ICT Training and Requirements Survey

Pacific-Tier Communications LLC is preparing our ICT courseware development plan for 2015.  We would be very grateful if you took a minute and filled out the following linked survey.

We are not collecting any personal or location information – just interested in what your organization would find useful for professional ICT training and courseware.

Thanks for your support!

If you have any questions, please send us a note at info@pacific-tier.com

Why IT Guys Need to Learn TOGAF

ByeBye-Telephones You are No Longer RequiredJust finished another frustrating day of consulting with an organization that is convinced technology is going to solve their problems.  Have an opportunity?  Throw money and computers at the opportunity.  Have a technology answer to your process problems?  Really?.

The business world is changing.  With cloud computing potentially eliminating the need for some current IT roles, such as physical server huggers…, information technology professionals, or more appropriately information and communications technology (ICT) professionals, need to rethink their roles within organizations.

Is it acceptable to simply be a technology specialist, or do ICT professionals also need to be an inherent part of the business process?  Yes, a rhetorical question, and any negative answer is wrong.  ICT professionals are rapidly being relieved of the burden of data centers, servers (physical servers), and a need to focus on ensuring local copies of MS Office are correctly installed, configured, and have the latest service packs or security patches installed.

You can fight the idea, argue the concept, but in reality cloud computing is here to stay, and will only become more important in both the business and financial planning of future organizations.

Now those copies of MS Office are hosted on MS 365 or Google Docs, and your business users are telling you either quickly meet their needs or they will simply bypass the IT organization and use an external or hosted Software as a Service (SaaS) application – in spite of your existing mature organization and policies.

So what is this TOGAF stuff?  Why do we care?

Well…

As it should be, ICT is firmly being set in the organization as a tool to meet business objectives.  We no longer have to consider the limitations or “needs” of IT when developing business strategies and opportunities.  SaaS and Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools are becoming mature, plentiful, and powerful.

Argue the point, fight the concept, but if an organization isn’t at least considering a requirement for data and systems interoperability, the use of large data sets, and implementation of a service-oriented architecture (SOA) they will not be competitive or effective in the next generation of business.

TOGAF, which is “The Open Group Architecture Framework,” brings structure to development of ICT as a tool for meeting business requirements.   TOGAF is a tool which will force each stakeholder, including senior management and business unit management, to work with ICT professionals to apply technology in a structured framework that follows the basic:

  • Develop a business vision
  • Determine your “AS-IS” environment
  • Determine your target environment
  • Perform a gap analysis
  • Develop solutions to meet the business requirements and vision, and fill the “gaps” between “AS-IS” and “Target”
  • Implement
  • Measure
  • Improve
  • Re-iterate
    Of course TOGAF is a complex architecture framework, with a lot more stuff involved than the above bullets.  However, the point is ICT must now participate in the business planning process – and really become part of the business, rather than a vendor to the business.
    As a life-long ICT professional, it is easy for me to fall into indulging in tech things.  I enjoy networking, enjoy new gadgets, and enjoy anything related to new technology.  But it was not until about 10 years ago when I started taking a formal, structured approach to understanding enterprise architecture and fully appreciating the value of service-oriented architectures that I felt as if my efforts were really contributing to the success of an organization.
    TOGAF was one course of study that really benefitted my understanding of the value and role IT plays in companies and government organizations.  TOGAF provide both a process, and structure to business planning.
    You may have a few committed DevOps evangelists who disagree with the structure of TOGAF, but in reality once the “guardrails” are in place even DevOps can be fit into the process.  TOGAF, and other frameworks are not intended to stifle innovation – just encourage that innovation to meet the goals of an organization, not the goals of the innovators.
    While just one of several candidate enterprise architecture frameworks (including the US Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework/FEAF, Dept. of Defense Architecture Framework /DoDAF), TOGAF is now universally accepted, and accompanying certifications are well understood within government and enterprise.

What’s an IT Guy to Do?

    Now we can send the “iterative” process back to the ICT guy’s viewpoint.  Much like telecom engineers who operated DMS 250s, 300s, and 500s, the existing IT and ICT professional corps will need to accept the reality they will either need to accept the concept of cloud computing, or hope they are close to retirement.  Who needs a DMS250 engineer in a world of soft switches?  Who needs a server manager in a world of Infrastructure as a Service?  Unless of course you work as an infrastructure technician at a cloud service provider…
    Ditto for those who specialize in maintaining copies of MS Office and a local MS Exchange server.  Sadly, your time is limited, and quickly running out.  Either become a cloud computing expert, in some field within cloud computing’s broad umbrella of components, or plan to be part of the business process.  To be effective as a member of the organization’s business team, you will need skills beyond IT – you will need to understand how ICT is used to meet business needs, and the impact of a rapidly evolving toolkit offered by all strata of the cloud stack.

Even better, become a leader in the business process.  If you can navigate your way through a TOGAF course and certification, you will acquire a much deeper appreciation for how ICT tools and resources could, and likely should, be planned and employed within an organization to contribute to the success of any individual project, or the re-engineering of ICTs within the entire organization.


John Savageau is TOGAF 9.1 Certified

A Look into Moldova’s ICT Community with Ana Chirita

We first met Ana Chirita while surveying ICT companies in Moldova for a national cloud computing project.  As Executive Director of the Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies, Ana provided introductions to local companies, industry background, and aggressive follow-on support to our project.  As an advocate and evangelist for her community, Ana plays an important role in developing Moldova’s ICT industry.  You can listen to the entire interview on audio here.

John Savageau: This morning we have Ms. Ana Chirita who is the Executive Director of the Moldovan Association of Private ICT (information and communications technology) Companies. Good morning Ana!

What I’d like to do is just have you start out and describe the purpose and the role of the Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies. What is it?

Ana Chirita: It is an association formed of 29 companies, and we are comfortably growing. The main reason to have this group of companies come together is in a way, to have a common vision of how the ICT sector should be developed. And, in a way achieve the main goal up front, which is growing the ICT sector and having it be the main driver for the whole economy of the country.

