Traditional Chinese medicine Web site opened. Xinhua 5 September 2000.

A Web site on traditional Chinese medicine and pharmacy, was launched on 4 September 2000. The Web site, the country's first to provide round-the-clock free counseling, is co-sponsored by the China Association for Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy, the Chinese Nurses' Association, the China Centre on the Development and Exchange of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy, and the Modern Chinese Networking Co Ltd. A total of thirty-six doctors have signed up with the Web site and more than one hundred experts have been invited as consultants. The first phase of the Web site cost two million US dollars. The site currently contains such columns as new centre, health consultation, medical and pharmaceutical world, encyclopedia of medical and pharmaceutical knowledge, and health check ups. It is expected to open toll services and an English edition next year.

Science and Technology Report for China, September 2000.

Biological identity system. Xinhua 8 October 2000.

In the near future, the Chinese will have their identity authenticated by a three-yuan (0.36 US dollar) memory card to replace traditional identity card, passport, employee's card and driver's licence. The Chinese scientists from a non-government company has recently invented the new system called `digital biological information passport' to conduct identity authentication. The passport uses the user's biological information in the form of fingerprints, iris information, eye ground information and palm lines which provide personal uniqueness and have long been regarded as the safest way to identify an individual. Authorities are able to collect the biological information and store it in a memory card by a secret key encryption. The invention solves the key problem of security and privacy in identity authentication.

The stored information can also be used in other media such as intelligent cards, floppy discs and Internet and intranet databases. The system is of low cost and excludes possibilities of fabrication and personation. Currently, citizens in China and other countries are identified by documents comprising information that can be directly recognised by the human eye, such as photos, words or characters, making forgery and personation easier. " The invention is a revolution in individual identity authentication".

Science and Technology Report for China, October 2000.

First multiple-force biochip. Xinhua 15 October 2000

The Chinese biochip experts announced that they have developed the world's first multiple force biochip platform system, which could be used to develop a better miniaturized lab on a tiny chip. Cheng Jing, Director of Biochip Research and Development Centre at Qinghua University, said that the system could be used to further develop analytical technology in wide ranging areas including medical research, clinical diagnosis, forensic, food and pollution analysis. China is to invest heavily in biochip research and development. It will build a Biochip Research and Development Centre in a bid to promote the country's biochip research and production, according to sources from the Ministry of Science and Technology and Qinghua University. The Chinese government is going to earmark 280 million yuan (about 33.7 million US dollars) for the Beijing National Research and Engineering Centre of Biochip, which will also attract 40 million yuan from its four founders _ Qinghua University, Hua Zhong Science and Technology University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences. The centre will also attract 150 million yuan overseas venture capital.

Science and Technology Report for China, October 2000.

Digital photography

However convenient they might be, digital cameras have not yet displaced their film-based counterparts. The quality of images they produce remains the main problem. The sensory chip inside the digital camera captures an image consisting, at most, of 2,000 by 1,500 picture elements, or pixels. That multiplies to a mere 3m pixels. A photograph taken with standard 35mm film has the equivalent of about 20m pixels. Digital pictures are therefore adequate for snapshots or pictures on a Web page, but not for serious work. But a invention could change that.

Digital cameras now contain sensors based on one of two technologies. High quality models such as those used by newspapers and advertising photographers, rely on a chip called a "charge-coupled device"(CCD). CCDs which came in the early 1970s and consist of an array of elements, each of which acts like a "bucket" of electrical charge that fills up as light falls on it. A CCD can be used along with a lens and a shutter, to capture an image. Variations in the amount of charge stored in the buckets correspond to variations of brightness in the image. The best CCDs can capture 6m pixels, not of film quality, but close to it.

A new kind of sensor emerged in 1995.It was based on complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology, the process used to make vast majority of the world's silicon chips. Unlike CCDs, which are fabricated in special factories, CMOS sensors can be manufactured using standard chip-making equipment, which makes them a lot cheaper to mass produce. With the introduction of CMOS, digital cameras became mass consumer items, even though CMOS chips did not match the resolution or quality of CCDs.

The industry thought that CCDs would continue to dominate the professional end of the market, and CMOS sensors would gradually improve, perhaps drawing level with CCDs by around 2003. When Foveon, a small company based in Santa Clara, California, unveiled its new prototype sensor at the Photokina trade show in Cologne last month, it changed people's perceptions altogether. It is a CMOS sensor, yet it outdoes even the best CCDs, with an unprecedented resolution of 16.8m pixels.

Dick Merrill, Foveon's chief scientist, says that making such a large CMOS sensor required new circuit design techniques to overcome the current leakage which restricts the amount of data that a CMOS sensor can store. It also needed subtle and secret modifications to the CMOS manufacturing process. The result is a sensor that is said to be as good as the best CCDs. High resolution CMOS sensors have a number of advantages over CCDs, says Mr. Merrill. Being cheaper, CMOs technology makes it possible to include extra functions to the sensor chip itself. Future chips could handle image-processing involving sharpening edges, smoothing areas of flat colour such as blue skies or skin tones and generally knocking on the head the old ad-age that the camera cannot lie.

Another advantage, from a professional photographer's point of view, is that, since CMOS sensors are essentially glorified memory chips, it is possible to study a particular area of the image repeatedly (while focusing, for example) before capturing a finished version. This is not possible with CCDs, which require the whole image to be read out in one lump. Another benefit is that a CMOS sensor typically consumes about a tenth of the power of a CCD of equivalent resolution.

With CMOS sensors overcoming CCDs, there will be huge improvements in image sensors. It may be some time before16.8m-pixel sensors appear on the consumer market, but it will happen sooner than later. That is when the film will eventually die.

