Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Small municipalities get big brother support in ICT

Least prioritized municipalities in the country can expect support from their big brother counterparts in the field of computerization and e-Governance.

The assurance was made at the recently held LeGoV (Local eGovernment Ventures) Conference 2005 at the Heritage Hotel. It was funded by the Small Projects Facility of the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP).

The LeGoV conference jumpstarted the availment of local government units of information and communication technology "by setting them up with funding, hardware, software, and peopleware providers, as well as partnering them with more advanced LGUs, in terms of ICT development," said Antonio Kalaw Jr., officer-in-charge of DAP.

He said it aimed to help the so-called "least prioritized" municipalities of the country in computerization and understanding local eGovernance and its benefits.

He narrated that aside from the on-going "Jump-starting e-Governance in LGUs" with the National Computer Center, DAP, this year held the LeGoV conference to promote not just awareness, "but more importantly, adopting eGovernment among local communities.

As early as the 1980s, DAP has been assisting government agencies automate their business processes through interventions such as software development and IT training. Also in the 1980s, DAP even envisioned to establish and manage a sister educational institution on ICT which was then referred to as Network for Information and Computer Education.

"DAP is an advocate of the open source technology for software development primarily because of practical considerations," he said. "Our internal Financial Management Information System and Human Resource Information Systems were developed and are running using the open source technology," he said.

"When fully developed, we intend to sell later the FMIS and HRIS template as a product, our humble contribution to e-Governance," he continued.

Local government executives and representatives who attended were given a Starter ICT Library Kit, which is a compilation of all presentations, ICT materials, and recent legislations in relation to e-Government and LGUs in general, in both hard and soft copy.

For continuity, too, they were encouraged to participate in the LeGoV Marketplace (small, focused meetings to network potential partners in the government and private sectors across the country) and use the LeGoV Portal.

The highlight of the three-day conference is the LeGoV Marketplace where more than 300 local executives and municipal IT officers were given the opportunity to meet with ICT hardware, software and peopleware providers, as well as practitioners/experts.

Angano Mayor Gerardo Calderon, secretary-general of League of Municipalities in the Philippines, said "Since the passage of the E-Commerce Act of 2000, we have come a long way in terms of raising our awareness on the value of ICT in local governance."

He added, "The League of Municipalities is in fact, using the power of ICT to intensify our services to our members. The LMP uses the Wintext technology to spread-up our communication not only with our members but also with our partners.."

He said that they are targeting a 100 percent compliance with ICT by all municipalities in two years.

Two top Smart Communications officials resign

By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes
The Philippine Star 11/19/2005

Years after the failed Gokongwei Group’s takeover bid, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan faces once again an extremely tough dilemma – this time over how to keep his management team at Smart Communications, Inc. from falling apart.

Smart Communications has just announced the resignation of two of its top officials, citing personal reasons. But there is more to the news than meets the eye, highly placed sources told The STAR yesterday.

Peter Lawrence, Smart’s chief financial adviser will retire by June 2006 while Anastacio ‘Boy’ Martirez, head of the personal Communications and Mobile Services Division will retire by September, Smart said in an official statement.

Anabelle Chua, senior vice president and treasurer of PLDT, has been designated as Smart’s chief financial officer. Chua will continue to serve as PLDT treasurer and, according to the company, her dual role will enhance the coordination of the finance and treasury functions of PLDT and Smart.

Menardo Jimenez Jr., PLDT senior vice president and retail business group head, has been designated officer-in-charge of Smart’s marketing and sales group, including customer care. He will continue to head PLDT’s retail business group in a concurrent capacity.

PLDT and Smart president Napoleon Nazareno said: "Boy Martirez and Peter Lawrence have done an exemplary job at Smart and have been a significant part of its tremendous success. All of us are hugely indebted to their respective contributions, and it is only appropriate for us to acknowledge publicly our deep gratitude for their years of invaluable service."

But sources revealed that Lawrence, who has been acting as Smart’s chief finance officer, was fired by no less than Pangilinan after he finally crossed the line.

