RealTime IT News

International Briefs

January 21

Entrepreneur Urges Singapore to Lead World in Free Internet Access
Electronic commerce will define global trade in the next century, and Singapore can lead the world by making Internet access free of charge, according to Wong Toon King, managing director of Internet firm SilkRoute Ventures.

"It will be the cyber-equivalent of our duty-free port. By providing free Internet access to businesses, we will be in a different league in the world and become the nation to conduct electronic commerce with," said King.

Also speaking at the forum called Trade Development Board International Day, Minister for Trade and Industry Lee Yock Suan urged companies to "quickly re-position themselves to take advantage of electronic commerce."

Asian Crisis Fallout: IBM Sees Opportunity in Internet Markets
John Callies, IBM's general manager for small and medium-sized businesses in Asia-Pacific, says Asia's financial crisis could boost sales of efficiency-enhancing information technology among SMEs (especially manufacturers) in Asia, thus unlocking an $80 billion market for information technology.

Smaller companies are hoping to use computer networks and the Internet to offer their products in new overseas markets such as the United States.

(Dow Jones News Service; January 16, 1998)

French Prime Minister Pushes For Government To Get Networked
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has said it is vital for France's public administration to get wired.

The government has unveiled a plan to boost the use of information technology in local administration, companies, schools and universities.

"If we don't get our act together now, the jobs of tomorrow will be destroyed, because a rich seam of future jobs will lie in this sector, not in the car sector," an advisor to Jospin said.

A new version of the Web site for the prime minister's office was recently launched.

(Reuters News Agency; January 16, 1998)

Indian Department of Telecommunications Finalises ISP Policy
India's Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has finalised the standard licence agreement and application form for ISPs.

The forms will be available for sale from February 18, 1998. Three categories of licences will be issued. Category A includes the whole of India; Category B includes each one of the 20 territorial telecom circles and the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai. Category C service areas include Secondary Switching Areas (SSA).

There will be no caps on the number of licenses. Foreign equity in ISPs will be restricted to 49 per cent. ISPs will be free to fix their own tariff, subject to a review by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Direct interconnectivity between two ISPs has been permitted but international traffic shall flow only through DoT's Internet nodes or VSNL's Internet gateways. DoT has banned voice traffic over the Internet.

(Business Line, Indian Express; January 15, 1998)

China's Attempts to Control the Net Continue
China's Ministry of Public Security recently released "sweeping new controls" criminalising the use of the Net in "making falsehoods or distorting the truth," "promoting feudal superstitions," "leaking state secrets," and "injuring the reputation of state organs."

The Net is now a major focus for commerce as well as a flash point for intellectual debate in China. But the bigger the network, the harder it is to clamp down upon.

"There is almost no way to control it anymore. If people want to find a bad address, they will," says Xu Rongsheng, deputy director of the Institute for High Energy Physics.

The practice of using proxies to bypass site blocking is well known among the user community in China.

(Salon Magazine; January 14, 1998)

British Telecom in Tie-Ups for Internet Security
British Telecommunications has come to an agreement with U.S. encryption specialist Verisign--reportedly the first such agreement in Europe--to market digital certificates facilitating Internet commerce.

The services will also allow secure e-mail transmission, and offer secure access to home banking facilities, online trading services, and private information on corporate networks.

BT also has an agreement with British-based software group Futuremedia to develop and market an Internet-based learning service for worldwide corporate training on the Internet and Intranets.

(Reuters News Agency; January 13, 1998)

Telstra Signs Up 13 Web Content Partners for Cable Delivery
Australian telco Telstra, which has been selling cable modems for the past 9 months, has announced partnerships with 13 Web developers to create rich content specifically for cable users.

The focus is more on corporate content. Most of the Sydney-based Web developers including HotHouse Interactive, Mainstreet, MultiNet Interactive, New Toys, Radiant Productions, Rhythm Media, and Tech Talk, are talking in terms of Intranet and ExtraNet applications, re-engineering business solutions to take advantage of the high bandwidth, and of replacing distribution of data, video, audio files and software via CD-ROM or video tape, with the ability to download directly over cable.

