MD, who was part of the organization of the Road2Tunis event in Dakka. The WSA delegation met amongst other minister Khan. I met him in Hong Kong and I admire that man. He dares to say in a developing country that the country needs computers and not weapons.

The Belgian WSA ceremony started with speeches from dignitaries on the content gap and the digital divide. Surprising was for me to hear the concern that Belgium needs to catch up with ICT. And some of the statistics which Rudi presented were indeed worrisome. Belgium has 11 million inhabitants. Of the households 99 per cent has a TV and 57 per cent has a PC. There are 2,1 million internet connections and 5 million internet users (consumers and business). I do not have the figures at hand, but these statistics are lower in comparison with the Dutch stats. The 99 per cent household coverage of TV is an interesting piece of data. In the Flemish part of Belgium, the company Telenet is now rolling out interactive TV, amongst others with Powerline technology. So in a year’s time the stats might be quite different.

The diamond award

The WSA ceremony itself was a kind of special. At the ceremony awards were handed out for being nominated as the Belgian entry to the Grand Jury. In the meantime we know that none of the 7 entries made it, but they did well as at least remained in the last 20 of the selection. However this disappointment was made up for by the award. No plexiglass award, but a diamond. Belgian and especially Antwerp are famous for diamonds. To a lesser extent Gand is known for diamonds, especially the diamonds with a Lion cut. In his laudation Rudi compared the diamonds to content. They are a symbol of creativity, while their qualities also compare to content:

Diamond qualities: Colour, Cut, Clarity and Carat
Content qualities: Cultural, Convergence, Community, Comprehensiveness

After the ceremony there was a reception with local beers. I got a lift from two Belgian government officials back to Brussels. We parted with saying: see you in Tunis.

Belgian WSA national expert Rudy Vansnick (left) next to a representative of Bobex, winner in the e-Business category, proudly showing his diamond

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Week in Brussels: Luncheon with an EU official

Yesterday I had a luncheon appointment with an EU official. And we did not do like the locals do, but we It is a medium term project. Once opened to the general public in early 2007, the fully operational system will be a One-Stop Shop” Referencing Portal for legislative documents.went to a Greek restaurant between the EU office blocks.

The EU official is heading an interesting information project, which to me is rather unique. The project could be classified as a context portal. It is a pilot project, which should bring transparency in the legislative process of the parties involved: the European Commission, the European Parliament and Council of Europe. Officially the objective is to increase transparency by means of a common interface aimed at facilitating the access to, and where appropriate the consultation of, documents related to the EU law-making process. This process is rather complex and even difficult for an insider. So with all kind of tools available for documentalists such as terminology lists, thesauri and glossaries as well as a workflow tool, the people working on the process hope to get clear what the state is of the legislative process as well as the full document flow available.

A screendump of the context portal

Implementation of the experimental pilot project will ensure that at least the documents three European Institutions and the Office of Official Publications can be consulted by the same mechanism simultaneously without interfering with the functioning of the existing databases. Documents from other Institutions from the institutions will be added in an iterative way. In fact in this project an intelligent interface is being developed, which can handle all the different documentary systems of the European institutes and as a bonus people will be able to see the state-of-a-law in process.

The search engine within this Context Portal will be similar to a modern “Internet like” multilingual search system using as a basis the EU communities’ EuroVoc twenty language thesaurus.

This Portal imposes a very light overhead on the Information Provider Systems (IPS) as there is no connection between systems but only a supply of information from, and some “discussion” between, the IPS and project’s Central System in the form of a specific XML structured messaging protocol.

To avoid other systems like web sites, etc. being obliged to hold duplicate copies of documents, or having to put in place manual hyper-links, or having links to one or more systems logically “below” the Portal, the operational system will be itself a provider of validated reference information on the FSJ legislation and their related procedures to other systems using the Information Provider Message Protocol. Consequently, using as a unique information source the Portal, other systems will be able to seamlessly display the information using their own graphical layout.

Once opened to the general public in early 2007, the fully operational system will be a One-Stop Shop” Referencing Portal for legislative documents. The system will get its first grilling when a mock-up is tested between November 8 till 17 by legal documentalists from outside the European Commission. Invitations will be sent upon receipt of a message.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Week in Brussels: A support action

I have been involved in a European project from 2002 till 2004. It was a support action in the field of content-related technologies. As every good European project, the project should be embellished with an acronym. Our project bore the name of ACTeN, meaning Anticipating Content Technology Needs.

The project was a so-called support action, meaning that it had to support the programme of content technology. The project ran for two years and was funded for 100 per cent to the tune of 1 million euro. So with a consortium of 10 companies and institutes we put together a programme with a scholarly conference once a year and round tables with academics and industry on particular content subjects. Of course there was an inevitable newsletter, Content Market Monitor. Later in the project special reports on digital storytelling, paid content, scientific publishing were introduced. All in all, the project had a engine feeding the activities, from newsletter to round table and from the round table to the scholarly conference. And the impact went also the other way down from the conference to the round table and from the round table to the newsletter. The special reports took a long look at content related subjects, while taking the comments of the newsletter, round table and conference into considerations.

The project was a success. The conferences, held in Tampere (Finland) during MindTrek week were rich in subjects and well visited. The round tables delivered quite some surprise in subjects, while they yielded a lot of discussion. The free newsletter had at the end of the project some 1400 subscribers in 92 countries.

The project had some lasting results. The newsletter is still active and is still gaining subscribers without any promotion; itreaches over 1700 subscribers in more than 100 countries. Also one book e-Content: a European outlook (Springer) has been published mainly consisting of the special reports. And another book is under production still. The website is still online and most of the material is accessible.

By next month there will be project proposals for the e-ContentPlus programme. It will be interesting to see what kind of support programmes have been selected.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Week in Brussels: I wifi in Brussels

Yesterday, I got online with iBahn (curious such a German brandname in Belgium) in Brussels. I had to buy a card in the hotel with a long number with 14 digits for 10 euro. The porter also gave a small promotion brochure of iBahn.

The charming Hotel du Congres

It took a while before the wifi worked. The card with the long number did not have any instructions. In the neighbourhood of the hotel I discovered more than 8 wifi connections, but nowhere the name of iBahn. So the best choice was to try them all. In the end I discovered on the card with that user unfriendly number that I should use STSN wifi. This yielded at last an iBahn log-on page. Having filled out the long number with 14 digits, it took some time, but I got online.

