Sunday, September 09, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (11)

I woke up this morning very early and the first thoughts went to our jury member from Brazil who is still in intensive care and has overnight been moved from Pula to Zagreb. Peter Bruck, the honorary chairman of the WSA, visited him before the transfer, talked to him and the doctors, and to his wife. The next three days are going to be critical for him and the rest of his life.

Life is cruel though. The weather this morning is beautiful, so I had breakfast outside near the quay, overlooking the harbour. Outside the harbour there is a large yacht (see photograph), on which George Cluny is; at least rumour has it.

This will be the last day on Brijuni island. The conference is still on for half a day. Sometimes a speaker is able to draw a laugh on the face of the participants like Felix T. Hong, originally from Korea, but now Professor of Physiology at Wayne State University. He was speaking about creativity and went on about rule based programming. To make clear that in creativity there is a verbal rule based programming as well as a visual rile based programming, he used the example of George Bush during the Katrina hurricane. When he was shown pictures about the situation and the people, nothing happened. But when he was read a memo saying that people were in distress and dying, he shot into action.

After the conference we are breaking up the WSA Grand Jury activities here, pack and go with the rest of the jury members to Zagreb for the closing dinner.

We take along from the island many things: a new list of winners and a lot of ideas such as students’ book on content as well as a virtual academy. We also received a request for Content Institute in the Middle East. Most of all we take along the fact that we, the jurors, the moderation team, staff and tutors have been a week together and have worked together on the results of the WSA edition 2007 on this paradise island. However after the accident it feels like we lost some of the paradise.

After the conference we are breaking up the WSA Grand Jury activities here, pack and go with the rest of the jury members and some mebers of the press corps to Zagreb. This will be a four hour ride, during which I most likely fall asleep, unless people keep talking to me. We will have a closing dinner. Tomorrow I fly back to Amsterdam

Our juror from Luxembourg Lafit Ladit summed it all up in his observation with a historical reference to the association of non-allied countries in the presence of the State secretary: Brijuni has its history, but now WSA is definitely part of it.

BTW There is an official WSA blogand there will be daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 862


Saturday, September 08, 2007

20007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (10)

Last night the WSA jury and staff as well as 20 members of the press corps were bussed to Rovinic a, a town up the coast of Croatia. We were treated to a an evening of Croatian food and mingled with the press.

When we were back Standa the media activist had opened his bio-oil driven car for an unofficial party with music and photographs of the WSA Grand Jury. It was a very nice happening.

However it was a rude awakening this morning to hear that one of the jurors had been brought to hospital in a serious condition. He is in intensive care and the first reports are unclear. Of course we all hope that he will get better.

Today the e-Summit starts, a conference with high level politician, press and the Grand Jury. This is an initiative of the state secretary Mr Mir Slav Kovacic. The WSA Grand Jury members met him before the meeting starts and had an intensive discussion with him on the e-Croatia programme. It is part of the e-Europe initiative. Especially e-Education and the governmental portal are his priorities presently. And of course the infrastructure. Four years ago Croatia had 643 ADSL subscribers; now it has 300.000 subscribers for a population of 4, 5 million inhabitants. Basic problem for the infrastructure is the lack of competition in the telecom field. But the Croatian government is trying to overcome this with grants. It has now devoted 30 million kuna (I guess some 25 million euro) to special social group so that they can have internet access for free for a year. Also the schools on the islands get grants for wireless internet and smart boards. Croatia is also working on the continuation of the e-Croatia program, code named Croatia 1 2010. Bust as the state secretary thinks that the program will be rather on mobile and should therefore be called m-Croatia with a heavy stress on infrastructure, bridging the digital divide and stimulating e-Participation.

In the Summit I was interested in what Tin Radovani had to say about the BBC as he is a strategy analyst. He was looking at a shift in pattern in news. He cited the speed of news which yielded in the first 6 hours of this day: 1000 photographs, 4000 sms, 20.000 e-mails and 20 videoclips. He compared it with the speed of increase of Technorati, YouTube, Facebook and MySpace. He drew in citizen’s journalism and user generated content. But in the end he granted that BBC was riding on these waves and not initiating trends themselves, except the video plug-in. BBC accepted and integrates the trend. But it sounded almost like citizen’s journalism and user generated content was tolerated by the BBC.

BTW There is an official WSA blogand there will be daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 861


Friday, September 07, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (9)

The weather was supposed to get better towards the weekend, but it looks like clouds are still on the menu. In the meantime the Grand Jury has been evacuated from the hall where they were evaluating, as the hall had to be prepared for the Summit of Saturday and Sunday. Some 200 people are supposed to show up at the Summit, among which the president of Croatia and some government officials of other countries. The Summit is on e-Content, the objectives, the trends and its influence. It is a heavy programme of an on afternoon on Saturday and a long Sunday morning. After the Summit a number of the Grand Jurors will go by bus to Zagreb to a hotel near the airport, have dinner at the Zagreb race track and leave Croatia early in the morning.

Last night after dinner we had a WSA open board meeting. During these meetings ideas are born, intentions spoken out and plans announced about the next Grand Jury and the next Gala. Tentatively, the Grand Jury 2009 will be in Armenia and the Gala in India. And there was even a request for either the Grand Jury or Gala in Africa, while China is also still a contender. Sometimes WSA looks like the Olympic Committee, planning years ahead and selecting places to go. But many ideas are formulated about events such a as road shows and cooperation with other events and conferences. But always the question is where the sponsors are, how much money will it costs and what company is prepared to pour money into the events. This while they could benefit from seeing new products and trends closely and sharing in the knowledge of the winners and the Grand Jury. Personally I feel that we are going into a higher gear with the WSA. We know by now pretty well facts and figures about organising events and there is of course a worldwide network spreading from South America to Finland, from China to Brazil and from Australia to Canada.

The task for today is twofold. First WSA Spokespersons have to be elected. Secondly the jurors have to write the laudations for the winners. These will be in the printed and electronic catalogue. The catalogues have to be ready before the fifth of November when the WSA Gala 2007 will be held in Venice. Our Italian juror Alfredo Ranchi has been instrumental in arranging this and folding the event in the Global Forum Conference on ICT. It will give the WSA a lot of exposure. The Gala will be held on an island opposite the San Marco cathedral. The only thing we will have to pray for is nice weather, as November in Venice can be nasty and wet, even to the point of flooding.

Tomorrow afternoon we are supposed to get off the island and go to a coastal town to look around, have a meal and listen to local music. By that time some of the jurors will be leaving. That is painful, especially as you have lived and worked together intensively for one week. In fact it started already this morning when Lucas Lim from Japan/Malaysia and Carina Feldman from Austria left due obligations. But they are not gone as e-mail is all pervasive now.

BTW There is an official WSA blog and there will be daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 860

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (8)

This morning the sky is overcast with clouds; a scarce ray of sun is showing. The WSA Polar Bear swimming club is not on sunshine strength, but some of the members of the running team are out making their kilometres on this nice island.

Yesterday afternoon we had a chance to see the island. The jurors and the staff were picked up by a theme park train for a ride through the nature park. It is paradise, although this has not always been the case. In the beginning of last century, Brijuni was covered with swamps for some thirty percent, spreading malaria. The island was at that time in possession of an Austrian owner. The last Austrian owner could not get the island financed and shot himself. Then it was taken over by the government and in Tito’s time used as a residence. You still can discover three hospitality buildings for presidents and heads of state. Tito himself had a smaller island around Brijuni just for himself, completely covered in green. He has brought a safari park to the island. Whenever heads of state visited him they gave him exotic animals such as an elephant, a zebu, a Shetland pony from Queen Elisabeth II. There were more exotic animals such as tigers and lions, but they were no longer allowed on the island when a law on exotic animals was accepted by the Croatian government, when the country gained independence in 1991; the animals were moved to the zoo in Zagreb.
The history of the island goes back to at least the Romans. They left their traces of houses, a temple and a harbour on the island. Given the swamps, it is clear that they settled near the sea.

