Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Putting a course on content together (3)

Yesterday I treated in short the changes in the chain of value chain. Content creation and packaging being dependent on each other as well technology platforms and distribution, while consumers are no longer the receivers of information, but participants in information.

This overall change in the value chain requires new specialities in every chain:

Content creation. In this chain the storytelling has changed essentially. Digital storytelling is not just putting a story together between a beginning and an end. Digital storytelling requires a feeling for interactive actions and use of multimedia in a story. Over the past years, I have been impressed for example by the interactive monument of the Madrid bombings, produced by El Pais. Completely different is the storytelling in the Goatmilk Festivals in Romania. Another approach is the virtual puppeteering.

Packaging. Packaging has become a completely different game. It is all about concepting, formats and business models. So there is a creative component, a process component, a legal component and a commercial component. Digital content packagers need three qualities: creative; process; marketing/commercial.

With the content creation and packaging also a new subject comes along: content sustainability. Content sustainability means different things to different media: to newspapers and magazines it means how perishable is an item; to books it means how long lasts the interest. To e-media it means the creation of own content, the life cycle of it and the availability from a third party. Content becomes a strategic online item which has a life cycle.

Technology platforms. Technology platforms require also a variety of specialisations, which can be put together as content-related technologies: content management systems, digital rights management systems and micro-payment systems.

Distribution. There are now various channels to distribute content ranging from DVDs to internet, interactive television and mobile. In crossmedia they can be combined with traditional media such as print, radio and TV.

Consumers. Since the rise of print, consumers only received newspapers, magazines or books and could not immediately react to the publisher. In the digital content chain the consumer can directly react to questions, polls from the programme producer by for example SMS. It is one of the special possibilities offered by digital media. In crossmedia these digital contact possibilities are used to stay in touch with users, allowing them to follow a story differently, feeling more engaged by having more ways to understand the story and participate in it. In fact these possibilities make users consume more. It increases, strengthens, and deepens the relationship with the end user.

Content specialists should know about all these five chains, but mainly about content creation and packaging. They should of course understand the technological opportunities, but they only have to translate them to formats and distribution channels.

Tags: content

Blog Posting Number: 553

Monday, October 30, 2006

Putting a course on content together (2)

Having defined or described content, it is important to understand the value chain of content. So with printed content the value chain was fixed chain of value increasing modules. Starting with creation, packaging was the first value increaser, followed by production, distribution and consumers. As far as digital content on information carriers this linear value chain still is valid.

But the e-value chain for content has drastically changed for digital content. No longer is there the linear chain, during which every module adds value. Digitisation has already affected the chain. Content can be passed on without retyping, which led to a gain in in efficiency. Multimedia led to interactivity. Especially crossmedia has affected every link in the chain. In the content chain of the broadcast industry these changes have been noticeably in every link. In the printing and publishing industry, it has been purely efficiency gain. But the e-value chain for example has changed the position of the consumers from receiving information to reacting to information.

Digital value chain, illustration from E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market, ed. Peter A. Bruck e.a. ;(Springer, 2004)

Instead of a linear chain, the e-value chain has now become a circle, where the module of packaging can dictate the content creation and where the technology platform dictates the distribution channels. And in all phases the consumer influences choices. Broadcasts can be distributed online, through interactive television and through mobile. But sending a broadcast through interactive television means that the producer will have to add something to a linear broadcast. And even the mobile broadcast might become interactive instead of interactive.

It is clear that the phases of content creation and packaging are interrelated. Also technology platforms and distribution are related. But all those chains become a kind of grid. Content creation is closely linked to technology platforms, while packaging almost dictates distribution.

The value chain is of course also of influence for the production cycle. Content creation used to be the start of a production cycle, but packaging might have done the concepting and asked the content creators to start producing. Of course concepts can also come from distribution or technology platforms. However this will often lead to technical concepts, which usually produce irritating products and services.

The digital value chain opens up opportunities for mixing interactive television, internet and mobile technologies to provide emotionally satisfying content. According to Christian Fonnesbech, producer with the Danish company Congin, this requires developments in several areas “such as script-writing, production flow, business models, storytelling grammar for new media, and the distribution and penetration of a new product”.


Blog Posting Number: 552

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Putting a course on content together (1)

I pursued the subject of yesterday and especially the content side of the skills gap.

The education of new media has developed over the years. It started all with courses on HTML and director. The courses usually consisted of technical packages, with specialisations for interaction specialist, video and audio specialists. Some editorial departments in journalism, publishing and broadcasting started new media courses. Now with crossmedia coming up, interactive marketing and new media management do warrent a new course of its own.

But a special course on content I have not seen yet in colleges and universities (just prove me wrong!). As said in the blog yesterday, content as an educational subject is often confused a course writing for internet and is often combined in a course content and communication. But I would love to see a real in-depth course on content.

A fundamental concept of content is needed for such a course. A proper definition for content is hard. If you are a publisher you think about content mainly as text-oriented information, sometimes embellished with graphics and photographs. If you are in the audio-visual industry you think in terms of spoken, animated and video information as well as music. And in theatre content is a story told. With the digitalisation it meant that content whether it was text, audio and video became bits and bytes and could be copied and mixed at random without loosing quality.

So when online and CD-Rom were introduced the term electronic content sprang up, later followed by digital content. This last term just indicated that the content was digital; nothing more, nothing less. But then came the proliferation of terms by putting a prefix before the term content: e-content, m-content, i-content. In most cases the prefix is just fashionable indicating the technology like the m- of mobile.

But e-content is more than a fashionable term. In the book E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market (Springer, 2004) the following definition of Andrea Buchholz and Ansgar Zerfass was used:
E-content is digital information delivered over network-based electronic devices, i.e. symbols that can be utilised and interpreted by human actors during communication processes, which allow them to share visions for user involvement and may change dynamically according to the user’s behaviour.
It is a subcategory both of digital and electronic content, marked by the involvement of a network, which leads to a consistent renewal of content (contrary to the fixed set of content stored on a carrier such as a CD-ROM, or on the content broadcast via TV and Radio. This constant renewal of content in tie with its dynamic change allow for a qualitative difference, thus making it E-Content.

This definition has quite some implications for a real content course. It goes deeper than only learning how to write for internet. But the definition has implications for the creativity, the value chain, the legal side, commerce, e-learning, scientific publishing.


Blog Posting Number: 551

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Content evolution, but skills gap

I receive regularly the AOP newsletter, the UK association of online publishers. The organisation is in the UK the counterpart of the US Online Publisher Association (OPA). The last association developed a European version of OPA, but AOP, which had been started earlier, moved on. And luckily they did, for we did not hear much of the European OPA after the initial rumbles. This while Europe could use a strong publishers online association for the industry and for the lobbying. The four years old AOP has now many activities such as studies, workshops and conferences, legal and political studies. The AOP like OPA measures the success of its members in the first place in terms of online advertising revenues and others.

In the Annual Review 2006 entitled Content Evolution. The Director Alexandra White makes the statement that the industry (traditional book, magazine and newspaper publishers as well as traditional broadcasters) as a whole is now feeling more confident than it was a year ago. Major factors contributing to this positive outlook include the penetration of broadband, mobile technologies and the first online communities.

There is also an alarming sound in the annual report: Online publishing skills gap widens. The report says: Recruitment remains an important issue for many AOP members, even more so than identified in 2005. Publishers rated difficulty in recruitment and retention as one of the biggest constraints on business growth.
This year, 61 percent of businesses surveyed reported an increase in headcount for their online business compared with 40 per cent in 2005. In the last year alone, 429 jobs, were created by the organisations surveyed and were further demand to be met , this figure would increase substantially .
This skills shortage becomes particularly prevalent as companies look to fill sales and editorial roles. Fifty-four per cent of those surveyed are recruiting for sales posts while 31 per cent currently have vacancies for editorial staff.

