My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: March 2010

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Brown Dawg, a Social Networking site based on Mobile phones for Digicel


Geo-location services seem to be the next new hot trend in the Social fabric that is Mobile Social Networking despite its seemingly sinister implications, this according to the program “CNET’s Buzz Report” posted March 12th 2010 presented by Molly Wood, CNET News as well as in the video “CNET Loaded”, posted April 10 2010 by Natalie Del Conte,CNET News.

FaceBook is testing this new concept of including your coordinates (exact latitude and longitude!) whenever you post your FaceBook Updates, effectively allowing users of mobile phones to be able to be tracked as well as track the locations of their friends.

Effectively an incarnation cross-hybrid of FourSquare, a Social Networking site that was developed by a former Dodgeball executive who had pioneered GPS based Social Networking as stated in the article “Google struggles with Social skills” published February 3, 2010 4:00 AM PST by Caroline McCarthy and Tom Krazit CNET News - Digital Media and Twitter, which is a micro-blogging site allowing 140 character post or “tweets” as they are called.

It seems that now even Google is now in the race with Google Buzz (finally!) after failing with previous attempts such as Orkut, and the much hyped Google Wave, which fizzled, proving that you just cannot “engineer” Social Networking, it has to be based on grouping of people who have something in common that binds them together.

Thus, FaceBook “peeps” are people who are organized and involved, Twitter “Twitterers” are people who like others knowing where they are and are mostly disorganized people,Hi5 people are people who are mostly cheerleaders or fun-loving support people,FourSquare are people who own GPS enable smart phones who like knowing where their friends are at all time.

The common factor with all these Social Networking websites is that it involves the use of computers (Desktops, Laptops and Netbooks) and smartphones and is geared towards the interaction of friends who know each other and share the same personal interests.

But what if you could create a VAS (Value Added Service) that is a Social Network using basic mobile phones that are not internet enabled and only have SMS (Short Messaging Service) and somehow incorporate Geo-Location into the Social Network, with the use of advertising to pay for the SMS and Geo-location elements in such a Social Network and in the process be a source of revenue for both the mobile customer and the Telecoms Provider?

What if such a service could be implemented using Digicel Intunes as the launch platform? It would appear with recent advance in Telecoms Provider Networks that this will soon be possible, based on the article Global Positioning Without GPS publishedSeptember 13, 2009, 11:30PM EST by Kevin Tofel Business GigaOM.

The idea, which I shall call Brown Dawg is rather simple but very easy to implement, even without the “secret sauce” algorithm from the start-up GloPos. It basically involves taking ultra precise measurements of every cell tower in a Telecoms Providers Mobile Network and storing that information in a database specifically the dimensions, angular orientation and precise GPS location of the cell tower, from the base of the tower up to the antennae (Agisson or Andrews) in the crow’s nest atop the tower.

This information is then placed into a database (preferably Telecoms Provider Digicel’sData Center). This information of course is to be used for the Geo-location portion of the Social Network and would be collected by a company contracted by the Telecoms Provider to do so.

Then software engineers would create the Social Networking website, which would basically just be a tab in Digicel Intunes. Persons who are regular subscribers to DigicelIntunes would be able to join instantly and once they click on the tab, they can register their name and other details much like FaceBookTwitter and FourSquare as it relates to themselves and their phones type, so that the service can be optimized for their screen type.

The Social Networking site would have an interface in which one can send “tweets” or in this case “hail up” via either the websites interface or from the user’s basic mobile phone interface using the SMS and MMS (Multi-Messaging service) capabilities, if the phone also supports MMS, with mobile phone users receiving SMS or MMS as answers.

How it differs from a regular Social Network is how the Social Network website is financed, which will basically be via the following types of advertising based on the information that the subscribers to the service enter into the Social Network site and opting into having advertisements for certain products and services being sent or received by their mobile phones.

This is a form of Behavioral Targeted Marketing as stated in the article “Study: Like it or not, behavioral ad targeting works”, published March 24, 2010 9:01 AM PDT by Caroline McCarthy, CNET News – The Mobile Social:

1.      Website banner Ads
2.      Google AdSense Ads
3.      Ring back tune Ads
4.      MMS Ads
5.      SMS Ads
6.      Call Ads

Website banner Ads and Google AdSense Ads are not new revenue stream. What are new are Ring Back tune Ads, MMS Ads, SMS Ads and Call Ads. In the case of Ring Back tune Ads, customers who join Brown Dawg will subscribe to promoting a particular company’s products or brands, for which a ring back tune, MMS video clip (still or moving with/without audio) or SMS ad has been prepared by that company’s marketing team e.g. Grace Kennedy, Red Stripe to name a few.

