Saturday, May 31, 2008

BPN 1115 eReaders vs UMPCs

It was a great meeting yesterday. The small band of eReaders friends gathered to discuss the fate and future of the eReaders. Of course everyone brought an eReader along or an Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). It was a nice collection of gadgets. In the range of the eReaders the real iLiad (not the emasculated Book version) was on the table as well as the Cybook and the Hanlin. The real trophy was the XO of the One Laptop Per Child project. And an UMPC of the first series of the ASUS EEE was demonstrated with its small screen; in the meantime there is one with in the same dimensions but with a. 8.9 inch screen. Sadly, there was no Kindle of on the table.

Everyone agreed that the digital paper screens of the eReaders mean a break-through compared to the eBooks from Sony and Franklin, the eReaders of the nineties. The readability has definitely improved. Reading in the sun and in bed is no problem anymore. The present eReaders defies the publishers’ slogan: You can’t take a monitor to bed.

Also the power management has improved dramatically over the old battery technology. Only in the process of starting and the powering down the eReader uses energy as well as during flipping the pages back and forth. It has now longer battery life and the eReader is also much lighter.

The wireless facility like in the iLiad is a new feature to this generation of eReaders. It offers opportunities to receive books and newspapers while on the move. Yet this feature will be technology bound. Just look at the Kindle which works already on another principle. Kindle uses an EVDO (Evolution Data only) wireless network, Amazon Whispernet, to download books. Users do not need to find Wi-Fi hotspots or synch their Kindles with computers. Books can generally be downloaded in less than a minute, and several magazines, newspapers, and blogs are automatically delivered to subscribers. But one can think about Bluetooth technology and UMTS technology. It will give the eReader more roaming power.

Looking into the future digital paper readers might get colour screens, which will help the rendering of colour printed newspapers and magazines as well as books and catalogues. As for movies we will have to wait for another technology like electrowetting to mature.

But the UMPCs could will disturb the market of eReaders. The screens of UMPCs are still variations on LCD screens. However in the ASUS and the XO the screens have received renewed attention in order to bring down the power consumption. In the XO the power consumption can be brought by just switching off the backlight and bringing down the consumption to 1 Watt; and the readability is still acceptable. And the screen for the XO-2, which will be released in 2010, looks even more exciting (see photographs).

But given the size and the new technologies, UMPCs are becoming preferable above eReaders due to its multi-functionality. The ASUS EEE has an internet facility, wifi and webcam on board. XO has even a smarter wifi set on board, linking up to one kilometre. So UMPCs are moving in: XO, ASUS EEE, Intel classmate and Dell mini. To me the XO-2 is really way ahaead by changing the concept of a Ultra Mobile PC with a virtual keyboard, the handling of a two pages book and a gamepad for two persons. Should we start forgetting the eBook reader?

For those who read Dutch, go to: Jaap Stronks' blog.

Blog Posting Number: 1115

Tags: eReader, digital paper,

Friday, May 30, 2008

BPN 1114 Newspapers become unstuck from print

Yesterday I attended a presentation by Gert Jan Oelderik, the managing director/publisher of the Dutch quality paper NRC Handelsblad, part of the PCM Holding. The newspaper started two months ago with presenting the newspaper on iLiad as ePaper.

Mt Oelderik started out with the statement that a printed newspaper is a different beast from an electronic newspaper. An edition of 32 pages will end up as 195 electronic pages. The screen is too small to render a broadsheet on the iLiad digital paper eReader. He found the iLiad basically rudimentary and not exactly user-friendly; for this he referred to the on and off knob hidden on the bottom of the eReader (see illustration). But yet he saw the iLiad as a first step and was very optimistic about the development of eReaders. Full colour could be expected, perhaps larger screens and even a double screen imitating the left and right pages of a newspaper. And perhaps the digital paper would be rolleable and flexible. But this would take some time.

He was very proud of the fact that the ePaper did not cannibalise the printed newspaper. A subscription on the printed newspaper will cost the subscriber 309 euro annually. But with the ePaper the printing and the distribution costs had been removed showing a subscription price of 189 euro for electronic news and information.

The last remark triggered a discussion on the future of electronic newspapers. Mr Oelderik took the position that newspapers had hardly changed since 1828 when NRC was founded. Now in the digital age the newspaper had the opportunity to get delivered as printed newspapers, through internet and as ePapers. Of course it begged the question about the content of newspapers. Now the printed newspaper is a collection of items from news wires and information in the form of background articles. The news items can be found everywhere and are not unique to a newspaper; however the information is specifically of the newspaper’s editorial staff, the freelancers and occasional contributors. Mr Oelderik supposed that in two years the website would go on black as people will have to pay for the electronic newspapers. This was an interesting observation as many newspapers have gone back to free access and no paid web newspaper has made any profit. Yet he expected a shift from subscribers of the printed newspapers to subscribers of other subscriptions. Subscriptions would give a subscriber the right to printed information, web information, pod and vod information as well as to the ePaper, including news items. Presently NRC Handelsblad has 280.000 subscription relationships, including 6.000 web subscriptions and 1250 ePaper subscriptions. The electronic subscriptions are still not in the double digits, but Mr Oelderik is very optimistic about it.

There was also an extensive discussion on advertisements. Presently the printed broadsheet has advertisements, just as the website edition. However the ePaper edition does not have advertisement. A subscriber pays for the news and information. The price for that, less printing and distribution, is 189 euro. However it has not been established yet, whether advertisement will be added; ads can be used to leverage the profitability later on.

The ePaper has been one of three spearheads for the editorial staff: ePaper, NRC TV and the book portal. The ePaper is to address the early adopters. NRC TV is to aim at the YouTube generation and the book portal is for the intellectuals.

Blog Posting Number: 1114

Tags: , ,

Thursday, May 29, 2008

BPN 1113 Dutch Game Garden

It sounds like a perfect recreational venue, but the Dutch Game Garden is a serious place for game developers in the Dutch city of Utrecht. The Dutch Game Garden will officially be launched on 19 June during the NLGD Festival of Games, the largest professional game conference in The Netherlands.

After a period of competition between cities which all wanted to call themselves Game City NL, Utrecht looks like having won the competition with a remarkable initiative. Dutch Game Garden looks after the whole chain in the game industry: students, starters and existing companies. The foundation has instituted three streams: developers club, Game Company Incubator and Business Centre. Dutch Game Garden is a concrete incubator for game companies. Presently already 7 companies with 40 employees are based in the building, while 6 organisations are on the waiting list. The foundation Dutch Dream Garden helps the companies to grow nationally and internationally and does the promotion internationally using the slogan Dutch games go global.

In the Developers Club students with various backgrounds such as game design, media, art and IT will work together on projects. Dutch Game Gardens will provide the GameLabs and the necessary finances, but also assist the students in the game contents and help them when they want to enter international competitions.

The Game Incubator will help the Dutch Game Garden’s graduates and starting entrepreneurs with setting up their company and game related business. They are helped with office space and finding investment; they will be assisted by coaches and consultants for all kind of aspects in the game industry. The Dutch Game Garden will help also with business trainings.

With the business centres the foundation will create game development hotspots. Attractive housing for larger companies is created, while they are linked to the starters in such away that facilities can shared. In the business centres access is offered to other companies, research institutes, universities and schools.

The foundation is financially supported by the ministry of Economic Affairs, the Province of Utrecht, the municipalities of Utrecht and Amersfoort. Related institutes are the HU University of Applied Science, University of Utrecht and the Utrecht School of Arts.

