Saturday, June 14

Evidence that Europe is elitist or mad

I have to admit that I did a little hop skip and jump when I passed a TV screen yesterday showing that the Irish had rejected the poxy EU Constitution. So, the bald facts are

1. The EU Reform treaty is rejected by Irish voters and by the rules of the EU, the entire treaty is now rejected.

So the people have spoken. And what do our people's representatives do? They persist in doing the SAME things that have lead people to reject the EU in its current shape. This qualifies them at best to be insane or at worst, to be corrupt, elitist, autocratic morons who are basically out of touch with the common man. See the BBC report here. And its basically across the continent. Here:

France and Germany have described the No vote in the referendum as a serious blow but have urged the EU to press ahead with the project.

So the people said no, but the leaders say yes, and lets just ignore what the people said, yes? Pesky people, who cares about those little people, no?


Naturally we are disappointed, it is a hard blow. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we need this treaty. Therefore we are sticking with our goal for it to come into force. The ratification process must continue.

HE believes it so it must go on, sod the people.


But here's the EC Head, Barroso who comes across as frankly a bit stupid. He says that the treaty is not dead. No? Its not dead? Really? Its as dead as the Norwegian blue parrot. The treaty is not going anywhere now. So the head of the EC says basically stupid things. I would have called him a liar, but stupid people's utterances are not lies, lies impute a degree of intelligence and motivation.

Then we have our little liar in our midst.


The Irish government have made clear they believe it's right for countries like Britain to continue the ratification process because there needs to be a British view as well as an Irish view... So I believe it's right that we continue with our own process and take up the Irish offer of further discussions about the next steps forward.

Did you notice that there was nothing in his statement about what the British people want? Of course, the British people do not want him and his lot anyway. So he is perhaps the foreign minister of one of the most unpopular governments in the recent times. Again, an elitist view of the world. Governments and elites talk to each other and decide for me, eh? Mr. Miliband, some people thought of you as a potential Prime Minister. Well, Sir, you are not. The British View is what the people say, not what you say. And if you say that your view is what the people want, lets put it to the test, shall we? When did I vote or say yes to this treaty? Oh! but I CAN CALL YOU A LIAR because YOU PROMISED in your manifesto for a referendum and then withdrew. Your frankly stupid protestations notwithstanding, you are basically a liar.

Thank you, Irish! As for the EU, remember the Danish referendum in 1992 and 2000? the Swedish rejection of the Euro? the French and Dutch rejections? And the previous Irish rejection? Here's an idea, try to look up what the word "rejecting" means in the bloody dictionary, you twits. I quote:

  • To refuse to accept, submit to, believe, or make use of.
  • To refuse to consider or grant; deny.
  • To refuse to recognize or give affection to (a person).
  • To discard as defective or useless; throw away.
  • To spit out or vomit.


The journey begins

It was October 2007 that I was introduced to Pat Ryan, who runs a charity called as Express Linkup IT. She is an amazing lady. Very few people actually have my full and utter respect but this lady is one of them. What she has been doing for the past so many years with so little money or support for so many people is absolutely amazing.

I am reminded of Winston Churchill's quote at the time of the world war II, this is what he said,

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day…

At that time, it was for fighter pilots, but this time, it is for wonderful women like Pat Ryan, who have silently and quietly helped hundreds of thousands of children. She literally wowed the heart out of me.

And it resonated with me. We are talking about kids who are long term ill.
These kids do not get any educational technology to cheer their minds up.
Keep the mind engaged and the body lives longer. This is the problem, the kids are ill, go into the hospital and do what? they fall behind their studies, their minds are not engaged, you cant just stick a book at them, the current kids are growing up with a whole world in front of them in the form of the internet. So these children are given laptops or home pc's which they are using to study, to develop their minds, their hearts and bodies are engaged. (a disguised photograph of one of the children helped with a laptop and printer from the charity, just look at how her eyes are hungrily looking at the laptop, brings tears to your eyes, I tell you)


Many moons back, I was long term ill as well, flat on my back for months on end, literally months. And that's in India where patient care is, well, interesting. Once you have lain there in the same bloody bed, looking at the same people who you just associate with pain and hurt, staring at the peeling white painted wall, when you have started naming each paint crack and curl out of sheer boredom, you desire some kind of intellectual stimulation.. And you can only flirt so much with those poxy harridans who clean the wards.

So I joined the charity as a trustee. To help out. A lovely bunch of people in the charity even. It became clear that the demand side of the equation was very high, we could end up having more than 100 children being long term ill per day. It was the supply side which was the issue and in the next few post, will talk more about that journey. Since I also dabble around in writing for magazines and stuff, I get to know about people who are in the media field and will also talk about my attempts to get some media contact going. I will also talk about how I am seeing the charity sector going. For what its worth, I have been invited to join the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists and hope to see what I can do for this charity via that channel.

