Monday, December 18, 2006

The cloud (aka "the 'net") is the machine

This past week, with my usual round of messages enticing me to visit the cheapest pharmacies online, seeking my assistance to transfer squillions of dollars (in unmarked USD 1.00 bills I hope), the hottest stockmarket tips, offers to give me a PhD because of my outstanding work experience, guaranteed results in increasing the size of certain parts of my anatomy and the usual slate of tech news and updates I got one announcing the beta release of Ajaxpresents. This lets one open, edit and save "Presentations" in Microsoft's .ppt format, and follows a bunch of other products which do similar for Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Visio/Illustrator/Freehand drawings and another thats plays music.

I guess this is the continued evolution of the Internet, where applications are now readily available to run from the 'net, and the cloud is the machine now (or at least getting there - and at a great rate of knots). Perhaps the future is low power handheld devices with a reasonable sized display which will be an embedded browser with WiFi (or its successor) connectivity, which will be all that is needed to do most computing tasks. With a web-based VoIP application (which are already here), this device is also your phone, heck lets call it a MCD - Multimedia Communications Device. Goes without saying that readily available bandwidth will be the key to success. With interest by cities around the world to install metropolitan wireless access (sometimes free) the infrastructure is getting there. Interesting times lie ahead.

Friday, November 03, 2006

IGF 2006: Reflections on IGF Athens 2006

Well IGF 2006 is over and done with. It has been an interesting week. My impressions? Well for the most part (a consensus agreed to by just about everyone I talked to) IGF has been the same people saying the same thing all over again, except in a different city. A lot of the same old agenda's were being pushed by the same bunch of people. Perhaps what is needed is some fresh blood and some new faces to bring about some fresh ideas (and hopefully real and practical progress).

The concluding session was basically a round of thank you's to all and sundry. Speaker 1 thanked everyone and said what a great week it was, Speaker 2 thanked Speaker 1 and everyone else and agreed what a great week it was. Speaker 3 thanked Speaker 1 and Speaker 2 and everyone else and agreed what a great week it get the idea.

Did IGF achieve anything? Yes and No. I'll do the "No" bits first. The workshops were pretty much a disaster. There was a complete lack of focus and speakers were drifting all over the place with what they had to say, except of course the workshop theme. There was just way too much drift from what the published workshop theme was, and what was actually discussed. Also alarming were some statements being made in workshops, one of which was that content should be censored not at the edge but within the network and a further supporting statement saying that NGN was the way to achieve this. There seems to be a concerted attempt to add credibility to NGN from this context of content regulation (which I consider to be plain marketing gimmick - it does not really offer anything what the Internet does not already have - see my earlier post on NGN). There was also the China bashing and an attempt by a workshop moderator in the main session (I can't remember his name but I think he was from The Economist) to draw Vint Cerf into the old ICANN debate. The biggest issue I guess is that IGF has "no teeth" so I am uncertain as to how things are to progress. It will require a helluva lot of co-operation, consensus, goodwill and flexibility by all stakeholders to make real and meaningful progress.

Now to the "Yes" bits. From an ISOC perspective, the various side meetings during IGF did much to forge new relationships between Chapters and to reinforce old relationships. What was lacking from ISOC was focus on what Chapters should be doing at meetings such as this, and there needs to be a strategy in place so optimum use of Chapter resources are made. Indication from other (non-ISOC world) delegates suggest side meetings with other participants probably achieved (for a good number of them at least) more than what the IGF itself did. These include commercial and non-commercial collaboration, which is great IMO. One thing IGF did achieve was a lessening of the demarcation normally seen at UN-type meetings – there were no specific tables with country names in the spotlight, however there were designated “government” seats in the prime location during the opening, but at least overall this is a positive move towards the red herring called “open multi-stakeholder process”. There is also the issue of IGF having “no teeth”, which has a good and bad side. Bad because there is no “outcome as such” to follow, but good that if there were an outcome, it could have potentially been hijacked by one group. The key now is to nurture the development of IGF as an entity to become a real and recognised forum which stimulates dialogue, collaboration and consensus, and promotes and works toward practical and not philosophical thoughts and actions.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

IGF 2006: Chair's round-up session

This morning was the Chair's round-up session for workshops. Some of the Chair's pretty much lost the plot and went into long drawn out rhetoric reading reports. I kept mine short and simple, highlighting the need to keep things practical, and consideration been given to the needs of remote communities at future IGFs, which includes communities in mountainous regions and other similar disparate areas. I was pleased that Nitin Desai, the IGF Chairman, picked up on this issue for remote communities in his overall summary later. My work (at least in the IGF 2006 context is done).

I also highlighted another favourite topic of mine - global warming - if our islands don't exist with a rise in sea levels, then what the IGF is all about, and what it is trying to achieve would be of no consequence to us. I saw a lot of nodding heads in the audience as I was speaking, so hopefully what I was saying was hitting home (unless of course these were attempts to shake off the effects of last night's drinking.....)

The full text of what I said follows:

Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Rajnesh Singh from the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society. I am here to speak very briefly on what we discussed on ICT to Achieve MDGs and in particular, on issues facing small island states and developing economies. Our workshop was intended to highlight real issues facing small island states and developing economies, and what we hoped we would do is promote a bit of awareness and understanding of real world issues that we face. We hope through that that we fuel some discussion amongst stakeholders and that these stakeholders will then interact with us to work out what we need to do. Dr. Cerf was one of our panelists at the workshop and he said to really understand the issues facing small island states one has to physically visit the islands. Having a philosophical approach is fine, but unless and until you see what actually goes on in the islands, then only will you be able to appreciate what challenges we face. Just to add to that, I would also like to highlight the effects of global warming. If our islands do not exist, then all that we are doing here is of no consequence to us. I would also like to suggest that apart from island states, there are also some communities, perhaps in mountainous regions, that face similar issues to us, and we would like the IGF to consider for future meetings whether they could consider a specific focus on what needs to be done for these remote communities, be it in the islands, up in the mountains or wheresoever. Thank you very much, sir.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

IGF 2006: Should it be Internet Facilitation Forum instead of Internet Governance Forum?

I am sitting in the Wednesday Summing Up session which reviews yesterday's workshops and discussions. Vint Cerf intervened and suggested that the event has been titled wrong - it should perhaps be the Internet Facilitation Forum, not the Internet Governance Forum. This is an interesting suggestion. Indeed much of what is being discussed here is indeed more "facilitation" then "governance", keeping in mind that this forum has no actual "teeth" and is more for dialogue.

IGF 2006: PICISOC Workshop - ICT to Achieve MDGs

The PICISOC organised workshop was on Wednesday afternoon. Having done the workshop round over the past 2 days I was a bit worried that we may have limited numbers in attendance. However I was pleasantly surprised to get the headcount. A peak of around 80 attendees which makes it one of the better attended ones (some I went to organised by some "big names" had less than 10 in attendance).

We had a good and diverse line-up of speakers, something which I worked hard at in the limited time I had in pulling speakers together. Of course, we had our superstar, Vint Cerf, who kindly agreed to participate, and I guess some came just to hear and interact with him ;)

Other speakers included Bria McElroy from the Centre for Women and IT from the University of Maryland who very kindly agreed to come at very short notice, Keith Davidson from Internet NZ, Alex Ntoko from ITU, Mike Johnstone from Samoatel, Luke Phipps from VIA Technologies and Tai Purcell. Jovan Kurbalija from Diplo moderated the session whilst I chaired it. I started off with an introduction of the theme and what we hoped to achieve followed by Vint sharing his thoughts on the theme. We then launched into each speaker sharing their thoughts and a round-up by each. With the limited amount of time available for the workshop, there was only so much we could do with the workshop. At the very least, I hope we stimulated a bit of discussion on the topic and stakeholders continue this in the future. My emphasis was that we need practical outcomes and solutions, not philosophical ones (there is a tendency to have too much philosophical crap when it comes to the needs of small island and developing states). Where we go from here remains to be seen.

My slides from the workshop are available here and an audio recording of the workshop is available here (with thanks to Franck). The quality in the first half is a bit suspect, but improves in the second half, once some issues were ironed out.

IGF 2006: ISOC/GIPI Local Access Workshop

Tuesday was the start of the workshops at IGF with the ISOC/GIPI one first off the block. There was a fairly large and diverse line-up of speakers, and all pretty much spoke on different issues. I spoke on "Access Challenges in the Pacific". Slides from my presentation are available here.

The Workshop was well attended. The unfortunate bit is that there are upto 4 concurrent sessions running, which does not help those wanting to attend sessions which clash.

IGF 2006: A worrying thought

Sitting in on a Workshop titled "Content Regulation and Access" it was worrying to note that some were suggesting that "NGN" is the solution, as it can be "controlled" as and if necessary. In an earlier post I said that for all real intents and purposes, the Internet is the NGN. And "content control" is already available - be it denying freedom of expression (which is already being used by many) or blocking things like pornographic content. The notion of "content control/(child) pornogaphy control" should not be used as a tool to legitimise what is essentially a marketing gimmick.

IGF 2006: Defeated by Blogspot

My regular updates from IGF have been dealt a severe blow. Submissions using Blogspot's email engine has had the sh--s, so I have to resort to manual submissions, and with the generally unstable network at IGF this is getting hard. I will have to bulk upload later I guess.....apologies in advance to those looking for regular updates.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

IGF 2006: The Great IGF Conspiracy?