Blog Posting Number: 1113


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

BPN 1112 Target 25 pct on IPv6 by 2010

Increasing demand for Internet based services means that there would not be enough addresses to support this expected growth, if no action is taken. Encouraging internet users and providers to adopt the latest Internet Protocol (IP version 6 or IPv6) will provide a massive increase in address space, much in the same way as telephone numbers were lengthened in the 20th century. The European Commission set Europe a target of getting 25 per cent of EU industry, public authorities and households to use IPv6 by 2010, calling for concerted action at European level to get all actors prepared for a timely, efficient change to avoid extra costs for consumers and give innovative European companies a competitive advantage.

IPv4, used since 1984, provides 4.3 billion addresses, of which only about 700 million or 16 per cent remain free and available for new connections. The new Internet protocol, IPv6, will make an almost unlimited amount of IP-addresses available and so support new applications using devices that are too numerous or costly for IPv4. This will make it much easier for home users to build their own private networks and connect them to the Internet.

IPv6 will encourage more innovative Internet applications, in particular those based on networking huge numbers of small and simple devices. For example, energy management for street lighting and intelligent buildings could be improved, and the Internet could cheaply and reliably connect remote control sensors in everyday household appliances. This in turn will provide an incentive and opportunity for companies to innovate still further, and so produce the next generation of internet applications.

Most new computers and servers being sold by major manufacturers are already IPv6 compatible, but are only reachable through their old IPv4 addresses. Europe's 'backbone' Internet network for research "GEANT" is already 100 per cent IPv6 compatible and has led to Europe having the highest take-up of IPv6 addresses of any region in the world. However, this improvement has yet to filter through to the public internet. Concerted action across Europe by all industry players is therefore required to ensure that IPv6 usage grows rapidly, with 'backbone' internet networks supporting both IPv4 and IPv6.

Meanwhile, in Japan, NTT (Nippon Telecom and Telegraph) already has a public IPv6 'backbone' and China plans to implement networks that are both IPv4 and IPv6 compatible before the Beijing Olympics. The US government is demanding IPv6 as a requirement for public procurement, but on the ground their internet technology remains similar to that in the EU.

The Commission, in a Communication adopted, called for Member States to put the European public sector at the forefront of deployment by migrating their own internet networks, public sector websites and eGovernment services to IPv6. The Commission also wants the most important websites of Europe to take the lead and aims to receive commitments from at least 100 top European website operators, such as broadcasters or online news services, before the end of 2008. The EU's own website "", managed by the Commission, will be IPv6 accessible by 2010. To encourage the European IT industry to move forward, Member States should make the use of IPv6 a condition for a public procurement, (as the European Commission and the US Government have already done), raise awareness of businesses and organisations and help them with the transition.

The Commission has invested € 90 million in IPv6 research. In 2002 the European Commission launched an action plan to prepare for the migration to IPv6, including the development a large pool of experts with experience in IPv6 deployment. As a result, European research networks are IPv6-ready and the European network GEANT is the world leader in the deployment of IPv6. More than 30 European R&D projects directly related to IPv6 have been financed through the EU's research frameworks.
On May 30, major industry players will attend a launch event in Brussels, at which the Commission will present this initiative for accelerating the deployment of IPv6 in Europe

Blog Posting Number: 1112


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BPN 1111 Dutch newspapers from 1618 onwards digitised

The Dutch National Library in The Hague has started to digitise newspapers from 1618 onwards up to the present time. The project will last two years. In total 8 million pages will be scanned , every page will be searcheable by word and be part of the Database Digital Newspapers.

The National Library has outsourced the digitisation work to the German company Content Conversion Specialists (CSS) incollaboration with the Dutch company M & R. Per month some 200.000 newspaper pages will be processed. By the beginning of 2009 the first results should be visible. The project will be financed by a Dutch national program for large scale research facilities.

The first Dutch language newspaper was published in Amsterdam in 1618. This newspaper entitled de Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, & c. was published every week and was on broad format. De Courante is seen by several scientists as the first newspaper in the world, as it was printed on a broad format and not as a pamphlet, as earlier newspapers. In the Netherlands more than 7.000 national, regional and local newspaper titles have been published since 1618. All the sections will be scanned for the sake of preservation, as many of the newspaper have been printed on perishable paper (thin and bad quality paper). The resulting database will become a resource for linguists, historians and language technologists.

The newspapers are mainly part of the National Library collection, while other newspapers come from other heritage institutions. An academic committee will assist in the selection of the titles to be digitised. As the project will meet problems with regard to copyright a committee has been set with the Dutch Publishers Association and other IP institutions to safeguard the rights of authors.

Blog Posting Number: 1111


Monday, May 26, 2008

BPN 1110 Never trust a free lunch

Last week Microsoft informed its partners that it is ending the Live Search Books and Live Search Academic projects and that both sites will be taken down this week. This also means that Microsoft is winding down its digitization initiatives, including its library scanning and its in-copyright book programs. A very swift one-sided action for a partnership; never trust a free lunch. Microsoft is in search of a sustainable business model for the search engine, consumer, and content partner.

With Live Search Books and Live Search Academic, Microsoft in partnership with the libraries digitized 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles. These books and scholarly publications will continue to be integrated into our Search results, but not through separate indexes. The university libraries of the University of California and the University of Toronto were partners in the project. They set up a program for library scanning and in-copyright book programs. They did this on the platform we developed with Kirtas, the Internet Archive, CCS, and others. The libraries and the publishers are now left with the remains of the program. They have the technology and equipment in house to scan the books. One advantage is that they have received back the full rights to the scanned books. Unclear is what happened to the cooperation between Microsoft and the British Library as they work together to make 25 million pages of content available.

Satya Nadella, senior vice president search, portal and advertising, writes in his blog: “We have learned a tremendous amount from our experience and believe this decision, while a hard one, can serve as a catalyst for more sustainable strategies. To that end, we intend to provide publishers with digital copies of their scanned books. We are also removing our contractual restrictions placed on the digitized library content and making the scanning equipment available to our digitization partners and libraries to continue digitization programs. We hope that our investments will help increase the discoverability of all the valuable content that resides in the world of books and scholarly publications.”

The decision is a strange one. Did Microsoft go into these library and publishing projects to find out sustainable strategies for search engines? Bonkers. While Google has a strategy to make every publication digitally available and committed itself to library and publishing programs, Microsoft started the program just to compete with Google, despite the objective of increasing the discoverability of all the valuable content worldwide. Pure lip service! Now the company claim that they learned a lot, brought down the cost of copying and will work on a sustainable business model for searching. The translation of Microsoft’s statement will most likely be too black and white, but Microsoft basically says that the library and publishing programs did not serve as a catalyst for more sustainable search strategies. Now Microsoft changes its strategy per direct and looks into verticals with high commercial intent like travel. In other words, the library and publishing business is not profitable enough; they should have known better before getting in.

For the libraries and publishers the free lunch is over. Of course, there was never a free lunch as the libraries and publishers were limited in their actions and in the use of the scans.

Blog Posting Number: 1110

Tags: ,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

BPN 1109 Unique Dutch genealogy database launched

Today a rather unique archive database has been launched in the Netherlands by a provincial archive agency. The uniqueness of the database lies in the fact that more than one million Dutch people can now find more information on their families.

It all started last year when the book The Poor man’s paradise of the journalist Suzanne Jansen was published. The book concerns the 19th century poor man’s colony Veenhuizen, where sentenced vagrants were sent. It was a labour camp, where people were educated and taught routines.

Church of the labour camp in Veenhuizen

There were also voluntary colonies (Frederiksoord, Willemsoord en Wilhelminaoord), where people could go to do farming work voluntarily. A charity foundation could propose a family to be sent to a colony. When the family accepted and was placed in such a voluntary colony, they had a mortgage for clothing and furniture, which they had to pay off with the agricultural products. When a family member left the farm before the mortgage was paid off, it was seen as desertion. Orphans did not have any choice at all as the charity foundation had an agreement with the government.

