Sunday, October 08, 2006

Lyrics To Become More Prevalent - Wired

This post discusses the new steps taken by the Harry Fox agency and Lysic Find to allow licensing of song lyrics. This is way cool, in that legitimate sites can now easily recompense artists for the use of their work with regard to the publication of lyrics. Also opens up the way for licensing of lyrics on devices.
Way cool.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Wireless USB Devices Coming This Year

Excitement when I read this - Wireless USB Devices Coming This Year.
USB has a much higher data transfer rate than Bluetooth, which has largely been used for cellphone headsets and ringtone transfers.
So - potential for a truly wireless world, if it takes off. But there's also the security concern - with the number of unsecured WiFi ports, bluetooth phones etc - I don't think that people consider wireless data security at all. As more data gets transferred wirelessly, there's more and more risk that the data will be intercepted and used in negative ways.

Death of an Empire?

This op-ed piece in the New York Times -
What A Terrorist Incident in Ancient Rome Can Teach Us - Pirates of the Mediterranean
raised some interesting questions. After 9/11 when the Patriot Act was passed, it concerned me that rights that were fought for and earned after much struggle were being casually discarded. But history has many lessons for us. This piece relates the contemporary panic to the panic that the Roman Empire went through after a pirate raid, and that was the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire (the beginning of the age of all-powerful Caesars)
We see it here in Trinidad and Tobago as well. Crime is a concern to many. Kidnappings caused a panic (even though they have decreased dramatically after the arrest of the gang that was allegedly responsible) - so now it's normal to have joint Army-Police patrols. Closed circuit cameras have been installed downtown, with no discussion of checks and balances on the use of the information. Parliament is pretty much a ceremonial place. Cabinet informs Parliament what they are doing as a courtesy, but it's just a rubber stamp. We've got a draft constitution written by one man, that proposes an Executive President, with virtually unlimited powers.

Check this out - sound familiar?
The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the
authorities must be moderated and controlled.
Payments to foreign governments must be reduced, if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt.
People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

- Cicero 55BC
Roman author orator & politician (106BC-43BC)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Highway robbery - .org,. biz, info contracts?

John Levine, author of "The Internet for Dummies" and a fellow ALAC member, has written a on the latest proposed contracts from ICANN. Icann has posted proposed contracts for the .biz, .org and .info domain registries. Unfortunately, these contracts allow for differential pricing, if the registry so desires. What that means is that the price of a particular domain name can go up without a limit, as long as the registry gives 6 months notice to the registrars (note - NOT the registrants!)

So what does this mean for us, regualr people who have a domain name, like Well - if I am accustomed to pay $10 per year for the domain registration, one day I may go to renew and find that my price is now $10,000. The registrar knew about this 6 months before, but they had no duty to tell me, so now suddenly I have a bill that is much higher. Now, if htey had told me, I could have renewed for 10 years at the old price, but - why would they? And what happens in 10 years?

So - we can say - if it's too expensive, dump it and get another one. But can we?
Imagine the big companies - investing their company brand and image in for example. One day, the registry changes it to $500,000 or even $1 billion per year. To me, and to many others (look at the comments ICANN has received), this is highway robbery.

And ICANN isn't even upset about this - Vint Cerf suggested that if it were noted that the price were to go up in six months, one could simply pre-emptively renew for the 10 years that we as registrants are entitled. But would Coke, for example, want to make their business dependent on a domain name that they only had rights to for a reasonable price for 10 years?

I don't think so!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

US government told to take its hands off internet

US government told to take its hands off internet | The Register
Kieren McCarthy analyses in this article the responses to the USG's request for consultation on ICANN - in light of the expiration of the MoU under which ICANN operates. Interestingly, almost 2/3s of the responses that were on target (ignoring the ones that didn't refer to ICANN) were supportive of the USG removing itself from the running of the Internet and its oversight role, suggesting that it be handed over to an international organisation (not necessarily the UN).

ICANN itself didn't come off very well, as many respondents thought that ICANN is not doing very well, with quite a few suggesting that ICANN be disbanded, because it's failed at getting bottom-up input, (as well as being non-transparent).

So that's an indictment of the ALAC, of which I am a member (albeit a newbie, about 6 months) whose job it is to put in place a system for representation of end-users. Now, many people believe that the only way for end-users to be represented is by direct vote. Those are mainly USians. This is interesting, as the US itself does not have direct elections for President... electoral college anyone?

I think that the structure as proposed by ICANN can work in many parts of the world. We have begun to build those structures - Africam Asia Pacific, LAC and Europe are all in advanced stages of building the Regional At Large Organisations (RALOS) - a bit late, as not much was done in the past 3 years, and I can see that people looking in from the outside can say that we've not managed to do it.

But I have to remind them that nothing really happens before its time. The fact that all 4 RALOs are being organised now (mostly bottom up) reflects the potential for success of the structure - 4 years ago many people in LAC didn't know anything much about ICANN, far less why they should join.
The WSIS did raise conciousness, and now there's momentum. The challenge is to get things going fast, before we lose that momentum.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Domain tasting - what it's about and why it's bad

This blog talks about the domain tasting scheme. Basically, ICANN allows refunds on domain registrations that are dropped within 5 days. This is cool, cause sometimes you make a mistake, a misspelling or something when registering a domain name.

