Bill Gates donates millions to AIDS research

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the charitable foundation established by Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates and his wife, have announced a six-year US$100 million donation to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).

IAVI is an international non-profit organization that is working toward the development and distribution of preventative vaccines against AIDS, and the money will serve two purposes, said the group in a statement. It will go toward IAVI’s vaccine development work plan, which is expected to cost US$550 million through 2007, and the group hopes publicity surrounding the donation will also help attract support from others. The donation, which is the foundation’s third and by far largest to the New York-based group, was announced as world business and government leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum conference. The foundation previously donated US$1.5 million in 1998 and US$25 million in 1999. “We should remember that a death from AIDS in Africa brings with it just as much pain as a death of one of our own family or friends. These are not just statistics, they are people like us,” said Bill Gates in a statement. “

Dot-coms should cut operations, not marketing

Dot-coms seeking to become profitable should focus on cutting operating costs instead of sales and marketing costs, according to a study by Getzler & Co. Inc., which specializes in corporate restructuring.

The study showed that from the second to the third quarter of 2000, average losses remained constant at companies that cut operations costs but more than doubled at dot-coms that cut marketing costs. The study’s authors claimed their finding might come as a shock to many restructuring firms, which typically cut marketing, advertising and public relations staffs and budgets when looking to shave costs. While sales growth among the two groups remained approximately the same, there was a dramatic difference in profitability said Getzler analysts. These results indicate that marketing costs remain a far greater driver of profitability for dot-coms than operations costs.

2001 a turning point for ASPs

This year will be a turning point for application service providers as they rethink their business models and battle to be among the survivors in the fast-growing market, market research firm IDC said in a newly released report.

In its report, IDC said enterprises this year also can expect a slew of ASPs that will design software specifically for the Web, rather than retooling packaged software for hosted delivery. Overall, IDC agrees with other analysts who expect a big shakeout in 2001 as the hype around the ASP model dissipates and companies get down to business. “Without a doubt, ASPs are in for an interesting ride in 2001. For some, the worst is just around the corner as they fail to successfully execute the model. However, it will be a billion-dollar market in 2001, and for ASPs that understand the market and play wisely, the best is yet to come,” said Jessica Goepfert, senior research analyst with IDC’s application service providers program.

No IT spending slowdown in 2001

A new survey released by the Gartner Group Inc. recently found that 65 per cent of respondents expect their IT spending to increase in 2001.

The survey of 510 Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies found that respondents expect their IT spending to increase by 13.3 per cent on the average. Even though signs point to a slowdown in the U.S. economy generally, spending on IT will increase because IT is increasingly seen as driving competitive advantage and as having the highest return on investment, said Jim Lebinski, vice president and research director of Gartner Measurement. Though technology spending was once seen as simply an expense, tools such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning systems are now seen as generating revenue, he said. IT budget increases, and in turn, sales, will rise due to natural price increases in products, competitive impulses and purchases of new technology that had not been available when budgets were set, Lebinski said.

New Australian privacy laws takes hold

Australian IT professionals face penalties if they do not prepare to implement privacy codes in the next 12 months.

Australian federal privacy commissioner Malcolm Crompton said business has 12 months to comply with the new privacy laws which cover the collection, use, storage and disclosure of personal information. Despite fiery debate in the Senate last year, the Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 was passed in the House almost unnoticed a few days before Christmas, receiving royal assent on Dec. 22, 2000. The new regulatory framework is particularly relevant to the Internet economy and Crompton said IT professionals will be targeted in a year-long education and consultation process. He said the code must incorporate the National Privacy Principles outlined at and companies must be in compliance before the act takes effect on Dec. 22, 2001. Research undertaken last year revealed Australian businesses have traditionally neglected privacy issues but, Crompton said the act sends a clear message to businesses to adopt responsible practices.

CEOs challenged by Web

Chief executive officers in North America, Europe and Asia see dealing with the Internet as a growing challenge, according to a study released recently by consulting organization Accenture, formerly known as Andersen Consulting, and business membership and research body The Conference Board Inc.

The survey polled 506 CEOs during the middle of last year asking them to rate their top three marketplace and management issues for 2001, choosing from a list of 15 concerns in each of the two categories. The number-one marketplace concern chosen by 41 per cent of the CEOs was “changes in the type or level of competition,” with the “impact of the Internet” next (38 per cent of CEOs) – up from eighth place last year. Third position was “industry consolidation” (37 per cent). The CEOs viewing the Internet as a key concern tended to come from non-technology industries. “The Internet will continue to evolve, but at the moment most people are using it as an electronic fax machine,” was a comment the survey quoted from an executive at an unidentified European media company.

Dutch government: Yes, there is an Echelon

A public hearing in the Dutch Parliament is discussing the eavesdropping system Echelon, which is widely reputed to clandestinely monitor global telecommunications traffic at the behest of some English-speaking countries.

A recent letter from the Dutch Defense Ministry to the Parliament effectively acknowledged the existence of the system, though none of the governments believed to be involved – including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand – has officially admitted to its existence. Other countries are concerned that the system is being used for industrial espionage, allegations the U.S. and U.K. governments have rejected. “The Dutch government does not have access to confirmed information about the existence of Echelon from the governments that have been named in connection with it; however, this can be assumed due to currently available information, studies and public sources,” said the ministry in a statement. The ministry’s letter went on to warn that communications networks are at risk of monitoring not only by state agencies, but also by private citizens, businesses and organized crime.

Yahoo U.K. blocks access to U.S. adult chat rooms

The U.K. division of Web portal company, Yahoo Inc. has updated its chat service to disallow access to adult Yahoo chat rooms, or Yahoo Clubs as they are called, that are located in the U.S.

“It’s not ‘blocking’ access per say. Users can still obviously access U.S. chat through Yahoo’s U.S. chat site. As part of our general push to localize content, we are also attacking the problem of undesirable content globally. It’s part of our constant evaluation of our service,” said Sue Jackson, a spokeswoman for Yahoo UK Ltd. The change, which still allows Yahoo’s U.K. & Ireland users to access adult chat rooms that are based in the U.K. and Ireland, occurred “within the last month,” Jackson said. The move comes amid much discussion and publicity over the child pornography ring, the Wonderland Club, which British police have called the world’s largest organized Internet child pornography ring. Last month, seven U.K. club members were convicted of downloading and exchanging hundreds of thousands of pornographic images of children over the Internet. Recently, the convicted pedophiles were sentenced to jail terms of between 12 and 30 months.