Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Information and communication policies

By Florangel Rosario Braid - Manila Bulletin

AFTER numerous consultations with various groups, ATIN’s (Accountability and Transparency Information Network) version of the Freedom of Information bill is finally ready for filing in the 14th Congress. Senator Mar Roxas and Rep. Erin Tanada of the Liberal Party are two of its "champions" and are pushing the passage of the bill which is on the priority LP agenda.

Freedom of information laws, giving practical effect to the right to access information, have existed for more than 200 years according to Toby Mendel who observes that there is now a wave of freedom of information legislation sweeping the globe. Several laws have been passed over the last ten years. This growing popularity is due to its being associated as an integral part of the human rights movement.

In 2006, about 68 countries had laws giving citizens right to access government information. Jurisprudence has laid down key principles in applying right to information, namely: (1) guarantee is self-executory and does not require enabling legislation for it to become enforceable; (2) right to information is a public right; (3) government agencies are without discretion in refusing access to information of public concern; (4) not being discretionary, the performance of the duty to afford access to information of public concern may be compelled by a writ of mandamus.

Despite the Constitutional guarantee and affirmation of the right, denial of access remains widespread. This is due to factors such as the absence of a uniform, simple, and speedy access procedure. Access remains discretionary in practice even if in theory, there is no discretion in giving access to information. To date, there is still untested, if not insufficient basis for sanctions in cases of violation of this right. Finally, the remedy to compel disclosure remains inaccessible to the general public. This is due to reasons such as the poor state of government record-keeping, the low level of bureaucratic commitment to openness, and the excessive cost of access to certain information.

An ongoing concern is that of promoting openness in all government agencies. The government has the duty to publish information enumerated in the bill. The latter should be regularly updated in the website of public bodies. The E-Commerce Law, for example, requires all government agencies to maintain a website. Every public body is mandated to establish and enhance its Management Information System in order to strengthen its capability to store, manage and retrieve records as well as facilitate access to public records.

While this debate on free flow of information is going on, there are developments in the telecommunication sector that are quite worrisome. The agreement with China on a broadband project under the aegis of the Department of Transportation and Communication and the Department of Education’s cyber-education projects are already hounded by controversy even before they have started. The documents on the first project were lost and have been reconstituted. Some think it was a memorandum of agreement; others say it was a contract. At any rate, two UP professors thought that the two projects should not be pursued as their feasibility is questionable. On the first project, I think that we should shelve it until a more plausible rationalization process is undertaken. After all, there are more urgent national priorities. Then there is the argument that the initiatives started by the private sector should be encouraged and strengthened. Should the project be pursued, planning and implementation should be transparent — with adequate consultation with as many stakeholders.

On the cyber-education project, a number of studies have shown the feasibility of utilizing satellite-based systems for distance education – teacher training, and reaching marginalized communities which lack classroom teachers and educational resources. We have enough expertise that can supervise its implementation. What will be needed is a systematic design that would ensure maximum deployment of our own local talent including local content so that we don’t become overdependent on external resources.

The rapid turnover of key officials in the two ICT government agencies – the Commission of Information and Communication Technology and the National Telecommunications Commission has also raised eyebrows. Perhaps it is about time we revisit the structure and functions of our communications policy and implementing agencies of government. Unless this is done, I am afraid there would be a continuing overlap of functions and a perpetuation of obsolete policies. More on this next time. My e-mail is florbraid@yahoo.

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SmartBro sucks when it comes to service. On my personal experience, they wouldn't address my concerns. Not until they received a memo from the NTC ordering them to service my intermittent connection and copy NTC and me of whatever the actions done to address the my complaints.

Next time you have a service interruptions from SmartBro, get the service request ID and email them at customercare@smartbro.com.ph. COPY NTC at ntc@ntc.gov.ph

*** IMPORTANT: cc'ing NTC is crucial otherwise, your request will fall in deaf ears.

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Report says GSM subscribers worldwide now 2.54B

By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net
MANILA, Philippines -- There are more than two billion people now subscribed to GSM mobile networks, a report released by an association of mobile network suppliers and vendors said.

GSM, short for Global System for Mobile Communications, is now a dominant mobile network standard used worldwide by telecommunications service providers. The standard has evolved, bringing faster and more sophisticated innovations that support not only voice but video and other multimedia applications.

There are now over 2.54 billion GSM subscribers, including those subscribed to 3G networks using the wideband-CDMA standard, as of the second quarter of 2007, according to the recent market research a report released by the Global Mobile Suppliers Association, a group of global GSM technology suppliers, citing data from Informa Telecoms and Media.