BUT, what has happened is that people have decided to scam this, by registering thousands of domain names, putting up ad sites, dropping the domain before the 5 days, and keeping the ad revenue.

And what happens now, is that groups of people are rotating domain names and using serious computing power to do this. So if I look up a domain on a registrar's site that participates in this, and don't register it right away, I may come back in a hour or 2 and realise that the name is gone. If I check, it'll be an ad site. And of course, I can't keep checking to see exactly when it's released to be able to register it, so that's it for me and my domain name. However, they can cycle among themselves...

And of course, when I am just searching online for something, often the first page of results is full of these ad or link farms. So, I waste time and bandwidth to find what I want.

Joi Ito has a nice blog entry on this with some cool links. He's an ICANN Board member. I'm an ALAC member, and ALAC is looking into the impact of this on the Internet User Community.

More on this in the future

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Luddites take over in Trinidad and Tobago

I included the whole thing as the Guardian doesn't give permalinks.

Why are we going backwards? There's so many studies that indicate that there is NO radiation threat from the towers, TATT themselves are testing the radiation and finding NONE. The Town and Country Planning process is slow and holding back progress, adn rather than fixing the process to help the country move forward, the Govt decides to tear down the towers and take us back to the dark ages. What next? How do we get to 2020?

There seems to be a reactionary movement against science, technology and industrial development in this country.

But everyone wants to talk on their phone. Everyone wants microwaves, big screen TVs in every room in the house including the bedroom,... these are far worse for health over hte long term than any cell tower.

If this trend continues, I may have to move back to the US - I am not going to stay in a country that is going backwards at the speed this one seems to be... and Bush will be gone, so it will be safe for me to return!


Read the article now:

After notices to Digicel and TSTT have not been complied with, the Government intends to call in the army to remove illegal cell sites


The Army will be called in to remove 16 illegal cell sites belonging to both Digicel and TSTT if the companies do not do so themselves.

So said Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis when she addressed members of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce at Westmoorings yesterday.

Robinson-Regis said notices were sent to the service providers giving them 28 days to comply with the order to dismantle the illegal sites, and the clock was running. She could not say how many days had already passed.

She said later that she had notified the Minister of National Security Martin Joseph, calling for the army’s help in removing the towers.

He added that the army had the necessary skills to remove the towers in such a way that the companies would not lose their investments.

“We did have a meeting with the companies about the locations of the towers and they did give an undertaking that once the towers were not within the planning policy that they would remove them,” she said.

“They have not done that and we find this difficult to understand since we said we were giving them the opportunity to remove the towers themselves.

“We did not want to go to the stage of enforcement, but we have reached that stage.”

The Minister said that an injunction was taken out restraining the ministry from removing two towers, so that matter would be going to court and would only delay the inevitability of the towers being removed.

She said found it preposterous that an interest group was giving her seven days to meet with it to discuss the cell tower issues.

“It has met with the Director of Town and Country Division and has aired it concerns,” she said.

“I have not received any correspondence for a meeting from it, except for what was in the media...I will not be responding to any threats.”

She said the ministry had mapped all the cell towers and have indicated to the owners the ones that were illegal.

But even as she talked of the strong action against cell towers, the minister later said that the nationwide problem of squatting had not stopped in spite of a law against it.

“The Army will not be used to remove them,” she joked.

Also addressing the breakfast meeting were Sheryl-Anne Haynes, acting director of Town and Country Planning Division and Vidjaya Ramkhalawan of the EMA.

When contacted yesterday evening, TSTT manager, communications and marketing, Amoy Van Lowe could not confirm whether TSTT had received any notice from the Ministry.

She also could not say how the removal of the cell sites would affect TSTT’s network as she was unsure whether TSTT would have to remove more than one tower.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Are Made for AdSense Sites Ruining Search Results?

A really nice discussion of what domain monetisation really means to the end users, to the small website owners, and in general, everyone who USES the web.

HTML version available at:

By Adam McFarland of ( (c) 2006

It's happened to you. You've searched for something on Google
and several promising results appear. You click on a link, but
when you get to the site all you see are a few ads and nothing
even remotely close to what you searched for. So you go back to
the search results and try again, only it happens again and
again until you finally find a page with some decent content...
or frustration sets in and you give up all together.

Why does this happen? How come in this day and age Google can't
give you the results you're looking for? A large part of the
answer is the growing number of made for AdSense (MFA) sites on
the web today. MFA sites are designed for the sole purpose of
getting you to click on a Google AdSense advertisement.

Define Made for AdSense

A site is made for AdSense if its sole purpose is to get users
to click on AdSense ads. Its owners don't intend that users will
learn from its content or participate in a community. All that
they want is for them to click on an ad.

A site is NOT made for AdSense if its primary purpose is to
provide unique content and the site owner decides to keep their
content free by displaying advertisements, AdSense or other.
This has been going on for years - television, newspapers, and
magazines all generate revenue with advertisements. The
difference is that the advertisements SUPPLEMENT the content of
the show or article. The same applies for the web. If you have a
news site or a forum, placing ads on your site does not make it
a made for AdSense site.

Why Do People Make MFA Sites?

