Saturday, November 16, 2013

BPN 1673: 25 years open Internet via Amsterdam

On November 17, 2013 it will be exactly 25 years since the former Mathematisch Centrum (Mathematical Centre), now Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam was linked up to the NSFnet, the network of the U.S. National Science Foundation. This connection gave the Netherlands and Europe access to the open Internet. It was the beginning of today's Internet for scientific institutes and universities and later for businesses and consumers.

Internet pioneers Jaap Akkerhuis, Daniel Karrenberg, Teus Hagen, and Piet Beertema (CWI) at Piet Beertema's farewell party at CWI on the occassion of his retirement on 16 September 2004. Source: CWI.

Until that date, the traffic of the precursor of internet was conducted via Internet ARPANET, the U.S. military network. This network was developed from 1969 and was shaped in 1975 when Vincent Cerf and Bob Khan for the first time used the term Internet in a lecture in which they described the TCP/IP protocol. The network was not only used for military purposes, but also research institutes and universities, which were allied to scientific research for the government. Through this network the Mathematisch Centrum made its first contact in 1982. Thanks to this contact the staff of the Mathematical Centre in contact with the Internet developments. When in 1985 for the first time the URL with the was attributed to the American company Symbolics Inc., the staff, including the system manager Piet Beertema, looked out to get the suffix .nl in place. On April 25, 1986 The Netherlands was the first country to have a country suffix assigned. Piet Beertema became the first registrar of the .nl suffix. Not that it was a lot of work, as in the first two years only 87 URLs were issued.

The e-mail about the first open transatlantic Internet connection between CWI and the United States . Source: Piet Beertema.

In 1986, the academic network of the military network informed and in the network of the National Science Foundation, NSFnet, accommodated. In 1988 this network was independent, primarily aiming at academic institutions. And in the same year on Sunday, November 17th, it was the day that the Mathematisch Centrum was connected to NSFnet. At 14:30h The Netherlands was the first country in Europe connected to the open Internet and registrar Piet Beertema received an e-mail stating that the Mathematical Centre in Amsterdam was the first institution outside the US with official access to NSFnet.

The connection also meant that Europe had access to NSFnet through EUnet. With the connection not only The Netherlands got access, but also Europe got access to an academic computer network, which later evolved into the world and open Internet. This network was not checked by soldiers and military industry, but was open, which had consequences for future users, such as free use.

The link-up of the Mathematical Centre with NSFnet opened the way for internet traffic from The Netherlands and Europe. Even today a lot of internet traffic from Europe to NSFnet passes through the Amsterdam internet exchange (AMS-IE).

The CWI will commemorate this festive anniversary on Friday, November 22, 2013 at the Amsterdam Science Park. Here, a plaque will be unveiled at the place, where the Dutch and European Internet started 25 years ago.


Saturday, November 09, 2013

BPN 1672: Digital entertainment: immersive experiences, multiple revenue models

Every two years, the World Summit Awards showcase the local diversity and rich creativity of ICT use around the world. Gaming as a sector accounts for more revenues than advertising or the movie industry in many countries around the world.

Five winners of the WSA 2013 awards in the e-Entertainment and Games category were honoured at the WSA Conference in Sri Lanka recently. They presented their gaming experiences and shared some useful words of advice for aspiring game developers and digital entertainers.

EVE Online from Iceland is a spectacular, captivating gaming experience where hundreds of thousands of players compete within the same virtual cosmic universe for riches, power, glory and adventure. The setting is outer space where solar systems are being inhabited with people from a range of professions: traders, entrepreneurs, pirates and commanders!

Making View from Norway offers superbly exciting experiences of Formula 1 racing, blending 360 degree camera and interactive responses. The experience goes beyond panoramic views at the highest speeds: it opens up new possibilities for application in tourism, education and documentaries.

Aqua Lingua from Lithuania lets you ‘see what you hear’ by converting into pictures and works of art. Water surfaces are stirred by emanating sound patters, and then photographed – thus making the invisible visible. It also turns out to be a great service for a gift!