The colonies were later on acquired by the Dutch ministry of Justice and used as penitentiary institutions. When they were freed they often stayed in the neighbourhood of Veenhuizen as they did not want to became known as people from Veenhuizen. In many a family there was a deafening silence about relatives sent to Veenhuizen.

The database contains 74.000 names of colonists in this labour camp, who were inmates from 1818 till 1921. There are also 5.600 photographs and descriptions of vagrants and beggars from 1896 and 1901. More data will be added. There were also voluntary colonies (Frederiksoord, Willemsoord en Wilhelminaoord), where people could go to do farming work.

The launch of the database is celebrated in the Prison museum at Veenhuizen with two presentations about the colonies, a workshop on genealogy and tour of the colony.

Blog Posting Number: 1109


Saturday, May 24, 2008

BPN 1108 The trip to Bahrain is not over yet

This is the last posting about Bahrain for the time being. I am home, but the trip is not over yet. I have a pile of business cards to answer to.

Looking back at the assignment of the Kingdom of Bahrain eGovernment Agency, I can say that it has been an extra ordinary assignment. I have been 13 days in Bahrain, living out of a suitcase. I had been invited as the eGovernment Agency celebrated its first anniversary in a grand way with a competition and a Forum.

I have been involved in four major events: a presentation for the Supreme Committee for Information Technology and Communication a steering committee of 11 ministers, chaired by deputy prime ministers Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak al Khalifa, the jury deliberations for the eGovernment Excellence Awards, the Awards ceremony and the eGovernment Forum. There have been some side events like the luncheon with the foreign delegations attending the eGovernment Forum and exhibition and the dinner at the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Bahrain Information Technology Society (BITS).

I have met many people. I worked with the management of the eGovernment Agency and have been assisted by Abdulaziz. I also had a lot of contact with Nezar, who was the link between the eGovernment Agency and the cabinet. In the jury deliberations I work with a team of professionals with backgrounds in academics, consultancy, government and business. I enjoyed meeting again Waheed. At the Presidents palace I met old friends, involved in the 2005 World Summit Awards Grand Jury in Bahrain. At the Awards ceremony I met again Radi Ali the manager of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority. I also met in Bahrain Ghislain, an employee for Zain Mobile, who used to work in The Netherlands, but has now been relocated in Bahrain. And I met many new people during the Awards ceremony, the Forum and the exhibitions. Their business cards still have to be answered.

I still have to work on promised documents in the coming week. When these are completed and have been sent off, I am anxious to hear what is going to happen. Will there be a second eGovernment Excellence Awards in Bahrain? Will there be competitions in Kuwait, Qatar or Oman. And will there be a supra-national competition in the Gulf. I would also hope that the GCC, the associated Gulf states, will start an annual benchmark exercise. What I know is that the kingdom of Bahrain has high ambitions and wants to make it to the top of the UN list.

For the time being I will think back of the sight of a small buss of a handyman with the e-mail address with a prefix achmed6. In a country where every third boy will be named Ahmed, there is one person who is identifiable by an e-mail address as Achmed. I wonder how many e-mail addresses there are, starting with Achmed.

Blog Posting Number: 1108


Friday, May 23, 2008

BPN 1107 Developing m-learning in Bahrain

On my last day in Bahrain, Wednesday, I was invited by Dr Ali M.A. Al-Soufi, one of the eGov jury members, to the Arab Open University Bahrain branch. He is there the section manager for ICT. I was welcomed to the campus by Prof. Samir Qasim Fakhro, the director of AOU Bahrain branch. AOU is a collective of branches in the Gulf area. The Bahrain branch is housed on a small campus just outside Manama. I had a tour of the building, the library and the facilities as computer labs.

The Arab Open University (AOU) offers three streams of learning. One stream is for a BA degree, accredited by the British Open University; the second stream is a centre of excellence for the Open University of Malaysia and the French university of Rouen offering a Master’s degree. The third stream is the hosting of professional skills enhancing graduate programs. The BA program includes a BA in Business Administration and a BA in Information Technology. The Master's program offers amongst others MBAs in General management, ICT and HR/Marketing. Most interesting is the course on Islamic finance, a new way of interest free banking. And as Bahrain is a kingdom, it was interesting to hear that the AOU offers a course on water management, a speciality of our Dutch crown prince (The AOU Bahrain branch is sponsored by one of the three crown princes of Bahrain).

The AOU offers its own e-learning campus system. It was started between 2003 and 2004. Their system contains five modules. There is a learning management system, containing all the administrative procedures for entry to the AOU and for payment. The second module is the virtual classroom in which you can talk to the instructor, but also the other students. There is a an e-library system, linking the students amongst others to the Open University Malaysia with its 21 databases of bibliographic book information, e-journals and repertory of master theses. Of course there are e-lectures. Last but not least there are the student packages of books and CDs. The Arab Open University believes in blended learning, using all the tools, analogue or digital, but also in studying at the university and virtual classes. The trade language is English while there is also support material for Arabic. The professional courses in for example finance, health, hotel management and manufacturing are produced in cooperation with industry, government and institutions; the students receive a certificate for following these courses.

The AOU Bahrain branch is ambitious. They are developing a platform for m-learning. But they are also eager to link up with other universities to develop programs. They look at this world in terms of networked learning. But even important to the management is the exposure to other cultures. I had a chance to them about digital paper and the experiment with digital paper by the Dutch Open University.

Blog Posting Number: 1107

Tags: ,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Photoblog of Bahrain eGovernment Competition

It all started with a request to be tye chairman for the eGovernment Awards of Excellence in Bahrain. It was a very professional jury.

After the jury deliberations, the attention shifted to the Bahrain International eGovernment Forum. International delegations from the Gulf Sates arrived. A luncheon was organised for the delegations.

Trader's Vic lies in the very luxurious tourist resort on the ground of the Ritz and Carlton Hotel. You can sit outside with some 40 degrees Celsius and are cooled by fans mounted on the palm trees.

On the last day of my trip there was a dinner in honour of the 25th anniversary of the Bahrain Information Technology Services (BITS).

This is my new Asus EEE, on which I wrote today's blog. It is an interesting piece of equipment. The operating software is Linux. Office is replaced by OpenOffice. It has a webcam on board and can pick up wifi. My copy has a multilingual keyboard; it contains Arabic symbols. Iwill have to learn Ararbic now.

BPN 106 Away from the hotspot

This morning I returned to the Netherlands after a fortnight in Bahrain. Yesterday it was the last day of the Bahrain International Forum.

And the day started with a kind of a light sensation. Pictures of the press conference were in the papers; Bahrain with a population of 1 million inhabitants has five newspapers in Arabic and in English. There was also a short interview with me in the capacity of chairman of the eGov competition. The question was whether there was room for improvement in the entries. My answer was affirmative and I especially pointed to the category eProposal. The project proposals of the entrants in that category were rather weak and needed a real make over. The journalist in his article mixed up this remark and attributed weak proposals to the Bahrain eTender Board, which the winner of that particular category! He had clearly misunderstood, that the remark concerned project proposals. After all the Bahrain eTender Board was the only one with a quality proposal. I hope that this remark will be corrected by the newspaper.

The event closed with a live televised debate with participants of the Gulf countries. eGovernment is very important to those countries. I will be writing about this debate, when I receive a summary of the debate. I did hear already that the countries had agreed to set up an annual competition for the Gulf countries. It looks like this competition and the Forum have struck serious ground.