This is in the UK. And this skills gap is not only in the UK, but also in the rest of Europe. This is why I applaud initiative like the MBA Crossmedia as this course will deliver skilled managers and sales people. Specific editorial courses I have not heard of courses for people working in the industry, wanting to improve their skills. Perhaps we should develop a special European content course; not just to write for internet, but do to understand crossmedia editorially, do concepting and the creation process, know about the sustainability of content and know about the legal implications of content.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number 550

Friday, October 27, 2006

‘Lifelong learning’: building block of the Knowledge Society

On 25 October, the European Parliament adopted the Commission’s ambitious proposals for this new action programme in the field of education and training. For the first time, a single programme will cover learning opportunities from childhood to old age. The Lifelong Learning Programme will cover the period 2007-2013, and is the successor to the current Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and eLearning programmes. It has a budget of € 7 billion to support projects and activities that foster interchange, cooperation and mobility between education and training systems within the EU, so that they become a world quality reference.

Ján Figel’, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Multilingualism, said, “Education and training are the cement that binds societies together in the face of economic and demographic change. I therefore welcome the decision of the European Parliament to join the Council in adopting the Lifelong Learning Programme. It is a tangible, ‘hands-on’ result of policy cooperation in education and training between the Member States and the EU institutions. With it, it will be possible for individuals in schools, universities and companies across Europe, and in all stages of life, to pursue all manner of stimulating learning opportunities, by participating in Programme-funded projects. I am also pleased because it arrives twenty years after the flagship programme for university education, Erasmus, was launched in 1987, emphasising the continuity and effectiveness of Community action in the field of education.”

The Lifelong Learning Programme is actually an over-arching structure that is built on four pillars, or sub-programmes. Grants and subsidies will be awarded to projects under each of these that enhance the trans-national mobility of individuals, promote bilateral and multilateral partnerships, or improve quality in education and training systems through multilateral projects encouraging innovation, for example. The four pillars are:
1. The Comenius programme (€ 1,047 million) addresses the teaching and learning needs of all those in pre-school and school education up to the level of the end of upper secondary education, and the institutions and organisations providing such education;
2. The Erasmus programme (€ 3,114 million) addresses the teaching and learning needs of all those in formal higher education, including trans-national student placements in enterprise, and the institutions and organisations providing or facilitating such education and training;
3. The Leonardo da Vinci programme (€ 1,725 million) addresses the teaching and learning needs of all those in vocational education and training, including placement in enterprise of persons other than students, as well as the institutions and organisations providing or facilitating such education and training;
4. The Grundtvig* programme (€ 358 million) addresses the teaching and learning needs of those in all forms of adult education, as well as the institutions and organisations providing or facilitating such education.

These four pillars are joined by what will be known as a ‘transversal programme’ (€ 369 million), which will pursue the following four key activities:
(a) policy cooperation and innovation in lifelong learning;
(b) promotion of language learning;
(c) development of innovative ICT-based content, services, pedagogies and practice for lifelong learning;
(d) dissemination and exploitation of results of actions supported under the Lifelong Learning Programme and previous related programmes, and exchange of good practice.
Finally, these actions will be complemented by the new Jean Monnet programme (€ 170 million), which supports institutions and activities in the field of European integration.

The implementation of the Lifelong Learning Programme has been allocated a budget of € 6 970 million for the period of the 7 years from 1 January 2007 to end December 2013.

* I kept asking myself: Who the hell is Grundtvig. Comenius, Erasmus and Da Vinci I know. But Grundtvig sounds Nordic. What did he have to do with learning and the European Union. I found this answer: Why the name "GRUNDTVIG" ?
Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872), a Danish clergyman and writer, is regarded as the founder of the Nordic tradition of "learning for life". His "folk high school" concept was based on the idea that education must be available to all citizens throughout life and should encompass not only knowledge but also civic responsibility, personal and cultural development.


Blog Posting Number: 549

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Search engines are feminine

Search engines are usually boring. These days search engines take different shapes from the predators. When search engines of Dialog and SDC were developed in the beginning of the seventies, you have to put a search term after the prompt. And as searching was a matter of the taximeter, you preferably put more than one term after the prompt. In this way you would find the documents faster than with one term and of course pay less.

When internet came around search engines were not the most logical services. Christine Maxwell started the cybernaut service Magelhaen with links; but every link had to be confirmed by hand. By the time Google came around it took the world. Yet it was one of the many search engines, so meta search engines came into existence, combining the best of the engines into one service like Copernic.

Yet all these search engines and meta engines do not have an attractive interface. Google just has a small box. Copernic has a set of indicators to keep you busy while the engine is searching. It is all textual and rudimentary, but not very attractive.

But now you should try the (meta) search engine of Ms Dewey. It can not be accidental that she is called Dewey. In library environment Dewey was an ordering system for books, starting with 1 for theology. A real dull, but effective method to make books to be found in libraries. But Ms Dewey is not a grey library mouse. She is an assertive young lady inviting you to search and commenting on your search criteria (did your dog type this?).

When you have entered the URL the service will start to load and Ms Dewey pushes the bar to the right. The introduction changes every time you enter the site. After a while you might have seen the variations and skip the intros. But they are funny.

Ms Dewey will invite you to type a term and if you do not do it fast enough, she will start urging you. Of course I started with my usual serch routine: type my name and type the name of the blog. On the right hand you see references coming up, which you can link to. However you do not know how many references are there. However it looks like they are de-duplicated and are put together by item. I discovered references which I had never seen yet.

But when you start thinking, Ms Dewey will urgently invite you to type something here, while she points to the query box. And if you are not fast enough she will start seductively urging you. If it takes too long she will knock on the glass of your screen, asking whether there is someone.

After a while you find her sympathetic and might start typing nice comments like charming. She might comment just ad random. When I typed bitch she just went into the routine of pressing to type words: keep asking question; the more questions you ask, the more I know and soon I will rule the world! Just a coincidence. But she is funny at time.

The interface to this meta search engine is a visual one and very enjoyable. Of course after a while you have had it with her as she starts to go into repetitive loops. But as an interface it is very innovative; as a meta search engine you do not get the feeling that it is reliable. I guess we should keep feeding Ms Dewey with questions. She is absolutely hilarious.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 548

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Start Dutch MBA Crossmedia in December

In May I wrote about plans to set up a MBA Crossmedia course. Interest was shown by newspaper companies, telecom companies and broadcast companies. This is not illogical as these companies get often people with a background in marketing, for example retail marketing, but not with crossmedia experience. So the course should fill a need.

Now Lemniscaat School of Management has announced that it will start its first course for the Dutch MBA Crossmedia in the Netherlands in December. The course has been developed for young managers working in the media chain and related companies, who are looked upon as future potentials in their organisations. The MBA course is the first full blown crossmedia course on a scientific level and leads to an international recognised diploma. The instructors are active in the field and come from companies such as the newspaper publisher PCM, the telecom company Tele2/Versatel, the broadcast company Talpa, the telco KPN, and the broadcast facilities company NOB, but also from academia such as the Free University of Amsterdam, Technical University of Twente and the University of Utrecht.