Monday, June 9

The Irish Govt and the EU forget what democracy is

This makes me extremely cynical indeed. A constitution is supposed to be one of the foundations of the state and it is to be expected that the citizens would agree and appreciate it.

It just tells me the depths to which this European project has sunk that it is now reduced to whining and moaning about a dark future without this constitution. Only ONE country out of tens is asking its citizens about its constitution and that too is causing major issues. That is democracy for you, you elitist corrupt lot?

Bernard Kouchner, France's foreign minister says that "Irish voters were warned on Monday that the rest of the European Union would look at them with “gigantic incomprehension” if they rejected the bloc’s Lisbon reform treaty in Thursday’s referendum."

No, Bernard, we are looking at you with cynical comprehension that you are basically an elite, who have no pretensions towards democracy and the will of people. And it is indeed telling that you are uncomprehending of the will of the people. After all, you and your other European Elite never followed it, did you?

And then you have an unelected leader of a government which has perhaps the lowest popularity rating of any recent government in British History, busy signing up the country to a constitution which is crap.

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Sunday, June 8

Britain, as seen from Japanese eyes - brilliant

This is absolutely side splitting, very funny! I quote:

A man who allows a muddy-pawed retriever to sleep on his bed is quintessentially British. If he ties the hound to a tree in his garden, he is not. He may also get lynched.

Britons do not value business cards greatly – a prospect may scratch his ear with the card you have carefully presented to him. Discussing house prices is, in contrast, a ritual vital to winning trust.

Be warned also that British customers are more like cats than dogs. Their loyalty is highly conditional. They may prefer a supplier who is cheap to one who has attended their children’s christenings.

Sleeping during business meetings occurs in the UK, though less commonly than in Japan. In Britain the privilege of slumbering through meetings is extended only to very senior company officials. They will typically have earned it by voting for the chief executive to receive successive above-inflation pay settlements. These elders are called “non-executive directors”.

British chief executives have a lot of power. Shockingly, British middle managers sometimes even let them take decisions all on their own

Japan has excelled in such activities as carmaking, consumer electronics and Hello Kitty licensing. Britain has also done well in carmaking, thanks to Toyota. It is a world leader in many other industries, which do not however immediately come to mind.

Like some other island races, the British distrust immigrants. We limit numbers, not through entry controls, which do not exist in any practical form, but by making foreigners’ lives unpleasant after they arrive. Heathrow, QED. Economic migrants are given such stressful work as caring for the children of middle-class professionals. Many quickly migrate back where they came from.

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CFOs of Earnings-Restatement Firms Experience Higher Turnover

Well, I guess this was one of those no shit Sherlock moments, but its good to get it confirmed. I quote liberally from this release.

found higher turnover rates and severe labor-market penalties for chief financial officers of so-called restatement firms – firms asked to restate their earnings – compared to a control group of similar firms........They discovered that Sarbanes-Oxley tightened reporting and accounting procedures in response to major corporate scandals, such as those at Enron and WorldCom, in the late 1990s and early 2000s......... found that CFOs have suffered greater labor-market penalties after Sarbanes-Oxley. In other words, CFOs associated with restatement firms had more difficulties finding similar positions with other firms or, in some cases, finding employment at all after the federal law was enacted.

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Gamers are scared of innovation

Two very profound things were said here.

Gamers, the very people we think are right on the bleeding edge of innovation, hate it.

and second about second life

Innovation in games is like 2nd Life. Everyone is always talking about it, but it doesn't make enough money to be anything more than an interesting discussion piece.

Who will pay for all this?

The economics of Web 2.0 banking

A curious item came through my in-box. This was the headline sentence.

half of Facebook users would use Web 2.0 applications for online banking, while a quarter would even consider switching banks to obtain Web 2.0 services

And this

However, as Worklight encourages banks to adopt Web 2.0 technologies, a new person-to-person social lending Web site is launching today, looking to take advantage of the increasing difficulties US students face securing loans from banks in the post-credit crunch market.

The credit crisis has led to traditional lenders such as banks and credit unions declining some student borrowers who would previously have qualified for college loans. The new GreenNote site is the second P2P marketplace in the US dedicated solely to student loans to launch in the last month, following in the footsteps of rival Fynanz.

To use the service, students set up an online profile and then connect to their social networks to get loans from friends, family and communities. Students must borrow as least $1000 although lenders can offer as little as $100.

Does anybody see the resemblance to microlending? Its not new, just the distribution channel (Web 2.0) is new, this allows atomisation of lending and borrowing, but it is dependent upon having sufficient volume to make money. See this as an example of how difficult it is to make money out of this kind of business:

How much will you charge? $1 per $100 loaned? Lets run with that figure for now. You have 1 website, 20 employees, funding costs, etc. etc. and you are up to a million dollars before you can say facebook.

