Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dutch mobile market grows 5.8%

In the first three quarters of 2005, the Dutch mobile communication services market grew 5.8 percent and generates EUR 4.44 billion in services revenue, up from EUR 4.20 billion in the same period last year, according to research from Telecompaper. Based on a strong performance for the second quarter, in combination with a reasonably good third quarter mobile services revenue will grow 6 percent this year, and increase to EUR 5.96 billion for the entire year 2005. KPN is the largest mobile operator with EUR 1,678 million and takes 37.8 percent of mobile services revenue of the first nine months. Vodafone follows with 28.1 percent with revenue of EUR 1,247 million. T-Mobile has revenue of EUR 735 million for a market share of 16.6%, whilst Orange and Telfort have revenue shares of 9.0 percent and 8.6 percent respectively.

Market shares of the Dutch mobile companies

The mobile customer base shrinks 1.0 percent to 16.55 million in the quarter, down from 16.70 million in June 2005. It is the market's first decline since the quarter ending June 2003. Despite price pressures on mobile voice services, revenue still grows in the third quarter to EUR 1.31 billion in the third quarter of 2005, up from EUR 1.30 billion in the second quarter of 2005. Mobile none-voice service revenue growth picked up considerably in the third quarter: on a q-by-q basis, and grows 13.1 percent to EUR 226 million, up from EUR 199 million in the second quarter. Postpay takes over from prepay as driver for customer growth, and quality of customer base approaches all time high. Vodafone turns in excellent quarter when it comes to net connections during the quarter, and both T-Mobile and Telfort advance market share in postpay market. Prepay market shrinks by 500,000 net connections, as KPN cleans up its customer database leading to a significant decline in their prepay customer base.

Source: Telecompaper

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Munich Model

I have spent my Sunday afternoon reading a thesis of a German student, studying at the Hochschule Mittweida (FH), University of Applied Science in East Germany, behind Dresden, close to the Czech and Austrian border. I have been in Mittweida in June 2004. It is a very small town, of which 40 percent of the population consists of students. And as every university likes to pride itself of a famous scholar, the inventor of the PAL TV standard was an alumnus of this university.

The author of the thesis is a student of Herr Prof. Dr-Ing. Robert Wierzbicki. Robert is a founding father and very active member of the Instructors’ Network. He has set up the website of this network of multimedia instructors and professors. He also organised the Swan Lake Awards in 2004 and 2005, a multimedia competition for the students at the Hochschule, named after the swan pond across the street from the Fach Hochschule. When I was there, it was the first edition of this Award. (It was during one or another soccer championship, when Holland played against Germany; can you imagine a complete hall of Germans against a one Dutchman.) The Award Gala was presented and recorded by people from the television section of the university.

The thesis in the German language contained a nice overview of knowledge management. Many models passed. The nice part of the thesis is that you get other references than you would get in the Netherlands. Usually the theories of some local Dutch guru’s like Wegman are presented, sometimes mixed with some American guru’s. But reading a German thesis you are presented with other authors and models. So I read about the Munich Model, which rests on four pillars: knowledge representation, use of knowledge, communication of knowledge and knowledge creation. This model has been developed by Gabi Reinmann-Rothmeier in the article Wissen managen: Das Münchner Modell (2001). The student combined knowledge management and virtual communities and even mentioned The Well. In the end she applied knowledge management and virtual communities to the Instructors’ Network. She had some worthwhile advice about running and boosting the community.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Agreement on digital newspaper clippings

The Dutch publishers and the government have reached an agreement in principle on digital newspaper clippings. Government officials can now legally distribute newspaper clippings from 12 national newspapers via their intranets. An agreement for the regional newspaper clippings still has to be worked out.

It took a court ruling of March 2, 2005 to make government realise that scanning newspaper, databasing them and distributing scanned newspaper clippings through their own internet networks was illegal without permission from the publishers. For copying printed articles and distributing these copies government had never permission nor paid any penny. Now the parties have reached an agreement with a reasonable reimbursement.

It is an old pain point which has now been solved at last. In 1996 I was the project manger of Central Station the Netherlands. This personal news service should have been a copy of the Belgian project Central Station. In this service publishers would deliver the text of their editions to a central database, from where articles were distributed to clients according to their profile. The Belgian service did go life but the Belgian journalists union went to court and requested a halt as the journalists did not receive any remuneration. In the meantime the Belgian service is active as Mediargus, as publishers and journalists came to an agreement. In the Dutch project we asked lawyers to do a profound study on the rights of journalists and copying of articles by companies and the government. In the study the lawyers told the project members (nine Dutch publishers) that the journalists had a right to compensation for the digital copy of a printed article and that consent was needed for copying digital articles. However the project Central Station the Netherlands never left the drawing board and the publishers only started to demand a fee for digital copies of newspaper articles after 2000.

Now almost 10 years after the legal study, the newspaper and magazine publishers can claim their remuneration. They have formed a small company for this purpose called Clip. This company makes agreements with clipping services, companies and the government. At last the government has recognised the right of publishers to request a fee for copying a newspaper article.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Baltics read newspapers online

Recently Eurostat published a report on Internet activities in the European Union. These are the following hightlights:
• 89% of EU enterprises actively used the Internet in 2004; 65% had a website.
• 47% of individuals had recently used the Internet. Those who did so were mainly looking for information and on-line services and used it for communication (e-mail).
• As was to be expected, by 2004 the playing and downloading of games and music was particularly popular amongst 16-to-24-year-olds; at the other end of the spectrum, Internet users of retirement age (65-74 years) frequently account for higher shares than the 55-64 age group.
• In Denmark, Germany, Estonia and Finland, around three quarters of Internet users who were unemployed at the time of the survey were looking for a job or sent a job application over the Internet.
• Internet-based banking activities were fairly widespread and performed by Internet users of all age groups, except for 16 to 24-year-olds.
• Reading and downloading on-line newspapers was a particularly widespread Internet activity in the Baltic States and Iceland. Playing or downloading games was popular in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, but also in Finland.

The table below provides details of Internet users looking for specific information and on-line services. The category ‘Finding information about goods and services’ generally appeared to be the most widespread activity in the EU Member States, except for the three Baltic states, where ‘reading or downloading online newspapers’ was highest. This activity was also quite widespread in Iceland and, to a lesser degree, in Turkey.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Limiting anonymous messages

Four weeks ago Peter Olsthoorn (blond man in the middle), chairman of the Internet Journalist section of the Journalists Trade Organisation, remarked at the meeting Fill the Gap III that he was most irritated on Internet by anonymous messages. Yesterday the Dutch High Court delivered a ruling limiting anonymous messages a little bit.

The case in the high Court was brought by Mr Pessers, a professional stamp trader, trading amongst other through e-Bay. Mr Pessers received quite some flack about his way of trading; in an anonymous message on the review site of he got an negative review and was accused of fraud.
Pessers requested the hosting provider Lycos to close the website and pass on the personal data of the author of the review. Lycos refused and says only to deliver the data after being ordered to do so by a judge. Pessers goes to court and wins the first case. Lycos went to a higher court and lost again. Then it brought the case before the High Court which confirmed the ruling.

The ruling puts the interest of Pessers before that of Lycos and the anonymous author of the review, as Pessers will be declared an outlaw for this type of actions. Pessers can now start a rebuttal and a civil court case for damage. ISPs will have to review their policy on privacy now, as they have become liable to court cases concerning anonymous messages.

Some Dutch media claimed that anonymity on the Internet was past time from now onwards. They are misinformed. Never heard of anonymous re-mailers? But the ruling most likely helps a little bit.

The confirmation of the ruling is also picked up by Brein the Dutch piracy watchdog. With this ruling, the watchdog wants to go to court to get the names and addresses of music and video pirates

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Dutch gaming industry

Today there is a symposium about the Dutch gaming industry in Mediaplaza, a futuristic demonstration centre in Utrecht. For those who read Dutch see the announcement. The title Dutch gaming industry sounds posh, but it is in fact in its infancy.

