When all companies are tech companies; Kid gloves for India’s billionaires; Why bugging allies is stupid; Dubai opens world’s biggest airport





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1 When all companies are tech companies (Sylvia Pennington in Sydney Morning Herald) Although only a fraction of companies around the world would consider themselves to be in the technology business, increasingly the great majority of them rely on technology to stay in business. But John Roberts, Gartner vice-president, says businesses are still working out how to extract maximum value from technologies, including social media, mobile communications, big data and cloud. Even chief information officers say only 43 per cent of technology’s potential has been deployed in their organisations.

“Through cloud and software as a service, everybody will be able to play in the same space, and they’ll have to. It will be the next wave of what used to be called e-business.” Finding a babysitter has traditionally been a low-tech affair but Sydney taxi driver Edward Atra plans to drag the process into the digital era with MySitters. His online marketplace enables families to find and book local sitters using smartphones’ geo-location in minutes. The app uses PayPal to avoid the late-night hunt for cash.

Former teachers Michelle Jones and Ron Geritz are transforming their business of growing ornamental trees and shrubs into an operation with international reach. The pair own Blerick Tree Farm, in Neerim South, Victoria, and run a garden design service. They scored a juicy consultancy gig with a fledgling tree farm in China, courtesy of their “excellent web presence”, according to Jones. The couple use Vend’s web based point-of-sale system, Quickbooks accounting software and Dropbox to do business at home and when in China. Security cameras controllable by iPad also allow them to see what’s happening at the Chinese facility.

At the other end of the scale, Procter and Gamble, valued at $82 billion, is one of the most famous examples of a global company that has undergone enterprise-wide digital transformation. Change is often led by ‘digital champions’ who are quick to see how technology can make operations more efficient.


2 Kid gloves for India’s billionaires (Manu Joseph in The Wall Street Journal) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a wise man, but in recent times no one in India has called him a “competent authority.” Yet, that expression, mentioned in a preliminary report by the Central Bureau of Investigation that formally opened a police inquiry, inspired a consensus in the news media that Mr. Singh was indeed the unnamed “authority” in question. The report was a part of the bureau’s examination of the government’s allocation of the country’s coal deposits to private corporations between 2004 and 2009. Among those whose roles the bureau is interested in examining is one of India’s richest men, Kumar Mangalam Birla.

In their coverage of the report, India’s mainstream news media treated Mr. Singh and Mr. Birla very differently. Once again, Indian journalism appeared bold while attacking the prime minister and subdued when it had to investigate a billionaire. Mr. Birla was treated as an unfortunate victim of politics and overenthusiastic investigators, and even of India’s historical mistrust of businessmen. On the front pages of newspapers and on television, leading businessmen expressed shock that Mr. Birla, whose company, Hindalco, was a beneficiary of a seemingly arbitrary allocation of coal deposits, had been dragged into the muck.

Last week, the bureau raided Hindalco’s offices and in its Delhi office found 250 million rupees, or $4 million, in cash. The bureau said the cash was unaccounted for. Hindalco expressed surprise at the discovery. The news media reported on this development but did not dwell on it for too long. A fact that will not startle any professional journalist in India is that the nation’s mainstream news media are firmly in the grip of corporations, which exercise control chiefly through direct or indirect ownership of news outlets and advertising budgets.

The national fame of the anti-corruption gladiator Arvind Kejriwal, whose party will debut in electoral politics when it contests the Delhi state elections in December, is in no small measure due to the contribution of reporters suffocated by their own management. Mr. Kejriwal held news conferences accusing some of the richest Indians, including the billionaire Mukesh Ambani, of sponsoring corruption. Except for the occasional reports on court rulings and briefings by government agencies, there is nothing much in India’s mainstream media that has hurt the nation’s big corporations. Indian journalism, it appears, has been tamed.


3 Why bugging allies is stupid (Eric S Margolis in Khaleej Times) Revelations of US electronic spying by whistleblower Edward Snowden have ignited a furor across Latin America and now Europe. The latest uproar was intensified by claims that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped into the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s most important and influential leader. Further outrage erupted in France after reports that its leaders and diplomats had been tapped by NSA’s big ears.

Today, the NSA and CIA are sweeping up all communications of supposed allies as part of the runaway US national security state. Call it the Stasi meets Apple’s late Steve Jobs. Still, one wonders if Obama knew what his spies were doing. He has little control over the Pentagon and probably even less over America’s mammoth, ever-growing spy state built by former president George W. Bush that costs over $80 billion per annum. Some 4.8 million Americans now have secret security clearance and work for the octopod national security state.

Bugging the leaders of America’s closest European and Latin American allies was an incredibly stupid act. Nothing thereby learned could have been worth the damage caused. US Elint (electronic spying) has humiliated European and Latin leaders and made them and Nato look like American vassals to be dismissed or disdained. How can Europe’s leaders face their own voters after this shameful episode? Revelations by Snowden and Army private Bradley Manning show that Washington treats its Nato allies in the same imperious manner the old Soviet Union bossed around the Warsaw Pact. One question remains: how come US foreign policy is such a mess considering that Uncle Sam is listening to everyone’s phone and reading their mail?


4 Dubai opens world’s biggest airport (Abdul Basit in Khaleej Times) The new Dubai airport demonstrates a new concept in which logistic and residential services integrate to form an aviation city on its own, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said after the inauguration of the passenger terminal at Al Maktoum International Airport.

The airport, which is part of Dubai World Central’s development, will be among the biggest airports in the world with five runways, a capacity of 160 million passengers and a cost of Dh120 billion upon completion. “Twenty-eight years ago we believed in open skies policy, today we receive more than 130 airline companies, and we link 50 million passengers across the world. The aviation sector contributes directly and indirectly more than Dh44 billion to our national economy and provides 85,000 job opportunities,” Shaikh Mohammed tweeted.

While talking to his accompanied delegation, Shaikh Mohammed asserted that the idea of this international airport, that will be the biggest in the world once completed, had always been in the mind of Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Adding that “the idea became reality”.



About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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