Friday, September 30, 2011

Brewing Happy Employees

THIS is a good talk by a practical woman on Brewing happy employees.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mathematical predictions for cities and for companies

An economist asks if democracy is bad for business

Brazillians are fed up with corruption

Brazilians rally against corruption

Protesters wearing clown noses whistle and shout during the march against corruption in Brasilia, Brazil, 7 September 2011The protesters say corrupt politicians are the real clowns

Thousands of people have joined anti-corruption demonstrations in Brazil, as the country marks its Independence Day.
Wearing face paint and clown noses, protesters joined crowds watching the traditional military parade in the capital, Brasilia.
Similar protests were held in other cities across Brazil.
Three government ministers have left office amid corruption allegations since President Dilma Rousseff took office in January.
Dozens of government officials have also lost their jobs or been arrested, and several other ministers have been accused of corruption, though all deny wrongdoing.
Some of the protesters chanted slogans in support of President Rousseff, who has promised a zero-tolerance approach to corruption.
Others gathered outside government ministries and the Congress with buckets and mops in a symbolic gesture to wash away corruption.
The demonstration in Brasilia - dubbed the March Against Corruption - had no political party affiliation.
Many of the protesters were students, who organised the demonstration using social networking websites.

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We all have a duty to combat corruption and the president supports this”
Eduardo CardosoJustice Minister
The protest was backed by Brazil's College of Lawyers, the Brazilian Press Association, and the National Bishops' Conference.
"Corruption in our country is a pandemic which threatens the credibility of institutions and the entire democratic system," the three organisations said in a joint statement.
Justice Minister Eduardo Cardoso also voiced support.
"We all have a duty to combat corruption and the president supports this," he said.
"I think it is a legitimate demonstration and an opportunity for everyone to fulfil their role as citizens."
Multiple scandals
President Rousseff's chief of staff, Antonio Palocci, resigned in June after media reports questioned his rapid accumulation of wealth.
President Rousseff waves to the crowds from her car during Independence Day celebrationsPresident Rousseff's drive against corruption has strained her governing coalition
Since then, the ministers of agriculture and transport have resigned after corruption allegations surfaced, though like Mr Palocci, all deny wrongdoing.
A fourth minister, Nelson Jobim at defence, also departed, after making disparaging remarks to the media about colleagues.
President Rousseff has won widespread praise for her firm reaction to the successive corruption scandals.
But her determination to clean up her administration had put severe strain on her governing coalition, which is made up of more than a dozen parties.
Some Brazilian political parties have traditionally given their support to the government in return for official jobs for their members and for money - either for personal gain or for party funding.
Taken directly from BBC on-line.

How to deal with Corruption

Corrupt Indian official's house turned into school

Children from Musahar community expressing joyThe slum children are delighted at their new school building

The house of a senior Indian civil servant on trial for corruption has been turned into a school for slum children.
Shiv Shankar Verma had his property in the Bihar state capital, Patna, confiscated under new state laws.
Mr Verma denies amassing wealth disproportionate to his income.
It is thought to be the first time such a law has been used in this way in India, which has been hit by a series of corruption scandals.
The school opened on Thursday to the delight of about 100 children, mainly from the Dalit (formerly untouchable) community.

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Our previous school building was dilapidated and stinking from every corner”
Amit KumarStudent of new school
Mr Verma's three-storey house in the Rukunpura area of Patna was seized on Sunday as part of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's drive against corruption in Bihar, one of India's poorest states.
The civil servant is charged with accumulating more than $335,000 in illegal wealth.
"The palatial house is now a government primary school," said a senior government official, Anjani Kumar Singh.
Most of the pupils at Primary School Rukunpura are from the Musahar (rat catcher) community. They were visibly excited at their new premises.
"Our previous school building was dilapidated and stinking from every corner… this one is quite new and well-maintained. We'll enjoy coming here every day to study," said Amit Kumar who is in his third year at primary school.
Shiv Shankar Verma's house turned into schoolThe new school is much bigger than the pupils' old one
Under the Bihar Special Courts Act 2009, the state government is empowered to confiscate the property of any official charged with corruption - even while the trial is under way and a conviction has yet to be secured.
Officials from Bihar's State Vigilance Unit raided Mr Verma's house in July 2007 and found large amounts of gold and foreign currency.
Mr Verma is currently suspended from his post at the state's irrigation ministry.
Neither he nor his lawyer were available for comment following the confiscation of his house.
He has appealed against the decision to confiscate his assets in the Supreme Court.
"If he gets relief from the apex court and wins the case the state government under the new act has to return the properties of the official with 5% interest," said an official of the state government.
Bihar officials have lodged corruption cases against nearly 20 other government officials, including a former state police chief.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How to fight computer viruses

This TED talk lets us know the route to fighting computer viruses. The talk is by Mikko Hypponen.