The performance of the network is abominable. The strength is overall very low or red in the colourcode, sometimes changing to yellow and seldom to green. This low connection is a problem to some applications, which do not get connected. But last night there was an advantage to this slow speed, the access sold for an hour lasted for almost 24 hours.

So I bought another one today, of course hoping that it will last again 24 hours.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Week in Brussels: The grant factory

The blog is late today, but working for the European Commission means long hours. Besides I had to get my internet link set up. So I finally organised access to the wi-fi in the hotel. It is unbelievable what the hotel keepers ask for just one hour access. It looks like they have found another milk cow for their telephone loss leader.

The grant factory

Today I spent the whole day at the grant factory. This is a building in Brussels where proposals are evaluated. It is about 6 years ago that the European Commission assigned this building as the centre for the many grant evaluation activities. Annually the European Commission hands out billions of euro for grants, which have to bring Europe in a leading position in several fields. This ideal is labelled the Lissabon declaration. It refers to the very ambitious plan to make Europe leading in many fields by 2010. In the meantime it has become clear that the Lissabon declaration cannot be executed and has been toned down. It has in parts been replaced by other overall programmes such as the less ambitious i2010.

Opposite the grant factory is a baroque church

In the grant factory, dreams are made or broken. Institutions like universities and libraries come back quite often for grants as they are more and more dependent on this type of money. Many of these institutions have professionals writing the proposals. And it is hard to get inm for newcomers.

The assignment usually means a full week or sometimes two weeks of work with early starts and late finishes. Of course while the officials have you available they might as well use you to the fullest. There are also strict house rules: no laptop, no mobile. It looks like going back to the time of the scribes and monks.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A week in Brussels

Brussels is the final destination today. I have an assignment for the European Commission. I will stay in Brussels for a whole week.

I have been working for the European Commission in a range of capacities from evaluator of proposals, rapporteur, reviewer, expert, work package leader of several projects and partner in several projects since 1983.

Franco Mastroddi in 1980 in The Hague demonstrating the European datanetwork EURONET*Diane

In 1982 I was at the Online Conference in London when I met the EU official Franco Mastroddi. I was working at that time for the publishing company VNU Business Publications in London. I was busy with new media projects, amongst others setting up a daily electronic newsletter for the computing industry. The project fitted in the Document Delivery programme, which was presented in 1983. By 1984 the project IDB Online was launched in Europe and a quarter later in the US.

EC involvement
2005 : EC assignment
2004 : project reviews for the e-content program
2004 : Teacher INYOP cross-media movie project, co-funded by EU Media
2004 : Teacher X-Melina cross-media project, co-funded by EU MEDIA
2003 : Teacher X-Melina cross-media project, co-funded by EU MEDIA
2003 : Rapporteur on Open Source proposals
2002 -2003 : partner INFORM project
2002 : Work package leader 2 in IST project ACTeN
2002 : Work package leader in MEDIA project X-Melina
2002 : project reviewer EC projects on multimedia content
2002 : evaluator e-Content proposals
2001 : contributor to IPPA report; evaluator and rapporteur IST KA 5, III
1999, 2000 : evaluator and rapporteur IST KA 5, III
1995, 1996, 1997 : rapporteur TAP Information Engineering
1993 : author of the IMO working paper on CD based media 1987-1992
1992, 1993, 1994: evaluator IMPACT II, sector multimedia publishing
1991 : part of the Brokerits study team on multilingual thesauri
1989 : evaluator IMPACT I, sector intelligent interfaces
1988 : part of the Dutch research team for the HERMES document delivery system by satellite
1987 : study on the economics of electronic information with the French research institute IDATE
1986 : co-researcher in the study KIOSK with French company Quadrature
1983-85 : DOCDEL programme, launching the first European daily online newsletter

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Siemens joining the digital paper race

Siemens has joined E-Ink/Philips and Fujitsu in the race for digital paper. It recently showed the result of its research. In a press release they indicate that they will be ready operationally in 2007 and speculate that the price for a newspaper page will be around 44 euro.

So far E-Ink/Philips already produce digital paper outside the laboratory. Fujitsu aims to produce digital paper commercially in 2006. And by 2007 Siemens will join.

Top left is E-Ink/Philips b/w digital paper; Tope right is Fujitsu colour didgital paper; Under is a sample of Siemens digital paper

What will be the effect of this development? When Xerox started its digital paper project it aimed at advertising with long banners and big fonts. E-Ink set the trend to digital paper for application in e-Books; Philips brought in the substrate technology and now Sony is selling e-Books with digital paper. The paper is only black and white, but will be in colour by 2008. But there are more applications. Watchmakers like Seiko and Citizen are using the digital paper already for its new watches. Siemens has not indicated the area of application. (In fact Siemens has not given any technical details, marketing perspective or commercial insight, except for the price per page. It looks like the company had just picked up the technology and had to bring it to the press to either impress the shareholders or use it at a show.)

Japanese e-newspaper on display

Seiko watch with digital paper screen

Mobile with digital paper screen

The marketing environment has already longed for this type of screens. One of the examples used is the milk pack, laminated with digital paper, which is used for advertising or social purposes (missing children).Undoubtedly many new types of marketing actions can be executed with this digital paper. But the technology will have to work (condense in the fridge), the price has to be the same or lower than normal paper and the use of the digital paper will have to be very innovative.

For the time being I bet that that the publishing world will be the favourite exploiter of this technology.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Yesterday it was jury day. For some years I am part of the jury of a competition in the graphic world. The jury day has been very interesting every year. Besides entries in categories, there are also live presentations of four entrepreneurs in the graphic and media sector.

This year I was looking forward to monitor the cross media movements of the printers. Last year has been a disastrous year for the graphic industry with many bankruptcies. So there should be an incentive to look at cross media projects.

Two of the entrepreneurs who presented themselves told that they had been investing in related activities. One of the entrepreneurs had co-invested in an Internet company. Another had extended his graphic activities with music magazines complemented with SMS services.