The time tunnel at Mediaplaza (c Mediaplaza)

In the past year there has been a lot of talk about gaming and establishing a gaming industry in the Netherlands. A delegation of business people and education people went to San Francisco and Silicon Valley and visited the game developers. As one of the few game developers, Playlogic, is based in Breda, a junior college made a claim to fame and wanted to become the first gaming college. The college people had not really scouted the educational market as the HKU already has a department Game Design and Development; the department aims at the creative side of the gaming design. Also the NHL in Leeuwarden is already busy with gaming; the college is approved as developer for Nintendo and is develops also games for the mobile platform. (Coordination between educational institutes could help the development of a gaming industry).

The gaming industry has not a crystal clear structure. There is of course the problem as to platforms: consoles, PC, online, iTV and mobile. Consoles games are the most profitable sector. But it is a costly affair to develop games for the GameCube, Xbox and Playstation. Few Dutch companies like Guerilla succeeded with getting their games accepted for the Xbox and Playstation. Hot are presently the online games. Mobile games are difficult to develop as there is little standardisation in the mobile world. No standardisation means extra costs for converting the games to a particular platform. But there are a few developers like Ranj

Another difficulty is the distribution. For console and PC games a distribution network is needed. Game publishers like Electronic Arts and Infogrammes control these networks with outlets in PC shops and retail shops.

And of course development is not easy without venture capital. Games are expensive to develop. In 1995 I had the opportunity to visit the studio which produced Myst. At that time there that game had gathered 16 million US dollars for development. Whatever the eventual figure has been, I do not know. So games for consoles and PC require easily 10 million euro or more.

Looking for opportunities Dutch creatives look in the direction of mobile games as they are locally bound to the mobile telephone provider. Other games are casual games on PC like Tetris; these games can also be developed into viral games for marketing. These casual games are favourite with women above 30 years of age; the Dutch company Zylom is active in this field Another branch in gaming is now serious games, which are usually simulation and decision or business games.

Despite all these handicaps Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Breda and Eindhoven like to be the gaming hotspot in the world and get often local authorities involved. But these authorities should read up on their innovative cities literature with books of M. Castells (Technopoles of the World), and A. Scotts (From Silicon Valley to Hollywood) and read for example Innovation Strategy, the action plan of Helsinki, before commiting themselves to grand plans.

It is interesting to see that serious gaming is being picked up by Universities. At Delft Universities the subject is taught. At Twente University the Technology Exchange Cell (T-Xchange) was opened yesterday. It is a virtual lab where new innovation concepts can be tested in a game setting.

The T-Xchange Lab will be housed in this building

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Dutch cable conflict brewing

While the Telefonica entertainment company Endemol made its rentree on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange with a louzy 9 euro as introduction price, a real conflict is brewing between the Dutch telecom regulator and the European Commission, in casu commissioner Neelie Kroes, who is of Dutch origin, and Commissioner Viviane Reding. The Dutch telecom watchdog says in a letter, that the Commission’s investigation into the Dutch TV cable market is no good.

In the Netherlands there are 6,1 million TV cable subscribers or nine out of the 10 households have a TV cable connection. They are served by 3 large companies such as UPC, part of Liberty, and Essent and Casema, together serving 5.1 million households, plus a parade of small, regional and local companies. All these companies offer now TV by cable, internet and telephone, not as an integrated offer, but as separate products. Presently these companies are moving from analogue cable to digital cable and from analogue TV to digital and interactive TV. UPC recently started to roll out 2 million set-top boxes.

The companies have all their own territory and their monopoly. So in my home I can get only a Casema TV cable subscription at their price. With the digital wave coming up, it is necessary for the big companies to keep their territory and their monopoly. So far the only other option subscribers have is to subscribe to terrestrial broadcast, Digitenne; but Digitenne is only available in the west of the Netherlands.

The Dutch telecom watchdog OPTA had concluded that the three large companies have a dominant position in the consumer market. The European Commission concluded that it had grave doubt about the conclusion of OPTA. Given the fact that most of the parliament shares the conclusion of OPTA, the conflict might grow. And when it becomes a real conflict, Kroes might have to step down in this question as it concerns a national question.

Today and tomorrow the question will be discussed in Brussels. By January 3, 2005 the European Commission will make its final decision known.

(BTW Today is the deadline to hand in proposals in the framework of the e-ContentPlus programme of the European Commission. I am wondering how many project proposals will be entered. Given the fact that the IST programme lane has become more difficult to enter for small projects and for SME's, I guess that there will be some hundreds of proposals. To be awarded a contract will be Russian roulette.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The rise and fall of VNU

While I was in Tunis, a classic drama was enacted in the business world and in someone’s personal life: VNU abolished acquisition plans of IMS Health, while CEO Rob van den Bergh announced that he would step down. A few days later some venture capitalists announced that they would like to acquire VNU with a view of breaking it up. The IMS Health acquisition, which should have become a crown on the international expansion and a turn-around in the scope of the company, became a sword of division between the management and the share holders.

VNU was my first employer, when I started in 1970 in the reference department of its subsidiary Spectrum Publishing. At that time VNU (which is an acronym for United Dutch Publishing Companies) was just 5 years old and consisted of a conglomerate of magazine publishing and distribution companies, newspaper companies and book publishing companies. In 1975 the holding started a business press division by buying the controlled circulation weekly Intermediair. From 1979 till 1986 I worked in this group, which just started to look outside the Netherlands and Belgium. As the company realised that magazines and newspapers are dependent on the economy for advertising, a strategy of international expansion and change in scope was started.

International expansion
The UK was the first expansion outside the continent. VNU bought the computer publications of Hayden, a publishing company of the British politician Michael Heseltine. From 1981 till 1983 I was project manager there, flying back and forth from Amsterdam to London; from 1983 till 1986 I moved with the family to London. After London many acquisitions were done in Europe.
The international expansion in the US started with the establishment of the publishing company Arete, which published the Academic American Encyclopedia; it was not a real success and in 1983 sold to Grolier (thus becoming the first encyclopedia online). By 1983 VNU bought Disclosure, a company with information concerning companies, quoted on the stock exchange (I was in England at that time and had regularly to fly to VNU HQ in Haarlem to demonstrate the Disclosure database using the example of the US salary of KLM’s CEO Orlandini). And interestingly enough by 1983 VNU had picked up 50 percent of shares in IMS! VNU started to expand in marketing data.

When the marketing data business in the US showed its strong side of not being as dependent on the economy as magazines and newspapers, a turn-around move was set in from a traditional print publishing company to a marketing data company.
In order to realise this the company made the following corporate moves:
- buying and selling of the ITT World Directories Yellow Pages;
- (an emotional) sale of the magazines to the Finnish company Sanoma;
- sale of the newspapers to Wegener.
The profits of those sales were spent on acquisitions in the States like the acquisition of AC Nielsen and other companies. The acquisition of IMS Health should have become the crown on the turn-around.

The break-up of the company
After that VNU called off the acquisition of IMS Health, which looked more like a merger, Rob van den Bergh stepped down as CEO and over the weekend investment companies started to swerve as vultures around the corps. Apex and Cinven as well as the Carlyle Group and Candover formed consortia to take over VNU, break it up and sell it in pieces.

Next CEO
I met Rob van den Bergh in 1980 when he became a publishing director of Intermediair weekly in Amsterdam. He made his way into the hierarchy of VNU quickly. He became the youngest CEO of an international company in the Netherlands. As VNU collected more revenue in the States than of the rest of the world, Rob van den Bergh moved the corporate headquarters in the provincial Dutch town of Haarlem to its present HQ in New York (not Harlem, though). Also his family moved there also (not to Harlem, of course). Now that he has stepped down and the VNU’s fate is unsure, it is certain that he has been the last Dutch CEO of VNU.