The thing with MFA sites is that they work. The overwhelming
majority of the population has no clue what Google AdSense is
and doesn't understand that Google and the site owner make money
when they click on an ad. By placing these ads in locations that
people tend to focus on (Google gives you examples of locations
that result in the highest click-through), it's inevitable that
a certain percentage of visitors will click on the ads - either
intentionally or unintentionally.

Site owners make anywhere from five cents to several dollars per
click (revenue is split between them and Google) depending on the
industry. Big deal right? If you convert 5% of users into clicks
and you make 10 cents a click, you're only making 50 cents for
every hundred visitors to your site. Well if you make a thousand
MFA sites and each gets two hundred visitors a day, you are
making a cool $1,000/day.

Smart MFA site owners design sites with keywords that advertisers
pay more than the standard 20 cents or 30 cents. They design
sites with "content" about lawyers and car companies that
purchase AdWords advertisements that cost several dollars a
click. Re-do that calculation with five dollars a click instead
of 10 cents and your jaw will drop.

How do they get their traffic? In addition to using conventional
white hat SEO methods (like unique content and link building),
many of these sites shamelessly also take advantage of keyword
stuffing and cloaking - tactics that are considered unethical
and are against Google's terms of service. Many also get their
clicks in unethical ways - either by clicking on ads themselves
or by employing bots to automatically click. This is called
click fraud and is also against Google's terms of service.

Who Gets Hurt?

Some would argue that no one is getting hurt by "tricking"
people into clicking. Hey they're not getting charged anything.
No, but some advertiser is. Some business that's pouring their
hard earned money into Google AdWords to attract TARGETED
visitors to their site. Instead they end up paying for
accidental clicks.

You (the searcher) also get hurt by getting less than optimal
results. Imagine an internet where these sites didn't exist. You
might actually have a chance at finding what you're looking for
on the first try. That would save you some time that I'm sure
you'd be glad to have.

Should Google Do Something About It?

Everyone's first thought is "Google could stop it if they tried."
In reality, probably not. Regardless of the talent they recruit,
there are literally hundreds of thousands of people trying to
figure out a work around. As Seth Jayson recently said in his
article about the same topic entitled "How Google is Killing the
Internet" (
"I think when you pit a few hundred Google Smarty Pantses -- who
are getting fat on stock options and gourmet meals at the Big
Goo campus -- against many thousand enterprising schemers on
the Internet, the battle will go to those hungry schemers every

Google does have a system in place to reduce click fraud and are
always improving their algorithm to rid their results of sites
that practice cloaking, keyword stuffing, and other black hat
SEO techniques. Unfortunately, it's probably not enough.

The larger (and much scarier) question is whether or not Google
wants to do something about it. For the time being, they stand
to make a ton of money off of MFA sites. Until Google starts to
see a negative impact from MFA sites there's really no reason
for them to rush to do anything about it. Say Yahoo! all of a
sudden came up with a way to identify and block MFA sites and
provided better search results because of it, Google may be
threatened by the potential (or actual) loss of search percentage.
But until that happens I wouldn't expect Google to do much more
than they are right now.

What Can You Do?

There's no doubt that MFA sites have clogged up the web with
thousands of worthless pages. The best way to reduce the number
of made for AdSense sites is probably to do something about it
yourself. If you advertise on Google AdWords, don't allow Google
to display your ads on their content network (AdSense sites). As
an internet user, you can educate others about MFA sites and
encourage them not to click on ads. It may not seem like much,
but all of those clicks add up - just ask someone who owns a
made for AdSense site.


Copyright © 2006 Jayde Online, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

SiteProNews is a registered service mark of Jayde Online, Inc.

The internet needs YOU! | The Register

Kieren McCarthy has a really cool article on the NTIA request - time is short, so please, please go and make your views known!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

NTIA: NOI: DNS Transition Comments

NTIA: NOI: DNS Transition Comments

This is really important in the next week, comments are due by uly 7, with a public consultation to happen July 26.

You can also comment on the ALAC's submission.

Back to real life - no more World Cup

So, Trinidad and Tobago is back home, as is Argentina and shock of shocks, Brasil. So my World Cup is over - not sure who I want to win less, England or Germany. But I won't be getting into that now.

Just back from the ICANN meeting in Marrakech. Lovely place, excellent shopping, even if the bargaining is tiring.

ICANN's hot topics at the meeting:
  • NTIA consultation on ICANN
  • IDNs
  • IGF
  • Strategy Committee

ALAC's moving forward - Africa and LAC regions have started moves toward building the regional organisations (RALOS) and Asia Pacific is ready to enter the MOU with ICANN. Europe is moving ahead, having done a really good consultation in Frankfurt recently.

I'll update with a lot more on the Marrakech meeting in a bit.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Soca Warriors' "hymn"

So I found this on YouTube. I have no idea where this came from. It's pretty awful, tinny "pan" music and all, especially compared to the defacto anthem - Maximus Dan's "Fighter" which is below:

Thursday, June 15, 2006

T&T vs England

My lord... it took us nearly 2 minutes to touch the ball in the match. And then at 2:10, a very weak shot to Shaka Hislop. There's 15 of us squeezed into a small room with a 32" TV - we have to beat our previous colonial masters!

4:30 in -- 86 minutes to go... that's all we have left. But then a shot on goal - Shaka with a very unothodox save - TWICE!!!
6:45 - Carlos Edwards marking Crouch - he's been moved to right back!

