Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hackers breach hotmail security in UK

Thousands of Microsoft's Hotmail e-mails have been hacked in Britain after login details of more than 10,000 accounts appeared briefly on a website.

Thought to be result of a phishing attack the list of around 10,000 Microsoft Hotmail, Windows Live and MSN accounts were posted on Monday on technology website by an anonymous user, Daily Telegraph reported.

Neowin said the details appeared legitimate and most of the accounts exposed by the leak belonged to European web users.

Microsoft today confirmed the phishing attack against users of the popular email service. But said in a statement that the culprit had not breached its security but had fooled e-mail users into handing over their details by creating an identical Hotmail website.

"Over the weekend, Microsoft learned that several thousand Windows Live Hotmail customers' credentials were exposed on a third-party site due to a likely phishing scheme," it said, according media reports.

Users of Hotmail, Windows Live and MSN email accounts are advised to change their passwords and security questions immediately to block unauthorised access to accounts.

Hotmail is the largest web-based email service in the world, boasting an estimated 500 million users, with 14 million in the UK alone.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Windows 7-A New Computing Experience Smear With Silver Light Technology

Without a shadow of a doubt that , Microsoft’s Vista never made any big impact globally; the new launch is here now! Windows 7 (formerly codenamed Blackcomb and Vienna) is the latest version of Microsoft Windows, a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs and media center PCs. Windows 7 was released to manufacturing on July 22, 2009, with general retail availability set for October 22, 2009, less than three years after the release of its predecessor, Windows Vista. Windows 7's server counterpart, Windows Server 2008 R2, is slated for release at about the same time.

Unlike its predecessor, which introduced a large number of new features, Windows 7 is intended to be a more focused, incremental upgrade to the Windows line, with the goal of being fully compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista is already compatible. Presentations given by the company in 2008 focused on multi-touch support, a redesigned Windows Shell with a new taskbar, a home networking system called HomeGroup, and performance improvements. Some applications that have been included with prior releases of Microsoft Windows, including Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Photo Gallery, will not be included in Windows 7; some will instead be offered separately as part of the free Windows Live Essentials suite.

Due to the fact that Microsoft Vista never made it big globally and in its soon to be released Windows 7 OS, Microsoft is betting big and analysts are claiming it to be one of the best after XP. What makes Windows 7 path breaking is the clutter free GUI that is totally different from Microsoft’s previous OS versions. To put it rather bluntly, Windows 7 does not look like a traditional Windows OS most of us are used to, what users gets in Windows 7 an experience of non Windows software. The case in the point is the unique difference one gets as they start using Windows 7.

The differentiators Let’s look at the interface more closely. Windows 7 is a multi-taskers delight and thanks to the pretty intelligent task bar options that enables running multiple programs in a uncluttered way. For instance features like Aero Peek, Aero Snap and Aero Shake allows the users to preview the opened files and what it means is that one can see it without really clicking on that file from the task bar. Yet another difference one sees when the programs are reduced it goes down in the task bar as a ‘square’ and not as big ‘rectangle’ as one sees in XP or Vista. With Active Peek enabled one can see thumbnails of applications that are running.

What all these features means is intelligent management of many applications that are open and one can seamlessly switch over to apps like from excel to word to a media player without any hang issues. Moreover if you have four browser tabs the user can preview all the windows without opening the tab that is to be seen. Clearly all these features will be appreciated by multi-tasking users. Another cool features like ‘Sticky Notes” makes for creating digital Post-its on ones desktop. Another high point in Windows 7 is that its touch screen enabled and for the first time with Notebooks with touch screens, one will be able to use the touch features in the OS.
Yet another area Windows 7 score ahead is in managing the device drivers. If you run Windows 7 on a Vista compatible machines, the chances are you might not be requiring any drivers at all Win 7 will configure most of the drivers automatically. In terms of Network Access, the process involved in acquiring the network address and configuring it to a LAN or Wireless access is really fast and Microsoft has done a considerable tweak in discovering Wireless and network access devices.