Telstra hopes to have at least five or six broadband applications up in time for the Federal Government's E-Commerce Summit, to be held in April.

(Sydney Morning Herald; January 13, 1998)

Internet Emerging As Banking Platform In SouthEast Asia
Major ASEAN banks are getting serious about Internet banking, with Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines hopping into this emerging growth area.

At least six of Singapore's seven banks are getting into Internet banking. Four Indonesian banks are testing their Internet banking systems, but no Indonesian bank is yet offering Internet banking.

In the Philippines, many banks are evaluating Internet banking but none have committed themselves to it. Malaysia's central bank, Bank Negara, does not allow banks to offer services over the Internet at present.

ASEAN's Internet banking wave has attracted a new German software firm, Brokat Systeme, to set up its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore last year.

(Singapore Business Times; January 13, 1998)

Internet to be Key Theme at CeBIT '98
The world's biggest display of information technology, with more than 7,200 companies exhibiting from 59 countries, will take place at CeBIT'98 in Hanover, Germany, from March 19 to 25.

This year's seven-day show is likely to attract up to 600,000 visitors, and the Internet will be a key theme. An "Internet Park" will have displays from 70 companies involved in the Internet products and services, including ISPs.

(Financial Times, Britain; January 12, 1998)

Close to 100 Million Users Worldwide On the Internet
According to the Internet Industry Almanac released by Computer Industry Almanac Inc., the number of Internet users was estimated at 99.96 million at the end of 1997.

The U.S. leads with 54.68 million users, accounting for 54.70% of the total, followed by Japan (7.97 million users), Britain (5.83 million users), Canada (4.33 million users), and Germany (4.06 million users).

There were six other countries with more than one million users--Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, France, and Norway.

The report also predicts that in 1998 nine more countries, including Spain, Brazil, and Italy, will join a list of countries with more than one million users.

The U.S. share was nearly 65% in 1994 and over 80% in 1991; it may fall to 40% by the end of 2000.

(Kyodo News Service; Japan; January 12, 1998)

The Best South African Web Sites in 1997
South African Web sites are moving beyond brochureware, and paying more attention to tuning in to the users and delivering value to them.

Some good examples in this regard: Old Mutual South Africa, LeisurePlanet, Ecnet, LegalNET, Durban Chamber of Commerce, Junk Mail, CAN, Marie Claire magazine, Iafrica.com online news service, 5fm radio, Tequila Records, Natal Rugby Union, Book-a-Bed-Ahead, The Non-Violence Project, Suburban Mishaps, and Western Cape Schools' Network.

(Weekly Mail and Guardian, South Africa; January 11, 1998)

E-Commerce Yet to Take Off in Thailand
"It is a risk to offer online retail shopping today if you cannot build up your community (of customers)," says Chatta Udomwongsa , director of an ISP which hosts a cyber mall.

A-One Fashion, a 20-year old exporter of Thai-made children's clothes, has been running a Web site for a year, but the Internet has not yet helped expand its market.

Company manager Thammanoon Wijitwikrom said customers needed to know product specifications before ordering, and needed confidence in the supplier. Simply reading information from an online brochure on the Internet was not enough. However, investing in a home page at least helps reduce communication costs.

(Bangkok Post; January 7, 1998)

Intranets Changing World Of Corporate Training
The computer training industry has struggled for years to find the fastest, most helpful and cost-effective way to train people.

The Intranet is changing all of this. By using standard Internet technologies to create or buy training applications that can be run over a corporate network, companies can offer training without the need for CD-ROMs.

According to an August report from International Data Corporation (IDC), the West European market for infotech training and education alone reached $5.1 billion in 1996.

This represents slightly less than one-third (31 per cent) of a total world infotech training and education market. IDC predicts that by the year 2000 the terms Internet, Intranet, and online learning will be the prevalent buzzwords in this services industry.

(Financial Times, Britain; January 7, 1998)