Sunday, October 27, 2013

BPN 1666: World Summit Awards recognizes social innovators

© Philipp Benedikt/Alexander Mattersberger
On Saturday, October 26, 2013 the conference was closed and at night the award ceremony took place. All delegates moved by train to the beach esort Mount Lavina for this occassion. My coleague from India, Madanmohan Rao, wrote a blog posting about the winners and drew his conclusions.

Every two years, contestants from over 150 countries around the world compete to win the World Summit Awards for best e-Content. The awards are given in 10 categories and are rigorously judged by an international jury according to criteria such as meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

The winners are honoured at a gala and also participate in an international conference where they present their projects and discuss their plans and impacts. I was delighted to be a juror and moderator for the category of e-Inclusion and Empowerment. Here are my key takeaways from contributions of the winning entries, and recommendations for social entrepreneurs who wish to make a mark in this category.

Blindsquare from Finland is an augmented reality GPS application for the blind. It obtains information about the surrounding environment from Foursquare and Open Street Maps. Its algorithms enable it to determine the most relevant information, and then voice it out using high quality speech synthesis. For example, “What’s the most popular café within 200 meters radius?” or “How much longer before I get off my train?”

The Specialized Educational Portal from Romania is initiated by the Ministry of National Education. It services 14,000 students with special educational needs, and consists of an online environment to observe, discover, prove, verify and measure results of different experiments and simulations. The portal uses avatars to embody the roles of teachers, learners, peers and observers. from Slovakia was initiated by the civic association eSlovensko. It uses an animated environment with sheep as main characters to teach children about safer use of the Internet, mobile phones and new technologies. The project has developed 652 tools with over two million downloads in two years for products such as quizzes, ebooks, games, and wallpapers.

New Urban Mechanics of Boston and Philadelphia from the US is a multi-city civic innovation incubator and R&D network dedicated to improving the lives of city residents. It helps innovators connect with government through project proposals to improve urban civic life using.

TAM Hub from Saudi Arabia uses contests and crowdsourcing to help citizens identify pressing problems and then collectively put together solutions. The portal is used to link and expose entrepreneurs to contests and provide them with tips to clarify their ideas and projects. It allows the public to engage with entrepreneurs and express their opinions about the most liked ideas or projects. The initiative is expanding to five other Arab countries.

In the panel discussion at the conference, these social innovators had a range of useful lessons to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs:

1. The toughest moment for an entrepreneur is when you have a seed of an idea but no one believes it can become a tree. But don’t give up!

2. The best moment for those working in social enterprise is not money or prizes but when people thank you from the bottom of their heart for what you are doing, eg. a teacher’s best moment is when a parent of a differently abled child thanks you for teaching them.

3. Engage the entire ecosystem and not just the target audience, eg. the parents and friends of differently abled students.

4. Leverage the power of the crowd not just to solve problems but also understand the problem itself, frame it in different ways, and prioritise it with respect to other problems.

5. Use business models like syndication and licensing to spread your good work in social entrepreneurship. Partnership and alliance management strategies are key: choose partners who truly share the social values and ethical principles that you respect.

6. Don’t shun government: reach out to them and win them over as partners, because they can help truly scale your project in the long run.

The overall winner in this category was judged to be BlindSquare, a laudable achievement for a team which includes only app developer! If one app developer alone can achieve such excellence, imagine what millions of inspired app developers around the world can do!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

BPN 1665: WSA Global Congress Sri Lanka (1)

Harvesting fascinating fruit: What the WSA Global Congress in Sri Lanka has to offer

The Global Congress, featuring fascinating fruit from the tree that is the Internet, is getting closer and closer. It is time to celebrate the World Summit Award (WSA) and the World Summit Youth Award (WSYA)! On the 23rd of this month we jump right into the program, so we hope that our winners, experts and special guests already planned what to put in their suitcase: once we start the Congress in the tropics and begin to harvest the best e-content fruits, there will be long, but equally fascinating days for everyone who joins the journey to the island.