What are our tactics? Free kick very badly taken. That might have been our best chance... did Dwight take a shot or was it a pass?

England counter attack -Beckham missed by a mile!

OK - took a break - Dwight down with a very low blow. I'm distracted ... we're singing and clapping the Shaka song. Shaka Shaka!!!
Now - the song is London Bridge is Falling Down... or is that premature, especially on the Queen's birthday. A New World Order here today?

Nil-all at half time - but by rights we should be ahead by one - England's Terry cleared it off the line with the keeper nowhere in sight! 3 defenders to scramble Stern John's header off the line - I so expected it to be in the back of the net!

Rooney comes in - is England so worried that they will risk the rest of the world cup just to avoid a draw agaist little T&T? But the wisdom here in Woodbrook, is that - We can't worry about Rooney - we are Warriors, not Worriers!!!

Finally!!! England gets a yellow card - we've been held to a higher standard all along.

England looks really worried! Beenhakker, our fave Dutchman looks very cool. He's even good at singing calypso!
We're looking composed, we have it together. The English look a bit worried and flustered. I wonder why... we haven't scored...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Chris Birchall: Four years ago I was down the pub watching England

Chris Birchall still can't really believe that he's playing in the World Cup for Trinidad and Tobago, against England. But our guys have nothing to lose - just to go out there and have fun and play good football. All the pressure's on England - think there's some old Empire pressure as well?

Visited countries

Saw this very cool map tool on Caribbean Free Radio. So here's my map of places I've been. I obviously need to travel more out of my own hemisphere!

create your own visited countries map

Guardian Unlimited Football - the most tasteless commentary!

Guardian Unlimited Football | World Cup 2006 | Group B: Trindad & Tobago v Sweden
This is a terrible, tasteless, fascinating and ultimately absolutely hilarious liveblog of the match between T&T and Sweden, which ended in a nil-all draw, prompting massive celebration in T&T, and many reports of our 'victory", not least by our very own FIFA VP - Austin "Jack" Warner. And he has his second biography out now - a book called "From Zero to Hero". Yes, it's published by my very own employer - Media Net Publishing.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents

Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents
Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.

Internet-censor world championship

Reporters sans frontières - Internet-censor world championship

This article is both interesting and terrifying. It lists (and discusses) censorship of the Internet worldwide. The repressive regimes that censor access to information for their populations have managed to both eat their cake and have it - they get many of the economic advantages of access to the Internet without the inconvenience of the concurrent liberation of the ideas, hearts and minds of the population, and the demands for freedom that this brings. Some of the censorhip tools are very technologically advanced (such as in China) and one can argue that the state of the art (knowledge and development) is beign served, but to what end?

Friday, June 09, 2006

House rejects Net neutrality rules

Read this article and you can see why I'm steaming. Now, the US has effectively drawn the battle lines - developing countries NEED net neutrality in order to be able to effectively access the Internet for develpment and economic purposes. Some Governments already consider some US activity on the Internet as tantamount to econmic warfare on their developing economies - how much more so now, when the US has effectively said - we don';t have to treat everyone equally - we can discriminate, and give some people better access than others.
Lets see how the rest of the world takes this. ICANN's MOU is due to end in September and the IANA contract has been put up for rebid. The .com agreement hasn't yet been approved by the DoC. The management of the Internet is in a difficult and uncertain place now. I hope it works out.

Article by Declan McCullagh
House rejects Net neutrality rules | CNET
The U.S. House of Representatives definitively rejected the concept of Net neutrality on Thursday, dealing a bitter blow to Internet companies like, eBay and Google that had engaged in a last-minute lobbying campaign to support it.

By a 269-152 vote that fell largely along party lines, the House Republican leadership mustered enough votes to reject a Democrat-backed amendment that would have enshrined stiff Net neutrality regulations into federal law and prevented broadband providers from treating some Internet sites differently from others.

Vision 2020 - education in a mess

I had an interesting email exchange with Raul Bermudez at 3:30 am today. He sent an email referring to a Minister's pronouncement on the Trinidad and Tobago Vision 20/20 plan - supposed to make T&T reach Developed Nation status by the year 2020.

Here it is:

By the year 2020,
Trinidad and Tobago will be a united, resilient, productive, innovative and prosperous nation;
With a disciplined, caring, fun-loving society;
Comprising healthy, happy and well-educated people and
Built on the enduring attributes of self-reliance, respect, tolerance, equity and integrity;

in which:

Every citizen has equal opportunities to achieve his fullest potential;
All citizens enjoy a high quality of life, where quality healthcare is available to all and where safe, peaceful, environmentally-friendly communities are maintained;
All citizens are assured of a sound, relevant education system tailored to meet the human resource needs of a modern, progressive, technologically advancing nation;
Optimum use is made of all the resources of the nation;
The family as the foundation of the society contributes to its growth, development and stability;
There is respect for the rule of law and human rights and the promotion of the principles of democracy;
The diversity and creativity of all its people are valued and nurtured.

So he wrote me that:

[This is] Typical back to front thinking.

Create a society in which...