Jury members checking beautifully printed promotions for the category marketing communication

One of the categories has been instituted as a link between the graphic sector and multimedia. In this category cross-media entries can be entered which should be exemplary for the industry. Then entries yielded a discussion about the definition of cross-media. Of course the term multi-channel passed, while the term more media was interpreted as using more than one media to get a concept across. Personally I like to put more precision to the definition, as I described in the chapter Cross-Media on the Advance in the book E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market (Springer). The term can be described by four criteria:
- Cross-media involves more than one medium, ranging from analogue and digital media or digital media only, which all support each other with their specific strengths;
- Cross-media aims at an integrated production;
- Cross-media content is delivered/accessible on a range of devices such as PCs, mobiles, TV set or set-top boxes;
- The use of more than one medium needs to support one theme/story/one purpose/one goal/one message, depending on the type of project;
- Cross-media do not just exist by the juxtaposition of different devices and platforms, but finds it relevance when the common message/story/goal is spread on the different platforms and when the supporting interaction takes place on these different platforms.
Essential to the concept of cross-media is that there are more than one media/distribution devices involved, which support the central theme of the project from their own strengths.

There was a lengthy discussion on the submitted entries as they were cross-media, but not exactly shining examples for the graphic and media industry. It is a pity for the industry could use some fine and creative showcases.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Stream on, stream on...

On Tuesday a midday session on streaming was planned in the heart of Dutch broadcast Hilversum. No less than 360 people came to hear the state-of-art of streaming in the Netherlands.

There were a lot of stats. The public broadcast system in the Netherlands started in March 2004 for serious. In September 2005 it has 2,8 million streams, mainly used at night and in the weekend, peaking between 22.00h and 23.00h, requiring 800 Mbps to 1 Gbps. Last Friday the record was broken with a performance of Robbie Williams, requiring 1,2 Gbps. Mind you 54 per cent of the Dutch households, roughly 3,7 million households, have slow ADSL, fast ADSL (22Mbps) or glass fibre (10 to 100Mbps).

The road to broadband in the Netherlands started in 1998 when KPN started the experimental Snelnet (Fastnet) with 1000 households in Amsterdam. Main feature was Delayed TV. The latest news broadcast or program could be viewed at a late time than the actual broadcast. The next phase was FirstmileTV from 2003-2005. This broadband experiment had multicast IPTV of 5Mbps with MPEG2. Presently we have FirstmoverTV from 2005-2008. This will introduce HDTV with MPEG4.
If you look at the history from another angle, you can say:
1998-2004: bandwidth (1Mbps)
2004-2007: Compression (2Mbps)
2007-2010: Standards (10Mbps).

A counter claim was made by Dr Ir Johan Pouwelse. He is involved in the project I-Share, an academic project researching peer2peer networks. These networks will make it possible to get more material around than streaming. And the Netherlands will need that, the researcher claimed as in the Netherlands 20 to 25 per cent of the Internet traffic is generated by streams. But technology will also hinder further growth, as by 300.000 simultaneous streams the network would fail.

The new record of Madonna Hung Up, which will be published on Novermber 11, will get a download on Planet's Music Stream

Video and audio content fare well with streaming. Public Broadcast has a topper with Broadcast missed?, a site where programmes can be viewed at the viewer’s leisure. The Dutch RTV station VPRO has started its own broadcast stations on Internet with 3VOOR12; in September this station was visited more than 700.000 times. The Pop stage Paradiso and Melkweg in Amsterdam have started Fabchannel, a channel on which live concerts can be followed and archived concerts can be viewed at one’s own leisure. But also publishers are starting to use Internet for audio and video channels. Planet, the largest Dutch ISP, works on Planet TV with a company Zoom-in. The Dutch search engine Ilse has radio stations for audio weblogs. Sanoma Publishers has started to radio station for its women magazines. Also the youth’s radio station Radio538 has 200.000 downloads, mostly pod casts.

Remarkable was the statistic on attention span. The average viewing period is seven minutes per person per session. You almost ask yourself why you should produce video and audio content. Yet gradually but slowly the average is extending, be it for the time being with seconds.

Streaming of audio and video is still no profitable business in the Netherlands. The company shows advertisement before the video news item. Zoom-in TV has shown 30 million video news items via internet in the Netherlands by 7,5 million viewers. This is a growth rate of 50 per cent. The streaming of the items to mobile viewers goes out to less than 1.000 viewers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

WSA Grand Jury special mentions

Not all exciting projects submitted to the WSA can win, that’s clear. But taking into account the different cultures and different levels of economic and technical development among the 168 participating countries, it is a matter of fairness to publish and showcase not only the best 40 projects. This is why the jury awarded several special mentions.

If a world region – (i) North America, Australia & New Zealand; (ii) Latin America & the Caribbean; (iii) Asia; (iv) Europe; (v) Africa; (vi) the Arab countries & the Middle East – was not present among the best five products in each of the eight WSA categories, the Grand Jury selected the top-ranked product of this region and honored it with a special mention.

This way, the state of excellence and the development of the e-Content industry in all the world regions of the WSA 05 can be showcased and demonstrated.

For the 05 competition, there are 25 products that have received a special mention:

(1) e-Government
Welcome to the Panama Canal – Panama – Singapore
Cape Gateway – South Africa

(2) e-Health
Fleury Website - Brazil
Talking Glove – Iran
E-Health in the South: The Malian Experience – Mali

(3) e-Learning
Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923 – Armenia
Pax Warrior – Canada
EDSNET – Namibia
Islam Web – Qatar

(4) e-Entertainment – Azerbaijan
VITI for Kids – Egypt
eyeMagic – New Zealand
Where to Go in Lagos – Nigeria

(5) e-Culture
Azuero – Panama
State of the Arts – South Africa

(6) e-Science
The ExperiMENTALS – Australia
Medical Parasitology – Iran
University Research on Hypermedia – Togo
Portal of the Globalization, Culture and Social Transformation Program (Globalcult) - Venezuela

(7) e-Business
Virtual Coffee Auction Program – Guatemala – Kenya – New Zealand

(8) e-Inclusion
Agenda Feminist Media Project – South Africa
Vietnam Development Gateway – Vietnam

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My first videochat

I know that I am late with installing my webcam and getting everything installed for videochat. Of course all my nephews and nieces have it already (or not?). But rather late than never and it works: the videochat. Last night I downloaded msn and got everything installed. Straight away I could start a videochat with my buddy Cai in Finland. It does add a lot to a normal telephone conversation, or better, a videochat is quite different from a normal telephone conversation.

We have a lot to go through as there is a trip of entrepreneurs from the North of Holland and an educational delegation to Mindtrek, the big multimedia event in Tampere.

Last year there was already the wish to make a trip to Tampere. It is quite a center of multimedia with a Nokia Research Lab, the Hypermedia Lab, the University and a research center TTVO.