The Statesman: Scitech Supplement, 30 Oct. 2000

India IT superpower core group set up

The Planning Commission has set up a core group of experts with the aim of developing India as a knowledge superpower. The group includes Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, Dr R A Mashelkar and N R Narayan Murty as members.

Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, K C Pant, who inaugurated Asia's largest IT show at Bangalore on 1 November 2000, said that the country should use the advances made in the information technology sector to spurt hundred per cent literacy, more employment, entrepreneurship and economic growth. He said the core group of experts will submit its report shortly.

Pant said that the government plans to alter certain laws governing connectivity, which would lead to services like call centres, medical transcription and other support options generating massive employment. "It will help rope in India's educated `women power' that will be able to work from home by pressing the right keys", Pant said.

He said one of the agendas under the special action plan of the Prime Minister is to make India a global information technology superpower and one of the largest generators and exporter of software in the next 10 years. He said that a task force on human resource development in information technology had been set up to prepare long-term strategy for increasing the number of well-trained IT professionals. The task force has drawn up a plan to optimally use the existing infrastructure of the IITs, RECs and other engineering colleges.

"The Indian software industry is the arrowhead of our IT weaponry. It has made tremendous strides, improving its stakes in markets both at home and abroad" Pant said.

Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna said that the codes for all Kannada letters as well as the order for the letters had been standardized and Microsoft's chief Bill Gates would be requested to incorporate the standards in their next Windows version as promised by him during his visit to India recently.

The Business Standard, 2 November 2000

Information and Communication Society of India

Information and Communication Society of India or ICSI in short has since been formed with Prof B Guha as President and more than a dozen seasoned librarians, documentalists and information scientists including Mr Subhas Chandra Biswas, Mr S N Dutta, Mr S N Sur, Prof S B Ghosh and others occupying various positions. The Society, registered under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860 on 27 November 2000, aims to (a) collect and disseminate relevant knowledge on information and communication; (b) initiate projects, studies, surveys, data analysis and consultancy in the field of communication and information; (c) provide editorial and technical supports to bring out publications in print and electronic media; (d) impart training, organize seminars and workshops on information, communication and related areas; (e) maintain liaison and collaborate with similar national and international organizations; (f) publish and distribute materials devoted to information, communication and related areas; (g) promote automation, networking, application of Internet and advanced information and communication technologies in library and information environment; (h) and to associate with such programmes and activities as may be considered necessary and useful fro promoting the aims and objectives of the Society.

Immediately after the registration of the Society, it took up the responsibility of automating the Library of the Delhi Office of Save the Children, a UK-based NGO. The work is fast nearing completion.

Reported by Prof B K Sen, Secretary, Information and Communication Society of India,
80 Shivalik Apartments, Alaknanda, New Delhi _ 110019, E-mail:

India, watch out for Russia in IT race

Russia is slowly competing with India as a market for outsourcing software development by American companies. India is the reigning king of software outsourcing, but its advantage is beginning to erode, opines one article in Forbes International. But, Russians do not expect to take big bites out of India's outsourcing revenues anytime soon. "For now, they are happy to nibble at the edges. But Russia has its own future ahead of it", say the magazine.

An Indian programmer, according to Forbes, earns on average US $ 7,000 _ 8,000 a year. The same, Moscow techs tend to earn. But the same level of talent can be purchased in Russia's outlying areas for about US $ 3,000 _4,000.

"And the heavily populated areas of Russia are much closer to the West than India is, making it easier to do business" it says. The recruitment process in Russia is weak and to solve the problem, large multinationals have set up their own operation on the ground, typically headed by Russian and Western management specialists.

Sun Microsystems, Intel, Boeing and Microsoft all have operations with hundreds of programmers. Boeing subcontracts its technicians through local companies. Intel has set up its own facility in Nizhni Novgorod and hired Russians directly, making them Intel employees with full benefits. However, language barrier makes it difficult for smaller outsourcing companies to find English-speaking managers. For large-scale projects too, the Forbes adds, the language barrier and a lingering anxiety about political instability put Russia at distinct disadvantage compared to India. "The great thing about India is that so many Indians are English-speaking. We have to be able to scale four hundred people in a few months for a project and India is simply a wellspring of IT talent," a senior Vice-President of AT Mascot System is quoted as saying.

Outsourcing is perfect for Russia, as every year elite universities in Russia graduate 100,000 plus students with degrees in computer science, engineering, physics and mathematics. Besides, there is also a vast network of applied scientists and academics who were laid off after the collapse of Communism.

Listing disadvantages, Forbes opines that Russia has a `primitive' telecommunication infrastructure and Internet penetration stands at two per cent of Russia's 150 million population. But it is growing at an estimated rate of fifty to hundred per cent per year and wireless telephony is the fastest growing sector of economy.

The tax and legal infrastructure cries out for reform. Russian tax collectors try to impose the country's twenty per cent value-added tax on software exports. Unlike India, Russia offers no tax holidays to encourage technology outsourcers to set up shop there. Besides, Forbes says, Russia's intellectual property laws are almost non-existent and the government can easily expropriate anything that Russian programmers develop for export or for domestic market. However, the biggest obstacle according to the magazine is that Russia has no recruitment industry to organize highly fragmented and widely dispersed army of programmers into a cohesive bloc that can be easily be tapped by foreign companies. [Text modified]

Science and Technology in Russia. December 2000, 17-18

Russian technolohies on TIFAC Web site

The Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) keeps a technology watch on global trends and formulates preferred technology options for India. Some Russian technologies reported in the Monthly Report of the S & T Wing of the Embassy of India at Moscow have now been posted on the Web site of TIFAC at [Text modified]

— Science and Technology in Russia. December 2000. p.17

Information Today & Tomorrow, Vol. 20, No. 1, March 2001, p.29-p.31 & p.28