Every citizen has equal opportunities to achieve his fullest potential;
All citizens enjoy a high quality of life, where quality healthcare is available to all and where safe, peaceful, environmentally-friendly communities are maintained;
All citizens are assured of a sound, relevant education system tailored to meet the human resource needs of a modern, progressive, technologically advancing nation;
Optimum use is made of all the resources of the nation;
The family as the foundation of the society contributes to its growth, development and stability;
There is respect for the rule of law and human rights and the promotion of the principles of democracy;
The diversity and creativity of all its people are valued and nurtured.

...and perhaps by the year 2020,

Trinidad and Tobago will be a united, resilient, productive, innovative and prosperous nation;
With a disciplined, caring, fun-loving society;
Comprising healthy, happy and well-educated people and
Built on the enduring attributes of self-reliance, respect, tolerance, equity and integrity;

To pretend that it will happen any other way is wrong.

While agreeing with the back-to-front-ness of the original post, I had one major complaint. The education portion states:

"All citizens are assured of a sound, relevant education system tailored to meet the human resource needs of a modern, progressive, technologically advancing nation;"

They leave out the really important part of education - it's not to meet human resource needs that are dictated by companies, but to educate the population to be ready to learn life-long, to value knowledge, to respect the knowledge of the ages, to contribute in the arts, science; to foster a culture of intellectual curiosity and
rigour; to create thinking citizens with an understanding of their role in a democratic society (hint - it's not to call in to the radio, but to understand the issues and work to make our government responsive to and a servant of the people) etc

If we only "met the HR needs" - would any school teach Shakespeare or Derek Walcott? What about pure science? What about theatre arts, sports, craft, civics?
This distresses me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

No Tolls on The Internet

No Tolls on The Internet is a very interesting piece written by Internet guru Lawrence Lessig in the Washington Post. Net Neutrality is a hot button topic, but also kind of obtuse. In order to make it understandable, it's been reduced to simplistic and alarmist sound bites - big companies will be in charge of the Internet and can charge little people way too much - we will have an Internet of the "haves' and the "have-nots" etc.
What is really the crux of the debate is whether the Internet is a public good or just another product that is marketed.
I would argue that the Internet is and MUST be a public infrastructure. It is the infrastructure on which the economies of today run and the future will run. Non-discriminatory access to Internet bandwidth is vital to development of the smaller economies of the world. I hope that the US Federal Communications Commission decides to reinstate the rules that were removed. Laws to promote Net Neutrality require a lot more though and work than they seem to have put in to date, as we don't want to strangle innovation on the Net either.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Launch of Caribbean Coalition on Women and AIDS (News, 2005-12-16) - News & Events - UNIFEM

Launch of Caribbean Coalition on Women and AIDS (News, 2005-12-16) - News & Events - UNIFEM
OK - so this launched last year, right here in the Caribbean, but it took me until now to find it - via an International site. This is such an important item, how come it wasn't more widely reported here, where it's been created, and where it is vital (as women and girls are being infected at high rates)?
Is it that local NGOs are not well trained in the use of and exploitation of local media, or is it that local media aren't interested?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Cooking with too much gas?

The rush to monetise natural gas in Trinidad and Tobago is feeling rather like the pictures and stories of the Gold Rush in California USA in the past. We're charging ahead, liquifying it at rates previously unheard of, building plants to burn it (smelters etc) doing everything we can possibly do to make money off it while the war in Iraq stumbles on and prices remain high.

But - we can't absorb it all. We are a nation of 1.3 million people. Physically, we have a land mass of under 3000 sq miles. We can't realistically take all this in without inflation, environmental stress, importation of human resources.

If we slowed down the extraction rates, (paused at Train 3 for a breath rather than going straight for 4 and 5, cancelled the smelters) we'd be in a much better position to grow the economy slowly and sustainably. But we want to "strike while the iron is hot". Which to me makes no sense in the O&G economy, as it's a non-renewable resource, and the prices aren't going anywhere. Gas is a "clean" fuel, and if we wait some, the gas prices will go up more and more as dirty fuels are phased out by international agreement. But that means that the party in power won't have unlimited sums to purchase votes to keep itself in power indefinitely. Which is a terrible way to determine economic policy.

We're pushing so fast that we can't even keep up with the human resources, so the benefits are going to imported expats. If we slowed down a bit, then we would be able to work within our resource limits (human as well as infrastructural). We'd be able to train people in
time to work in the projects that are being created. We'd be able to have a highway or mass transportation system that services an area when massive development of that area is finished and not 30 years later.

Have we looked at the buildings that are going up and transforming the POS skyline? How much will they cost to maintain and run? How many are being powered by alternative energy or are built in an energy efficient manner? What will we do with them in 50 or 100 years? We won't have cash to tear them down and build over... we may not even in the near future have enough cash to run the airconditioning!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Cell Companies Joust to Wire the Caribbean

Saw this in my email recently. It's true. But what it leaves out is that in all this hype and excitement, we are not really thinking about what tools we need to raise our e-reasdiness index, to close hte digital divide. Getting a free cell phone is cool, but then - what about the monthly maintenance costs - how many people have the phone but no credit on it to use it? What about data access services? Competition has NOT dropped the price of data access, or of broadband (wireless or wired). At nearly US$600/month for 256k (wired) and the same price for 400k (wireless) it's beyond the reach of many.