(It is this year 40 years ago that VNU was founded and based its corporate HQ in Haarlem. At the occasion a commemorative book, Van Haarlem naar Manhattan (From Haarlem to Manhattan: 40 years VNU 1965-2005), has been published in the Dutch language. In the epilogue the merger of VNU and IMS Health is already taken for granted. The authors even mention that there is speculation in the market about a new corporate name for VNU.)

The jacket of the commemoration book, published by Boom Publishers

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 10

I thought I could close the series on the WSIS and WSA in Tunis, but I found this press release of the WSIS organiser the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in my mailbox. It is clear that the ITU has a completely different evaluation of the event. I reproduce the press release without any personal comment.



The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) closed after almost a week of intense negotiations, eight plenary sessions, 308 parallel events organized by 264 organizations and 33 press conferences attracting around 19,000 participants worldwide.
Hailed as a resounding success by national delegations from 174 States and participants from more than 800 entities including United Nations agencies, private sector companies and civil society organizations, the Summit was convened in Tunis to tackle the problem of the "digital divide" and harness the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) to drive economic and social development.

The two Summit outcome documents -- the Tunis Commitment and the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society -- were endorsed by world leaders at the closing plenary of the Summit on Friday evening.

Addressing delegates at the eighth and final Plenary session, Yoshio Utsumi, Secretary-General of the Summit, said it had been a long road and seven years since the idea for the Summit was first adopted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Minneapolis Plenipotentiary Conference. "It is fitting that this stage of our journey ends here in Tunis, the capital of the country that launched the process", said Mr. Utsumi. "Uniquely, WSIS was a Summit held in two phases. Through this approach, WSIS took place in one developed and one developing country. This helped ensure that the full range of issues of the Information Society were addressed, while highlighting the critical need to bridge the digital divide."

He added that the two-phase process has enabled the development of a concrete plan for implementation at the national, regional and international levels, which will ensure commitments that have been undertaken are fulfilled. "In a very real sense, WSIS is about making the best use of a new opportunity and a new tool. WSIS reinforces the value of global dialogue and cooperation to address emerging issues in the twenty-first century. The Information Society can be a win-win situation for all, provided that we take the right actions."

Worldwide Commitment
19,401 participants took part in the Summit, including:

-- 46 Heads of State and Government, Crown Princes and Vice-Presidents and 197 Ministers/Vice-Ministers and Deputy Ministers;

-- 5,857 participants representing 174 States and the European Community;
-- 1,508 participants representing 92 international organizations;

-- 6,241 participants representing 606 non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) and civil society entities;
-- 4,816 participants representing 226 business sector entities; and

-- 1,222 accredited journalists from 642 media organizations of which 979 on site from TV, radio, print and online media worldwide.

Global Agreement on Crucial Issues
Three key issues dominated the preparatory process leading to the Tunis Summit: Internet governance, financing strategies, and implementation mechanisms for the Action Plan developed by the first phase of the WSIS in 2003, in Geneva.
Internet Governance
The breakthrough agreement on Internet governance brokered in Tunis acknowledges the need for enhanced cooperation to enable Governments and is based around a number of newly agreed principles and future mechanisms:
-- all Governments should play an equal role and have equal responsibility for Internet governance while ensuring its continuing stability, security and continuity;
-- nations should not be involved in decisions regarding another nation's country code top level domain (ccTLD); and
-- there is a need for strengthened cooperation among stakeholder for public policies for generic top level domain names (gTLDs).

This cooperation should include the development of globally applicable principles on public policy issues associated with the coordination and management of critical Internet resources. The process of moving towards such enhanced cooperation will be initiated by the end of Q1 2006.
Another important element of the Tunis output document is the creation of a new Internet Governance Forum (IGF), to be convened by the UN Secretary-General, to foster and enable multi-stakeholder dialogue on public policy and development issues. This Forum will provide a platform for discussion of cross-cutting public policy issues not adequately addressed by current mechanisms. The new Forum is expected to be established in the first half of 2006, with an inaugural meeting to be hosted in Athens at the invitation of the Government of Greece.

The IGF will facilitate the exchange of information and best practices, and help find solutions to issues of concern to everyday users arising from the use and misuse of the Internet, identify emerging issues and bring them to the attention of relevant decision-making bodies, and where appropriate, make recommendations. The forum will draw upon resources from all interested stakeholders, including the proven expertise of the ITU.
The IGF will have no oversight function and will not replace existing arrangements, mechanisms, institutions or organizations. It will have no involvement in the day-to-day running and technical operation of the Internet.
The principles and elements agreed at Tunis mark the turning of a new page in the ongoing internationalization of Internet governance. In the coming years, the continued reinforcement of regional and national Internet resource management will guarantee the national interests and rights of countries in managing their own Internet resources, while at the same time maintaining global coordination.

Financing Mechanisms
The WSIS outcome texts reaffirm the Geneva agreements that information and communication technologies are a key tool in national development strategies. For that reason, financing of ICT deployment is vital to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
The document welcomes the creation of the Digital Solidarity Fund. It underlines the importance of providing quality, affordable communication access to all citizens, and notes the inequalities that presently exist.
It also identifies areas where existing financing mechanisms could be improved, and where ICT could be given a higher priority by both developing countries and their development partners, based on such existing financial commitments such as the Monterrey Consensus. While it is recognized that financing of ICT infrastructure cannot solely be based on public investment, it is also recognized that private investment and market forces alone cannot guarantee the full participation of developing countries in the global market for ICT services. Strengthened cooperation and solidarity is therefore encouraged, along with national development policies that support an enabling and competitive environment.

Way Forward: Follow-Up and Implementation
Tunis is not the end of the road for the WSIS. As the Summit of Solutions, the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society recognizes that it is now time to turn principles into actions.

Although more than 2,500 projects were undertaken to bridge the digital divide between the first and second phases of the WSIS, the Tunis output documents clearly emphasize that more needs to be done, and done quickly. Already, the ITU is managing the WSIS stocktaking process to create a database of ICT implementation activities. For the Tunis phase of the Summit, it also created a so-called Golden Book listing projects announced during the Summit. More than 200 projects have been included to date, many of which are multimillion dollar undertakings.
The 11 Action Lines in the original Geneva Action Plan set forth key elements in the building of the Information Society. The Tunis Agenda now establishes a specific list of possible moderators/facilitators for each of these Action Lines.
In the coming months, major efforts will be undertaken to organize the implementation of the Geneva and Tunis resolutions.

To coordinate this work -- and as requested in the Tunis Agenda -- Secretary-General Utsumi announced that the ITU will soon convene a meeting of Action Line moderators. This meeting will be organized in collaboration with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), who, together, represent the three key pillars of the Information Society: infrastructure, content and development.

Work to implement the Action Lines will be complemented by ongoing ITU stocktaking work and on finalization of an agreed methodology for evaluation of progress in bridging the digital divide based on a common set of core indicators as well as the use of composite indices.

To facilitate the implementation of the WSIS outcomes, the Secretary-General of the United Nations is also asked to consult the Chief Executive Board (CEB), which consists of the heads of major UN agencies and meets biannually, to establish a UN Group on the Information Society. Over the coming months, a plan will be developed for the creation, functioning, objectives and work methods of this Group. This Plan will be presented to the next CEB meeting in Madrid in April 2006. The ITU, UNESCO and the UNDP are all expected to play a lead role in the creation of this Group.
In addition, through ECOSOC the UN Secretary-General will report to the General Assembly by June 2006 on the modalities of interagency coordination of implementation. At the same meeting, Yoshio Utsumi, as Secretary-General of the Summit, will also report on the outcomes.

In November 2006, the ITU will hold its Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey and on that occasion will continue to adapt its mandate to the demands of the Information Society.