While right now Microsoft has released the Release Candidate version of Windows 7, and even before the final version, the RC has got rave reviews across the world. Apart from the ground up GUI changes, the biggest performance tweak in Windows 7 is the speed. Compared to XP and Vista, Windows seven is the fastest OS Microsoft has developed ever. But while in Vista user need to undergo huge hardware upgrades and in Windows 7, Microsoft has kept the hardware specs to the minimum- so if you have a PC running 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM and 16 GB of available disk space, a user can run Windows 7 without any issues. But right now the default PC configuration being 2 GHz processor with 3GB RAM, running Windows 7 would not be an issue at all.
Windows 7 would be available in seven flavours from Starter to the Ultimate editions. Unlike previous editions, Win 7 will come in one DVD disc and users just need to enter the version of the product key to activate it. On the flipside, many in the industry feel that the end user pricing for Windows 7 is very steep-with Ultimate retail price expected at USD $ 319 and Home Premium version at USD $199.

From what is available in the current market,however not officially released,seems to be working well and exciting with the GUI for the intended end users.The million dollar question is;WILL IT HAVE WHAT IT TAKE TO REACH THE HEIGHTS OF WINDOWS XP ,EVEN BETTER WINDOWS 98?



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kenyan Government Launches E-service

The Kenyan government on Friday launched new electronic service to track service delivery of all public institutions.
The project known as "e-service" allows one to query the issuance of Identity Cards (ID) and passports by sending a short message service (SMS) to the tracking number 2031 or 2032. From the SMS, Kenyans will know what is needed to apply and also track the processing of the documents.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said that government was embracing technology in governance as a way of improving service delivery to Kenyans as well as create efficiency in all government institutions.
"It is a project that will enable the public to access key government services through mobile telephones. It will allow the public to ask questions and obtain real time feedback regarding requirements, cost and status of processing of provision of the most frequently demanded services," he said.

The new service which will cost five shillings (about 6 U.S. cents) also enable users to raise complaints over delays in issuance of national IDs and passports.
Odinga said by sending a SMS to 2031 and 2032, mobile phone users would be able to report complaints to the immigration ministry and the publics service reforms ministry after which they would get immediate feedback.
"If you are applying for an ID card, there is a number of days that they have said it will take for you to get it. If it takes longer, you have a right to complain and you can ask a question through 2031 and 2032," he said.
He urged the public to utilize the new service to help them save time and also cut down transport costs.

The PM said that it was uneconomical and unhelpful for members of the public to keep travelling from all corners of the country to track progress of essential documents in Nairobi.
"This service is therefore particularly beneficial to Kenyans living up-country or far from central service points," said Odinga.
He noted that this e-Government initiative would in the near future be extended to cover other critical services such as pensions and land title deeds.
The PM said the government was outsourcing other electronic initiatives to help include the 16 institutions which had their service delivery charters rolled out last August included in the E- service project.
He pointed out that the National Registration Bureau and Immigration departments had already developed their E-services urging other government institutions to follow suit.

Odinga said E-Service was a New Year gift to Kenyans to ensure quality services are offered in line with international practices.
The service coordinated by the Public Sector Reforms and Performance Contracting at the Prime Minister's Office and spearheaded by the ministry of information and communication is in line with the Vision 2030 to improve service delivery.
Through the e-Government office, the ongoing projects include upgrading the court registry and library management system that creates national repository of cases.
But analysts say one obstacle to the implementation of such services is the norm by government departments treating a lot of information it generates with a lot of secrecy.
The classification of information as secret and confidential has created legal obstruction to the flow of information and as a result people cannot get open access to the information they require.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Government must be able to take quick timely and correct decisions. Availability of complete and detailed information about the issues involved, through analysis of the available information and assessment of the impact of the decisions form the basis of correct decisions. Information Technology has provided online access to all information about all matters or events, at any time and from any location. First step of e-governance is therefore establishment of infrastructure all over the country in such a way that all the information that is being generated in rural or urban areas is properly processed and stored in appropriate forms.

The stored information must also be updated periodically. Computerisation of the information at each village/town level in all government offices is there fore mandatory. This information must then be made available to the decision makers through Government Intranets, which are the networks spread all over the State. As an example one can quote the National Informatics Centres’ Network of Government of Kenya, which will aim to connects are district level and divisional level Government offices to Government Secretariats in the State capitals. The communication network used telephone lines as well as the VSAT (Very Small Aperture Satellite Terminals) based satellite communication system. Real time information records and their instantaneous processing makes the decisions process optimum.

Movement of Files: The second hurdle in good governance is the ‘movement of files’ from one table to another through umpteen number of functionaries. Computerisation of Government Offices eliminates the need of physical movement of the files since they are accessible to all the functionaries at the same time. Any person who has to process the file can make the appropriate entries and the next functionary in line will have the updated file on his PC instantaneously. A major advantage of this system is that the files cannot go under a big pile on the table or cannot do the vanishing trick. Another significant gain from the system is that whole process is transparent which makes the decision impartial.