Peter Richards

When he wanted to buy a new mobile phone, the only problem Kadeem Simon had was just how long he would wait in line to be served.

Armed with a newspaper, he had the luxury of deciding whether he wanted to acquire his phone from the long established monopoly, Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT), or the new player in the local market, Digicel, an Irish-based company that is promoting itself as the fastest growing telecommunications company in the Caribbean.

"Competition is good. I may decide to buy my phone from TSTT, but I like the opportunity to examine others," said Kadeem, a 17-year-old secondary student for whom a mobile phone is not simply an instrument to answer calls, but also to play games, send text, take photographs and even shoot video.

"Before, we had no choice, we either purchased what was sold on the local market, or wait on friends from neighbouring Caribbean islands to send us phones that were much cheaper and had more features than what we were accustomed to," he said.

As he speaks, he opens up the newspaper, where every other page contains a full page colour advertisement from the two main players, offering various giveaways, including, in the case of TSTT, an opportunity for at least 30 football fans to receive an all-expenses paid trip to Germany to watch the "Soca Warriors", the Trinidad and Tobago football team, participate in its
first ever World Cup competition.

"The lines are so long, so many people are here looking for mobile phones. I will probably have to wait for at least an hour before I could get served, but I don't mind. I want to take advantage of the specials also," said Kadeem.

Kadeem's plight, or fortune as the case may be, is replicated in almost every Caribbean island, where in recent years, regional governments have sought to cash in on the lucrative telecommunications sector by liberalising the industry and ending the monopoly enjoyed by the British telecommunications giant, Cable and Wireless, since the 1930s.

Even the British Virgin Islands, the tiny British overseas dependent territory, is moving to liberalise its telecom industry and has introduced legislation establishing the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), an independent body that would be charged with regulating the industry.

"Regulation is a necessary prerequisite to liberalisation. The regulator will be responsible for licensing new operators, managing interconnection and removing any barrier to market entry by new operators," said Communications and Works Minister Alvin Christopher.

"Telecommunication liberalisation is a very complex process that involves careful strategic measures. We encourage and support the introduction of competition, and in this light we not only want to create an independent agency, but also empower them to act effectively and efficiently," Christopher said.

In Guyana, the government of Pres. Bharrat Jagdeo has announced plans to end "the monopoly on landlines and international transmission services thereby creating a competitive telecommunication sector to ensure cheaper and better services to our people and businesses".

He said the government would grant a licence to Digicel to compete for cellular telephone customers.
The newly appointed regulatory bodies in the region have also sought to encourage competition other than between Cable and Wireless and Digicel, which together have spent millions of dollars on advertisements, sponsorships and other promotional activities in the Caribbean.

"Information has become critical to all aspects of human activity. Moreover, information that can be accessed by electronic means could empower people residing in the remotest parts of our globe," says Khalid Hassanali, chairman of the Telecommunication Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.
"Sadly, however, there is a wide sector of our global society deprived from accessing information by electronic means," he told a recent meeting of Caribbean telephone operators.

Despite being the wealthiest country in the English-speaking Caribbean, the digital access index for Trinidad and Tobago, which measures the overall ability of individuals in a country to access and use new ICTs, stands at 0.53, which is lower than that of Dominica at 0.54, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda at 0.57, and St. Kitts-Nevis at 0.60. (In comparison, Sweden, which has the highest index in the world, is rated at 0.85).

Hassanali said that Port of Spain would conduct an extensive study later this year to determine which areas are under-served "and affirm obligations on concessionaries designed to ensure that all persons in Trinidad and Tobago have access to basic telecommunication services".
When he delivered his island's national budget on Wednesday, St. Lucia's Prime Minister Kenny Anthony said the information technology sector had the potential to ease unemployment and "absorb the hundreds who graduate from our secondary schools".

He said his administration was encouraging the e-service sector through the liberalisation of the telecommunication industry with the ultimate aim being "to provide all St. Lucians with the opportunity to enjoy a better standard of living".

"This sector has potential that must be explored... the strategy in the past of relying on preferential treatment for our bananas (in Europe) and insulating our industries from competition can no longer work in today's world," the prime minister said.

The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunication Authority (ECTEL), of which St. Lucia is a member, says it is discussing ways of providing more affordable telecommunications services with the entry of more small business providers.
"There is a general feeling that we have not done enough to bring small providers into the net and as a result the international voice user license is not being used as a mechanism to allow small providers to purchase services from larger providers and be able to resell," said Eliud Williams, ECTEL's managing director.

Last year, the British telecom company reported that its Caribbean business brought in an estimated one billion dollars, and earned an operating profit of 189 million dollars, more than its entire business in Britain.
Harris Jones, the CEO of Cable and Wireless International, said the healthy profits came despite new competition from other providers.

Jones, who was in the region attending a global meeting of Cable and Wireless companies last month, said that in terms of technology, the Caribbean is ahead of "some of the first world markets and in the case of broadband, the Caribbean is actually leading".

Digicel, which currently has operations in 16 Caribbean countries, says it is in the Caribbean "for the long haul".

"With 10 more Caribbean nations whose telecommunications marketplaces are yet to be liberalised, we expect exponential growth over the next five years," said Digicel's chairman, Denis O'Brien.