From the exhibition it was clear that some Gulf states are very serious about eGovernment. I spoke to a delegation of people from Oman. They told me about their SMS parking system and were eager to hear about the mobile parking system in the Netherlands. I knew that the Omani are working on all kinds of eGovernmental systems. They really made a fair and very efficient system for assigning to students national and international universities as well as scholarships on the basis of their grades. What was a long wait for students after high school graduation when everything was done manually, has become a simple computing exercise, by which the results are sent by traditional and digital channels such as internet and mobile. Also Qatar and Kuwait are seriously busy

At night there was a dinner to celebrate the 25 anniversary of the Bahrain Information Technology Society (BITS). The dinner was held at the poolside of the Gulf Hotel for some 100 people. And of course there was the inevitable ceremony of gifts: the president of the society and the past presidents as well as the vice-presidents all got an Asus EEE which sells in Bahrain for 175 Bahrain dinars or 120 euro. As I am not an official or a former official I had to buy one myself. This is the first blog I typed with this Ultra Mobile PC with OpenOffice on the plane home. (Asus EEE has the operating system Linux. In the discussions on eGovernment, no mention was made Open Source. It is all based on Microsoft).

Blog Posting Number: 1106

Tags: eGovernment, open source,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blog 1105 Instant gratification from the government

Yesterday I had to deliver the keynote speech at the Bahrain International eGovernment Forum. The organization had selected two key-not speakers from Europe, Mr Andrew Pinter and myself. And I thought that wisdom came from the East!

Happily enough we did not bite each other. I had set up my presentation around the eGovernment annual report of Cap Gemini. Of course there are more annual reports such as the ones from the UN, the Economist and others. But I liked best the idea that eGovernment will have to work on personalization. So far it has mainly been busy with getting the transactions right, not only of money transfers such as in the case of taxes, but also in the completion of end-to-end transactions such as registration of births. Funny enough the income generating transaction services of the government account are very high. In other words the government takes care of itself well, but not per se of the citizens and that is very dangerous for eGovernment. It might loose the citizens if the governments do not facilitate in easy to use services.

The 2007 measurement of Cap Gemini is based upon a method that has been modernised, to take into account new technological possibilities and insights. The existing framework has therefore been extended to include a fifth level of sophistication built around pro-activity and personalisation The measurement also recognises the significant advancement that has been made by countries over the years. The measurements have been extended to assess on the one hand to what extent the services are built around the needs of the “customer” (being citizens and businesses) and on the other hand how easy it is to access these services through the national portal.

Today’s challenge is to close that gap – delivering an experience that attracts and fulfils citizen needs, efficiently, consistently, and economically – the “Gov 2.0” experience. An experience that reaffirms trust in public services, and delivers the user-participation required to support a customer-centric, economically viable, and productive Europe.

I used of course The Netherlands as an example. Not that all the eServices of the government are great. But they are busy with the digital ID, the eForm project, the multi-channel project. I really hope that I will receive in 2009 an electronic message telling me that I am about to receive a state pension. The message should have all the details from the central administration system, the tax system and the social services system. It should note my expat status for my stay in the US and UK. And of course it should tell me the amount receivable. Instant gratification from the government!

Blog Posting Number: 1105

Tags: eGovernment

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BPN 1104 E-Kingdom in 2 years!

Yesterday evening the Bahrain International eGovernment Forum was opened. Part of the ceremony was the eGov Award ceremony. Eight awards were handed out to ministers and they all showed up in order to receive a big award.
eContent: Labour Market Regulatory Authority
eService: Ministry of Education HM King Hamad H. M. King Hamad's Schools of the Future Project
eService for eGov Portal: eVisas e-Service for eGov Portal: eVisas
eMature: Labour Market Regulatory Authority
Appreciation: Ministry of Municipalities and Agriculture; Ministry of Industry and Commerce
eProposal: Bahrain Tendering Board
ICT Solution Provider: BBM
eEconomy: Economic Development Board
There were two more awards, but they were decided on the basis of statistics. The eCitizen award was given to the citizen who had dome most transactions through the Government network (for example paying of electricity bills). And the last award was for eParticipation.

The Bahrain International eGovernment Forum is indeed an international happening. There are delegations from Gulf states like Oman, Kuwait and Dubai. And they have been surprised that by the eGov competition, so I was told by a Kuwaiti. He was very interested in details and procedures.

This is not the first competition I am in. And yes it happened again. In the morning a spokesperson for a ministry called up and asked whether they should come; in other words did we win. It was interesting to see the representatives of the eGovernment Agency diplomatically telling the guy to attend the Award ceremony, so that he would hear the winners being called up. Of course the spokesperson called on behalf of his "minister". In the afternoon there was a luncheon with the foreign delegations of the Gulf States at the green ground of the Ritz and Carlton.

The Award ceremony consisted of four speeches. The handing out of the Awards was done by the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the chair of the Supreme Committee for e-Government. And of course there were gifts for the jury (see photograph above) and for the delegations of the Gulf States.

A lot of attention is being paid in the press to the competition and the event. One newspaper had a full page with a lot of photographs. Another one made it even front page news under the eschatological title: E-Kingdom in 2 years! (Bahrain is a kingdom). I liked most the paper that noticed that the jury had decided to give two awards to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority.

Blog Posting Number: 1104

Tags: competition

Monday, May 19, 2008

BPN 1103 WSA to become a UN GAID flagship initiative

The global digital media competition World Summit Award is about to forge a new alliance with the United Nations in the framework of the Global Alliance for ICT & Development (GAID) of the United Nations. After a meeting in New York at the UN Headquarters, Mr Sarbuland Kahn, the Executive Coordinator of GAID, announced verbally that WSA is going to become the flagship initiative of GAID in recognition of the global reach of WSA and its unique standing in the area of e-content. This decision will be set out in writing at the GAID Annual Meeting and Global Forum on 18-20 May 2008 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Mr Sarbuland Khan said:“GAID places particular importance to initiatives such as the WSA, and welcomes the development of appropriate tools and training content, an essential ingredient of localknowledge sharing, in order to enable communities to find resources most relevant to their needs.
WSA will launch a Flagship Initiative on e-Content within GAID with the objective of creating a meaningful dialogue - involving grass-roots and civil society organizations,
governments, the private sector and other stakeholders - in order to advance consensus and help decision-makers to bring about the appropriate regulatory environment
enabling local content production, dissemination and usage for the benefit of the communities.”

WSA creates and sustains a global network and platform which provides global recognition of the individual achievements of local e-Content producers, establishes insight into what is quality in terms of e-Content and innovative applications, focuses on value add for users, and stimulates entrepreneurship and creativity in the creative industries. WSA directly empowers individuals as entrepreneurs and specifically supports the UN Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and using ICT for the betterment of Society.

• Make rich local e-Content issues part of the ICT4D agenda
• Facilitate local e-Content industry economic development
• Bridge the digital divide in e-Content
• Narrow the content gap

Blog Post Number: 1103

Tags: digital divide

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pictures from Manama

These three photographs have been taken from my hotel balcony of the Seef area, a area with reclaimed land (by the Dutch dredging company Van Oord) for development, mainly offices, but also tourism along the seaside. The first photograph shows the new HQ of mobile telco Zain with a shopping mall in the foreground; the second photograph shows the building of Citibank and the third one shows in the back the new financial centre buildings downtown and an immense area still to be developed. (To enlarge click on photograph)

The second three photographs are taken at the other side of Manama, the capital of Bahrain. The first photograph is of the Gulf Hotel, where I stayed last year. The second one is a view of one of a large mosk. The third picture is of the Prime Minister's Palace.

BPN 1102 2008 Global Digital Media - Advertising and Marketing

The Australian consultancy BuddeCom has pus published a report on Advertising and Marketing. It contains BuddeComm’s analyses of the current market and the future for marketing and advertising in the digital media era.