Good Government must also be able to establish a good control over the entire machinery as well as over the various events, that take place in the society. e-Governance is a very powerful tool since it has the entire information network at its command through which it can receive information and transmit orders and commands to control. Very interestingly, there is a computer software called Geographical information System (GIS) which provides not only the geographical coordinates of each and every items like bridges, electrical transformers, wells, field boundaries etc. but also provides information about events that are taking place like coconut crop disease that is spreading over a particular field. An other example is that the financial management has now become very efficient because all the treasuries can be computerized and networked.

The Click of the Mouse: Service to citizens, contacts with the common man and collection of taxes and revenues is another fact of e-governance that has surpassed all expectations. A resident of a village does not have to travel to the chief/sub chief office or district place or state capital to get the revenue record of his farm or house. Getting birth certificates does not more imply long waits or tips to the functionary in the records office where he has to dig through one hundred years record to find out a proof of birth of his three year old child. All these records are archived on computers ad are available to anybody, anywhere with the ‘click’ of the mouse as they say. Many citizens phone bills in a conventional system. Payment of taxes to Government is dreaded by the citizens not because of the cumbersome process of the transactions.

The Kenya Government should open computerized counters called ‘Friends’ where one can pay taxes, dues etc. to various Government Departments and University fees etc. all under the same roof. In near future: ”Information Kiosks” should expected to replace the present (around “STD/ISD telephone booths(simu ya jamii)” and public call offices in Kenya. One will be able to walk in the boot “Infokiosk” situated almost next door and then pay taxes, electricity bills and collect birth/death certificates, land registration records, details of a government decision about the public distribution system for grains to people below poverty line.

Government Online: Following are some of the actions under implementation by Governments in Kenya. All Government information other than that having a bearing on security is made available to public. Under the District Information System, plan programme is being made widespread and databases updated online are made available to public. Courts Information System (COURTIS), Parliament Information System (PARLIS), Computerised Rural Information systems Programme (VRISP) are other examples of databases generated and made accessible.

Websites have been launched for most Government Departments and agencies. All Government departments should be asked to allocate 3 to 5 percent of their budgets for IT related activities including training of personnel. An Informational Project named “Government Online” has been formed by G-8 countries to plan and implement projects to promote IT in Governments. IT literacy should be stipulated as an essential requirement for all future government and public sector employment. Government of India has framed a national policy on Information Security, Privacy and data protection act for handling of Computerized data. Cyber laws have been framed and IT bill has been approved by the Parliament. The Government should gear up to become a SMART Government by declaring itself to be Simple, Moral Accountable, Responsive and Transparent.

In conclusion, Governance through e-media using IT technologies has enabled very efficient, transparent and fast decision-making process. The IT infrastructure has made direct participation of a common man in the Government matters with access to all the information he needs.e-Government is the ideal government system of the modern age.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Unlicensed Software in Government offices?

I wonder how many government offices and organizations use only licensed software, and nothing else? There is not much data available on this, but when I put this question to a few IT managers in government, they sounded evasive. And when I asked some vendors, who supply hardware and software, or those systems integrators who implement end-to-end projects, the clear answer was that there are lots of illegal software in use in the government.

The reasons might be many, but if the government itself is using unlicensed software, either knowingly or unknowingly, there is not much it will be able to do to stop others. Therefore, it is a serious matter, and must be addressed immediately.
First and foremost, there should be no difference of opinion on whether using pirated software is a crime or not. If organizational heads and CIO’s are yet to convey in no uncertain terms that software piracy is a crime, they must do so immediately. There should be organization-wide campaigns to make people aware of what is pirated software, and why it should not be used. There should be clear guidelines on what is legal and what is not, and preferably, penalties for acquiring illegal software. Of course, for those who resort to this for reasons of cost, recommended options of freeware, and open source will be a big help.

Quite a few crusaders of licensed software, especially those representing the software companies, are now realizing and accepting that promotion of licensed software in Kenya needs motivation rather than coercion and force. Therefore, they are ready and open to suggestions and feedback for working about mutually win-win solutions. Government, being one of the biggest IT users in the country, must actively put its act together on this front and initiate a dialogue with software vendors. I am sure users in the Government can work out some very clear benefits that they except from licensed software, and share that with vendors. As far as my understanding goes, software companies are today ready to consider many of the demands they would have ignored earlier.