As a little appetizer, check out some of the highlights of the program of the Global Congress.

Wednesday, October 23: Young insiders and VIPs

Starting off with a bang: after a city tour through Colombo, provided by young Sri Lankans who know every inch of the town, we head for the Presidential Secretariat! His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, will open the event.

Thursday, October 24: Start your Harvest, Work and Win

The Global Congress is nothing for late risers: the harvest starts at 8 in the morning, when we begin with workshops for the 40 winners of the World Summit Award and the 18 winners of the Youth Award. Guided by experts like TEDx Ambassador Niki Ernst and "Father of the mobile ringtone" Ralph Simon, the winners will learn how to sell their e-content fruits in the most efficient way. Later on the same day: WSA winners present their products, Innovation sessions with ICT professionals, and a Business Matching World Café, moderated by the WSA Chairman Prof. Peter A. Bruck.

Friday, October 25: Innovation, Innovation! Learn what e-content fruit the Internet-Tree will produce in the future

Want to learn something about Social Entrepreneurship, the Knowledge Society and the future in ICT? In three more Innovation sessions, experts like Financial Advisor and Blogger David Shelters, Rita O'Sullivan, Country Director of the Asian Development Bank, and Tiit Paananen, Entrepeneur and former head of Skype speak about topics that really matter in this year and beyond 2013.

Saturday, October 26: Saving the best for the end
After mobile content conferences, a fishbowl session with young social entrepreneurs and a visit to Infotel Sri Lanka, it's time for the highlight of the Global Congress and the WSA-year 2013: the Winners Ceremony and Gala Dinner. After entering the special Gala Train, the guests will arrive at the Mount Lavinia Beach, celebrating on a stage built into the ocean. In the presence of national and international VIPs, the WSA and the WSYA winners will receive their awards, handed to them by high-level dignities. Also, the WSA will announce the 8 Global Champions of 2013 - the best of the best.

We surely are. Only a few days to go until the big harvest starts. Find out more about the event here!
Or download the full program here.


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Friday, October 04, 2013

BPN 1664: Dutch uni to build a computer, again (2)

The scientific activities in the field of computer science and computer construction were the source of commercial activities in the Netherlands from 1956 onwards.

After the completion of the ARMAC (1956) the Mathematical Centre decided to cease all computer building activities. The team involved however started to draw up plans based on the ARMAC to start a commercial company focusing on the manufacture of computers. But those plans needed funding. A financial partner was found in the Nillmij, the Netherlands Indië Life Insurance and Annuity Company, which realised the importance and potential of a Dutch computer industry realized and was prepared to be provide venture capital. The CEO of the insurance company, J. Engelfriet, had already taken steps to automation within the company and was convinced of a potential market for computer manufacturing in the Netherlands. Cooperation between the group of scientists from the Mathematical Centre and the insurance company led in 1956 to the creation of NV Electrologic, the first Dutch manufacturer of computers.

The development team initially consisted of A. van Wijngaarden, B. J. Loopstra and C. S. Scholten. Engelfriet was not just an investor, but was engaged in the company, particularly in the software department, which was located in the building of the Nillmij until 1965.

Their first computer X1 was presented in 1958 and was a commercial success. There were more than 30 machines sold at home and abroad. The X1 was regarded as one of the best scientific devices of its time. Five years later the X8 was announced. It was a faster machine and was again a commercial success. But then the company began to produce variations on the X8, by manufacturing lighter versions of the machine. Eventually, the development costs became too high and there was a lot of competition, mainly from American computer manufacturers such as IBM. Electrologic sought collaboration with the Dutch electronics company Philips from 1965, which took over the company in 1968 and integrated it into Philips-Electrologic. It meant the end for NV Electrologic and the X - Series, but also an end to the race that had been started by the Mathematical Centre and had lasted. 20 years

Dutch electronics manufacturer Philips was in the fifties a formidable company of national and international stature. It is therefore surprising, that Philips did not jump into the market of commercial computer manufacturers in the fifties. As reported in the first instalment, Philips Research Laboratory built two experimental computers: Peter (1958) and the PASCAL (Philips Awful Speedy CALculator; 1960). But the commercial side of Philips had a problem with computer manufacturing. The company was producing components for IBM computers. And because this was a profitable trade, Philips preferred not to become a competitor of IBM.