"It was just a matter of time before Peter Lawrence was kicked out. He in several instances undermined MVP’s authority," a highly placed source said.

Two of Smart’s top marketing executives Alex Caeg and Brenda Dichoso earlier resigned, reportedly after they had had it with Lawrence’s arrogant ways.

As for Martirez‚ resignation, he has decided to keep mum. Martirez is recognized in the telecommunications industry as having brought Smart to where it is now, as the leading mobile phone service operator. However, there have been reports that Martirez has not been seeing eye-to-eye with Nazareno on many issues for sometime now.

The drama, however, is just starting to unfold. According to sources, Smart’s top management is now divided into two opposing forces and it is now up to Pangilinan to decide how to keep his best generals from leaving.

Pangilinan has reportedly offered one of them to lead Del Monte instead. It will be recalled that First Pacific earlier agreed to purchase from Italy’s Cirio a 40 percent stake in Del Monte Pacific, the Philippines-based food company, and will move to control the whole company after the launch of a tender offer.

First Pacific has said that it would pay $163.3 million for 40 percent of Del Monte Pacific. The sale marks the last significant disposal of assets from Cirio, the Italian food company.

Pangilinan, First Pacific managing director, has pointed out that the acquisition will help tap into the huge markets of India and China. "The opportunity to expand is there. About 60 percent of its revenues are export-driven so if we can expand that, that will be good. It recently invested in India carrying the Del Monte brand and China through a company called Great Lakes. Both are start-ups and unexploited,"he said.

But even if a deal is signed with Cirio, the Lorenzo group which owns a 21-percent stake in Del Monte has an option to match the offer, although it is highly doubtful that such an offer will be made.

If Cirio accepts First Pacific’s offer, First Pacific will be required under Singapore laws to buy the rest of Del Monte at the same price. Under Singapore rules, investors accumulating more than 30 percent of publicly listed companies are required to make a takeover bid. Besides the Lorenzo family, First Pacific will have to convince the Government of Singapore Investment Corp., which holds about six percent of Del Monte, to sell, its shareholding.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Philippine market not yet ready for 3G, says Smart

By Erwin Lemuel Oliva, INQ7.net

HONG KONG – An official of Philippine mobile phone operator Smart Communications Inc. has said that the Philippine market is not ready for third-generation (3G) mobile phone networks and operators risk bankruptcy should they deploy it at this time.

"Government is pushing us to deploy 3G [for a market] that is not mature," Rogelio Quevedo, Smart Communications head for legal and external carrier relations, told INQ7.net in a chance interview here. He was referring to the recent decision of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue government guidelines in bidding for licenses to operate a 3G network.

Quevedo pointed out that 3G handsets are still too expensive for most Filipinos and that local operators do not see good returns on investments in 3G.

"I still maintain that the Philippine market is not yet ready for 3G;" the Smart official said, "it is the suppliers who are pushing [it]."

Quevedo noted that it took five years for the existing second-generation mobile networks running on GSM technology to mature in the Philippines.

A local operator would need to invest one to three billion pesos initially to deploy third-generation mobile networks in Metro Manila alone, he said.

At least seven Philippine firms have applied for license to operate a 3G network in the Philippines, including Smart Communications. According to the NTC, other applicants are Globe Telecom, Digital Telecommunications (Digitel), Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprises Inc. (Cure), Multimedia Telephony Inc. managed by Jose de Venecia III (son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia), Next Mobile, and AZ Telecommunications, owned by Antonio “Tony Boy” Cojuangco, former owner of PLDT.

The NTC released the 3G licensing guidelines in August 2005 despite opposition from the local industry. The government deadline for 3G license application expired on October 15, 2005.

NTC rules have allocated the following frequencies for 3G use: 825-845 Megahertz (Mhz), 870-890 MHz, 1880-1900MHz, 1920-1980MHz, 2110-2170MHz, and 2010-2025 MHz.