So to just cover your costs (and assuming you do not have any other sources of funding), you need a million users actively purchasing these loans before you break even. You can sell advertisements, you can use mashups of your records with others to sell other stuff to your customers (will be illegal in many places) etc. etc.

This is not going to be easy and this is what I am struggling with, who will pay for all these whizz bang stuff on the internet?

Innovation and Eastern Europe

Saw this note and was reminded of a lecture that I gave on outsourcing (will be giving a related one here) in conjunction with this firm at the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.  The lecture was on outsourcing and offshoring to Eastern Europe and our experiences with that whole animal. It is quite an interesting area to discuss.

The fact that the blogger is comparing with Israel is quite interesting, but they should be careful of what they ask for. In my experience, copying basic principles such as democracy, education, vocational training is fine, but when higher reaches of human civilisation are copied (such as employment, entrepreneurship, economic development) willy nilly, then problems occur.

But I liked what the Czech have done with the eco system of universities, software companies, politics and bureaucracy. Very hard to replicate and scale but very good indeed. The Israel model of innovation is different, mind you, it is based on a different model of education and value generation. But that's for another essay.

A very interesting twist on immigration

Ok, so this is the model. You are, say an insurgent group, like Al Queda or something committed to overthrow the Saudi Royal Family. Al Queda currently takes help from various places such as Pakistan, UAE, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan etc. Say it did manage to overthrow the Al Saud's. Then Al Queda is now running Saudi Arabia.

But the Saudi's are upset that in the name of the Ummah, all these indigent and poor immigrants from Yemen, Sudan and Pakistan are taking away all the jobs and creating crime and mess and and and. So the Saudi's kick or try to kick all the immigrant population out.

But then Pakistan, UAE, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan etc. remind Saudi Arabia and Al Queda about the help they provided in overthrowing the Al Saud's and say, why are you mistreating our citizens in this manner? Far fetched? no its, not because the identical thing happened in South Africa. Here's the story. I quote snippets:

a spate of violence against immigrants, including Nigerians, reflected historical amnesia. Mr Yar’Adua has faced strong popular pressure to deliver a tough message to the South African government.........Images of foreigners burnt alive and beaten by lynch mobs have been circulating on the internet, fuelling outrage in countries that once welcomed South African fugitives from racial persecution and lent support to the African National Congress (ANC) in its days as a liberation movement.

Racial and ethnic violence against immigrants has a long history which I have intermittently explored here. And in the fullness of time, all are exposed to it, Whites in Zimbabwe, Blacks in South Africa, Jews and Muslims in Europe, and so on so forth.

But again, notice that Nigeria did not talk about the elephant in the room. Why the richest country in Africa has so many emigrants? Why have people emigrated from Mozambique? What made people leave in their millions from Zimbabwe? THAT is the bigger issue, those corrupt, thieving, cheating, robbing leaders. Dragging history into it is just hiding the issue.

Disjointed thoughts on the World Congress of Information Technology 2008

I had the honour of attending and speaking at the WCIT 2008 conference in Malaysia and here are some rather disjointed notes that I had while listening to the speakers. I tried to clean it up, but again, apologies for not being able to make this very professional indeed.


The conference center is big! And I got lost in the exhibition hall. Quite an impressive setup. So then finally managed to extricate myself from poking into the guts of various exciting electronics bits, went looking to find the plenary hall, and found myself sitting in the hall looking at an ant hill of activity. I could not imagine how on earth will they manage to fit 3200 people and assorted volunteers and managers into this hall but they sure did. 


Typically, there was the media scrum when a Prime Minister arrives....We were welcomed by 40 children welcoming us in 40 languages representing 90 odd countries here, but the language used through out the conference is English. Curious, no? the prevalence of English in the world?

He also said that UK and South Korea are behind Malaysia in the World Competitiveness Index, and I can well believe it. Although checking the Global Competitiveness Report here seems like the results are different. Perhaps he is talking about this report. Anyway, mere quibbling. And now the PM has left and literally the front 1/4th of the hall has emptied! Some more speeches about WITSA.

Then Dr. Craig Bennett, Chairman of Intel, started talking about how we have a billion people on the Internet and now we have to get the next billion on the Internet as well. He said that four factors are important for knowledge based economic development

  1. Physical access to technology
  2. connection to internet and connectivity
  3. content targeted at local population
  4. education on how to use the tool

He said that a well educated teacher is the magic and not the PC in the classroom. He showed a video about a Nigerian school which has embraced technology but said technology again is not really the only answer.