So basically what we do is represent our company’s interests through constructive dialog. With government we also do promotion of our companies. We try to reach certain levels of education and HR development that can help our companies grow. Because, one of the key issues they have put in their strategy is to help out the industry through investments in education and having good specialists that can work for them (the member companies).

We also focus on opening markets, market development – both locally and internationally. So we do a whole range of activities that help our companies get more visible, grow their revenues, and become viable partners.

John Savageau: And how did you find your way into the association?

Ana Chirita: it was very interesting in a way… I received an email from the current deputy minister (Dona Scola, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information, Technology, and Communications). By then, Dona was working at Chemonics on a project. That was about a year and a half ago.

I just received an email, “would you like to apply for a job?” “Please send me your CV.”

I did not know Dona by then, so I did not know what the job was for, what it was about, what should be done, what I was supposed to do, … So I just send my CV in and said “OK.” The I called for an interview, not even know for what kind of a job! That was quite fun.

I entered the room and there were six men, the current board of directors of the association, and Dona helping out the board.

Then they started asking a lot of questions. I was like, “what?…” The interview took about one hour, I’d say, or an hour and a half. In three, four languages or so. Everybody talking their own language – Romanian, French, English… Then I got out of there and said “oh my gosh… what was that? I didn’t know what I was coming for… I didn’t know what I was supposed to do – just so many questions. ”

In two hours I received a call, “we want to hire you.” So basically that’s how it started. I had my first meeting, we signed a contract, and that was my way into the ICT Association.

John Savageau: It seems like you’ve done pretty good getting 29 companies into the association. Do you have any examples of specific benefits the ICT community members have gained from participating in the association?

Ana Chirita: Yes, I’d say the first thing is they get exposure with, and get dialog with the government. Which means they will know everything that is going around that is in the ICT sector, and what the government wants to do. That is strategy, it means different laws, it means different aspects of that kind of which they can benefit from.

For example, let’s say the fiscal policy. The government was changing the fiscal policy last year, and they got an intervention. Like author rights. The government was changing the law on author rights – we got an intervention.

So basically it is exposure, information, and being able to contribute, to a certain extent, for the benefit of the companies.

Other things that I would like to mention are they (members) get various possibilities to work in a consolidated model. For example if we have campaigns with the universities, or training, or seminars, they get to work as a group, which means lowering their internal resources (costs), because when you do something alone it is one amount, when you do things in a group it is a completely different amount. Basically it is lowering the expenses.

The other thing is that all the training and certifications they get, they get with discounts through the association, which is up to 50% discount. For example, CMMI, for certifications and training in project management, human resource development – whatever it is they always get it for a discount.

All the initiatives on expert promotions. Many companies participate either for free or at reduced costs. (including) various events and business missions, which is considerable for those who are considering export.

Other things, what we are launching now and what we are trying to kind of change within the association is to create new services as a cluster approach that the companies can benefit from, the companies that are in the association can participate, and at the same time benefit.

There are several projects in the concept phase, which in mid-March may be launched or find partners, and be able to get on the market.

So even if we are not able to act as a service provider, we will try to foster that, anyway. So besides lobby, discount – we started the discount program again now. Like 29 companies, that’s about 2000 employees, maybe more. And they can get better prices, lowering their budgets (OPEX/CAPEX) and internal costs by participating in a group.

That makes it reasonable why to pay membership fees (to the association), if they pay, because in a way (paying the fees) it helps in reducing your budget, and makes it less expensive (to operate).

But the main thing of course, lobby and dialog with the government, which can enable the business environment for them to make business or do business easier.

John Savageau: Do you have any major success stories from association members?

Ana Chirita: Depends on which side…

If we talk about the certification side we have six companies certified in IT Mark, basic IT Mark, going for CMMI Level 2.

If we talk about exports we have companies that through the activities we do have gained contracts. If we talk about lobbying we are present in at least five or six working groups in various ministries and agencies and we have been able to get into the position where our opinion is being taken into consideration.

For example with the fiscal policy, or with the author rights. So, we’re working on that now as well. And we hope that within 2011 we’ll achieve those results that we’ve worked for and made studies for.

So basically there are achievements that can be taken into consideration. If you like I can send the report of 2010.

John Savageau: Another question,… With Moldovan ICT companies is how competitive they are within Moldova. What is going to make Moldovan ICT companies more competitive in the global marketplace?

Ana Chirita: Better exposure. (Using) International standards, and because competitiveness is about the human resources, it is about the processes you have inside, it is about the things you follow, and how you follow, maybe a country positioning paper to understand where we’re heading to will help them do better.

But now I think that through those processes they are improving inside, like for some of the companies pursuing certain standards, they are already able to compete. Because many of them do export and compete in international markets.

John Savageau: Is there a role the Moldova government should play in making companies more competitive or to give them greater exposure to the international marketplace?

Ana Chirita: Definitely. I think the government should, first of all the government should identify its priorities in this area, and it will be able to enable. Because without the support of the government it’s like a “one man show.”

Many of the companies have developed themselves (independently) in a way without having certain benefits up to let’s say 2005, 2006 from the government.

The government should play a big role, such as to enable better education , better access to the markets, better positioning, better exposure.

The government is very important to have as a partner.

John Savageau: On import tariffs for things like ICT equipment, is the government supporting the ICT community with tax holidays or anything like that on (equipment) imports?

Ana Chirita: We are trying to work on that now., That’s one of the results we want to achieve, like we want to get a preferential rate on the import of equipment, on ICT goods.

And there is one thing we have in Moldova that we have never promoted in a way, is we have a fiscal facility for software development companies, from 2005. Which is an exemption from income tax. And it depends, up to 18% on physical persons – programmers mainly. And we want to keep that. It gives them a competitive advantage on the regional market for Moldova.

Otherwise we get to the same level as Romania, Bulgaria, and other countries in the region.

So for us it is important to keep these kinds of things (tax breaks), like a preferential regime for ICT, would be able to enable and help out (our competitiveness).

John Savageau: How about the education community in Moldova? Is the academic community adequately preparing graduates to enter the workforce or participate in ICT?