The course lasts two years and consists of four building blocks with four modules per block:
- Block I: the new consumer; crossmedia marketing; crossmedia strategy; leadership;
- Block II: creativity; production; internal organisation; leadership;
- Block III: business efficiency; value chain, international markets; leadership;
- Business project
- Block IV: master proof consisting of thesis and foreign trip
- Defence and graduation
The time participants will have to spend on the study in two years, including home work and thesis is 1600 hours. The amount of contact hours is lower than in an average MBA course, as use is made of Action Learning software.

Co-founders of the MBA Crossmedia are PCM, Telegraaf Media Group and Tele2/Versatel. Lemniscaat School of Management iss part of the Conclusion Group and is a member of the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD).

The course will start in December 2006 and take two years. Tuition will be 30.000 euro. For more information: info@lemniscaat-edu.nl


Blog Posting Number 547

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Print media on the EC agenda

Yesterday Media Commissioner Viviane Reding (see photograph) met representatives from the print media for the second time for a high-level dialogue. Eight editors-in-chief were presen of Helsingin Sanomat (Finland), Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), La Stampa (Italy), Luxemburger Wort (Luxembourg), Polityka (Poland), Diario de Noticias and Expresso (Portugal) and The Times (United Kingdom. This meeting is in the framework of the Media Task Force.

The talks between the editors-in-chief and Commissioner Reding covered several broad subject areas, ranging from business models and sources of advertising revenue, to the rules distinguishing editorial content from advertising features, and how they relate to developments in product placement within the audio visual media. Also educational and copyright issues were on the agenda.

“The press is at the heart of Europe’s diverse media landscape, and a corner-stone of freedom of speech and democracy”, concluded Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “We must therefore pay attention to the impact of EU policies on the print media. Both journalistic freedom and solid economic foundations are indispensable for newspapers and magazines to flourish in the multi-media age. I was therefore glad to reassure editors-in-chief today that advertising bans are not on this Commission’s agenda.”

On the basis of the work of the Commission’s Media Task force, Commissioner Reding has expressed on several occasions her strong opposition to EU advertising bans.

In November last year Commissioner Reding met chief editors from eight European newspapers and magazines from Austria, Denmark, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK will meet in Brussels at the invitation of Commissioner Reding to brainstorm on how the written press in Europe is addressing the challenges and opportunities arising from online publishing, digitisation and increased competition in the advertising markets.

This consultation was the starting point of a Commission study on factors affecting publishing industry competitiveness indicators. The study indicates that innovation and reform are major challenges facing the EU publishing industry. Newspapers, for example, are read by over 180 million people across Europe. But their advertising revenue is falling, their core readership is aged over 45 and younger readers appear to prefer other media. Digital technologies are fast changing the ways in which content is created, combined, distributed and consumed.

In the meantime the first papers and results on competitiveness of the publishing industry as well as on media literacy have been published.

Tags: , ,

Blog Posting Number 546

Monday, October 23, 2006

Internet in the Dutch history canon

Recently, the canon of the Dutch history was published. In 50 windows a view is given on the history of the Lowlands. At least those 50 historic items people, living in The Netherlands, should know.

Looking at modern history of The Netherlands there is no computer item. There is mention of the television as symbol of the rise of mass media since 1948. But there it stops. Not one mention about the first computers, which were imported in The Netherlands, by the Dutch Bureau of Statistics, the Dutch telecom company and Philips Research Laboratory. Neither is there mention of the first Apple IIe and PCs in the canon. Looking at new media there is no mention of any service of event.

The Dutch online history started with the PTT videotext service Viditel in 1980. It was not a success; so I can imagine that you do not list such a service as an historic window. The launching of CD-ROM as an information carrier by Philips is not mentioned either, which is not illogical as it is an information carrier.

I personally think that launching of the Digital City (DDS, De Digitale Stad) in Amsterdam in 1994 should be a window in the canon of 50 historic items. The Digital City was launched as a debating platform for the Amsterdam municipal elections, but turned out to be the starting point of internet for consumers in The Netherlands. Since that time internet has become a household term for e-mail and searching information electronically. Of the 16,5 million inhabitants in The Netherlands more than 10 million people know now what internet is and use it. Terms like e-mail and to google can be heard in trains and buses. Due to the heavy telecom competition The Netherlands has the highest penetration of broadband in the world.

Altogether Internet has made a broader and faster impact in The Netherlands than television. This started in 1948 and only when colour television entered the living room, it became a real mass medium. Black and white was the symbol of richness; colour was the symbol of the masses.

I would like to plead for the inclusion of DDS in the canon, as it was the starting point for the acceptance of consumer internet in The Netherlands.


Blog Posting Number: 545

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cinekid festival in Amsterdam

This week kids in The Netherlands have their autumn break. Time to go with the parents to a holiday parc with a fancy swimming pool. But they can also go to Cinekid 2006, a festival with movies, television and new media programmes. This year it is the 20th edition. The organisation expects 30.000 kids this year to watch and play with 200 media productions: feature films, children’s documentaries, short films, animations, TV series and single plays, cross-media productions, interactive installations and set-ups and workshops. The main festival is held in Amsterdam, but approximately 30 satellite festivals are held in cities all over the Netherlands. There is a local festival and an international festival. The Cinekid Awards are presented in each discipline: film, television and new media. Each section has its own professional jury and a children’s jury. Media partner of Cinekid is the broadcast station Nickelodeon.

Each year, the film programme consists of a competition programme with 15 high-quality films from all over the world. Each edition of the festival also has several additional programmes so that children can chose from a wide variety of movies.

The television programmes shown are the best of what Dutch and international television have to offer. To accompany almost every screening directors, actors, hosts and/or producers are invited so that the children in the audience can ask them questions on how their favourite programmes are made. A huge success is the yearly workshop for the pre-schoolers, in which they are invited to produce and star in their own first film. The documentary section is one of the rare places in the world where this genre is promoted.

The new media programmes are rather new. At Cinekid’s digital playground where children can play with the latest games, online tools, cd-roms and interactive installations. But the big is, that they can also create their own media productions on the computer or make their own news show. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Cinekid has developed Cinekid studio, a programme to develop your own movies. Kids can download the program and upload the results.

During the many workshops that Cinekid organises, children can make their own animation films, music videos and become official Cinekid reporters. The new media programme offered by Cinekid is considered to be the yearly state of the art, and of established importance for the industry, the producers and designers.

Tags: , ,

Blog Posting Number: 544

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Top Talent Award in Vienna in November

Yesterday I received advance notice of the EUROPRIX Top Talent Festival 2006 in Vienna from November 24– 25 2006. The annual EUROPRIX Top Talent Award recognises the special achievements of young multimedia producers below 30 years of age from all across Europe and celebrates the efforts of tomorrow’s best producers, Vienna is going to be the stage for the Top Talent Festival from November 24 – 25 2006. For this purpose the Palais Epstein in Vienna will host and focus on multimedia during the three days.

Along with project presentations, workshops with multimedia gurus and exhibitions, the glamorous Top Talent Gala will add a special highlight to this festival. On Saturday evening, November 25, the “Museum of Military History” will stage the Gala presenting the 21 nominees and the winners in the contest’s eight categories as well as the “EUROPRIX Top Talent 2006 Overall Winner”.

I am looking forward to the Festival again. It has developed into a three days of tanking ideas from young producers as well from the academic network. Members of the European Academy of Digital Media and the Academic Network congregate for meetings, while interesting speakers are invited to address the students and the members of the networks. I have seen some suggestions of speakers on the list and I am pretty sure that they will be of interest to all the creatives in the audience.