To mark its fifth year of operation in the Caribbean, Digicel said it plans to build a new state-of-the-art headquarters in Kingston for its Jamaican staff base of 1,000.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Using internationalized domain names

Using internationalized domain names is a cool tutorial that discusses the technical issues behind the development of Internationalised Domain Names - so that people who don't use English, can actually use accents, Chinese and Korean, Arabic characters in the whole domain name. Right now, in order to use the Internet you need to know at least SOME English as the top level domain is still in English (ASCII).
This discussion has been going on for a while, but hopefully we are nearing the end of the road, as there is a lot of frustration in the non-ASCII world, and there is the major risk of alternate roots being set up and the "splitting" of the internet.
There are political and policy issues as well that need to be sorted out, and these include the following intellectual property issues:

  • Does a registrant holding an ASCII TLD have a prior right to register the same in the IDN version? What about trademark holders?
  • Would current domain name holders feel forced to register the IDN equivalent for brand protection? That might be seen as a form of extortion.
There's also a lot of other concerns, and this should be REALLY something that the regional groups that say they are interested in the multilingual Internet should be involved in, but I haven't seen a single output from CARDICIS into the ICANN or other IDN processes. OK - so the majority of these processes set upp by ICANN are in English. But is that a reason to ignore the process and then have only the people who are willing and able to participate in English make the decisions for us? Sounds like cutting off our nose to spite our face.

OOOH - ICANN gets slapped by CIRA

CIRA - News Release - Open letter to ICANN
CIRA - the Canadian Internet Registry - has sent a firm letter to the ICANN Board withdrawing financial and other support until principles of transparency and accountability are implemented in the Board decisions!
Finally, fallout from the Verisign deal is starting to hit!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Splitting the root - IDNs and ICANN

Splitting the root
I'm at the ICANN meeting in Wellington, New Zealand. I guess the blog gets a lot more important to me when I'm at these meetings.
So, anyway, we are in the ALAC Policy Discussion meeting. Meeting notes are here.
But this article is good background on the IDN (International Domain Name) issue. What the issue is. Not what we can do about it, but why it's a problem.
One of these issues is here in Bret Fausett's blog.

So - there are technical issues that are being worked on - ICANN has announced a test for the IDN system.
BUT - there are many many policy issues. This is where we really need to get involved.

Splitting the root - IDNs and ICANN

Splitting the root
I'm at the ICANN meeting in Wellington, New Zealand. I guess the blog gets a lot more important to me when I'm at these meetings.
So, anyway, we are in the ALAC Policy Discussion meeting. Meeting notes are here.
But this article is good background on the IDN (International Domain Name) issue. What the issue is. Not what we can do about it, but why it's a problem.

So - there are technical issues that are being worked on - ICANN has announced a test for the IDN system.
BUT - there are many many policy issues. This is where we really need to get involved.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wiki on Internet User�s Participation in ICANN

Wiki on Internet User�s Participation in ICANN
Thsi is a new wiki set up to assist in working on the following project:

Help to strengthen Civil Rights and Consumer Protection in ICANN�s policies!

The question of how Internet Governance is shaped is one of the central sociopolitical tasks of the coming years. It will be a matter of how consumers and Internet users can become involved in the policy making of ICANN.

There is a civil society element in ICANN, the At-large Advisory Committee (ALAC), composed to represent Internet users, five regions in world each providing 3 representatives. At this point these representatives are chosen by a nominating committee of ICANN and its Board. However, the goal is to build structures to foster participation in the respective regions, and furthermore facilitate the direct election of regional ALAC representatives.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Soca Broadway vs the residents of Woodbrook (or are they?)

Martin Dalye writes in the Trinidad Express:

"Take the Port of Spain Corporation. At a time when State discipline is meted out to Phase II, the Corporation is silent about the undisciplined operations of the nearby fete venue in the grounds adjacent to the National Stadium. These stadium grounds are totally unsuitable as a fete venue. They are adjacent to a major highway, which has intersections all around the stadium. The grounds are not properly fenced but the fete promoter is so favoured that the fence is actually being re-arranged to suit the temporary and unsuitable purpose for which the grounds are being used. There is a risk that revellers can gain entrance to the stadium

Every weekend is a horrific experience for the residents of Woodbrook -blasting noise until 4 or 5 a.m. and the disturbances created by revellers on their way home. One resident complained in a radio interview that at 6.45 a.m. on a Sunday he could not get his car out of his yard. His driveway, like all others in the area, was blocked by an indiscreetly parked vehicle. Ironically, he was trying to go to church and was cursed by drunks."

So - Martin Daly thinks that being next to a highway is a NEGATIVE for an entertainment venue? Duh!
One of the major problems with the entertainment venues in T&T to date has been lack of proper road access, lack of proper parking facilities, and a basic inability to get into or out of of the event for nearly 2 hours on each end, making a simple concert a whole-night affair.

The Woodbrook residents who complain (I am not one) abotu the noise must have bat-like hearing, because on most nights I do not hear a thing from that venue. I've heard it from the mariott hotel, but not from the Woodbrook side at all.
Also - most of us are cool with the venue - the "Woodbrook residents" who are marching and complainign are very few. We need to get hte rest of us marching in favor of Soca Broadway! How come Mr. Daly doesn't complain about the noise from the Little Carib that I hear every night? Or the pounding of the Invaders pan until the wee hours of the morning?
Is it that he likes pan so that's OK, but he don't like fetes?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Comeptition my a**!