He talked about taking a holistic viewpoint, what's the point of giving a $200 PC while the monthly connectivity costs are $250 per month in many countries, 100kb monthly cost in Japan is 6 cents, 50 cents in USA and more than 80 dollars in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now you can get an idea how tough it will be to get these people on the intranet or to roll out the broadband revolution to them (more about the exception being that of India later on).

He talked about how Pakistan is being used as an example of pushing broadband and network connectivity out into the sticks. 60mm dollars is the budget, rolling out in untouched areas in Pakistan, he invited a Pakistani chap to the stage who is the CEO of the public company which is helping to push this (didn't catch the name). Connectivity is a challenge. Satellite is way too expensive. Fiber is the only way. Rolling out fiber is tough, so tehsils where its not remunerative for private companies, this company gives money and offers seed capital, it helps to improve the business case for the private firm. This was a good step. The Pakistani chap said that Govt should not be involved that much in this business, put power to public private consortiums or just private firms, give them a stake in the business and then it will work. But I am not holding my breath, I want to know whether connectivity actually helps or would more investment in say better teacher training help?

He video conferenced a doctor from Brazil into us, how location differences for patients versus diagnostics versus doctors versus care had disappeared, and this tele-medicine actually is helping far more people than medicine and doctors were previously. Then there was some corporate stuff with some kids brought on stage and it ended. It was a bit too slick and the questions with the kids was too obvious and that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Such a senior chap shouldn't need such kind of gimmicks to play around with such an important topic, we are all adults, you don't have to take us to be children or idiots to play that game.

I was a bit impressed with what he had to say, but what he had to say was crucial (leave aside all the silly posturing and even more silly marketing of Intel stuff). His point was, throwing money at technology and expecting better performance from students was wrong, the idea is to teach the teachers to be better, that will provide better results than thousands of PC's and laptops.

Nothing much to note for the next few sessions. The post lunch session for the Ministerial panel was a bit interesting. Mainly because you could see how various governments approached this entire idea of information technology. You know what was the most disappointing? It was the Philippines MP. She came across as a complete Neanderthal, saying that in many parts of her constituency, there is no electricity power anyway, forget about PC's, and it was a whine. The Philippines government should really have thought that through. The Malaysian government minister and other ministers were smart, they obviously were pushing their countries and with due reason, telling us, the corporate folks, what we wanted to hear..., but Philippines? Pathetic. She is a blot on that country's face.

The next wireless broadband session made me go to sleep. Pure and simple, those two Rumanian scientists, bright as they were, made me doze off specially when they started talking about antenna design, and specially after that excellent lunch.

Woke up to an excellent presentation by Professor Takenaka. He talked about how he was made the Minister for Finance in Japan by a certain Lionheart PM of Japan. Fascinating tale of how he took on the entrenched might of bureaucrats and financial institutions and won. And I well believe him, given some down sides, generally that time was brilliant, it still shows that even in a consensual driven society such as Japan, you can still have mavericks who hire mavericks who really make a huge difference! Brilliant fellow. Unfortunately he was not allowed to fulfill his destiny and do all that he wanted to do but there you go, he literally broke the back of the Japanese economic stalemate.  I was personally quite impressed but I suspect that quite a lot were not as he was talking more about economics and finance than IT. The IT piece came way afterwards, a little bit and as an after thought.

Then we had Bill Gates in a hologram talking about Microsoft and then Dr. Zhang also, not very clear about what, was flagging badly by that time.... and then we went off back to the hotel, did some more emails and then some calls back home and then off to dinner, again, dinner was brilliant, and pigged out and came back and went to snore, i mean sleep.


The day started with perhaps one of the most interesting panel discussions I have ever attended. It was to do with how to produce innovation and creativity and what can be done to enhance it. These were the people there.

  • - Arnold Gay, Anchor, CNBC - Moderator
  • - Kamil Othman, Vice President, Multimedia Development Corporation
  • - Fritz Attaway, Executive Vice President, Motion Picture Association of America
  • - Terry Thoren, Chief Executive Officer, Rocket Fish Studios

You cannot get a better collection of people talking about the most creative of industries, motion pictures and a very educational and interesting debate happened. Terry said that the world is changing, Malaysia has twin towers now while USA no longer has it. Who knows what's going to happen in the future? He has severe distaste for politics but great admiration for tech, people, process, creativity, etc

Kamil went into deep details on how to build an innovative industry? Animation in Malaysia. Disappointing take up, long way to go, to make a Walt Disney, you need to start with one million children drawing in grade 8. You cannot create a flash laboratory, shove people in there and wait on the other side of the Lab waiting for Toy Story or Cinderella to drop out of the other side. It has to be started from the very basic levels, people cannot look down on the arts which they do at this moment.