Ana Chirita: According to our studies, and the studies that certain USAID projects have delivered, for example the “Competitiveness Project,” the quantity (of graduates) that Moldova delivers is quite good – by numbers is enough. But the quality (of graduates) is still lagging behind in a way.

So there is a big need for investing in, and promoting, certain technical and soft skills. Because the company has to invest up to 3, 4 times more than the universities or the government gives to the students.

So in a way certain initiatives have taken place contributing vendor-based curricula, or in schools and universities they are trying to update the curricula, or there are private companies that actually hold classes within the universities. Like software engineering classes or quality assurance or something like that as optional or mandatory courses.

But that is a big effort, and that is not enough. There is a need to do more.

John Savageau: That’s an interesting statement you made, do you believe there is a space for private companies and the academic community to work as partners in developing a better ICT capacity?

Ana Chirita: We, as the ICT association are trying to do that in a way, but yes I think there is enough space to have more companies, with educational companies or other types of companies – or even ICT companies trying to work back-to-back with academia in order to reach the (required) level.

Because it’s not only the university level, it’s about the (primary) school level. Because a career in IT is not pursued as a nice thing. The people are not aware that a career in IT has a future. So actually you do not have to go out of the country, or emigrate. You can stay in the country, and have a decent salary.

John Savageau: I agree. And when you compare, perhaps people who are living in the countryside in Moldova, with students who are in Chisinau, or even comparing them to London or Los Angeles,… The ability of children who are growing up in the Internet age possibly could be different based on how much exposure they have to ICT tools that are available at a very young age.

Do you believe there is a risk in Moldova of not being able to compete in the digital community if children today are not rapidly given exposure to that type of environment?

Ana Chirita: it depends. Maybe yes, maybe no. it depends on what is our strategy.

I think we need to invest, and need to encourage getting children more and more involved in technical things and Internet. And being able to know how to use it wisely, and being to have various programs and different types of teaching – not only the traditional one (teaching method) to acquire the skills which are already not (just) a luxury, but a “must have” in the future.

So it’s knowing the basic things, like working with a computer is not a luxury like it would have been 10 years ago.

John Savageau: It’s part of life now.

Any last words you would like to give us on either the association, ICT in Moldova, or any other topics that are of interest to the community?

Ana Chirita: Let me think! You’ve been asking a lot of questions!

Basically I think that we, and I, am very thankful for what is happening now in Moldova. I think with common efforts we can reach better exposure, a more competitive country, and more competitive industry.

As an association we will work and hope the government will be more supportive. We’ll see that steps are undertaken in that sense.

So, that’s it!

John Savageau: That’s a very positive outlook, and we all certainly look forward to seeing how it is going to develop in the future. Thank you very much for taking the time this morning.


MICTMission, Vision, Goals

Mission:  Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies promotes the development of the ICT sector in the Republic of Moldova through viable partnerships between the private companies, similar organizations, state institutions, international organizations in order to enhance the competitiveness and development of the sector and company capacities, enlarge the market, attract investments in the country and participate in the decision making and regulatory process on the national and international level.

Vision: The ICT sector will become an enabler of the Moldovan economy, and Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies( further ATIC) will contribute to this process through its consultancy means in creating a better life and a better environment in terms of business and social needs. ATIC will get involved into the spheres of education, export, capacity building, competitiveness enhancement to have ICT lead the industry and become a part of any system and process to ensure its development.

Objectives:

  1. To raise the Moldovan ICT industry’s profile and image within the country and on International markets.
  2. To raise the level of co-operation and collaboration amongst members of the Moldovan ICT business community.
  3. To work with Government to improve the business context, legal framework and overall prospects for the sector.
  4. To collaborate with Moldovan Educational institutions to improve over time the quality and quantity of ICT trained graduates.
  5. To help improved levels of professional & management skills within ICT companies.
  6. To improve all aspects of investment opportunities for ICT enterprises in Moldova.

Developing Countries in the Cloud

Developing countries may be in a great position to take advantage of virtualization and cloud computing. During a recent visit to Indonesia, it was clear the government is struggling with the problem of both building a national ICT plan (Information and Using Cloud Computing to Support EGovernment and eLearningCommunications Technology), as well as consolidating a confusing array of servers, small data centers, and dearth of policies managing the storage and protection of data.

When we consider the need for data protection, considering physical and information security, decentralization of data without adequate modeling for both end user performance, as well as data management is essential in giving the national tools needed to implement eGovernment projects, as well as fully understand implications ICT planning will have for the future economic and social growth of the country.

Considering an E-Government Option Using Cloud Computing

If, as in the case of Indonesia, each governmental organization ranging from the Ministry of Education, to the Ministry of Agriculture, to individual licensing and tax administration offices are running on running on servers which may in fact be connected to normal wall outlets under a desk, you can see we have a challenge, and great opportunity, to create a powerful new ICT infrastructure to lead the country into a new information-based generation.

Let’s consider education as one example. Today, in many developing countries, there is very limited budget available for developing an ICT curriculum. Classrooms consolidate several different classes (year groups), and even text books are limited. However, in many, if not most developing countries, more than 95% of the population is covered by mobile and cellular phone networks.

This means that while there may be limited access to text books, with a bit of creativity we can bring technology to even the most remote locations via wireless access. This was very apparent during a recent conference (Digital Africa), where nearly every country present, including Uganda, Rwanda, Mali, and Chad all indicated aggressive deployments of wireless infrastructure. Here are a couple of simple ideas on the access side:

  1. Take advantage of low cost solar panels to provide electricity and battery backup during daylight hours
  2. Take advantage of bulk discounts, as well as other international donor programs to acquire low cost netbooks or “dumb terminals” for delivery to remote classrooms
  3. Install wireless access points or receivers near the ubiquitous mobile antennas, and where necessary subsidize the mobile carriers to promote installation of data capacity within the mobile networks
  4. Take advantage or E-Learning programs that provide computer-based training and lessons
  5. Centralize the curriculum and student management programs in a central, cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) model in a central or distributed cloud architecture

Now, we can further consider building out two or three data centers in the country, allowing for both load balancing and geographic data backup. Cloud storage, cloud processing, and a high capacity fiber optic backbone interconnecting the facilities. Again, not out of the question, as nearly all countries have, or are developing a fiber backbone that interconnects major metropolitan areas.