The report also noted that there were at least 564 million new GSM subscribers added during the second quarter of this year.

The Asia Pacific region recorded the highest number of GSM subscribers, which includes WCDMA networks at one billion, followed by Western Europe at 500 million.

China and India had a combined growth of 11.2 million additional subscribers on a monthly average during the first half of 2007, the report said.

The same report said that the annual growth of GSM subscribers in the Asia Pacific region is now at 33 percent. The report also said 62 million people in Asia Pacific are subscribed to a WCDMA network, which is a 3G or third generation mobile network.

Meanwhile, the deployment of 3G networks and faster versions of it will drive broadband services in the world. There are now 178 commercial operators of 3G networks in 78 countries using the WCDMA standard, the report said.

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PCCI exec mulls BPO training centers in provinces

By Lawrence Casiraya
MANILA, Philippines -- An official of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) wants to promote the business process outsourcing (BPO) mindset among businessmen at the provincial level.

George Kintanar, PCCI ICT committee chairman, has proposed the establishment of local ICT "chapters" among businessmen to different local chambers of commerce nationwide.

Kintanar is also chairman of the Philippine USA Business Club (PUBC), which links with Filipino business communities in the United States.

"The plan is for PCCI/PUBC to create and establish ICT local chapters for businessmen nationwide," Kintanar said in his proposal sent via email.

"PCCI/PUBC should already identify BPO champions in the local business chambers of commerce all over the country and create BPO training centers of excellence," he added.

He noted that the emergence of the Philippines as a BPO destination was driven by word-of-mouth from satisfied customers overseas.

While demand is still high and the market for outsourced services still valued at "trillions of dollars," Kintanar noted that the country needs to invest in training in order to keep up with the great demand.

According to him, the problem is compounded by the departure of qualified Filipino workers for other countries, reaching about a million for 2006 alone.

Kintanar said: "My earlier advise to local businessmen then was to invest in back office provisioning but now we should also include BPO training centers to support the huge demand for human resource in the sector."

As for marketing the Philippines to investors, he said the large population of Filipino Americans abroad can be tapped as a "steady and continuous supply of BPO marketing advocates."

"While back home we continue our national BPO training programs through the educational institutions of learning which PCCI/PUBC intends to spread at the grassroots level," he said.

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Japan investigating 'net cafe refugees'

Agence France-Presse
TOKYO -- Japan is launching its first study into so-called "Net cafe refugees," young people who live in all-night lounges and are feared to become a new class of working poor, an official said Wednesday.

Japan's omnipresent net cafes -- equipped with sofas, drinks, computers and comic books -- are designed for businessmen who want to slack off for a few hours or for commuters who missed their last trains home.

But Japan has been alarmed by growing reports of young day laborers who are staying in round-the-clock cafes rather than renting and living in apartments.

In the first nationwide study, the government is questioning operators and customers at 3,000 Internet cafes nationwide, said a labor ministry official in charge of employment security.

"Inquiries are being made in cooperation with non-profit organizations to find out their rough number and what their lives are like," said the official, who declined to be named.

A five-hour stay at an Internet cafe in Tokyo costs about 3,000 yen ($25) with a meal served. Showers are available at 200 yen for 30 minutes and underwear is on sale.

The emergence of such "refugees" has set off alarm bells in a society which used to boast of equality but is now feared to be experiencing a wider rich-poor gap.

Sleeping in net cafes can be problematic "in terms of employment security, hygiene and development of job ability," said the labor ministry official.

Findings of the investigation are expected to be publicized later this year and used to hammer out assistance measures.

Japan's opposition, which won a landmark election victory last month, has accused the government of encouraging the rich-poor gap through free-market reforms meant to revive the economy after recession in the 1990s.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Globe telemarketing campaign unethical--NTC

By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines -- An official of the National Telecommunications Communication said it was unethical for telemarketers representing Globe Telecom to call up subscribers of rival operator Smart Communications and offer them to switch to their service.

“The practice is not ethical,” said NTC Deputy Commissioner Jorge Sarmiento in a text message.

He said the NTC will be looking into the matter.

Meanwhile, Globe spokesperson Jones Campos said he was not aware how telemarketers got hold of numbers of Smart subscribers, but admitted this might be a “job-out or outsourced” service.

Asked if there was any company policy against this practice, the Globe spokesperson said he was not aware of any.