Kinetic Stories from Finland is a series of storybooks for kids that mix traditional storytelling with the latest developments in motion tracking and speech recognition technology. Children take part in the stories through their movements and voice, which are also captured in the online screen. Print and video content can be interleaved in the narrative, thus bringing books to life.

WSA - Courtesy – Philipp Benedikt/Alexander Mattersberger

Interactive dance from Italy helps create new dance forms by translating and mapping body movements into innovative musical composition. The product can be used individually or in groups, by professionals and amateurs. Kids can use the product’s interactive video gaming dance applications.

Project leaders and founders from these games offered some insightful tips for the developers and entrepreneurs in the audience, as summarised below.

1.Tap mega-narratives. The frontiers of space have captivated the human mind since time immemorial, and always make for a good backdrop for immersive games and cooperative exploration.

2.Leverage adjacent and complementary media. Sound can map onto images – and vice versa, leading to interesting modalities for entertainment and gaming.

3.Motion blends well into gaming. The use of sensors allows physical motions to be seamlessly mapped into virtual environments, and can be harnessed for everyone from kids to adults.

4.Gaming allows for multiple business models, lending itself well for sustainable revenue streams. These range from individual or family subscriptions to embedded ads in freemium models.

Friday, November 08, 2013

BPN 1671: ‘Micro-multinationals’ develop e-commerce models


One of the hottest segments of innovation in digital media has been e-commerce/e-business. Five winners of the prestigious World Summit Awards 2013 showed that innovators are pushing the frontiers of digital markets in emerging economies as well.

From payment and analytics to crowdsourcing and marketplaces, the diverse range of winners from around the world showcased their initiatives at the recent WSA conference in Sri Lanka, and also shed light on best practices for succeeding in the e-business space.

WSA - Courtesy – Philipp Benedikt/Alexander Mattersberger 
Springleap is a crowdsourced creative platform based in South Africa but with clients in the US and Europe as well. Global brands are using Springleap’s creative social media marketing campaigns to empower creatives and engage brand fans. The startup rewarded creatives with over $300,000 in the last year and placed them on magazines, sites and TV spots across the world.

Infoline from Ghana is a mobile and web service which connects consumers and businesses in emerging markets. Users of smartphones as well as basic phones can access and send messages to businesses; the data is mined for extraction of useful analytics for companies, which helps them understand and respond to their market segments more effectively.

Ponoko from New Zealand is a Web based marketplace for designers to make and sell products online. The ‘Personal Factory’ model helps them instantly verify, price and order prototypes and custom products. To date, Ponoko designers have produced over 300,000 custom products.

Conekta is a platform that allows businesses in Mexico to process online payments using both online and offline methods. Offline channels are generally disregarded by dominant payment solutions such as Paypal. Conekta is used for a range of transactions: selling physical products, taking donations, ecommerce offers, or enabling marketplaces for third parties.

TransferWise from Estonia is a smarter solution for international money transfers using P2P methods. Banks charge a lot for international money transfers but TransferWise brings the fee down to mid-market exchange rate. Customers pay a smaller, fully transparent service charge to access this facility.

The winners from these companies shared insights on the evolution and impacts of their business models, and offered useful tips for aspiring entrepreneurs in this space.

1. Keep an eye on regulatory changes. Mobile payment and international remittances are still subject to national jurisdictions, and changes in these regulations can alter the fortunes of digital payment providers.

2. Play in both spaces: smartphones and basic phones, especially in emerging economies. Basic SMS and voice services still have a useful shelf-life, but as smartphone penetration increases it will be possible to offer rich media apps and content as well.

3. Think micro-multinational. It is possible for startups, especially in tech and creative spaces, to operate simultaneously in multiple countries, leveraging various skillsets, pricepoints and timezones for effective project management and product delivery.