Cross Industry Transformation

Ways to make progress in tough issues when bringing stakeholders together to solve big problems.
Using generative approaches is moving away from personal experience and past learnings. This can help us to see things freshly and holistically.

Unified Communications

Well, if the hype is to be believed, unified communications (UC) may have saved the day.
Tech talk
Jargon like this can seem daunting to those uninitiated in the dark arts of IT and telephony.
But what it actually means is bringing together all of the communication tools you use on a daily basis - phone, email, messaging, even video conferencing and social media - and running them from a single platform. This should allow you to see where your staff are, if they're available, if a colleague can help instead - in the office and also when they're on the move - all from one simple interface.
You can then choose how you contact staff and customers.
Dial it in
Lebara provides low-cost international telephone calls.
UC and a niche contact centre package is crucial to their customer services says Rodney Sheriff, Lebara's head of customer service. "We like to think of ourselves as best in class from a customer service perspective. " They use technology provided by UC specialists Avaya. And having an integrated service means that the customer service centre is integrated with the back office operation.
"We can route customers calls to the best person to deal with their enquiries.
"We can leave messages for common-place queries so people can get fast access to that information, and if there is a problem it becomes very visible to us.
"The suite gives us instantaneous reporting so we can easily see that marketing, for example, have sent a message that's been misunderstood by our callers, we can see a spike in calls in literally seconds, and we can respond right away."
When agents aren't busy, they can be redirected to customer courtesy calls, through a sophisticated "blended dialer" system. Customers can give feedback on the experience, and Lebara are able to analyse call data to make sure they have enough agents serving each country they operate in.
Matt Kemp is head of operations for customer services and he says that contrary to expectations, the system is easy to use.
"One of the beauties of the system is that I can probably train anyone to record a message and put it on in 10 minutes."
"If we have a major issue we can get a message on there immediately."
Avaya's Nigel Moulton says this niche use of UC is just one of many.
"If you think about the different elements of UC, and you apply it to a business scenario here at Lebara, you have a front office and back office operation that need to be tightly integrated.
"If you have elements of the business that aren't integrated, you end up with an ineffective way of dealing with customers, and perhaps a cultural set-up within the company that doesn't allow you to be as flexible as you would like."
Mr Moulton believes that the principles of UC can be applied to most businesses.
"If you think about the average day for the knowledge worker in any organisation - the things they have to process on an average day - email, voicemail, team meetings, collaboration, messaging, all of these things are now pretty prevalent on every employees desktop and they also by and large exist on mobile phones.
"If you want teams to be as productive and collaborative as they can be then you need to give them a common set of tools and applications to use on a daily basis, and these should integrate as seamlessly as possible with their telephony systems and messaging systems."
The company's latest offering is the Avaya Flare user experience that can be used with an optional desktop video device. The plan is to roll this out to other devices such as tablets and mobiles.
Choices, choices
There are no shortage of UC options - Microsoft, Cisco and IBM are just some of the big names to choose from.
BT offers its own service, and also works with a range of UC providers.
"We think of ourselves as the great integrators," says Steve Masters, head of global unified communications.
For him, collaboration is the key benefit of a UC system.
"[It's really about] bringing your organisation far closer together, the ability to then extend that externally and have greater communications and collaboration with your partners."
He acknowledges that cost can be a big consideration for smaller businesses. "[That] market and the corporate markets are very different. "They're diametrically opposed almost. The corporate world views UC as a way of saving money, because there will be so much cost involved in running all these disparate systems." For a big multinational one factor is being able to move away from using the different technologies provided in different countries by telecoms providers.
"It's not unknown for organisations to have voicemail systems in the hundreds across their organisations.
"So there there's a need to move to a UC one to get better collaboration in the organisation but also to drive cost down in the business.
Mr Masters says that for a small single office operation however, the costs could be prohibitive with limited return on that investment.
He sees video as the next big growth area for the market.
"The analysts are all predicting great things for video over the next three years.
"When people are working remotely you can really enrich the dynamics of a remote meeting through having video."
Changing minds
Duncan Clark is UC specialist with analysts Canalys. He says although UC is nothing new, consumerisation - the drive from people inside companies to have technology that mirrors what they use at home - is changing perspectives.
"I guess people think of consumerisation in terms of people bringing in their own devices or going on the internet and using their own tools, I think it runs much deeper than that it's actually the whole experience that people expect from their workplace that
"I think that's what's changed, and what's really changing the focus, making UC more marketable to a wider audience."
For companies considering adopting the technology, he says that cost doesn't have to be a barrier.
"The beauty of UC is that it's not necessary that you take the whole package, and I think that's the thing that gets misunderstood."You don't have to implement everything, it's about saying what tools do I need to make the business work.""The reality is UC can make a huge difference but it's something that's difficult to measure in real terms."But he does have a few words of warning.
"The key thing for businesses is to really get the background information. I think there's a severe lack of understanding about what the different aspects of UC will actually bring to your business.
"For example, you may think that video conferencing will bring benefits, but when you actually deploy it you find people aren't using it.
"You need to look at what specific solution you choose, and how you implement it and use it in the business."

