India press in defense of BPO industry after Sun scandal

The Indian press has come out swinging against The Sun’s sting operation in which a journalist from the British tabloid bribed an Indian call centre employee for about 2,750 pounds for confidential information of 1,000 British bank customers including numbers of passports and credit cards details.

The Indian Express called the BPO scandal “a freak case”. Subimal Bhattacharjee says: “We need to get some perspective on this. This, after all, is an industry that employs some 400,000 employees and it is at present growing at the rate of 30 per cent.

“Given this, some stray incidents of this kind are bound to occur. The point is that they are very rare. As recently as April this year, a report of the UK-based Financial Service Authority had concluded that security in Indian finance BPOs was sound and, in some cases, even better than that in the UK.”

The Statesman ran a story entitled Sun’s cheque book scoop under scanner : “Infinity eSearch, the BPO associated with the call centre expose, claimed the episode was an attempt to discredit the booming Indian IT and BPO sector via cheque book journalism.

“The BPO, whose employee Karan Bahree was involved in the alleged transfer of classified information, has also threatened to sue the British journalist who conducted the sting operation if the company’s damaged by the scam.

“Infinity lawyer Mr Deepak Masih gave details of the letter written by the sacked Karan Bahree, saying he was promised a job besides US$5,000 for helping the undercover Sun journalist.

“Bahree, the letter revealed, was paid the amount for a ‘presentation to a British person called Oliver’ that was arranged by one Fayaz Rizvi, who was working with Oliver.

” ‘I was introduced to a person called Fayaz Rizvi by an acquaintance, Sameer. Fayaz and Sameer, Bahree said in his letter, advised him to ask for a sum of money for each nugget of information he divulged.

” ‘I was paid a total of $5,000. The presentation was made over three meetings,’the letter said. After the meetings and payments, Oliver offered me a post as consultant for his new call centre in Gurgaon, Bahree added.

” ‘The purpose of the sting operation could be to discredit the booming Indian IT and BPO sector,’ Mr Masih said.” Gurgaon is a New Delhi suburb that has become a hub of outsourcing companies servicing MNCs from all over the world.

Earlier, Infinity Managing Director Rahul Dutt said it neither handled any financial information nor had accounts of a British bank.

“We have no bank clients in UK…We’re a Web marketing company that optimises Web sites on search engines. We do not have any classified information on any banks,” he said. Bahree, who was fired, also denied any wrongdoing saying a friend had asked him to give a CD to a Briton to earn “extra money” but he had no idea of its contents.

Despite the scandal, BT announced Monday it will US$48 million in Asia-Pacific, most of which will be in India. “India is the fastest growing market in Asia-Pacific and we plan to invest more in the country,” the BT Asia-Pacific President, Allen Ma, told a news conference.

The investment will go into developing key IP platforms and transfer of services on to an integrated platform for voice, video and data.

Ma, however, did not specify the investment amount for India. In India, BT has entered into contracts with two suppliers, HCL Technologies BPO and Progeon, an Infosys subsidiary, to create two new next generation contact centres near New Delhi and Bangalore.

It also recently contracted with Infosys to set up an Asia-Pacific regional customer service management centre in Pune.

Goodbye Jack

The inventor of the integrated circuit Jack St. Clair Kilby passed away on June 20, 2005, in Dallas following a brief battle with cancer. He was 81.

Few realize how monumental this person was to our very existence.

Without Jack’s invention, there would be none of everything we now take for granted — no digital cameras, no cellphones, no personal computers, no Internet –and, indeed, I wonder what tech journalism would have eventually evolved into without it.

As a junior engineer and new employee at Texas Instruments in 1958, Jack was not entitled to two-weeks summer vacation. So he hung out at his quiet plant in Dallas to figure out “a problem.”

“I was sitting at a desk, probably stayed there a little longer than usual,” he recalled in a 1980 interview. “Most of it formed pretty clearly during the course of that day. When I was finished, I had some drawings in a notebook, which I showed my supervisor when he returned. There was some slight skepticism, but basically they realized its importance.”

Working with borrowed and improvised equipment, he fabricated an electronic circuit with all of the components, both active and passive, on a single piece of semiconductor material half the size of a paper clip.

He tested that first simple microchip on September 12, 1958. It worked. In 1960, the company announced the first chips for customer evaluation and two years later, TI won its first major integrated circuit contract to design and build a family of 22 special circuits for the Minuteman missile.

The integrated circuit remains at the heart of all electronics today. Sales of the worldwide integrated circuit market in 2004 totaled US$179 billion. These components supported a 2004 worldwide electronic end-equipment market of US$1,186 billion. Such is the power of one idea.

At 6 foot 6 inches in height, Jack was occasionally called the “gentle giant” in the press and is remembered fondly by friends and associates for being in every sense of the word a gentleman and a gentle man.

Whenever people would mention that Kilby was responsible for the entire modern digital world, he liked to tell the story of the beaver and the rabbit sitting in the woods near Hoover Dam. “Did you build that one?” the rabbit asked. “No, but it was based on an idea of mine,” the beaver replied.