The nominations can already be seen on internet. It is interesting to see the sites and the projects. TTA should make an open competition of this event and invite people on the internet to vote and select the category winners. It would be interesting to see the difference between the jury of professionals and the internet jury.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 543

Friday, October 20, 2006

Deadline eContentplus

It is a long way: from Amsterdam to Brussels to Luxembourg and Maastricht and back to Almere near Amsterdam; it is almost 900 kilometres And all this touring, just to bring a package to the European Commission in Luxembourg, as at 17.00h yesterday was the deadline for the delivery of proposals. Of course it is crazy. The call for e-Contentplus proposals is more than 3 months old, ample time to prepare a proposal in due time and send it to Luxembourg. Bit it seems that adrenalin has to come into play, otherwise the proposal will not be good enough.

The proposal is an old idea in the field of digital libraries. I have been throwing it around for more than two years now. So the basic idea was there all along. But then the problem is to formulate and organise it. For you need a consortium preferably from different countries to support it. In the proposal we formed a consortium of partners and associate partners. The partners are going to carry out the work; the associate partners are being asked to deliver their material to the consortium. We were able to form a consortium of partners in four countries and associate partners in 6 countries. All consortium members know each other and have worked in other projects together.

At the reception in Luxembourg I met an E-Contentplus project officer. He just happened to pass by, coming back from his luncheon. Of course, he was just anxious to see whether there was already a queue of couriers. But seeing that I was the only one with a package, he started a chat. From the talk it was clear that we were not the only consortium putting in a proposal and later on I saw with my own eyes that the proposals were coming in by the lorry-load. I had expected this as the e-Contentplus call is not a call for research projects, but the only call for projects close to the market. For many government institutes, universities and libraries a call is one of the few occasions to pick up extra money for projects.

I am not going to speculate whether we as a consortium are going to be lucky. Of course I am convinced that we have a damn good proposal. But from my experience as an evaluator I know also that this call is going to be Russian roulette: Out of the 250+ proposals (my guess; not of the EC official) in the field of digital libraries only a four or five proposals are going to be selected, depending on sums of money the consortia ask from the Commission.

All together the adrenalin flowed again for more than a week in order to complete the project proposal and get everyone line up, including a party that wanted to join on the last two days. My God what a stress. I have had contact with more than 20 people in the last week; all calls from and to abroad.

But now there is nothing we can do anymore than just sit back and wait. The e-Contentplus project officers are going to read the proposals; they invite experts to evaluate the proposals; and by mid December there will be a present, if the proposal has been selected, or a disappointment. Happily enough the messages arrive just before the season of celebrations. So we will either take a drink on a successful outcome or drink on a failure.


Blog Posting Number 542

Thursday, October 19, 2006

After video: what's Next

At the beginning of the year I picked up a prediction, saying that video was going to be the next thing. And indeed it is. The video service YouTube is being acquired by Google at a new economy price of more than a billion US dollar. This, while Google did have a video service of its own. The money must burn in their pockets.

And of course, now everyone is following the trend and has to have a video service. Was blogging trend a year ago, now video is the trend? So blogging gets less attention, while the user logs peak on vlogging. No longer a text embellished with photographs suffices; you will need moving pictures, regardless of the quality.

So following the trend, Dutch services are running a race in order to get their video service set up. Three Dutch information providers, all traditional publishers, are moving in order to have their service. Geenstijl, (No style) with a minority share of the newspaper company De Telegraaf, has started its own service. Ilse, part of Sanoma Magazines, is busy with NU.tv and follows the route of citizens’ journalism to get eventually to a video service.

But more impressive looks the news site that PCM publishers are setting up. Together with the commercial broadcast company Talpa, PCM is testing a beta service for photographs and movies. The service, which is going to be called Skoeps.nl, will build up a network of professional video makers and citizens who will deliver movies about news items. The 500 video makers should deliver two scoops a week. The rights to the movies will stay with Talpa and revenues will be shared 50/50 between PCM and the movie maker. Vodafone will participate as mobile partner for the mobile photographs, but also for the mobile distribution. Also the Dutch newswire ANP is partnering with Skoeps for the distribution of the movies.

In the coming months we will be flooded with movies. If the logistics of Skoeps work out with two scoops a week by 500 reporters, the service will deliver 1.000 scoops a week. This is more than their fully paid reporters bring in text and photographed items in the national newspapers of the company. But it will most probably also quantity over quality of the scoops.

I am going to search for the next content trend. Citizens’ journalism has already been overtaken by entertainment. I guess that the novelty of the video services has worn off by the beginning of next year. I do not want to be the old, cynic man, but what will be the next content trend?

Tags: , ,

Blog Posting Number 541

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Free English paper with Dutch news

Two British journalists have started an English language paper with Dutch news. Dutchnews.nl is mailed for free to subscribers, who can print the newspaper or read it on internet. The newspaper will present daily news from The Netherlands. During important events such as elections there will extra editions for background information. The latest edition of the newspaper is downloadable from 16.00h.

The newspaper is run by the British journalists Robin Pascoe and Abi Daruvalla , who live in Amsterdam and work for more than 20 years in The Netherlands. They aim at the 100.000 emigrants in The Netherlands and consider this a niche market for quality journalism aimed at foreign professionals working and living in The Netherlands. The newspaper will be financed by ads.

The newspaper is intended for foreign people living in The Netherlands, who cannot read Dutch, but are still interested to know what is happening in the country they are living in. Besides the news the newspaper will explain Dutch institutes and phenomena in Alphabetical Soup, a lexicon of acronyms, abbreviations and general jargon.

In today’s newspaper the editors mix business news about the Dutch part of the steel company Corus with the news that the newspaper company Wegener will sell its direct-mail division. But the newspaper has also an item on the Dutch history canon. Historians have come up with a checklist of 50 icons or windows to illustrate 3,000 years of Dutch history. Ranging from the megalithic tombs in Drenthe (hunebeds) to the euro, the aim of the Canon van Nederland is to outline what important elements in the development of the Netherlands could be taught at both a primary and secondary level.

It is interesting to see that the jounalists see a market for themselves in The Netherlands. I am wondering whether they will also have a market outside The Netherlands. The are Dutch and English newsletters for ex-pats, but they have ainmed at people born in The Netherlands. Dutchnews does not suppose that you have been born in The Netherlands. As such the scope of the newspaper is wider.

Update 12/06/2008:


Blog Posting Number: 540

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Powerline internet keeps on struggling

When I was in South-Africa at the beginning of October, there was a lot of talk about powerline internet, the technology to distribute internet in the house through electricity plugs. The South-African electricity companies see powerline internet technology as a cheaper way to distribute internet in South-Africa, where telecom is very expensive compared to other countries. During the Government Technology Conference in Johannesburg I got into a discussion with the City Manager of the City of Johannesburg and asked him why he was favouring a technology, which is not stable yet. I pointed to the many experiments in Europe and the only commercial project in Germany (as far as I know).

I was pleasantly surprised to see an article on a newspaper site a few days ago, saying that powerline internet is still not stable. The editors tested the latest sets of special data plugs or home plugs. It was not for the first time that they had a test. In 2004 they tested the first generation home plugs and got a 14Mb signal. At first glance this is not bad, certainly as ADSL was still on an access of 2Mbps. Now they had home plugs at their disposal, of 85Mbps and even of 200Mbps. The test with the 85Mbps gave a reasonable result as long as no other plugs were used in the electricity plug box and no extension cords were used. This would give too much interference. But the results of the 200Mbps sets from Philips and Netgear were disappointing. Of the signals distributed with a speed of 200Mbps only 2 to 3 Mb was left.