Here's a thought doing the rounds amongst some bloggers: make the wireless so bad that bloggers can't post till well after the event.........

I (along with I suspect hundreds of others) am absolutely frustrated by the network access, so much so that I decided to not even bother connecting for much of today...

Monday, October 30, 2006

IGF 2006: How not to organise a Conference

Having organised some conferences in the past, what I see at IGF Athens is total disorganisation. At least the simple things like getting an information pack should be easy enough to organise. So what we had were scores of people walking around aimlessly like headless chooks. The excuse that its a large conference to organise just does not hold water. There are some basic things that need to happen (one would be some semblance of an agenda). It is also obvious that there are some people who are more equal than others. Some know a lot about the conference and its arrangements, some know two-tenths of nothing. Very disappointing - I would have thought the people organising would have some experience in these sort of events, or at least plain common sense.

IGF 2006: The Opening

Well its some 1 hour past the scheduled opening and we are still waiting.

I also understand there are some 600 people who will not be able to enter the room for the opening because it can seat only 800 and you need a magic pass to enter.....and some participants are more equal than others from my limited I type this, I glance at some of the themes: Access, Openness....hmmmmmm.......but then again I a just a card-carrying cynic.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

IGF 2006: Arriving in Athens and Registering

Well made it to Athens in one piece, and so did my luggage, which I checked-in from Fiji to Athens. Managed to find the cleverly hidden IGF desk at the Airport and after waiting for another hour or so, got bundled into a bus to the Hotel. Check-in was relatively painless and the sleep much needed. Next morning (29th) off to Divani Appollon, the conference venue. Got an ID card and that's about it. "More information to be provided later" was the message.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Journey Begins

Left home at 5am Friday, expecting to reach Athens some 50 hours later on Sunday via Seoul, Korea and Frankfurt, Germany. The things we do for the Internet ;)

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Enemy Within

This past week I read, with utter disbelief, that the Government of Iran has decided to limit Internet access speed to 128kbps (apparently higher speeds are available only if filtered). In an era when everyone (well I guess not exactly everyone now) is moving towards greater Internet availability, there are some who are quite happy to stifle this. Its also quite interesting that this has come just some 2 weeks before the Big Fat Greek Meeting (aka Internet Governance Forum or IGF) is set to convene in Athens. And as one trawls the IGF site, the schedule themes include: Access and Openness. From the news report, this action by the Iranian Government is to counter local political dissent and western influence. In a podcast from The World a commentator also suggests its a method to prevent Iranians boys from seeking girlfriends online (and vice versa). I guess the day when restricting Internet access will lead to a reduction in global warming (hmmmmm....), prevent AIDS and increase the socio-economic status of all citizens must not be far off..........

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Big Fat Greek Meeting

I am off to Greece at the end of the coming week for what some of us are (fondly?!) calling "The Big Fat Greek Meeting". Mere mortals call this the Internet Governance Forum or IGF Athens 2006. This is an outcome of the WSIS process and it will be interesting to see how effective this will be (as opposed to being just another a talk-shop). Some say this will be history in the making, I for one, and being a card-carrying cynic, will reserve my judgement for later.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

NGN - huh?!

The buzz word in the telco world and elsewhere at the moment is NGN - Next (New) Generation Networks. Just about every telco meeting has this somewhere in the agenda and like robots most who attend agree that is the way of the future and they will adopt and must work towards it, blah blah blah blah.

STOP! What is NGN? You really want to know? Its the Internet - plain and simple. All NGN is dreamt up to be, how it (will) work, etc. etc. is already implemented in the Internet or more specifically the Internet Protocol. They all say NGN will be on an IP core (or similar words). Why not cut the crap and call NGN by its real name - INTERNET.

Of course its important for the vendors to leverage a new buzz word they can sell.......the Internet is just not the right word as they can't really "sell it", or its technology to their intended audience, good ol' marketing strategies at work. Then there are others who want to safeguard their position and status and need to call the Internet by another name so they can continue with their bureacratic rubbish. And unfortunately the robots will go along with all this. Hopefully some robots have better firmware and will take notice and call a spade a spade (instead of NGS or some other fancy buzzword defined as a tool for digging). Then again I am just a cynic.....

Thursday, October 05, 2006

IPv6 Forum Pacific Islands

Well we launched the Pacific Islands Chapter of the IPv6 Forum this week.

The IPv6 Forum promotes the adoption and deployment of IPv6 and its ensuing benefits on a global scale. For a while now, folks in the Pacific Islands have talked about IPv6, but no one has really taken any steps towards doing much. Asking if someone intends to deploy IPv6 is perhaps not enough.

In my opinion what was required was a body to primarily disseminate useful and timely information and actively encourage IPv6 adoption, where the target is all sectors, not just the technical community. Whilst the technical community will deploy, its the Users (in all shapes and forms) who have driven the rapid expansion of the Internet, and hopefully the same will hold true for IPv6. So the idea is we have wide and open multi-stakeholder participation in the Forum - no closed door or by invitation only meetings here!

I do expect some mumbling in some quarters about the IPv6 Forum Pacific Islands, where some will say why PICISOC members are driving this, and to them I say "the last time I checked, the 'I' in 'IP' stood for 'Internet', and the IPv6 Forum has been around for 7 years so you have had more than enough time to pick up the ball and run with it. Now its up and and we are running, so come and join us and let's work towards making it happen".

We are also working on on the first Pacific Islands IPv6 Summit (including training sessions), and are also in the process of setting up an international advisory panel. We will shortly write to stakeholders in the region to participate in the Forum's activities as well. Let's see how interested other stakeholders are in working together and making it all happen.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ooh Ooh Ubuntu!

I got a new notebook PC recently and had to make some hard decisions on which Linux distro to use (I dual boot with Windows and Linux). I have been through a couple of distros over the years including Red Hat, Lindows (I liked that name!), Mandrake, Fedora, before settling on SuSE for my desktop (I currently use Mandrake on servers). I intended to use Mandrake on the new notebook to match my servers. 5 minutes into the installation, Mandrake died. It appears Mandrake 2006 which I was using did not like the dual core CPUs. Tried again with another set of CDs to no avail. I had heard a lot about Ubuntu so thought would try that before going with SuSE (which has always
had good driver support).

Ooh Ooh Ubuntu was indeed my first reaction. And what a breath of fresh air this distro is. Installation was quick and painless and everything worked first go, including the wireless card and it also got the screen resolution (widescreen) right. For the first time I actually liked the Gnome desktop as well. Updating and adding software is a no brainer with the package manager, and the various repositories seem to have everything I suddenly need. Ubuntu 6.06 is definitely very very nice and I hope it continues being so with future releases. I am also thinking of installing an Ubuntu server now as well. I understand 6.10 will come with preset choices for things like mail servers (6.06 has a preset LAMP install only), which will make it easy for those new to Linux. I am also thinking of deploying Ubuntu on some of the desktops in the office as I think Linux in its Ubuntu form is nearly ready for the corporate world.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hail Jimmie!

This morning I went to a video conference at SPC themed around communications access for remote/rural areas. Jimmie Rodgers, SPC Director-General, spoke about many things, and once again, as he did during PacINET 2006 in Samoa, he highlighted the sometimes lack of political will and real leadership in the Pacific. He also made a strong statement on telecom monopolies and regulation in the Pacific, and the impact they have on development issues. He suggested that countries take a long hard look at their monopolistic regulatory framework and assess the real impact this has on economic and social development. He also stated that having a digital strategy as part of the pacific plan did not mean much when there was no real committment by all stakeholders in seeing it through. Kudos to you again Jimmie. I said last year before he got appointed as SPC's Director-General that he was the right person for the job, and re-iterate again he is indeed the right person for the job; and is leading the charge from the front unlike others who tend to cloak and dagger behind bureaucratic and political smoke screens.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reflections on Samoa

The only thing consistent about taxi fares in Apia is their inconsistency - wildly varying rates from point A to point B. On the night we left, We booked a taxi to take us to the Airport. Earlier in the week I had asked one of the taxi vans I used how much it was to go to the Airport from the hotel. He told me $52 and I took his card. I tried calling him several times during the day of departure and he did not respond, so I booked another taxi (who quoted $50). On the night the new guy I booked apparently mentioned to the him that he was taking a group to the Airport and straight away the first guy gets upset with the new guy saying he is supposed to be taking us. I told them to sort it out as I had booked the second guy as the first gave no response. Anyway they sorted themselves out and the first guy ended up taking us. At the Airport he wanted $62 - I told him to take a hike. After several minutes of arguing, he took the $52 and wished us a pleasant flight. Moral of the story - stand your ground!