“I don't know how they got hold of your numbers and the database of Smart,” he said.

Pressed if this practice was unethical and possibly an invasion of privacy, the Globe spokesperson said “he does not know” but indicated that he will also look into the matter.

The telemarketers would call Smart subscribers randomly, introducing themselves as Globe agents. They then ask for the subscriber’s e-mail or fax number to which they could send more information about the Globe promo for the offer to switch.

Smart’s public affairs office said it was aware of this practice by its rival.

“This has happened several times in the past. We got them from reports,” Ramon Isberto, public affairs head, said in a phone interview.

Isberto said if Globe Telecom telemarketers got hold of its database, it qualifies as “stealing.”

Isberto said Smart will also check on this practice and study legal actions it might take.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New NTC chairman takes over

By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines --The new chairman of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) took over his new post in turnover ceremonies Monday, an official of the agency said.

NTC deputy commissioner Jorge Sarmiento said former NTC chairman Abraham Abesamis relinquished the post to lawyer Ruel Canobas.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sacked Abesamis last week and replaced him with Canobas, who was political affairs undersecretary at the Office of the President.

Canobas is a graduate of the Far Eastern University Law class 1991, the Palace said.

Abesamis was head of the Armed Forces’ communications arm before his retirement.

He was appointed to the NTC in November 2006, replacing lawyer Ronald Solis.

The new NTC chairman was unavailable for comment at this writing.

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NTC exec unceremoniously told to resign

By Tony Bergonia - Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Abraham Abesamis was sitting at his desk in his office at the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Thursday when an unexpected guest came in to deliver a message that caught him by surprise -- he should resign.

Joaquin Llagunera, head of the Presidential Legislative-Liaison Office (PLLO) and deputy executive secretary, did not give a reason for Abesamis’ sacking as NTC commissioner, but his instructions were it was ASAP -- as soon as possible.

Abesamis was not told why -- it was apparently not part of Llagunera’s mission that day to answer that question.

There was no written order, but it came from the highest official of the land -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Abesamis was asked to immediately empty his desk of his things, to pack up and leave quickly.

At a loss for words and in search for answers, Abesamis lifted his phone and dialed the number of Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

But there were no answers from Mendoza, either. The official who had jurisdiction over the NTC had no idea Abesamis was being removed.

Next, Abesamis tried to call Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, with the same results.

Why, why, why, the question rang in his mind after Llagunera had left him dumbfounded and clueless.

He called up officials in Malacañang to try to arrange an audience with Arroyo, but the meeting did not come until Friday morning when he heard the bad news from the President herself.

He was just told to resign. The “why” was left unanswered. But Abesamis took his marching orders “like a good soldier.”

Abesamis was a senior military aide of Arroyo for two years prior to his appointment at the NTC. At the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he was deputy chief of staff for communications.

It was not made clear why he was being removed from the NTC, a quasi-judicial body that oversees the operations and pricing of telecommunications firms and monitors abuses.

But the appointment of his replacement came quickly.

From the office of the adviser on political affairs, Undersecretary Ruel Canobas, a lawyer, was pulled out.

The papers for Canobas’ appointment as NTC head were quickly prepared and processed.

Abesamis’ relief from the NTC came as a surprise to his fellow officials and workers at the agency, but the bigger surprise was Canobas’ appointment.

Malacañang sources said one of Canobas’ tickets to the NTC appointment was his close relationship with Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. and other officials of the administration party Lakas.

“He’s a Lakas operative,” said a Malacañang official.

Officials and workers who took part in running the campaign of the administration senatorial ticket Team Unity (TU) remembered Canobas for putting together the TU’s plan to saturate the country’s voting precincts with sample ballots to increase the TU’s chances of winning.

Canobas, according to another official who worked under Political Affairs Adviser Gabriel Claudio, was the one in charge of printing millions of sample ballots for TU.

An official of the administration party Lakas said the original plan for the TU was to print sample ballots containing the names of TU candidates at a ratio of four per voter.

“It was a saturation campaign,” said the Lakas official, who asked that he not be identified for fear of retaliation from party leaders and Malacañang officials.

For still unclear reasons, however, the ratio became just one sample ballot per voter.

At least P80 million was spent for the printing of the sample ballots.

When he received the message about his resignation, Abesamis was presiding over a plan that could further open up the telecommunications market to new players.

On his table lay what NTC officials said was an interconnection template that would set the terms, and fees, for new and smaller telecommunications firms to be able to connect to the bigger players like Philippine Long Distance Telecommunications Co., Smart and Globe.