The 825-845 and 870-890 Mhz frequency bands are currently being used by a local operator in the country. Based on NTC rules, once the 3G frequencies are assigned, qualified telecommunications firms would be obliged to allocate capital to build their 3G networks and start commercial operations by 2008.

Operators applying for 3G licenses would also have to put up initial 300-million-peso performance bonds. Eventually, they will have to increase their paid up capital and pay user fees.

US to keep control of Internet traffic system

TUNIS, Tunisia - The United States will keep control of the domain-name system that guides online traffic under an agreement on Wednesday seen as a setback to efforts to internationalize one of the pillars of the Internet.

Negotiators at the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society said they had agreed to set up a forum to discuss "spam" e-mail and other Internet issues and explore ways to narrow the technology gap between rich and poor countries.

But oversight of the domain-name system will remain with the United States, a setback for the European Union and other countries that had pushed for international control of one of the most important technical aspects of the Internet.

The European Union said in a statement that the agreement would lead to "further internationalization of Internet governance, and enhanced intergovernmental cooperation to this end."

"In the short term, US oversight is not immediately challenged, but in the long term they are under the obligation to negotiate with all the states about the future and evolution of Internet governance," said a member of the EU delegation who declined to be identified.

The US said the agreement essentially endorses the status quo.

"There's nothing new in this document that wasn't already out there before," said Ambassador David Gross, the head of the US delegation.

"We have no concerns that it could morph into something unsavory," he said about the forum.

The summit was launched two years ago with a focus on bringing technology to the developing world, but US control of the domain-name system had become a sticking point for countries like Iran and Brazil, who argued that it should be managed by the United Nations or some other global body.

The United States argued that such a body would stifle innovation with red tape. The EU in recent months had sought to reach a compromise between the two sides.

"Let me be absolutely clear: the United Nations does not want to take over, police or otherwise control the Internet," said UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. "Day-to-day running of the Internet must be left to technical institutions, not least to shield it from the heat of day to day politics."

Under the agreement, a California nonprofit body known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, will continue to oversee the system that matches addresses like "reuters.com" with numerical addresses that computers can understand.

Individual countries will have greater control over their own domains, such as China's .cn or France's .fr. Disputes have arisen on occasion between national governments and the independent administrators assigned to manage these domains by ICANN.

Businesses, technical experts and human-rights groups will be allowed to participate along with governments in the forum, which will first meet in early 2006.

"Internet governance requires a multi-stakeholder approach. This is why we have suffered such agonies in our discussions on Internet governance," said Yoshio Utsumi, who heads the International Telecommunications Union, the UN organization that sponsored the summit.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

TESDA taps ITFP for ICT competency assessment

By Alexander Villafania, INQ7.net

THE GOVERNMENT'S Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has signed an agreement with the IT Foundation of the Philippines to become the foundation's lead assessor of information and communications technology competency.

This will be the first time TESDA will be assigned a formal ICT assessment role by a private organization, although ITFP has been a TESDA partner on several ICT programs.

The agreement is also expected to hasten plans to have 800,000 Filipino ICT workers in the country by 2010.

Under the memorandum of agreement (MOA), ITFP will be responsible for developing regulations such as qualifications, competency standards, training standards, and assessment arrangements. These regulations will be based on formats set by TESDA’s Philippine Technical-Vocational Education And Training Qualification and Certification System.

TESDA will be issuing ICT certifications.

TESDA deputy director General Mila Dawa-Hernandez said ITFP was the logical choice as their ICT industry working group on competency. TESDA needs to carry out its assessment functions based on industry requirements, she added.

Meanwhile ITFP President Amado Malacaman, Jr. said it was time for their office to take the next step--helping the government conduct its assessment functions particularly for the ICT industry.

“Assessment and certification has lagged behind in providing business and industry with an effective means of determining and ensuring the quality and competence of workers in the ICT area,” Malacaman said.

