Saturday, 31 January 2015

Regime Change in the EU?

The People of Greece being fed up with austerity in their country have chosen their elected officials in free and fair elections. Those now in the Greek Government are taking a more confrontational role with their creditors in the international community. My guess is that many in the international community wish they could do a regime change in Greece and get a more conciliatory government in place that will abide by its debt obligations.

Compare Greece with Egypt where a few years ago the Egyptian people voted for Morsi (for good or bad) in reasonably free and fair elections but were eventually denied the government of their choice when the Western powers favoured General Sisi as their preferred leader and a change in government took place.

The Greek people will probably be allowed to keep their government. Unless their financial situation becomes too dire then they themselves will call for new elections. We are used to hearing about regime change in South America or Middle Eastern countries. What constitutes regime change? Does a foreign government trying to get MPs to vote against their government in a no confidence vote, for example, constitute regime change? Would regime change be orchestrated in an EU country?

Mumbai's Gangsta Wrap - Images of India - IdeaIndia.Com

Getting to the Source of the Problem in India: India's New Religion

Times of India reports that China has adopted new regulations requiring companies that sell computer equipment to Chinese banks to turn over secret source code. Also in the news are 2 hackathons that kicked off in different parts of India last weekend to address specific objectives, signifying coming of age of marathon coding events that have so far largely been about like-minded people getting together for some fun. United States-based Science Inc conducted its first hackathon in the world in Bengaluru with the intention of converting ideas into companies if possible. The three-year-old firm has birthed at least a dozen start-ups across the world so far, including bitcoin resource and news site CoinDesk, and employee referral company SpringRole. The other hackathon is equally focused if entirely dissimilar in its format and objectives. The seven-day Kumbhathon, which started in Nashik on January 24, aims to hack into potential problems during the world's largest religious congregation, the Kumbh mela, which is held every third year at one of the four places by rotation — Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjain.

China, which is a very valuable market for international suppliers may try to force suppliers to hand over source code when agreeing to use them. Might India do the same? Unless India has its own indigenous equipment manufacturers it will be reliant on international suppliers and there will always be the concern over back-doors in the software supplied that allow systems to be hacked. Also associating a centuries old religious event, like the Kumbh Mela, with a software hacking competition is a new twist. India has its Department of Electronic & Information Technology, DEITY. IT may be India's new religion.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Digital Emotions in India: Getting Emotional over what's in your Pocket

Times of India reports that people are becoming emotionally attached to their smartphones, show researchers from Loughborough University and University of Iceland in Reykjavik. The emergence of devices from the likes of Samsung and Apple gave users a computer in their pocket. Now apart from making phone calls and sending text messages, smartphone users have immediate access to the Internet, social media and network systems, e-mail accounts, video clips, music files and a vast array of phone-based software apps. "Smartphones are creating a huge ripple in the pond of human behaviour and it is important that, as smartphones develop, we continue to study the way they affect behaviour, emotions and emotional attachments," said Tom Page from Loughborough University Design School.

The science behind Human-Computer interaction is still developing as mobile devices and the Internet of Things become more prevalent. Indians are very emotionally attached to the smartphones in their pockets. Go to any restaurant or bar in Mumbai and you will see the smartphones out in force. Modi's very ambitious plan is for every Indian to have a smartphone by 2019. Are Indians now carrying their emotions in their pockets? :)

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Cyber-Insecurity: India's Digital Infrastructure

Times of India reports that India's cybersecurity budget was more than doubled last year. Yet, it is "woefully inadequate" in the wake of revelations made by US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and increasing cyberattacks on government infrastructure, according to experts. In 2014-15, the Department of IT has set aside Rs 116 crore for cybersecurity. The country has proposed to set up a national cyber coordination centre (NCCC) with a separate budget of Rs 1,000 crore. The coordination centre is still awaiting Cabinet clearance. "Allocation is woefully inadequate given Snowden's revelations we need at least 10 times that amount," said Sunil Abraham, executive director at Center for Internet and Society. According to the Computer Emergency Response Team-India (CERT-In), reported attacks on Indian websites have increased nearly five times in the past four years. Until mid-2014, CERT-In recorded more than 60,000 incidents. Cybersecurity of government infrastructure faces multiple issues. It needs better hardware and software audits and implementation of proposed projects.

The hacking of Sony has brought the issue of cybersecurity in the spotlight all around the world. Companies and governments have to double their efforts to protect their digital infrastructure. The advantage that India may have is that it is in the process of developing its digital infrastructure and can try to build in its cybersecurity along the way. A country like, for example, Estonia which has gone a long way to e-governance and developing its digital infrastructure probably has to spend a large proportion of its budget on cybersecurity.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Modi Dreams of the Big Easy: The Digital Raj

With Obama's visit to India on Republic Day, the discussion centred around business deals. India ranks near the bottom in the league on the ease of doing business in the country. India ranks below Pakistan and China. This is a common complaint of Indian and foreign business people. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to reform the bureaucracy and red tape to make it easier to do business in India. Modi's dream of transforming India from Licence Raj to Digital Raj where people can interact with government and do business with ease is a long way off. This will involve changing generations of cultural inertia. This is where NRIs will have a major role to play.