In the digital media era the traditional media companies have made quantum leaps in comparison to the telcos in terms of advertising and marketing. While the Internet companies (ie, Google) have clearly been the leaders to date, media companies are now making great progress. New advertising models, permission-based marketing and premium sales activities are being used to attract people to events and services. New video applications are also emerging as the Internet media companies seek to exploit the added speed and capacity of broadband infrastructure.

The most significant change broadband is bringing to the market is that it is opening up consumer markets. For decades, only corporate users have been able to afford data services. The Internet quickly used this new data development to create an enormous number of consumer applications. Broadband improved the quality, allowing for video-based applications, and, just as importantly, it made access to digital media affordable to the mass market.

The rise of the Internet, mobile phones and other digital media is forcing marketers and their suppliers, including ad agencies, to adopt new business models and broaden their offerings. Although the Internet still only accounts for a small percentage that will be spent on media advertising in 2008, its influence spreads much further than that. It is changing the way consumers are exposed to and interact with advertising.

To date, traditional ad agencies have been accustomed to mass media advertising, with its one-way flow of communication. Digital adverting however will be led by the consumers; they will more or less have full control of the information that they wish to receive and the format will look nothing like traditional advertising. It will be highly personal and highly interactive. Mass advertising will not disappear. There are still good reasons for it to continue, but over time its role will be eroded. The trend will be the democratisation of advertising, necessitated by changing consumer behaviour in favour of the digital media
We are seeing the emergence of new advertising models as the industry gains confidence; driven primarily by the phenomenal growth in online advertising revenues. Online advertising formats can involve searching, games, online directory listings and other permission-based models. Video-based services on broadband and interactive digital TV networks are also becoming a whole new area for advertising opportunities. Social networks have also gained much attention in recent years, but in 2008 questions are beginning to be asked about the true potential of advertising over this medium. Personalised media and one-to-one communication will be the predominant mode on the Digital Media.

Location Based Advertising has had a revival with the development of Location Based Services over mobile devices. Put simply, LBA is when advertisements are strategically communicated based on a consumer’s location. Mobile LBA is slowly becoming a reality with services starting to roll out around the world, particularly in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. In addition to the marketers, major players in the mobile and Internet fields are also taking great interest in these developments.

Key highlights:
- The biggest growth in advertising for the next ten years will come from digital media and this will most certainly involve massive changes for the traditional ad agencies.
- It is expected that by 2015, 65% of all New Media revenues will be based on permission-based marketing..
- The online advertising market stalled during the dotcom era, but a significant recovery began in 2003 and today online advertising is flourishing with over $60 billion to be spent worldwide in 2008..
- A reflection of the growing digital advertising market has been the growth in Internet advertising across Europe, which is taking an increasing share of total advertising spend.
- Four of the major Internet media companies in the US capture over 60% of US online advertising revenues.
- In South Africa, Vodacom has started selling text ads to be placed on the 20 million free ‘Please Call Me’ SMS that are sent through its mobile network every day.
- There is a small but fast-growing band of new digital marketing houses in Australia who are promoting their ability to deliver an end-to-end solution..

Blog Post Number: 1102

Tags: marketing

Saturday, May 17, 2008

BPN 1101 Movie week in Cannes

It is movie time again in Cannes. And as usual the European Union will be present with 14 EU-funded films, representing in total over €900,000 of co-funding. On May 19 there will be a Europe Day at the 61st film festival at Cannes. Besides European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU Media Commissioner Viviane Reding, EU ministers for Audiovisual policy will discuss international film cooperation.

I have taken up more interest in movies since I was asked to be part of a film festival board and since I invested (a small sum) in the movie The Butterfly Tattoo. The movie has a fascinating history. A very young team of people wanted to make the movie, based on the book by Philip Pullman. This author is rather popular as his book the Golden Compass was filmed for 16 million euro. Yet the team was able to get permission from the author and went on to the next hurdle: money. They made a budget and started to solicit money from people. In no less than two days they had collected 200.000 euro.thanks to an interview in the Dutch financial daily, Het Financieele Dagblad. The movie has been completed and it has become a typical British movie (see trailer). Now distribution talks are being held with movie distributors; the team will also be active in Cannes.

President Barroso will open the Ministers' meeting on 19 May under the multilingual banner "Cinema, Dianying yan, Kino, Chalchitra, Cine: Building a world of exchanges". Ministers, filmmakers and film business participants will discuss how to intensify audiovisual exchanges between EU countries and take advantage of new cooperation and trade agreements between the EU and other regions of the world. They will also explore ways to stimulate joint initiatives between film distributors , cinema operators and training centres from Europe and other countries.

No less than 12 Ministers have already confirmed their participation, notably ministers from France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Portugal, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. Croatia, which became the first candidate country to join the MEDIA programme earlier this year, will send its Minister of Culture to the meeting.

In the evening of 19 May, the film "Douro, Faina, Fluvial" (1930) will be shown at the Croisette to honour the Portuguese film maker Manoel de Oliveira.

The 14 EU-Funded Films at Cannes 2008

Official Competition:
Gomorra directed by Matteo Garrone (EU funding from MEDIA: €45,000) – A Neapolitan mafia drama based on a novel by Roberto Saviano.
Delta directed by Kornél Mundruczó (€100,000) – Mihail comes home for his father's funeral. He meets his sister for the first time and they fall in love.
La frontière de l'Aube directed by Philippe Garrel (€50,000) – A young photographer sees a vision of his ex-lover, an actress who committed suicide after he cut her out from his life and who has now come back to haunt him.
Le silence de Lorna directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (€202,500) – An Albanian woman marries a drug addict in order to obtain Belgian residency.
The Palermo Shooting directed by Wim Wenders (€50,000) – A German photographer decides to take a break in Palermo where he meets a young woman and her completely different way of life.

Special Screenings:
Sangue pazzo directed by Marco Tullio Giordana (€111,600) – Renowned actors of Fascist cinema, who were part of the Salò Republic, were accused of collaborating and torturing and shot by the Partisans after the country was liberated.
Entre Les Murs directed by Laurent Cantet (€30,000) – The story of a French teacher at a secondary school in a difficult area.

Un Certain Regard:
Tulpan directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy (€40,000) – Bulat has done military service in the Russian Navy and returns to the Kazakh step to become a shepherd. For that, he has to learn the shepherding trade and get married.

Directors' Fortnight:
Eldorado (aka Léa) directed by Bouli Lanners (€51,500) – Yvan grows a strange affection for Elie, an adolescent who breaks into his house, and decides to drive the teenager back to his parents.
Elève libre directed by Joachim Lafosse (€82,500) – Jonas' dreams of becoming a professional tennis player are dashed when he fails his exams. He turns to Pierre for support. Their paternal, master-student relationship gradually becomes a complex and ambiguous one of dependence and manipulation.
Salamandra directed by Pablo Aguero (€26,000) – Six-year-old Inti has been living with his grandmother when Alba returns to drag him away on a crazy trip to a legendary valley in Patagonia.
Les Bureaux de Dieu directed by Claire Simon (€16,000) – Day-to-day functioning of the family planning centre where women come to inform themselves about a choice they have or want to make.

International Critics' Week:
Better Things directed by Duane Hopkins (€90,500) – A group of young people grow up together in a rural community in the Cotswolds, experiencing sexual awakening, boredom, and drug use.
Home directed by Ursula Meïer (€50,000) – The story of a handful of people gradually cut off and disconnected from the world, who end up shutting themselves in.

Update 25/05/2008: Entre les Murs has won the Golden Palm of the 61st fim festival in Cannes.

Blog Posting Number: 1101

Tags: film, movie

Flash Bahrain press release


date: 13 05, 2008


Friday, May 16, 2008

BPN 1100 Indigo new head sponsor for WSA

While I am in Bahrain, I have to go back in my mind to 2005, when the island was the venue of the World Summit Award (WSA). The local government and the local ISOC chapter generously hosted the WSA Grand Jury, an international group of 35 digital media experts who spent a week scrutinizing entries from 168 countries. In 2005 the WSA Gala was in Tunis.