Other than that Apia is a nice little town (actually one of the larger in the Pacific) to visit. The locals are generally friendly, though some come across as indifferent. If you are the religious type (of the Christian faith), then there are Churches galore for you. Food is expensive in the restaurants and my general impression is that hotels are also a bit on the expensive side. Well worth a visit though, and the beaches on the other side of Upolu are OK, even saw some decent waves off-shore so surfing may be possible as well (I did see many surfboards on top of cars). And there is a McDonalds in town if all else fails cuisine wise (and they are open later than most of the other restaurants). If visiting for R&R then head to one of the resorts outside of Apia. I went to Sinalei Resort and that is quite nice.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Last Day in Apia

Today I did a bit of shopping with my better half in town and then spent the afternoon at CSL talking about VoIP and other technologies the company I work for is engaged in selling. It was a bit of a change from the past week to get into commerical mode again.....the evening was dinner at a Japanese restaurant accompanied by the last couple of bottles of Vailima, the local brew and then off to the Airport to catch our flight back home!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 6

I started off this morning's session with Wolf on GIS and then handed over to Franck to chair the rest of the day as I had to catch up on some work and spend some time with some of the delegates who wanted to talk with me privately. There were FOSS and WIT workshops before lunch, where it appears we now have a FOSS SIG as well. I am a bit concerned with the WIT SIG as they seem to have lost the plot in the pre-workshop forum, and listening in to a bit of their deliberations, it seems nothing much has changed. It would be a bit silly for a man to tell a Women in Technology SIG what they are all about and I hope they pull their socks up, focus and get their act together.

The afternoon saw the IPv6 tutorial by Miwa Fujii from APNIC. This went well and also provided an overview of APNIC and what it does. For the technical ones amongst the audience it was probably a bit too simplistic, but still a good introduction. We look forward to doing such tutorials within the larger ISOC family. I stressed Miwa a bit on IPv6 address range allocations for small island countries - hey someone had to do it!

The PacINET 2007 round-up session was good and I had been speaking with various delegates throughout the conference on their thoughts and view of the conference, and there was positive feedback all around. I have not received anything negative so far. Next year we intend to split the conference into a technical and non-technical stream so that all tastes are catered for, and the techies can come just to attend the technical bits. Its hard for an organisation to have their system admins away for over a week. The evening was low key (some called it an anti-climax after the stress of the past week) but it was good to wind down. Tommorrow we are off on a beach picnic to the other side of the island for a bit of R&R.

PacINET 2006 Day 5

The morning started off with a bang on a contentious issue for most telecom carriers and governments in the Pacific - VoIP. Franck demonstrated Asterisk and the lessons they at SOPAC learnt from replacing their traditional PBX with a full IP based one. I followed with a brief on VoIP and explained VoIP and how they are applied in traditional environments. Naturally this included issues which freak telcos - toll bypass......

Vint and I left shortly after for more PR visits at a Special Education school and then lunch at Sinalei Resort on the other side of Upolu. Not a bad place at all, except it was blowing nigh a gale so we had fun holding down the table and the contents on it. On the way back we called in to SPREP where we were given a brief of their activities and Vint briefed them on and its sponsorship of various issues including the environment. Vint also wanted a new software tool he recently discovered that presented data in a timescale manner - quite interesting as it gives an overview of change through time. It was quite funny that SPREP thought Vint was there to sell them the software and were a bit taken aback I suppose when Vint said the software was free! We returned to the conference venue afterwards where I smuggled Vint into a private room so he could do some work undisturbed. I then returned to the main session room to catch up on a bit of work.

The evening saw the official farewell dinner and Vint was presented the usual round of gifts to take back. On behalf of PICISOC, I presented the PM of Samoa with a WiFi SIP VoIP Phone to a round of applause from the attendees - let's see if this leads to VoIP being legalised! Vint chipped in to say that the phone came with batteries but needed the regulatory framework to work.........we had an impressive display of fire-dancing by the Samoans which was fun. Earlier we had also toured the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, the venue for the dinner, which was quite interesting in itself.

After a whole lot of dancing (and getting the band to sing happy birthday for Alisi from Forum Secretariat) Vint, Gunjan and I went back to the hotel to help Vint pack all his stuff as he was leaving later than night. We were quite impressed with ourselves as we managed to squeeze a whole lot of stuff into not a very big box. Afterwards we were off to the Airport (and Vint was back in his usual impeccable tailoring - rather than the island shirts he was in for the last couple of days). We spent a bit of time chatting in the VIP lounge before seeing him off on the tarmac to board his flight. After he got on the plane, there was an audible sigh of relief from the assembled members of the Samoan OrgCom and back to the hotel for a few hours sleep as it was around 3am by the time we got back.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 4

Today began with the sad announcement that Keith Davidson's (InternetNZ) father had passed away so Keith had to return to NZ. Our thoughts are with Keith and his family.

As Keith was supposed to be first up today, I had to put in something else to fill his slot. My victim was John Crain, CTO, ICANN. I asked John to come to PacINET quite late - a last minute thing and kudos to him for making the effort to come down. I also got him to do several pretty much impromptu presentations through his stay, including filling Keith's slot with a presentation on DNS. The morning was spent on discussing Internet issues. Desiree Miloshevic also came down to Samoa and she covered Network Neutrality, which was an interesting perspective. The net neutrality debate is rearing its ugly head in the Pacific as well and is a worry. Resistance must not be futile.....

This morning I received confirmation from ISOC on funding for a project I want to run - a baseline survey of Internet in the Pacific. I shared the news first with Vint Cerf which resulted in a bit of happy back-slapping where I was the victim. My project will be available on

Harry McConnell was kindly back with us this year and we did a video link-up with him in Brisbane and 2 of his colleagues in Los Angeles. The session was interesting and we hope to continue this as a regular part of PacINET.

Next was an impromptu roundtable where I chose 2 teams (one for, one against) of 3 members from the audience present to debate a topic of my choice (which I provided after selecting the teams). Six brave members were given the topic "Censorship on the Internet" to debate. After some intense statements and a round of rebuttals my winning choice (in terms of the arguments presented) was the for team, however I personally do not condone censorship of the Internet and am against it.

I spent the afternoon on some PR visits and meetings with Vint so missed the PacINET sessions, but I understand the presentations were well received. The evening was spent at a private dinner with conference sponsors and the private sector. Some interesting discussion ensued on local politics, the Pacific and with lots of diversity in the range - we even covered global warming, melting ice shelves, wine, and, naturally, ICT and Internet issues.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 3

Vint and Miss Samoa made the headlines and front page of this morning's newspaper :)

During a breakfast meeting, Vint and I continued where we left off last night and then headed off to the conference venue which today was at the National University of Samoa. Today was the big show and tell day. The Prime Minister of Samoa led the introduction of Vint who then presented his keynote on the state of the Internet and what the future holds. Jimmie Rodgers, SPC Director-General followed Vint, and he had some bold and candid comments to make on the state of the Pacific and the lack of political will by some Pacific leaders. Last year I said, Jimmie was the right person for the position he now holds, and I reiterate the statement this year. We need more leaders like him.

The PacINET Forum discussed how we can build the Digital Pacific. We heard several perspectives from panellists (who were from varied backgrounds and areas of expertise) covering policy, political, technical and social impacts and challenges. The conclusion I drew was that it is important to use appropriate technology, and sometimes the fastest and biggest is not necessarily the best solution. We need to have cheaper and wider access to broadband technologies, and must seriously consider aggregation of available bandwidth to ensure we truly move towards a digital pacific, and to an information or knowledge based society. Broadcast radio is also an important tool in achieving this and sometimes we forget that broadcast radio is king in the Pacific, and we must find new ways to use this to meet the digital pacific objectives. Vint Cerf summarised this as "novel and new use of old delivery mechanisms". Overall the forum was interesting and there was interactive between the panellists and audience as well as the webcast audience.

The afternoon saw the PICISOC AGM. There was an address by Vint to the AGM followed by the usual stuff. Of interest is the establishment of various new SIGs including IPv6 and New Media amongst others. Solomon Islands will host PacINET 2007 in Honiara in August. The involvement of Pacific Island countries in ICANN's GAC was also emphasised. The AGM concluded without any major drama.

The evening saw Vint and myself at a private dinner with the Samoan Prime Minister and selected Government officials. Some interesting discussions and let's see how they play out.

Cerf's Up in Samoa

Vint Cerf was accorded VIP status by the Samoan Government. This also meant he got a VIP car and a security escort, which was interesting. As well as priority access on and off the plane and access to the VIP lounge, etc. etc. As his "chaperone" and sidekick during his stay I was also offered the same priviledges which I found quite amusing. I and the welcome party (which happened to include Miss Samoa) got access to the tarmac so we could get to him as soon as he got out of the plane. We were expecting him to be one of the first off the plane, but this wasn't so and there was a bit of worry in the welcome party whether he was on the plane or not. I had been in touch with him as he sat at various airports en route so knew he would be in it somewhere. Then I got a glimpse of a 3-piece suit and pointed him out to Miss Samoa (and she got really excited) and the rest of the welcome party. It was good to see him again and welcomed him to Samoa followed by a scramble to get hold of his baggage claim ticket and passport so this could be priority cleared by the OrgCom whilst he enjoyed the company of Miss Samoa and the traditional dancers. In the VIP lounge was also the Czech Ambassador who was on a courtesy call to Samoa. Turns out he had an IT background and immediately recognised Vint which basically led to an intense photo session (with a video cam thrown in for good measure). After all this (and picking up Vint's bags) we headed off toward Apia and Aggie Grey's Hotel where we both were staying. En route I briefed him on what was planned for the 3 days he was in Samoa. At Aggie Grey's Hotel, he got the presidential suite, which was quite nice. I ended up spending another 3 hours in a meeting with all the excitement and in-depth discussions, we forgot the main topic - world domination!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 2

Yesterday evening's CROP-ICT meeting was perhaps the best attended in recent times. There is some talk about the direction this should take. Currently it is policy only. What I think it needs is some teeth to bite. The evening function was good with many merrily indulging in the local brew, and the obligatory unco-ordinated dancing (or attempts to dance), yours truly included. I also made the front page of the local newspaper with a picture of me and the Samoan PM (in full colour!) with the headline: "Bridging the Digital Divide". Hmmm.........