So, starting with our eLearning SaaS model, let’s add a couple more simple applications.

If we can produce terminals and electricity for small schools anyplace in the country, why can’t we extend the same model to farmers (eAgriculture), local governments, and individuals through use of “Internet Kiosks” or cafes, possibly located near village offices or police stations? We can, and in fact that is a model being used in countries such as Indonesia, where Internet cafes and kiosks called “WarNets” dot the countryside and urban areas. Many WarNets supplement their electricity with solar energy, and provide Internet access via either fixed lines or wireless.

Cloud Computing Drives the Country

While some may reject the idea of complete standardization of both government and commercial applications at a national level, we can also argue that standardization and records management of the education system may in fact be a good thing. In addition, when a student or adult in Papua (Indonesia) gains the necessary intellectual skills through local eLearning programs, and is able to spend the weekend watching videos or reading through transcripts from the Stanford Education Program for Gifted Youth, the Center for Innovation, or Entrepreneur series.

However when a nation is able to take advantage of an economy of scale that says compute capacity is now a utility, available to all government agencies at a fixed cost, and the nation is able to develop a comprehensive library of SaaS applications that are either developed locally or made available through international agencies such as UNDP, the World Bank, USAID, and others.

With effective use of SaaS, and integration of the SaaS applications on a standardized data base and storage infrastructure, agencies and ministries with small, inefficient, and poorly managed infrastructure have the opportunity for consolidation into a centrally managed, professionally managed, and supported national ICT infrastructure that allows not only the government to operate, but also support the needs of individuals.

With a geographic distributed processing and data center model, disaster recovery becomes easier based on high performance interconnecting backbones allowing data mirroring and synchronization, reducing recovery time and point objectives to near zero.

The US CIO, Vivek Kundra, who manages the world’s largest IT organization (the United States Government), is a cloud believer. Kundra supports the idea of both national and local government standardization of applications and infrastructure, and in fact in a recent Government Technology News interview said he’s “moving forward with plans to create a storefront where federal government agencies could easily acquire standard, secure cloud computing applications.”

This brings a nation’s government to the point where online email, office automation, graphics, storage, database, and hosting services are a standard item that is requested and provisioned in near real time, with a secure, professionally managed infrastructure. It is a good vision of the future that will provide tremendous utility and vision for both developed and developing countries.

I am thinking about a school in Papua, Indonesia. The third year class in Jakarta is no longer in a different league from Papua, as students in both cities are using the same lessons available through the national eLearning system. It is a good future for Indonesia, and a very good example of how cloud computing will help bring developing countries into a competitive, global society and economy.

Wiring Indonesia with WARNETs, Wifi Hotspots, and Mobile

Jakarta is a city of cafes, coffee shops, and mobile phones. With a mobile penetration hitting nearly 62% of the population, the world’s 4th most populace nation represents a huge market, and tremendous infrastructure challenges. With more than 50% of the country making less than $50/month, the percentage of people with access to mobile phones and the Internet is astonishing.

WarNet in Samarinda IndonesiaThis is very apparent when driving through villages that are well under the poverty line, such as you will drive through on the way from Balikpapan to Samarinda (in Eastern Borneo, East Kalimantan Province). A large percentage of the “homes” you pass would not have a prayer to hold water out of the “house” during a heavy rainstorm, but you will see many, if not most, of the residents carrying a mobile phone.

Most of the mobile phones are pre-paid, meaning of course the user pays up front for the handset and phone minutes, however even the poorest people have access to handsets.

The next interesting item is the ubiquitous “WarNet.” WarNet is actually a combination of two words, Warung (Café) and Internet. While not as available as mobile phones, nearly every village has one or two WarNet rooms, which (from my observation) have most of the available terminal stations filled with users.

As a large percentage of the population lacks disposable income needed to purchase their own computer, or Internet access, the WarNet is the only place young people (and older folk) are able to access and take advantage of either computers or network-enabled communications.

Strolling the streets of Samarinda after 2200, in an entirely unscientific poll, I was able to count about 2 WarNets per city block in the downtown area. A similar stroll earlier in Batam (a free port near Singapore) yielded similar results, with Jakarta only slightly less, probably due to the fact my unscientific strolling poll was confined to a relatively opulent area with more WiFi hotspots available at coffee shops such as Starbucks and the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, with patrons carrying their own laptop computers.

This did drop the number of WarNets to a scarce one per city block when you are off the main roads.

WarNets are Not Just for Fun

While the Korean Internet Café experience of the 1990s was fueled by insatiable demands for higher performance multi-user gaming networks, the Indonesian experience appears to be much more broad in scope. According to Mr. Ibenk, an official with the Indonesian Government’s Kominfo (national ICT organizer), WarNet’s serve the community by providing both exposure and low cost access to the Internet for students, business people, as well as access to social media and entertainment.

WarNet is downtown Batam Indonesia“Access to a WarNet costs users less than 3000 Rp (Indonesian Rupiah, around $.35) per hour. While still a reasonably high cost to a poor user, nearly everybody can afford at least a couple hours per week to access the network” added Ibenk.

WarNets are used by students, professionals, and from my observation a lot of foreign tourists trekking through both Jakarta and other more remote locations. Students spend a lot of time on the Internet, and it appears schools encourage use of WarNets for some students to access research, write reports (most WarNets also have sideline services such as printing, copying, and faxing), and as one student told me, they are now even submitting some homework assignments through the Internet.

You may question why this would be necessary, and the answer is simple – most schools in poor sections of Jakarta and most rural areas do not have sufficient budget to build ICT within their school or curriculum. However both students and teachers know that for a child to be competitive in the new wired world, they need exposure to Internet technologies to gain skills critical to their future success in a global economy.

Porn, hacking, and other nefarious use of WarNets

While it may seem unbelievable, most WarNet operators claim use of WarNet’s to access pornography and conduct illegal activities occurs, it is probably at a level much lower than we’d expect. “Niki,” a former WarNet operator in Sumatra now working as an ICT manager in Jakarta, explained “Indonesia is a Muslim majority country. Muslim’s may have a stricter social manner than in some other countries, and thus the negative uses of WarNet’s may be lower than you would expect.”