4. Tap the crowd but protect your brand. Leverage the power of creative crowds to offer speed and diversity in service to your clients, but ensure you have strict quality control and IPR compliance.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

BPN 1670: Digital news strategies for entrepreneurs

The Internet and mobile phones have become the biggest disruptive force in the field of mass media, and continue to spawn new models of journalism and new businesses for entrepreneurs. Best practices in urban and rural media organisations were exemplified by the five winners of the World Summit Awards 2013 in the category of e-Media and journalism.
The WSA awards are known for recognising and rewarding ‘smart content for smart people.’ The e-news winners this year reflected the people power of the Arab Spring, and also new models of enterprise storytelling and aggregated funding. This category is unique as compared to other award winners since some of the projects operate under severe conditions of risk, both personal and physical, from government and commercial censors.
Marsad is an online observatory of parliamentary member actions in Tunisia. It reports member presence, discussion, voting, actions, resolutions, electronic media coverage and people feadback. Drafts, budgets, laws and all discussed material and resolutions of the parliament are free for access. Marsad thus uses ICT to promote political journalism and serve democratic practices in Tunisia.
Masrawy is Egypt’s favourite news portal, with a special focus in covering political news. It provides political news content, gender coverage, Islamic advice services, sports content, classifieds ads, and services for the SME market. It has presented experts’ advice on Egypt’s political and social scenario after the Arab Spring. The portal serves as a watchdog for the Egyptian Society.
Teckler is a blog aggregator based in Brazil but with content sourced from around the world. The site enables contributors to make money through content created on their own in text, audio, photo and video. The pioneering Internet multinational company from Latin America features content in over a dozen languages and raises revenues through advertising, for which bloggers also get a share.
WHATCHADO from Austria is a combination of storytelling handbook and standardised format of short films on real-life job descriptions. It was initiated and founded by former classmates and longtime friends who wanted to share insights on people’s jobs. The startup has more than 20 people originating from 13 different countries.
Rural Visual Journalism Network is an innovative initiative from Bangaldesh where trained district correspondents use Apple i-Pod Touch technology to produce multimedia stories from rural areas. The stories focus on addressing specific issues faced by media and by rural citizens of Bangladesh.
Winners of these awards spoke at the recent WSA 2013 conference in Sri Lanka, and offered sobering as well as inspiring words of advice to journalistic entrepreneurs.
  1. Clearly define your code of conduct, and stick to it. It is fine to take positions and choose perspectives, but make them clear so that the audience understands where you are coming from. This helps positioning and then pitching to appropriate funders or advertisers.
  2. Aggregation models work well in a world of fragmented content. Search is one way to get related perspectives together; aggregation offers additional benefits through collective bargaining for advertising revenues.
  3. Leverage online media to make up for the shortcomings of mainstream media. Some issues are too controversial for mainstream media to cover, or are seen as not having enough commercial value – dig into these with broad and deep perspectives.
  4. View narratives from multiple perspectives to tap new revenue streams. The same content is of different value to different professions and organisations – see who would be interested in paying for your content, or would want to be paid to be featured.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

BPN 1669: Transform teaching into learning

Every two years, contestants from dozens of countries around the world compete to win the prestigious World Summit Awards for best e-Content. The awards are given in 10 categories and are rigorously judged by an international jury. The winners participate in an international conference where they present their projects and discuss their plans and impacts.

Aula 365

I was honoured to be a juror and moderator at the event, held recently in Sri Lanka. For the category of e-Learning and Science, here are my key takeaways from contributions of the winning entries, and recommendations for entrepreneurs who wish to make a mark in this category.

Science Learning Hub from New Zealand promotes student interest and engagement in science by providing contemporary, contextualised resources for school teachers from Years 2–10. It demonstrates the relevance of scientific research to our everyday lives, and links local science research organisations with science teachers. The project is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and managed by the University of Waikato.

Opon Imo from Nigeria aptly means Tablet of Knowledge. The Government of Osun State has developed and deployed a technology based learning system delivered on 150,000 provisioned Android tablets. They will be distributed to all the pupils of senior secondary schools in the state. The stand-alone solution consists of a compelling self- paced series of off-line courses, conducted in an interactive manner and backed by a library of relevant e-books and a testing environment.