A representative of Netgear confirmed the impression that much speed was lost; in fact a third to a quarter of the original signal with come through, he said. Of the 85Mbps series around 14Mb will be the result. Of the 200 Mbps sets only 20 pct is the result, so maximally 40Mb. But the editors concluded that in some cases only 2 to 3 Mb was left. This is caused, according to the representative of Netgear, to the way the electricity groups have been arranged during the construction. You need in fact a clean powernet and work on the electricity group, which has the sender. The ensuing discussion of users on the forum gave a range of experiences, ranging from ‘no problems’ to ‘forget it, it does not work’.

In The Netherlands Essent has experimented with the technology; I think that this was in 2003 in the city of Arnhem. Essent is a company which distributes electricity, water and cable. They have several experiments for the distribution of internet. The company is for example constantly upgrading its internet cable speed and has now reached 40Mb in a domestic environment. It has however set its mind on 100Mb next year. Their Powerline experiment did not get any follow-up; the conclusion was that the technology was still unstable. No other official experiments have been held. Yet people can buy home plug sets and install it themselves. And people do as can be concluded from the reactions on the forum.

I have a simple way of testing whether a technology will fly. If I know someone in circle of friends and acquaintances who is using the technology, it will have a chance. If I do not know anyone and it stays silent for 6 months, the technology is dead. In the case of powerline technology, I do not know anyone of my friends and acquaintances to use it. So I guess it is dead till a next stable generation.

Given the local situation with fixed and mobile telecom in South Africa, I am afraid that powerline is going to be a failure there. Not only will people curse the technology, but also internet.

(I just read that Belgacom TV, a service of the Belgian telecom incumbent Belgacom, will use powerline as one of its technologies for distributing the new television service. The technology will be delivered by Corinex. Earlier I had indicated that the Belgian cable company Telenet would use power line technology as one of its distribution technologies.)


Blog Posting Number: 539

Monday, October 16, 2006

Assisting the voter

On November 22, 2006, Dutch citizens will go to the poles to elect a new government. In order to assist the voters the Institute of Public and Politics (IPP; see banner) has put together an election guide. People can sit behind their computer and compare their opinion with the positions in the party programs on subjects as public order, security, finances, integration and assimilation. They answer 30 questions and get an advice on which party to vote.

Last week all the Dutch hotshots got together and answered the 30 question and were surprised to find out whether they answered in inline with their party program. The program, called Election Guide, assists in making the choice.

The Election Guide is not new to the Dutch voters. In 2002 and 2003 more than 2 million advices were given out. In the municipal elections of March of this year, there were 70 local election guides and 1.1 million advices were given. In the meantime the Dutch election guide has also been applied in Germany and with success.

The IPP organises more activities around the elections. A nationwide election in schools is organised; students vote for their favourite politician, who is usually also the choice of their parents. IPP also published Election newspapers for schools. IPP developed also other programs: one with which you can find your preferred candidate and one to compare your own opinion with the voting behaviour in parliament.

IPP has two main focuses: immigrants and yopung people. Just as in many other European countries, integration regularly figures as a topic of public debate in the Netherlands. Although the proportion of ethnic minorities in municipal councils and district councils is clearly growing, they are still under- represented. The IPP is therefore developing special activities to encourage political participation by immigrants.

Young people is another group that receives particular attention from the IPP. They are our future representatives and administrators. We cannot take it for granted that young people will be interested in political and social decision-making processes, so the IPP is constantly developing and applying methods and tools to involve them in these processes at an early stage and in a playful manner. The activities are targeted at under 25s, teachers and youth workers, with special attention for young people from ethnic minorities and for young people with a low level of education. Youth participation and political education are the two keywords here. The IPP builds on years of experience with projects unique in Europe to introduce young people to politics in a playful manner. In cooperation with more than a hundred young volunteers, the IPP bridges the gap between young people and politics with the following projects:
- Children's Town Councils: senior primary school pupils learn to make choices in local politics;
- Youth debates: enabling young people's opinions on particular subjects to be heard;
- Palmtop survey: a fun way of ascertaining young people’s opinions using palmtop computers. Easy for them to use and with quick results;
- Mock elections for schoolchildren. On the Internet and in written form;
- Youth Participation Monitoring Tool: the IPP has developed this to monitor; municipalities' participation scores using a questionnaire. Tips and suggestions are then given on how to raise the level;
- Training courses: a variety of courses for interested youngsters, e.g. 'Lobbying and fund-raising in Europe' and Media Training (both in association with the National Youth Council);
- Training courses: preparing young people already active in society to supervise groups on youth projects (peer group education).
IPP is also active internationally. In Slovakia and Turkey we are implementing projects to help achieve a more balanced representation of men and women in democratic systems. These projects are targeted at women in general but specifically at women’s organisations, other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), political parties and government agencies.


Blog Posting Number: 538

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A weblogger is not a journalist

In science you often have to state the obvious. Everyone knows it, but the scope has to be precise. The same happened when Arjen Dasselaar did his research among 292 Dutch bloggers. He was anxious to know what the journalistic level of the bloggers was. His conclusion: most of the Dutch webloggers – male and higher educated - do not practice journalism. That can be read in his English language thesis 'The Fifth Estate – On the Journalistic Aspects of the Dutch Blogosphere' (PDF).

The established media do not trust webloggers. They do not adhere to the principles of journalism and are not investigative. Besides they do not protect democracy and freedom like the classic media of newspapers, radio and television do.

So Arjen Dasselaar set out to research the level of journalism among bloggers. He surveyed 292 Dutch webloggers and came to the conclusion that most webloggers did not have any journalistic ambition. Depending on the definition only 0,3 to 17,5 per cent 0of the webloggers showed journalistic ambitions. In The Netherlands this boils down to 300 to 17.500 journalistic weblogs of the 100.000 Dutch weblogs.

Weblogging is not exchangeable with journalism. Weblogging is a phenomenon in itself and it is not only good, if it is a journalistic product. Journalism has a social function. If blogs fulfil this condition partly, they should be recognised as they take up a social responsibility. .
To Dasselaar it is clear that webloggers use other methods to find the truth than traditional journalists. They tell a story to the citizens as independent persons. Depending on the medium it takes time to communicate the story. But on internet a story is immediate as is the reaction to the story. So instead of the checking stories and listening to both sides, a weblogger can post a story, to which anyone can react immediately.

In an interview with the Dutch language weblog De Nieuwe Reporter (The New Reporter) Dasselaar touched upon an interesting presumption: there are less journalistic weblogs in The Netherlands than in the USA. He points to a difference in culture to explain this phenomenon. In The Netherlands we have a consensus culture; we shy away from debate. In the States however they love debate; even in a small desert town they used to have more than one newspaper. Although a debate is not equal to journalism, a debate will hand you the arguments needed in journalism.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 537

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Dutch public broadcast row over ... a game

Having returned from South-Africa, I am astonished again by the narrow mind of Dutch people and in particular of Dutch politicians, including the (not our) Prime Minister. It started yesterday in the early morning. The Dutch radio news had the item that the television program Lingo, a word game, was to be abolished. This program daily has an audience of more than 700.000 viewers. The channel coordinator indicated that the program would be abolished as it attracted too many senior people, while the channel was targeting on young people. (The channel coordinator was working in media professionally, but did not have a clue of the communication process, target group nor is he socially well versed). Immediately there was a loud protest. And not just a rumbling, but even a political protest...

In The Hague, where the Dutch government has its seat, political parties started to comment. Do not forget that the Dutch will have election at November 22nd, so many parties saw themselves forced to comment. The Christian party and the socialist party thought that it was a bloody shame and a discrimination of elderly people. Both parties welcome more votes, even with ridiculous statements. Even the prime minister, not exactly the most strong figure in the Netherlands, offered his opinion after the weekly session of ministers, saying that “from a human point of view he felt for the people who will miss Lingo. However the cabinet did not influence the programming”.