Based on your mobile phone capabilities, such as EDGE or GPRS enabled, the customer upon choosing which company they wish to advertise, their account is activated on their mobile phone. Thus the obvious becomes clear: the usage of the mobile phone to post “hail up” on the Social Network is only possible if the customer subscribes to supporting advertising on their mobile phone on Brown Dawg.

Such customers, who I shall now refer to as members of the Mobile Social NetworkBrown Dawg, would be rewarded each time with JA$100 bonus credit whenever someone called them and the Ring back tune ad played. Members of Brown Dawg are also rewarded whenever they send a text message, as the recipient of the text message receives two (2) text messages or SMS, the first one (1) containing a SMS based ad and the second one (1) being the original text message that you sent, for which the sender receives JA$100.

Rewards are also received whenever members of Brown Dawg send a MMS message, as the recipient of the video clip (still or moving with/without audio) receives two (2) MMS messages, the first one (1) containing a MMS video clip (still or moving with/without audio) ad and the second one (1) being the original MMS message that you sent, for which the sender receives JA$100.

Additionally, members of Brown Dawg can also opt into another service offered, in which businesses and companies can pay  Telecoms Provider Digicel to have Call Ads randomly sent to their mobile phones,

The customer receives JA$100 for each call that they receive and listen to in its entirety.

Thus, thanks to this advertising model, all SMS and MMS messaging sent by members of  Brown Dawg is free, both from the website interface as well as  from the user’s basic mobile phone interface using the SMS and MMS. This concept is very similar to how most Social Networks are initially self financed using advertising revenue and Brown Dawg is no different.

But the exciting part is the Geo-Location bit. With the correct algorithm and assistance from GloPos utilizing the information stored in the database specifically the dimensions, angular orientation and precise GPS location of the cell tower, from the base of the tower up to the antennae (Agisson or Andrews) in the crow’s nest atop the tower.

Geo-Location advertising service can be offered to basic mobile phone users to not only find the location of other users who are your friends and who have opted into Geo-Location on sign up to Brown Dawg by using simple find commands e.g. “find 18763810035”, which would tell you where the friend is currently in terms of street, direction and distance

Business places can pay Telecoms Provider Digicel to have advertisements about their products and services sent via MMS, SMS or Call Ads, which is an automated call made to your mobile phone selling you the company’s product or service.

Thus once you pass within proximity of their business place or outlets, for which you can opt into, much in the same way you can be a fan of a product or service on FaceBookonly this time around you would be paid JA$100 per ad received from the company or business that you opted for this Geo-Location service.

In addition, Brown Dawg would also alert you if a friend of yours or someone you wish to avoid is nearby, once these friends also opted into Geo-Location upon signing up withBrown Dawg and has opted to have their location tracked by you, the alert being in the form of a simple SMS telling you. 

Eventually other elements similar to other Social Networking websites can be gradually added into the website such as popular online games such as Farmville as stated in the article “Gameworld: A virtual farm turns new ground for game developers” published Thu Mar 25, 9:48 am ET By John Gaudiosi, Reuters Yahoo! News

Traditional  Telecoms Provider Digicel giveaways and other elements that are good revenue turners, all advertisements content in terms of Ring Back Tune Ads, SMS Ads, MMS Ads and audio recordings for Call Ads hosted in databases on  Telecoms ProviderDigicel’s Data Center and all advertisements being paid for using package deals with the relevant advertisements agencies or businesses/companies who wish their Ads to be presented to customers via this medium. 

Thus the Telecoms Provider Digicel has the customer base to introduce this new Social Network initiative that would not only put  Telecoms Provider Digicel into the Social Networking game but also allow  Telecoms Provider Digicel to make advertising revenue with a site that takes advantage of possibly the largest Social Network that exists in Jamaica, that being  Telecoms Provider Digicel’s own subscriber base without customers having to resort to purchasing new smart phones.

Eventually, when  Telecoms Provider Digicel launches it WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) Network at the end of the second quarter of 2010, effectively in the summer time as suggested in the article “Digicel to offer mini laptops with 4G service next year”, published Friday September 4th 2009 by Lavern Clarke, The Jamaica Gleaner.