Greening the world one strand at a time.

Taken from the BBC report Sept 11, 2011
Jute, a vegetable fibre that can be spun into sackcloth, used to be the 'golden fibre' of Bangladesh.
It brought much-needed foreign income to the impoverished nation.
But it lost its lustre in the 1980s after synthetic materials like polythene and plastics were introduced.
Now the natural fibre has made a spectacular comeback.
Exports of jute and jute products from Bangladesh this fiscal year crossed a record billion dollars as demand for the natural fibre is steadily increasing.
JuteJute is grown all over Bangladesh
With growing environmental awareness, jute, which is bio-degradable, has become the preferred alternative to polluting synthetic bags.
Jute is considered to be the second most important natural fibre after cotton in terms of cultivation and usage. It is mainly grown in eastern India, Bangladesh, China and Burma.
Until recently the fibre was used mostly as a packaging material. With a diversification of jute products, the demand for jute has increased.
"By processing the fibre mechanically and by treating it chemically, now jute can be used to make bags, carpets, textiles and even as insulation material," says Mohammad Asaduzzaman, a scientist at the Bangladesh Jute Research Institute in Dhaka.
Jute being soakedAfter harvesting, the jute is stored in water until it begins to rot
When synthetics like polythene bags came into widespread use, the demand for jute declined and many jute mills in countries like Bangladesh were shut down.
Thousands lost their jobs and farmers shifted from jute to more profitable rice cultivation.
Today, as demand increases, more farmers are returning to this traditional crop.
It is estimated that nearly five million farmers are involved in jute plant cultivation in Bangladesh. It plays a key supportive role to the rural economy of Bangladesh.
Once the jute plants are harvested they are bundled together and immersed in running water and allowed to rot.
Jute being separatedOne it has become soft, the jute fibre is separated by hand
Then the fibres are stripped from the plant. The stripped fibre is dried and later sent to mills for processing.
Golam Moazzam, a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, in Dhaka says: "It is important to note that policy support also contributed to its widespread use of jute both locally and internationally.
"For example, the Bangladeshi government has made it compulsory to use jute bags for packaging of food grains."
New uses
Jute is also versatile, strong and long-lasting and scientists say they are discovering more uses for it in different sectors.
For example, Geotextiles, a diversified jute product, is used for soil-erosion control and also used in laying roads to give more durability. The natural fibre is also used to make pulp and paper.
Jute bundlesOnce dry, the jute fibres are bundled and sent to factories to be processed
Bangladeshi scientists are now working on an ambitious project to blend jute fabric with cotton to produce denim fabric.
They say if the jute plant is harvested earlier than the usual period of 120 days, then it gives a softer fabric.
"If this special quality of fibre is chemically modified and bleached then it becomes softer. If we can blend it with cotton then we can manufacture denim fabric and diversified textile products," says Mr Asaduzzaman
If this process can be commercialised, he says, it will bring down the demand for cotton, which is also becoming dearer day by day.
The price of fabric can be reduced by a half, bringing benefits to the country's garment sector.
Jute deliveryThe resurgence of the jute industry has created jobs for many local people
However, there are bottlenecks.
Special machines are required to blend this fibre with cotton and they are yet to be produced commercially. Scientists hope spinning factories will be able to install these machines in the near future.
"Unfortunately, there is not much research going on in terms promoting diversified jute products," says Mr Moazzam.
"Countries like Bangladesh and India, who are the major jute exporting countries, should conduct collaborative research to find out diversification of jute products."