The ITFP is an umbrella organization of several other ICT groups, including the Philippine Software Industry Association, Philippine Computer Society, Computer Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers Association of the Philippines, the Philippine Electronics and Telecommunications Federation, and the IT Association of the Philippines among others.

Thailand to block cell phones to curb southern bombs

Agence France-Presse

BANGKOK -- Thailand prepared on Tuesday to cut off unregistered prepaid mobile phones in the restive Muslim south in an attempt to curb attacks by Islamic militants believed to use handsets to trigger bombs.

"After midnight tonight, all unregistered prepaid mobile phones will be blocked. All prepaid mobile phones must be registered with the user... or face a blocked signal," Interior Minister Kongsak Wantana told reporters.

Police believe mobile phones are used to detonate many of the frequent bombs set off in the Muslim-majority southern provinces along the Malaysian border.

Under the new system, users with contracts do not have to register because authorities already have access to their personal information.

Users of prepaid phones must register in the three southern provinces, and visitors from the rest of Thailand must register for roaming when they visit the region, as if they are travelling in a foreign country, Kongsak said.

"Although this will not totally wipe out bomb attacks, it will reduce them because from now we will be able to know who has used the cell phone and we can check their identities," he said.

Thailand's communication authority will also cut unregistered mobile phones with numbers from across the border in Malaysia, Kongsak said. Thai authorities and private mobile phone companies have already informed their Malaysian counterparts of the new system, he added.

"All Malaysian SIM cards which were not registered will have their signals blocked too," he said.

Despite the new measures, Kongsak said security forces realized that the militants could change tactics and use timers to detonate bombs instead of mobile phones.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in violence in the three provinces since January 2004.

Authorities variously blame the daily attacks in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces on Islamic separatist militants, organised criminals or local corruption.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Microsoft lets ‘Net cafes buy cheaper Windows licenses

By Erwin Lemuel Oliva, INQ7.net

MICROSOFT Philippines will allow Internet cafes to purchase the cheaper, original commercial equipment manufacturer (COEM) license for Windows, but for a limited time only, officials announced on Friday.

Microsoft said that this move was in response to the clamor from Internet shop owners who recently had difficulty purchasing the original Microsoft Windows operating system due to an alleged shortage of supply in the local market after a government crackdown on unlicensed software.

Microsoft Philippines licensing specialist Jasmin So said that the COEM for the Windows operating system will be available to Internet cafes and other consumers until November 30, 2005.

"The COEM licenses can now be bought by the public without the need to purchase the bundled hardware. This is in response to the clamor for Windows software by the public. This is one way we can help them," added Mae Rivera-Moreno, Microsoft Philippines PR and community affairs manager.

Microsoft Philippines has been going around the country for feedback from Internet shop owners after the government crackdown, Rivera-Moreno said.

Philippine distributor Wordtext Systems Inc. said last month that it saw a surge in demand for the Microsoft Windows operating system in September, when a government deadline to force local establishments to legitimize their software expired.

"We saw a 300-percent increase in sales order[s] in September due to the government crackdown," said Juan Chua, president of Wordtext Systems Inc. (WSI), a local distributor of software and hardware products in the Philippines.

The shortage of Microsoft's Windows operating system was felt in the last two to three weeks, Chua said.

The National Bureau of Investigation, Optical Media Board, and Philippine National Police entered a partnership with the Business Software Alliance for the enforcement campaign against violators of the intellectual property rights of its members, among them large software firms like Microsoft.

The anti-piracy campaign gave local businesses a grace period to stop using unlicensed software, starting August 15. The deadline expired September 15.

Last September, a newly-formed alliance of Internet shops initially known as the Progressive People's Net, asked government for a moratorium on the ongoing crackdown, considering the shortage of Microsoft software.

A statement by the Business Software Alliance said that it was up to law enforcement agencies whether to consider a moratorium on its ongoing crackdown on software pirates.

Meanwhile many Philippine Internet shops took down their billboards and closed shop in September when government began its crackdown on local establishments using unlicensed software.