It was a strange day as we were confronted with the news from outside the island. Of course we are not living here in splendid isolation, but time for viewing television is hardly present; and when there is time, Peter Bruck, the chair, will think up a meeting either about the future of WSA or about collaborative projects. But it was sad to hear about the death of the Italian singer Pavarotti, who died of cancer. And closer to home was the news of the hurricane that hit Nicaragua, as Cornelius Hopmann comes from that country. He asked the jury five minutes to commemorate this disaster.

It was a heavy day. We still had to go three categories. And the first one, e-Learning, delivered many questions and problems as to teaching and learning as well as administrative software platforms vs content. But by the afternoon the list of winners was resolved. Then followed the category e-Business; the members of the jury had looked for some new business models. Funny enough it were not the likes of YouTube to be honoured, but more the economic activities with a social character. Last but not least was the category e-Inclusion. This of course is one of the critical areas for the WSA: how can you involve groups in society that do not have access to ICT and ICT devices to lift themselves up to a living standard. After some heavy voting over the last place of the five winners, the list was complete. The Grand Jury had finished her task and you could see the relief among the jurors. The evaluation of entries was over as well as the voting in favour or against. No more Roberts’ rules for handling a meeting. No more motions and seconding of at least two jurors and friends and no more counting. And this time we will miss the closing remarks of Cornelius Hopmann: End of intervention; as if he was calling himself to halt in the stream of thoughts. The jurors and staff members went happily for dinner.

BTW There is an official WSA blog and there will be daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 859

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (7)

This morning I woke up early. It was still dark, but by the time the sun started to penetrate the clouds, the water surface was not quiet. But it was definitely better than the day before. But there is still a lot of wind and there are clouds. By tomorrow the weather should be back to nice temperatures.

Last night the Grand Jury worked late and got two categories decided: e-Entertainment and e-Health. The decision process did not go fluently as the jury had to get used to the voting rules. The first category took several rounds, but the jurors sailed through the second category. The first ten winners are known now, as every category has five winners. Then there was a sprint to the restaurant as we had an appointment at 9:30 PM.

On the island there are a few chapels. In the one closest to the hotel, an intimate concert was arranged for the Grand Jury and the people around it. On the wall of the chapel there were Christian paintings, which had been transferred to linen in order to preserve them. The concert was given by the Zagreb String Quartet, consisting of Mr Hrvoje Philips and his twin brother Davor as well as Goran Koncar and Martin Jordan. They played Joseph Haydn, Joaquin Turina, Franjo Krezma and Dmitri Sjostakovitch. The prayer of the bull fighter by Turina, I had never heard and I liked it. It presented all the stormy feelings of a bull fighter and a very serene final; you see the bull fighter getting ready and stepping into the ring. The piece by Krezma, a young Croatian composer, who died at nineteen, was impressive. He wrote the Quartet br. 1 u C-duru for Verdi in a few days and borrowed heavily from Mozart in the finale. It reminded me of a Dutch Santa Claus song. The quartet gave an encore of Tsjaichovski.

This morning we started with e-Government. First the short list of eight entries was presented. After that the voting took place; this time without any hitch. After a short break the category e-Culture was presented. Also the voting went without any problems.

Now we are going for a tour around the island. So far I have only seen the area around the hotel. I only ventured five minutes away from the hotel. But the tour will take one and a half hour.

Before dinner tonight the category e-Science will be presented and voted on.

BTW There is an official WSA blog and there will be daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 858

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (6)

The weather changed overnight. The rumbling came from the direction of the city of Pula to the north of the island and it grew into thunderclaps. By the morning it started raining and by eight o’clock the raining stopped and it started pouring. The hotel is a sun shine hotel and was not resistant to the water from the sky. One person went to the beach for tan early morning swim, but came back in a hurry when the drops grew in volume. But a small accident happened when Jan Bieringa from New Zealand went outside, slipped in a pool of water and broke her arm below the elbow. The arm was banded and she taken to hospital for x-rays.

The rain is going to mess up the schedule for today. This afternoon had been planned as an afternoon off, during which people could tour the island or go to the city of Pula. But given the fact that it will rain all day and only will slowly let up tomorrow, the jurors decided to start presentations of three categories of the shortlist to the whole jury this afternoon. This is the best part of the entire jury exercise.
The jurors see roughly 64 entries, which are considered the best products in their category worldwide. The jury teams will have to make a presentation telling about the product and why the product is unique. This afternoon the entire jury will see the entries of three categories: e-entertainment, e-health and e-government. The other five categories are on the slate for tomorrow.

Last night after dinner there were two presentations. Mr Latif Ladid from Luxembourg made a presentation on his work in PIv6. I did not catch the whole lecture, but picked up that theoretically IPv4 as Internet is now will have no IP addresses anymore from 10/10/2010. Of course the date is symbolic as the can with addresses can be emptied earlier or later. He indicated that IPv6 yields more space for addresses. It is an interesting subject and I have asked Latif to be my weekend guest on the blog in the coming weeks; and he agreed. I was able to make a small presentation on digital paper. I had taken my iRex Iliad along and passed it around. No one had seen it yet and held it in their hands. There were a lot of question about applications such as e-books, e-newspapers and manuals. Especially the page turner of the iLiad caught the attention as an interface feature from many a juror. Of course, the price of roughly 650 euro made some people gasp for breath; the price will undoubtedly go down, when enough application areas are reached.

BTW There is an official WSA blog and there will be daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 858

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Monday, September 03, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (5)

Georgious. I got up early this morning and walked to a beach (see photograph) to take a swim. The island of Brijuni has a few wide beaches and some very cozy one, just enough space for a couple in love. This island is like paradise. Not just for the (pebble) beaches, but also for nature. It is really envigorating to take a swim. I found some early members of the WSA Polar Bear Club swimming and sunbathing in the early sun.

Last night we had a networking dinner and session. The basic idea was that jurors exchange ideas for projects, in which fellow jurors can participate.. So far it generated thGorgeous. I got up early this morning and walked to a beach to take a swim. The island of Brijuni has a few wide beaches and some very cosy one, just enough space for a couple in love. This island is like paradise. Not just for the (pebble) beaches, but also for nature. It is really invigorating to take a swim. I found some early members of the WSA Polar Bear Club swimming and sunbathing in the early sun.

Last night we had a networking dinner and session. The basic idea was that jurors exchange ideas for projects, in which fellow jurors can participate. So far it generated three ideas. Of course one of the ideas is the third version of e-Content: Voices from the Ground. The idea for this book originated with Osama Manzar from India at the Grand Jury session in Dubai and was executed before the UN World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva (Switzerland). Interested jurors wrote an assessment on e-content in their country. The first version contained 33 countries. The same exercise was done before the second UN Summit in Tunisia. The second idea was for an e-content study by Alex Felsenberg. I put in a project about e-books/digital papers. Some more ideas started to float around. In the coming days we will be able to expound on it.