Monetisation of opportunities and content is a challenge, how do you do it? look around you, all countries are pushing people to get educated and into the knowledge sciences, but not all people are thus inclined. Many people simply do not like mathematics or technology. Some people want to study arts, or paint or simply do not have the mathematical skills. What do you do to them? Those who want to write poems? How does he get paid? or fed?

There were conversations around how to create a movie or animated film, quite interesting to see how Hollywood and Silicon Valley literally took decades to develop, you cannot do that just by throwing technology at it. Quite thought provoking indeed. Perhaps one could question whether it is possible to force people to become creative? Or can you just provide the infrastructure and let them get on with it? or is it just let people be, and trust in them to come up with the goods?


The next session had more ministers but I was quite interested and taken by A Raja, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, India. I have to admit, I was quite cynical at first knowing about Indian politicians, but was very impressed to see what he had to say about it all, how they are powering ahead with the licence's, what mistakes they made, how the process of governance is happening, who gets to approve what? and so on and so forth. Pretty good and well, I will think that what he is saying is right, because I have experienced the mobile phone revolution in India.

As usual, it has to be different. Rest of the world goes through scientific revolution, industrial revolution, then wars then dial up then broadband and mobile, India starts off with revolutions in 3000 years BC, then has fun, then goes into decline, then starts off with a revolution in Y2K and then the next revolution is mobile and mobile internet and mobile commerce is bigger now, how strange and unique... Very curious, loads to think about there. The technology trajectories of these two countries, based upon what Dr. Jiren of China said, are so different. One wonders what will happen in the future.

Incidentally, there was a gentleman from Saudi Arabia who made me think of the previous session. He spoke on about how much money has been pumped into the industry in Saudi Arabia, the emergence of knowledge cities, and the like. Not impressed at all. Not at all impressed. Setting up a knowledge city and throwing money at it does not solve the problem of creativity or having knowledge industries. For that, you need to have creativity at the school level. They have to inquire and challenge everything. Can you imagine something like that happening in Saudi Arabia? Which is the reason why I couldn't take it any more and went outside to grab a coffee. Perhaps the organisers should have kept coffee on tap, this was crazy, they dont want the participants to keep awake? dont they know we drink coffee by the gallon?


The next topic was rather dry, Dr. Mobius talked about where the next hotspots will be. And I lost my notes on this lecture so this part is a bit vague. I remember him showing loads of graphs about where and when returns are made. It was an asset management view, so was a bit dry. Still, was a bit interesting, specially around the returns of the various sectors in the Asian economy. That is much that I remember... if and when I get my hands on his slide deck, and have time to read it again, will comment...


For the next session, I went to the "Asia, the destination of choice for Shared Services and Outsourcing" session.

  • - Dato’ Narayanan Kanan, Senior Vice-President, Multimedia Development Corporation – Moderator
  • - Michael F. Corbett, Chairman of the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals
  • - Dr Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman, NASSCOM
  • - David Wong, Chairman, Outsourcing Malaysia
  • - Stephen Braim, Vice President Governmental Programs, IBM Asia Pacific

Very interesting, Michael spoke about the impact of the US elections on international outsourcing. I was, frankly a bit puzzled by that kind of emphasis. For two reasons. The first aspect is that the actual number of jobs which are dependent upon the classical aspect of outsourcing is reducing, and the second aspect is, did he really think that the elections will make a tiny bit of difference? Obviously yes, but I am rather disappointed that it was more American rather than International. Also, I was a bit saddened that there was no discussions about international aspects, taxation, technology which allows remote working, etc.

But overall, it was quite interesting, there was discussion about education and how that will help in various countries. What Malaysia is trying to do. What the IBM view was from the perspective of government initiatives and education and so on and so forth. But also, I was a bit disappointed that most people's perspective was the next 8 - 12 months, not more. Still, lets go to lunch, was feeling quite hungry now.


Over lunch, we had a speech by Dr. Rowe, where he was talking about how the worlds of virtual reality and real life reality meet and how they work together. Quite an interesting topic and he spoke quite a lot about his own personal experiences and the like. But not much about real life applications. I then sent him an email afterwards, and this is what I said to him.

  • At ABN AMRO, we used Second Life to actually recruit, it was very challenging and interesting but it ultimately failed because of lack of regulatory frameworks. Ended up with 5.5 FTE dedicated to Second Life but then scaled back.
  • We also used a virtual world to help mentoring. Such as when we have just 2 IT employees in Uzbekistan, then how do I get the junior chap mentored? So we setup a virtual world where mentors and mentee's can congregate in a persistent state across the world. This helps in knowledge capture and better employee retention.
  • My friend from BP is using a virtual world to track every employee in complex and potentially dangerous plants. This location tracking and graphical display of every employee is used for fire, safety, evacuation and training purposes.