With ZTE Corp of China as their build out partner of their new WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) Network as stated in the article “Digicel signs ZTE as 4G Mobile WiMaX Internet Partner”, published Sunday, September 27, 2009, The Jamaica Observer.

Brown Dawg can become the platform for their offerings to users of their Network traditional GSM Network as well as their new WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) Network and push  Telecoms Provider Digicel into making advertising revenue from it large customer base, especially as the increasingly negative effects of the Recession in the United States of America will continue to affect Jamaica for the next seven (7) years

It will result in customer’s reducing their spending on the purchase of credit, making local calls and especially making international calls, the bread and butter of all Telecoms Providers in Jamaica. This is now evident from  Telecoms Provider Digicel making offers of JA$1 per every minute of international calls (a figure that may be increased!) from abroad and reminding people that they can have friends and family abroad top up their phones via the various money remittance agencies abroad in a  bid to encourage people to keep talking.

However this will begin to lose traction by September 2010 as people as more broadband solutions, both wired and wireless become available to Jamaicans who will then opt to call less and make more VoIP calls, a sign of the necessity of MNP (Mobile Number Portability) at that point in time.

Probably the only wrong with this idea is the name, which needs a little work……..

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Choosing the next Host and Chill Room Host of Rising Stars and promote Digicel’s Broadband


Telecom Provider Digicel is slated to launch their Wimax 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) service at the end of the second quarter of 2010, as stated in the article “Digicel to offer mini laptops with 4G service next year”, published Friday September 4th 2009 by Lavern Clarke, The Jamaica Gleaner,.

Thus, as part of their marketing push targeted at the very lucrative Millenials (age 12-18 and 19-28) market, as Generation X (29-45) who are recession wary, are not inclined to spend.

Thus, any host chosen for Digicel Rising Stars should be in the same age range as the target markets and should be chosen by the used of a form of advertising that has proven results, that being Behavioral Targeted Advertising, as stated in the article “Study: Like it or not, behavioral ad targeting works”, published March 24, 2010 9:01 AM PDT by Caroline McCarthy, CNET News – The Social.

Telecom Provider Digicel would first choose the potential hosts from the pool of female media personalities currently in Jamaica who are in the same age range as the target markets and who also host shows that are of a similar type production.

The voting would then be done via traditional SMS (Short Message Service) or “texting” as well as via Facebook, as Telecom Provider Digicel currently has in excess of 100000 fans on Facebook, effectively representative of the voting audience as hinted in the article “Digicel's Facebook friends grow to 100,000”, published Thursday, March 18, 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

Which would effectively make it possible for the for Telecom Provider Digicel to use Behavioral Targeted Advertising to advertise the concept to the fans, making it possible for the first time that the viewers get the chance to choose the shows’ host using one of the voting apps that are available on Facebook, with prizes for persons who voted the most.

This would not only endear the show to more viewers but would also help to attract more potential viewers from overseas who may be watching Television Jamaica on the Internet as well as on DigiTV, assuming that it will be launched before the official start of Rising Stars as also hinted in the article DigiTV' launch for 2009 - Mobile provider branches into TV, published Friday November 14th 2009 by Ross Sheil, Online Co-ordinator, The Jamaica Observer on TechJamaica.

Choosing the Chill Room Host, however, is significantly easier, as their function in the show is to maintain vibes.

Thus is being recommended that the Chill Rom host be chosen from the current pool of former and current hosts on the various reality shows on both Television Jamaica, CVM TV and other cable channel affiliates such as RETV and Hype TV, as Digicel Rising Stars Chill Room Host would be someone already experienced in hosting a show

This as seeing how Television Jamaica is currently pressed for time due to the sanction of host Miss Kitty from the Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall as suggested in the apology by Manager Kay Osbourne on ER aired Friday May 14th 2010AD, Television Jamaica. This would basically narrow the list down to the following females:

1.      Pepita (host of Intense on Television Jamaica)
2.      Milk (formerly host of Hit List and other shows on CVM TV)
3.      Candace Bergen (formerly a presenter on The E-Strip and other shows on CVM TV)
4.      Amita (host of FiWi Top Ten chart show on Television Jamaica)
5.      Phoenix (host of Hitlist on CVM TV)
6.      Other Radio and Television Hosts not including previous hosts of Digicel Rising Stars

Additional it is also being suggested that Telecom Provider Digicel begin advertising the use of the WiMax 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d) enabled netbooks on the show, incorporate the use of Telecom Provider Digicel sponsored Facebook and Twitter page for direct user feedback while the show is being aired

Also create an additional facility for persons overseas to vote for their favorite contestants in Digicel Rising Stars and allow for the posting of videos highlights of the show on an official You tube page, possibly even the live broadcast of Rising Stars via Youtube or on Television Jamaica’s website.

