BPO in S'pore, anti-spam in HK

Regional digest: A wrap-up of news from around Asia Pacific.

The following stories were featured in the Regional Digest section of C|Level Asia August 2004 (print version), which wraps up the latest news from around the Asia-Pacific.

Low adoption of BPO due to unfamiliarity
SINGAPORE — Outsourcing may be warmly embraced by most organizations worldwide, but when it concerns highlevel transactions, some companies still hesitate to choose the outsourcing route.
According to an ACA Research study conducted in Singapore and Malaysia, a majority of companies have yet to outsource business process outsourcing (BPO), with 60 percent of respondents claiming that they do not use a third-party provider to manage their back office processes. This figure was particularly high in Singapore, where 72 percent of companies currently have not outsourced such processes.

Commissioned by Unisys Asia South, the survey polled 101 organizations (50 from Singapore) and focused on highlevel processing services such as cheque and credit/debit card processing. It targeted specifically respondents from the banking, financial and securities industries. Unisys is an IT services and products company that specializes in areas that include consulting and outsourcing.
The lack of BPO adoption is likely due to the apparent lack of true understanding of the technology, said Martin Conboy, director of ACA. While 41 percent of Malaysian respondents indicated full familiarity and knowledge of the term, only 16 percent in companies in Singapore claimed likewise. Conboy noted that the state of awareness in the latter could be the result of the Malaysian government’s investment in its Multimedia Super Corridor initiative, and the country’s cultivation of the idea that there are benefits in letting “someone do your work”.
But there appears to be an overall concern that BPO could result in loss of control and security leaks.
Scott Whyman, vice president and general manager, Asia South, Unisys: “There’s always this ‘fear factor’ when we talk to the CEOs about BPO. “The reality is... [companies] actually have more control after outsourcing because there are established performance metrics, service level agreements and contractual requirements to ensure that everything is in order.”
Despite the concerns, the study indicated that 63 percent of respondents will consider outsourcing their backoffice processes over the next five years. -- Eileen Yu

Malaysian minister to drive broadband, urges industry feedback
MALAYSIA — Datuk Seri Lim Keng Yaik, Minister of Energy, Water and Communications of Malaysia, lamented the sluggish coverage expansion and uptake of broadband access services in Malaysia, particularly in rural areas.

Speaking to the press at the 3rd Annual IT Governance Conference held in Kuala Lumpur last month, Lim named the swift rollout of broadband access services as the first of the specific steps his ministry will be working towards to narrow the country’s long existing digital divide.
Internet penetration including broadband access usage, in the country still stands at a mere 4 percent in a population of 25 million. In order to drive adoption more rapidly, he noted, it is not enough to depend solely on the private sector to provide broadband access.
“We will work (it) out in our ministry, which has yet to get approval from the Cabinet. I will be presenting as soon as possible. It’s almost ready,” he added. Elaborating on this plan, Lim said it would involve using existing government infrastructures such as Schoolsnet, egovernment or MyRen (Malaysian Research and Education Network), to push the use of broadband connectivity up to a critical mass, to hasten the coverage expansion of broadband service providers to the last mile.
This year’s IT Governance Conference, themed “Strategic alignment through IT governance”, is jointly organized by the Malaysian chapter of the International Systems Audit and Control Association and the Malaysian National Computer Confederation.
Topics discussed in previous years had addressed the fundamentals needed to put in place proper and effective methodologies and practices for IT governance in Malaysia. This year, the conference aimed to help senior managers focus on aligning their business and IT objectives through IT governance.
In his speech, Lim also urged members of the private sector and the organizations involved in setting the landscape for effective IT governance in Malaysia, to share with the Ministry updates and recommendations. This, he added, would keep the existing National Framework on Information Security up to speed.
“This is a developing industry, (and) new things are coming online everyday,” commented Lim. “If there are new (issues) that are not (addressed) in the cyber laws, I would like (the appropriate organizations) to let us know so that we can update these laws.” -- Jennifer Tai

