Super ATM

The New York Times writes:

Convenience stores, best known to weary motorists as sources for drinks and snack chips, are starting to gain a reputation as good places to pay bills, cash checks, send money and buy cellphone minutes. Automated teller machines have long been a staple in these stores, but now several major chains are installing kiosks that are able to do a lot more.

Way ahead of the curve is 7-Eleven, which is introducing its second wave of custom-made terminals called Vcom’s this year. Often referred to as A.T.M.’s on steroids, the more than 1,000 Vcom’s dispense cash, sell Verizon services, handle bill payments and let customers send money to other people. They can also cash checks to the penny, simultaneously snapping front-and-back digital images of the checks and dispensing a receipt with the images on it.

IP Multicast

Robert Cringely writes about IP multicast and P2P for video distribution.

Personally, I don’t worry too much about IP multicast. If it were turned on I believe it would work, but I don’t expect it to be turned on. If the Mbone had been such a success, maybe we’d see more multicasting, but I don’t think the Mbone proved much of anything. Cisco tried like crazy in the late 1990s to promote multicast, for which it bought Precept Software and the original IPTV application just to show the world how television could be done right in an IP-centric world. Only nobody bought the concept or much Precept software. You can learn more about Precept and IPTV in the new episode of NerdTV, which is with Judy Estrin — who founded Precept then sold it to Cisco and became Cisco’s CTO for a couple years. Judy says she built Precept’s IPTV around IP Multicast not just because of its obvious efficiency, but because she had read Cisco white papers on IP Multicast and, “Sadly, I believed them.”

No, IP multicast is not THE solution to wide deployment of video content over the Internet. It is one possible part of such a solution for ISPs who choose to enable or impose it. But p2p retains the advantage of running well on networks that don’t choose to support multicast, which is to say pretty much the whole darned Internet.

CyWorld America

Tomi Ahonen writes about CyWorld as it launches in the US:

CyWorld is probably the most advanced converged service around broadband internet, 3G mobile telecoms, videogaming and music.

So briefly for those who might not know what is CyWorld. It is the online virtual home (mini home page), similar to Habbo Hotel, in that you have a personalized room which you can decorate to your tastes. You get to make your own persona through a customizable avatar (online digital puppet) called a “minime”. So if you would like your room to be a clean white, minimalist, with some abstract art, and a grand piano. So be it. Another person may want to copy what the current real home is like. Someone may like the room to continuously change and evolve. Who likes bright colors, whatever. The same with the avatar. What color skin, what length hair, what dress, even what sex do you want your avatar to be. Your mini home page and your mini-me.

CyWorld is already used by a third of all Koreans. It is the world’s biggest mobile blogging service by users and revenues. It is a massive hit by the youngsters with over 90% of the under 20 year olds maintaining a minihomepage in CyWorld. CyWorld was already launched in China and has about a million paying users there.

3G Changes Social Habits

BBC News writes:

Increasing use of 3G mobile phones can change the way people communicate and create new social trends and tribes, a behavioural study has suggested.

The study said the combination of still and video cameras on modern phones, and the advent of high speed data transfer, can inspire a generation of users.

Bloggers, film-makers and clubbers all benefit from 3G phones, it said.

TECH TALK: Let’s Build a Business: 2. Education

The ideas for the education venture are from Atanu Dey.

The Indian education system is in distress. It is critically in need of reform since it is inefficient and ineffective. What exists today is something that was designed to serve the needs of a different era with different objectives and compulsions. For sustainable development of India, the country needs a new system which is economically efficient, socially equitable, functionally effective, and consonant with the altered needs of the present.

We have to recognize that there are severe resource constraints. There is a capital constraint, of course, but more importantly we have a human capital constraint, mainly in terms of limited numbers of trained teachers. The former can be circumvented by borrowing the required capital; the latter is much harder to overcome because it takes years (which we cannot afford) to train the millions of teachers required.

To meet the challenges of the different world we live in compared to the one for which the existent educational system was designed, we have to fundamentally rethink the educational institutions. Merely tinkering with the system will not suffice. However much one modifies a bullock cart, one cannot transform it into an efficient, fast all-terrain vehicle.

The fact that our age is characterized by high technology is both a challenge and an opportunity. To participate in todays economy, one needs not only to be literate and numerate, one has also to be fully competent to use the technology. Fortunately, it is technology itself which can help in the transformation of the educational system.

Here is a short list of specific problems that plague the system and a brief suggestion on possible solutions.

1. Financially too costly. If money was no object, then the tens of millions who need education could be accommodated with ease. Being costly, today a good education is affordable only to a vanishingly small percentage of the population. The costs can be brought down by substituting the most costly factor: teachers. Use ICT (information and communications technology) as a substitute for costly teachers.

2. It wastes too much time. The current system does not efficiently use time. It should not take over a decade to provide students with the basic foundations of a good education. It can be done in much less time, so that the student has more time to build upon that foundation. Greater specialization of the economy requires that the foundation be laid more efficiently so that more time is available for specialization. The recommendation is to reduce the time spent in the foundation to about 8 years and allow five years for specialization, to arrive at a fully qualified employable person by age 20.

3. Students are overburdened. The few who are lucky enough to be in school, have a pretty hellish life. They have very little free time, between attending classes, doing homework, going for tuitions and so on. A lot of disjointed information is thrown at them and they are never able to fully comprehend what it is all about. The solution is to reduce the amount of information that the student is fed, and instead motivate the whole exercise of learning so that the student spend more time internalizing a comprehensive coherent set of information. The system has to allow the student more free time.

4. The system is inflexible. It does not encourage creativity and does not reward individuality. The system must be made student-centric instead of teacher-centric. The student must have the freedom within to system to follow the path that is most natural and which is consonant with his or her talents.

5. The system is supply constrained. The competition to enter the limited number of educational institutions is fierce beyond description. In the scramble for limited seats, a very large number do not get a chance at getting an education. The supply has to be increased.

6. Credit constraint. Even after the supply is increased, individuals have to be able to afford the quality education. The returns to education are positive. Which means that those who cannot afford the education due to credit constraints are unable to get the returns of education. The solution is therefore to increase the amount available for loans and to massively subsidize primary education.

Education is the master key which can unlock the potential of the nation of over a billion people. If we continue to neglect education, all our efforts in other spheres is likely to be in vain.

Interested in leading or being part of this venture? Email me at rajesh-at-netcore.co.in or fill out this feedback form with a brief profile of yourself, your thoughts on the ideas presented, and your thinking about the role that you’d like to play in the venture.

Tomorrow: India Search Engine

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