If Telecom Provider Digicel were to do the above, they would be able to not only carry Rising Stars to new heights to ensure continuity of their main marketing flagship program but guarantee its longevity in this its 7th season. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

MNP and VOIP: a win-win situation for Telecoms Providers


The USA has mandatory registration via the use of Social Security Numbers, Driver’s license or passports, a process simplified by merely using your Credit Card to do identity verification during mobile smart phones purchases on two (2) year Contracts Plans, but not on Prepaid mobile phones (equivalent to Postpaid in Jamaica).

Oweing to the popularity of Prepaid as opposed to two (2) year Contracts Plans as reported in the articles “Prepaid Wireless outpaces contract services”, published April 5, 2010 3:35 PM PDT CNET News - Signal Strength by Marguerite Reardon and stated in the article “Smart phones come to prepaid Wireless market”, published May 19, 2010 4:00 AM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Signal Strength, (http://www.cnet.com) it creates a potential situation where customer in the USA can communicate internationally but no one is able to determine for certain who is using which phone.

The Americans have now seen the light as after pushing for mandatory warrantees tracking as stated in the article "Feds push for tracking cell phones", published February 11, 2010 4:00 AM PST by Declan McCullagh, CNET News - Politics and Law, (http://www.cnet.com) on all mobile phones on the basis of the lack of privacy of customer information on Telecom Provider Databases, for which they can expect no reasonable level of privacy as the only thing stopping the authorities is the Telecom Provider’s policies on the disclosure of this information, The Barak Obama Administration has finally gotten their unicorn.

The United States of America has now caught MRSI (Mandatory Registration of Subscriber Information) and has realized after the failed bombing plot in New York Time Square  by alleged bomb plotter, Faisal Shahzad as stated in the article “US lawmakers target pre-paid cell phone anonymity”, published Wednesday 26-05-2010, Yahoo! News, AFP.

As in Jamaica, where this concept originated and is going the rounds on the verandas and patios of the Upper St. Andrew people in their ivory towers complaining about human rights despite the level of crime, it is felt that the registration of Pre-Paid mobile phones, a more flexible equivalent to our PostPaid phones in Jamaica, were too easily purchased. They required no identification and no CreditCard checks and thus legislation on the Pre-Paid Mobile Phone industry was long overdue. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer was quoted as saying “this proposal is overdue because for years terrorists, drug kingpins and gang members have stayed one step ahead of the law by using prepaid phones that are hard to trace”

MNP (Mobile Number Portability) and the intended MRSI (Mandatory Registration of Subscriber Information) as articulated by Senator Dwight Nelson, Minister of National Security as stated in the article “CLARO Backs Cell Phone Tracking Plan; Digicel, LIME in Wait-And-See Mode”, published Sunday May 16, 2010 by Mark Titus, Business Reporter, the Sunday Gleaner (http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com) as before the United States of America caught the religion of MRSI for their Prepaid phones, thus it is safe to say that the Unite States of America is again copying the Government of Jamaica, no doubt reading even John Public emails!!

Good to note that the government of Jamaica is actually copying the Government of Mexico who use the CURP to register Unregistered Mobile Phones, Phone Instruments (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or Wired /Wireless modems) IMEI and SIM Cards (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or Wired /Wireless modems) IMSI to put a damper on organize crime as suggested in the Reuters report that as mentioned in the news report by CNET Loaded aired April 12 2010 by Natalie Del Conte, CNET News (CBS) (www.cnet.com) and confirmed by the article “Mexico may shut down 25.9 million Cell phones which haven't joined Registry”, published April 11, 2010 - 11:45pm by MacRonin, (http://www.privacydigest.com).

The jury is still out on the success of this initiative by the Government of Mexico, but it certainly made enough headlines to have the Government of Jamaica and the Government of the United States of America catch the MRSI and MNP fever.