We are very happy with the delegation of 30 participants. You never know when you work out such an idea. In the Netherlands the EVD, a department of the ministry of Economic Affairs, organises this type of trips regularly and has a lot of experience and of course people to execute the plan. But we were also very lucky to find a partner with a list of companies and a lot of contacts as well as a back-office.

Cai international coordinator of the Tampere sSchool of Arts and Media, will be responsible for the educational program. Mikko of Culminatum will be responsible for the entrepreneurial part.

And chatting by video makes it now easier to get through the nitty gritty of organising everything.

Oh, if you want to videochat, please contact me on msn with my normal e-mail address.

Again it is another event in my personal communication history.

1952: saw my first tv broadcast of the crowning of queen Elisabeth
1955: my first telephone call
1956: my first photo camera
1967: worked with an IBM golfball typewriter with 1k correction memory
1968: my first 8 mm movie
1970: my first contact with a mini computer
1977: my first online experience at a demonstration of Kluwer’s legal database
1978: my first videotext experience
1980: Teletekst, the Dutch Ceefax service
1980: my first e-mail via US service The Source
1980: opening of the Dutch videotext service Viditel
1980: heard my first audio CD
1980: my first PC: Superbrain
1983: my first portable PC Zenith Model 100 (still operational)
1984: launch of the first daily online newsletter for the computing industry IDB Online
1984: saw for the first time a CD-ROM at Philips in Eindhoven
1986: finished my first professional CD-ROM production
1987: finished the Kluwer legal database CD-ROM trial production
1993: my first CD-I player
1995: got my first mobile
1999: bought a Sony Vaio PC with a webcam, which I used as photo camera
2003: my first digital photo and movie camera
2004: made my first MMS picture in Athens
050501: start of my blog Buziaulane
051010: got my first Skype call from Kresimir in Croatia using the microphone of the new webcam
051017: had my first videochat with Cai in Finland

Monday, October 17, 2005

Vodafone Netherlands 10 years

Last Saturday, Vodafone celebrated its 10 year anniversary in the Netherlands. The company celebrated the event by offering clients free calls in the Netherlands from 18 till 24h.

The company started 10 years ago under the name Libertel. It was one of the five companies offering mobile. Better defined, it was one of the four companies putting up competition to the incumbent KPN. And they gave them a run for their life.

The Dutch market counts more than 16 million mobiles. Given the number of Dutch inhabiltants of 16,4 million people every Dutch child get a mobile at birth!

In 2004 the market shares were as follows:
1) KPN 38,6 per cent;
2) Vodafone 27,9 per cent;
3) T-Mobile 16,4 per cent;
4) Orange 9,3 per cent;
5) Telfort 7,8 per cent.

The market has changed since the stocktaking as Telfort was acquired by KPN. Presently Vodafone has 3,9 million subscribers in the Netherlands, with 56 per cent pre-paid and 44 per cent subscribers.

Vodafone has had some rough years in competing. Between 2001 and 2003 the company had developed an arrogant attitude. The method to persuade subscribers that wanted to leave were dubious, as the former subscribers got an offer for a mobile bundle which was more expensive that the bundle they had. But from 2003 onwards it started to move in another direction which has delivered them more subscribers.

Vodafone has done well and has built up an innovative image. It is especially active with mobile content. It was fast on establishing UMTS and is experimenting with content on UMTS. Last year the company was instrumental in launching a TV station only intended for mobiles, TV2GO. This station has been set up by Dutch celebrities and it presents short movies on lifestyle, cars, fashion and the like.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Dutch government stimulates creative commons

Creative Commons has finally reached the Netherlands. Last Friday the two (female) undersecretaries of Economic Affairs (Mrs Van Gennip) and Education, Culture and Science (Mrs Van der Laan) presented a policy memorandum on the creative industry. And they did not mince words, but also offered a budget of 15,4 million euro.

The memorandum is aimed at arts, media&entertainment and creative services. In 2004 these sectors yielded 240.000 jobs, roughly 3 per cent of the total employment in the Netherlands. In the past 8 years the industry grew with 25 per cent. The added value of the creative industry in 2004 was roughly 8,4 billion euro.

One of the items which catches the attention in the memorandum is Creative Commons Nederland (CCN). This new institute is a co-operation between Creative Commons International (CCi), the Institute of Information law, Nederland Knowledgeland and Waag Society. The objective is to promote Creative Commons. CCN is very ambitious by stating that the pioneers role the Netherlands plays in Europe should be continued.

In the meantime there are already some creative commons projects. On September 15, 2005 the broadcasting company VPRO started the project 3VOOR12 Plunders Museums: visitors can download samples of exotic instruments to be used for their own compositions. Of course to be used later on the website

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Memorial day for Mata Hari

Today it is 88 years ago that Mata Hara died in front of an execution squad in France. Mata Hari was born as Magaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden on August 7, 1876. On October 15, 1917 during the First World War she was executed by a French firing squad on the count of treason and spying for the Germans. Since her execution she has been adopted by the city of Leeuwarden as one of the famous daughters of the city. On May 19, 2005 I wrote the blog The hunk of Leeuwarden, about a visit to the department of Communication & Multimedia Design (CMD) of the NHL. At that time the students were working on a secret assignment about the well known spy Mata Hari.

Mata Hari as dancer (left); Mata Hari under 3D construction (right)

She was a dancer and stripper, who performed in Paris, Vienna, Monaco, Madrid and Milano and in between offered entertainment in bed for high-ranked military officers and members of the corps diplomatique. She was sentenced to death for treason on behalf of the Germans during the First World War.

The story of Mata Hari (Malesian for: eye of the day or sun) has fascinated moviemakers. Her story was filmed starring Magda Sonja, Greta Garbo, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jeanne Moreau and Silvia Kristel. The story of her life was also recorded as a television series of 4 instalments in the Netherlands. There has been even a musical on Broadway.

This is the 3D rendering of the fence of the public rose garden in Leeuwarden, which played a part in the life of Mata Hari

Mata Hari serves now as the figure head of a 3D multimedia project of the department CMD, which serves as an invitation for Frisian cultural heritage of the city of Leeuwarden and the province of Friesland. The project shows in seven minutes the Frisian history from mythological figures to the present and future of Friesland and Leeuwarden. The Mata Hari project will be shown on movie and animation festivals.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Skype and webcam era

Last night I went to the Media Markt, a large shop in consumer electronics and bought myself a webcam. I had been pressed to do so by my Finnish friend Cai. He was nice in the message, but basically told me that I was old fashioned with just e-mail. I should get telecom software Skype and get a webcam.
Problem with those gadgets is that you have to install it and get it configured. And as I am notorious for misconfiguring I rather avoid these actions. But given the many international calls, installing a webcam with microphone should be an investment easily earned.