Ludwig from Austria is a new type of learning game on the topic of renewable energy. The game is based on the curriculum and targeted to adventurers aged 11 years and above. The game is framed as a search for energy sources in space colonies, in a race against time.

PresentationTube from Egypt offers a free video presentation recorder (for Windows) and an online network to help teachers and learners in Egypt produce, upload and share quality digital video content. Video presentations can be used in various on-campus and off-campus e-learning settings to provide more realistic support to learner, and create engagement.

Aula365 from Argentina is the biggest educational network in Ibero America, with more than 3 million children, parents and teachers that collaborate and learn with it. There are more than 4,000 educational resources created by specialists in each subject. Teachers and parents are also involved along with students in activities for critical thinking, creative thinking, and cooperative intelligence.
Aula365 was judged the overall winner, and the project leaders of the other entries also joined them in discussing the impacts and learnings from their initiatives.

Here are my recommendations for aspiring entrepreneurs in this space:
  1. This is the age of video, so leverage the full power of video in education to make the learning experience more engaging and less abstract.
  2. Connect different kinds of learning objects and formats. Different people have different learning styles and preferences, so spread your content across a range of channels such as video, presentations, whiteboards, pictures and chatboards.
  3. Rope in the experts in domain and pedagogy. The digital environment has spawned a wide range of models and theories of interactive, exploratory and cooperative learning. Bring in specialists from geography to gaming.
  4. Experiment with a range of business models. Freemium and government support are some examples used in the education sector.
  5. Emerging economies are in a good position to leapfrog in digital learning. There is not such a deep entrenched legacy of textbook publishers, so it is possible to make the leap directly into e-content via platforms such as tablets.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

BPN 1668: Entrepreneurs in e-Culture



Thanks to mobiles and social media, digital culture projects can rope in a wide range of audiences and contributors locally and globally. Five winners of e-content in the category of e-Culture and Tourism were recognised by the bi-annual World Summit Awards, held recently in Colombo.
Here are my key takeaways from the innovative projects, and recommendations from the winners of these projects who presented their findings to an audience of ICT innovators and creators.

Verkami is the leading crowdfunding platform in Spain for cultural and creative projects. Artists can get in touch with their public, build audiences and fund their projects. In two years and a half, more than 1,300 projects have been completed, thanks to contributions from 160,000 cultural consumers, raising more than 6.2 million Euros. The platform claims a sustained 70% success rate (3 out of 4 projects raise the funds they are looking for).

Enajori from India is the first online monthly bilingual magazine from the state of Assam. Online content includes local music, cinema, literature, wildlife and tourism, as well as e-novels. It is enabled for mobile users also. There is a children’s section and participatory components such as Photographer of the Month. The site’s book catalogue lists publications dating back to the year 1849. The site already draws an estimated 250,000 readers each month, after less than three years of launch.

Southeast European Culture Portal from Serbia was established in 2003 in Belgrade as an online platform for culture and art in Serbia and the region. The site has daily updated news about events, cultural policies, open calls, debates, Photo Galleries, Artists’ Gallery, blog, as well as profile presentations of artists and cultural institutions.

Gorilla Highlands from Uganda is an interactive electronic book about southwestern Uganda developed using Apple’s free iBooks Author software. The landscape and people are presented through text, videos, and an extensive audio phrasebook in two local languages. The focus is not just on the famed gorilla habitats but tourism, culture and employment in general. A free Gorilla Highlands paper booklet has also been published.

Jumièges 3D from France offers a 3D tablet-based experience to view existing and prior architect models of historical monuments such as the Abbey. Mobile augmented reality, on site or through a free app, drives the visitor into the glorious past of the Abbey through different views and points of interest. This can be extended to other countries and monuments as well.