Dialogue Continues
The world of ICT is characterized by fast-paced and non-stop technological change. The Internet of tomorrow will look very different from the Internet of today, as revealed in the ITU's new report, The Internet of Things, which was released at the Tunis summit.
The follow-up process established by the WSIS contains several built-in milestones to ensure that policy review and debate continue, so that the outcomes of the Summit can be shaped to changes in the world of ICT.
At the national level, all countries are called upon to develop national e-strategies as an integral part of national development plans and poverty reduction strategies. The deadline for this action is 2015, but many countries have already begun to implement such plans.
Affordability of access is a critical part of bridging the digital divide. As tasked by the Summit, the ITU will continue its efforts to study the question of international Internet connectivity as a matter of urgency.
The Tunis Agenda calls on ECOSOC to oversee the system-wide follow-up of the Tunis and Geneva outcomes. Consistent with the reform of ECOSOC requested by world leaders at the Summit in September in New York, the Tunis output calls on ECOSOC to review the mandate of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, including the multi-stakeholder approach.
These efforts will culminate in an overall review by the General Assembly in 2015 of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes. This is the same deadline established in the Geneva Plan of Action to connect all unconnected communities.
Finally, the UN General Assembly is asked to declare 17 May as World Information Society Day. 17 May has traditionally been celebrated as World Telecommunications Day, so the ITU will collaborate in this process to give even greater magnitude to that event.

Addressing delegates at the closing of the eighth and final plenary session, Mr. Utsumi spoke of his satisfaction that the WSIS process has put ICT at the centre of countries' national development plans. "As a result of this Summit, world leaders are now fully aware of the critical importance of ICTs", he said. In the end, he continued, the WSIS is "not just about technology. It's mostly about people, and their potential."

The full text of the Tunis Commitment can be found at
The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society can be found at

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 9

I am going to close the series on Tunis, looking back at the WSIS and the WSA. Was the WSIS the summit of solutions? Did WSA make any impression?

The WSIS was dubbed the Summit of Solutions. The Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs had indicated that the Summit should address three areas:
a. Governance of Internet.WSIS recognises the effectiveness of the existing arrangements for Internet governance in making the Internet the highly robust, dynamic and geographically diverse medium that it is today. The WSIS recommendation includes a proposal for a new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue - the Internet Governance Forum.
b. Freedom of speech. This subject was a non-issue from the beginning.
c. Bridging the digital gap. In the first leg of the WSIS in Genf (Geneva) the president of Senegal Abdoulaya Wade proposed a special fund. However this fund never came about and was replaced by a private fund, initiated by the city of Genf. But in Tunis no progress was made on the fund nor on the intention of the fund to stimulate bridging the gap.

Our Dutch minister of Economic Affairs Laurens Jan Brinkhorst thuoght that the Summit was successful as after Genf it is realised that Internet is no longer a toy of the rich countries. This observation might be true, but both Summits have cost a lot of money which could have been spent on the infrastructure of an African or Asian country.

So, politically the WSIS has come to an end. The two Summits were not a success nor will they deliver anything concrete, but awareness. In my estimation, this year’s LifeAid has had more effect than WSIS and the 100 dollar PC caught more media attention than the Summit debates.

The exhibition was larger than in Genf. This time more commercial companies participated and tuned their booths and themes to social responsibility and sustainable entrepreneurship. It is good to see that big companies are taking responsibility for the information society.

World Summit Award
- For the World Summit Award the WSIS in Tunis was the end of a two-year process, culminating in the Gala. All the effort of finding national experts, identifying national best-practices, evaluating these best-practices by an international Grand Jury came together at the Gala.
- It was great to see WSA Grand Jury members of 2003: Alexander Felsenberg, Andy Carvin, Suzanne Stein, Jan Bierman, Effat El-Shooky, Marcelo SantÍago, Gagarin Chugaszyan, Osama Manzar, Kresimir Lugaric, Christian Ruppand Grand Jury members of 2005: Manar Al-Hashhash, Alejandro Jaime, Marcelo Hector Petrich, Ilyas Naibov-Aylisli, Cid Torquato, Ana Serrano, Winnie Tang, Helene Abrand, Sepehr Dehpour, Alfredo Ronchi, Rudi Vansnick and Izzeldin Osmanas well as the board members Cai Melaskoski, Gregori Popescu, Paul Hoffert and Christine Maxwell. It was also good to see the team of ICNM with Peter Bruck.
- The Gala was a success with 6 head of states, EU commissioner Viviuane Reding, 5 ministers and 2 UN officials (UNIDO, UNESCO) and ISOC's president Lynn St. Amour. Especially the last presentation of the WSA category on e-Inclusion with South African president Mbeki was impressive. In the plane home, I sat next to two people who thought that Gala was a good performance, presenting best-practices from all over the world. It was hard not to get involved in the discussion.
- The presentation of the book e-Content: voices from the Ground: The Sequel 2 was another milestone. For the second time Osama and his lovely wife Shaifali pulled it off to have the book ready for the Summit.
- WSA as an organisation was able to establish deeper relationships with countries like Egypt, Armenia and Malaysia.
- The good news is also that the WSA will continue, where the WSIS is going to stop. The two years’ cycle will be set in motion again. Croatia will welcome the Grand Jury in Dubrovnik in 2007, while Senegal will host the Gala.
- From Tunis onwards the WSA will start with the Roadshows and Content Summits again. A Summit in Armenia is in the planning already. A roadshow in New Zealand is on the drawing table.
- Christine and myself will work out a proposal to produce a best-practice and case database of the WSA products of 2003 (803 products) and 2005 (742 products). It is a pity to let no less than 1545 products rot in a computer somewhere.

Here I am signing the 40 certificates of the World Summit Award Winners. As for the series of Tunis, I am now signing off (I see now that my tie was matching the colour of the Austrian pavillion)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 8

e-Content: Voices from the Ground: The Sequel 2.0, edited by Osama Manzar and Peter A. Bruck, is a sequel to e-Content: Voices from the ground Version 1. The book was presented during the WSIS in Tunis. The first version of the book was produced for the UN World Summit on the Information Society in Genf (Geneva, Switzerland) in 2003; now the update has been produced for the UN World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis. In 2003 the book was produced by the jurors of the World Summit Award Grand Jury in Dubai, in 2005 it has been produced by the WSA Grand Jury of Bahrain. In 38 interviews the national WSA experts and Grand Jurors present their view on the content situation in their country.

The book differs from the last edition as this new edition contains more than 400 examples of best practices across the 8 categories in the countries of all six continents; e-government, e-culture, e-business, e-learning, e-entertainment, e-science, e-health and e-inclusion.

The book is a result of the strong networking of WSA through which there is access to e-content experts in 168 countries. It is an exercise of finding "what is happening in each of these countries in the area ofs of digital content development". The production was started right after the Bahrain Grand Jury on September 15th, 2005 and has ended with the presentation of the book on the even before the opening of WSIS in Tunis, on November 15th, 2005. It has been hard work for Osama and his wife Shaifali. The book has been printed and bound in India.

In his preface Peter A. Bruck writes: "Over the last 50 years, Information and Communication Technologies have become exponentially more powerful and radically cheaper and smaller. E-Content does not keep up with with technology in term of speed and developemnt, economies of scale and simplicity of consumption. This results in a dynamic structural gap. This gap widens as we move into the Information society.
The content gap is not just one of the technological versus human capacity. The nature of economic and social structures and general awarenesss are also important detreminants. There is an imbalance of pay and an inequity of investment. Post-industrial societies spend enormous sums of money on equipment, gadgets and "tech things'. They invest far less in quality stories, knowledge and insight."

I would like to add that post industrial societies consider e-content as a commodity, which can be traded and be bought, while in developing countries the production of quality e-content is a matter of available money and political will.

e-Content: Voices from the Ground: The Sequel 2.0, edited by Osama Manzar and Peter A. Bruck, has been published by the Digital Empowerment Foundation and the World Summit Award.