Instead of saying that the program should not be a part of the public broadcast, the prime minister is still in the business of soliciting votes. I am of the opinion that when the program would be taken of the Dutch public broadcast system, a commercial broadcast company would snap it up in less than 24 hours. And that is basically where it should be, in the commercial area and not in the public area.

In my view the public broadcast should limit itself to news, commentary on the news and arts and culture, which are not covered by the commercial broadcasting companies. To me the public broadcast companies should not be in the business of entertainment. And certainly not in games like Lingo, which has enough commercial potential.

Pursuing that line of thought, I think that the Dutch public broadcast should abandon at least one of its three TV channels and at least two of its radio channels. Besides they should not have government sponsored broadcast companies taking care of the programs, but have a board assigning programs to producers. The present Dutch public broadcast companies are all organisations claiming to represent a certain ‘believers’ group such as Christians, Muslims, Boeddhists, socialists; you name it. The Dutch public broadcast system should do away with the sectarianism and serve the nation with news and not views and basic programs.

This line of thought is not new. It has been presented in the past years by the Dutch Prime Ministers’ Scientific Council. But being a member of the Christian democrats, the Prime Minister has put this recommendation aside. It shows in which a small country can be great: trivia.


Blog Posting Number: 536

Friday, October 13, 2006

Newspaper starts reputation system

The Dutch newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden has started to use a reputation system to evaluate reactions on its internet forum. So far the newspaper moderated the reactions afterwards, but only threw out reactions when they were obscene or personal attacks.

Now the newspaper is a using a reputation system, which is more refined. The system has a kind of traffic light system for indicating the qualitative level of the contribution. Forum members rate the level of the contribution and the editors give a status to the contributor with colour dots. Is the level of the contribution low, then a red dot shows; the contributor will still be able to read the contributions, but can not participate by delivering a contribution any longer. He/she gets in fact an IP-ban, which prevents him/her from contributing. Next on the scale is an orange dot; this indicates that there is no real contribution to the discussion. The person can still participate in the discussion, but his contribution will appear with a delay of half an hour. Yellow is the next colour on the ladder and indicates an average level of contribution. The reaction will appear with a slight delay on the forum pages. Strong contributions are awarded with a green dot. Green contributors can award stars to contributions.

The newspaper receives roughly one thousand reactions daily. So far the editorial staff could only measure the amount of times that the reactions were read, which is only a quantitative indication. By using the reputation system the contributions are evaluated qualitatively. Other forum members can see in a glance where the substantial contributions can be found. Just look for the green dots.

I checked the edition of today and noticed an article with the headline: Starting prostitutes should be able to get a starter’s grant. I expected a variety of colours on such a controversial article. But as everyone who delivers a contribution gets a yellow dot for a start, all contributors had a yellow dot. I guess that the system will start to colour the reactions after a week or so.

Tags: ,

Blog Posting Number: 535

Thursday, October 12, 2006

UPC all out in Red Button strategy

UPC/Chello follows the Red Button strategy. Having given away a digital media player to her clients, UPC is now introducing interactive services. And they are successful, Shane O’Neill, director strategy at UPC holding Liberty Global. The Red Button is the greatest discovery this year for the company, he said.

The tv games have been player more than 1 million times and 30 percent of the digital tv clients regularly use the infotainment portal, while 47 percent of the digital tv subscribers used the channel Sport1 during the World Cup Soccer in Germany.

It is not illogical that UPC will continue its Red Button strategy. Tomorrow, for example, Chello, the content company of UPC, will use the Red Button for the TMF awards; digital tv subscribers will be asked to vote.

Presently the Red Button service contains:
VPRO 3voor 12, an interactive Music magazine;
Sport1, the mosaic screen from which a subscriber can click through to 8 channels.
Euronews, the news station;
TV-guide or the TV starting page.
ANP News;
ViD, the traffic channel;
Weerkanaal, the weather channel by Meteoconsult;
Stoneroos company with interactive applications of TV programs;
Tailor made Television with interactive applications;
NDS, games.

In the presentation given at PICNIC 06, Shane O’Neill did not indicate how many digital tv clients UPC has at present. The company has sent the media player to every subscriber for trial during 6 months; after the deadline they will have to subscribe to the Red Button Service or return the mediaplayer. New subscribers get the mediaplayer also for trial, whether they want it or not. In the fora on internet a lot of commentary has been given on this move. The sales policy has also been the subject of discussion in the Dutch parliament.

AS a UPC subscriber I have also received the mediaplayer, but have returned it unused. I have a PC and have hardly time to watch television; so why should I take out a subscription. When I indicated to the helpdesk that I was going to return the mediaplayer, I was told to better keep it as beginning next year every analogue subscriber would receive the player as part of their standard package. Depending on the conditions (but I guess it will not be for free), I might have to reconsider the triple play subscription.

I am wondering whether the service is really successful. Channel 4 in the UK launched also a Red Button service, but eventually abandoned the service completely. Difference between UPC and Channel 4 is of course that Channel 4 is a commercial broadcast station and UPC is a distributor, who buys in the Red Button services.


Blog Number Posting: 534

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My first trip to South-Africa (5)

Yesterday I was warned by the Dutch mobile company Telfort, that I was using a lot of mobile minutes. They were not used to the usual amount, so they warned by SMS, in case some else without authorisation was using my account. Not a bad action by Telfort. I told the contact person that I was in South Africa on business and he sighted: Oh South Africa, that must be expensive. I have run up a bill which is higher than the food bill! (I love the South-African food; it is 30 per cent cheaper than in Europe and tastier, IMHO).

Val and Walter Browm at Newtown.

Yesterday afternoon I went with Walter Brown and his wife Val around Jo’burg. We went to Alexandria. My goodness. I have seen poverty in the States, the UK and Beijing, but this beats all. Unbelievable the favella-like neighbourhoods with plastic huts and all the overcrowding. We went also into Jo’burg. I had a feeling like I was in any US city, a city without a real face. Walter and Val showed the Newtown, at the foot of the Nelson Mandela bridge. We were going there for a meal in the Market Theater, but this was closed. We ended up in a jazz like café and restaurant with fine jazz music and the food was not too bad. This trip changed my view on Jo’burg. Yet I believe that my next trip in South-Africa starts in Cape Town.

Before leaving I was trying to check on my e-mail as I had made an appointment with someone at the airport. I had been working in the hotel with the Nomadic Hotspot. It was okay in speed. But it was not completely reliable. There were several incidents that I could use the network without an official check-in. On the last day, however, the network was more than 6 hours out of function (One hour I can stand, but more than 6 hours is a bloody shame, certainly given the price of R100 = 10 euro per hour). I still see Wi-Fi as the old hotel telephone rip-off. Of course companies have to recover their investment and make a profit, but with Wi-Fi it is an cheap trick; they make an easy buck. But despite these problems, I have been able to bring you a daily report on my stay in South-Africa and now I am back on my 8Mbps cable connection of UPC.

I arrived this morning at 10.30 a.m. at Schiphol airport and was picked up by my daughter’s partner and the two grandsons. I am home again till next month when we travel to Paris on business for a weekend and later on for the Europrix Top Talent Festival. November is going to be busy.

Tags: http://www.southafrica.co.za

Blog Posting Number 533

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My first trip to South-Africa (4)

Today is the last day in South-Africa. I still have two appointments, of which the last one will end with a drink. After that I will get my belongings, a suitcase and the exhibition banner carrier as well as my hand luggage and leave for the airport. I will catch a KLM flight at 23h and be in the air for almost 11 hours. And that will end my first visit to South-Africa. I am glad for all the people I met, not only South-Africans, but also the delegates from Botswana and the ministerial delegation of Gambia. They are a source of inspiration.

