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FOSS.in .. what’s that? November 23, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Blogs.
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It’s a Free [Libre] and Open Source Software held in Bangalore, held for six years in the past (earlier known as Linux-Bangalore). Some reports on it come from The Hindu, Monsters And Critics, Indiaenews.com, the Telugu Portal, IndianMuslims.info, Mangalorean,

It’s difficult to fit such a story into the “news” format, but here’s The Hindu:

Spotlight to be on free software: FOSS.In is eer 1,500 software professionals: Bangalore: Information Technology users have been into a revolution for some years now. With proprietary software packages costing a lot (most come from international giants in the field), home PC users and even small businesses cannot easily afford them. Or keep upgrading their software as new versions are released.

An answer to them comes in the form of an IT event, FOSS.IN, to be held here from November 23 to 25. The abbreviation stands for Free and Open Source Software, licensed freely for users to study, change, and modify its design for their individual requirements because the source code is easily available unlike most other software.

Since late 1990s, open source code has been widely used to build software. India with its huge “coder base” is considered an important player in the rivalry between FOSS and the traditional closed or proprietary software.

This year, about 1,500 professionals will converge here as part of the country’s Open Source community. The event is aimed at those with necessary skills in coding, testing and documenting or contributing to FOSS projects and want to share ideas and expertise with likeminded colleagues.

Prominent speakers: In Bangalore, FOSS.In is expected to bring prominent speakers and experts such as Aaron Seigo and Andrew Cowie from Canada, Christoph Hellwig from Germany and Sulamita Garcia from Brazil.

Rahul Sundaram will speak on the “One laptop for each child” plan, with an ideal to create laptops costing under $ 100 for children in developing countries and the difficulties it has faced in India.


India firms warn on IT skills gap November 7, 2006

Posted by R.S in India.
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Is it due to to the brain drain, lack of mentors or the falling standards of IT education? Comments are most welcome
Story from BBC NEWS:

Business leaders have warned that India’s information technology (IT) industry is heading towards a severe shortage of highly-skilled manpower. They say India will not be able to achieve its targeted growth rates if the issue is not tackled immediately. Young engineers and college graduates lack necessary skills, a conference in the city of Hyderabad was told. Software industry body Nasscom has warned that India faces a shortfall of half a million skilled workers by 2010.

Work culture

Nasscom President Kiran Karnik told the conference that the availability of skilled engineers would be the biggest challenge for industry in the years to come. He said the IT industry in India needed something like 350,000 engineers per annum, but no more than 150,000 of the most highly-skilled engineers were available each year. This was creating severe shortages of talent, Mr Karnik said, and the industry was definitely concerned.

There was a huge number of graduates and engineers, but people with the technical and communications and team-working skils that were required were often lacking, he told the conference. At present, the IT and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries in India employ 1.3 million people. This year India’s software exports are expected to reach $30bn while the domestic software business is likely to be worth $7-8bn.

Intel (India) president Frank B Jones told the conference that it was becoming more and more difficult to find the required skills among school leavers and graduates in India. He said that firms hiring people with basic level skills from universities found that it took a very long training programme to integrate them into the companies’ work culture. As a way out, companies like Intel had started relying on those skilled Indians who – having worked in the US for several years – now wanted to return home. Frank Jones said that about 10% of Intel’s work force had come back through that programme.

Youth, AIDS… and making a game about it November 2, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Digital content.
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Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, has announced the launch of a computer game targeted at young people, and aimed at helping them make better choices to combat diseases like AIDS. This game is currently available in English and Swahili
versions at unicef.org/voy/explore/aids/explore_1360.html.

Announced this week, Unicef called it the “first interactive feature in Swahili today, an online game that empowers young people to make good life choices about and prevent HIV.”

In its Swahili version, the game is called Ungefanyaje (‘What would you do?’) It takes the player through a series of relationship-based scenarios that emphasize the importance of HIV-prevention and testing.

“Translating the game into Swahili makes it accessible to East African adolescents and young people,” Voices of Youth coordinator Amber Oliver was quoted saying.

Voices of Youth, or VOY is a decade-old initiative focused on exploring the educational and community building potential of the internet.

Through web boards, interactive quizzes, youth leadership profiles, live chats and more, Voices of Youth says it “provides thousands of young people from over 180 countries with an opportunity to self-inform, engage in lively debate, and partner — with their peers and decision makers — to create a world fit for children.”

Prevention is considered essential to half the spread of HIV/AIDS. But an alarming 80 per cent of all young people still don’t know how to protect themselves from the virus.

It is estimated that of the 2.3 million children under 15 living with HIV, two million are in sub-Saharan Africa. Hence reaching out to youth is seen as crucial.

Unicef, some 60 years old, has been working in 156 countries and territories “to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.” It is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Some early responses to the game however commented on the need to use a form of Swahili comprehendible across the region, and the need to make the game work on mobile phones.