As we get competition in cable, the one monopoly cable company gets taken over by the competition. So - not much competition there, eh? And then IMMEDIATELY my cable goes down. I get home from work at 9pm, and call. Customer service used to work until 10pm. And when they weren't there, the system took a message and they called me back.
Oh no! Not now - "The mailbox is full" GOODBYE! and the system hangs up! A full HOUR before customer service was supposed to close. WTH?
I now have to call from work, and then trustr they fixed it or run home in the middle of the day to ensure that my cable is working - and I came home early today to see Law and Order.
This is CRAP!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Caricom places focus on ICT development

Article from the Jamaica Observer re Jennifer Britton's speech at the UWI campus in Mona - she's talking about CARICOM's moves towards greater implementation of ICT in the region. She's very passionate - hope that the lack of funding and general lack of interest in the corridors of power in the Caribbean don't hold back this very very important activity!
Also - it was very cool that she acknowledged the efforts of the civil society in the region and expressed support for the multistakeholder appproach that was successfully implemented in the WGIG and moderately successful in the WSIS


Caricom places focus on ICT development

Observer Reporter

Monday, January 02, 2006

CARICOM is placing increased focus on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a critical part of human and social development in the region, and as such, has placed the ICT development agenda and its myriad of activities, directly under the portfolio of the deputy secretary-general. DUNN... second follow-up meeting will be held in February or March

According to senior project officer for ICT Development at Caricom, Jennifer Britton this move "of course gives the ICT for Development movement the profile and positioning it needs in the region to get all the work that is necessary done".

Britton was speaking at a recent post- Tunis public policy seminar on the outcomes and follow-up to the second World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Britton, in presenting a synopsis of the Secretariat's efforts towards ICT for development and the implementation of the plan of action coming out of the WSIS Summit, which was held in the North African state of Tunisia from November 16 to 18, informed further, that an ICT for Development Unit had been established in the Secretariat.

"We formed the Caricom ICT steering committee in January, which is supposed to act as an advisory guiding body for all the activities in the region. The first meeting will be May 2006," she said.

She also noted that because of the cross-cutting nature of ICT for Development, it had been placed more comprehensively on the work programmes of the major units in the Secretariat, which include: Human and Social Development, Regional Trade and Economic Intelligence, and the Office of the Secretary-General.

"We are in the process of creating a Caricom ICT for Development website, which we hope will help us do a lot of the coordinating that we need to do at the Secretariat level, in terms of contacts and getting feed-back from stakeholders. We have started work with regard to the development of a regional ICT strategic plan," Britton told the gathering.

She pointed out that the seminar gave the Caricom Secretariat some guidelines to assist the other member states in jump-starting their own activities towards the implementation of the WSIS Plan of Action.

In October 2004, the Secretariat was mandated by the ICT ministers to coordinate all the ICT activities in the region and to implement, at the Secretariat level, the WSIS Plan of Action across the region.

"This is new ground for the Secretariat. We have spent the last year devising ways and means as to how we would go about implementing the plan of action in conjunction with the member states," the senior project officer said.
Pointing to challenges that faced the region's communications sector and which needed to be given immediate focus, she mentioned human capacity development, legal issues surrounding ICT for development, the telecoms regime, broadband access, e-government and e-governance, disaster management, Internet governance, financing, and the maintenance of the region's cultural identity.
"increasing coordination to reduce duplication of effort across the region.

"That is a tremendous challenge, and we hope that continuous meetings and feedback and reporting will assist with regard to coordination of effort across the region," she said.

Britton further pointed to the need to mobilise the private sector and civil society. "We need to pay particular attention to civil society
involvement. Civil society has taken on a life of its own and it is in fact driving a lot of the issues that have to deal with the World Summit and the Information Society and ICT for Development, so we need to find creative, all encompassing methods and mechanisms for embracing and utilising the skills resident in civil society," she said.
"If we don't bring those people on board, (education, social workers, etc), we will perhaps miss the boat with regard to both the development and implementation of the WSIS plan of action and the Millennium Development Goals," she added.

She urged all stakeholders to work together to meet the challenges presented by the WSIS plan of action and the Millennium Development Goals. "I'd therefore like to renew the challenge to all of us to commit to continue the work started here today," she said.

The objective of the forum was to identify specific policy initiatives locally and regionally that could be pursued to the benefit of national and regional institutions.

Director, Telecommunications Policy and Management Programme, Dr Hopeton Dunn who chaired the event, indicated that a second follow-up meeting would be held in February or March, following consultations with the Central Information Technology Office.

The WSIS was a two-part United Nations (UN) conference managed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) aimed at developing a global framework to tackle the challenges presented by the Information Society. The first world summit took place in Geneva, from December 10 to 12, 2003.
The objectives of the WSIS Plan of Action are to build an inclusive Information Society; to put the potential of knowledge and ICTs at the service of development; to promote the use of information and knowledge for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration; and to address new challenges of the information society, at the national, regional and international levels.

The new Board of Directors of IGovTT

The new Board of Directors of  IGovTT  was presented with congratulatory letters by The Honourable Maxie Cuffie, Minister of Public Admini...