Will I be back? That is a question I am asking myself. I love the country for the food; it is very spicy and tasty. I like the openness of the people I have met at the conference and I guess there is a lot of business to be done. I guess that South-Africa is nice for a beach-safari holiday, starting from Cape Town. But Jo’burg is not exactly a touristy place. For a visit to the suburb Soweto, where Mr Mandela and Bishop Tutu were born, you will have to be in a different mood than to cuddle lion cubs in a wild park.

Yesterday I had lunch with two guys of a software company. At the Government Technology conference they checked in the participants (but not the speakers!). They used the interesting technology of digital ink. This technology can be used in two ways. You can use an oversized fountain pen with special grid printed paper or use a stylus on a tablet. This digital ink technology is based on the Anoto technology from Sweden. It is a smart technology, which could be used in logistic processes; in fact I think it is TNT in the Netherlands using it or at least piloting it. But there is also a lot of application potential in hospitals.

The guys also have another software package which is intended for unifying project data. It is a strategic package for staffs of holdings or subsidiaries. It looks like a very good tool for project mangers of large projects with many sub-projects.

They guys saw an application for digital ink in universities and asked whether it could be used in the Netherlands. I explained that universities are basically organised by two organisations: one organisation takes care of the logistics of entering students, checking their grant, following their progress; the other organisation takes care of the computers infrastructure such as internet connection, access code and password, scientific projects, national licenses. This was for the guys quite an awesome perspective as in South-Africa there are state universities as well as private universities. Starting two organisations like the Dutch ones would not be easy. But given the advantages that can be reached and the contributing opportunities for commerce it would be interesting for them to set up such organisations. I think that I showed them the avenue to new opportunities. They have some of the tools in house to do it. I am going to stay in touch with them and see what they make of it.

Today I am going to pack. Happily enough I do not have as much luggage and heavy luggage like I had when I went to South-Africa. So I expect not to be overweight (for my luggage; for my body is another matter). Looking back at the trip I can say that it was successful in making contacts for the World Summit Award. I hope that it works out well for the project.


Blog Posting Number 533

Monday, October 09, 2006

e-Government and South-Africa (7)

I wrote some days ago about the government owning 37 per cent in the state’s telecom company Telkom and thought that selling them would speed up the knowledge society. It looks like more people are thinking of speeding up, but then in a get-rich-quick deal, at least the South-African Sunday Times think so. Yesterday it had a story on the front page with the headline: ANC chief in R50 million get-rich-quick deal. (R50 million is roughly 5 million euro or roughly 8 million US dollars).

Basic facts first. SBC, the American telco sold shares to the Elephant Consortium for R9 billion last year. The consortium, made up by many companies included also companies in which Ngonyama, ANC Head of the Presidency, and a former director general of Telecommunications as well as other former civil servants and businessmen are shareholders.

The allegation. When the deal was done there was an outcry as this consortium was seen as get-rich-quick scheme. Besides it was alleged that some officials prepared the deal and left office in order to buy themselves in. The consortium did not have money to buy the shares directly, but found a civil servants’ pension fund to pay and warehouse the shares, so as to allow the consortium members to raise cash. There was also a lock-up rule proposed till 2010.

This lock-up rule seems to have been broken by the company of Mr Ngonyama. So by selling 5 percent of the shares he had not paid and only a claim on, he has enriched himself for R50 million.

This clearly smells of corruption. High officials and former civil servants with prior knowledge get rich quickly, while the country has all kinds of problems. One thing is certain, dial-in and ADSL in South-Africa will not become cheaper of this deal and the road to the knowledge society will just be longer due to this type of deal.


Blog Posting Number 532

Sunday, October 08, 2006

My first trip to South-Africa (3)

I feel like I am stuck in Johannesburg. I cannot get out of Jo’burg with my present plane ticket, unless I pay a big supplement. I cannot leave the hotel premises to go on foot and look around in the neighbourhood. I cannot get online, unless I get a voucher for another hour; ADSL has spoiled me. So I have started to work on a project plan, which has been dwelling in my head for some time (while I play the records I got as a present from jazz fanatic Walter Brown). And as the weather is not inviting enough for a dip in the swimming pool, I most likely will take a cab this afternoon to Rosebank Mall (see photograph) to visit the African market, just to get out of the hotel.

As I am involved in with many a multimedia/e-content competitions, I have always wanted to have the availability of one digital library filled with qualified samples of the best practice in European e-Content. The database should be filled with entries from multimedia competitions around Europe and perhaps eventually from around the world. The digital library should be made accessible by extensive, intelligent and multilingual indexing as well as by bi-lingual descriptions in English, the original language and, if possible, by more language as well as by sample videos of products or projects.

The core of such a library can be built up from the winning and nominated entries of the multimedia content competitions: Europrix (1998-2002) and the Europrix Top Talent Awards (2002- ) as well as the European entries to the World Summit Awards. In total this would amount to roughly 820 entries. But this core collection could be extended with entries of Europrix partners such as Mindtrek in Finland (10 years of history; roughly 100 entries), Multimedia & e-business Staatspreise in Austria and the Europrix.nl in the Netherlands (75 entries). But the digital library should also be open to non-Europrix related competition like BIMA in the UK, the Spin/Spider Awards in the Netherlands and the international Pirelli competition.

Of course I would like to extend the digital library to the whole world. The World Summit only has already 2250 entries in eight categories; they are all qualified by a local national expert, a committee or a national competition. But f course there are more good competitions out in the world such as the Webby Awards and the Eppy Awards.

Such a project has several objectives. In the first place it would preserve qualified samples of the best practices of e-content projects over the years in one library structure. In this way a historical image of the past would be built up of e-content and the technology. As the entries would have a fixed form of data: such as bibliographic, indexing terms, disciplines and questions on the development, the technology, the production and the distribution the database would be an interesting source of knowledge for developers, marketers and the industry in general. The database would be a study resource for students and developers to see how particular subjects have been treated and developed. But the database would also be a showcase for e-content sector in the European Union. And last but not least, the database would be an entertainment resource from which theme channel shows can be produced:
- thematic programs: nature productions, game productions, culture;
- the making of projects and products;
- going for gold: program on a particular competition
- pitching projects for capital.

Objectives of such a project would be: Preservation, Research, Study, Promotion and Entertainment. In order to service the various targets groups which like to use the resources a registered user group of professional users and a public user group for theme channels would be formed. The service would be not-for-profit, but would have to break even financially and bring in money for maintenance and development.
Closed user group member would come from specialised libraries, multimedia departments of colleges and universities; multimedia associations, supra-, semi- and governmental institutions and creative companies. Theme channels will be sold to ISPs, television companies and telcos.


Blog Posting Number: 532

Saturday, October 07, 2006

e-Government and South-Africa (6)

Last night I had a meal with a participant of the Government Technology Conference. We had a nice seafood meal and enjoyed each others company.

We got back to the issues of the conference, but we got also talking about the larger framework, the state of telecommunication and internet. South-Africa still has a telecom company in which the state has 37 per cent. It is of course a minority share, but it still is a golden share, meaning that government still has a lot of influence on the company and it potential buyers. For one thing is for sure: one day the South-African telecom company will be bought. And it is only through liberalization that competition will be brought in and prices for example of ADSL will be driven down.

