Global Dispatches

An international news digest

Russian Educator Won’t Face Piracy Charges

VERESCHAGINO, Russia -- Charges have been dropped against a Russian school principal who faced up to five years in prison for software piracy, according to Russia’s state news agency.

The case had drawn widespread attention earlier this month after former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev wrote Microsoft Chairman BillGates asking him to intervene in the matter.

Gorbachev wrote that while Russian law allows for the prosecution of those who unknowingly use pirated software, the case against Alexander Ponosov was unwarranted.

Ponosov, 40, had been charged with violating Russia’s copyright law after police seized 12 computers from his school in the western Russian village of Vereschagino.

Police charged that the PCs contained more than $10,000 (U.S.) worth of pirated Microsoft software, but Ponosov maintained his innocence, claiming that he bought the computers with the software preinstalled.

A regional Russian court on Feb. 15 dropped the charges, citing a lack of evidence, according to RIA Novosti, a state news agency. Ponosov had faced a fine of up to 266,000 rubles ($10,124 U.S.) in addition to a possible prison term.

-- Robert McMillan and Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service

Kuwaiti Firm Creates $10.5B African Fund

KUWAIT CITY -- Mobile Telecommunications Company Group (MTC) in Kuwait City this month announced plans to create a $10.5 billion (U.S.) investment fund to expand its mobile telecommunications operations in Africa.

The company said it will expand its services on that continent through its Celtel International BV unit in Hoofddorp, Netherlands.

Celtel offers mobile phone services in 14 African countries.

The company announced its African investment plans a month after launching an expansion program, code-named Acceleration, Consolidation, Expansion, aimed at tripling the company’s worldwide customer base to 70 million subscribers by 2011.

“We have embarked on an issue of becoming a global company, hence we have to double our coverage by investing in the latest technology,” Saad Al-Barrak, managing director of MTC, said in a statement.

The company plans to begin spending the fund this year in several countries where Centel has offices, according to Al-Barrak.

-- Michael Malakata, IDG News Service

Nokia Plans Shakeup; 700 Workers Affected

ESPOO, Finland -- Nokia Corp. this month announced plans to reshuffle 700 employees, citing a need to boost its focus and efficiency. Under the plan, some workers will be assigned to new jobs and others will be laid off.

Arja Suominen, vice president of communications, said she did not know how many employees would be let go.

Those affected include 360 employees in Nokia’s enterprise solutions business group, 140 in the software platforms area of its technology platforms unit, 130 in the global IT operations division, and 30 in the customer and market operations group, the company said.

Nokia’s enterprise solutions division posted losses in every quarter in fiscal 2006, including an operating loss of €64 million ($84 million U.S.) in the fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 31.

“It’s very clear we will need to make that business profitable,” said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, president and CEO of Nokia, during a press conference at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. “We’re looking at different options in order to do that.”

Nokia said it is also seeking greater efficiency in the research and development operations of its technology platforms unit.

-- Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service

Australia Post Signs Up Security Tool Customer

MELBOURNE, Australia -- NSW Teachers Credit Union Ltd. last week agreed to become the first user of Australia Post’s VIP Online Security tool set, which lets financial institutions implement multifactor, one-time password security tokens for online banking authentication.

The tool was developed by Australia Post and Ultradata Australia Pty. under a partnership announced earlier this month. East Malvern, Australia-based Ultradata makes software for the financial services industry.

Roger Lee, manager of authentication services at Australia Post, said the Homebush, Australia-based credit union plans to use the VIP Online Security tools to provide an additional layer of protection for its members’ Internet banking efforts.

“As the first financial institution to adopt the offering, the credit union is leading the way in protecting its members from the risks associated with online fraud and identity theft,” Lee said.

Steve James, the credit union’s CEO, said that customers throughout much of its branch network rely on the Internet to access accounts. “Obviously, security in online banking is our prime consideration,” he said.

-- Sandra Rossi, Computerworld Australia

India Grants Telecom Licenses to BT Group

NEW DELHI -- The India Department of Telecommunications has granted BT Group PLC licenses to provide national and long-distance services in the country. The London-based provider sought the licenses as part of an effort to carve out a bigger piece of India’s burgeoning telecommunications market.

The licenses allow BT Telecom India Pvt., a joint venture of BT Group and New Delhi-based energy, food and services provider Jubilant Enpro Pvt., to sell telecommunications services directly to corporate customers in India, BT said. Until now, BT has provided such services through local providers.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Briefly Noted

  • Sage MicrOpay Pty., a payroll application vendor in Chatswood, Australia, has acquired Kew-based rival Australian Flagship Pty. in for an undisclosed sum. Sage MicrOpay will incorporate Flagship’s Wage Easy Payroll HR software into its own product road map. Officials said the Flagship workforce will be retained after the acquisition is complete. -- Darren Pauli, Computerworld Australia
  • Red Hat Inc. last week announced plans to open a facility in Vrsac, Serbia, to provide support, research and development, and educational services to its customers, partners and developers in southeastern Europe. The center will be managed by Vienna-based VDEL GmbH. The city of Vrsac provided infrastructure and facilities for the center. -- Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service
  • Gemalto NV in Montrouge, France, was awarded a contract by Portugal’s Mint and National Printing Office to produce a national ID card that can store biometric information such as fingerprints. The card will contain a digital signature that’s legally valid for Portugal’s e-government transactions and protected by a personal identification number. It will use the Identification Authentication Signature specifications, a set of European interoperability requirements. -- Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service
  • SAP AG’s Henning Kagermann has signed a contract to stay on as CEO through May 2009, ending recent speculation that he would leave the helm of the German software maker. Kagermann turns 60 in July; the company’s personnel policy requires that executives age 60 and older renegotiate their contracts annually. -- Nancy Weil, IDG News Service
  • Alcatel-Lucent SA last week said that it has invested an undisclosed amount in WiMax chip maker Sequans Communications. The investment comes a year after the Paris-based companies agreed to jointly develop a low-cost WiMax device for end users in developing countries. They expect to start production of that product in the second quarter. -- Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service

Compiled by Mike Bucken.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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