Second life and other virtual lives have become really challenging world and are throwing up some seriously challenging questions for us, again which have not been fully explored just yet.


Unfortunately, I missed the next slot because we had to go and get powdered up for our session at 3. Not much to speak about in there, check out the slide deck. Also managed to miss out a large proportion of the next presentation from Dr. Pachauri because we were supposed to be in a room answering questions. But did manage to catch snippets of his talk. Quite interesting.

I had to take an office phone call so managed to miss out on the next one as well. So that was that. Nice dinner, watched a charity auction, observed some very nice and lovely looking ladies. This lady was standing 2 feet away from me. Very fragrant. Nice hair even.


This day was going to be challenging, specially since it was also the Champions League Final day.

The day started with me taking breakfast in the Trader Hotel Lounge, where I had been put up, its just next door to the KLCC so very convenient indeed. So took some pictures from the 34th floor lounge while having breakfast.










Here are the twin towers, at the base you can see the gigantic 6 story mall with two wings. It is absolutely stonkingly huge, that mall. Anyway, the twin towers, and the very well landscaped park around the buildings. The building on the left of the twin towers is the Mandarin Oriental where many other guests were also put up.


Then the day started with two debates on the future of the Internet. A deep discussion erupted over the net neutrality issue. To be honest, I have never really thought about it till I was forced to sit and listen to these two debates. Not that I have really firmed up my thoughts but the question is, who pays for the internet? It is my firm belief that nothing is free in this world, somebody will ultimately pay, either the taxpayer, stockholder, consumer, today you or tomorrow in the form of your child. Somebody has to pay. So this idea that the net is free is frankly stupid and more worryingly, it shows a childish view of the world.

Also, the idea that a communications network will or should be free is against human history. Do you think that the pigeon post was free to everybody? or the pony express allowed everybody to send stuff over? or how about the fact that letters still cost to send stuff to each other? Or the fact that we have public and private ownership over the postal system? Or the fact that we have regulations governing what can and cannot be sent over the posts? Or how about the fact that online classifieds are killing newspapers? Or how about the issue that emails are killing the postal system? So when we do not have any issues over that, why do we suddenly end up having an issue over the net neutrality aspect? Here is a good overview article. Very complicated matter, but I suspect it will end up like we have the health service. A Universal service provision which will provide some kind of a basic internet, which is slow and unreliable, while a paid for internet which is better and faster. Pretty much common compared to other industries, if you ask me.

Then there was a discussion about Silicon Valley, it started in 1940's, it took 10 years to know, 10 years to come, 20 years to investment, etc. etc. Takes a heck of a long time to start developing an industry. See what Taiwan did, took them decades to get to it but get to it they did. Now they are the champions, and almost every PC in the world has some Taiwanese components in it.


Next session I had to miss, then popped into the Mexico session for a few just to realise that they were talking about near shoring. I mean, d'oh, get on with the programme, people are now in the 5th generation of out sourcing and we are still in the terminology of the 1st generation. Crikey! that made me so depressed that I went back to the room and started my calls. Also had a quick bite to eat in the room itself, couldn't’get out of the calls but went back to catch the next great debate.


Not much to report on other than the fact that one of the guests (I told you, lost all my notes because my stupid My Documents folder decided that it wants to forget all about my previous history and start afresh to synch...). said that the adoption of energy efficiency standards by California means that the energy usage per citizen has now leveled off compared to other states. But if you think about it, the lesson from this is to start imposing energy standards more and more, get people challenged to be smarter about their energy usage. So while the usage will rise, but it will level off at some point!, interesting, no?

So I went looking for some data. What does this tell you? Well, it did make me go hmmmm. We are actually seeing a dip in the energy consumption per capita in North and South America, albeit from a relatively high level. Delving deeper into North America, Canada and Mexico are showing an increase while, very surprisingly, USA is dipping down and decreasing. How curious. 40 countries out of 134 countries actually showed a dip in energy consumption between 2000 and 2003. Some of them were obviously banana republics which were facing economic downturns such as Zimbabwe, or contractions such as Argentina, Ivory Coast, Bolivia, Eritrea, etc.

But what explains this reduction for countries as varied as Belgium, Brazil, Australia, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, UAE, United Kingdom and USA? Can it be that despite increasing populations, their energy efficiency is improving? Dont take my word for it, check out the data. It is from the IEA even, so would be ok as well. Population information from the United Nations.

The next topic was the most interesting one, so I will put up another dedicated post for it. Came out to grab a coffee before going back in and saw that the sky was cloudy, the KL Tower was nearly hidden under clouds. Unfortunately, all the photographs with the top of the tower hidden did not come out, but hope you can make out the onion dome in the back being hazy in the mist.