At present there is no competition. There are a few ADSL companies, but they are basically retailers for the South-African telecom company. It means that most people are still on dial-in connections and not on ADSL. And even dial-in is not cheap and fast. Officially the connection of my partner gives him 1Mbps, but this speed is seldom achieved. For the amount of money my table guest pays for dial-in you will have at least 4+ Mbps on ADSL.

There are of course two sides to this question. If government sells up its shares any company can pick them up and this might not be to the best of interest of the country. But by keeping the shares no real progress is made in education and the knowledge society. The government shares work as a condom on the progress of the knowledge society.

Ms Lyndall Shope-Mafole, the DG of the department of Communication, mentioned during the last panel sessions, that some 100 schools will get a cyberlab, a special room with at least 4 computers, where kids can learn how to use the computer and draw information from the internet. The number of computers is of course low, but it is a start. I am not sure whether this is a public private partnership (PPP). I guess that it is not, but of course it should also be to the interest of hard- and software companies to make the children computer literate.

Problems like this can not be solved overnight and not in one generation. If I just look at my own track back, when I started to know about computers in the seventies, saw my kid playing with it at an early age and hope to see my two grandsons growing up and taking computers for granted. And all this is going on, while the Internet generations change about every five years. For South-Africa it will be a real race against Internet generations.

Today I took a trip to an animal park.


Blog Posting Number: 531

Friday, October 06, 2006

e-Government and South Africa (5)

The official program of the Government Technology Conference in Johannesburg is over. Four days of speakers talking to the audience on government technology. Four days with delegates from various states in South Africa and African countries. I met a lot of South-African, including a delegation from the police force in Pretoria, a delegate of Zululand, who called himself ‘The Prince’. There was a large government delegation from Gambia, headed by their minister of communications Ms Neneh Gaye. (She and one of her delegates were clad in really colourful dresses). I also spoke with delegates from Botswana. All those countries are busy with e-government but are all in different phases. Looking from a European angle, these countries are in a different phase from the European and North-American countries. But one should not forget the saying: “The first city on gaz, will be the last on electricity”. So the European and North American countries might consider themselves ahead of the e-government game, but the African countries can have the benefit of moving ahead having seen the mistakes of the Europeans and North Americans.

Of course these governments have more to take care off than e-government only. They have to look after water and AIDS. These issues are of course important. But as a participant to the conference indicated e-government might be a tool to help in bringing water to the people and helping with mapping cases of aids. So government technology should also been seen as a supporting tool to the government objectives.

Yet there are risks for the African countries. One of the handicaps they might run into is the excuse of the way people work in Africa. Ms Lyndall Shope-Mafole, the DG of the South African department of communications, pointed to this aspect. The African way of doing things might take longer as there is more talk in order to reach a democratic agreement. The hazard of this might also be that democratic agreement might be used for stalling decisions.

It is clear to me that this conference can run a long cycle. I would love to be there next year and see what has happened in the past year and what new plans have been developed, not only in South-Africa, but also in Botswana and Gambia.


Blog Posting Number 531

Thursday, October 05, 2006

e-Government and South Africa (4)

The day began as the past few days. By 8.15 a.m. I was at Sandton Convention Center to attend a master class on Voice over WLAN. Gladly enough I did not have an official function like the past two days; yesterday I was knackered being unrepentantly the chairman of the e-government conference for the whole day. Today the master class was given by Mr Sadiq Malik, the business development director of BCT Global, South Africa. He is a fine presenter, drawing his audience into the subject.

He took the position that “African organizations are poised to reap the easily quantifiable Return On Investment benefits of Voice over Wireless (VoWLAN) technology. Utilising IP as the ubiquitous transport offers the enterprise significant statistical gains in bandwidth efficiency, lower overall bandwidth requirements, ease of management, and the ability to deploy new applications rapidly. On the WLAN, data and voice share a common infrastructure. By contrast, legacy disparate networks constitute a ‘use it or lose it’ model. When voice is quiescent, data can utilize the available bandwidth; when voice applications are active, they can be guaranteed the bandwidth required. Therefore, the ability to converge voice and data over a single wireless local area network can result in significant cost savings and allows for the development of new applications that increase productivity and efficiency.
When it comes to specialized implementations such as WLAN, roaming support, quality of service, radio frequency planning and security measures are critical to ensure success. Wireless is a contention medium so VoIP solutions must have a high level of fidelity in order to deliver analogue performance – which, quite simply, means being able to clearly hear the person you are talking to without any interference or dropped calls. Achieving these criteria can be a challenge without appropriate expertise and technologies, especially in the wireless scenario”.

He gave an example of a resort where a VoWLAN had been implemented. He went through the phases of the project and showing that it could be used for logistic management, gaming, household management and points of sale. He indicated that VoWLAN could be used in more situations. One of the situations he mentioned was the use of VoWLAN in hospitals. Many hospitals forbid the use of mobiles as they are afraid that the frequencies of their medical equipment will be influenced. Yet is it clear already for some years that mobile frequencies do not influence hospital frequencies. I guess hospital management likes to keep this fairy tale alive as a crack down makes their lives easier.

It was a rather technical master class. This tied in with the government technology theme of the past conference. It shows that e-government in Africa is still in the phase of setting up systems for internal use. E-Government is still in the first phases of development, whereby departments advertise themselves and give information, but are unable to provide information upon request and to execute transactions, let alone transforming government services.


Blog Posting Number: 530

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

e-Government and South-Africa (3)

The second day of the conference was very good. The Gambian delegation had arrived with its minister of communication and information technology, Ms Neneh Gaye (see photograph). The South African deputy minister of communication, Mr Radahakrishna (Roy) Padayachie, scheduled for a key note address after the luncheon, sent a fax that he was unable to be present due to unforeseen circumstances; he was not aware that the Gambian minister was present, as she was traveling incognito. The good news was that his Director General of information management, Lyndall Shope-Mafole, turned up in time to help bring the conference to an end. Today I was again the chairman of the morning and afternoon sessions.

The morning session was mainly devoted to project and risk management. We started out with a panel discussion on this topic. The panelist from the private sector gave some insight in the working of a hacker, but also the weak points of an organization. Basically their message was that technology is not the weakest point, but the organization itself and the people in the organization. It is not enough to solve this with an ethical hacker, a good guy showing the weak points in the organization and the system.

It struck me this morning that this conference program was very governmental institutional centric, talking about the home affairs office, the ministry of health, the special architecture offices and the ministry of communication. The aspect of citizens was not touched very much. I guess this programming shows in what state South Africa with regard to the e-government development.

To me the before luncheon speaker Raj Kumar Prasad (see photograph) was very welcome. Not because he appeared to be a friend of my fellow WSA board member Osama Manzar from India, but he is a charismatic speaker producing a vision. He spoke on e-governance and superseded in this way the government centric approach. His formulation of e-governance really struck me: e-governance means use of the connected computer with loaded content to deliver citisenscentric services (Government to Consumer or Government to Business).

In the afternoon we were going to have the keynote address from the South-African deputy minister of communication, but he did not show up. So he had an official replace him, who read the speech and took no question. After that three roundtables were organized with a report back presentation. The conference was closed with a panel formed by a DG of the communication department and a representative of SAP.

During the day I had a chance to present the World Summit Award to the Gambian minister and later also to Lyndall Shope-Mafole, the DG of the communication department. It was a good chance to position the World Summit Award. It turned out that the South African DG had helped to obtain the cooperation of President Mbeki for the gala last year.

Tomorrow there will be two Master classes: one on VoIP and one on building a WiFi network. It is not exactly my cup of tea, but being her I might as well be present. I guess that I will learn to know more people.

(Photographs will follow; problems with uploading)


Blog Posting Number 529