Peter A. Bruck, Chairman of WSA, and Ramón Alberto Garza, President & CEO of Indigomedia, during the signing of the sponsorship contract

In 2003 the WSA Grand Jury had been in Dubai and the WSA Gala was in Geneva. In 2007 the WSA Grand Jury was in Croatia and the WSA Gala was celebrated in Venice. For 2009 it looks like the WSA Grand Jury will be held in Venezuela, but the venue for the WSA Gala has now been fixed. The Gala will be held in Monterey, Mexico, the home base of Indogomedia. This media company won at last year’s global contest in the e-Entertainment category with its product Indigomedia – Brain Media, an interactive broadband digital magazine, based on the premise of providing entertainment and understanding.

Each week, Indigomedia offers a unique experience addressing a range of issues including politics, economics, culture, society, sports, and many more. In a manner that is at once deep and entertaining, Indigomedia captivates the reader and creates synergy between the digital and analogue worlds. The platform allows for full interactivity through a variety of tools including video, animation, and audio. The result is a media experience in which users read, see, hear, touch, and feel each article through the most up-to-date, cutting-edge technology. Every Friday readers can enjoy the Indigo experience free of charge. For all these reasons, Indigomedia constitutes a new form of expression within media one that looks for minds willing to be transformed. This is why it is not mass media, but brainmedia.

Indigomedia is a very ambitious company. It is working on bringing the formula of Indigo to the States. This will not only be for the Hispanics in the States, but the company also wants to translate this formula for the American English market. The company is already active in the States.

Indigomedia will not only act as the host for the WSA Gala events in 2009, but will also financially support the WSA Office in order to create several e-Content related events and start working on the organization of the global contest and the preparations of the Gala and Winners Conference in Mexico. Additionally, Indigomedia will act as the liaison of WSA for the Mexican Government to ensure that official representatives will attend the WSA events.

(I just declare interest in the WSA as I am one of the members of the Board).

Blog Posting Number: 1100

Tags: competition

FLASH: Microlearning 2008 conference

Research Studios Austria is organizing the microlearning conference which will take place in June in Innsbruck, Austria. The conference pursues the eLearning sector and the use of digital technologies to enhance skill levels and build human capacities in educational organisations and countrie. Research Studio Austria cordially invite to the international conference MICROLEARNING2008.

Microlearning2008. Microlearning & Capacity Building June 25 to 27th, 2008, in Innsbruck
- sponsored by Intel Education and in co-operation with University of Innsbruck

Participants from all of Europe, the US, Asia the Arab Region and Africa are expected and feature the most diverse backgrounds: IT architects and university graduates, eLearning practitioners and educators, knowledge managers and corporate trainers, large enterprises and small start-ups, e.g. This exceptional blend as well as the relaxed, intimate atmosphere present opportunities to make new contacts and lead inspiring discussions which would otherwise not have have been possible.

If you are interested in participating check the preliminary program and register online (

(This is a non profit announcement)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

BPN 1099 ilse gives up in favour of Google

The Dutch pioneer search engine ilse has lost the search engine battle in favour of Google and will no longer be the heart of Startpagina, the starting pages for Dutch language sites. The company ilse media is defining a new strategy.

In 1996 ilse, the first Dutch search engine, was launched by Wiebe Weikamp, Merien ten Houten and Robert Klep. ilse grew at an amazing rate and quickly became the market leader in Dutch search engines. Two years later in 1998, a group of friends, under the supervision of Durk Jan de Bruin set-up Startpagina. This site with site pages per subject, including all daughter sites (respectively 1,500 and roughly 5,000 pages) quickly grew to become the biggest Dutch internet portal. By 1999 Google appeared on the scene. In 2000 VNU magazines, now Sanoma magazines, acquired both companies and put them in ilse media B.V.

The search engine became the stimulus for the development of a digital publisher company. By now ilse media has a network of 150 websites, of which Starpagina is the largest. It has a news site and a weblog site. IN 2005 ilse media started a cluster of youngsters and youth sites under the name newrulez. Ilse media also manages the women and home sites of Sanoma publishers and the site, an electronic television guide, for the public broadcast stations.

From the beginning the search engine ilse was a popular site for the Dutch language searchers. When Google started its activity, ilse was on its height and has been going down ever since. In the last year there was a discussion about the search engine. Most people thought that the engine had come at the end of the cycle. And this became clear from the penetration rate, which went down to 5 per cent, while the real use for searching went down to 2 per cent. Presently users of Startpagina use Google five times a week, while the search engine of ilse media is used five times a week.

Of course Google will bring in extra revenues. But the management of ilse media will have to contemplate the use of the search engine. The company is adamant in stating that the dismissal of their own search engine ilse is the beginning of the end. Ilse media is working on a new strategy for the search engine. One way will be to use the search engine for vertical sites like the women magazines of Sanoma.

On May 8, 2008 ilse media announced a new site,, a family and relatives sites, which offers tools for keeping contact with family and relatives and for mapping the relatives. has a few competitors in the Dutch market:, and is the Dutch version of the popular German and is run by De Telegraaf.

Blog Posting Number: 1099

Tags: search engine

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

BPN 1098 Middle East telecom competition

While I am in Bahrain there is great excitement. Batelco, the incumbent telecom company, eyes a 4 billion US dollar acquisition, while the Bahrain government will assign the third mobile license by the end of the year. Telecom competition is heating up outside and in the Middle East.

Batelco is a Bahrain state-owned company by origin. It has expanded to Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait and Egypt, while it ha a bid for a license in Quatar. Batelco has been an incumbent company, but it has gotten competition in the past years, as also the Gulf States are opening up competition. Especially the fixed line business is under fire with the incumbent companies. With opening up competition, the states are setting up authoritative regulatory bodies, like the OFCOM in the UK and OPTA in The Netherlands. In Bahrain this body is called the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA). Batelco has quite some fights with this body and has commenced legal and arbitration proceedings. On the other hand the company has recently invested in the migration of a new generation network. The migration will start later this year.

Looking for expansion Batelco is looking outside the Gulf area and in fact outside the Middle East. It considers the Middle East no longer as hunting ground, as the companies have grown too expensive. The only areas left In the Middle East are Lebanon and Syria. Now Batelco looks to Asia and the Asia Pacific into countries Malaysia and Indonesia. It looks like Batelco is picking up a big company, as it has reserved 4 billion US dollar in its coffers.

Batelco will also have to seek revenues outside Bahrain, as in the field of mobile telephony there is more competition coming up. Batelco has 3,3 million subscribers in its present international footprint; it has 704.000 subscription in Bahrain, which has 1,05 million inhabitants. In the mobile field there is competition as Zain has a second license. Zain bought Netherlands-based Celtel for 3.4 billion US dollar in 2005 to expand in sub-Sahara Africa and operates now in 20 countries in the Middle East and Africa. Presently the penetration rate for mobile services in Bahrain is 110 per cent and the overall growth in 2007 was 13 per cent.

Now no less than seven local and global companies are eyeing the third mobile license. This is the result of an action by the TRA seeking expressions of interest. The third operator will be selected through bidding by the end of the year. The selection of a third operator will mean that lower prices will start to reach consumers.

Blog Posting Number: 1098

Tags: telephony, mobile

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BPN 1097 Back from the PM Palace

I am just back from a presentation at the Prime Ministers Palace (see photograph) in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. There was a meeting of the Supreme Committee for Information and Communication Technology, a government body of 11 ministers headed by H.E. Sheik Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, the Deputy Prime Minister. This body is the steering committee for amongst others the Government strategy in Bahrain. I had been asked to talk about the value of an eGovernment competition. I had prepared a PowerPoint presentation. It was an official meeting, which was filmed in the framework of the eGovernment Forum.