Today the Eminent Experts start the second round of evaluation. The first cut has been made and now 15 to 18 entries per category are left. A new fresh team will study them, evaluate them and make another refinement. This should bring the number down to maximally 9 entries per category. Out of these the last five entries, to be called winners, will be selected. The WSA has five winners per category and is not following the Olympic spirit with one winner and runner ups. The WSA does consider it more important to have showcases of best practice rather than one winner taking all the honour.

It will not be a relaxing time for the jurors today. Despite the fact that they have a whole day and evening for familiarising themselves with the entries selected for the second round, they will have to dive deep into the backgrounds of the entries and the issues of the category. They will have to discover what are the trends in e-Government, e-Learning, e-Culture, e-Health, e-Science, e-Business, e-Inclusion and e-Entertainment; of course e-Entertainment is a category, which is looking for more than shoot-them-up games. But the jurors will still take coffee and tea in the garden.

BTW There is an official WSA blog and there will be daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 857

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (4)

Early this morning there was a lot of noise in the harbour. Boats were arriving and leaving, delivering goods and putting off people. Irealise that it is Sunday and most likely a lot of people will arrive. In the meantime some big yachts and ferries arrive. In the meantime a new Polar Bear swimming club has been formed under chairmanship of Anya from Russia; she has been joined by Jan Bieringa and Latif Ladid from Luxembourg. Tomorrow I will join the club for energy boosters.

The Grand Jury is hosted on Brijuni, an archipelago of islands and a national park in front of the western coast of Istria; separated from the mainland by the Fazana Channel. It is located 6 km from Pula and covers an area of 36 sq km. Brijuni Islands comprise the following islands: Veli Brijun (Big Brijun, 5.6 sq km), Mali Brijun (Small Brijun, 1.1 sq km) and Vanga (0.18 sq km), as well as several islets (Sveti Marko, Gaz, Obiljak, Supin, Galija, Gruni, Pusti, Vrsar, Jerolim, Kotez) and reefs Kabula, Crnika and Stine.

In Brijuni harbour the Grand Jury is located in the Neptune-Istria Hotel. With a little help, nature has created a small paradise here, true harmony of flora and fauna, historical monuments and modern hotels. Brijuni offer shade in the rich evergreen vegetation; pheasants, deer and doe that roam freely all over the island; and the peace and quiet of the holm oak and hundred year old olive groves. The natural biological diversity was enriched by men's traditional husbandry. Veliki Brijun, the largest island of the archipelago, is cultivated into a harmonious landscape of meadows and parks, and along with the rich remnants of architectural heritage it also boasts preserved vegetation types typical for the western Istrian climate.

It is interesting to point out that on the islands there are some plant species that are among the endangered plant species of Istria [marine poppy, wild cucumber, some grass species], but on the islands they are quite widespread and develop freely. Because of the millennial presence of men on the archipelago of Brijuni, the animal world on the islands, especially Veliki Brijun, besides the autochthonous species, was enriched by many imported species that are not congenial to this habitat but got acclimated to it thanks to the almost ideal microclimatic conditions.

Nilgai or blue antelope were gift from India, from President Nehru in 1959. Kob or marsh antelope (Waterbuck) were a gift from Zambia in 1962 from Kenneth Kaunda, and Somalian sheep were a gift from Ethiopia in 1959. There are also Indian elephants Sony and Lanka, llamas from South America, zebras, Indian holy cows and autochthonous donkeys. With the exception of Sony and Lanka, all other animals roam free throughout Veli Brijun.

The autochthonous birds are quite well represented and Brijuni are also important seasonal habitats for northern bird species, as well as for many species of warblers, nightingales, blackbirds, chiffchaffs and other songbirds. In the crowns of pines we can find nests of sparrow hawks, goshawks and ommon buzzards. Of other predatory birds there are the marsh harriers and moor harriers. By the end of the summer many different bird species come to Saline on their way to the south, and already in August we can see widgeons, whistling ducks, diving ducks and swallow ducks. Of herons we can see the little egret, the common heron, the yellow-crowned night heron and the rook. The arrival of the great white egrets, the black storks and the bitterns indicates that this area is also important for such rare and endangered species, which here find their peace and enough quantities of food. There are also interesting geological-paleontological sites [dinosaur foot-prints, highly-spired gastropod shells, ripple marks from the Early Cretaceous Period, etc.] and archaeological sites worth seeing [St. Mary's Church from the 5th Century, Castrum site and Roman Villa in Verige Bay dating to 1st Century, and Hill-fort from the bronze age].

In Croatia you can see forests, mountains, plains, the sea and Karst without crossing more than a hundred kilometers. Our country extends from the furthest eastern edges of the Alps in the northwest to the Pannonian lowlands and the banks of the Danube in the east; its central region is covered by the Dinara mountain range, and its southern parts extend to the coast of the Adriatic Sea. In terms of International law, traditional heritage reaches back to Middle Age Princedom (791-924 A.D.) and Kingdom (925-1102) to its current standing as the Republic of Croatia, declared on June 25, 1991.

BTW There is an official WSA blog and there will be daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 856

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Flash: Croation prime minister visits WSA Grand Jury

The Croatian president Mr Stipe Mesic (2nd from the right) came to Brijuni to welcome the WSA Grand Jury 2007. In his speech he mentioned that with all the nationalities present, reminded him of unity in diversity. He told the jurors that they were on historic grounds where the Non-alligned nations got together during the cold war. On the island the former Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia met with amongst other president Nasser of Egypt, Sukarno of Indonesia, Neru of India and others formed a political union of nations, not alligned to Washington or Moskow. He wished the jurors all the best with the work of selecting the best e-content.

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (3)

I came into Brijuni after the welcome dinner. But I met an enthusiastic crowd. Jurors of the Dubai edition and also jurors of the Bahrain edition. It was great to see them back. I started to meet also the new jurors in as far as they did not disappear to their hotel room, catching up from jetlag and days of travelling. The Salzburg team was there as well as the tutor group, a bunch of nice young Croatian students, who will be assisting the jurors. When I woke up this morning, this was the view from the room.

By 10 o'clock the jury were in full swing. An introduction is geven to the World Summit Award and the Eminent Expert jurors are introducing themselves.. Some statistics: 32 jurors, more than 600 entries in eight categories; the 600 entries have been entered by 159 countries.

The jurors’ works consists of three rounds of evaluation. In the first round every category will have four jurors in one team. The assignment of this round is to decrease the number of entries for closer inspection. In the second round, the teams will move to another category. In this phase the jurors can spend more time to familiarise themselves with the selected entries. The goal of the second round is whitled down to maximally ten entries per category. As five entries are needed for the last selection phase, the entries per category are presented to the entire jury and voted in or out. The last five entries that survive are the winners; there is not a single winner with runner-ups. Just for logistics, every juror sees more than 190 entries in eight days.

Every participating country could enter one entry per category. Theoretically 159 countries time eight entries in eight categories could have entered a total of 1272 products and services; but not all countries entered an entry in every category. For example for the Netherlands the national expert Bas Verhart has made a selection of eight entries. To give you an idea of the type of entries, I will use the list as it was published in the press release of the past week in the Dutch media:
1. e-Government:, a web game by students for the municipality of Utrecht;
2. e-Health:; Women on Waves in co-operation with Mediamatic;
3. e-Learning:; webgame by the Rijksmuseum in co-operation of IJsfontein;
4. e-Entertainment: Triangler; a serious mobile game by TNO
5. e-Culture:; a Music site;
6. e-Science:, a webgame by the Wadden association in co-operation with XMediaworks;
7. e-Business:, a user generated news site;
8. e-Inclusion: www., a digital campaign against child abuse by Sire in co-operation with Achtung!

