Brazil, India challenge move to make Microsoft Office Open XML standard

Brazil and India recently appealed a decision to make Microsoft's Office Open XML format an internationally recognized standard for electronic documents, the Associated Press reports. According to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), three countries have now formally protested last month's approval of the standard. Specifically, South Africa filed a complaint last week concerning the balloting procedure conducted by the Geneva-based IEC, asserting the global standards body ISO was poorly conducted and rushed. Microsoft, meanwhile, wants the file format used in its Office 2007 program "to be approved as an open standard so that it can apply for lucrative government contracts that require this designation," according to the AP (AP, 5/30/08). 

Mobile bandwidth increases, leaving devices behind

While mobile network bandwidth is increasing quickly, with some operators supporting 14.4M bits per second (bps) transmission using High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA), devices capable of harnessing the faster speeds remain slow to come to market, IDG News Service reports. For instance, the current top speed for modems is 7.2M bps. According to Björn Ekelund, vice president, product management at Ericsson, the limited support for 14.4M bps in devices is partially due to the fact that not enough operators have upgraded. He adds that carriers may not have enough backhaul capacity—the capacity that feeds base stations—to take full advantage of higher download speeds. Specifically, Ekelund notes that 100M bps in backhaul capacity is necessary to offer 14.4M bps, adding that such high capacity is very expensive. However, IDG notes that "the gap between network capacity and user devices appears to be temporary," as Ericsson in 2009 plans to launch its M570 device platform, which supports up to 42M bps downstream and 11M bps upstream (Ricknäs, IDG News Service/CIO, 5/29/08).

Russia boosts science funding

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently announced that the country will allocate $25 billion for scientific research across the next three years, United Press International reports. RIA Novosti on Thursday reported that, according to Putin, the Russian government has earmarked substantial resources for research in the areas of nano- and biotechnology, nuclear energy, aerospace and other research conducted from 2008 to 2010. Meanwhile, UPI notes that funding for the Russian Academy of Sciences has grown from $1.6 billion in 2007 to around $1.9 billion this year (UPI, 5/29/08).

U.S. government to auction airwaves for free, filtered Web access

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on Thursday announced a proposal that would auction an unused piece of 25 megahertz wireless spectrum to buyers that would use part of it to offer free Wi-Fi access that filters out obscene content, Reuters reports. Under Martin's proposal, the winning bidder would be able to use the rest of the airwaves for commercial services. Other stipulations would require the winner to create a system capable of serving 50 percent of the U.S. population within four years and 95 percent within 10 years. According to Reuters, the plans full details have yet to be finalized, but Martin's plan will likely be addressed at the FCC's next meeting on June 12 (Kaplan, Reuters/Yahoo! News, 5/29/08).

MySpace e-mail tool to tap Google technology

MySpace on Wednesday announced that it is leveraging Google technology to enable its users to search their e-mail more rapidly, the East Bay Business Times reports. According to the companies, the social networking site MySpace will embed Google Gears, which removes some limitations with browser technology. However, the Business Times reports that the companies have yet to unveil specific terms of the deal (East Bay Business Times, 5/28/08).

America files trade complaint over European tariffs on technology

The United States recently filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) about European Union tariffs on high-tech products, the Washington Business Journal reports. Specifically, a U.S. trade representative has asked the WTO to help settle the dispute concerning cable and satellite boxes; flat-screen computer monitors; and combination printers, scanners, copiers and fax machines. According to the United States, those products should be duty-free under a 1996 trade agreement, but the EU has used "protectionist gimmicks" to tax such imports. The Business Times notes that thus far, the EU and the U.S. have had four rounds of unsuccessful negotiations on this issue (Washington Business Journal, 5/28/08). 

EU falls short on Internet business security, ENISA says

According to the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), the European Union must step up efforts to safeguard Internet businesses, NewsFactor reports. In particular, ENISA noted the importance of network and information security, specifically related to i2010—the EU's umbrella strategy for technological development. As one solution, ENISA cited computer emergency response teams (CERTs) as key components in combating cyber attacks and spam. The number of CERTs among EU member states has grown from eight in 2005 to 14 today, with an additional 10 planned. Meanwhile, ENISA estimated there are six million botnets used worldwide by organized criminals to send spam and commit online fraud. The organization also underscored the risks of social-networking sites and called for a review of the regulatory framework of Directive 2002/58 on privacy and electronic communications (LeClaire, NewsFactor/Yahoo! News, 5/27/08).

N.Y. to adopt tech-enhanced driver’s licenses

New York Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday announced that the state is partnering with federal authorities to issue enhanced drivers licenses that double as border-crossing cards, Washington Technology reports. The move makes the state the fourth, joining Washington, Vermont and Arizona, to have negotiated agreements with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that enable them to issue a state driver’s license that also meets specific requirements for border crossings. Slated to take effect in June 2009, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires travelers to show a passport or other approved document to cross the U.S. borders. However, some of the enhanced licenses have been controversial because of privacy concerns. For instance, in Washington, which was the first state to begin producing the new licenses, the new IDs include a radio frequency identification microchip that can be read wirelessly from 20 feet to 30 feet away. Such RFID chips have been criticized for their potential to be scanned without authorization, risking identity theft and loss of privacy. Meanwhile, Washington Technology notes that it is unclear whether New York’s licenses will include the RFID chip (Lipowicz, Washington Technology, 5/28/08). 

Africa, Mid East to benefit from $40.5 billion technology fund

African nations and those in the Middle East, a region commonly referred to as the Mena region, will soon share funding from an expected $40.5 billion technology investment, the Lagos Vanguard reports. According to a study recently published by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the Gulf region, which includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, will receive $9.1 billion, while African nations will split the remaining $31 billion to bolster technology efforts. According to the Vanguard, Nigeria will likely earn the largest portion because of the tech innovations currently underway and planned, as well as the sheer size and population of its market (Aihe, Lagos Vanguard, 5/28/08).

Colorado to consolidate technology services

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter recently signed legislation into law that will centralize the state’s information technology systems under the state Office of Information Technology, Washington Technology reports. According to Ritter, the bill aims to correct disparate and inefficient information technology systems, adding that currently the state uses 39 data centers and more than 1,600 servers, while some states function with just two data centers. Commenting on the bill, he says “this legislation marks a historic turning point in how we will manage, consolidate and improve our IT assets and personnel” (Welsh, Washington Technology, 5/29/08).

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