One of the living legends of the internet age, Dr Vinton Cerf, Vice-president & Chief Internet Evangelists, Google, spoke on the topic of "Tracking the Internet into the 21st Century". This was the final presentation of the WCIT and the entire hall was absolutely crowded, people were standing on the aisles waiting to hear that great man.

He talked about the future of the internet. Said that the internet penetration around the world is strange. Asia, Middle East and Africa are bad or low or both. Only 20% of the world is connected. He used the World Population Reports from the UN about the 2300 figures and displayed them, some interesting rises and dips. I presume he is talking about this report. See the graph on page 19 of the report. High scenario shows a horrifying 36 billion people on the planet, with a medium one of less than 10 billion. Bloody interesting report but this is not the place to go into it.

He talked about how only 20% are connected to the internet and more will grow. Incidentally, I found it much easier to observe him up on the main screen rather than watch him on the far left. Which begs the question, if this was webcast, then I wouldn't have traveled to Malaysia.... (theoretical question...). Which made me go off into a different train of thought.

My facebook, orkut, myspace, etc. accounts are nothing but very primitive clones of myself. I cannot be everywhere, so my primitive clones operate on my behalf. Just like my email system does and my voicemail system does. As a matter of fact, my home is also a sort of a clone. It has an address which is independent of me. People can communicate with me on an asynchronous basis and I can get back to them whenever. So when people are writing something on my facebook wall, are they communicating with me? or with my clone?

Say I have an active Second Life account. Is that me or is that my clone? Or both? I feed those clones with information and they act/react based upon my preferences. So I can be in another place via my robot/clone and get back information to me when it is convenient to me. I do not have to be face to face with you to get information. You can email/voicemail me and I can pick it up at my convenience.

If I communicate with my son online in Second Life via both our avatars while we are both across the world, am I still his father? to what extent? How about love? Can I show my love to him? via that medium? How does he know that it is me? Or if I was seeing Dr. Cerf across the world on a webcast, how would I know it is him? Just because somebody said so? identity problems galore. Does this mean that more friends you have, more your identify is confirmed? Like an amazon or ebay seller, more positive recommendations, the better is the identity and better is the trust. What do I do when I am dealing with a financial institution? Curiously, microcredit or microfinance rests on this premise, it lends money to people on the basis of guarantors from their community. So a person has to be social and know people and be trusted by them in order to get money. Bit different from my neural network Kohonen map based credit scoring model, eh? But I digress.

He talked about IPv6 (a network address for every device on this planet and then some, even some for your socks..), better search engines. He said something that I will come back to, he said that the monetisation and earning potential online will be less and the current business models will have to change.

He also talked about BIT rot, how on earth will you manage to open a Powerpoint 1997 file in Windows 3000? Forget about that old a problem, here is my problem. I wanted to dig out some research that I had done way back in 1990. I did not have the files here in London so had to wait till I got back to home and went to poked through my old cupboard. Besides the nostalgic kick, I finally found the floppy disks. 5 1/4 inch floppy disks to be precise. I have also operated the 8 inch floppy disk but well, the data that I had was in two formats, Lotus 1-2-3 and dbase. I remember sitting back on my haunches, looking at the dusty pile of floppies, and thinking back to those hours and days that I spent in typing in the financial data of the companies and did the basic analysis. Do you know, I even managed to calculate multiple regression on the damn things in there? Anyway, for all purposes, that data is now lost to me. I do not have a floppy drive anywhere near me, none of the 4 home pc's have it. I have an old laptop which has a floppy drive but it is 8 1/2 inch drive, not the older 5 1/4th inch drive. So I am stiffed.

Fast forward today. Financial institutions are supposed to keep data for up to 10 years. So your transactions and your records are supposed to be kept nicely and carefully within the firm for 10 years. Now the transactions are processed, on an average, via 10 odd applications. There can be many more depending upon the country and product but just think about it, 10 applications, multiple operating systems, multiple upgrades, multiple hardware requirements, multiple network systems, multiple servers, so many different types of technology stacks, and we have to maintain a record of this. Within 5 years, it becomes a major issue to keep up to date with technology, we are talking about 100's of years? No bloody way.

Museums are now struggling with electronic art. I could have taken those disks to a museum but they are also facing problems. Here's a great paper written in 2001 and the problem has become even worse now.

He also talked about the inter-planetary internet. That just blew my mind away but it needs much more thought before I can write more about it, its not fully comprehended yet. Anyway, he got a standing ovation at the end. I ran to attend his Q&A after getting distracted by an email, but still managed to get to the hall to ask him a question. I asked him, you have talked so much about what will happen in 2035 and 2300, the physical shape of the internet, the devices, the penetration rates, and and and. What do you think would be the value system, the monetary framework, the price formation or who will pay for it all? It was obvious that I had asked a wrong question immediately because it did not go anywhere fast. I did ask some follow up questions, but he is a great man, he had to rush off to meet somebody else.