So the installation of the webcam went without a hitch. So I have an electronic mrror now and can see myself onscreen. Great. This works so far. After that it, downloading Skype was the next action. Also the configuration of this was no problem. I sent out a message to my international friends and told them my Skype name. After that it was just sitting back, waiting till the first call was made. And yes, before midnight Dutch time, Kresimir from Croatia called. He was the first caller in my short Skype history. We had a nice talk and we had good lines. So Skype was working.

After the first call, I wanted to try out calling someone myself. I saw that my Belgian friend Rudi was still up and working. He accepted the call and we were talking about his World Summit Award celebration within two weeks. During the celebration the national entries will get an award with a diamond, promoting Belgium as diamond country or better Antwerp as diamond town. The call was broken off once and in a second instance the sounds faded away. However we could complete the call without any problem.

So at last I am catching up. Now that I think of it. I had a Sony Vaio with a built-in webcam, which I have used only as a photocamera. A beautifull almost lady purse with camera. I never used it as a webcam to exchange video images or have a live video call. Skype is another feature in my history of communication; a live webcam call will follow soon.

1952: saw my first tv broadcast of the crowning of queen Elisabeth
1955: my first telephone call
1956: my first photo camera
1967: worked with an IBM golfball typewriter with 1k correction memory
1968: my first 8 mm movie
1970: my first contact with a mini computer
1977: my first online experience at a demonstration of Kluwer’s legal database
1978: my first videotext experience
1980: Teletekst, the Dutch Ceefax service
1980: my first e-mail via US service The Source
1980: opening of the Dutch videotext service Viditel
1980: heard my first audio CD
1980: my first PC: Superbrain
1983: my first portable PC Zenith Model 100 (still operational)
1984: launch of the first daily online newsletter for the computing industry IDB Online
1984: saw for the first time a CD-ROM at Philips in Eindhoven
1986: finished my first professional CD-ROM production
1987: finished the Kluwer legal database CD-ROM trial production
1993: my first CD-I player
1995: got my first mobile
1999: bought a Sony Vaio PC with a webcam, which I used as photo camera
2003: my first digital photo and movie camera
2004: made my first MMS picture in Athens
2005: made my first Skype call using the microphone of the new webcam

A picture of me made with the new webcam

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Company support for open access

Years ago when I worked for the Dutch publishing company Kluwer, one of the medical publishers already said that authors of articles for scientific publications should pay for publication, certainly if the research had been financed by the government. Some 30 years ago this was a revolutionary view as Elsevier Science was making large profits with scientific publications for the academic libraries.

In 1998 I went to the States and had an interview with a representative of SPARC, the scholarly Publishing Academic Resources Coalition. This was a newly founded alliance of universities, research libraries, and organizations helping to create systems that expand academic information dissemination. This organisation put a stone in the academic publishing river and started to change the course of academic publishing slowly.

And open access is catching on. Now there is the Public Library of Science, which received a World Summit Award in 2003 for its work in the academic world.

This morning I found an article on a foundation related to a medical company which demands open access. For the Open Access supporters it must feel like a victory that the Wellcome Trust in the UK has changed its rules on publishing scientific results of research supported by a grant of the foundation. Not only governments put down requirements for dissemination, but also companies are doing so.

“The Wellcome Trust seeks to encourage initiatives that broaden the range of opportunities for quality research to be widely disseminated and freely accessed. The Wellcome Trust therefore supports unrestricted access to the published output of research as a fundamental part of its charitable mission and a public benefit, to be encouraged wherever possible.
In support of this policy the Wellcome Trust and a number of major funders of life sciences in the UK – MRC, BBSRC, Arthritis Research Campaign, Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and JISC – are exploring the feasibility of establishing a UK PubMed Central. We have assessed the responses to a recent expressions-of-interest exercise, and are now planning the next stage of the project. A formal tender process, to identify a Contractor who can run and develop a UK PMC service will be launched early in 2006.
The Wellcome Trust Grant Conditions have been amended so that, from 1 October 2005, all Wellcome Trust grantees will have to submit an electronic copy of the final manuscripts of their research papers into PubMed Central (PMC). Their work will then be made freely available to the public, via the web, no later than six months after the official date of final publication”.

Read the full statement.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

EU changes stand on Internet governance

The last prepatory meeting before the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva is over. The official meeting in Tunis from 16-18 November 2005 can start. The main issues of the debate on the internationalization of Internet Governance were the management of the Internet's core resources, namely the domain name system, IP addresses, and the root server system.

Presently the management is done by a non-profit group called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This group works under contract of the American government. The members of this group work mainly on technical issues but also technical issues can have political implications, as they found out recently when the proposed a .xxx suffix for the porn industry.

The link of ICANN with the US government has been a point of discussion since the first leg of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in 2003. Given the mistrust towards the US, the proposal was made to bring the governance of Internet under the UN and specifically under Internetional Telecom Union (ITU). Although this institution is not seen as the most flashy one, many countries saw rather the link between ICANN and ITU than between ICANN and the US government.

The US government took a begnin attitude toward the proposal after Geneva, but came back with the statement at the beginning of the year that it would not hand over the Internet governance. This drew a strong reaction from countries as Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China. These countries wanted more control over Internet and threatened to start their own Internet, if necessary. Can you imagine when China starts its own Internet organisation; it will be them against the rest of the world.

The European Commission and institutes had so far given support to the Americans (as usual). But this front was broken recently by calls by Denmark, France, Spain and the Netherlands (did not read anything about the change of stance by the government in the papers!) for greater government influence over the internet. The EU presidency Britain, a staunch supporter of the US, had to bring a proposal to the table, which tried to mediate between the US and the disagreeing countries. The new cooperation model it proposed should be based on the current bottom-up public-private partnership; it should also provide a platform for policy dialogue in the interest of all governments in a light, fast reacting and flexible approach. The new model should be based on the following principles:
• it should not replace existing mechanisms or institutions, but should build on the existing structures of Internet Governance, with a special emphasis on the complementarity between all the actors involved in this process, including governments, the private sector, civil society and international organisations;
• the new public-private co-operation model should contribute to the sustainable stability and robustness of the Internet by addressing appropriately public policy issues related to key elements of Internet Governance.
The new system would be a “multi-stakeholder” process that includes industry and civil-society groups.