Today we had a parallel session with the mapserver maniacs being shut in a room with Franck.....scary :) The main session was themed around e-Pacific. Don's presentation of a day in the life of an ICT enabled Pacific village was interesting as usual, but I wonder when we will see that day. I hope it is in the very near future. Other presentations covered what was happening with various projects in the Pacific as well as Prof. Saga with his presentation on Japan's policies and activities on ICT and linkage to the Pacific Islands. Unfortunately Don had to leave the conference due to a family emergency. We will miss his input (as well as the several sessions he was involved with). The afternoon session saw the Utilities roundtable and it was great to have Phill Hardstaff back this year. This was followed by an interesting presentation from Katherine O'Callaghan on incident management. This is part of her PhD thesis and apparently PacINET 2006 was the first time it had been introduced outside of her research group. It was good to see some academics turn up this year and I hope this grows. The CROP ICT working group continued in the evening, but I had to go pick Vint Cerf.

Bank on Wheels

One really neat little thing organised by the local OrgCom was the presence of a mobile bank. A van (outfitted with a teller booth, etc.) would drive up during breaks and delegates could take care of their banking needs (e.g. currency exchange, etc.) and this worked really well. Great initiative by the OrgCom and the bank involved.

Monday, August 21, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 1

We kicked off PacINET 2006 this morning. It was interesting to hear from the Prime Minister of Samoa on his thoughts on the need and use of ICT. In an interesting chat with him during the morning break, I found out that he initially saw the potential of and pushed Internet way back in 1995, which would make him one of the pioneers of Internet in the Pacific. John Budden gave an update on the progress of the Digital Strategy and what work is being done in that context. We also learnt about Samoa's ICT progress and their plans in the short-term. The WIT group presented their plans for the Women in Technology workshop later this week. The afternoon was an UNESCO session covering blogging and Fiji's e-chutney project. We also had a review of PacINET 2005 and what positives came out of that for Kiribati. Its pleasing to note that the wireless network installed for the Parliament building is being put to good use. All up the first day has been good, with comments from the floor contributing well to PacINET's objectives. This evening is a CROP-ICT working group meeting followed by an official function hosted by the Prime Minister for PacINET delegates.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

All systems are go

There was a mini-invasion of the conference venue this evening when around 20 of us showed up for preparatory work (and others to have a chat and catch up). The webcast is being engineered now and looks like it will work well (at least we hope it does!).

All looks well for PacINET 2006 and we have the Prime Minister of Samoa launching PacINET 2006 tommorrow morning.

Let's see how PacINET 2006 plays out!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Made it to Samoa

Well we made it to Samoa......and first impression of Apia is that is fact very very clean and general consensus amongst some of us is that its likely the cleanest town/city in the Pacific.....

We spent the afternoon going over the logistics and preparations with the local OrgCom followed by a visit to the venue at the SamoaTel offices. The main room is a bit small - I would have liked to be able to fit in at least a 150 people, but the room can do only around a 100. On the positive side, we have 3 other rooms at our disposal, so the Workshops are well catered for, as well as a private meeting room and space for the conference secretariat.

The Internet is also up.......and we will be working on the webcast tommorrow......

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Off to Samoa

I am off to Samoa this weekend. Its PacINET time again......with Samoa as the host. It is going to be the largest PacINET ever with several Workshops running and 30-odd speakers. More information on PacINET 2006 available here

Its a terrible flight to get to Samoa. Leave Suva at 4pm, get to Nadi around 7:30pm, and attempt to kill hours for the 145am departure.....oh well.....the things we do and the choices we make.........

Friday, August 04, 2006

The New News Medium Part II

The other thing I see quite often now is the use of broadband to deliver (live) news feeds by some of the traditional networks. The quality is so-so with a fair bit of pixelation, but still acceptable by my reckoning......of course an interesting bit of information would be the amount of money these networks are saving by using the Internet to deliver an outdoor broadcast feed. I would imagine the cost of the Internet access would be significantly less than that of say buying satellite segments to broadcast the feed. Needless to say this will lead to some impact to satellite revenue as the quality of video over broadband improves.....and improve it will.........and quickly.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The New News Medium

As I (along with most of the world I suspect) sit transfixed on events unfolding in the Middle East and the probable certainity that Israel will enter Lebanon again, a new trend in news and current affairs journalism is becoming very apparent. Time and again during news and feature bulletins, news networks are emphasising "for the latest log on to our website at.....". I typically watch BBC and CNN the most and both constantly refer viewers to their website for further and updated information. Indeed the Internet is fast becoming the "New News Medium". By this I mean the recognition by major news organisations, such as BBC and CNN, that to deliver content, the Internet is now perhaps (increasingly) the more appropriate and shall I say "more flexible" medium. With broadband availability and uptake on the increase, bandwidth to deliver such content to the user is less of an issue. Recently I had a look at CNN's Pipeline feature which provides up to 4 live video streams and I must say its quite impressive. It is not free though (currently USD 2.95/month and not available in all countries yet), but it does come "commercial free" and subscribing also gives access to video archives. The thought I had whilst looking at all this was that offerings such as these are really much like an extension (or expansion) of good old RSS - except that you get live video feeds of events as they unfold (I sound like an advertisement for a major news network) ;-) .....truly this is continued proof of the evolution of the Internet!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Vishing - a twist to phishing

It appears that a new method of phising is beginning to appear on the horizon, and chances are, likely to explode in the coming months.

Internet users are a bit more wary these days of clicking embedded links in emails so these scamming scounderels are beginning to use phone numbers (typically obtained via a VoIP service provider) to provide a level of comfortability for potential victims. Users are being emailed and asked to call a telephone number to "verify their account information" and, according to news reports, another variation is to configure an automatic phone dialler to dial a list of numbers, and if there is an answer, playback a recorded message saying the users cards had been compromised and to call a supplied telephone number. Call this number and you get asked for various personal information to "verify your account information". And there goes your account.......

This twist to phishing has potential to become a major problem. People tend to be more comfortable speaking on the phone than emailing, and this is the incentive behind using voice calls as a medium. VoIP accounts provide cheap calling rates, and some providers eg. in the US, may also provide free or 1cent domestic calls which leads to this being a viable tool for scammers. No point blaming the VoIP providers, as the onus really is on the user to exercise caution. Having said that, it may be time for VoIP providers to ask for suitable identification before allocating phone numbers.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

What next for GAID?

Well now that GAID has been launched, what next for GAID? Too early to say yet, but I hope it does not take forever to get things going. I had an interesting conversation with Sarbuland Khan, Executive Co-ordinator of GAID, where he assured that GAID would not be a "talk-shop" and there would be sure and steady progress. I admire him for saying this and look forward to delivery of what has been promised. General consensus amongst other participants were generally the same "we have seen and heard all this before, and let's see what happens". IMO, there must be positive, practical and relvant indicators within the next 6 months, if not, then its taking too long and will be another episode in the series.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Malaysia, Knock-offs, the price of Beer and great Biryani

I am homeward bound early tommorrow morning. Malaysia has been interesting. The biryani (rice and spices cooked with meat with Indian - Hyderabad - origins) is absolutely fabulous here. If you are shopping, the range of knock-offs is huge, and if they don't have it, they will get it within a day. I went to one of the more popular markets one evening and was accosted by gangs of young men flogging the latest movies on DVD. They even have them categorised. For 15 Ringgit (about USD 4), you get a "retail copy", for 10 Ringgit (about USD 2.8) you get a "master copy" and for 8 Ringgit (about USD 2.20) you get a "cinema copy" - with bobbing heads and all! I am uncertain as to where the "retail copy" comes from for movies which have not yet been released on DVD. As I was looking at the selection one of the young men had (out of curiosity than anything else, as I cannot stand watching the pirated rubbish with poor vision and lousy audio) there was this sudden panic that seemed to run through the whole market. As I took a closer look at what was happening I realised that just about all the stall holders were equipped with walkie-talkies and a running commentary could be heard coming through these. Suddenly out popped large boxes and bags and all the wares on display were thrown in and within about 2 minutes more than half the stalls were empty and the stall-holders had disappeared, including the young man I had been talking to. What I had just observed was a police raid (well an attempt anyway). The stall-holders are so well organised that I doubt these "raids" do much to dent their business. After walking around for about 40mins or so I could see that the Gucci's and CKs were back on the stalls again, so it appears the police were gone and it was back to business as usual.