Not sure if that is entirely true, however most of the WarNet’s I visited during the past 10 days in Indonesia appeared to be meeting the objectives noted above. Just a lot of people chatting, researching, doing email, or using word processing programs (including Google Docs and MS Live Office). Cloud computing, whether the users know it or not, has actually made a very positive contribution to the community by providing applications and online storage that would not have been available just a couple years ago.

WarNets are a Positive Contributor to Indonesia

A report by Rudi Rusdiah, from APWKomtel, claims WarNet’s account for more than 40% of all Internet access in Indonesia. I’d believe that number is actually higher, given the number of WarNets I observed in rural areas throughout Java, Sumatra, and Kalimantan.

Rusdiah’s report includes a listing of the positive social impacts of WarNet’s, including:

  • Extending public Internet access to serve people with no computer or Internet access at home;
  • Providing value-addition to small and medium businesses in the community, strengthening the economy by creating employment and business opportunities;
  • With the support of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, setting up of Warsi (Warung Informasi or Information Centers) near small traditional industry clusters;
  • Providing Internet access and literacy to the small businesses in the community and cluster;
  • Promoting the products and services beyond local and traditional markets, to global and national reach;
  • With Open University and OSOL, programs to promote the use of IT as a tool for education;
  • Providing tourists, travelers and commuters with Internet access.

In a world where many governments struggle with bringing broadband Internet to every home as a public utility, developing nations need to exercise great creativity in delivering “any” internet access to the community. The WarNet provides that utility, and the creativity of Indonesians to find ways to deliver Internet to nearly every community in the country through use of satellite, microwave, mobile phones, DSL, and telephone access should be applauded.

Not the final solution, but with the world’s fourth most populace nation getting wired, we will expect a lot of new ideas from a lot of motivated Indonesians in the near future.

Indonesia’s ICT Policy Provides a Success Story for Developing Countries

In the mid-1990s, as an operations manager with Sprint International, I worked in Jakarta to deliver a direct X.25 expansion to PT Indosat from the old SprintNet packet switching network. 15 years ago walking around the streets of Jakarta gave the impression of despair among much of the population, with large groups of unemployed men hanging around street corners. As a relatively well-off foreigner, I drew stares of both wonder and contempt. Internet access was possible through dial-up connections through the X.25 network and a gateway to SprintLink, Sprint’s Internet network.

Returning to Jakarta in 2010 is a shock. While there is still a visible dichotomy of wealth vs. low income population, the changes in Jakarta today are stark. Aside from the rapidly rising skyline, bringing back memories of Shanghai in the 1990s, the other most obvious change is the people. Everybody is going someplace or doing something. Nobody hanging around the street corners (at least from the areas of Jakarta I have traveled over the past few days), and high end shopping malls are everywhere.

An Internet Connection on Every Corner

Advertisement for BizNet IndonesiaJakarta is wired. Sitting in my hotel room I count not less than 20 visible WiFi connections. Along the main routes and shopping malls coffee shops are a standard fixture on just about every main street, and nearly every restaurant boasts a free WiFi connection for patrons. If you do not have the money to pay for an Internet services account, but do have a laptop computer, there is really no reason you would ever be without WiFi access within the downtown area.

And throughput is very good. The World Bank reports that average access speeds for Internet connections within Jakarta hang around 1Mbps. My experience sitting in a WiFi-enabled coffee shop at the City Walk shopping center (near the Jakarta Intercontinental Hotel) gives me around 3.5Mbps on test downloads.

And sitting here I could have run the same test on about 10 available WiFi networks, all serving nearby coffee shops and cafes.

Wiring Indonesia

Indonesia’s National
ICT Vision is
to bring into reality a
modern information society, prosperous and highly competitive, strongly supported by ICT

(Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, Republic of Indonesia)

While you would expect the best Internet access within Jakarta, the capital city, Indonesia is aggressively working to overcome national shortfalls in Internet access around the country. As the world’s fourth most populace nation, and a geography covering nearly 2 million square kilometers, with more than 10,000 populated islands, Indonesia does face challenges.

Mobile phones have shown the greatest success. With more than 140,000 mobile subscriptions, and a quarterly growth rate of 14%, Indonesians are getting connected. However, national broadband access does not share the success of mobile, with only 1.5 million people of a population exceeding 200 million having direct access to broadband – and the majority of those users are in Jakarta.

The government does understand the connection between having broadband access and the potential growth of Indonesia’s economy. Tim Kelly, a policy expert at the World Bank stated in his Digital Africa 2010 speech that for every 10% increase in a nation’s broadband access, the country will experience a 1.3% increase in their economic growth. And of course those countries not hitting that number will continue to fall further behind the rest of world – a statistic that the world’s fourth most populace nation might not find attractive.

The good news is that Indonesia has a very open telecom market, with several companies including Telkom, BizNet, Telkomsel, Indosat, Excelcomindo, Bakrie, and XL making huge infrastructure investments. This includes developing high capacity backbone fiber systems throughout the country, which will allow even better development of wireless and cabled communications infrastructure in rural areas underserved today.

The government is also considering releasing more spectrum to wireless companies that can be used for WiMAX development, primarily in the 700Mhz and 1900/2100Mhz range. In addition, the government will also encourage mobile operators to share common infrastructure such as towers and backbone capacity to reduce the capital expense requirements for building into rural areas.

This includes development of the “Palapa Rings” that will expand existing fiber plant all the way to Papua, although admittedly this will still not meet the needs of most islands, which will still need to use a combination of microwave and VSAT access to interconnect with the rest of the nation and world.

Indonesia also supports use of Internet exchange points (IXPs), including the nation’s largest IXP, the Indonesia Internet Exchange (IIX) to retain most domestic Internet traffic within the country. There are several smaller Internet exchange points located in larger cities throughout the country, including a private IXP operated by a large domestic fiber and Internet provider BizNet.