Computer games have also been called ‘edutainment’ because of their mix of education and entertainment.

The term “serious game” came into wide use with the Serious Games Initiative in 2002, games were being developed for non-entertainment purposes.

This initiative was launched to encourage the development of games that address policy and management issues. In 2004, another initiative called Games for Change focussed on social issues and social change, while Games for Health addresses health care applications.

Games like 3rd World Farmer give the player a feel of the hardships facing farmers in the poor world. The Adventures of Josie True is an online educational game for girls, targeting fifth grade science and math curricular areas.

Darfur is Dying is an online game that simulates life in a Darfur refugee camp. Food Force is humanitarian video game. The UN‘s World Food Programme designed this virtual world of food airdrops over crisis zones and trucks struggling up difficult roads under rebel threat with emergency food supplies.

For a fascinating entry, see the Wikipedia, loads of useful links [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serious_game]

Piracy, FLOSS, peer production, new models, innovation… November 1, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Blogs.
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Of all the many bytes emerging out of Athens and the IGF, this one made the most sense to me:

Piracy creates jobs, but [Free Software and] Open Source and Open Standards create opportunity, create entrepreneurs. And I think that’s the challenge for the IGF as well, how to look at it is a public interest forum, the Internet is a public space, and how can we facilitate maximum sharing, maximum creativity, peer production, new models, innovation.

Anriette Esterhuysen, at the Internet Governance Forum, Athens, November 1, 2006 http://www.intgovforum.org/IGF-Panel2-311006am.txt.

Spam, content, legal aspects, diversity, human rights, IP-network development… November 1, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Blogs.
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Via the IGF Community Site one can find links to some events coming up (at the time of writing) at Athens, Greece. An anti-spam toolkit, a content creation workshop, another legal aspects workshop, an overview of diversity, yet another on human rights and the internet, workshop on IP-network development

An interesting pitch for most of these events. For instance, in the case of spam:

Why you should attend: Because spam is the one thing that everyone can agree we wish to get rid of. To do so though requires understanding of the problem, the various methods that can be used to tackle it, and international co-operation. The workshop hopes to promote all three.

And, in the case of content:

Without content, the Internet is simply wires and electrons. It is not enough for developing countries to have Internet infrastructure available, they also need the content skills to make use of it. This topic is as critical and as urgent as the provision of technical infrastructure.

Well argued. But as our mailboxes drown in spam, and this wonderful tool called the Net remains meaningless to a few thousand millions… don’t we need solutions real fast?

Who’s saying what… and where? November 1, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Blogs.
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Soenke Zehle wrote late on Oct 30: “I just added the official and unofficial IGF-Community feeds to the list of incom sources… seems that http:/ igf2006.intgovforum.org has emerged as meta-site for the IGF in Athens.”

Geert Lovink shot back on via this Incom-L discussion: “Thanks, Soenke. I wonder how many of us are in Athens right now. Are people blogging there? I read some articles about the summit on BytesForAll and was wondering if participants there were as pessimistic as this BBC guy Bill Thompson.”

Actually, here are the unofficial and official “blogs” for the IGF. But it’s happening so fast, it’s probably going to be difficult to keep track! And one can just imagine what the “mainstream media” — with their “space constraints” and filters — are going to be saying! Anyway, isn’t talking about media flows and control all old hat, and a 70s thing?

IGF: send in your comments … via SMS November 1, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in Blogs.

Is this a shift of power? Is it just a form of tokenism? Does it work? Will it really involve the diversity of people across the globe? Kieren McCarthy posted to the Governance mailing list and Plenary list an announcement of how SMS questions can go to the IGF main session.

Privacy, security and internet researcher and activist Ralf Bendrath forwarded it to the Incommunicado or Incom-L list. “The ‘incommunicado’ list, an electronic
mailinglist that focuses on the spread, reappropriation, and reinvention of ICT across the ‘Global South’.” Ralf wrote: “Very nice (and techno-culture-aware) try, though a bit late. Spread it to colleagues in mobile-phone-using countries…”

Oxford-based freelance journalist, writer, reporter, sub-editor Kieren McCarthy also argued: “Again, this is a little late in the day, but we have grabbed two dedicated mobile phones — one for French and one for English — to receive SMS text questions for the main sessions tomorrow. The sessions are about Diversity and Access and since the common refrain is that Africa and developing countries only tend to have Net access through their mobiles, it seemed like a good idea to try to make it as simple as possible for them to interact.”

She adds: “It is not perfect of course (two languages, and using actual phones when some SMS software would be 1,000 times more effective), but it is better than not having it. Plus maybe people that don’t want to get up and speak into a microphone will be encouraged.”

Is it? Are our assumptions wrong? Or is it just something wrong with me? I’m sitting in India’s smallest state. To get out my mobile phone would be both a pain … and costly! Good old email might just work better. For me!

Anyway, full details on the igf2006.info site that takes you to http://igf2006.intgovforum.org/