You probably wonder why a juror will spend a week of his/her life to look at entries from all over the world. For a juror it is a unique experience to see the trends in digital media in so many products. Besides the WSA uniquely demonstrates the local diversity and creative use of ICT around the world, serving as a global platform to make today's information society more inclusive. Of course also the experience of meeting 35 experts in multimedia and social activities is a chance of a lifetime. Seven of the jurors have been privileged three times and six jurors twice to be part of the Grand Jury of Eminent Experts. BTW I am not involved as a juror, but as a co-moderator.

BTW There is an official WSA blog on
and there will be daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 855

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Friday, August 31, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (2)

It is hard to formulate the excitement and expectations of the Grand Jury exercise. But I think that my friend Waheed has hit the right tune in his welcome message as former host.

Dear friends

I still remember the amazing experience of Dubai 2003, when we were introduced to the WSA and its incredible team. I am still amazed with the positive energy created by the network of experts from around the world who met for the first time, but nevertheless worked as one, volunteering their time and creative power, determined to select the best eContent products in the world.

I never thought then that I will be able to host those marvellous experts along with the WSA team in my country Bahrain in 2005 … but who said dreams can't come true! Organizing WSA Grand Jury sessions in Bahrain had a great impact on our ICT sector. Moreover, it gave us a chance to pass the experience of international collaboration to a wonderful team of young Bahrainies, who still talk about their involvement in this experience and proudly list it in their CVs.

I am so happy to see that this experience is now passing to a dear country like Croatia. I am sure that its impact will not be forgotten even years from now. I look forward to meeting all of you – my old and my new friends – sure that we will again enjoy our time as jurors, working together, fighting (positively) and learning about Croatian ICT community and ICT professionals.

I wish to offer my respect and regards to the champions of this year's Grand Jury session - the Central State Administrative Office for eCroatia, and to WSA mastermind – prof. Bruck and his team. Also, a great big thanks to my dear friend Kresimir for taking the initiative to ensure that after Bahrain, this year's WSA Grand Jury takes place in Croatia, on the magical islands of Brijuni, and finally another big thanks to Natalija who is working on bring us all to Brijuni and leave safely, I am sure that we are driving her crazy.

Last but not least, thank you, WSA Grand Jurors for taking the time out of your busy schedules to once again work together for our joint vision of Information Society.

See you in Brijuni.

BTW Look up the official WSA Grand Jury Croatia 2007 on and the daily photographs.

Blog Posting Number: 854

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

2007 WSA Grand Jury Croatia (1)

Yesterday, I reported on El Hema, the e-cultural project between the Western and Arabic worlds. It is a subtle bridge for my next mini-series, which will deal with people from many cultures. Presently I am packing my suitcase to join tomorrow the 35 member international Grand Jury of the World Summit Award (WSA) in Croatia. I am already enjoying the company.

This will be the third edition of the WSA Grand Jury. The World Summit Award was created in 2002/2003 in preparation of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to be held in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005, the World Summit Award was organised as a global initiative to select and promote the world’s best e-Content. The organisation behind it, the International Center for New Media (ICNM) in Salzburg (Austria) had already organised the Europrix, the European content competition for five years. In less than one year the WSA competition was set up.

The first edition the Grand Jury was held in Dubai in 2003. The 35 member strong Grand Jury was there the host of the United Emirates. It was a fabulous experience between people from so many countries and cultures. They had to get used to the situation in Dubai, to each other and to each other’s habits. The jurors were sentenced to each other for a week. But they enjoyed it. Yet it was hard work. For the first edition we had online and offline entries from 136 countries; every country could sent in maximally eight entries. Judging all the entries was a hard task; yet the Dubai hosts had organised some social events and late at night after the hard work, we could go to the beach near the hotel and go for a swim. The Grand Jury deliberations created a network between the jurors and some jurors became friends for life.

The second edition of the WSA Grand Jury was held in Bahrain in 2005. I have reported on the second edition in this blog. The members of the Grand Jury were there the guests of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Organiser of this Grand Jury was Waheed Al-Balushi. He was one of jurors of the first edition in Dubai and had taken upon him the mission to land the second edition. He was helped selling Bahrain to his own people as Bahrain won some awards, among others for e-Commerce. Also in Bahrain the Grand Jury members had a hard task as the number of participating countries had increased from 136 to 168. But also here the hosts created social events such as a visit to the newly built Grand Prix Formula 1 racing circuit.

The latest edition of the WSA Grand Jury will be held on the magical island of Bruijni in Croatia. It is a nature preserve. The State secretary of the Central State Office for e-Croatia, Miroslav Kovacic is the host, while Kresimir Lugaric (see photograph), the director of the Internet Institute, is the organiser. Kresimir will be a third time juror like Waheed. Besides hosting the Grand Jury, the hosting country has taken the opportunity in order to organise the e-Content Summit, which will bring together top thinkers and practitioners in the area of technology and innovation.

BTW. There is an official WSA blog on

And ther are daily new photographs taken by Stanislav Miller.

Blog Posting Number: 853

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

El Hema: an e-culture event

It all started out with a project to produce new Arabic fonts for the computer. But it grew into a hilarious exercise in multi cultural integration.

The Amsterdam new media developer Mediamatic got involved in the project Typographical Matchmaking, a project of the Khatt Foundation. In a co-operation of Arabic designers and Dutch typographers, five new Arabic fonts were designed. But the project did not stop there as the project was intended to show how graphical design and typography contributes to the Arabic youth culture. In a linked symposium designers and researchers from the Middle East, US and Europe would shed their vision on the new forms of visual expression and cross cultural designs with presentations on the printing of Arabic books, relationship between typography and dance and expressive calligraphy.

It would have been a nice project and symposium by itself. And undoubtedly the fonts will make their way into Arabic publications. But then a brainwave crossed the creative minds at Mediamatic. Talking about cross cultures is rather academic; so let us translate this Arabic culture to the Dutch culture by using the fonts on a real Dutch icon. And like every country the Dutch have several icons: clogs, tulips, artists like Rembrandt and van Gogh and soccer players like Cruijff and Van Basten; some will also add hash. But what is really Dutch is the Hema, a discount retail chain, famous for its smoked sausage, underwear and other items.

Dutch and Arabic logos (not the final design)

Mediamatic started to develop an Arabic house style for the Hema and to produce some items. When the Hema board heard of the project, they were not very happy. They were in the middle of the sale of the company to a British investor and thought that it would influence the negotiations. But after a few talks the Hema board understood the intention and did not object any longer. In fact they became cooperative.

The definitive logo

Last weekend, during a cultural festival in Amsterdam, the Arabic Hema, baptised into El Hema, was open for business. A complete product line had been designed with products the Dutch Hema is famous for. Instead of the juicy Hema smoked sausage there was Halel sausage. In textile there were shawls, T-shirts and slips with Arabic texts, and bed covers with Arabic poems. For children there were Jibril and Jamilah products. And a really Dutch product was on sale: chocolate letters of Arabic fonts; during the celebration of feast of Saint Nicolas in the Netherlands on December 5, children are given the initial letter of their first name in chocolate. By Sunday night the El Hema had sold out, even after limiting sales to two items per person.

What started as a serious project turned into an impressive e-Culture event.