The Bottom Line

It is easy to look at a country like Indonesia with a critical eye, and come up with lots of suggestions on how the country may more rapidly develop Internet broadband infrastructure. That is until you travel within the country and learn the true meaning of “rural.” Indonesia’s government understands the value of integrating eLearning, eGovernment, eBusiness, and eEverything into the Indonesian socio-cultural DNA. And the government is encouraging Indonesia’s private sector to invest.

As foreigners looking in, we should step back and remember the Jakarta and Indonesia of the mid-1990s, and consider the remarkable development that has occurred over the past decade, and congratulate the government in its current success, while encouraging further growth. A well-educated, well-wired, and productive Indonesia is both important and valuable to the international community, and from what I have seen over the past few days the country is making great progress in meeting their goals.

Digital Africa 2010 Ends with Resolve for a Better African Future

Concluding three days of intense discussion, debate, and a surprising sense of cooperation, on Thursday evening the Honorable Aggrey S. Awori, Uganda’s Minister of ICT, brought the Digital Africa Summit 2010 to a close.

The summit brought representatives and ministers from most countries in Africa, as well as from the private sector, including telecom carriers, Internet providers, content providers, and some equipment vendors. All had a common objective – close the doors, throw their national a regional issues on the table, and as a community set aside politics and social differences in a brainstorming session to make a better Africa.

The problem is clear – without 21st century ICT infrastructure, Africa will not compete in the global community. No ICT infrastructure, then Africa will not be able to compete on a level “playing field” in education, business, and government with their global counterparts.

The highest priorities:

  1. Backbone telecom infrastructure
  2. Local access (the final mile)
  3. Education
  4. Generation of local hosted services and content
  5. Development of eEverything (eLearning, eGovernment, eBusiness, eXXXXX)

Business Excellence Global Media hosted the conference at Kampala’s Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort on the shores of Lake Victoria. Far enough away from the city to isolate attendees from external distractions, close enough to the community to offer a constant reminder of the reality of Africa’s economic and social challenges, all attendees set aside their home affiliations and shared both problems and best practices as a single community.

Africans Working Together

As an American, I have no particular emotional ties to my neighbors to the north and south. While Canadians, Mexicans, and Americans generally have no major problems, we do not consider ourselves North Americans as a secondary social affiliation. Perhaps that is because all North American countries are heavily populated with immigrants, and secondary affiliations are likely to be to their native countries.

The surprising revelation for me was the sense of community delegates from all countries felt for each other. Although the French speaking nations had a bit of difficulty communicating with English speaking nations, there was enough common language among all attendees that any differences in language were met with a bit of laughter, an explanation in simpler terms, and a period of mutual learning that resulted in friendships developing among the delegates that will last far beyond Entebbe Airport.

Digital Convergence and Innovation Driving Positive Change

“Optimizing Infrastructure Opportunities,” “Infrastructure Impacting Socio-Economic Growth,” “Creating Innovative Mobile Ecosystems,” and many other topics attracted interesting presentations, case studies, and debate.

Given the presence of national regulators at the conference, several other statements gained increased hope and credibility.

  1. All nations give higher visibility and priority to building human and intellectual capacity through access to ICT
  2. Interconnect all African cities by 2012
  3. Interconnect all African villages by 2015

Most would say, “that is really nice to say, but with a reality check it has little meaning.” Then we find that with the expansion and construction of mobile phone systems in locations such as Uganda, which claims 100% of the country is addressable with their existing tower infrastructure, the vision gains more credibility. Much more. Technically, with use of wireless access points, it is possible.

Digital Africa 2010 is over, and the delegates on the way home. But friendships and connections are made, and all displayed a hunger for improving their individual countries and continent. Yes, a bit of rivalry, but a healthy rivalry that will stimulate construction competition.

We look forward to attending Digital Africa 2011, and I leave Uganda with a strong sense of hope and confidence Africa will deliver.

Do You Mean We Import Chalk?

Dr. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, Vice President of Uganda told a story during the opening session of Digital Africa 2010. While traveling within the country, he paid special attention to small schools. While lacking nearly every normal school resource, each school had one common denominator – they all had black boards and chalk.

The question started nagging him. As the VP, he was in pretty good touch with imports, exports, and manufacturing within Uganda. But chalk, as an ubiquitous tool, was nearly completely imported from China. Something as simple as chalk, a tool used by nearly everybody n the country, was not being produced in the domestic business sector.

Primary school in a small village near KampalaDr. Bukenya changed that. The chalk problem was quickly rectified, and a new program of “can we make it in Uganda” started. The basic idea is if the product is capable of being made in-country, then Uganda should not pay another country for the product.

Reward local innovation, but don’t forget we are part of a global community

It is very easy to slap a flag on a cardboard box identifying the origin of contents with a “Made with Pride in ____.” And a good idea. If the materials and labor force are available, those things should not be imported, and the product may actually be robust enough for export. In the US we are nearly militant in our enthusiasm supporting “Made in America” campaigns, almost to the point of being accused of a shortfall in patriotism for buying foreign materials.

But let’s keep in mind we are part of a global economy. Innovation and entrepreneurship occurs in every nation of the world, and although it is difficult to admit, some ideas are better than ours. And at some point we like variety. And we can call this world trade.

Be a Hunter, not a Gatherer

Dr. Bukenya further challenged the delegates to change our minds (as a society) from accepting handouts from others, buying everything we use from others, and being dependent on donors for our livelihoods. Take control of our own destiny, and start producing. Nurture entrepreneurs, nurture innovation.

This includes innovation in the ICT sector. Dr. Aggrey Awori, Uganda’s Minister of ICT, stated “broadband (communications) and ICT are now the greatest enablers of modern society.” He went to make an even stronger statement “access to ICT is a basic human entitlement.”

Evidence indicates this is not idle rhetoric, but actual policy. The Open Internet Initiative (ONI) does not find any evidence of government filtering or censoring within the country. The major obstacle in Uganda’s efforts to bring Internet to the people being a lack of basic infrastructure, including both telecom and electricity.

The eLearning Component

Ugandans enjoy government mandated education up secondary school. However, while the basic literacy rate is high (66.8%), there is little wide spread access to advanced education tools such as Internet. Thus students complete their education at a great disadvantage to students in other countries with much greater access to network applications and technology.