In Jamaica, it is a topic that is not only of interest to customers in terms of the reduction of the cost of purchasing mobile phones and the eventual introduction of Cross Network Flat Rate Calling, but it is also of interest to the Telecoms Providers.

It could finally be the unifying force that provides the impetus for them to tackle a problem that has bedeviled the Big Three (3) Telecoms Providers since the liberalization of the Telecoms Sector by the introduction of the Telecommunications Act of 2000: VoIP (Voice Over IP)

The Government of Egypt recently banned VoIP calls on mobile phones in Egypt due to decrease in profits of the state owned Egypt Telecom as stated in the article “Egypt bans international Internet voice calls”, Tuesday 23rd March 2010 by AFP, Yahoo! News (http://news.yahoo.com).

This rather heavy handed approach by the National Telecom Regulatory Authority, which is the equivalent of our OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) and SMA (Spectrum Management Authority) combined is what most Telecoms Providers wish they could hear from Jamaican Telecoms Regulators.

Especially in light of the current slump in foreign calling, the bread and butter of the Telecoms Providers which is expected to occur in the current Recession environment as people begin to choose between making foreign calls on the Telecoms Providers Mobile Network and basic necessities.

This is often VoIP to bypass the Telecoms Providers Mobile Networks and make foreign calls possibly to request international money transfers to alleviate the stresses due to the sluggish economy which provides little in the way of sustenance due to the low wages, increase inflation and in some cases no employment opportunities.

This decrease is being predicated on recent advertising by Telecom Provider Digicel which rewards customers with JA$1 per every minute of calls received from abroad, indicating a possible trend in which more international calls are being terminated on Telecom Provider Digicel’s Network as opposed to international call being made from their Network, possibly due to VoIP activity by users who may have FLOW Triple Play service, LIME ADSL, LIME 3G or CLARO 3G Wireless Internet.

To date none of the Big Three (3) Telecom Providers has begun squealing about it, but rest assured, with other Telecoms Providers in the United States of America. Telecom Provider AT&T initially up in arms about Google Voice other VoIP applications such as Skype being used by Apple iPhone smart phone users to bypass their networks only to end up being forced to settle their legal action against Google and allow Google Voice to work on their Network as stated in the article “AT&T to allow VoIP iPhone apps on 3G Network”, published October 6, 2009 4:46 PM PDT by Jim Dalrymple, CNET News – Apple, (http://www.cnet.com).

This is even as Telecom Provider AT&T worries about the effect the Apple iPad will have on it Network resources as stated in the article “FCC: IPad use could further strain AT&T 3G”, published February 6, 2010 4:56 PM PST by Jim Dalrymple CNET News – Apple, (http://www.cnet.com) they will soon start squealing. One may wish to imply that these stories were really about traffic.

But it is obvious that Telecom Provider AT&T was really concerned about losing out on its international calling revenue, especially as the number of people using VoIP is increasing, especially as news of the usage patterns of 4G appear to mimic regular Broadband usage as stated in the article  Clearwire adds more subscribers, cuts losses”, published February 24, 2010 8:57 AM PST by Marguerite Reardon CNET News - Signal Strength, (http://www.cnet.com).

There is now the real possibility that as in the case with increased usage of mobile phones and the ditching of landline usage, the same thing may also be happening in the case of 4G, as seen in the case of Clearwire, with users ditching Wired Broadband for Wireless 4G as stated in the article “Can 4G Wireless take on traditional Broadband?”, published March 22, 2010 4:00 AM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - CTIA 2010, (http://www.cnet.com).

Already, Skype has begun charging for the use of Skype over 3G Networks such as Telecom Provider AT&T as stated in the article “Skype for iPhone now support 3G, but free ride's ending”, published June 2 2010, by Ben Patterson, Yahoo! News (https://www.yahoo.com), ever since that fateful day that Telecom Provider AT&T began to cap its Data Plans on Wednesday May 2nd 2010 AD, a day that will be forever etched in the minds of many Americans.

These potential worries by Telecoms Providers in our closest influential market with regards to increased traffic, available capacity and VoIP threatening their international calling revenue should make our local Telecoms Providers realize that MNP presents itself as an opportunity to press for increased Government of Jamaica regulation in the Wired and Wireless Internet as none of the Big Three (3) have officially acknowledged their acceptance of Network Neutrality and Open Networks rules.