The brokering of the EU so far has not delivered any change of stance by the US. That country is isolated over the position of holding on to the control over ICANN. The other countries want this to change. Viviane Reding the EU commissioner responsible for the net warned in an BBC interview for a potential web meltdown.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It's bloggers' day

It looks like blogs day. The Blog Herald blog has made an estimate of how many blogs there are in the world. It is an interesting inventory, but reading the comments it is clear that the figures of many countries are not in the inventory. For example the Spanish weblogs, called splogs, have not been taken into account. Here is the list as borrowed from the Dutch blog

(Please tick on the table for enlargement)

Also Edelman and Technorati, my favourite blog search engine, have completed a report that examines how traditional blogging and PR intersect and what bloggers think about mainstream companies. The full results are now available. Some highlights:

34% primarily blog to be seen as an authority in their field.
Over 50% blog about companies at least once per week.
63% believe blogs are the most trustworthy source of product information.
Over 98% take steps to correct factually incorrect portions of a blog post.
Over 80% prefer to receive information from non-executives.

Blogs of individual employees are considered more trustworthy than blogs endorsed by a corporation.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ur chapter is awaited

This was the severe message, sent by Osama Manzar from New Dehli. He is the editor and publisher of the book E-Content: Voices from the Ground 2.0 version. The new version is the successor of the first book which was produced by Osama in 40 days for the first leg of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva (see below).

The new book will be a survey about the state of e-Content in some 30 countries around the world. It should be ready by November 16, when the second leg of the WSIS starts in Tunis. The input comes from a group of selected jurors and national experts of the World Summit Award. They have received a list with questions about the situation of e-Content in their country. Due to this list it is possible to compare the situations on statistics and initiatives.

However it is hard to get all statistics together. Even in a developed country no statistics exist about e-Content. There are a lot of statistics about the infrastructure such as telephone lines, cable subscriptions, ADSL subscribers, but measuring e-Content is more difficult. The number of Internet sites might be a measure, but is a very rough one, as a site might be in another language as the native speech. Yet, the book will give pointers.

It is clear that e-Content is crucial good for a country. In the Netherlands e-Content is a commodity and not a political item like in Egypt. In the Netherlands there is one governmental document about e-Content, while in Egypt the minister of Communications and Information Technology sets up a special taskforce for e-Content. Of course e-Content in the Netherlands is distributed over various fields such as culture and the latest craze: Holland game land.

The book has also a website, which will be updated after Tunis. Osama and myself still have ambitious plans for that site; we would like to have all 168 national experts produce a spreadsheet with data on e-Content, an e-Content matrix. In this way e-Content statistics and initiatives can be compared. Problem is that we will have to find money for this project.

The book «e-Content: Voices From the Ground 1.0 version» presents for the first time a comprehensive comparison of e-Content and ICT policies on a global scale. It introduces 30 countries from every continent on their way to the Information Society. The book comprises a mixture of expert-interviews and research findings which describe the situation of ICTs in countries like Brazil, Gambia, Slovakia, Canada, Zimbabwe, Indonesia or Bahrain. «e-Content: Voices From the Ground - Version 1.0» by Osama Manzar and Peter A. Bruck has been published by the Digital Empowerment Foundation and the World Summit Award.The book costs EURO 15/$ 10.More info:

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Dutch interactive television takes a serious start

On Wednesday the Dutch cable company has started with the distribution of its set-top box, called UPC MediaBox. The company will distribute more than 2 million pieces of equipment to its subscribers. The logistics are handled by TNT.

The UPC MediaBox will have to be installed by the subscriber himself. Besides the box, the subscriber receives a DVD with an electronic manual, while a special customer service desk has been installed.

UPC will provide more than two million subscribers with a set-top box. It is the basis of the UPC Digital TV programme, which includes an Electronic Program Guide, digital television channels, theme channels and services for voting and shopping. The box covers only digital television for one television set. The other television sets will continue to receive the analogue television signal; for every television set a set-top box is required. In 2006 UPC Netherlands will present a Personal Video Recorder.

By handing out set-top boxes digital television in the Netherlands will be able to catch up with the US and UK. Up to now some 80.000 set-top boxes were in the market. In order to canvass the entire Netherlands with set-top boxes 1 billion euro is needed. UPC spends now 300 million euro upgrading its 2,3 million television subscribers. Besides television and digital television, UPC offers broadband to 439.000 internet subscribers and telephony to 248.000 subscribers.

With this action UPC gives an impulse to the interactive television market in the Netherlands. So far the cable companies have avoided the costs and have not been aggressive about installing interactive television as most of the other companies leave it to the subscribers to buy a set-top box at a local retail store. Subscribers who buy a set-top box themselves will not pay extra on their subscription.

(c) Stoneroos

This impulse also means that Dutch producers can start developing new programmes for interactive television. So far Stoneroos has been active in promoting interactive televison programmes.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The War is over – Microsoft lost

It looks like a second web war in Internet since the Internet hype of 2000 is raging. Companies are being acquired and the big shots are lurking at each other: eBay and Skype; MSN and AOL as well as Sun and Google. But this week the newsletter PaidContent of Rafat Ali pointed to a report, that blandly stated, that MSN has lost the Web war.

It looks like the report says, while you were sleeping the Web war was ranging, but is over now. And the author Henri Blodget does not just make statements he really put figures to it. His oneliner is: The War is over – Microsoft lost.
“There will be no great war between Microsoft and Google/Yahoo, because despite Microsoft’s vast resources, Google/Yahoo! have already left MSN far behind. There will be skirmishes, of course, but these will be irrelevant. Microsoft is as far behind in the web business as it was when it launched its online effort ten years ago, and short of disastrous mistakes by Google and Yahoo!, nothing Microsoft does on its own is likely to change that. Microsoft’s best chance to make MSN the industry leader is to spin it off, most likely in a merger with AOL. This won’t guarantee success—the combined entity would still be in third place—but it would create a company far stronger than either AOL or MSN on its own.”

Friday, October 07, 2005

The demise of News Corp.

I lived in London in the early eighties when Robert Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch (both with the same initials: RM) upstaged the press scene.