It is very important that software piracy should be considered a serious offence at the government level. This will send a strong message across the nation, and Kenya will be seen as a safe place for intellectual property. Secondly, and more important, in the coming years there are going to be lots of IP that Kenyan companies will develop. And if they will have to be protected and valued in Kenya, government or the law enforcer have to take the first step. And then it will not be the MNCs but the Kenyan entrepreneurs and Kenyan economy that will lose.


How Barack Obama Used The E-governance In His Presidencial Election Race

In obama's mind this was the question he wanted to answer for the all Americans,Open Government is the main plank, but what about the roadblocks? All eyes were and are on the US President Barack Obama, who assumed charge of his office on January 20, 2009. He has also set an ambitious agenda for e-governance. Obama had very successfully used information technology IT in his presidential campaign.

For example, according to reports on more than 280,000 people created accounts, users created over 6,500 grass-roots volunteer groups and organized more than 13,000 off line events using the website, and over 15,000 policy ideas were submitted through the website. The Internet operation was looked after by ninety-five people. Obama has built a treasure trove of database of more than 10 mn supporters.

Since change was the main plank of Obamas election campaign, the transition site has also been named after change, set up as More is expected from him in the field of IT and e-governance once he enters the White House.
What then is Obamas agenda for e-governance? In a nutshell, it is open government. He, however, has many items in his agenda but the following ten items appear to be particularly noteworthy.

Transparent and Connected Democracy: The agenda proposes to integrate citizens into the actual business of government by a number of measures including Making government data available online in universally accessible formats to allow citizens to make use of that data to comment, derive value, and take action in their own communities, thereby lifting the veil from secret deals in Washington with a website, a search engine, and other web tools that enable citizens to easily track online federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and lobbyist contacts with government officials.

Open Government:All available technologies and methods are proposed to be used to open up the federal government, creating a new level of transparency to change the way business is conducted in Washington, giving Americans the chance to participate in government deliberations and decision making in ways that were not possible only a few years ago. Most modern communications infrastructure will be used to realize this vision.

Federal Chief Technology Officer: The agenda proposes to appoint the nations first CTO to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the twenty-first century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an inter-agency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

Openness of the Internet:Realizing the importance of the Internet as the most open network in history, the agenda proposes to maintain the openness of the Internet. The agenda strongly supports the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet. Users must be free to access content, to use applications, and to attach personal devices. They have a right to receive accurate and honest information about service plans.

Protection of Children:An important item on the agenda is protection of children on the Internet. The agenda proposes to work to give parents the tools to prevent reception of programming that they find offensive on television and on digital media. Again, it will encourage improvements to the existing voluntary rating system, exploiting new technologies like tagging and filtering, so that parents can better understand what content their children will see, and have the tools to respond. The agenda treats a sanity not censorship approach of the Common Sense Media, a private entity, as a model.

Public Media 2.0: The agenda will encourage the creation of Public Media 2.0 the next generation of public media that will create the Sesame Street of the Digital Age and other video and interactive programming that educates and informs. The agenda will support the transition of existing public broadcasting entities and help renew their founding vision in the digital world.

Right to Privacy: The agenda notes that dramatic increases in computing power, decreases in storage costs and huge flows of information that characterize the digital age bring enormous benefits, but also create risk of abuse. We need sensible safeguards that protect privacy in this dynamic new world. The agenda therefore proposes to strengthen privacy protections for the digital age and will harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy.

Next Generation Broadband: The agenda realizes the importance of broadband in so many words: Full broadband penetration can enrich democratic discourse, enhance competition, provide economic growth, and bring significant consumer benefits. Moreover, improving our infrastructure will foster competitive markets for Internet access and services that ride on that infrastructure.

Protection of Intellectual Property Rights at Home and Abroad: The agenda recognizes the importance of intellectual property rights by stating that intellectual property is to the digital age what physical goods were to the industrial age and emphasizes the need to update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated. The agenda proposes to protect intellectual property rights at home and abroad.

Healthcare: The agenda proposes to invest $10 bn a year over the next five years to move the US health care system to broad adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems, including electronic health records and phase in requirements for full implementation of health IT and commit the necessary federal resources to make it happen.