Thus under MNP, registration of Phone Numbers, Phone Instruments (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or Wired /Wireless modems) IMEI and SIM Cards (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or Wired /Wireless modems) using Government of Jamaica approved identification i.e. Voters ID, Drivers License, Passport, TRN, Birth Certificate would allow for them to jointly introduce Postpaid Plans on Data capable mobile instruments.

It would require all smartphone users to purchase a Data plan as well as the blocking of all VoIP applications be they on wires or Wireless Internet connections, which would be easy to argue to the OUR as obviously, the cost of MNP would be best offset by blocking all VoIP applications on both Wired and Wireless Internet connections as a means of guaranteeing revenue and making the cost of MNP to the customer lower in cost if not free.

This is possible provided that Telecoms Providers share ALL of their resources thus netting a windfall in increased salaries for employees and managers, increased taxable revenues to the Government of Jamaica and benefits to customers, a win-win situation for all involved.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Who is responsible if your Credit Card or Debit Card account is hacked?



It seems that the problem of Debit and Credit Card theft that began to rear its ugly head in the latter part of the Recession originating from the United States of America in 2009 is now becoming a permanent crime problem that has connections to the criminal underworld. 


This is in much the same way that Digital Music and Video Piracy also finances the criminal underworld, as suggested in the article “BE WARNED! If you buy a pirated DVD, CD you can be arrested”, published Wednesday, August 26, 2009 by KARYL WALKER, Crime/Court co-ordinator, The Jamaica Observer  

The article “Thieves clone Debit Cards”, published Thursday March 11, 2010, The Thursday Star,  gave prominence to the problem and the article “Held up with an ABM card  - Is plastic panacea or pestilence”, published Saturday 20th March 2010 by Mario James, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner, made readers more aware. 

The method outlined by the source used in the article is a bit much, as you only just need to copy the card using either a “skimmer” placed over the card slot on the ABM machine or on the magnetic swipe to unlock the ABM door and a hidden wireless pinhole camera captures and transmits the PIN number entered.

The person then takes any other card with a magnetic stripe and using a generic Card Reader erase the target card and copy the information obtained from the victim or “mark”. Protecting you PIN is the simple deterrent, often found plastered on the walls inside most ABM, making it your responsibility to protect your pin. But who is responsible if your Credit Card or Debit Card account is hacked when it is in a Database hosted on Servers owned by the Bank?

Credit Cards are easy marks and popular targets for online hackers as well as unscrupulous merchants who utilize skimmers to steal Debit and Credit Card information, as Credit Cards often have no PIN numbers.

Thus it would seem the security features being implemented by the Bank of Nova Scotia involving JPS customers who exercise the option to use the internet to pay their bills (voluntarily?) keying in their the credit card numbers on SSL (Secure Script Layer) websites as stated in the article “As fraud grows, privacy erodes” , published Sunday March 21st 2010 by Avia Collinder, Business Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner, and storing them in the Bank’s database will not work.

This I because if their database server is not a Oracle DB Database housed on a Sun Solaris Server running a Linux Distribution Operating System with access terminals also running a Linux Distribution with Open Source Firewalls and Biometric Security protocols for all Laptops for Database Administrators, Computer Terminals and Servers and having the Servers and Computer Terminals connected over a private network, they are very vulnerable to outside intrusions.

This is both in terms of hackers remotely accessing their Servers, Laptops for Database Administrators and Computer Terminals or accessing the computer being used by the Credit Card holder over the internet via scam websites, key logging software and other “phishing” techniques, especially if the Bank of Nova Scotia is using Microsoft software, which is notoriously hacker friendly – which of course one assumes to be information that the Network and Database Administrators at BNS are well aware.

NCB supposedly foolproof “hybrid” method is however on the right track, as mixing the data entry process with an age old “who goes there!” password request from a Customer Care Representative in the Bank makes it difficult for the hacker to steal your credit card, especially if the Credit Card customer had already set up the online access facility from within the Bank and NOT over the internet.

This article does not determine who is liable in the case of a data intrusion or theft from the Banks Server and procedures for public disclosure of these intrusions as most Banks have only policy guidelines. The Electronics Transactions Act of 2007 and the recently minted Cyber crime Act of 2010 as mentioned in the article “Move to Tackle CyberCrime - Hacker got Golding”, published Sunday  February 14, 2010 by Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner,  do not make such provisions for liability and public disclosure of hacking intrusions so as to alert persons of the potential danger.