But in 1960 Philips also saw that a new and big market for computers was open in the field of scientific research, technology and administration. In that year, the electronics company created Philips Computer Industry (PCI), which started the production of its own computers. Following the acquisition of Electrologic Philips in 1968 the company changed the name from PCI into Philips Electrologic and got its own factory in Apeldoorn.

While the production of Electrologic computers was discontinued, Philips came in 1969 to the market with the P1000 computer series and its predecessors such as the P880 (see photograph). The first machines were sold to the Dutch PTT for the automation of its banking system. However, the delivery of several hundreds of machines was mainly achieved through the existing old-boys network and not by hard selling. In 1976 production was stopped.

Philips Electrologic had meanwhile been renamed into Philips Data Systems ( PDS ). This company began to concentrate on minicomputers and smaller systems. This eventually led to only two profitable years : 1984 and 1985.

Meanwhile, the first home computers and then the personal computers entered the market. Philips was in the home computer market actively with the Philips P2000 and later with the MSX. Following the example of the IBM PC Philips decided in 1986 to include PCs into the manufacturing, but was not successful, despite campaigns such as Headstart computers with bundled CD - ROMs, produced by the Rotterdam company AND. In 2003, the PC adventure for Philips ceased with closure of the Apeldoorn factory. The PC adventure Philips had not been convincing. From 1986  Philips began to burn money with the Philips CD-interactive (CD-i) adventure, which was commercialised from 1991 to 1996. Half a billion dollars were thrown at CD-i. Philips ambiguity can be summarized in the philosophy: you sit in front of the TV linked with a CD-I player in the living room, but behind your personal computer in your bedroom or study.

Besides the commercial manufacturers Electrologic and Philips, there was also a company in the Netherlands which only produced PCs: Holborn (Born in Holland). The hardware of the machine was designed by H.A. Polak and the terminal by Vos Industrial Designers. The terminal has been customised based on a MicroBee. The Holborn used the CP/M operating system

The company Holborn was only active from 1980 to 1983, when it went bankrupt. Probably only 200 units have been sold, mainly to small businesses for administrative and accounting purposes. For the nicely designed and ergonomic machine 30,000 guilders (about 14,000 euros ) had to be paid. Holborn lost the race as it had to compete with office machines like the IBM PC. The IBM PC was cheaper and rapidly gained dominance of its operating system DOS over CP/M

The Delft quantum computer
Overlooking the history of the Dutch manufacturing of computers, it seems that the same scenario will be played out. The computer construction is back at the university, in this case not in Amsterdam, but in Delft. The difference in scenario is that are involved from the beginning the scientific institutes and industry. In this way, the business spin-offs can be enjoyed by industry.

However, the question remains, why a university should start with the construction of the quantum computer. In the U.S. there are already commercial initiatives taken by companies such as IBM and Google. Why this Dutch initiative ? The construction of quantum computers is still in its infancy and in Delft there is a group of experts in quantum theory and nanotechnology, which are set to deliver, be it in 15 years. QuTech can now convert theory into practice.

Update September 4, 2015: Intel invests in QuTech 
Intel invests $ 50 million in QuTech, the research institute of TU Delft and TNO that focuses on the development of quantumcomputing. Intel will also support research efforts technical. Intel supplied an advanced 300mm wafer to QuTech, consisting of a combination of silicon and germanium. This research substrate will be used by the QuTech scientists to make qubits - the building blocks of quantum computing.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

BPN 1663: Dutch uni to build a computer, again (1)

Dutch scientists, led by the Technical University Delft, will start working on a supercomputer. The computer will be ready in fifteen years. It is a so-called quantum computer and it is a project of QuTech, an institute for innovation, funded for nine million a year, funded by the State, the TU Delft , the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research and business.