With unconfirmed reports of ongoing raids of Internet shops in the provinces and cities, several Internet shop owners have expressed fear, frustration, and confusion over the government campaign.

One local Internet shop owner and president of a local association of Internet cafes in the Philippines said that the majority of Internet shop owners have been forced to close down because they simply cannot afford to buy new software licenses.


First locally developed software for test checking, statistics making noise in Bicol

By melvin G. calimag, Manila Bulletin

A Bicol-based academician, with the help of his twin brother, has created what could possibly be the first locally developed computer programs for teaching statistics for beginners and test checking.

The software applications that Dr. Cesar Bermundo has developed are now deployed in more than 50 learning institutions in the Bicol region, with a few but growing installations in Metro Manila schools.

The two programs, dubbed "Test Checker and Item Analyzer" and "Simplified Statistics for Beginners," are sold to schools for R10,000 and R15,000, respectively. A manual, written by the twin brothers, as well as teacher training are included in the package.

The software venture of Bermundo, a computer science professor in a university in Bicol, started with "Test Checker and Item Analyzer" which served initially as a dissertation topic for his doctoral degree. The software, he said, is now 10 years old.

Later on, encouraged by the impressive reception of the test checker software, Bermudo expanded by creating two years ago the "Simplified Statistics for Beginners" application.

Bermundo, inundated by inquiries and requests for demos, enlisted the aid of his twin brother and fellow professor, Alex, to help him distribute and develop further the software tools for teachers.

Asked if they are open to selling the programs to large software companies that may have the capacity to further improve it, the twin brothers said this is not an option as of the moment since doing so would put the software beyond the reach of small, provincial schools.

"To be honest, we’re not actually after the money. We just want to travel around the country in order that we can train the teachers how to use the software," said Bermundo, when Infotech caught up with them during the recent National Inventors’ Week for Luzon celebration held at the Technology Application and Promotion Institute annex building at the DoST compound in Bicutan, Taguig City.

"We use the fee that the schools give us to as payment for the improvement of the software and as travel expenses. Gusto lang naman namin makapamasyal sa iba’t ibang parte ng Pilipinas," Bermundo said.

He said one of their main goals is to make the software available as much as possible to far flung schools so they can improve their educational system.

"Gusto lang namin makatulong at makapamasyal na rin. Pero minsan abonado pa kami sa gastos dahil sa layo ng school from our base."

According to him, a similar international version of the "Simplified Statistics for Beginners" costs as much as R180,000. "Moreover, that commercial software that we saw does not display the step-to-step process that we have in our software. This is important so they can see how the results were obtained."

In the user manual, the software was described as a useful tool to show and limit mathematical operations, computations, and procedure. It also has a pulldown menu where a user can select the necessary statistical tools and tables.

But the Bermundo brothers are especially fond of the "Test Checker and Item Analyzer" software because, as teachers themselves, they had to put up with the regular but burdensome task of evaluating test papers.

"Ang hirap sa trabaho ng teachers, hindi natatapos yung trabaho sa school. Inuuwi pa hanggang sa bahay ‘yung trabaho. With this software, we can at least make their workload lighter," he said, adding that faculty members and researchers have validated the effectiveness of the software.

The software, he said, analyzes teacher-constructed test questions by providing the basis for discussing test results by determining why a test item is or not discriminating between the better and poorer students, and by identifying alternative responses that are or are not functioning properly, thus providing a basis for item improvements.

On a higher level, the software can be used as a valuable tool for measuring the effectiveness of the teaching and learning process, the students’ level of achievement, and obtaining information for the relevance of the school curriculum, among others.

Bermundo said word-of-mouth recommendations have brought them all over Bicol and to several places, including Metro Manila. As of now, only Mapua Institute of Technology and Meralco Foundation Institute are the only Manila-based schools that have availed of their computer programs.

Though the programs are currently Windows-based, Bermundo said he is working on a separate version that would allow the software to run on a open source platform. This is in consideration of cost as well as the growing influence of open source movement inside and outside of the academic circle, he added.