Additionally there are other “reputable companies” that have embarked on a similar move to Bank of Nova Scotia such as LIME in its new Self Top Up service as stated in the article “Text to top Up - A Caribbean First from LIME”, published Wednesday, 03 March 2010 by TechJamaica.com that will potentially put more Credit Card holders in jeopardy.

This is especially in light of the decryption of the A5/1 codebook by German security expert Karsten Nohl which he achieved with help from the Open Source Community as stated in the article “Q&A: Researchers Karsten Nohl on Mobile eavesdropping”, author Elinor Mills, InSecurity Complex – CNET,  January 1, 2010 4:00 AM PST, CNET News.

This implies that wireless POS (Point of Sale) device transactions and phone conversations are interceptable on Telecoms Provider’s Networks in Jamaica still using the weaker A5/1 codebook. So who would be liable in such cases? John Public demands answers.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Genetically modified plants for agriculture revitalization

It seems that there are plans to revive the Agriculture Sector, as Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture, has made clear in his speeches around the island. There has been much talk that Agriculture is not being properly organized and praedial larceny plagues the industry and all other reasons are being used as the blame for the reason why Jamaica, the “land of wood and water”, ironically still has to import most of the food that it consumes on the island for abroad, particularly from the United States of America and China, or even from our Caribbean neighbors, despite having ample fertile land.

There have been attempts in the past, but they had failed due to one simple reason: farming is inherently wasteful process, as any farmer will tell you. You will spend millions on fertilizer, even when it is subsidized, and never make a cent from the sale of your crops if the price on the world market drops. The only persons who makes money from farming are the persons who make value added products from your reaped fruit or vegetables, and the only way you as a farmer makes any money at all is if you are the owner and maker of these value added products.
An example readily comes to mind and that is the production of rum by Appleton Estates, wherein J. Wray and Nephew owns the sugar estates and makes the rum, the profit from which is used to make sugar cane farming profitable.

And even more potent example is the production of anhydrous ethanol from sugar cane by the company JB Ethanol, which makes the product to be exported to the United States of America to make E85. But still no one has addressed the inherent problem of farming that of the natural inefficiency of plants themselves, yet we possess the tools that should make it possible: genetic engineering. And the best means of testing out this idea of using genetically engineered crops is Spring Plains. 

Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms properties are currently under the stewardship of the NIBJ (National Investment Bank of Jamaica), which has been charged with their divestment of the currently idle lands to potential investors, among who it is rumored to be several local and foreign interests. In the area where I live in Rest, Milk River, Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms was a source of massive employment in the 80’s and a technological marvel to many, as equipment and tractors, never before seen by any of the people in the area, as some recalled, were brought into the Development and farming of this fertile valley.

This was being financed by a Mr. Eli Tisona, an Israeli investor who had ploughed millions of investors’ money into developing the hundred of acres of fertile land during the 1980’s. But Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms was not just the dream of a foreign investor.

At the time, it was an agricultural showpiece of the then Prime Minister Edward Seaga, a model of what the Jamaica farm of the 21st century would look like, growing sweet potatoes, sweet pepper, mangoes and other fruits and vegetables, built with the financial blessing of the then Government of Jamaica as a part of a “winter vegetable” project in order to produce crops of all varieties both for the export, the surplus being sold on the local market.

However despite the good intentions, bumper crops and the employment that this utopian vision of farming may have engendered among the people working in the area, it was not economically feasable. From the very day that it began operation during period from 1982 to 1986 within which the farm was said to be productive, it incurred losses of nearly JA$135 million as stated in the article Spring Plains divestment awaits Cabinet approval”, published publishes Saturday 7th April 2002 by Petulia Clarke, Staff Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

According to the article, Eli Tisona was himself later banned from entering Jamaica in 1998 by the ruling PNP as he had been convicted of narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges in the United States of America, though the JLP has pointed out that his convictions occurred after the failure of Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms. Since then there have been numerous attempts to divest the lands by the PNP, but to no avail, as each investor who approached the then Government of Jamaica had ideas but could not provide financial funding to support their ambitions and neither could they demonstrate that they could make the farm profitable.

This was a difficult task, as most large scale farms are rarely profitable due to praedial larceny, water wastage, high interest rates of local and foreign borrowing, the high cost of input material, the unstable commodities market and competition from farming powerhouses such as China and North and South America who heavily subsidize farming in their countries.