After more than 60 years a Dutch uni will start to build a computer in the Netherlands again. Between 1950 and 1980 computers were built at universities and by commercial companies in the Netherlands. Some of those computers are still in heritage collections, but not many were kept . In 2010 SCEN, the Computer Heritage Foundation Netherlands, published the National Register of Historic Computers (sorry, in Dutch).

University as a computer builder
Since 1952 scientists did not only study computers and computer principles, but they also began to develop them themselves. Universities and scientific institutions became computer builders.

The first computer in the Netherlands was ARRA I ( Automatic Relay Calculator Amsterdam ). It was built by the Mathematical Centre, part of the University of Amsterdam, these days known as CWI. It was a machine working with relays, switches operated by electromagnets. In practice, the machine was not exactly usable. At the presentation on June 21, 1952 in the presence of the Mayor of Amsterdam d' Ailly and the Minister for Education, Arts and Sciences F.J.Th. Rutten a demonstration of the device was planned generating a table of random numbers. This worked, but then the device gave up. The ARRA II, however, built in 1954 was a success. The computer contained radio tubes and transistors and a kernel memory . With this computer calculations were successfully carried out for the Fokker aircraft factory. The ARRA I nor the ARRA II have been preserved.

The year 1954 also marked the start of a second generation computer, ARMAC by the Mathematical Centre; in 1956 the computer was ready. New for this machine was that the software perspective taken by the developers. Starting point was the software design after which the hardware was selected. This computer made ​​use of transistors, a drum memory and a kernel memory. The ARMAC charged include for the Delta Works, the dike construction to guard the Netherlands from the sea. The computer was a success and seemed to have commercial potential. The ARMAC has not been preserved.

Another hotspot for computer building was the Technical University Delft. Computers were researched here and built. In 1952 Willem van der Poel developed the ARCO (nicknamed Testudo). In the following year he worked on the development of the PETRA, the first computer in the Netherlands with radio tubes instead of relays. In 1957 Van der Poel built the first ZEBRA , which worked on one half with radio tubes and the other half with transistors. The ZEBRA was successful. In fact it was fully transistorised and taken into production in Britain by Stantec. The ARCO has been preserved in the collections of the TU Delft; the PETRA , however, has not been preserved. The Stantec ZEBRA can also still be found in the collections of the TU Delft

Scientific institutions
Two research centers got involved in the building of computers: TNO and Philips Research Laboratory.
In 1955 the Dutch TNO, a scientific and technical consultancy for the government and business built also a computer, the VT , a technically advanced analogue computer. The aircraft builder Fokker used the computer to calculate aircraft movements and air flow and performed simulations with the computer. The VTH is considered the first highly advanced technical-scientific computer in the Netherlands. No copies of the VTH were built; luckily the VTH is part of the collections of the TU Delft.

In the fifties the electronics company Philips was not engaged in the construction of commercial computers. However, the Philips Research Laboratory (Natlab) built the computer PETER, which became operational in 1958. This one was followed by the PASCAL (Philips Awful Speedy CALculator), which was put into use in 1960 and proved to be much faster and more reliable than its predecessor. But a commercial version of the computer was a problem for Philips, because the company was producing computer components for IBM . And because this regular assignment brought in good money, Philips did not want to compete with IBM, but that changed after 1960.

By the end of the fifties the universities, particularly the University of Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology , were finished with building computers. The Mathematical Centre did not want to get engaged in a commercial adventure with the ARMAC, so the independent company Electrologic was founded in 1956. One year later IBM started marketing mainframes.

It is interesting to observe that a similar situation is arising around the quantum computer . There is no quantum computer yet. A lot of research still has to be done into the quantum doctrine, in the application of nano-materials and devices, and most of all in software. In the fifties it took universities  roughly a decade to develop computers at universities. The development of quantum computers is estimated at 15 years.