The book costs Euro 15 or USD 20 and can be ordered by e-mail: or

In part 3 I talked about Negroponte's 100 dollar PC. My friend Andy has put up a movie of 8 minutes about the chanllenges of the 100 dollar PC. The PC was presented on Thursday, but the PC is not commercially available. The distribution will be done by bulk consignments through ministries and government agencies. So it will not be a threat to Dell and other PC manufacturers. My friend Andy Carvin has produced an 8 minutes movie on the challenges of the 100 dollar PC.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 7

I have left Tunis. After the check-in at the airport counter I had to pass through the special WSIS customs section, had to get my luggage x-rayed and had to pass the security gates to be frisked again. Ever since entering Tunis, I have been going through the rituals of security checks every day. This should give a sense of security. Also the obvious presence of military, police and tourism police should strengthen that sense of security. In three kilometres around the airport and around the Kram Expo, there was a policemen at every 250 meters and the closer you got to the Kram Expo, there were even policemen on horseback and special forces. Tunesia must be a country with more policemen than inhabitants. In front of every official hotel was a policemen with a stengun and in the hotel secret service people were just chatting as natural Tunesians, while in the meantime checking potential contacts with Tunesian dissidents. Transport from the Kram Expo to the hotels was tightly organised with special buses; taxis could only reach a parking place near the Kram Expo, but from there the delegates were bussed to the entry gates with the unavoidable automatic badge check, x-raying, passing the security gates and being frisked, if you happened to have a Belgian 1 euro cent piece on you. The Sheraton Hotel on a hill looked like a bastion. There were roadblocks, soldiers with stenguns and a lot of people apparently just hanging around. Altogether the atmosphere just gave a false sense of security while it was a perfect cover to keep tabs on the local and foreign crowd.

On last Wednesday there was just that incident on the exhibition floor that the organisers had tried to avoid. Like a mobimob, there was at once a crowd of people at a crossing near the Austrian pavilion, complete with TV camera teams and photographers. A few people unfolded a map of the world took the protective paper from the adhesive and taped the map on the exhibition floor. In a minute everything was done. And the map was in a strategic spot as it was on the crosspath to the central a hall of the exhibition floor were that night the World Summit Gala would take place.
The map contained the text: THE INTERNET'S BLACK HOLES. Of course, Tunesia was one of the black holes as Internet and traditional media are censored.

The mobimob was immediately joined by Tunesian secret service people who tried to get hold of the pasting people, while another older man started a debate with the (foreign) TV journalists, of course denying any censorship. This incident lasted for a quarter of an hour. Eventually people disappeared leaving the map pasted to the floor. The next morning the map was not there anymore; most likely the carpet had been replaced overnight.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 6

This is really mobile. I am at Tunis Cathage airport and I can wi-fi for free at a decent speed. I can upload the photographs of yesterday afternoon and last night. It turned out to be a very busy day.

In the afternoon the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Egypt was on the roll. My Egyptian counterpart Sheriff and myself had been working on this and the PR lady of the Egyptian government suggested that we would sign the MoU during the Egyptian reception. That turned out to be a fabulous suggestion which caught the attention of media and of the ministers present.

Minister Tarek Kamel witnessed the signing. In the talk with the signatories he has indicated that he happily supports the idea of setting up and academic content institute as long as it is on a 50 pct matching basis. This is going to be great. Straight after the signing, we talked with a big mobile player who wants to support the idea and put money in it. So this is going to be a project starting today. The Egyptian agency with Sheriff is going to be in charge on the Egyptian side.
But the signing had also an unexpected effect. The same afternoon WSA was asked to have another MoU by the Armenian government. They want to have an e-Content Summit next year. And at the Egyptian reception the Malaysian minister was present and recommendd to the Malaysian Development Corporation (MDC) to obtain an MoU, which will be signed in the presence of the minister this afternoon. Pity I have got to miss that. This MoU is a prestigious one as it is signed with the people of the superhighway project in Cyberyaja (love the name of that city).

At night we went to Hammameth, a one and a half hours busride from Tunis, to attend an official dinner of the Tunesian busienss club. It was held in the newly built market place (medina) there. After a walk through the shopping street, we were welcomed by a reception commission with candles, dancing girls and a snake charmer. The dinner was laid out for some 500 people. Faouzi, our Tunesian juror had insisted on our presence. By two o' clock we were in the hotel again. I guess that WSA can look back at a very sucessful day after the Gala.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 5

The WSA Gala was overwhelming. It was presented by Peter and Manar, the national expert for Kuwait, and a WSA Grand Jury member of 2005. At 25 years, she owns her own company Dot design. She presents a computer program on Kuwait television and set up a program to familiarise school pupils with computers and internet. She did a fine job with the show. The hall was crammed with people and as the hall was connected to the exhibition floor, there was a steady flow of people moving in and out.

When the e-Government category came up, the Dutch winner Noterik Multimedia was on stage with the president of Latvia, HE Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Of course the Noterik people made a video of the occasion. After the Gala the Dutch winners and myself had a nice dinner close to the hotel (no wine, no beer; just water or water with bubbles.
Telecom Austria recorded the Gala, streamed it and archived the video.

This morning I had breakfast with Christine Maxwell, one of the former ISOC chairpersons. She is a colleague of mine on the board of World Summit Award. She in fact was the founder of the first search engine on Internet, Magelhaen, a real intelligent system, that could not sustain the labourintensive workpractice. But she will be back with a search engine next year; one that is not based on Boolean operators (and, or and not) like Google is, but on semantics. As for the search potential, she said, it can blow Google out of the water. So keep tabs on her and her companies.

Christine (in the middle) listening to a presentation

I also asked her about the WSIS as a process. On the issue of governance she is rather explicit. Do not let politicians get their hands on internet. The present cry to move governance from ICANN to the UN, in casu the International Telecom Union (ITU), is not a good idea, she said. First of all, the present attitude against the States is due to its present people in power and their policies. Having ITU overlook internet also means that politics comes into play. Thirdly, China and Brazil are not after internationalising internet, but after controlling the in- and outflow of information. She is very strong on keeping ICANN in place.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 4

Yesterday afternoon there was a session on e-Business. We had a selection of six speakers, of which two World Summit best-practices: Tejari, an e-Business best practice of 2003 and Web telegram, an e-Business best practice of 2005. Tejari is an e-Business portal in the United Arab Emirates. It has been very successful and is doing well. Also the people of the Tunesian Poste were present with their application of Web Telegram. At first sight you would think that the application is rather simple: the mail offices exchange telegrams, the mailman brings it to your door and that sit. But in Tunesia, the telegram is often a confirmation of a money transaction and as such it is part of the banking system. By sending web telegrams the Tunesian Poste is now able to track the telegram from sending to reception by the receiver.

In the session we also had a kind of an ugly duck as far as the subject was concerned. It was a project concerned with user-generated content. You expect a story on the project, how they organise the production of the content. And that is what the audience got. Buntes Fernsehen (Colourful TV) enables the user and the community not only to watch, but also to be seen. As a member of a club or an institute like the fire brigade wanting to show the local community how interesting, exciting or funny club life can be, Buntes Fernsehen provides all the necessary tools to does so. In the first Buntes Fernsehen community Engerwitzdorf, a town in Upper Austria, TV from Engerwitzdorfers for Engerwitzdorfers was initiated. The passive user has become an active creative consumer. So users no longer consume only, they also contribute to the community.The story was begging the question as to business models. How are you generating revenues from user-generated content?

This morning I caught an early bus, which did go straight to the Kram. Again we had to go through all the ID- and security checks: matching the badge, sending your bag through the X-Ray machine and being frisked electronically. As I was early, I missed the long rows and the predictable collapse of the security system. The security is absolutely tight. Police in front of the hotel. Lines of military three kilometres around the venue. Police on horse back and the special forces. This all for the safety of 20 heads of states and of course for the participants.

The award winners got up early for their day of celebration

This is the World Summit Award day. Two years of efforts come to an apotheosis in the Gala, celebrating creativity and ICT products. Producers are honoured and creativity celebrated with the award ceremony and performances tonight.
In the meantime there is more WSA news coming in. Abdullah from Bahrain shows the WSA catalogue of Arab WSA nominations. Gagarin from Armenia presents the national catalogue, completely in the style of the worldwide catalogue. So we see spin-offs coming about.