(Left) Robert Maxwell; (right) Rupert Murdoch

They were really press barons. Maxwell had his newspaper business, his scientific publishing company (Pergamon Press and online service) and Murdoch had his newspaper business (The Times) and was branching out in cable television. (Jeffrey Archer wrote a book about them: The Fourth Estate). Maxwell did not survive, but Murdoch did so far. I saw a very sharp analysis of the survival of Murdoch’s empire from the desk of Paul Budde.

Rupert Murdoch – a true giant

Rupert Murdoch will forever be remembered as the media giant of our era – true, an autocratic and ruthless one, but a giant nevertheless. He is a remarkable man, and has probably had more to do with shaping the media world during the last 50 years than anyone else.

However, his empire is beginning to show cracks. The cracks are not only related to the internal changes within the family business, but that dynamic will most certainly hasten the process, especially once Rupert is out of the picture.
Nevertheless, the way he looks today, he could easily reign for another ten years or so.

But, apart from the family situation, important changes are taking place in the converged media, telecoms and IT worlds. And, while Rupert is showing leadership here also, it is highly unlikely that he will have enough time to dominate this new environment.

If anybody could mastermind the changes of convergence and come out on top it would be Rupert Murdoch – but it will be another five to ten years before this transition is complete.

Go to Paul's desk for the entire story.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Secondhand books

Yesterday I wrote a blog about book publishers and the hard time they have to get involved in Internet. Funny is that books are a wanted commodity on Internet. and in Europe have heavy traffic and are going to experience more traffic in the coming months with the Christmas season coming up.

With a counter Boekwinkeltjes proudly shows that it has broken the record

But book trading is not only left to the big companies. Especially second hand books and vintage books attract traffic. Yesterday the Dutch site (Book shoppies) broke a record. On its site more than 1 million secondhand books had been registered by 1500 participants, shops as well as private persons. The site is now 3 years old and has 4000 visitors daily. Annually it sells 20 per cent of the stock, roughly 200.000 books. Mind you the Dutch language is spoken by roughly 25 million people in the world. The combination of professional shops and private persons is interesting. The sight is still growing.

The organisation is aiming at 4000 participants and more than three million titels. Soon an English variation on the will be launched under the name of

Recently I tried this site out and found the book I was looking for. The e-mail handling from Boekwinkeltjes to the seller went okay. And I got a mail telling me how to transfer the money. Now I waiting for the book. Private persons can offer 40 book titles for 1 euro. It is almost an incentive to clean your book shelves out.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Book publishers and Internet

Yesterday I had a session with publishers of a general book publishing company. Like people in the travel sector, in real estate and in advertising and book sales, they see that Internet is the place where offer and supply takes place. They also notice that information streams are changing: citizens’ journalism in blogs is becoming a competitor of news agencies. Press photography is no longer the domain for the paparazzi; when the Dutch film producer Theo van Gogh was slaughtered, the largest Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf carried a photograph taken with a mobile camera. So is the role of the book publisher still the same? The role of publishers with reference departments for the production of encyclopaedias have a hard time as Wikipedia is available for free (of course quality is still an issue with Wikipedia).

In the meantime book publishers get a range of new media available to them: internet, e-books and iPods. So far they have made electronic brochures on the Internet as a marketing tool in the sales of their books. In the Netherlands e-Books are not a hot item, although there is progress. While audio books on CD are now getting into fashion, books on iPod have not been promoted yet.

Book publishers are increasingly confronted with authors who have a site themselves, built by a smart nephew or niece, or have blogs. Book publishers get even offers for new books, based on texts of blogs and reactions from readers. And the publishers are often asked to put one of their books in a cross media package.

For a book publishing company it is hard to address this new world. In most cases these companies have been set up with the mission of producing and selling books. Their whole production scheme is based around the presentations to bookshops and their business model is based on sales through the book shops (so they do not know the readers of the book). This is changing now. Internet bookshops are increasing their sales. So the book publishers will also have to establish an environment for their readers complete with an entertaining site, an internet bookshop and a backoffice. And the publisher is becoming a domain expert having textual and sometimes photographic content.

Newspaper publishers have started to change around and are still searching for the environment, backoffice and business models. Magazine publishers have done better in some cases. Both types of publishers have news currency as a leading principle to do something with Internet. Bout news currency is usually not an item for a book publisher.

The session was interesting. It was like sparring with ideas and concepts. But in the end the inevitable questions came up: is there a budget for any of the new activities and where do we find the time to attend to an Internet site.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Dutch Film Festival

From September 28 till October 7, 2005 the Dutch Film Festival is held in my hometown Utrecht. In one and a half week more than 100 movies will be presented. And at the end of the festival the Dutch Oscars, Golden Calfs (The Netherlands used to be an agrarian nation!) will be presented. The festival opened on September 28, 2005 with the premiere of the movie Leef! (live!) by director Willem van de Sande Bakhuyzen, who died a day before the showing.

A movie festival is natural place to see how the broadband content industry in the Netherlands is moving on. Tiscali is the major sponsor of the festival. And an Internet movie side event was announced for next year.

The organisation announced that next year they will extend the festival with Internet movies, whatever they are. I suggested last year to the organisation (but never received a reply back) to have a side event of interactive movies in the tradition of Chris Hales and Kinoautomat. Of course also the mobile movies are an interesting area. In London there is the 30 seconds movie festival.

The event has now a very professional website, complete with a gateway to the Dutch Movie Database. But that was different in 1995.The festival got its first site ten years ago, sponsored by a local newspaper Het Utrechts Nieuwsblad, part of the Wegener Newspaper Group, and set-up by a group of enthusiasts, a real geek named Vince, a designer and a project manager, a girl with the name De Bruin. On behalf of the newspaper, I monitored the project.
It was one of those pioneer projects, just started a few days before the festival. The technology had to be set up, connections tested and content made. And while the technicians slept in their sleeping bags in the office of the local newspaper, the design was heavily discussed. I remember the discussion about a menu on a cow, referring to the golden calf award. Eventually after a long night’s discussion, a lot of coffee and beer, the final design was fixed. I would not know how it looked any more as the site is no longer online (but there still seems to be a CD-ROM of the site). The program announcements were put online and daily a report was made and put on the site. The local newspaper offered its review database as a feature.

How many people have looked at the first database is not clear. At least a company in Rotterdam was looking at it as they produced earlier the first site of the Rotterdam Film Festival. Also the organisers had an occasional look at the site; but it did not have their interest, besides they were not paying. But this lukewarm attitude has disappeared. After ten years the site has a mature radiation. But personally I like the sponsor site of Tiscali better; they have made better use of broadband features.

