Global Dispatches

An international news digest

African Undersea Cable Project Back on Track

LUSAKA, Zambia -- Squabbles that delayed the start of work on the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System have been resolved, allowing the fiber-optic cable project -- which is designed to link Africa to global telecommunications networks -- to move forward.

At a meeting here this month, information and communications technology ministers from eastern and southern Africa agreed to give all African nations free access to the undersea system, said Sammy Kirui, chairman of the project management team.

The debate over open access had threatened the $200 million (U.S.) project because some member countries wanted to charge other nations for access rights -- a position that went against the wishes of African economic development organizations and the World Bank. The Kenyan government announced in May that it was withdrawing support for the project because of the internal wrangling.

At the meeting, though, technology ministers from Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe set a new schedule calling for work on the cable system to begin by September and be completed in the fourth quarter of 2007, Kirui said. The targeted completion date is four months later than previously planned.

Project managers are still evaluating bids from companies that are vying to lay the cable, according to Kirui.

-- Michael Malakata, IDG News Service

Trade Group to Test Skills of Job Seekers

BANGALORE, India -- The National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) has created a test that's designed to determine the technical and communication skills of applicants for jobs in India's outsourcing industry.

Nasscom officials said that the online test can be used to screen out applicants who lack skills needed by call center, business process outsourcing (BPO) and software services companies with operations in India.

The Delhi-based trade group estimates that only about 25% of technical school graduates and 10% to 15% of college graduates have the skills needed by outsourcing vendors, said Nasscom President Kiran Karnik. The problem is becoming acute because outsourcers are now hiring about 200,000 staffers each year, he added.

The test, which was developed with help from the country's outsourcing vendors, grades applicants on seven parameters, including analytical and communication skills, according to Karnik.

Nasscom plans to roll out the test nationwide by November. The group said that more than 90% of India's software services, BPO and call center companies have signed up to take part in the program.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Europe Plans Broader Internet Access

RIGA, Latvia -- Nearly three-dozen European governments pledged last week to do more to spread Internet access to citizens who could be left behind by rapid technological advances.

Government ministers from 34 European countries agreed at a meeting here that they would use IT to help the elderly, the disabled and the unemployed overcome obstacles to Internet use. The represented nations included the European Union's 25 members, plus Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Turkey, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The EU is separately aiming by 2010 to halve the number of people with no Internet access, boost the reach of broadband services into rural areas and ensure that all government Web sites are accessible to the public. That effort is part of the EU's i2010 strategy, the digital economy component of a wider initiative to boost employment and business growth and spur innovation.

-- Paul Meller, IDG News Service

Intel's India Unit Faces Scrutiny on Expenses

BANGALORE, India -- Intel Corp.'s development center in India has come under scrutiny as part of the company's effort to cut worldwide spending by $1 billion (U.S.).

Intel currently employs more than 3,000 workers in India, including about 2,900 engineers and 100 sales and marketing staffers. But the semiconductor maker said it has initiated an efficiency program in India and other countries to evaluate ways to reduce costs.

In a statement, Intel's subsidiary in Bangalore said that the company "is seeking to improve significantly not just in costs, but in the essentials -- what we do and how we do it." The statement noted that the program will cut the company's worldwide workforce through attrition, redeployment and business changes.

A spokeswoman for Intel India declined to say whether there will be job cuts at the unit. Details of Intel's plans for the Indian operations will be disclosed in July, she said.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Capgemini to Double Its Workforce in India

BANGALORE, India -- Capgemini SA plans to double its workforce in India over the next 18 months and make the country its hub for delivering offshore IT and BPO services to corporate users.

"In terms of ability to scale number of staff and everything else, I don't think any other country can offer what India can," Aruna Jayanthi, vice president of outsourcing at Bangalore-based Capgemini India, said in an interview here earlier this month.

The Indian subsidiary has about 4,600 staffers now and plans to increase its head count to 6,000 by year's end and to 10,000 by the end of 2007, Jayanthi said.

Paris-based Capgemini has offshore service-delivery centers in other countries, such as China and Poland. But the Indian operation is its largest offshore unit and has already grown by 80% annually over the past two years, Jayanthi said. She added that about 60% of the work done in India is for U.S. customers.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Briefly Noted

  • Energex Ltd., an electric utility in Brisbane, Australia, has inked a contract worth 7 million Australian dollars ($5.18 million U.S.) with IT services firm TUSC Computer Systems Pty. in Melbourne. TUSC, a unit of LM Ericsson Telephone Co., will implement a workforce management system from Mobile Data Solutions Inc. in Richmond, British Columbia, to automate Energex's field force operations.

    -- Sandra Rossi, Computerworld Today (Australia)

  • Wipro Ltd. in Bangalore, India, has agreed to acquire Saraware Oy, a Rovaniemi, Finland-based company that offers design and engineering services to telecommunications carriers, for €25 million ($31 million U.S.). Wipro said the acquisition will give it skills related to radio networks and secure mobile communications platforms that conform to the European-developed Terrestrial Trunked Radio standard, or Tetra.

    -- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

  • ICICI OneSource Ltd., a business process outsourcing vendor in Mumbai, India, is setting up two service delivery centers in Northern Ireland. The company last week said that it plans to open the first center in Belfast next month and begin operations at the second facility by year's end. The two centers are expected to create a total of about 1,000 jobs over the next two years, according to ICICI OneSource.

    -- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

  • Unibanco Holdings SA, a banking company in Sao Paolo, Brazil, has signed an IT infrastructure outsourcing services contract with Unisys Corp. Unisys said the five-year deal has a potential value of $47 million (U.S.). The contract calls for Unisys to provide management and support services for Unibanco 's retail banking infrastructure. Karvy Global Services Ltd., a business process outsourcing firm in Hyderabad, India, said it will offer customers free online monitoring and measurement of its service delivery. Karvy 's offering uses technology from MetrixLine Inc., a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based developer of tools that provide real-time measurements of outsourced processes.

    -- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Global Fact

  • 36%, 75%

    The percentages of Asian software developers who are using Java Platform Extended Edition 5 and Microsoft .Net, respectively. Two-thirds expect to be using Java by next year.

Base: May survey of more than 400 developers in the Asia-Pacific region

Source: Evans Data Corp., Santa Cruz, Calif.

Compiled by Mike Bucken.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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