Minister Tarek Kamel (right) and the director of Cultnat (left)

But it does not stop there. As I recently was in Egypt for the national award and spoke with organisers about cooperation, we continued the talks about co-operation. This afternoon we concluded talks on a Memorandum of Understand. WSA will have a partner in ITIDA agency and RITSEC. Together we will work on the local competition and stimulation of content and knowledge dissemination. When minister Tarek Kamal of Communications and Information Technology walked in the draft was ready. Tomorrow the MoU will be signed in the presence of minister Tarek Kamal. Mission completed; next mission starts.

This blog comes to you with compliments of the Austrian pavillion

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 3

Yesterday I started my trip to Tunis yesterday at 15:00h from Utrecht. At Milano Malpensa airport I met my friend Osama with his lovely wife. He was lugging around bags full of the book. He allowed me to have a copy for inspection. E-Content: Voices from the Ground, The Sequel 2 looks really great. In the meantime Osama and his wife get some routine in producing books in a short time. Again the book was produced between the Grand Jury, which was in September and the WSIS opening; in less than 40 days 38 contributors wrote their country profile on content, Osama and his wife edited the book, his wife designed it and did the lay-out and it was ready for the printer and binder. They must have worked very hard.

By 23.30 we arrived at Tunis, where we had to go through the usual formalities. We were not allowed to take a cab to transport the books to the hotel. But we had to go with a bus of the organisation and were brought to our hotel after many stop-overs. The hotels are closely guarded and there are a lot of policeman around. I have been in Tunis years ago and I recognised some of the buildings and places we passed.

In the morning we got up early in order to beat the queues at the registration desk. After that formality we were bussed to the Kram Expo hall. Osama and his wife were still lugging their bags with books through the exhibition hall. At the exhibition the audience awaits a weird collection of exhibitors. The big companies as Nokia and Microsoft, HP, Cisco they are all there. They of course are less commercial over here; they are audience sensitive. So Intel, for example, shows low power consumption applications for ruggedised computers (always handy in the desert, the US HQ must have thought) , while Hitachi shows two products out of its product range, a motor and a portable. The rest of the exhibitors look more like missionaries, be it for a non-religious cause. With Nokia you will know what they sell, but with the missionaries you have to get sucked in into their message first, as you can not see from the outside what their message is.

On my way into the exhibition hall my eye caught a mock-up and a prototype of Negroponte’s 100 dollar computer which will be catching more media attention than the politicians, I guess. The pay off of the campaign is: every child a computer. Want to know more about the 100 dollar computer, just google it.

A mock-up and a prototype of the 100 dollar computer

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 2

There is commotion about the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in the Netherlands. The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant brought the story today: Dr. Cees Hamelink, advisor to UN secretary Kofi Annan will not go to Tunis. Dutch news radio copied the story for at least 12 hours. So far no foreign newspaper (Guardian, The Times of London) has the story. There are two questions: who (the hell) is Dr. Cees Hamelink; what was his advisory role?

Hamelink was for years professor at the University of Amsterdam teaching communication; now he is a professor at the Free University of Amsterdam, teaching globalisation, human rights and health care. He has written extensively. One of his works is The ethics of Cyberspace, published by Sage in London.

As to his advisory role, Hamelink had been asked by the UN secretary to co-organise the UN Summit on the Information Society after the first leg of the WSIS in Genf (Geneva). He and the other advisors got complete freedom to give citizens a voice and put human rights on the agenda.

This Summit should have been different from the Genf one, which was not exactly a Summit with firm decisions. Governments and citizens should sit at one table. It never happened. Human rights were a no-no topic. Afraid that the Chinese would leave the room, the US and Europe remained silent on the subject.

In order to clear up the Babylonic confusion of tongues on the concept of Information Society, Hamelink had organised a panel with language scientist Noam Chomsky and a scientist on peace question Johan Galtung. This panel should talk about small newspapers and radio stations in Latin America and Africa, which are under repression of the government. Issues should have been: censorship, property of international media, privacy and intellectual property.

Besides the WSIS was going to be held in Tunesia, which is not know for human rights and freedom of speech.

So after two years of preparatory work, Dr Cees Hamelink is disappointed and has decided to stay at home. He does not believe in reform from the inside: the 12.000 participants from 175 countries should stay home; that would send a message to the participating governments and especially to Tunesia.

Is the professor communication sending the right signal at the right time? I doubt it. First of all he knew all the way that the second leg of the WSIS was going to be held in Tunesia. So why did he accept the invitation? On the eve of the opening of the WSIS he seeks the publicity and calls for the participants to stay home. Can you imagine that 12.000 participants will send the plane tickets and hotel reservations to the waste paper bin? I personally think that despite his astute publications, Dr. Cees Hamelink must be a naïve academic. If he really had looked for effect, he should have announced his absence at the preparatory meeting in Genf in September and sought international publicity.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tunis: WSIS and WSA, part 1

Monday evening I will travel to Tunis. The second leg to the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) will be held there. It is highly questionable whether anything important will be reached. The UN put out a press release saying: "The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, taking place in Tunis next week, will bring together political, business and civil society leaders to take action to bridge the digital divide, so that the benefits of the information society can be shared by all.
The Tunis phase is the Summit of solutions", said Yoshio Utsumi, the Secretary-General of the Summit and Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations agency in charge of the event. "It aims at transforming the digital divide into digital opportunities for promoting peace, sustainable development, democracy, transparency and good governance."
Summit of Solutions sounds omninous; I think the last Live Aid will prove more effective than the second leg of the WSIS.

The Dutch ministry of Economic Affairs summed up the most important issues on the agenda in Tunis:
a. Internet governance;
b. freedom of speech in the new Information Society;
c. bridging the digital gap.

Ad a. Governance of Internet is presently still with the US. In practice the US governs through ICANN the root zone file, the domain names and IP-addresses. India, China and Brasil have objected to this dominance and proposed to make Internet governance multi-lateral; it should be put under a intergovernmental body. This opposition did the European Union change in its attitude. The Union now strives after internationalisation of Internet governance.

Ad b. Freedom of speech. It is interesting to see that the second leg of the WSIS is held in Tunesia, a country known for repressive tolerance and censorship. But I guess that during this week the Tunesian censors will be having a break and go to Monastir or other resorts.

Ad c. Digital Divide
In the first leg, held in Genf (Geneva) the Digital Divide was also a theme. President Sukusekou of Mali proposed to set up a UN fund. This suggestion did not make it. A private fund was set up by the city of Genf (Geneva) and Milano. But the coffers are full of promises of governments and companies and little money has been collected.

Yet 12.000 people from 175 countries will come to Tunis with high hopes and expectations. By next week we will know, whether WSIS has become the Summit of Solutions.

Linking to the theme of Digital Divide, is the World Summit Award (WSA), a best-practice competition in the digital world, especially e-Culture, e-Business, e-Government, e-Entertainment, e-Learning, e-Science, e-Health and e-Inclusion. The best-practice competition was set up to counterbalance the many political speeches and documents, full of references to the new future. WSA shows 40 products and services and 25 special mentions, representing the width of the present Information Society.

WSA has a booth at Kram PalExpo in Tunis, a Gala will be given on the first day honouring the producers of the awarded and selected services. There will also be smaller meetings on e-Busienss etc. organised by WSA. Osama Manzar will present the second edition of e-Content: Voices of the ground, version 2. It will be a busy time.

BTW I will be in Tunis not as part of a government or NGO delegation. I will be a WSA participant paying my own way and hotel.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Finnish Week, part 6

The party of 38 participants at Helsinki airport. In left of the red suitcase in blue jeans Pietrer Diphoorn of Syntens, the co-organiser, and left to him in black coat Hans Sleurink of the news service Media Update, co-organiser and my co-inspirator of the trip. (photograph published on the Syntens weblog)

Yesterday at 1 o’clock I sent off the Dutch group together with the Finnish co-organiser Mikko. 38 participants went back to the Netherlands. In the schedule there was enough time for the check-in at Helsinki airport. In the morning all the tickets of the participants were re-confirmed; a habit I have not done since the pre-pricefighting airline era. But I caught Hans, my partner in this event, just before he went to the plane; just to make sure that nothing had gone wrong.