Chalk is easy, producing software or manufacturing consumer and industrial goods for export is not. While Dr. Bukenya’s “can we make it in Uganda” idea is worthy, to make it work will require considerably more attention to building basic infrastructure needed to prepare workers for the global marketplace.

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, ICT is the 4th utility. Roads, power, and water are now joined by information and communications technology. Without ICT infrastructure as a basic requirement, a country cannot compete in the global marketplace, and will be restricted to depending on global donors for its existence – not to mention the vulnerability such as country has to political upheaval and violence.

Uganda gets it, and the delegates of Digital Africa 2010 get it. Now it is our job to make sure the rest of the world gets it.

Previous article in this series:

Digital Africa 2010 and Cloud Computing in Developing Countries

Is Hawaii a Candidate for International ICT Assistance?

Try a search engine query on “Hawaii CIO,” or “Hawaii Chief Information Officer.” You might get a couple corporate links pop up, or possibly the University of Hawaii’s CIO link, but the only state agency within the first two pages of links is for the Information and Communications Services Division of the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS). The first impression, once hitting the Hawaii Information and Communications Services Division (ICSD) landing page on the State of Hawaii’s website, is the microwave tower graphic.

The Information and Communication Services Division (ICSD) of the Department of Accounting and General Services is the lead agency for information technology in the Executive Branch. It is responsible for comprehensively managing the information processing and telecommunication systems in order to provide services to all agencies of the State of Hawaii. The ICSD plans, coordinates, organizes, directs, and administers services to insure the efficient and effective development of systems.

Information and Communications Technology in HawaiiIn fact, the Hawaii CIO, as appointed by the governor in 2004, acts in this capacity as a part time job, as his “day job” is comptroller of the State. In that role, the only true function managed within the ICSD is oversight of the state’s main data center.

Browsing through the ICSD site is quite interesting. Having spent a fair amount of time drilling through California’s CIO landing page, where you are greeted with a well stocked mashup of not less than 14 interactive objects giving access to topics from current news, to blog entries, to CIO department links, to instructions on following the CIO’s activities through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (all meetings and public activities are recorded and made available to the ‘Ether), I expected a similar menu of objects on the Hawaii page. Clearly Hawaii is a much smaller state, so expectations were set, but I did expect a fairly good semaphore of directions I could take to learn more about Hawaii’s office of the CIO.

Hot Buttons on the ICSD Landing Page

My vision of a governmental CIO was defined by Vivek Kundra, CIO of the United States. A guy who talks about the future of ICT, the strategy of applying ICT to government projects, the leadership, both in thoughts and actions, or the government as a role model for the rest of the country. Cloud computing, data center consolidation, green technology, R&D, cooperation with the private sector, aggressive use of COTS (common of-the-shelf) technology. I love the guy.

NOTE: ICT is a term unfamiliar to most Americans. It means “Information and Communications Technology,” and is a term most other countries around the world have adopted to acknowledge the critical role communications plays in any information technology discussion.

So I select the button on IT Standards. Cool. Being a cloud computing enthusiast, to put it mildly, I could not help pinging on the item for 11.17 Virtual Storage Access Method, with the expectation this might give me some insight on the cloud computing and virtualization initiatives Hawaii is taking under the guidance of either the CIO or ICSD.

VSAM is an IBM/MVS Operating System access method system. It is not a data base management system. VSAM supports batch users, on-line transactions, and data base applications. (VSAM Entry on ICSD website)

Multiple Virtual Storage, more commonly called MVS, was the most commonly used operating system on the System/370 and System/390
IBM mainframe computers. It was developed by IBM, but is unrelated to IBM’s other mainframe operating system, VM. (Wikipedia)

Great Symbol of the State of HawaiiMVS? You mean the MVS used in the 1970s?

Ooops. Well, how about an overview of IT Standards? Written in 2003, the document is general cut and paste information that could be found in pretty much any basic IT book, with the exception that everything is manual – meaning any standard, recommendation, or update must be done through use of CD-ROM. Well, perhaps document management and approval process doesn’t need to be online.

Enough – I am not excited by the ICSD website. Let’s look at a couple other areas that might provide a bit more information on how Hawaii is doing with topics like overall IT architecture, disaster recovery, and IT strategies.

“The CIO’s role is to provide vision and leadership for developing and implementing information technology initiatives.” (Info-Tech Research Group)

In a recent report delivered by the Hawaii state auditor, “Audit of the State of Hawai’i’s Information Technology: Who’s in Charge?” – a disturbing summary of the auditor’s findings declare:

  1. The State’s IT leaders provide weak and ineffective management.
  2. The State no longer has a lead agency for information technology.

The audit further finds the guidance and governance provided by the ICSD ineffective, stating:

“ICSD was originally tasked to compile an overall State technology plan from annual technology plans submitted by the various departments. However, ICSD no longer enforces or monitors compliance with this requirement. In fact, the division has actively discouraged departments from submitting these distributed information processing and information resource management plans.”

Finally, the report concludes with an ominous message for the state

“If the State’s management does not improve, the State will eventually be compelled to outsource or co-source IT functions, a complicated and expensive undertaking. Based on the issues that have been raised, future focus areas include data security and business continuity. Lack of an alternate data center and general lack of business continuity and disaster recovery plans tempt fate, since a major disruption of State IT services is not a matter of if, but when.”

If you would like some more interesting food for controversy, dig into the state’s disaster recovery situation, which was recently summarized with the statement “a breakdown of or interruption to data center services or telecommunication services will seriously diminish the ability of State (of Hawaii) agencies to deliver critical services to the public and other federal, state, and local government agencies. The primary data center serves all three branches of State government. The loss of the primary data center would impact all State employees, and without an alternative data center, health, public safety, child protective services, homeland security and other critical services would not be delivered”

How International Organizations Might Help Hawai’I’s ICT and eGovernment Program

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

A surge in the use of ICTs by government, civil society and the private sector started in the late 1990s, with the aim not only of improving government efficiency and service delivery, but also to promote increase participation of citizens in the various governance and democratic processes. The use of ICT in the overall field of democratic governance activities relates to three distinct areas where UNDP has already been doing innovative work to support the achievement of the MDGs.