Blog Posting Number: 852

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

P2P not suited for distributing broadcast video

Recently UK ISPs complained to the BBC that it put the entire logistic and financial burden on the ISPs with regard to the distribution of video. BBC has introduced its own software iPlayer with a plug-in for the users. The BBC software uses partly peer-2-peer technology. BBC saves on hosting and data costs, but the ISPs get higher costs. Also in the Netherlands problems are showing up between broadcasters and ISPs; with the live streams of the French cycle event Tour de France many ISPs was forced to its limits. Tonie van Ringelenstein, a Dutch freelance journalist, writing amongst others for Emerce, made a tour around the experts and discovered that a new cooperation between providers and broadcasters is upcoming.

Some time ago there was already talk of using the new P2P software Tribler for distributing broadcast material. A trial of the Dutch public broadcast companies and two universities to relay the content of the popular broadcast site Missed the program, has not started yet due to legal complications.

Now a new initiative comes from providers active in the internet exchange Ams-IX. Providers, public broadcast companies and the commercial TV company RTL Netherlands are talking to each other in order to reach an open protocol, so that the video distribution through internet will become cheaper and more reliable. The first tests are planned for this autumn. In this system the most popular content items of the broadcast companies will be put on the servers of the providers automatically; the providers will be able to distribute them through their own network. It saves data traffic for the ISPs and will put less strain on the servers of the broadcasters.

Presently there is already some experience with the system as the public broadcast companies use it amongst themselves. A subgroup of the AMS-IX video working party consisting of public broadcast companies, RTL, XS4all and Solcon works on the protocol. It will be an open protocol for all video content providers, providing them with an automatic caching of the most interesting video content. In this way the content is brought as close to the user as possible. Popular videos are counted by the ISP and as soon as a maximum is reached the content file will be automatically cached for further distribution.

The situation in the Netherlands is favourable for the cooperation between the providers and the broadcast companies given the success of AMS-IX, the on-demand video sites of the Public broadcast companies and RTL and the high amount of broadband connections in the Netherlands. Besides there is much video content on hand in the Netherlands and the demand is great.

The activities take place within a trial. The business side of business models, financial clearance among the parties and legal complications will be ignored during the trial. Basis for the trial is to transport content to the end-user in a proper way, efficiently and cheaply.

Blog Posting Number: 851

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Mecom’s scorching policy on Europe

The British media investor Mecom is following a scorching policy in building a European newspaper and online empire. Having just published a prospectus for acquiring the Dutch newspaper company Royal Wegener, Peter Skulimma, member of the board charged with strategy, is on his next mission: the German market.

Mecom is expanding its newspaper and online business on the European continent. The company owns newspaper operations in Denmark, Norway and Poland. With Wegener the company will have the majority of the regional newspaper market in the Netherlands. And the company has already regional newspapers in Hamburg and Berlin. But the company wants more of the German market.

The Dutch newspaper market is a curious market with a dominance of national newspapers and rather strict regulations on cross-media ownership. But the German market situation is even worse, as can be seen from the typology of the German newspaper market. There are many regional newspapers and hardly any national newspapers, except for three titles: Bild, Süddeutsche Zeiting and der Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This development is due to the legal framework which finds its origins in the legislation after the Second World War.

But Mecom wants to change the landscape of the German newspapers. It has already two newspaper operations in Germany and recently bought Netzeitung. But Mecom wants more. The company has been talking to the managers of the mostly family-owned companies. It has also started to throw up ideas like a Sunday paper for its Berlin newspaper, which would cost Mecom more than a seven digit figure to start up. In an interview with Reuters Peter Skulimma indicated in what direction he is thinking by dropping a few names, for example of the Sächsische Zeitung and the Süddeutsche Zeiting. So far Mecom has only companies in the Northern part of Germany. So a Southern or a national newspaper would be welcome to reach more nation wide coverage.

Establishing a stronghold in Germany would give Mecom the chance to connect the newspaper companies in the other countries from Norway to Denmark and Germany, from Poland to Germany and from the Netherlands to Germany. It would also open up the road for a sweep into Austria and Switzerland. From there Mecom either could go South to France, Italy or Spain. But it has also the opportunity to go East to Central and East Europe as well as the Balkan; this could be a likely option, given the experience with its Polish subsidiary

UPDATE 24 August 2007: A prospectus has been issued by Mecom in connection with the offer of up to 488,997,935 new ordinary Mecom shares of 0.6085888 pence each in connection with the proposed acquisition of the Dutch publishing group Koninklijke Wegener n.v. In the last month Mecom has expanded its sharehold in Wegener up to almost 30 percent. A note for a recommended public offer has been published.

UPDATE 28 August 2007: Mecom has published its official offer for Wegener shares and put then on 17,70 euro. This brings the total for the company on 800 million euro. The offer is the same as the offer of last June. Mecom already has 30,3 percent of the shares of Wegener.

Blog Posting Number: 850

Tags: newspaper:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

No love lost on mobile live tv in Holland

No less than 62 pct of the Dutch households are familiar with facility of watching live tv on mobiles. But only 6 pct of the mobile users are willing to use it. That is the result of Ernst & Young Mediabarometer, a quarterly survey about developments of the media- and entertainment market among 2000 respondents.

1 of the 5 respondents which have a mobile phone, has a UMTS/3G device and is able to view live television streams through internet. Of this group, however, almost half of the group (47 pct) does watch video scenes on the mobile occasionally. Especially they download or stream amateur movies, as can be seen on YouTube, and humour movies are popular. On average those people spend 15 minutes per session; non 3G users estimate that they will watch video on their mobile phone for 20 minutes. Of the group of mobile callers who do not have a 3G telephone, half indicate that they will view videos about news and sports on the mobile. However the picture of these wannahaves, does not stroke with the habits of present 3G users, as only 6 pct of the users will view live streams from television.

Of course one should be critical about this survey. The survey claims have 400 respondents with a 3G mobile and using this occasionally for 15 minutes for video. This number of users is very high and one can wonder whether this number is representative for the mobile population. Perhaps the panel existed of early adaptors.

This survey is no good news for broadcast companies, which think that they may have found a new outlet. On the other hand the broadcast companies should not be surprised. Standardisation was still in process. Early user research in 2005 by the Finnish mobile company Elisa, was not very encouraging. During this research the company found that television broadcasts were mainly viewed during the late night. The fact that live television programs have a fixed time programming time might be part of the problem. Of course, the costs might also pose a problem.

In Finland the mobile and broadcast companies still expect a lot of mobile television. There is a Finnish Mobile TV community, founded by Forum Virium Helsinki and some of the key players in the sector. The goal is to promote the creation of innovative and interactive content for mobile TV in cooperation with Finnish and international service developers. The two-year Finnish Mobile TV project was launched in November 2005. It was inspired by an extensive user pilot, launched with the goal of collecting information on the experiences of end users. The findings indicated that the users want more varied content for their mobile TV and are prepared to pay for the services. During 2006 the Finnish Mobile TV project supported service developers by providing DVB-H network capacity, and also started an active developer forum with opportunities to network. During 2007 the project will again focus on the end users of mobile TV, especially regarding consumer feedback on interactive services. Current participants in the project include: Digita, Elisa, City of Helsinki, IBM, MTV3, Nokia, SWelcom, TeliaSonera, Destia, TietoEnator, Veikkaus, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, WM-Data, YIT and the Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE. In addition to Forum Virium Helsinki, project funding is provided by the participating companies, while some individual projects also receive funding from public sources. The piloting activities in 2007 are partly funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.