Many of these items are routine, mundane and incremental. Nevertheless three items of his agenda are striking and deserve a close look.First open government. This will be a very challenging task. The issues here are the extent to which government will open up consistent with the requirements of security and protection of privacy of citizens, and making government transparent and accountable. Obama, of course, has taken up the gauntlet when he makes a daring commitment in his agenda: (he) will use the most current technological tools available to make government less beholden to special interest groups and lobbyists. In a speech in Des Moines, LA, on November 10, 2007 Obama had forcefully declared,and I quote“I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists and won. They have not funded my campaign and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am President.”

Blueprint for Change;Obama and Bidens Plan for America declares Obama and Biden will close the revolving door between the executive branch and K-Street lobbying shops. Their appointees will serve the American people, not their own financial interests. It will be quite interesting to watch as to how Obama and his team goes about it as lobbyists are firmly entrenched in Washington, DC.

Second citizen participation in government decision-making. An integral part of open government, it is also a very challenging area as despite living in democratic regimes citizens have no participation in decision-making, a task performed singularly by the legislators who, once elected, forget about the citizens until the next election. The nearest governments have gone for citizen participation in government decision-making is to seek citizens views on governments specific proposals. But this is usually an eye wash as citizens views may be taken as a mere formality without being taken into account in decision-making, leave alone having an impact in decision-making.

Third, federal chief technology officer. This has been talked about for quite some time. It is going to be a very challenging task for the incumbent as co-ordination is no cakewalk. On the contrary, it is quite problematic as CTO/CIO will protect his turf and the method of working. Quite often he is immune to external advice. The agenda proposes to suitably legally empower him. In such a case he will be a Super-CTO or Super CIO and his authority is likely to be resented by agency CTO/CIO.
Here is, however, wishing Obama and his team all the best in implementing his ambitious agenda for the Great Americans.Courtesy of DNA and AP.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Can We Bridge The Digital Divide In Kenya?

To bridge this divide we have to make the government agencies and their customers-other government agencies, businesses, and individuals-get IT comfortable
E-governance is the latest buzz word. There is a lot of excitement about it in the industry because of the Ksh. billions that is planned to be spent in this area. And with a mention in the latest finance budget, no one is left in any doubt of its importance to the country.
There are many ways to define e-Governance. All of them go beyond 'computerizing the government'-a term that is used often, but means little. A more general definition is-it is a way of empowering citizens by bringing in transparency in the system and reducing corruption. To me it means using information technology to provide better services to customers by the government sector organizations. I like this description because it puts the focus right where it should be-customers and services.

There is a lot of talk about the urban and rural digital divide. There is also another divide that is constantly widening. The corporate vs. non corporate one. In many areas such as private banks and telecom, we are seeing increased levels of customer service courtesy use of information technology. In many others such as property, judiciary, and other aspects of governance we see very little use of technology to make the citizen's life better. And this is the Digital Divide.
G2C or citizen-centric e-Governance projects will be successful only when the masses start using them. This needs first the applications-with in built process changes to make things more efficient-and then they need access points for citizens. Bring down the cost of a computer to less than Ksh 10,000 and see its numbers rise as quickly as those of mobile subscribers. The Internet came to Kenya before the mobile phones. Then what has made mobile services beat Internet services in subscription numbers hands down? In January 2008, the subscriber base touched approximately 20 mn connections. It became a mass phenomenon in 3-4 years when the handsets became cheap and readily available, call rates crashed and because mobile phones were easy to use and had a high utility. Nobody had to push mobiles. They just happened because the conditions fell in place. Can these conditions be duplicated for computers?
Computerizing the government departments and making the incumbents use even e-mail is no mean task.
The G2B story is not a happy one either. By and large government processes with respect to industry are not computerized. Information about laws, rules and regulations, clearances are available on websites, which are often dated. Online applications and clearances are a rarity. And of course the processes are from the previous century. It is appreciated that making these things happen in the government sector is a complex job. But there is little evidence of a strong move towards making these applications happen.
Ultimately if the governance has to become better the government has to become more efficient. G2G makes its own contribution to the great Kenyan digital divide. Computerizing the government departments and making the incumbents use even e-mail is no mean task. But even basic steps like these can improve decision making and therefore the quality of service to the citizens.
E-Governance will happen when we get the above examples and much more going. That needs a massive overhaul of much of the government working. This can happen if there is a push from the top and a pull generated from the bottom. Ministers and secretaries have to insist on using computes themselves. And then they have to provide the computes, the communication infrastructure and the training to their departments.
We have come a long way from the time that the need for such initiatives was questioned. But we have also taken a long time over it. It would be a tragedy if the act-time is as long as the talk- time.