Earlier on, I had stopped at a Soft Drink seller in the same market to get a can of soft drink. As I was juggling with the coins to pay him, he whispered if I would like a beer instead. I looked up quizzically and he motioned towards a cooler box hidden behind the main one and said "good taste, good brand". I asked him how much, he suggested 6 Ringgit, but cheaper if I bought more. I said not right now thanks and took my soft drink for 2 Ringgit. The cheapest beer I had seen thus far was 15 Ringgit so this was a bargain. I am uncertain as to what the deal was here, perhaps it was smuggled beer from across the border. Later as I passed by towards the back of the "soft drink seller" I realised that he was not alone - there were at least 4 of them in total, with one rather rough looking individual sitting atop a large cool-box, so I decided to observe for a while. It turns out that "Rough-boy" was sitting atop the stash of booze to replenish the stock out front. I also noticed a steady influx of customers for the "good taste, good brand", so obviously this is also well run. Full points for entrepreneurship and meeting a commercial need!

I also did the mandatory visit to the Twin Towers, yep, its a set of tall buildings and the designer shopping centre next to it. Point to note, taxi drivers are an absolute rip-off in KL. Ask them to use the meter or find a taxi which will. The monorail and light train are also not bad, but unfortunately serve different parts of KL, so you really need to plan your trip, or keep changing from one to the other (and not all stations are inter-change stations).

Conclusion? Malaysia ain't half bad, next time around I would like to go outside KL to places like Malacca and Serawak. Haggle with the taxi drivers or they will rip you off, the markets have a better range of Gucci then a Gucci store (and whatever price is advised first, you should be able to bargain down to at least half or less - at the market, not the Gucci store!), beer is expensive (even from the soft drink seller), the biryani is great, the people friendly, and take a good camera if you have an interest in buildings and architecture.

Malaysia's MSC

Day 3 was spent on a visit around Putrajaya as well a visit to the MSC Innovation Centre, where we found out that Malaysia was now into the animation game as well. Apparently the recent animated feature "Saladin" was done in Malaysia. There was a demonstration of various multimedia technology as well a presentation on why someone should relocate to facilities within MSC. There were a list of government guarantees put up, one of which was around IP. This made me laugh (not as loud as I wanted to though).....a stroll through just about any market in KL will confront you with pirated versions of anything from the latest Hollywood movies to designerwear........uncertain what the IP guarantee means.........I suppose I should ask someone but not sure who will give me a non-cynical reply. Without doubt, the MSC facilities are pretty darn good, though, and the Malaysian Government's plans to extend and connect multiple satellite "multimedia cities" would be interesting. A valid point on Malaysia's plans to become an ICT leader and knowledge-based economy was put forth by a participant who happened to be from India. He questioned whether Malaysia, with some 25million people, really had the HR capacity to compete with someone like India with 1billion people. Food for thought indeed. One of the responses to this was, we will import them from India (and apparently this may already be happening).....hmmmmm........

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

GAID 2006 Workshops

Day 2 of GAID 2006 was dedicated to a couple of workshops. These were:
- Common multi-stakeholder frameworks for developing effective policies and sustainable partnerships for mainstreaming ICT in Health
- Common multi-stakeholder frameworks for developing effective policies and sustainable partnerships for mainstreaming ICT in Education
- Common multi-stakeholder frameworks for developing effective policies and sustainable partnerships for mainstreaming ICT in Entrepreneurship and poverty eradication
- Intersectoral governance and ICT strategy for development in countries with economies in transition

As these were run in concurrent pairs, I was only able to attend the Health and Intersectoral Governance ones and exchanged notes with (some new-found and some old) colleagues on the other sessions. From the two I attended my perception was that the workshop lacked real focus. There were a set of panellists out in the front of the room, each of whom gave a presentation, some based on their organisation's work, others on generic topics centred around the workshop theme. The audience was then asked for questions. The problem with this was that the panel were not necessarily able to respond to questions, as they were there more to provide anecdotal comments rather than solutions and workflows. Sometimes the responses to questions were so out of subject that many in the audience were left a bit dazed. During the Intersectoral governance workshop I asked a question on how new Internet services such as VoIP should be handled in a regulatory environment and the likely impact of such actions in developing economies and economies in transition. Instead of a panellist from the emerging economies represented answering, the answer was provided by one from the US, who simply suggested "VoIP should be considered" and then went off on a tangent talking about net neutrality, which is a buzz word in the US at the moment. I thought of going back to the microphone to emphasise that I seeked the view of one of the rest of the panellists who actually were from emerging/transitioning economies, then decided to not bother and instead had a chat with a colleague from The Gambia who was seeking answers to the perceived US control of the Internet (ie. the ICANN debate).

The Health workshop was perhaps slightly better in terms of content, and issues such as standards and human resources also crept into the deliberations. I think first and foremost, it must be realised by all and sundry experts that although ICT can indeed be an important tool in Health, for most developing economies the priorities become basic health services (ie. primary health care) and how to deliver these basic services. An issue, particularly in Fiji in recent times, is how to retain our nurses who are constantly leaving for better paying jobs in the developed countries. I fear until such basic concerns (primary health care and HR) are addressed first, any work with/involving ICT will always be secondary. If there are no properly trained staff, who will use the ICT tools? If there are no properly trained staff, how can a diagnosis be made using telemedicine technology?

As I was not present at the other two workshops due to scheduling clashes, I do not want to comment on them, but I imagine ICT in education is well developed and continuously evolving. I would have loved to attend the ICT in poverty eradication one, which could potentially have been very interesting.

I am also uncertain as to what the outcome of these workshops are to be. Although I could not see anyone transcripting, I believe the proceedings were videoed. The summaries provided by each workshop chair at the collective summary round were a bit hoo-hoo-hah-hah and not too far from gooney-goo-goo I thought. But then again maybe I am just a cynic........

Panel Discussion at GAID 2006

The Panel Discussion was themed "National ICT Strategies For Achieving The MDGs" and featured panellists from around the world including Peter Bruck of the World Summit Award, Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary, UN/ESCAP, Ali Abbasov, Minister of Communications and Information Technologies, Azerbaijan, Anne Cobb, President, VISA International CEMEA, Dato Lee Yee Cheong, Co-Chair of Task Force on STI, United Nations Millennium Project, Dato Suriah Abdul Rahman, Advisor, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Malaysia, A.W. Khan, Assistant Director-General, UNESCO and Renate Bloom, President of the Conference of NGOs (CONGO).

Some of the discussion was quite interesting, in particular the frank and open manner in which the Azerbaijan Minister put forth his views on corruption as an issue for business development and how it affects the private sector progress in a free, open and transparent manner. His comments were met with wide (and loud) applause from the audience. Anne Cobb (VISA) stressed the need for electronic payments instead of cash as the solution, however her comments sounded more like a sales pitch to use VISA as a payment medium. Whilst there are definitely merits with electronic payment, the bigger issue is whether someone like VISA will support the small scale prevalent in regions such as the Pacific and the Carribbean, and whether these regions have the infrastructure (and economy) to support such transactions on an all-encompassing scale. She also raised how RFPs from developing countries tend to be complex and over-engineered (and I absolutely agree - some RFPs leave me scratching my head, perhaps a reason for the follicular fallout) and she questioned why this is so prevalent in developing countries and emerging economies. She was also asked whether VISA would be interested in helping finance telecentres in the developing world, but she dodged the question and went off on a tangent on bureacracy and the difficulties of market entry in some countries.

Lee Yee Cheong talked about ICT being just one enabling technology amongst many others, eg. biotech, space technology, nano-technology, etc., and stressed for an increase in donor work by developed countries. He also stated that physical infrastructure must be relevant to local conditions and must be approached in a holistic manner eg. including electricity - I guess he was trying to say what use is ICT if there is no electricity. He also suggested the failure of the millenium project was the lack of recognition/regard for youth, who are probably the most important social group in society. Suriah Abdul Rahman stressed that strong political will must exist for real success. He also stressed the need to connect schools to a network. Malaysia has 10,000 schools connected serving 5,000,000 children. There was also the question raised on the actual viability and use of telecentres. He suggested success is totally dependent on community engagement in the process and I would add providing real, demonstrable benefits for improvement in socio-economic conditions in the long-term - not just putting in PCs with an internet connection for surfing.

Kim Hak-Su from UN/ESCAP suggested a pilot project of best practice, and this must also consider cultural and religious perspectives, which are often strong in developing countries. He also stated that the public and private sectors must partner for long-term viability and there is a need to involve inter-government and regional organisations. AW Khan from UNESCO also stressed my point earlier about the mere existance of telecentres not being the answer - he stressed there must be a valid linkage to poverty reduction by ICTs. He also stated there must be a viable business model in place for sustainability, which is something I would say enough real attention is not paid to - there appears to be a scramble to deploy telecentres (I guess it looks good on an Organisations profile when they say they have installed x number of telecentres in this and that region to improve people's lives). Khan also stressed on the quality of education improvement - introducing technology for the sake of introducing technology is meaningless. My take on this is having 50 PCs in a school is useless if the proper and relevant curriculum does not exist to make use of the PCs. Khan also stated a need to identify the role of ICT in non-formal education. His parting shot was that the "C" in "ICT" stands for "Communications", not "Computer" and suggested that after some 5 years of the WSIS process this has still not been realised and fully understood. What he meant here was that, much like the telecentre scramble, PCs are being thrown left, right and centre by various Organisations (I have seen many a profile stating the number of PCs donated to this and that school, community, etc.) and this may not be the appropriate technology. Sometimes the ubiquitous radio may be the best medium to achieve an objective and this all points to using the appropriate technology based on local conditions.