Monday, 26 January 2015

America's Next President and Modi

The media are full of the Modi-Obama mutual admiration society. Modi is just beginning his tenure as India's leader while Obama is coming to the end of his leadership of America. The India-USA relationship will depend a lot on who is America's next President. Will Modi be hugging the Next American President?

Quantum of Spectrum: Digital India Vision into Action

Times of India reports that GSM lobby group Cellular Operators Association of India said the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious 'Digital India' programme hinges on the resolution of some key sectoral issues such as the scarcity of spectrum. There is an "urgent need" for increasing the quantum of spectrum, which will contribute to the affordability of services, Rajan S Mathews, executive director at COAI, said. The body represents India's top carriers such as Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India and Reliance Jio Infocomm, "For the Digital India programme, there is an urgent need for increasing spectrum availability, which will contribute to affordability of services, while harmonisation of spectrum will allow a lower cost device ecosystem to evolve," Mathews said.

If NaMo's ambitious plans on Digital India are to succeed then those involved in the relevant industries need to urgently act in coordination. NaMo is riding high on vision but now he must turn this into action.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Digital Default: Digital Effect on India

Times of India reports that betting big on the Internet of Things (IoT) as the third major wave in technology space, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) chief N Chandrasekaran has said that going digital was no more an option, but a default now. While digital economy and emerging trends in the technology space remained a key point during various sessions at the World Economic Forum, Chandrasekaran said IoT would transform every company, industry and even the society going forward. Taking over as the chair of the IT governors' steering committee of the WEF, the TCS managing director and CEO said, "Going digital is no longer an option for all of us, it is the default." IoT is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable and embedded computing devices within existing Internet infrastructure. 

Also Indian handset makers are increasingly selling their new smartphones through online channels, hoping to mimic the robust sales that Xiaomi and Motorola have reported in India by tapping the cost advantage and direct consumer connect that the medium offers. The country's No. 2 player, Micromax, which launched Yureka brand of smartphones through a subsidiary recently, sold 25,000 devices in seconds over two flash sales on Amazon. No. 3 Lava recently said it will introduce a sub-brand under Xolo to be sold through its own ecommerce channel.

Internet retailer Amazon and its fast-growing local rivals are driving a boom in commercial property leasing in India as their storage needs rise, with shoppers in the country going online to buy everything from televisions to groceries. Demand from e-commerce firms, a tiny fraction of India's retail industry, accounted for as much as 40% of 1.7 million square feet of warehouses leased in 2014 -- a seven-fold increase from 2013, according to consultants CBRE South Asia. Warehouse rents have risen by a quarter over the past year. Other estimates indicate office rents in India's tech hub Bengaluru could rise by as much as a fifth in the next six to nine months as e-commerce companies add to demand.

The effect of e-commerce and the digital economy on India and Indian life is likely to be very profound. The Digital Default, as TCS Chief says, is irreversible.

Marine Drive, Mumbai - India Photo Library - IdeaIndia.Com

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Yo Blair, Best Wishes: Tony and Other World Leaders

The Guardian reports that Tony Blair wrote to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to thank him for the “excellent cooperation” between the two countries’ counter-terrorism agencies following a period during which the UK and Libya worked together to arrange for Libyan dissidents to be kidnapped and flown to Tripoli, along with their families. The letter, written in 2007, followed a period in which the dictator’s intelligence officers were permitted to operate in the UK, approaching and intimidating Libyan refugees in an attempt to persuade them to work as informants for both countries’ agencies. Addressed “Dear Mu’ammar” and signed “Best wishes yours ever, Tony”, the letter was among hundreds of pages of documents recovered from Libyan government offices following the 2011 revolution and pieced together by a team of London lawyers.

One incident between Tony Blair and Gaddafi that did come in the media some years ago was when the two met and both were seated, Gaddafi was reported as showing the soles of his shoes pointed towards Blair which was supposed to be an insult to Blair.

There was also the "Yo Blair" incident with George Bush when Blair said he had personally selected a sweater as a gift for George Bush.

You probably have to be very thick-skinned to be Prime Minister. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Family on the Street in Mumbai - India Photo Library @ IdeaIndia.Com

Delhi's Daredevil

Times of India reports that with her occasional statements and regular tweets, Kiran Bedi has been warming up to BJP for a while. There were speculation she could be fielded in Delhi polls, but the dramatic way in which she ended up as being the chief ministerial candidate just four days after she joined the party took even the state leadership by surprise. ET spoke to several BJP leaders to piece together the sequence of events that led to BJP chief Amit Shah announcing her as CM candidate. 

From AAP to BJP - that's quite a transformation for Kiran Bedi. Power hungry Bedi has possibly landed a  big role in Dehli.  Doing a deal with the devil? But who is the devil here? Perhaps Bedi is Delhi's Daredevil?