Bahrain has been working on eGovernment since the beginning of this century with a group of young civil servants. Most of them studied abroad in the Gulf region, Europe and the USA. They started to use internet and apply it in government. One of the first e-services was the portal for the ministry of commerce. This one won an award of the World Summit Award in 2003.

In the meantime the separate eGovernment actions has been converted in the eGovernment strategy and the Bahrain government is ambitious. They want to be number one in the Gulf region, but really want to compare themselves with European and North American countries. They realise that they will need an eGovernment competition in search for excellence and to establish good practices. And the competition is not just one element. eGovernment needs a complex of elements such as forum, competition, annual report, resource network and exchange network.

Among the documents which were distributed , was a document on the developments in eGovernment in The Netherlands. As key initiatives were listed the following programs:
- Digital identity initiative, the Dutch DigiD (Digital Identity) online identification system, introduced in 2005;
- eForms program to facilitate citizens and businesses to complte forms online, using a single set of questions, that suffice to serve a number of information chains;
- Contact centre initiative, Post box 51, the Dutch governments centre for public information, which distributes information through toll-free calls, letters, e-mail and websites;
- Personalisation initiative, program giving citizens their personal internet page. The program has started in 2006 and will be fully installed by 2011;
- Enterprise integration and interoperability framework a metadata standard for public-sector websites, based on the Dublin core.

Tonight we will start with the jury deliberations of the eGovernment competitions. There are more than 50 entries. We have four days to reach a selection of nine winners. The jury consists of six persons, external to the government ministries governmental agencies.

Blog Posting Number: 1097

Tags: eGovernment

Monday, May 12, 2008

BPN 1096 Bahrain eGovernment

I am in Bahrain since Friday. It is my fourth time on the island and every time I am astonished about the construction works going on and the land reclaim program. The financial centre, which was just started in 2005 is now completed and part of the new waterfront. My hotel, Mercure, is the same as in 2005, when the World Summit Award Grand Jury deliberations were here; the hotel was just opened and the Grand Jury was the first large group to be entertained. Very spacious rooms, good food and a swimming pool on top of the building. When I look down from my room I look at a large shopping mall and this is only one of the four malls in the immediate vicinity. From my hotel room I look at the tallest building in the Seef area. Bahrain will be the place for me in the coming fortnight.

I have been invited by the eGovernment Agency (should be Authority, I am told) to chair the eGov competition of 2008. It is a new competition, set up by the newly formed Agency in 2007. The competition is combined with a forum on eGovernment. It generates a healthy competition among the government services and yields interest among the citizens; roughly 1 million people, of which 250.000 original inhabitants. In the region the competition will give off the signal that Bahrain is working on the transparency of government and can be trusted. This will generate economical welfare and stamp them as a leader in the region

And this eGov program is not just a program of loose projects. No, it is a well thought out strategy. For the citizen services are initiated from the cradle to the grave. Also for business a life cycle has been worked out with the appropriate eServices. The 32 government agencies offer 350 analogue and eservices. In 2007 there were 35 eservices; by the end of 2008 that will be some 100 hundred eservices, which number will eventually grow to 167 eservices, if not more. And the eGov program is not only about pumping up eServices. Strategic priorities have been set and identified for implementation. This happens at three levels:
Channel enablement, implementation of four service delivery channels: National contact centre, Common service centres, Mobile Government and eGovernment Portal.
Service enablement, ranging from Customs and Ports to procurement.
Implementation of the key enablers with international eGovernment benchmarking and international eGovernment Awards as well as marketing and awareness services.

I am sure that I will be going to meet a lot of interesting people in the coming 13 days.

Blog Posting Number: 1096

Tags: eGovernment

Sunday, May 11, 2008

BPN 1095 The unwirelessed iLiad

It was a surprise last Thursday to come home from the lecture in Utrecht and find the announcement of iRex Technologies, that they have now a light edition of the iLiad as a dedicated book edition, including 50 classics. This all for the price of 499 euro. To tell you the truth, I had not expected an emasculated ereader; a price cut on the wireless iLiad was more in line with my thoughts for more than one reason.

I had been wondering about the strategy of iRex Technology. They have started on the top floor of eReaders with a device, including wireless for 650 euro. In the meantime they have gotten competition, at least in the US, from the wireless Kindle, which sells for the tempting price of 399 US dollar (237 euro). You wonder what makes the real difference between the iLiad and the Kindle. It just can not be the materials and the functionalities. I guess that it is the production and the marketing.

Another difference is still the reach of the Kindle. In the US it is sold as a package deal with a telco. It is basically the iPhone strategy and it works in the States. But in a fragmented continent like Europe this policy will not really work. See the iPhone business in Germany. I still believe that in Europe you should team up with a publisher. That is why I think that Penguin should team up with Amazon, bundling in a selection of their 5000 books.

But now iRex has taken the strategy to make a light version of the iLiad. Not a light version with regard to weight, but a light version by taken the wireless out. In this way the new eReader can compete with the Hanlin, Jet, Sony, Cybook and other still to come. This area will be crowded soon by readers destined specifically for books.

But the price iRex put to their light book version of 499 euro is the highest of the eBook readers. All the other readers are available at a price of just above, but mostly under 300 euro. So what is the real competition with a difference of almost 200 euro. Again iRex is again on the highest price floor of the specific ebook readers. There is only one saving grace for iRex in both cases of the wireless eReader and the specific eBook reader: iRex can still go down with its prices, while the other will feel the competition as far as the price is concerned.

But iRex is also learning. Did they offer the iLiad in 2006 with only an electronic version of the user manual, now iRex has bundled in with the light iLiad ebook reader no less than 50 classic books. Of course it is not the latest hot novel; in fact the offer contains 50 books of which the copy right is in the public domain. In other words you can get them for free from the internet; but the light iLiad buyer will not have to download the books himself.

Will the light ebook version of the iLiad stimulate the sales of the wireless iLiad? I do not think so. First of all, your pockets are lighter as you have paid 499 euro for the eunuch version of the iLiad and saved 150 euro on the wireless version. Besides the light version does not contain any stimulus (eg a wireless program on a card) to upgrade the ebook Reader.

My conclusion is that the wireless iLiad will remain the Jaguar under the wireless readers. Kindle is already the Volkswagen in price and sales numbers. But also under the ebook readers is the light version of the iLiad the top in price, competing with many Trabant cars (which used to be a cheap East German family car). The marketing odyssey of the iLiad continues.

Blog Posting Number: 1095

Tags: ebook, ereader, digital paper

Saturday, May 10, 2008

BPN 1094 Test drive new web content acessibility guidelines

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Working Group has announced the publication of WCAG 2.0 as a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Candidate Recommendation on 30 April. WCAG 2.0 explains how to make Web sites, applications, and other content accessible to people with disabilities, and many elderly users.

This stage is for developers and designers to"test drive" WCAG 2.0 to demonstrate that the guidelines can be implemented in Web sites.

Candidate Recommendation (CR) is a major step in the W3C standards development process; it signals that there is broad consensus in the Working Group and among public reviewers on the technical content of WCAG 2.0. The W3C Process stages are described in How WAI Develops Accessibility Guidelines through the W3C Process.

The primary purpose of this CR stage is for developers and designers to "test drive" WCAG 2.0 to demonstrate that WCAG 2.0 can be implemented in Web sites. WAI encourages a broad range of Web sites and Web applications to use WCAG 2.0 at this stage, and share implementation experience. For information on submitting your implementations, see WCAG 2.0 Candidate Recommendation Implementation Information. If you plan to provide implementations, please let W3C know your intentions by 23 May 2008. Actual implementations are due by 30 June 2008.