The key points in the panel discussion for me were the existing conditions in developing economies which include corruption and over-complicating desired solutions (whether through a RFP or otherwise), both of which need to be addressed for progress to be made, and the use of technology relevant and practical to local conditions as being one of the most critical factors to real success (as compared to perceived success as expressed by the proponents, which is pretty much always present in every ICT-related project!).

Monday, June 19, 2006

GAID 2006 Opening Session

Today was the Opening Session which included a series of the usual mandatory speeches, a panel discussion and the official launch of GAID by the Malaysian PM which was intertwined with a multimedia spin verifying his identity on a projection screen and initiating the launch - something like pressing the nuke switch in a movie. From the PM's speech, it is interesting to note that Malaysia has achieved all the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) except for one, and I wonder where this puts them on the world scene. It would be interesting to have a look at data by country and where each is the with MDGs. There was also a committment by Malaysia's colourful Science and Technology Minister, Jamaluddin bin Dato’ Mohd Jarjis (or JJ as he is more commonly known) that Malaysia will go to some effort to give back to the world their expertise and knowledge for development of less fortunate nations. I found this quite interesting and will try and follow what actions Malaysia will embark upon to achieve this. The panel discussion was interesting and I will cover that separately. Following the launch, the evening saw an official reception for delegates with dinner and cultural performances where Malaysia's multi-cultural heritage was show-cased followed by (apparently a very popular) local singer and her rendition of some popular songs. I shared my dinner table with some invitees to the dinner who were a bit confused as to why they were there and what it was all about.........and they work for the UN.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Since this morning was (somewhat) free I decided to explore the location a bit. Putrajaya was created (or perhaps I should say is being created, as works are still in progress) as an administrative city (with the aim of being a paperless government - real e-government) located within Malaysia's much touted MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor), and apparently will become the new capital city in due course. There are a couple of grand hotels in the area, one of which is the conference hotel, the Marriott Putrajaya located within the IOI Resort campus. There was a shopping centre not far from the hotel which was open so I decided to go visit. Enroute, the helpful driver did a quick tour of the city and its grandiose buildings. Apparently most of the buildings are modelled after other buildings around the (mainly Islamic) world which is all quite interesting. The Prime Minister's offices are a bit of a visual feast as is the Putrajaya International Convetion Centre (or the cowboy hat as some locals call it). The city is highly planned and very surgical in its layout. The nice bit is the surrounding greenery as there has been emphasis in maintaining an environmentally friendly theme. There is still a lot of work progressing, particularly landscaping and it would be interesting to come back in say 3 years time to see how this has turned out. Putrajaya is roughly half-way between KLIA and KL and the locals are essentially all Government employees, who apparently have allocated housing depending on their rank. The King also has a palace retreat in Putrajaya "but only about 12 rooms" according to the driver. There is also a grand mosque near the city centre, visitors can walk around it but access to the main prayer hall is only for those who practice the religion. I also plan to visit some of the MSC facilities later this week, but more on that later.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

An interesting welcome to Malaysia

So I arrived in Kuala Lumpur earlier tonight (my first visit to Malaysia) and was quite amused by the attention I received. Off the plane, and as I was heading towards the train that connects the 2 buildings that make up KLIA (KL International Airport), I see someone waving a GAID sign up and down so I figured I should go up to him. He seemed to know who I was and escorted me on to the train. He told me that at the other end of the short trip another person would be waiting, and so there was. He greeted me and took me towards Immigration where and enroute I got introduced to another 2 gentlemen who all guided me in the right direction. Just before Immigration, yet another gentleman asked me if I had filled in the arrival form, I said yes, and then was told to head towards the VIP Immigration counter. I was told another person would be waiting on the other side of the Immigration counter, and as promised there was. He took me to the baggage claim hall where I collected my baggage and then got waved through Customs. Outside I was told there would be someone to meet me, and indeed there were actually four of them - all looking quite relieved after seeing me was the impression I had. I was then led to a vehicle which would transport me at breakneck speed to the hotel in Putrajaya, location of GAID 2006.

I found out at the end that I was the last person to arrive that night, and it would appear there were some 11 or 12 people (all from the Government of Malaysia) waiting to escort me through from arrival to hotel. I found all the fuss quite amusing but I suppose that's protocol for you! I must add that all the dozen or so people I encountered in the process were very welcoming and handled everything in an efficient and professional manner. Indeed an interesting welcome to Malaysia (and the airport in the forest and forest
in the airport ain't too bad either).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Off to Malaysia and GAID 2006

After being repeatedly asked to attend the inaugural UN GAID (Global Alliance for ICT and Development) meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I have finally decided to attend.........I am always somewhat skeptical by such meetings, which more often than not amount to a talk-shop........but then I am just a humble cynic at best.......more from KL next week.

In case you are wondering what is GAID, from a press release (the full press release is available here) by the UN:

The mission of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development will be to facilitate and promote such integration by providing a platform for an open, inclusive, multi-stakeholder cross-sectoral policy dialogue on the role of information and communication technology in development. It will thus contribute to linking the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society with the broader United Nations development agenda.

The Alliance will organize thematic events addressing core issues related to the role of information and communication technology in economic development and eradication of poverty, employment and enterprise in pro-poor growth scenarios, with particular focus on health, education, gender, youth, disabled and disadvantaged segments of society. Groups of participants would coalesce around specific topics of mutual interest put forward for discussion.

In building on existing initiatives and institutions and promoting synergy among them, the Alliance will make extensive use of the latest web-based collaborative technologies, thus minimizing the need for physical meetings. The Global Alliance will function primarily as a decentralized network, open to participation of all stakeholders, including Governments, business, civil society and international organizations. The Alliance will aim significantly to expand the circle of participants in policy and partnership debate beyond the traditional set of stakeholders, by actively engaging constituencies that currently are not adequately involved, particularly non-governmental participants from developing countries, media, academia, youth and women’s groups.

The $100 Laptop

Well, it appears Mr Negroponte has a new prototype of his laptop, and with some refinement. And its looking pretty darned good.

Ever since his project hit the mainstream media, there has been a level of buzz in the Pacific about how good it would be to give this out to kids here. What most don't realise is that it is an economy of scale issue. I understand that a Government must commit to purchase a certain number (which I understand to be larger than the population of some  island countries). Reading comments from others around the world, there  is also the question of priorities. Most developing countries are more  concerned with provide electricity, clean water, sanitation and basic health services to their population. A laptop for every kid in the village would not exactly fit into the picture per se, and I, for now,  don't see Governments shelling out $$$ for these just yet. Then I hear people say let's talk to the politicians and they will listen to us and act. Again, and I say this from observation and experience, it ain't that simple. Yes some may listen, and will most definitely agree its a good idea, but ask them for the $$$ to fund it and you will get a polite answer on funds being committed on priority projects such as those mentioned earlier, which is valid.

There are also questions on how getting and paying for Internet access for these laptops, particularly in rural areas. Of course, the Internet is not the only application for the laptops, but in today's age, an important one. Mr Negroponte and his team have done the necessary engineering (and continue the refinement process), now it is time for the rest of us to work out how these will be deployed and how the deployment will be sustained in the long run, what the constraints for acceptance will be, how exactly a curriculum will be developed (and how quickly) to support (a more holistic) educational use for the laptop, and how to make sure the laptop does not end up as a boat anchor or table-top...... ;-)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Triple-X denied but you can .tel yourself

Well the ICANN Board has finally voted and denied the setting up of the triple-x domain space. For now, anyway.

ICM has spent the last 6 years or so in pursuit of this domain space, but after various recent objections, including by ICANN's Government Advisory Council (GAC), the US Government and some members of the adult entertainment industry, the ICANN Board voted 9-5 against the proposal. Notably, Vint Cerf (Chairman), Alejandro Pisanty (Vice-Chairman) and Paul Twomey (CEO) all voted against. In June 2005, the Board had given preliminary approval but it would appear various lobbying efforts have ensured a reversal of this decision.

It appears at the heart of it all is the fact that ICM was apparently not really representing the adult entertainment industry and there was an apparent lack of how it was all going to work, what the regulation mechanism was going to be and so on.

I do like the idea of triple-x, but if done right. It would be good to have all adult sites in one domain space and with the right equipment (for example) a parent could ensure kids cannot gain access to this domain space. For this to work completely (in the sense implied), it does mean that such sites should not be available on .com or .net and other domain space - all adult sites should only exist in one domain space. Of course regulating this (which some would argue is regulating the internet) would be difficult at best. The internet has evolved tremendously in the past couple of years and perhaps it is now time to take stock and think of the future because there are going to be many more issues such as this coming up and the internet bodies of this world, as well as governments and public policy (and civil liberties) groups need to have a strategy in place to manage it all. ICANN sometimes gets a lot of flak (usually from someone who does not fully understand its role in the internet, and sometimes from some who expect ICANN to do things out of, let's use the term "civic responsibility, when it really does not have all this in its charter). Perhaps its time to expand ICANN's role, but of course then some will start jumping up and down about how ICANN is ultimately at the mercy of the US Government due to its relationship with the US Department of Commerce, and that's a whole new can of worms.....