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Getting IT Right in India: Gender Inequality at Work

Times of India reports that with a median gross salary of Rs 341.8 per hour, the IT sector in India has emerged as the most lucrative sector in India, followed by finance where employees get Rs 291 per hour, a report by online career and recruitment solutions provider, Monster India, those in the IT sector in India earn on average Rs 341.8 per hour which is by far the highest salary of all sectors. Overall the Monster Salary Index (MSI) shows that the median gross salary in the construction sector stood at Rs 259 per hour, for education at Rs 186.5, healthcare (Rs 215), legal (Rs 215.6), manufacturing and transport (Rs 230.9). The report brings to light the fact that employees in education sector get the lowest hourly salary of Rs 186.50 per hour. This can be attributed to the fact that there are relatively more women working here than in other sectors and are paid 18% lesser than men in the same sector, the report said. Commenting on the findings of the report, Monster India managing director (India/Middle East/ Southeast Asia/Hong Kong) Sanjay Modi said, "The country is on the edge of a new wave of development that is expected to deliver jobs and prosperity to millions, which has a direct correlation with salary/income." Across global and US region, the same survey indicates that women in the workplace are not being compensated in the same way as their male counterparts. Meanwhile, gender pay gap is significant across sectors in India, it says.

With the Digital India programme, India e-commerce growing and investment in tech startups increasing, the IT sector in India will be the current growth area for jobs. Also this will create problems for employers to find the best talent in IT in India. This also shows the gender inequality in the workplace in India.

France tries to out-Fox the Media

The Guardian reports that the mayor of Paris plans to sue Fox News for its reporting on the city in the wake of the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. “When we’re insulted, and when we’ve had an image, then I think we’ll have to sue, I think we’ll have to go to court, in order to have these words removed,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced.” She was responding to remarks on Fox News that there were “no-go zones” in Paris where non-Muslims and even police were afraid to go. Fox and Friends even broadcast a map outlining seven such zones. Paris is not the only European city to be maligned in this way. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and a possible contender for the 2016 presidential election, told a group of British MPs that similar “no-go zones” – where Sharia law trumps British law – have appeared across the UK. Previously, Steve Emerson, a “terrorism expert” talking-head also on Fox News, went one step further, labelling Birmingham – a city of more than a million people – as being a place where “non-Muslims simply don’t go in”.

Also in the news is a speech by the French Prime Minister talking of "social and ethnic apartheid" in France. These are strong words from the Prime Minister and slightly at odds with the stand taken by the Paris Mayor.

The French trying to out-Fox the media?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Queen's Necklace, Marine Drive, Mumbai - India Photo Library - IdeaIndia.Com

Labour on the Move: People Trafficking in the Age of Globalisation

Times of India reports that on the one side, half a dozen H-1B workers bunkered in a choked 'guesthouse' in America, anxious to be summoned by their labour broker to a job they know will pay discriminatory wages and mean long hours. When they do get the job, the broker often pockets a cut and can even sue if the employee quits or switches jobs. Cut to India where hundreds of young men line up outside the offices of the very same labour brokers, ready to pay out large sums for their American dream. The nightmarish story of the 'indentured' Indian tech worker in America has found its most recent rendering in a graphic novel published by The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), a non-profit American organization. A Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2012 and 2013, CIR may just be in the running again for its work on the mercenary practices of the tech 'in-sourcing' industry, which thrives on the inflow of highly-skilled Indian tech workers on H-1B visas.

CIR's graphic novel has been scripted and sketched by Silicon Valley reporter Matt Smith, who along with fellow journalist Gollan, spells out the tech staffing firms' damning five-point modus operandi - 1. Companies lure Indian workers to the US with phantom jobs. 2. Workers are often unpaid (brokers withhold salaries). 3. Brokers demand cash for visas. 4. Workers often feel pressure to "spice up," or falsify, their resumes (brokers often suggest they do this in order to get hired). 5. Bonding and penalties are heaped on workers who quit. 

They also write about the culpability of US government departments that have looked past H-1B violations. Smith and his colleagues, Jennifer Gollan and Adithya Sambamurthy, spent a large part of their year-long investigation tracking down workers who would actually talk to them. "The wall of silence from Indian IT workers can only be compared with attempting to investigate an organization under a strict Omerta," says Smith on email. "Early on I was writing and calling people I found through LinkedIn and Nexis, and databases such as Benchfolks, chat rooms such as MyVisajobs and, and a list of industry contacts used by labour brokers. Ultimately, it turned out that the most effective way to find workers willing to talk was to go physically to local courthouses with a digital scanner in hand, seeking to find lawsuits involving suspect companies."

People traffickers are not just dealing with those seeking asylum into Europe or Australia for example as the news of boat loads of people would suggest. But it also seems that labour brokers are also targeting highly skilled people from India also - H-1B visa violations. This is a problem also in Qatar with workers from Nepal and elsewhere being targeted by companies seeking cheap labour. Even the issue of zero-hour contracts in the UK can be seen in the light of labour agencies supplying cheap labour within the UK.

People smugglers or labour brokers are causing misery to many people every year around the world. Labour is being moved around the world without much monitoring. Globalisation has caused a need for cheap labour around the world and labour agencies or people traffickers are supplying the demand.