Addition: August 27, 2007: I just read the blog Reiter's Mobile TV Report. It had a comment on mobile tv, taken from the British Ofcom Report: The 330–page Office of Communications’ (Ofcom) “Communications Market Report” (available in three sections plus summaries) didn’t devote much space to mobile TV, but the space it did devote indicated mobile TV is way, way down on cellular users’ consciousness and use.
Only ten percent of cellular users surveyed for the report were even aware their phone could play mobile TV. That’s the lowest percentage of awareness for the 13 features in the survey. But that’s a high percentage compared to those who actually watched any mobile TV — two percent.

Just notice that 62 percent of the Dutch people are aware of live tv on a mobile telephone. In the UK only 10 percent are aware of the facility.

Blog Posting Number 849


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Content and communications (2)

Many of the content oriented websites copied the press release of OPA, stating that content was on the way up. They had no comment on the research. Techdirt, however, started off a discussion on contents and communications.

Yesterday I pointed out that the stats of OPA are slanted (Techhdirt also does). It counts Personals/Dating in the content category. Besides it ignores pornography as well as edu and .gov domains. But any categorisation will be a problem. Jupiter Research has tried the categories: General news and archives, Audio/video entertainment, Adult entertainment, Financial and business news, Other content (e.g. horoscope, sports, health, kids), Digital music, Online games. This categorisation does cover the content activities on the web better.

But the problem remains and it is incubated in the conception of internet. Internet in the forst place is a communication service. It is not a carrier like paper, radio or television. But it is a multi-aspect service: content, communication. commerce and searching. The problem is most poignantly with YouTube. Are the videos content or are they communication? Or is the question wrong? A movie can be presented in order to tell a story. But the movie can also contain a message. And social networks contain content about the participants, but the main intention is to communicate with others. The social networks may be aiming at social contacts, dates or professional contacts.

Perhaps the whole discussion about contents and communications is not proper. The discussion should perhaps move from content to e-content. Content has to be delivered by some kind of medium. Traditionally it has been delivered by the human body and later on by teachnology in print products such as newspapers, magazines and books. For radio, television and movie technological devices have to be used for the production and reception. E-Content in the broad sense can be understood as electronic content, online such as internet and offline such as CD-ROM and DVD. I rather use for this phenomenon the term digital content. E-content in the strict sense needs a qualitative differentiation.

In the book E-Content in Europe E-Content is defined as: "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 and influence each other’s knowledge, attitudes or behaviour. E-Content allows 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 constant renewal of content (contrary to the fixed set of content stored on a carrier such as a CD-ROM, or the content broad-cast via TV and Radio). This constant renewal of content in tie with its dynamic change allows for a qualitative difference, thus making it E-Content.

Using the present definition, OPA could sharpen the content category to e-content and see it as digital information, delivered over networked-based electronic devices with user involvement. Digital content with user involvement is different from e-communication. The difference does not lie in the network-based devices such as e-mail, messengers or Skype. But e-content must have a base in storytelling and e-communication in the mutual contact.

Blog Posting Number: 848


Friday, August 24, 2007

Content or Communication (1)

On August 13, 2007 the Online Publishers Association (OPA) published a press release about their 4 years running research into the use of internet, known as the Internet Activity Index (IAI). The study is looking into the activities: Content, Communication, Commerce and Searching (CCCs). The conclusion in the press-release was in the headline: Web users now spend half their time visiting content, far outpacing time spent with search, communications and commerce. This message must have been music to the ears of the OPA members, who are internet publishers and traditional publishers turned to cross-media publishers. But I would start wondering about this conclusion, despite the fact that the study is now running for its fourth year.

Let us have a look at the definition or better description of the mission of the Internet Activity Index (IAI): IAI provides a new way of looking at consumer engagement online, dividing Internet usage into four distinct activities: content, communications, commerce and search, defined as follows:
- Content - Web sites and Internet applications that are designed primarily to provide news, information and entertainment. Examples of those included in this segment are,, Windows Media Player and MapQuest.
- Communications - Web sites and Internet applications that are designed to facilitate the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information directly between individuals or groups of individuals. Examples of those included in this segment are Yahoo! Mail, AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Groups.
- Commerce - Web sites and Internet applications that are designed for shopping online. Examples of those included in this segment are Amazon, eBay, and
- Search - Web sites and Internet applications that scan the Web to provide prioritized results based on specific criteria from user-generated requests. Examples of those included in this segment are Google Search, MSN Search and Yahoo! Search.

IAI was started in 2003 with a monthly measuring of the various activities. In those four years internet has changed fast in the activities and in the way of distribution (fixed line and mobile). For example: content on internet started mainly as text information. However, the mono mode information changed after 2003 rather speedily to multimedia content, rendering text, graphics, audio and video and combinations of these types. Music (download and streaming) and from 2006 onwards video (download and streaming) started to succeed text as independent music and video services, but also as part of existing text services. Also distribution has changed as mobile portals have become almost a separate track on the internet.

The categorisation of the content activity has not changed over the years: Personals/Dating, Business/Investment, Entertainment/Lifestyle, Research, Community-made directories, Personal Growth, General News, Games, Credit Help, Greeting Cards, Sports; excluded from the content category are .gov and .edu Web sites, as well as pornographic domains (this must be American Puritanism; a competing research organisation nicely categorises this phenomenon as adult entertainment). Besides the exclusions, you can wonder about audio and video entertainment such as iTunes and YouTube. But what about community generated news and citizens’ journalism? As it stands IAI is not a real content index, but an index for the traditional publishers turned cross-media publishers (but not fully).

But there is more. Is YouTube now content or communication? Read more about it tomorrow.

Blog Posting Number: 847


Thursday, August 23, 2007

DVD Forum anniversary party rudely disturbed

This month the DVD Forum celebrates its 10th anniversary. And the members of this international organization that defines formats for DVD products and technologies, took care of the fire crackers: Paramount will exclusively use the HD-DVD format for releasing its movies for one year.

The Forum is a collaboration between the consumer electronics, IT and entertainment industries and was founded in August 1997. It assumed and extended the work of the DVD Consortium, the ten-company organization that initially developed the DVD format. When it started its work in developing the DVD format and promoting its widespread dissemination, the DVD Forum counted 86 members. Today, it has about 220 member companies, drawn from all over the world.

The launch of DVD was one of the most successful consumer product launches in history. An immediate hit with consumers around the world, DVD brought new and exciting capabilities to home entertainment, computing and gaming, and created an immense global market: 2006 demand for DVD players and recorders stood at over 110 million units, and reached about 290 million units for DVD drives. In the same year, 1.7 billion DVD movie discs were shipped in the North America, while shipments of recordable discs climbed to 5.1 billion discs globally.

In an anniversary message, it reads: This extraordinary success rests on the concerted efforts and long-term support of the DVD Forum. The Forum assured the versatility and wide-ranging applicability of DVD by defining key specifications that met diverse needs, including those for DVD-ROM, DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-Audio, DVD-RW, and DVD-Video Recording(5). The Forum continues to define the future for DVD, and is now promoting development of HD DVD, the next generation DVD format -- based on blue laser -- and working on the development of an integrated networking environment -- extending DVD formats to adapt to the expanding online world.

But the anniversary party has been rudely disturbed by the fire crackers of Paramount movie studios and its subsidiary Dreamworks. Paramount has chosen to release movies in the HD-DVD format only for one year. The company hopes to force a format dominance on the market. Paramount follows the lead of Universal Pictures which had exclusively chosen for HD-DVD as its only release format. According to The Wall Street Journal, Paramount will get money and promotion assistance for one year in lieu for the format exclusivity. (from what company will it get money? Microsoft?).