This is my problem. I am supposed to think about what's going to happen in 5 years time in the financial world. This is what I am seeing currently. People who are in the 15-25 years of age category, the great unwashed herd who will be our future employees and customers, are not that well versed in value creation online. And why would they be? Look at what kids do online these days. He watches movies, plays songs, plays games, chats with people, participates in joint coding, and so on and so forth. Almost all of this is free or stolen. His email is free, his programming language is free, songs and movies are free, his video is from YouTube, his chatting is free via text and messenger, his voice is free over VoIP. So all these assets that these kids are using, they are all free at this moment.

So I am most certainly not surprised that they do not know the value of online assets. So when you ask them, how much are you worth? or how much will you work for? or how much do you wish to charge for your ideas? or how much funding will you need for your great online idea? no idea. And that is the issue that I am struggling with. In 5 or 10 years, the link between physical work, money and online assets will be inextricably broken. So how much would I pay a coder? How much would Microsoft pay a programmer when most online assets are free?

My son said something to me today that completely blew me away. He said that he will go create some online jewels and armour in World of Warcraft as birthday gifts for his friend who lives 5 houses down. No money, no nothing, just pure and simple virtual asset formation, entertainment and happiness increased but with no reference to money at all. Deeply worrying.

So to go back to Dr. Cerf, on what basis will anybody pay for a book in 2300? or a share in the company making Windows 3000? or the ability to write code? Or to create a powerpoint presentation? I do not have an answer, but I didn't get one either. I will be struggling with this as part of my job as well, but I am seriously not sure what the answer is. We saw some amazing valuation modeling during the internet boom. But they did put a value on an intangible asset, no? It was a bad value, but a value none the less. Also goes to the heart of what Mark to Market is all about. If this is all too philosophical, think about this, my son is happier getting a World of Warcraft spell rather than an intricately carved wooden box which I got for him.....Should I have gone to the local electronic fair in Kuala Lumpur and bought a user-id/password for him instead? How would I judge what is a fair amount to pay? I have no idea whatsoever. No reference points at all.

That brought me to the end of the conference. The last day, Thursday, was a trip to Cyberjaya and Putrajaya, the IT and administrative hubs of the country, but dont think that fits in here, so you can see some pictures here.  I have also written another essay on my observations on Malaysia and that should be published soon as well. End of the day, fascinating indeed and perhaps it was appropriate that that brought my professional career stint with technology to an end, now its moving back into the front office. But technology will remain with me, either with my shareholder, customer or employees. Food for thought, will try to attend the next one in 2010 in Amsterdam.

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Typically, the Tory propensity for corruption emerges

The Tories in the United Kingdom face a bit of a problem with corruption. Make that a very big problem, and until and unless David Cameron is ferociously hard on these locusts and corrupt leeches, he will be faced with the possibility that he will remain the head of the heartless cold hypocritical self righteous tories.

Take this week for example, three heads of people who are supposed to be good and clear above minor basic stupid moronic theft and corruption are found to be so. One is the head of the Conservative Party Chairman and the second is the head of the Conservative MEPs and third is the Tory chief whip in Brussels leader. THAT is the problem, the rot starts at the top. Clamp down, Mr. Cameron, clamp down on this theft and bad behaviour, we deserve better leaders, not loose people like this, we want good solid well respected leaders.

I dont really care about the in's and out's of individual cases, but the basic fact remains that members of parliament have been fiddling with expenses and who will promise to have clean hands? That's the problem, all these MP's have basically corrupt souls, do we have a Hercules for these Augean Stables?

Here's a great innovative idea

Check this out. I quote:

A German nursing home has come up with a novel idea to stop Alzheimer's patients from wandering off: a phantom bus stop.

The bus stop, in front of the Benrath Senior Centre in the western city of Düsseldorf, is an exact replica of a standard stop, with one small difference: buses never stop there.

The idea emerged after the centre was forced to rely on police to retrieve patients who wanted to return to their homes and families but had forgotten that in many cases neither existed any longer.

“It sounds funny,” said Old Lions Chairman Franz-Josef Goebel, “but it helps. Our members are 84 years-old on average. Their short-term memory hardly works at all, but the long-term memory is still active. They know the green and yellow bus sign and remember that waiting there means they will go home.” The result is that errant patients now wait for their trip home at the bus stop, before quickly forgetting why they were there in the first place.

“We will approach them and say that the bus is coming later today and invite them in to the home for a coffee,” said Mr Neureither. “Five minutes later they have completely forgotten they wanted to leave.” The idea has proved so successful that it has now been adopted by several other homes across Germany.

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