It does appear the .tel domain name has gained the nod. Apparently the rationale behind this domain name is one can buy a .tel domain name and set up a website with their contact information numbers eg. phone numbers for work, home, mobile, email addresses, Instant Messaging IDs and so forth. Ho hum.....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

How far can WiFi go?

I occasionally get asked what is the maximum possible distance of a Wireless LAN (or WiFi if you prefer) link.

Apparently 124.9 miles (thats 201 km!) and without using amplifiers at that.

This is apparently the current world record.

How was it done?
1x 12' dish antenna and 1x 10' dish antenna fed from 300mW PCMCIA WLAN cards and using home brew feeds.

From their website:

"The record was set from Mt. Potosi 22 miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada to Utah Hill just inside Utah on the Utah/Arizona border.

An un-amplified connection at 11 Mbps was attained and kept up for 3 hours. During this time 11,000 successful pings were made. Both ends of the link were using SSH and logged into the other end. VNC was also used successfully WITHOUT frames being dropped. Ping times varied from 0.01 ms to 400 ms, seeming to average around 10 ms. The connection had an astounding signal strength of -37 dBm, bottoming out at around -50 dBm throughout the 3 hours. The noise levels were around -84 dBm."

See details of the effort here

Very impressive!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

How BROAD is my BAND???!!

Well there is a lot of apparent confusion on the definition of Broadband......what speed qualifies as Broadband?

I frequently get asked this question.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that today Broadband, at best, is a relative term. In technical terms (as applicable to communications theory), broadband is a signal which carries a wide range of frequencies. In this sense multiple signal streams (eg. data) are sent concurrently to effectively increase the rate of data transmission. We can contrast this to baseband where one signal will use the full bandwidth available in a medium. In simple terms, broadband: mutiple signals over one medium which effectively increases the speed, baseband: one signal over one medium.

So how fast is Broadband?

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) [] Standardization Sector (ITU-T) recommendation I.113 defines broadband as a transmission capacity that is faster than primary rate ISDN (which is 1.5 to 2 Mbit/s depending on American or European implementation).

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband as 200 kbit/s (0.2 Mbit/s) in one direction, and advanced broadband as at least 200 kbit/s in both directions.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines broadband as 256 kbit/s in at least one direction.

The OECD definition is probably the most common baseline "broadband speed" around much of the world, but the puritans will likely disagree. Technically speaking an analogue modem operating at > 600 bits/s (that's 0.6kbits/s) is broadband. Higher data rates are obtained by using multiple channels on the same medium, so 2 channels @ 600 baud give 1200 bits/s and 4 channels would give 2400 bits/s and so on. Why is this (in today's terms) low data speed broadband? Because it combines multiple signal streams over the same medium - refer to the definition of a broadband signal above.

Confused? So are the rest of us.........

Unfortunately, there is no specific all inclusive gloablly accepted definition of broadband as evident by the varying definitions above from different organisations around the world. Because of this, in the internet world, ISPs capitalise on this fact and typically market anything above dial-up modem services as "broadband". Generally speaking most regulators/policy makers tend to go by the OECD definition and thus internet broadband is regarded as anything better than 256kbits/s (minimum in one direction ie. usually download speed; upload speeds are generally slower).

A point to note is that most ISPs will typically oversell the backbone bandwidth they have available. This is based on the fact that most users do not use their full link capacity all the time, and it generally works, with users being able to burst up to their link speed most of the time. There is likely to be performance degradation at peak times though if the available ISP backbone capacity is heavily oversold. Also remember that most broadband connections are asymmetric in nature eg. if you subscribe to a 256k package, this will be the maximum download speed, and the upload speed is likely to be 64k or another multiple of 64k.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I am a Cartoon!

Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking. Thank you............some have asked me where my cartoon came from. The caricature is from the good folks at ICANNWIKI

The artwork is by Rhoda Grossman and she has done some interesting stuff....have a look at her far as I know most of the stuff on icannwiki is also by her.

If you want yours done, create a page on and upload a picture. Come back and check a few days later and Rhoda should have your caricature on your page. It would be nice to build and expand the icannwiki community.........

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Wellington Blues

Well ICANN Wellington is over and done with and lets see what comes up in the coming months. Of interest is how Dot Triple-X will evolve and the introduction of Internationalised Domain Names. It will also be interesting to see how much more a role GAC will play in ICANN deliberations.....

ICANN Wellington was generally very well organised. The nightly ICANN Bar was definite hit as was the Welcome Night at the National Museum - an excellent location. There were some issues with Wi-Fi in the meeting rooms but I think this can be attributed more to delegates with poorly configured machines than anything else - too many were trying to be an AP themselves.........

I was quite impressed with Wellington as a city. Its relatively small and compact and being someone who loves wintery weather, the cold blowing winds and rain were fine with me (though I know most would prefer something else). Wellington has an abundance of eating places and just about every cuisine you could think of. We did Turkish one night at a place called "Harem". There was a lot of excitement initially in the choice of name but alas there were no topless (or nude!) dancing girls, just pide and sheesh-kabab.....the restaurant interior was quite interesting and the loo was also decorated in line with the rest of the restaurant which was interesting.......we also did Indian one night but unfortunately at a restaurant pretending to do Indian - the food was just plain terrible - maybe for someone who does not have much experience in Indian cuisine it would be passable, but really I am not sure how it won the award it claims on its front window as the best Indian restaurant in Wellington. I would suggest the people involved in judging the awards were either severely gastronomically challenged or high on something (or perhaps both!).

Nightlife was good too......we ended up at the Bristol Hotel on Cuba St (Mall) one night with our good friend from Bangalore (and wearing an ICANN hat for the week) Madan. It happened to be a Blues night and the band was pretty good. As members of the group started to doze off sometime after midnight (not because of the band - all were just plain tired), we decided to call it a night. Apparently there is a place called Boogie Wonderland or similar playing blasts from the past (amongst other things) so perhaps next time.........and if one were to traverse far enough up Cuba St one will find a lot of other colourful pursuits and things........Molly Malone's (not far from the Museum) is also
recommended on Tuesday nights when Andy Linton and his gang play a bit of Irish culture. The Brewery on Taranaki (location of the ICANN Bar) has a good sample of local brews......I prefer the dark and made good use of what was on offer.

Wellington also has a (small) zoo which isn't too bad either, complete with roaring lions, sleepy tigers, hungry giraffes and some real cheeky chimpanzees. The cable car ride to the hilltop is OK too but nowhere as spectacular as the Hong Kong version.......people are generally friendly and the ethnic background is quite cosmopolitan - from Africans to Indians to Europeans to Arabs to Pacific Islanders. Shopping isn't spectacular - Wellington lacks a decent shopping mall but has a string of shops, but its not exactly a shopping mecca........but there do seem to be second-hand book stores all over the place, one of which is run by our own Don in Newtown which we paid a visit and left with a bag full of gems.........not quite sure why the NZ parliament is shaped like a beehive though......sort of makes a point about the queen bee..........

All in all Wellington is a fine city (and I recently got told its currently the 4th most livable city in the world).......did not have time to visit the surrounding areas (I believe the Lord of the Rings trilogy was shot in the area) which I understand is quite good too.......and remember for some decent Wellington Blues, its the Bristol on Thursday nights..............

Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday @ ICANN Wellington 2006

There were 2 events of note taking place today. The first was the ICANN Board Meeting to pass/consider various motions/procedures. This was held in the morning. Items of note from this were that there was no vote on the Triple-X issue. The GAC issued a communique which basically brought up various issues to consider and I assume this will now be researched and re-presented to the Board for a decision at a future meeting. ICANN's 2006-2009 strategic plan was also endorsed by the Board, IDNs (internationalised domain names based on non-Latin character sets) also got a strong mention, paving the way for international domain names in local languages (and more importantly character sets). There are challenges to be faced here though, and various testing procedures will take place before any adoption of IDNs. The Security and Stability Advisory Committee also presented a couple of reports to do with the DDoS and alternate roots and IDNs. Lyman Chapin was also appointed Chairman of the Registry Services Technical Evaluation Panel (and I happened to be the first one to go and congratulate him as he was sitting close to where I was lurking!).

The second event was the Pasifika Day organised by the ever-efficient Don Hollander and his crew. This brought together a whole range of presentations on a whole range of issues from the technical, to the not-so-technical (we even had some emotional family-soap-opera-type-drama-story thrown in for good measure). The long and the short of it all - it was disappointing to note the limited presence of Pacific Islanders at what was supposed to be a Pasifika Day, some presentations ambled on for far too long which resulted in other
presentations being forcibly shortened (in the words of a colleague commenting after my presentation on PICISOC: "that was the fastest presentation I have ever seen - you broke all speed records"), the food was great and the scones with cream and jam were even better, the beer at the after-Bar was cold, all the presenters got a USB Flash Drive courtesy of the organisers and GKP, and all attendees who handed in their survey forms got a USB-powered Coffee Mug warmer courtesy of 2020. All in all, it was not a bad day, but needed more Pacific Islander participation and more control on presentation times. Due thanks to Don, who passionately organised the day, and frowns at the Pacific Islanders who did not attend (or could not be bothered to make the effort) - this was supposed to be your day.

Now I have to go find that USB Flash Drive, and also see how well my coffee gets warmed using USB technology.....