Here are the key takeaways for creative entrepreneurs from the ensuing discussion after the above presentations- 
  1. The mainstream media focuses more on entertainment than culture – leaving the culture field wide open for innovators to use the breadth and depth of digital media and mobile tools.
  2. Creative teams can be assembled from across the globe, thanks to the power of the Net. For example, Uganad’s Gorilla Highlands project has team members in Solvenia, Germany, Ireland, UK and Uganda.
  3. For a sustainable business model, look for where the money is. For example, in cultural tourism, there may be more paying customers in the form of tour operators than government departments.
  4. Go local, go global. Thanks to the Internet, global diaspora can be tapped as audience, contributors and even sponsors, as the Assamese portal Enajori shows.
  5. Crowdfunding models work well even during hard economic times. Verkami’s contributions are specially relevant in Spain today where budget cuts are slashing cultural programs.
  6. Don’t ignore offline strategies. Though the online model has much allure and scale, interesting and deep connections can open up through offline interactions also, such as through meetups and conferences.
  7. Build a community of volunteers. Volunteers can often contribute as much (in some cases even more) than paid contributors for e-content. Learn how to engage and inspire volunteer teams.
Jumièges 3D was declared the overall winner.

Monday, November 04, 2013

BPN 1667: Social enterprises in healthcare

By Madanmohan Rao

Thanks to mobiles and social media, healthcare and environmental solutions are emerging in the consumer and citizen space, and not just in hospital enterprise IT and meteorological centres. Six winners of e-content in this category were recognized by the bi-annual World Summit Awards, held recently in Sri Lanka.

Here are my key takeaways from the project contributions, and recommendations from the winners of these projects who presented their findings to an audience of ICT innovators and entrepreneurs.

© Philipp Benedikt/Alexander Mattersberger
Mobile Technology for Community Health  from Ghana is part of service delivery for maternal health at Antenatal Care. It has two complementary applications: A Mobile-Midwife Application and a Nurse Application. Couples can both access MoTeCH messages via SMS (text) or voice in the local dialect or English. The service enables easy identification of both mothers and infants and saves time collating information to generate monthly reports, alerts and reminders.

Uepaa Swiss Alpine Technology from Switzerland is a mesh-networking app for alpine safety standards. The Uepaa app turns the smartphone of more than 25 million outdoor users into an alpine tracking, alerting and rescue device by using a wireless mesh communication technology developed by ETH Zürich.

Beatona is the Kuwait Official Environmental Portal, a “one-stop shop” for sharing authentic environmental information related to Kuwait in both Arabic and English. People of various ages can enrich their knowledge about the environment, and allows them to be part of the system by allowing them to contribute in improving the knowledge base through various online tools.

I-MOVE to Learn from China is a training game designed by physiotherapist. It has 5 mini-games to help children of ages 4-12 with motor delay and coordination problems. It uses Kinect for Windows sensor to detect body movements. Players have to use their body as a controller to challenge each level. Thus, students can have fun while they are doing training. The application is being developed on the iOS platforms for Apple devices and other platforms as well.

True-Kare from Portugal is an online service to simplify the life of people above the age of 65. It enables one person or institution to provide remote care to another person via mobiles and a Web portal, sharing information on medication and health indicators. In Portugal the service is being promoted by the main telecom operator and the main TV channel.

Here are the tips which these presenters offered to the audience of developers and entrepreneurs:

1. Include experts on your advisory teams and boards. Inter-disciplinary projects require a good mix of insights and knowledge from a range of domains.

2. Don’t use the Web and mobiles only to ‘push’ information to target audiences, but involve them also in contributing, ranking, rating and voting on information.

3. Pay attention to impacts: collect a range of quantitative and anecdotal outcomes.

4. Don’t ignore humble voice and SMS. In an era of hype and excitement about rich-media apps, there is still a lot of shelf-life for text and IVR as service channels.

5. Rope in operators as partners. Though mobile operators are not the mighty kings they once were as compared to app stores, they can still help deliver scale for a project.

6. Don’t look just at overall numbers of audience impacted, but also the depth of impact for each user. This is especially true in the case of healthcare projects, eg those which save or improve lives of the elderly.

7. Examine a range of business models for sustainability. A mix of subscription and hospital service bundling works well for e-healthcare.
Presentations of the projects can be seen on the site of the World Summit Award