Monday, October 03, 2005

24 hours city, 24 hours day

I am back in the Netherlands from the surprise visit to 24 hours city Cairo. Of course it was unfair to be sent over there only for two days with hardly anytime to do culture. But I got al least the pyramids in. (by the third one, my stick was full, so no picture of the sphinx of Gizah).

The first pyramid with the boathouse in front

At night we had a discussion in a small group about the taskforce for e-content. The minister of Communication and Information Technology is not going to beat around the bush. He is going to set up a taskforce in order to develop e-Content in Egypt and be a leader in the Arab region.

On the left is Mrs Effat El Shooky, the eminent juror of the 2003 Grand Jury in Dubai, who tackled the minister for supporting WSA. On the right hand the Head of BBC Arabic Mr Hosam Sokkari, stationed in London but who happened to be in Cairo.

Of course the local e-Content competition is a first step. Looking at the support these people get from their government I am sometimes jealous. In the Netherlands we organise the competition without any support from the government (although at least one official showed up this year!). Also their participation in the World Summit has lead to contacts with people involved in the rest of the world. Now they want to go further. We talked about a kind of Content institute alike to the Finnish model, run by Irina Blomqvist. In this institute they could do academic work, do surveys and run an instruction programme of workshops, seminars, conferences and summerschools. And we also discussed the idea of an Arab Academy of Digital Media after the model of the European Academy of Digital Media (EADiM). In the coming period we will have to work out these thoughts as suggestions to the ministerial taskforce.

By 00.00h I was in the airport, waiting for my 2.30h flight to Amsterdam. It is just one of those days during which you are conscious 24 hours long.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

To Smart Village again, now for a tour and a lecture

The tour is at CULTNAT., the Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage. On first view it is a funny combination of culture and nature. But once you see their products you will understand that they can turn images of hieroglyphics into birds will all the information on their territory. The Center is in fact a content factory, which processes everything that has to do with cultural heritage and natural heritage; of course the natural heritage by itself is a lot of content.

The first stop on the tour is the room for astronomical instruments. Equipment is on exhibit which has to do with the positions of the stars such as a astrolabe an clocks. They even have a globe with China, but after that there is the black sea up to Europe. The USA had not been discovered yet.

The water clock of a kalief. The clock ran on water 24 hours. At every hour it would release a ball, which fell in a big cup; but only in daytime as the kalief did not want to be disturbed at night. The kalief had also a clock running on sand.

Next stop in the tour is the collection of CD-ROMs CULTNAT has produced. Over the years CULTNAT has experimented and developed a layered approach to their information. All productions have three layers: identifier (e.g. statue), basic data, expanded data. The productions range from Archeological heritage, natural heritage, manuscript heritage, musical heritage and contemporary heritage with architecture in Cairo.

The starting screen of Culturama

A remarkable product is their Culturama, a set of 9 screens used in an interactive way. I have seen this type of screens for movie projections. Cybercity in Hong Kong has such a presentation; but it is used for sequential movie showing; not for interactive presentations. You would wish that you could go back to school and learn history in this way. It is so entertaining and exciting. On those nine screens they show the Pharaonic timeline, e.g. with Tutanchamon with imagines restored in 3D.

But their latest pride and joy is the Eternal Egypt ( The site won acclaim from the WSA Grand Jury this year. Eternal Egypt is content for broadband. The site showcases a selection of Egypt’s treasures and cultural heritage, from the dawn of the Pharaos to the Islamic era. It is an interesting innovative and interactive ma and time line. A context navigator shows relationship between a subject and other objects, places and personalities. It is a beautiful site which is interesting for teaching history of Egypt.

After the tour we are brought to another office where I will present a lecture on the World Summit Award and how it works. It takes some time, but a discussion ensues. By 13.30h I m bundled into the car to be rushed to the city to the RISTEC institute , right opposite the Dutch embassy. Still some sponsor meetings to go and at 19.00h a final presentation at the Intercontinental hotel on the subject Internet is changing fast. I hope it will be a good discussion with the media.

At night I will fly back to Amsterdam and arrive just in time to start the new working week.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Cairo here I come

I have landed at 00.30h in Cairo, a crazy city with 16 million people and a 24 hours economy. Traffic is crazy and drivers signal with lights and the hooter that they need some space as most roads are not marked.

View from my hotel room on the river Nile by night and daytime. The bridge with the lions is an old one. It was filmed by the brothers Lumière, when they made a special about Cairo. At the beginning of the 20th century.

As member of the board of the World Summit Award, I have been invited to be present at the award ceremony of the first Egyptian e-Content Awards. The ceremony is at the business park Smart Village. No less than 250 people showed up for the ceremony, which is held outside at a very comfortable temperature. The minister of communication and information technology, Mr Tarek Kamel, is present to hand out the awards.

The venue for the e-Content Award ceremony

In his speech before handing out the awards the minister mentions that this event is threefold. Two years ago he had never heard of the World Summit Award; now that Egypt has won an award for the production Eternal Egypt he knows the organisation and the impact. And thirdly, he promised that his ministry was going to support the WSA in their ventures.

Minister Tarek Kamel giving an interview for Egyptian TV about the importance of content. Mr Kamel was one of the Internet pioneers in Egypt and in the region

He was very proud that due to the WSA a local competition has been created. In his opinion content added a new, creative dimension to information technology. This year no less than 200 entries were sent I and evaluated by jurors. Winners in 8 categories and two special categories were awarded with a certificate and a statue.

The local event has been inspired by two people. Effat e-Shooky, a charming, smart lady who works for the Regional Information Technology and Software Engineering Center (RITSEC); I have known her since the WSA Grand Jury 2003, which was held in Dubai. She has cooperated with Mohamed Omran, the CEO of Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), a developing agency set up by decree of the government but supported financially by the industry. Both have worked very hard towards this event and it was great, complete with television, photographers and writing press. For the Egyptians it was a historic event as the digital creative industry was started.

After the ceremony was over I got into a discussion with one of the participants about the difference between software and content. During the jury process there had been a long discussion about this. And of course, the discussion comes always back especially in e-business. Are we talking about smart portal software or are we talking about content as a result of the creative process using information technology. Also the definition of e-Inclusion was brought in the discussion. The definition as used by the WSA in their explanatory notes was not enough as there is also some regional connotation, something to do with domination. But we left that discussion for tomorrow as there will be meetings outside Cairo in Smart Village, at Ritsec and with two global companies in Cairo itself.