Today the Spring Plains/St. Jago Farms properties are being utilized by Grace Kennedy in their Agro Grace Aquaculture Facility which raises Fresh Water Tilapia for local and export markets. Jamalco also mines the hills for bauxite and the remaining Spring Plains lands have been graded and the overgrowth removed, ostensibly by the JLP, as the activity on the land began as recently as 2009. Is this a sign of a return to farming on these still fertile yet idle lands? 

I hope it is. Even better if the Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture decided to embrace the concept of using genetically engineered crops that are not only resistant to pests and disease, such as the new varieties of rice being grown in a test pilot that needed a lot less water than other varieties. Genetically engineered crops significantly reduce the usage of pesticides and fertilizers, and results in plants that mature much faster, thus reducing not only the usage of water but also the turnaround time from planting to reaping, as is currently the case in the EU as stated in the article “GM Potato to be grown in the EU”, published Wednesday March 3rd 2010,  The UK Guardian.


After much opposition in the past by the Europeans to the introduction of genetically engineered crops, they have finally decided to introduce them, as they realize that with further research, they can be made to be as suggested above, making it unnecessary to provide incentives and subsidies to make the inputs into farming artificially cheaper in order to compete with developing world farming powerhouses like China which basically can mass produce crops without then need for such incentives and subsidies.

Thus, all that is needed is a suitable investor, such as Telecom Provider Digicel, to plough money into the farming of the Spring Plains area in conjunction with the University of the West Indies, who can introduce genetically modified crops that would not only make farming actually more efficient, but combined with alternative energy, cheap enough to be competitive with even the United States of America and even China and their mass production of food.

Thus Jamaica can tap into the growing market for food as will surely occur as the world is now on the brink of the greatest food shortage, brought on by the recession in the United States of America, which is projected to last seven (7) years due to its reliance on debt to encourage spending in the short term, its abundance of ill-placed faith in the Services Sector and lack of investment in the Production Sector.

This Second Recession, referred to as a Double Dip Recession or “W” shaped Recession Recovery as opposed to a long term “U” shaped Recession Recovery is a theory which is echoed by Dennis Chung in the article “RISK OF A DOUBLE-DIP RECESSION?” published Friday, September 18, 2009, contributed by Dennis Chung, Business Observer. If Jamaica is still has an economy dependent on oil and still importing oil for energy purposes by 2015 with no net investment (local and foreign) and increase in production as opposed to an emphasis on services, the global inflationary effect that this increase in the main driver of production will have will most certainly force the entire world into a Second Recession, as is now possible and shaping up to occur in the United States of America.  

Like Energy, we need to make Agriculture production as energy efficient as is the intention of Senator James Robertson, Minister of Energy and Mining, as it is well known that the Senator James Robertson, Minister of Energy, has made statements in Parliament in 2009 that indicate a soon coming liberalization of the Energy Sector as indicated by the Energy Policy.

There, however, has still been no news from his Energy Ministry as to when LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) imports from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are set to reach Jamaica and the preparations made by the Government of Jamaica with regard to Storage and Distribution of LNG. As well as preparations by the Bauxite industry and the JPS Co (Jamaica Power Service Company)  in terms of modifying and changing (if necessary) their generators to use the new fuel, as stated in the article “LNG for Jamaica a national priority – Manning”, published Friday June 26, 2009, The Friday Gleaner, by Linda Hutchinson-Jafar, Business Writer,  The Jamaica Gleaner.

Despite having now being given the ailing Air Jamaica , which we needed to get off our books, as indicated by the sale of Air Jamaica properties in the article “Gov't selling off Air Jamaica properties”, published Thursday February 11, 2010 by Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer, The Jamaica Gleaner.  

Thus, it is being suggested that to achieve this level of efficiency, Dr. Christopher Tufton, Minister of Agriculture needs to lay out an Agriculture Policy that includes the usage of genetically engineered crops that will not only reduce the production time of crops and thus make Agriculture overall cheaper, using Spring Plains as the test bed for these technologies.

This could be then expanded to the rest of the island, combined with real time monitoring of rain and water resources islandwide with the help of a telecommunications partner installing weather stations on each cell tower to produce hyper accurate rainfall and wind maps of the island, making Agriculture, for once, a very efficient enterprise.