This fight has always been immanent since the two DVD format parties of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray could not agree. They nicely went ahead, but both knew that the fight was going to be on the commercial battlefield: the consumer will decide. Dreamworks indicated that it chose for the HD-DVD format not for the financial support the studios get for it, but because the HD-DVD player costs less than 300 dollar. The cheapest Blu-Ray player costs 449 dollars.

Is that argument valid? I do not think so. Mr Katzenberg of Dreamworks should know his classics and remember that the video tape fight in 1980 was won by the company which had the most content, regardless the genre. Can Universal and Paramount offer the consumer so much content in only HD-DVD format, that Blu-Ray will wither? Forget it. For the DVD is not only a movie format, but also a game format. Sony uses Blu-Ray for its Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox plays HD-DVD.

The battle field is larger than the movie industry and Universal Pictures and Paramount will not o dictate the format. The HD-DVD camp with Masushita, Microsoft, Universal and Paramount will battle the Blu-Ray camp of Philips/Sony, Walt Disney and News Corp. Which company will have the largest offer of entertainment products; that is the question.

Paramount will review its stance after a year. By then the company will find itself in isolation and will have lost a lot of money by not selling its movies to the Blu-Ray community or it will have gained a dominance in the movie world, but not in the gaming world, which has other buying rules. In both cases the consumer will loose.

Blog Posting Number: 846


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Picnic goes social green

PICNIC ’07 has announced the Picnic Green Challenge. The competition is dotted with a 0,5 million euro; money from the National Zipcode Lottery. The Green Challenge is another branch of the social dimension of the PICNIC ’07 conference and exhibition in Amsterdam, from September 25-29, 2007.

Last year Picnic was held for the first time. Funded by the ministry of Economic Affairs and the municipality of Amsterdam, Ms Marleen Stikker managing director of De Waag Society in Amsterdam and Bas Verhart, managing director of Media Republic set up a program with the stress on social creativity. The conference and exhibition uses internet itself as a social network for last year’s and this year’s participants. They can put their profile on the website, complete with photograph.

This year a new social dimension has been added: the Picnic Green Challenge. The competition should show new media solutions for the environment. People from the creative industry have a task in selling green products and solutions. The creative producers can add the lifestyle factor. In an article in the Dutch financial FD of yesterday he mentioned examples like Organic, Food for You, an organic food shop and Bugaboo, a manufacturer of children’s buggies and of course the coffee chain Starbucks.

I remember a green challenge which was among the nominations of the 2004 edition of the Eurorpix Top Talent Award, a competition for young talent, students and producers under 30 years. A student from Staffordshire University, Christina Handford developed the Green Scheme, an incentive scheme for a recycling project. The jury report reads: The Green Scheme uses interactive TV to offer the public a crucial requirement: motivation. The Green Scheme allows the citizen to view how many points he/she have received from recycling tins, cans, bottles etc. The participants can use the points to reduce their tax bill, or donate them to local schools to buy sports equipment. It makes recycling a clear and transparent duty. The Green Scheme emphasises how recycling is both efficient and cost-effective for the individual, while also being beneficial for the community at large. The Green Scheme localises the efforts to reduce pollution and save resources. This would make the public feel that they have the individual responsibility and tools to recycle, rather than thinking recycling can be postponed for now, or be done by someone else. The Green Scheme facilitates the civic duty to protect the environment and serve the local community, surprisingly by sitting in front of a television set. The Green Scheme should be amongst the entries for the Green Challenge and a large city should pick up the idea.

For those who have still such a fabulous idea on their desk, they should hurry. There are only 8 days left. Chairman of the jury will be Richard Branson. And prize money will be 500.000 euro. With a jury support by amongst Richard Branson, but also other enterprise dons and half a million euro, an idea should be able to be put in practice.

Blog Posting Number: 844

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Forget the Northern Wing, Holland one playing field

Yesterday the new Dutch cabinet minister for Education, Culture and Science, Mr Ronald Plasterk was present at a meeting of iMMovator in Hilversum, the Dutch broadcast city. iMMovator (in full iMMovator Cross Media Network) is a network organisation, which aims at the strengthening of the cross media sector stimulating innovation and economic yield. The organisation describes the cross media sector as sector in which there is an increasing integration of radio, television, internet, mobile and events. On the photograph the forum: see photograph: Mr Plasterk to the right; Mr Huub Deitmers next to him; Mr Kees van Kooten next to Mr Deitmers; Professor Paul Rutten second from the left. For more photographs and a Dutch language report and RSS feed, go tto the site of iMMovator.

The minister had come inform himself, not to deliver a speech. Most likely he saved the speech for the Broadcast Conference on September 6, 2007. Three subjects were on the list: investments, entrepreneurship and stimulating the cross media sector.

Behind the table were also two media investors, Mr Huub Deitmers and Mr Kees van Kooten. Mr Huub Deitmers, together with theatre and musical entrepreneur Joop van der Ende, runs an investment fund of 150 million euro, part of which has been invested in some 10 start ups; their latest investment is in the Spill Group, one of the global leaders in casual game traffic generation, based in The Netherlands and operating 24 game portals in 17 countries worldwide. He made clear that the fund only invests in new media companies with an international potential. Mr Kees van Kooten a former DJ, is also investing in local companies; he stimulates what is kicking, but looks first at the entrepreneur and then to his plans. In the Netherlands there are not many investment companies for new media; many companies look first for government grants and then go in search for venture capital. Asked whether the minister was an entrepreneur, he told that he had been a life-science researcher and had been the lead in some 10 patents. But he had never set up a company.

Through a spoken column of serial entrepreneur Mr Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, the attention of the minister was drawn to the fact that Dutch education makes employees of pupils and not entrepreneurs. The Dutch school system is focussed on delivering as many as possible students with a diploma and not top students. In business schools many managers are educated, but they seek employment with Shell and AKZO and hardly become entrepreneurs. Besides the students can not present themselves; they do not understand that life is one extended pitch.

On the subjects of investment and entrepreneurship the minister listened. But on the subject of the cross media sector he got into a discussion. Professor Paul Rutten presented the Northern Wing phenomenon. This geographical corridor (see illustration) from Haarlem, Zaandam, Amsterdam, Almere, Hilversum, Amersfoort and Utrecht, generates more jobs in ICT and the creative industries than any other region in the Netherlands. The Northern Wing offers in fact 35 percent of all the jobs in the cross media sector, a combination of ICT and the creative industry. But the minister did not swallow this argument. “When you look at the fact that one third of the Dutch population lives in this region, it is not surprising, that one third of the jobs can be found there.” Many people active in the cross media sector must have sighted with relief as Amsterdam and Hilversum have always been favoured above the other regions. Minister Plasterk referred to his visit to the Eindhoven region and the Design Academy; the students there are rescued from traditional ideas in order to start their creative career in the region. Mr Deitmers supported Plasterk’s vision and pleaded not to focus on the region; the Netherlands should be one playing field.

Blog Posting Number: 844

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Monday, August 20, 2007

TI ISP Alice ready to seduce the Dutch consumer

After Italy, Germany and France, Telecom Italia is set to conquer 15 per cent of the Dutch consumer market with its ISP service Alice. With a sharp offer, combining internet and telecom, Alice has to seduce dissatisfied consumers. The service will be run by Bbned, a subsidiary of Telecom Italia.