First top ten ‘Made in China’ supercomputer
CHINA — The world’s most populous nations has entered an elite group of countries that makes the world’s fastest supercomputers. Chinese-made supercomputer, Dawning 4000A, took 10th place in a recent ranking of the 500 fastest systems globally which, according to a group of researchers who compile the top 500 list in June and November yearly, marks the first “Made in China” supercomputer to enter the top 10 list.
The high-performance system was developed by Dawning Information Industry, a manufacturer of Microsoft and Unix-based servers on the mainland that was acquired by Hong Kong-listed Shenzhen High-Tech Holdings in 2001 for US$201 million. The Dawning 4000A was installed this year in a space measuring a quarter of a football field inside the Shanghai Supercomputer Centre at the Zhangjiang High-Tech Park in Pudong. It can handle 8.06 teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second.
A total of 14 supercomputers in China made the top 500 list this year. In addition to foreign-made systems from IBM and Hewlett-Packard, the list included three mainland firms — Dawning, Lenovo and Lanchao — and one machine built by computer scientists at Shenzhen University.
The Intel-based DeepComm 6800 developed by Lenovo is being used by the Chinese Academy of Science, while two other supercomputers made by the same company are installed at the Academy of Mathematics and System Science, and at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics. -- Romy T. Arambulo

Hong Kong initiates anti-spam consultation
HONG KONG — Before spam starts creating huge business losses in Hong Kong, the country’s Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau recently announced plans to take proactive steps and launched a four-month consultation to solicit the public’s views on measures to combat spam.
The consultation initiative is believed to be the result of pressure put on the Hong Kong government by the Hong Kong Anti-Spam Coalition, which is formed by the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association (HKISPA), Asia Digital Marketing Association (ADMA), and businesses including Microsoft and Time-Warner.
The Coalition claims spam costs HK$2 billion a year (about US$250 million). It cited a December 2003 survey showing over 80 percent of Internet users favor government spam regulation and 70 percent favored government legislation. John Tsang, Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology said during an anti-spam forum in late June that the consultation would look into unsolicited electronic messages or junk messages, in general, including e-mail, fax, short messaging services and multi-media messaging services.
At least five areas could be considered to curb spam, added Tsang, including self-regulation by the telecommunications industry, implementing technical solutions, promoting international cooperation and user awareness, and enforcing legislation against spam.
Local industry critics claim legislation should be only part of larger efforts to combat spam in Hong Kong, stressing education, training and anti-spam technology as other key components. The consultation period is scheduled to end this October. -- Romy T. Arambulo

BankThai doubles over
THAILAND — BankThai, one of Thailand’s leading banks with 85 branches nationwide, has deployed an advanced optical network with equipment from Cisco Systems to facilitate real-time data replication between the bank’s headquarters and its remote disaster recovery center.
The network allows the bank to be able to continue serving its customers in case of any external threat including natural or man-made disasters. The Cisco ONS 15530 Metro DWDM Multiservice Aggregation Platform was implemented to meet the mission-critical requirement in transporting Enterprise Systems Connection (ESCON), 10 Gigabit Ethernet trunks, Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel (2G) for wide area network (WAN) connections. The Cisco ONS 15530 combines dense wavelength-division multiplexing, storage area network and high-speed data aggregation on one platform.
‘‘Without Cisco’s optical solution, our business faces a big risk from unforeseen circumstances,” said Danai Khaophaisarn, executive vice president and division head of technology, BankThai. “We would have a lot of problems if our primary site were to go out of operation for any reason. The optical network helps ensure our continued success and longterm growth,’’ -- July Chen

Stock info on your fingertips
THAILAND — Cellular operator TA Orange has launched Stock Watch, a range of GPRS-based financial information services available on mobile phones. The service will be charged by kilobytes with fees based on actual usage. This is a different approach from its major rival, cellular giant Advanced Info Service (AIS), which charges its GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) offerings at a rate of one baht a minute (US$0.02).
AIS has an estimated 600,000 GPRS users, while TA Orange has around 140,000. Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, Orange’s head of multimedia content services, said the operator expects to sign up at least 20,000 of the current 200,000 investors in the stock market over the next 12 months. Target customers are heavy data users and retail and institutional investors aged 30 to 40 years old, he added.
The company plans to spend 30 million baht (US$735,000) to advertise the new services over the next three months. The Stock Watch service, to be provided in collaboration with Freewill solutions, Kim Eng Securities, Settrade.com, Family Know How and Mobile Financial Service, will be available via Javabased technology, SMS (short messaging service) and by dialing 2288.
The service costs 120 baht (US$2.94) a month for Java services, plus 0.12 baht per kilobyte. SMS notices cost three baht each while the 2288 service costs three baht per minute. Current average revenue per user (ARPU) for Orange’s postpaid is about 970 baht (US$23.77) per month and 320 baht prepaid. The ARPU for non-voice application services is around 40 baht a month. -- July Chen

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