Its objective was simple: Keep the smaller players alive by allowing calls made from their networks to connect to lines owned by the big ones, and set a fixed fee for this.

The bigger telecommunications firms had described it as a move that would “penalize bigness.”

Pressure is heavy on the NTC not to implement the interconnection template and another policy that would add more obligations to the bigger players.

“Consumer welfare, that’s the main goal,” of the two policies, according to an NTC consultant.

The NTC change of leadership also came at a time when the government appeared bent on carrying out a national broadband network (NBN) that a firm owned by De Venecia’s son was vigorously opposing.

Amsterdam Holdings Inc., owned by Jose de Venecia III, failed in its bid to build at no cost to the government a broadband backbone that would have the government as its main, but not exclusive, client.

Instead, Chinese firm ZTE Corp. bagged a $329-million contract to build the NBN, leaving AHI officials holding an empty bag.

Abesamis stayed out of the debate over whether the NBN project was a good move on the part of the government.

Among close friends, he expressed objections to the project since he saw no need for it. Two UP economic professors made a similar stand in a paper they prepared on the NBN.

But why put a Lakas lieutenant close to De Venecia on top of the government agency that would play a key role when the NBN goes online?

“It’s just politics,” said one Malacañang insider.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Free global database portal opened for SME exporters

By EDU LOPEZ - Manila Bulletin

Local exporters can now place their products and services in the iNegosyo.com global business database at no cost.

iNegosyo, an e-commerce portal and a joint project of SYOBnow e-commerce of Hong Kong and iNegosyo e-commerce Phils., addresses the Internet needs of traders and exporters.

The problem with many small enterprises is that they cannot afford to invest immediately in the technology and manpower required to sustain an internet presence.

Many small enterprises miss out the opportunity to inform the world of their products and services and the subsequent business that results from an internet presence.

iNegosyo.com is an economic and effective tool for small enterprises that would like to establish an internet presence at minimal investment.

For only P10 per day, any business can immediately create a professional web site without technical skills required, and start selling online.

The iNegosyo.com member will not only be able to receive SMS inquiries from the buyers, but will also receive a private email account, allowing for inquiries from prospective buyers to be received either by cell phone or email.

Posted information can be edited by the seller whenever necessary. A 24-hour presence on the internet allows businesses to promote their products, and receive inquiries all the time.

Aware of how mobile phones are an invaluable tool in doing business here in the Philippines, iNegosyo.com enabled the portal with an SMS Manager, a feature wherein buyers can send SMS inquiries directly from the portal to the seller's mobile phone.

All new members are given 20 free SMS load, so that they can interact with any prospective customer in real time through the SMS Manager.

Nene: Stop cellphone gimmicks

By: Bernadette E. Tamayo - Journal
SENATE Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. wants to prohibit telecommunications companies from sending unsolicited materials like advertisements and contests to cellphone subscribers via text or short message service (SMS).

He filed Senate Bill 1138 regulating the sending of materials by network companies via text which are not solicited by the subscriber.

He pointed out that cellphone services, including text or SMS, are paid for by all subscribers. Unlike free services, therefore, there is no justification for such unsolicited materials.

“As competition among cellphone companies gets fierce, they have started to look into their existing customers as a renewable market through gimmicks, subscriptions and contests by increasing their availment of cellphone services,” Pimentel said.

He said telecom companies have resorted to these gimmicks as post-paid plans get more attractive and pre-paid cards get smaller in denomination with the market for cellular phones nearing saturation, especially in Metro Manila.

Under SBl 1138, network companies are prohibited from sending unsolicited materials such as advertisements, offerings, promotions, subscriptions and other notifications to their subscribers via text. The only exception is legitimate notifications of past due accounts.

Companies found to have violated this prohibition will be punished with a fine of P20,000 to P100,000 per violation.

Any director, officer or employee found to have authorized or otherwise permitted the prohibited act shall likewise be fined P1,000 for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense and P3,000 for the third offense. For the fourth and subsequent offense, the violator shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of not less than one month.

Pimentel echoed the common complaint of cellphone users that telecommunication network firms indiscriminately send unsolicited materials to subscribers, jacking up phone bills.

“More often than not, unknowing customers have been victimized by such offerings sent by cellphone companies via text or short message service, only to realize later that such contests and subscriptions have jacked up their monthly bills or consumed all of their pre-paid credit,” he said

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