It is important to note that some WCAG 2.0 requirements are at risk; that is, they may not be included if there are not sufficient implementations. Items at risk are listed under “Items at Risk” in

While the focus of this stage is to collect implementations, the comment form and email address are still available from Instructions for Commenting on WCAG 2.0 Documents.

The different WCAG 2.0 documents that the WCAG Working Group updated with this publication are introduced in Overview of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Documents.

A key tool for using WCAG 2.0 documents, which was previously called the "Quick Reference", is How to Meet WCAG 2.0: A customizable quick reference to WCAG 2.0 requirements...

For more information about the Candidate Recommendation status of WCAG 2.0 and the changes since the last publication, see "Status of this Document" section of WCAG 2.0.

WCAG 2.0 is part of a series of accessibility guidelines/standards developed by WAI, which are listed in WAI Guidelines and Techniques .

Related Information: W3C press release

Blog Posting Number: 1094

Tags: accessibility

Friday, May 09, 2008

BPN 1093 Training a media versatile journalist

Yesterday, the LunchTalk at the Faculty of Communication and Journalism (FCJ) in Utrecht was interesting as students took notice of eReaders and eBooks. But around the LunchTalk some breaking news for the Faculty was happening. In a very short time television screens had been installed for narrowcasting within the HU University of Applied Science and especially in the FCJ. Besides, the journalism students started to register the LunchTalk, did an interview, edit these streams and bring them online.

It is a small revolution in communication that is happening at the FCJ. So far the faculty had computer screens hanging around, offering information about the schedule, lectures and events. The technology used was teletext-like: text in colours with rudimentary graphics. A few years ago also a tickertape newsbar was installed on the outside of the FCJ. The intention was to show the outside that the FCJ was about news. The small computer screens inside the building make place now for large screen television screen with flashy video, direct link–ins with guest lectures and interviews. Undoubtedly there will be text information, but the image of communication will change in a flashy video pictures.

To fill these screens with video and other information, the journalism students will run video- and audio productions. This is remarkable. Although there has been a change over the last years, the education towards media versatile journalists was not yet really integrated. Students who can work in teams and can produce text, audio and video are still rare and much sought after. It was great to see the students at work linking up their Macs to internet and streaming. After the lecture an interview was done as a summary to the lecture. Slides, photographs and movie parts were split into the video. Besides the registration, the Power Point presentation and the two historical movies will be online on the intranet of the FCJ.

The registration of the LunchTalk lecture has not been edited yet, so I cannot put it by an embedded link on my blog. But as soon as it is online, I will put an update to this posting.

Blog Posting Number: 1093


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Flash: iLiad Book version

iRex Technologies launches a book version of the iLiad from tomorrow onwards. The eReader will not have wifi connectivity, will cost 499 euro and comes with 50 English language classics. In the UK Borders will sell the book version of the iLiad.
See press release.

BPN 1092 eReader does not add value to journalism

Today I was a guest speaker at the Faculty of Communication and Journalism (FCJ) in Utrecht. I had been invited by Job Twisk, the almost the last editor in chief of Planet Internet before the incumbent telecom operator KPN withdrew once again from content. The subject of the guest lecture was Goodbye print, Hello e-Reader. It looks like the introduction of a new medium. When CD-ROM was introduced the software developer Dataware had a poster saying: Goodbye Gutenberg, Hello CD-ROM. But media introductions have more customs have their particular publications such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the USA, the Bible in the USA and Europe and encyclopaedias (Grolier amongst others). For the introduction of the eReader I have not discovered Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Bible or an encyclopaedia. So something might be changing in introducing digital media.

The presentation was dubbed a LunchTalk, a lecture during the lunch break, which students can attend at their own wish. The audience consisted of journalism students. And as the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad has recently introduced the iLiad as an eReader for its ePaper, I was asked to give a short historical overview of the development of the eReaders, the added value to journalism and the present scene. For the historical overview I had taken along my small eReader museum of the Sony EB, the Rocket Softbook and the iLiad. And I had found some historical movies: one on the Sony EB, produced for the Netherlands E-Book Committee, and I had been able to get converted the video tape of The Tablet. Not top quality videos, but good enough to understand the development.

It was great to show the development and failure factors in the first three waves of eReader technology. The first wave, the Sony EB of 1991, had a gadget with a screen too hard to read, a short battery life, it was too heavy and Sony used its own authoring software. The second wave with Rocket Softbook used internet as a distribution means, but the eReader had also a bad screen, it was too heavy and had a short battery life. The third wave has hardly taken place with an eReader on a mobile phone, although Nokia thought about it. But with the digital paper eReader there is definitely a break through; whether this is the ultimate break through can be doubted. Yet the digital paper is very readable

But the real discussion was of course whether an eReader brings added value to journalism. My position was clear from the beginning: the eReader takes out the distribution out of the production cycle. In other words, we do not need delivery boys any longer. Of course for the newspaper marketing people, the eReader might a special delivery device for profiled advertisements and sales of related products (review plus an excerpt of the book) and perhaps for a personal newspaper a la Ohmynews. So it might take out the expensive distribution link and add profiled advertisements and sales, but the eReader will not add to the journalistic process.

On May 29, 2008 the publisher of the NRC Handelsblad ePaper, Gert Jan Oelderik, will give a presentation. I am eager to hear his figures, but also his opinion whether the eReader brings added value to journalism.

After the presentation a team of future journalists recorded a video of an interview; however the interview is in Dutch.

Untitled from on Vimeo.

Blog Posting Number: 1092

Tags: newspaper, eReader, e-Book, digital paper , , , ,

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

BPN 1091 Games lead to defective brain development

Yesterday’s posting on stress relief by casual games yielded criticism. Hans Sleurink, my business partner and developer of a minor on media education, wrote me that he had serious doubts about the wholesome effect of videogames. I translate his message: "What is the relationship between the university and games producer? Many universities are dependent on private donations. The second point of doubt is the dominance in the techno-culture in the USA. In such an environment with such a strong spirit of times – which I call the invisible prison – there is no critical gravitation when it comes to such results.

My doubts are even larger now that the British neuro scientist Susan Greenfield has published a study, showing that repetitive use of (a certain kind of) digital games by children will lead to a defective development in the brains. Central is the issue of an over production of dopamine, which has an effect on the defective developement of the pre-frontal cortex; this part has to do with the development of identity and the power of empathy. Greenfield argues that the lack of empathy plays a role in the unbridled violence, which is more often part of youth life. And from here she makes a link to the computer games".

Susan Greenfield is a professor at Oxford University, chair person of the British Royal Institute and a key researcher for remedies against Alzheimer and Parkinson. In her book ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century, which will be published on 15th May by Sceptre (Hardback, £16.99), she warns that computer addiction will influence the development of the brains differently, which means in her terms ‘less well’. The brains have a great flexibility, but an important change in our environment and our behaviour will have inevitable consequences for the brain, she argues. This will lead to negative consequences like replacement of real contacts for virtual experiences, the influence of pre-cooked menu choices instead of a free choice or communicating with texts without verbs and other elements necessary for a complex reasoning.

The baroness attacks games and especially against the dominance of procedure over content. The more time, she argues, is spent on gaming, the less time is left to learn specific facts and learn the links between the facts. In this way the next generation is no longer able to elaborate on conceptual frames, which are the basis of our education and our individual identity.

This debate will continue, I am sure. It is not only a scientific debate between a USA university and Oxford University, but I guess also a fight between cultures. On May 19 there will be a survey taken among 600 children living in The Netherlands from the age of 8 to 12 years. I hope to be able toi publish the results as soon as the report is out.

Blog Posting Number: 1091

Tags: ,