A man of few words, Jack was always quick to credit the thousands of engineers who followed him for their impact on growing the industry.

Jack scoffed at the notion of a Nobel Prize. “Those big prizes are for the advancement of understanding,” Kilby would explain in his slow, plainspoken Kansas way. “They are for scientists, who are motivated by pure knowledge. But I’m an engineer. I’m motivated by a need to solve problems, to make something work. For guys like me, the prize is seeing a successful solution.”

Jack was eventually awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000.

He is quoted in an article in the Washington Post, as saying: “Scientists get the theories. But engineers make them work. And the engineer has the added challenge of cost, because if your solution works but it costs too much, there will never be any application.”

Touching Lives on Micro and Macro Scales
The Chip that Jack Built Changed the World
Jack Kilby, Inventor of the Integrated Circuit, Dies at 81
About Jack
Google News

Nerds: The new cool?

Numero uno nerd Chris Pirillo recently blogged about how new reality show Ashton Kutcher’s Beauty and The Geek struck so close to home.

“Average Joe: Hawaii” pitted some squares and geeky-types against washboard-abs, macho-types for the hand of a pageant queen.

And a recent article in spoke about how Nerds Make Better Lovers.

Straits-side, we have an article by Brigitte Rozario challenging the geek stereotype.

Some quotes:

Dinesh Nair: “I can pick any industry and give you the same random distribution (of the geeky-looking people). In any industry, you have some guys at (the cool) end, some at the (geeky) end, and a lot of people in the middle. The average IT guy looks like any other office worker today.”

Zeffri Yusof: “I’d be more worried if people ever called me ‘cool.’ “

Lim Fun Jin: “Bill Gates was a 100% geek when he started. I heard that as he travels to work he sometimes still writes some code for his own personal use. When I heard this, I thought ‘wow, chairman of a large company and he’s still (coding) today.’ So I don’t mind (being called a geek) seeing as geeks can be successful.”

In the sidebar, ‘What’s Cool Man’, Harres Tan says:”(30 years ago) I had long hair. I was dressed in smart three-piece suits all the time. But when I was not working, I was dressed like a hippie. That was the time when everybody dressed like that. Do I think I’m cool? I was. (laughing) Not so much anymore. Today, I’m trying to be a businessman.”

The pic of him, in the suit and full head of hair, has to be seen to be believed.

So, in 2005, it may be pertinent to ask, Is it Revenge of the Nerds all over again? Is it hip to be square? Is being a nerd the New Cool?

…and shall the geek inherit the earth?


Creationism: God’s gift to the ignorant, or so says Richard Dawkins

I like the latest gauntlet Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, has thrown down to creationists. Let the duel begin.

“Science feeds on mystery. As my colleague Matt Ridley has put it: ‘Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on.’ Science mines ignorance. Mystery — that which we don’t yet know; that which we don’t yet understand — is the mother lode that scientists seek out. Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a very different reason: it gives them something to do.

“Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. Worse, it threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect that creationism or ‘intelligent design theory’ (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name….

“….I once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words: ‘It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history.’ Again, this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the reader’s appetite for the explanation. Inevitably, my remark was gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore ‘gaps’ in the fossil record.

“Many evolutionary transitions are elegantly documented by more or less continuous series of changing intermediate fossils. Some are not, and these are the famous ‘gaps’. Michael Shermer has wittily pointed out that if a new fossil discovery neatly bisects a ‘gap’, the creationist will declare that there are now two gaps! Note yet again the use of a default. If there are no fossils to document a postulated evolutionary transition, the assumption is that there was no evolutionary transition: God must have intervened.

“The creationists’ fondness for ‘gaps’ in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don’t understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas.”


Note, how Dawkins looks a lot like the insidious Palpatine in pic above, thus the Darth Vader quote and lightning streaks.

Changing partners

Japan’s Tohoku Univ Professor Kazuhiro Kosuge has built a prototype robot dance partner.

The Partner Ballroom Dance Robot — or PBDR — is capable of taking to the floor by predicting how its human partner will move. It is shaped like a woman and as a sensor around its waist and can move in all directions on its three wheels hidden underneath an evening gown.

The robot is 165 centimeters (five feet, six inches) tall and weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds), has pointy ears and a plastic exterior. A male version is under development.


Meanwhile, it was reported that Apple is dropping it’s longtime dance partner IBM for Intel.

How Mark Felt Became Deep Throat

I had always been fascinated with the Watergate break-in that led to Nixon’s downfall. As a rookie reporter I was told to read the book “All The President’s Men” cover to cover and got a copy and did just that. It still sits on my shelf.

A re-run of the movie on TV reinforced the images in my head of what went down. Robert Redford’s Woodward meeting Deep Throat in a darkened underground carpark, and Dustin Hoffman’s Bernstein returning from a crucial interview with notes scribbled on rolled-up pieces of paper were especially memorable.

When Mark Felt finally admitted being Deep Throat it was great to re-visit the material again.

Here’s Bob Woodward’s account, post-confession.

Hal Holbrook seemed to have played the man just right. One wonders what guidance he had from Woodstein in that regard.

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