So now we can start looking back. Did the trip bring what we had promised? Were the participants happy about the trip? Was the hotel okay. Was the social program okay. How bad did the splitting of the group thanks to KLM influence our score? Of course I look to more signs than only the feed back survey, which still has to be distributed. I have seen already the Syntens blog (in Dutch) and one of the participants has promised me his vlogs with video-interviews. According to the Syntens blog the trip has been a success. Also one of the participants, Hille Meetsma, stated that his mission was a success as he had picked up a lot of contacts and was asked to give a presentation about health software at the University of Tampere; it was an accidental contact he picked up during the big MindTrek Award party! But again this is opinion of two participants and there were 38 in all.

For other blogs on the trip to Finland see:
Syntens (Dutch)
Gerrit Visser (English)

I will not get too much time to look back to the Finnish week as I will go to Tunis on Monday. My mailbox has been flooded with mail of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the World Summit Award (WSA). I saw that Andy Carvin, a first generation WSA juror, has composed a WSIS superblog with all writers about WSIS. I better start reading my mail in order not too miss essential mails like the access papers/visum to Tunis.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Finnish Week, part 5

Yesterday afternoon there was a panel on innovative cities, a subject which drew much attention also from the Dutch participants. Many of them came along on this trip as they hope to her more about the much praised Finnish innovation model. The organisers had planned to get a speaker on the subject, but did not succeed to fix him or even a replacement. That was a pity. But looking back at the speeches and especially the one on innovative cities, it became clear that the model is no longer on the top of the list.

The panel on Innovative Cities:
- Tatu Laurila (standing up), Helsinki Region of Centre of Expertise;
- Jarmo Suominen (left), Future Home Institute;
- Minna Tarkka, m-cult (left from the middle)centre for new media;
- ?
- Paula Tuurnala (right), Helsinki University of Technology.

The Finnish innovation model has a history, which started in 1991. The Berlin wall had fallen and peresjtroika was all around Russia. As Finland shares the border with Russia and influenced the economy with Russian orders, it became clear to the Fins that they had to do something and find new orders in other parts. It also meant that the structure of the industry and of the collaboration model between government, universities and industry. So industry started to organise itself more competitive by cutting away the clay layers in the organisations and making the organisations flatter. The model between industry and universities became more intensive. The government is offering money to universities and industry to get students involved in industry from early days in their study. Students at the Tampere School of Art and Media are present at the school for 50 per cent of their time; for the rest of the time they work in companies, usually with a government grant. But the Fins themselves are realistic about their Finnish innovation model. Our Nokia host Juha Kaario said: What innovation model; just start working. He made clear that innovation in Nokia means coming up with attainable ideas, researching them, developing them into products (as Nokia has no services yet) and moving the products over to the business side completely with the research and development groups.

Innovative cities is a hot subject. It ties in with Richard Florida’s book on creativity. In cities there should be places for creativity, which triggers innovation and leads to competitiveness. In order to develop a strategy for this Culminatum has defined four pillars of innovation strategy:
1. improving international appeal of research and expertise. Finland needs foreigners!
2. Reinforcing knowledge based clusters. In Helsinki the Forum Virium was formed to bring together TV, multimedia, interactive TV, radio etc.
3. Reform public services with innovations.
4. Support for innovative activities.
Culminatum has produced now 26 action proposals.

Universities are an integral part of the innovative city. One of the panellist, working in Boston, indicated that MIT in Boston is not an accident, but is integrated in Boston. The French science park Sophia Antipolis is for example the wrong place. The parc is outside Nice, near the Mediterranean Sea,m it has glass boxes, it has its own campus and its own incestuous structure. A good example is the integration of city with campus. Besides the school, there is a theatre and there are more than 20 bars and restaurants.

The two diva's, Maria and Irina, opened the MindTrek night event in style

At night there was the big MindTrek event, the annual awards were presented. The winner gets more than 20.000 euro as prize money. This year the winner was a historic production on the Second World War, from 1939 till 1940. Of course the usual points of design and interactivity were quoted. But the production became a winner as the production is a commemoration to the veterans. The prize money is intended as a stimulus for the sequel from 1941 onwards to this production.

Dance on

The day ended with a dinner and dancing as well as a flame demonstration. It was a perfect end of a beautiful evening.

Final act of the flame artists

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Finnish Week, part 4

The city offcial and Maria (left); the audience in the restored hall with chandelier (right)

Last night it was party night. After the lectures there was a reception in the old town hall. It has recently been restored. The city of Tampere welcomed all the participants to MindTrek week and especially all foreigners. For that reason the chief official of the town, comparable to the function of mayor, had decided to do his speech in English. This short his speech remarkably. After the welcome of the chief official, Mária, the chairperson of MindTrek week, was welcoming all the participants as well, also in English and also short. After townhall we went to Hotel Tammer for an evening of entertainment: jazz by the Gilda jazz band. In another room of the hotel, Chris Hales was entertaining the crowd and getting them involved in interactive movies, letting the crowd decide what was the funniest joke by booing the real bad ones.

Frank (left) and Cai preparing for the start of the second Vocinet Workshop

Today is a complex day. In fact many events are going on. The Vocinet workshop, a project of the Instructors’ Network, will start. It is the second workshop in the series of four. The first one on Digital storytelling has been held in Salzburg and the second one in Tampere is on Project management and design. The workshops are intended for multimedia instructors (teachers, lecturers and professors) to update themselves and exchange methods with other instructors. There is quite a geographical spread present: Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Germany, the Netherlands, Brits and of course Fins. Although the subject did not look to me to be that sexy, I was surprised by the first two presentations. Frank Alsema, a Dutch new media director of 4M and part of the team of the Blackbeard Connexion cross media game, showed the tension between the creativity and the complex tissue of new media, while Tommy Pelkonen of Santama showed how a middle seized company handles the principles of project management and design. The presentations will be available for registered users of the Instructors’ Network.

Dutch entrepreneur telling about her company during the MindMarket event

In the meantime the Mind Match between Dutch companies and the Finnish companies was going on. For the entrepreneurs there were presentations of Finnish and companies organised. Some matching work was done beforehand and it looked that this was going to be fruitful. I saw a presentation of one of the Dutch participants, who told the audience about a project she had done with the Dutch Youth Council. It looked like she had brought that institute from the feather into cyber age.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Finnish Week, part 3

The trip to Helsinki yesterday was very unfortunate, thanks to KLM. We had gotten the advice to check in as a group. So when the group was complete, we checked in and found ourselves at the end of a long queue with only 5 counters manned. Having informed an attendant that we were with a group of 39 people and had to leave within three quarters of an hour there was no reaction, but the remark that we had to be in time at the at the check-in. After that her shift ended and she left. By the time that half of the group had checked in and half were finally at the counters they were told that the gate had been closed. Also the floor KLM management declared the gate closed and 16 people were checked in and could fly, while the rest had to stay behind for the late afternoon flight. I have never seen such rudeness of company that says that it is caring for its customers. So by midnight the whole group was re-united again in Tampere, at the extra expense of two bus coaches instead of one and a ruined welcome dinner. And of course with 39 people who will remember this incident with KLM whenever they book a flight next time. They know that they have a choice to fly with a more courteous airline.