Bbned is not new on the Dutch market. The company has so far worked in the business sector of the market and has built up a good reputation. It has been successful in selling DSL solutions and in acquiring various glass fibre projects in the Netherlands such as the Amsterdam Cityring and the Rotterdam Port Authority.

But now Bbned will also run the consumer ISP service Alice, a service already introduced in Italy, Germany and France. Bbned can rely for its internet services on its experience in the business sector and the recently acquired ISP InterNLnet, which will give second line assistance to the help desk. For the telecom services Alice will make use of the services of the Telecom Italia subsidiaries Pilmo en Talk4free.

Alice will compete with the other ISPs with very sharp tariffs and conditions. In fact Alice will have to win over the dissatisfied consumers of KPN, Tele2 and the cable companies; they are accused of being expensive, inflexible, unreasonable in agreements, incompetent as far as help desks go and providing a lousy service. A survey by TNS NIPO on behalf of Orange Broadband showed that the majority of the respondents had the feeling that they paid too much for internet (53 pct) and telephony (69 pct).

In the internet package the speed is remarkable. Alice offers one speed up to 20Mbps and does not have other speeds, usually lower speeds as the other ISPs do. In the package is also a free telecom service to all fixed line subscribers included. All this for 30 euro a month. Given the speed of internet access this is really sharp as for example KPN and UPC ask almost double for this speed in combination with a telephone service.

The offer is simple. Administratively, the user does not have a fixed time contract with Bbned; the user can change monthly. The user will pay one month ahead. Besides the standard package a foreign telecom package is available at 20 euro for limitless worldwide calling, except for some countries where there is a limit of 500 minutes. A modem, installed by a user, is delivered at 10 euro and an installation engineer is available for 70 euro.

Will Alice make it in the Netherlands?. I personally think so. The absence of a fixed time agreement, the speed of the internet connection and the monthly fee will be the USPs. Dissatisfaction will do the rest. Of course the offer will be a challenge for the incumbent telcom KPN, as it dominates the broadband market through various brands like XS4ALL, Tiscali and the Net, but is unwilling to increase the speed or lower the tariff. Also the cable companies will get a problem as they have a differentiation of speeds and tariffs. For a speed of 8Mbps a user will pay almost 50 euros; originally this tariff was for 9Mbps but UPC decreased the speed from 9 to 8 Mbps without informing the users by e-mail or snail mail.

Cable companies have even more the problem of triple play. If one of the media is not working properly, user will threaten the cable company to discontinue the subscription for television, telephone and internet. I spoke to a UPC subscriber last week, who had problems with the quality of the analogue transmission of the television stations. A discussion with the help desk did not do him much good. He was advised to get some other cable fixtures, this while his present fixtures were replaced by a UPC licensed engineer last December. Reason for the change of fixtures would be the digital ether broadcast Digitenne in Almere. But this transmission tower was already in operation when the UPC licensed engineer replaced the fixtures last December. Absolute incompetence at the UPC help desk. This type of missers is a market chance for Alice. Of course Alice does not have a triple play as it lacks a television package, but even with the initial costs of Alice and a subscription to Digitenne the user will save money in less than half year.

Alice light the fire!

Blog Posting Number: 843

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dutch Trial CC soon to start

The Dutch music collecting association BUMA/STEMRA will offer composers and text writers the opportunity to offer their work under creative commons licenses, giving them more flexibility in the management of their rights. A trial with Creative Commons will soon start.

The trial of Creative Commons Nederland and Buma/Stemra has been in the works for more than one-and-a half year now. But even after the announcement there are details on the opportunities offered by the trial.

A number of BUMA/STEMRA members have wished more flexibility in managing their own rights. Now composers and text writers transfer the management to BUMA/STEMRA and can not do anything when they want to make a deal to have their music on a particular site. With the licensing system of Creative Commons, they can allow remixing or free promotion.

BUMA/STEMRA recognizes that this trial is going to be important for them as an organization and for collecting associations in general. So far they have been very strict in applying rule for the management of rights. In fact collecting societies have been accused of running a monopoly.

Bands and music lovers protested last May against the inflexible licensing system of BUMA/STEMRA. Some one thousand people signed a petition on The initiative takers demanded from BUMA/STEMRA that they would get more freedom in the distribution of their material.

BUMA/STEMRA was not impressed by the petition as it already had a solution for music makers, who want to put their own music on their own site. Also groups like web casters have been able to license music online since May 2007.

BUMA/STEMRA will unveil their plans for the new, flexible rights management on August 23, 2007.

Blog Posting Number: 842

gs: copyright, creative commons

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dutch TV station Tien, aka Talpa, exit

While Philips was celebrating its 25th anniversary of the Compact Disc, the Dutch television station Tien (in English Ten), a.k.a. Talpa, of John de Mol had its own exit party. After two years and four days the Dutch television station of John de Mol stopped. The spoils will be picked up by RTL Netherlands which has started RTL8 as an outlet for some shows now. RTL8 will aim as women as a segment. RTL also acquired the 32 million euro flag ship of the premier soccer league in the Netherlands.

You can ask the question what went wrong and go into a lot of nifty details. More interesting is the question whether Tien had an effect on the Dutch broadcasting world, which is a world of ‘more of the same’. When SBS has a skating show, RTL will have a variation on the theme. When RTL has Idols, SBS will have Who wanna be a popstar. So two years ago John de Mol promised to shake up the broadcasting world with new formats. And he tried. The news did not just have anchor persons, but they had a group of VIPs around the table, discussing the news of the day. This format was given up fast and Tien returned to the anchormen. Also soccer was going to be presented differently. People did not like it and at seven o’clock on Sunday night, when there should have been a prime time audience of 2,5 million viewers only 1,5 million soccer tifosi showed up. But John de Mol tried to bring new programs and he did. So the originator of the reality show Big Brother thought up the Golden Cage, where reality and fiction are intermingled; the winner keeps the mansion which is inhabited during the show and has a chance on the jack pot of 1 million euro. A change in advertising format had been promised by Tien; the station would work together with the advertiser. In this discipline things changed. And Tien used internet better than the public broadcast station

When Tien was announced as Talpa, the public as well as the commercial television and radio stations got a fright. They were sure going to loose audience shares to such a star studded station. The public stations went through a painful rescheduling and horizontal scheduling, while the commercial ones started to buy new formats. But after a year it was all over for Tien; yet Tien had shaken up the public and commercial stations. Now RTL is the wise guy on the block, having the soccer premier league and the start programs of Tien.

What is John de Mol going to do? He will not sit back and view the world. In fact he is moving his attention from the Dutch broadcast world to the world scene with Endemol. This company was acquired from Telefónica for 2.63 billion euro in May by a three-way consortium comprising Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, the company co-founder John de Mol through his Cyrte Investments vehicle, and Goldman Sachs. John de Mol will be involved in the operations of the company. One of his first actions was to remove the Telefónica chairman Elías Rodriguez-Viña Cancio as fast as he could, undoing the parachuting of a Spanish CEO in 2002. Instead he put in his veteran governor Aat Schouwenaars. Having put his man in place, John de Mol will have to start looking for money coffers, as the take-over is falling victim to the global credit crunch. The syndication by the banks Goldman Sachs, ABN Amro, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, Lehman and Merrill Lynch has been postponed as debt investors refused to take part in high-risk buyouts. The consortium has also almost all of the remaining 25 per cent of shares; the owners of the remaining shares which total less than 1 percent of the shares. Endemol will soon leave the Dutch stock exchange.

Blog Posting Number: 842