  • First, e-governance which encompasses the use of the ICT tool to enhance both government efficiency, transparency, accountability and service delivery, and citizen participation and engagement in the various democratic and governance processes.
  • Second, the mainstreaming of ICT into the various UNDP Democratic Governance Practice service lines such as Parliaments (e-parliaments), elections (e-elections) and others.
  • And third, the governance of the new ICT which addresses the institutional mechanisms related to emerging issues of privacy, security, censorship and control of the means of information and communications at the national and global levels.

That sounds awful darn close to objectives Hawaii might find useful in to developing their own long term, strategic ICT plan. Taking a look at some of the countries listed in UNDP’s “UN eGovernment Survey 2008: From eGovernment to Connected Governance,” a lot of great government program case studies are included, such as the government of Singapore:

“Similarly, as part justification for ranking Singapore as its 2007 leader in e-government and customer service, Accenture reports that in terms of back-end infrastructure, the Singaporean government has made an enterprise architecture called SGEA a strategic thrust. SGEA offers a blueprint for identifying potential business areas for interagency collaboration as well as technology, data and application standards to facilitate the sharing of information and systems across agencies.”

That sounds good. As do a couple dozen other examples of equally relevant eGovernment programs included in the study. In fact, current eGovernment development projects in Vietnam, Indonesia, Ghana, and Palestine follow a well documented plan to design, train, plan, and implement eGovernment projects. And they are working.

Perhaps Hawai’I could hire a full time CIO, participate in US and international programs supporting development of eGovernment (including the US Trade and Development Agency which sponsors eGoverment programs in many developing countries – such as Palestine, Ethiopia, and Ghana), and use that to develop a 22nd century ICT plan for Hawai’i.

The line is drawn

As taxpayers and residents of America’s 50th state, we deserve the best possible government and governance possible. Let’s take a bit of responsibility on ourselves. Study the issue, contact your representative, and demand either an explanation of the current situation – or even better, give recommendations on how we can make Hawai’i’s situation better. Such as:

  1. Hire a professional state CIO
  2. Give the CIO authority
  3. Develop a state-wide ICT plan
  4. Execute

We initially touched the topic in a previous post “A Developing Country that Can Teach Hawaii a Lesson.” We’ll continue exploring the topic, and hopefully start working on positive, constructive ideas on how we can make our state more efficient, and a better place to work and live.

Vietnam’s Focus on Information and Communications Technology

When you live in California, it is easy to be a bigot when it comes to technology. Even within the United States the Silicon Valley attracts venture capital at a multiple of any other location within the country. It is easy to ignore the efforts of companies in Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, or even Boston when looking at the rate of investment going into the ‘valley.

Here in Hanoi, the English newspaper “Viet Nam News” provides not only a mini-International Herald Tribune view of international news, but also a well-written review of primarily economic news within Viet Nam. Looking at the topics in this week’s papers you see a high number of articles related to both high tech investments in Viet Nam, as well as reviews on the status of technology infrastructure projects.

  • “Intellectual Property will be Protected, says VN President”
  • Articles on energy conservation and “green” strategies
  • The national telecom company (Viet Nam Post and Telecommunications/VNPT) subscriber growth
  • eCommerce and eBusiness strategies and support
  • Cooperation with other nations such as Israel, India, Japan, and the US
  • Regulating the internet “café” and kiosk industries
  • A critical article on the low rate of 31% for companies supporting web presence for their organization or business

It is all very exciting. It is exciting to know ICT infrastructure is getting a very high priority by the government, in addition to education. The marriage of ICT and education will continue to provide the country with an educated workforce, who will no doubt find their way into the international university system, and ultimately find their way home to Viet Nam.

An Internet Cafe in HanoiIt is easy to observe children going to school early in the day, and staying until their evening classes are completed. School children explain they are focusing their academic efforts on mathematics, physics, and language. Contrast this to the “soft” education our children are receiving in American schools, with a high percentage of children in cities such as Los Angeles never graduating, and you can see that countries like Viet Nam, with an emphasis on delivering ICT infrastructure and education will eventually have a major impact on the US’s ability to remain competitive with our own citizens.

In the US we fight over who has the right of way to build infrastructure though a public location, or which carrier has the monopoly to deliver services within a community. We worry about Network Neutrality and the control of content delivered over the network.

In Hanoi the government is funding, with the help of international donors and lenders, ICT infrastructure that equals or exceeds standards in many US cities – without the drama. You cannot walk a sidewalk in Hanoi without seeing major development projects, and huge bundles of conduit being buried beneath the sidewalks and streets.

Back to Education and ICT

At what point does Stanford and MIT determine they cannot meet their academic standards with American students, and have to come to countries like Viet Nam to recruit qualified freshman? At what point do the Vietnamese students return home, and begin to develop industries with funding from countries happy to encroach on the Silicon Valley’s dominance in technology and investment?

Years ago I would be offended by the high number of immigrants in cities such as Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Milpitas. Now I realize we, as Americans, need the immigrants to continue providing highly educated and qualified people to drive our high tech industries. Rather than push these innovative and educated immigrants away, we need to embrace them and hope they will stay and become Americans as well. (author)

When I review newspapers in Los Angeles, Long Beach, or the San Fernando Valley, I cannot find the level of energy related to ICT found in the Viet Nam News/VNN. Counting on my fingers, the VNN has about three times the number of articles related to technology that AI would find in the LA Times. It is exciting to see the publisher, even if it is the government (with a bit of planned media influence), evangelizing the topic. The exception may be the San Jose Mercury News, which is by default focused on the activities in the Silicon Valley.

If it was only hype, I would probably ignore the news and go on about my business in Viet Nam. But you cannot walk the streets without absorbing the reality of ICT infrastructure construction. Telecom and telecom transmission, Internet, electricity, data centers, education – it is all visible.

Viet Nam is on the right track for their country’s development. Nothing is perfect, and there is always a “B” side to every story. However to the critical observer the direction of ICT in Viet Nam is strong.

Forward

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