De eerste groep bij het welkomsdiner

In the morning we boarded a coach for our first stop: Nokia Research Centre in Hermia, half an hour from Tampere. It took half an hour. With the group we sat in an auditorium , which reminded many of their college years. Juha Kaario started the presentation on Nokia and their research centres around the world and then got into the mobile game research Nokia is doing in Hermia. His colleague went into the subject of serious gaming and especially into gaming in healthcare. There were some remarkable points they brought up. On the platform business the researchers indicated that they are using Linux as middleware language. And I noticed later during talks in the cafeteria that Nokia is preparing a shift on their game distribution policy. Now they sell their mobile phones with games through telephone companies and through third parties like Electronic Arts. But if I sense it right Nokia will distribute games in the future themselves. This will be a major shift for them. Of course they are a brand, but so far telephone companies own the buyers of Nokia equipment. If this presupposition is right, it will mean that Nokia will turn their game research into a commercial activity.

The Nokia Research lab venue in Hermia (left); Juha Kaario of Nokia presenting

Presently Nokia is involved in a big Integrated Project on Healthcare, dubbed MyHeart, with the European Commission. In the projects games are developed to prevent cardio-vascular diseases and to help people with obesities. It is a project of 15 partners, commercial companies like Philips, but also universities. The basic question is of course: could games be of help in prevention. So far they have produced a game Life for Quest a dungeon multiplayer adventure game with a diet program. The more life forces are gathered, the higher you can go in level. Another game is Sneakers, a location-based collectible and card game. Teenagers are asked to collect items in a diameter of 100 meters, photograph them and put them on their mobile. They can be exchanged with other people and after a while the players gains more terrain to collect items and go from 100 meters to 200 meters. Of course this game is to get teenagers walking. A third game is Peer support, a game for building a virtual community with group features and chat. These games are only exercises for the development of mobile phones with sensors. By having textiles with woven-in sensors, the heart condition can be measured and transmitted by mobile. And why not have a mobile with a step-o-meter?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Finnish Week, part 2

Today we will leave for Tampere by plane: 39 people in all, 21 entrepreneurs, education people of two junior colleges and officials/regional stakeholders. The objective of the visit is the exchange of knowledge and matching with Finnish companies. The trip is made possible with a grant of the European Commission.

We will have a packed program. Just look at the flyer with activities. The real program is more extensive.

Most of the time will be spent in the Finlayson area, the place of the old Cotton Mill. This area has been restored and remodelled into a media centre. The Polytechnic School of Art and Media is located there as well as a cluster of ICT- and media companies, restaurants, musea as well as conference rooms and halls.

You can have a look of Tampere by looking at the web cams in the various parts of the city. Of course it is only a few hours a day that you can really see the locations in Tampere as there is only 6 to 7 hours of daylight, between nine and four o’clock.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Finnish Week, part 1

This week will be an all Finnish week for me. Tomorrow I will travel to Tampere in Finland in the company of 39 Dutch entrepreneurs and educational people for a business trip.

What started as a trip with a small group of 15 people has grown into a business mission with 39 people. The idea started in August with a request of the Finnish company Culminatum. During the multimedia week in Tampere, called MindTrek, they would like to organise MindMatch, a meeting with people active in creative ICT and multimedia. While my colleague Hans Sleurink of the Dutch newsletter Media Update and I were working out the ideas, the North Netherlands division of the business innovation institute Syntens adopted the idea of the business trip and got involved themselves. While Hans and I organised the program, Syntens facilitated the organisation and promotion, including a TV crew of the regional broadcast station RTV Drente.

You want to know why we go to Finland? I guess everyone has his own motives. But analysing the motives it is the attraction of how a country with 5 million people can be so innovative. Besides, Culminatum and Media Update took care of a matching process; so the entrepreneurs did not have to search and select companies themselves; now talks have been arranged with Finnish companies in their line of business. Another attractive feature is the visit to the research lab of Nokia. You look up a flyer on the activities.

The education people will have their special program. They will visit the Tampere School of Art and Media, where my friend Cai is teaching, the Hypermedialab, where Jarmo is doing research, and Tampere University.

Talking about innovation. Last night I was preparing the 31st edition of my newsletter Content Market Monitor. It will be published today. I picked up the following newsitem:
Handset maker Nokia and music label EMI have started a project to let coffee shop customers listen to music sent to their phone via Bluetooth. As well as music, customers will be able to get hold of ringtones, wallpaper, video clips and vouchers. The first free tests of the service will be in three Robert's Coffee cafes in Helsinki and three FreeRecordShop music stores in the city. While in the shops, customers will be able to select and listen to tracks sent to them via the short-range radio system.
Trialists must download software to their handsets that will let them browse the tracks on offer. The service is designed to work with Series 60 Symbian phones (such as Nokia's N90 and the Siemens SX1) and Nokia Series 40 phones (such as the 6060 and the 8800).
The trial service, dubbed bFree, will be free for those taking part. But Nokia and EMI expect to charge for access to the playlists if a commercial system is rolled out. EMI has yet to say which artists will be available on the trial playlists. EMI represents such artists as Robbie Williams, Goldfrapp and Gorillaz.
This is an interesting trial (tap a beer and Robbie Williams). It is good to see that the Finnish subsidiary of a Dutch music retailer Free Record Shop is involved.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

DVD on Rembrandt

This week a press release was published on a commemorative DVD production of the Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn. Next year it is 400 years ago that Rembrandt was born in Leiden. The DVD is a co-production of several institutes, which study Rembrandt’s works such as the Rijksmuseum, The Rembrandt House, the Maurits House and various foreign musea. On the DVD the life, the artefacts and techniques of Dutch painters will be made accessible.

Rembrandt belongs to the greatest painters ever. The DVD shows why. The era of Rembrandt, the Golden Century, comes alive. On the DVD one has a look in the private life of Rembrandt, his parental home, his youth, his time at school, his masters, his studio, his turbulent love life and his years of glory in Amsterdam. More than 100 paintings, etchings and drawings are shown and explained. Special attention is paid to the Night Watch also dubbed The Company of Frans Banning Cocq Preparing to March. What is the secret of Rembrandt technique? A restoration expert shows the paintings with the help of an X-ray machine. The DVD is available in 9 languages.

The DVD is published in co-operation with CD-ROM Print studio. With this application 49 works of Rembrandt can be reproduced. Not only paintings, drawings and etches, but for example also the public notice of intended wedding with Saskia van Uylenburgh.

The Rembrandt year will be an international event. Many expositions are planned in various cities in Europe, America and Asia.

The DVD has been published by Capital Interactive Publishers in ’s-Hertogenbosch and will be available through bookshops and shops in musea.

In the press release the publisher hails the DVD as the first interactive production on Rembrandt van Rijn. It is indeed the first DVD on Rembrandt and the publisher is right in as far as the entire life and works of the painter. But he has obviously not done his home work as far as interactive productions on Rembrandt are concerned. In 2001 the CD-ROM Rembrandt the Printmaker, a co-production of Softmachine and the Rembrandt House, was entered in the Europrix competition and was awarded a nomination in the category Knowledge, Discovery and Culture.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Dutch pre-Tunis meeting

On Thursday there was a pre-Tunis meeting in The Hague, Fill the Gap III, organised by Hivos. There was a conference and a fair. The event attracted some 130 people and 20 exhibitors. I was there, telling about the World Summit Award and handing out the WSA catalogue. The catalogue was much liked.

The meeting existed of four parts: two keynotes, a discussion on the exhibition floor and a panel discussion. The theme centered around internet governance and more specific about the freedom of speech through internet. That freedom of speech through internet is not a right for everyone was demonstrated at the meeting, as flyers were distributed protesting against censorship in Tunesia.

The discussion on the exhibition floor did not sparkle. The Dutch internet journalist Peter Olsthoorn, chairman of the Dutch section of internet journalists, was asked what irritated him most on Internet. He indicated that he hated anonymity the most on internet; the fact that people did not show a face. When the audience was questioned on this position, only a five people agreed with him. The ensuing discussion went into details and eventually petered out without a real conclusion.

At the meeting I met also the people of Incommunicado 05. They had produced a book on their conference. The Incommunicado Reader is a compilation of lectures and discussions. The reader has been edited by Geert Lovink and Soenke Zehle. The reader, including CD-ROM, can be ordered by sending an e-mail to:

Cover of the reader