What Netcore Does

I am often asked about my company (Netcore Solutions) does. So, here is a brief:

VISION

Netcore Solutions is focused on creating disruptive innovations to bridge the digital divide in technology’s next markets: small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the rural populace in the developing countries of the world.

Netcore believes that the next set of opportunities will be driven by the twin themes of Utility and Affordability.

IT has become a utility, but at the same time it needs to be affordable for people and organisations to use. This requires thinking and solutions that are very different from the ones which the current set of users in the developed markets have been using. Today’s non-consumers of IT have limited legacy and limited money. If the right technology at the right price comes along, adoption will take place rapidly. The next IT revolution will, therefore, start from technologys new markets todays have-nots and then make its way up the pyramid.

The opportunity ahead lies in using new and emerging innovations to build Affordable Tech Utilities.

The key building blocks are technology solutions like server-centric computing (thin clients-thick servers) with remote server management, open-source software, mobile data, WiFi and Ultrawideband, voice-over-IP, web services, weblogs, RSS-enabled information aggregators and marketplaces. Taken together, they create a new, pervasive technology infrastructure that can facilitate the mass adoption of technology across emerging markets.

The two large, untapped, and presently invisible markets in the emerging markets are the SMEs and the rural markets.

Both these markets are very similar in the sense that they suffer from large-scale inefficiencies because a co-ordination failure among the solution providers has ensured that they have been largely ignored. Their numbers are large. In India, there are over 30 million employees working in 3 million SMEs, and nearly 700 million people living in 600,000 villages. They are waiting for affordable tech utilities to transform their futures. This is the technological digital divide that needs to be bridged. These are the markets Netcore is interested in.

SOLUTIONS

For the SME segment, Netcore offers Emergic, a software stack with a mix of open-source and internally developed software covering Messaging and Security (Emergic MailServ), Desktop Computing (Emergic Freedom), Information Management (Emergic Topsight) and Business Applications (Emergic Enterprise). For growing businesses, Netcore has developed Pragatee, an integrated, entry-level server software.

For the Rural segment, Netcore’s Deeshaa venture is implementing RISC (Rural Infrastructure and Services Commons), a model for the economic development of rural areas. A RISC centre provides rural populations the full set of appropriate services and amenities that are normally available only in urban locations.

In addition, Netcore has established a leadership position in the emerging world of weblogs, RSS and the Publish-Subscribe Web through its BlogStreet portal and Info Aggregator service. Netcore is creating an Information Marketplace platform to facilitate exchange of information that is incremental, updated regularly, distributed repeatedly and requires near real-time delivery.

Structure-Enhanced Blogs

Phil Wolff gives an example of how blogging and RSS can be used with enterprise apps:

Define a “new customer bio” structure. My customer relationship management system writes RSS for me that includes new customer info. Not only can I cite that post in my blog, but:

  • my blog can notify the CRM via trackback
  • the CRM can take note of the permalink of my post (for CRM users), and
  • the CRM can append changes to data I made with my blogging tool (“He’s not really the decision maker.”).

    Along the way…

  • information locked inside an enterprise system become visible to our intranet search engine via my blog.
  • more useful content finds its way into enterprise systems.
  • transactional data takes on context.

  • Writing Software

    ONLamp.com offers 5 lessons open-source developers should learn from Extreme Programming:

    1. Test, Test, Test
    2. Practice Simplicity
    3. Refactor, Don’t Rewrite
    4. Release Frequently
    5. Be the Customer, When Appropriate

    Clay Shirky on Wikis

    Writes Shirky: “A wiki in the hands of a healthy community works. A wiki in the hands of an indifferent community fails. The software makes no attempt to add ‘process’ in order to keep people from doing stupid things. Instead, it provides more flexibility, a crazy amount of flexibility, and intoxicating amount of flexibility, allowing massive amounts of stupidity and intentional damage to be done, at will, by roving and anonymous posters. And it provides rollback.”

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    TECH TALK: The Death and Rebirth of Email: My Solution Ideas

    Let us look at the specific problems that are there with email (viruses, spam, worms and newsletter distribution), and then address each of them.

    Viruses

    To tackle viruses needs a multi-pronged approach. Anti-virus software is needed on the server, so that virus-infected emails do not get through to the mailbox. In case one is using a Windows desktop, it may also be necessary to have protection on the desktop. The use of email clients other than Microsofts Outlook can help in reducing the rapid propagation in case a computer gets infected (though it will not necessarily stop the computer from getting infected).

    I have a radical solution: use a Linux window and client to check mail. Viruses focus specifically on vulnerabilities on the Microsoft platform, and most viruses seep in via email. While users need to be educated not to click on attachments, one mistake by one user is good enough to infect many. So, in oragnisations which have standardised on Windows desktops, the solution can be to run a Linux server separately for mail, and provide user access to the email client via an application like vnc (virtual network computer). This way, the entire email application runs on the server and in a Linux environment.

    In my company, we use a combination of server-side anti-virus software with Linux thin clients (and Evolution for mail). Even when Linux-based viruses do come up, we can take solace in the fact that the open-source community will come up with solutions very quickly and the damage would be limited to a users home directory, thanks to the stringent permissions-based access on Linux.

    Spam

    For spam, the first solution is to use server-side anti-spam software. We use SpamAssassin internally. It marks all suspect mails with the word Spam in the Subject field, making it easy to use filters to move them to a separate folder, which can be checked occasionally for false positives. Users can also move unidentified spam software to a special folder, which helps the software to learn. This will be good enough for most users.

    The second solution is to create filters to ensure that mail which does not have the users email ID in the To: or CC: field is automatically moved to a separate folder. One can of course make this rule less stringent for example, all email sent with the company domain should also be retained. Setting up filters is easy. Ideally, filters should be set up on the server, so they are independent of the mail client used.

    In addition, users need to take precautions like not putting their email address on websites, and not replying to spam (which validates their email ID). Email addresses are precious and should be treated with great care. Over time, I think white lists are likely to become more common. Again, for most people, this will be more than good enough there will be a slight inconvenience when initiating a new conversation, but the time saved otherwise will more than make-up for the additional email that will need to be sent to validate the first email.

    Tomorrow: My Solution Ideas (continued)

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