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thursday @ ICANN Wellington 2006

Well, the Forum has spoken.....I guess I was expecting a bit too much in
terms of what was going to be implemented,
but I guess I always want most things to happen yesterday..........

Most of the declaration is the usual "we will do......" (and whether it
actually happens or not and at what level can and is
debatable). Of the items in focus for the first year are a couple of
interesting ones, including establishing e-mail connectivity
for government agencies and establishing a website to kick off the
e-government process. A regional approach to purchasing
satellite capacity was also highlighted and this must be pushed through,
and is simple commonsense. I trust our friends at PITA
will take the lead on this and push forward (I understand they have
started down this path already). SPAM was highlighted and
the need to setup the necessary legislative framework to counter SPAM
and other internet security issues.

Of most interest to me, however was the call to approach various
international agencies (with a special mention of ICANN) for
regulatory and policy capacity development.

A taskforce will be setup for implementation of key roadmap components
and I look forward to quick and efficient progress on this

To ICANN, the second part of the Public Forum was held this morning,
followed by the Board retreating to consider the various
committee reports. Of note was the "emphatic opposition by some members
of GAC" of the Triple-X domain. The proposal to host
the GAC Secretariat by India was also accepted and the transition from
Europe to India will take place before 30 June 2006.

There was also a report by the Conflict-of-Interest committee. I think
it is important that there be a full declaration of their relationships,
financial or otherwise, in respect to the role and function they perform
within ICANN and how it relates to stakeholders. I look forward
to this being endorsed by all members and implemented - for
transparency's sake, if nothing else.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday @ ICANN Wellington 2006

Today was the continuation of the Forum Meeting and most of it for all intents and purposes was spent
on mundane fixes to the what was going to be in the outcomes paper. To quote my good friend Dev Nadkarni
from Islands Business magazine "Clauses were continuously refined and redrafted".

The ICANN Public Forum was also running and I spent my time running between this and the Forum meeting.
The presentation for ICANN Marrakesh (Morocco) to be held in June this year was very well received and
this is certainly looking like a good place to visit! Most of the day was on reports from the various groups
and committees within ICANN meeting and reporting back to the Board at the Public Forum.

There was some confusion as to what the final outcome at the Forum meeting was going to be, and there was
even some mention of there being no official endorsement, but I do hope this is not the case and the Digital
Strategy is indeed fully endorsed, and more importantly fully implemented by the countries.

Let's see what happens tommorrow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tuesday @ ICANN Wellington 2006

I spent today at the Forum Communications Meeting which is running
concurrent to ICANN.

At ICANN itself today were sessions on ccNSO, GAC, and a bunch of
workshops. The GAC session with the ICANN
Board last evening was so-so, but at least I did not doze off. The China
internet issue was explained by Vint - the gist of
which is that no, China has not created an independent internet with
TLDs. Other issues covered included India taking
over the hosting of the GAC Secretariat and reports by the ICANN and

The Forum meeting kicked off Don Hollander presenting a what happens in
a high-tech Samoa sometime in the future and it was interesting to hear
his vision for the future. The content he covered of course is not limited
to Samoa but would apply globally.

This was followed by the start of the meeting deliberations which
essentially meant adopting the agenda and discussing agenda

An overview of the Pacific Islands Digital Strategy (DS) was provided by
John Budden (Forum Secretariat) where he highlighted
the key aspects of the DS. The DS itself is far-ranging in content and I
hope (as I have stated many times before) that it is adopted
in its entirety and a serious attempt is made by the Pacific Islands to
adopt and implement it.

After this there was a brief overview from 2 papers being presented
covering Mobile Phone roaming agreements in the Pacific and
an overview of policy and regulation matters.

The CROP ICT Working Group presented reports on their activities and I
presented on behalf of the Pacific Islands Chapter, Internet
Society. My punchline was the call for a Pacific ICT Day to be observed
across the region to promote the use of ICT. This would be
an important step in creating awareness and could be regarded as an
implementation of a key part of the DS.

Internet Governance issues were discussed next and my impression was
that most of the delegates had very real interest in what was
being presented judging by the body language. Perhaps some of the
matters presented were a bit too over-the-top for some and it is
likely the audience was not entirely correct but at least the issues
have been put forward to them and in the future they can perhaps
refer to the papers presented as a reference document.

Country status reports were presented next and from my observation, the
theme here was de-regulation of the telecommunications
industry. I was surprised by the number of countries which have
introduced competition in their regulatory space and was most
pleased to hear of some of the initiatives by the smaller countries. I
do hope the bigger countries embark on this process in its
entirety very soon - if the smaller countries can do it, why not the
larger ones? I think what it requires is concerted effort to do whatever
it takes. Of course deregulation should be phased in and done in a
sustainable manner.

Next came the DS road map and what needs doing for the DS development

Fiji also presented a proposal to become a regional hub for
telecommunications, leveraging on their access to the Southern Cross Cable
system. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday @ ICANN Wellington 2006

Well, we made it to Wellington OK yesterday afternoon. A fine day
greeted us in, which I am told is unusual.
We were also able to attend the ICANN Bar last night, which was a good
place to interact with other delegates.

I was also quite impressed with the efficiency of the registration
process at the conference. I guess experience can build efficiency!

This morning saw the welcome ceremony with Vint Cerf, Paul Twomey and 2
Ministers from the NZ Govt - Hon. Cunliffe (IT) and Hon. Laban.
There were some interesting comments in Cunliffe's address, primary
amongst which was an emphatical endorsement of ICANN and its role in
the internet. He also highlighted the need for SPAM control legislation
and increasing and improving internet usage and access in NZ. I do hope
his enthusiasm and goodwill extends to the Forum Communications meeting
later this week as well, and he attempts to impress the views and
comments he put forth during his address to the Forum attendees.

There was a session with Lynn St Amour, ISOC CEO later in the morning
which turned out to be a good session as well. A lot of things were
covered, including a committment from Lynn to support local chapter
activities and inter-regional chapter initiatives. We also discussed the
ISOC plays in the internet and what we can do to educate (particularly)
Government officials on the workings of the internet. Hopefully we can
work on the issues discussed and move towards improving the relationship
with ISOC HQ and Chapters.

The afternoon was spent at ALAC including sitting in on their Committee
Meeting. It appears the biggest issue at hand here is how to get the
ICANN Board to listen to ALAC. There seems to be a lot of frustration on
the actual purpose (and dare I say relevance) in the overall scheme
of things at ICANN.

There were also GAC sessions today which were closed sessions (something
I don't see the point of - what is so secretive that is being discussed?
I think it is closed for the sake of being a closed session and hanging
on to old school government bureacracy rather than any other completely
reason). There was also a NSO session and the biggest news here is the
recent Canadian action in putting forth their negative views on the
current state of affairs at ICANN - they have also stopped their
voluntary contributions to the ICANN machinery).

Late this afternoon is an open session between the ICANN Board and GAC
which could be interesting. Let's see what happens there.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Plethora of Meetings........

I am off to New Zealand this weekend to attend ICANN Wellington and what is amounting to a plethora of meetings to attend.....I am hoping to be able to blog my attendance daily, but looking at all that I have to attend, this is looking a bit unlikely.......but let's see how often I can post.

So far, on the meetings to attend list are ICANN itself, APRALO, ISOC, Forum ICT Ministerial Meeting, Pasifika Day, and a host of side meetings with various people and organisations.......and to make it worse most of them are concurrent with another!

At the Forum meeting, we are looking forward to the Digital Strategy being endorsed, and only can hope that this endorsement is not for the sake of endorsing something - I hope countries actually make a real effort to implement and promote the recommendations.

More next week from Wellington.............

Friday, March 17, 2006

A New Home.......

We have had some issues with the PICISOC website which meant I couldn't blog for a while :(

So I decided that it was time to find a more "permanent" home for Singh-a-Blog, so here we are at be told there are issues with this home as well, but more related to hosting platform issues which are being fixed :)

So a new home, and hopefully better access speeds and plus it will reduce the bandwidth being used on PICISOC which helps!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Cheap, Cheaper and a bit more Cheaper

When I arrived in India (Delhi) in the 2nd week of January one of the first things I saw as I drove out of the Airport was a billboard advising Mobile Phone Plans. For some RS 1499 (about USD 35) I could get a pre-paid mobile service with some call credits included, which I suppose was not too bad.

A couple of days later (and I assume in an attempt to get market share in what is a very competitive market) one of the operators began offering the deal at a similar price with 6 months of incoming calls free (ie. one does not need to re-charge every 3 months, etc. to maintain the number). Well this was the start of the “free incoming war”.....over the next 2 weeks or so each operator was jumping on this bandwagon, and improving on the promises of others. First it was 1 year incoming free, then 1 year at a cheaper price, then 2 years, then 2 years at a cheaper price, and so on.

Net effect of all this: when I left India some 4 weeks later, I could get a mobile service for some RS 999 (about USD 24) with lifetime incoming free. Not only that but I could also get a service which would allow me to call anyone on any operators networks' (fixed or mobile) for RS 1 (about US 0.02) anywhere in India, which is pretty amazing value.

Of course the available market is large (I guess huge would be a better word), so there is plenty for all operators to survive and make money. There is nothing like healthy competition to keep pricing fair and deliver value to the consumer and models can be developed to suit most market sizes – it just requires thought and commitment.