Archive for januari, 2011

Back to the future 2

The second day in Bangalore started with a meeting with Shyamal Mehta, one of the co-founders of TechJini, a company with a very impressive track record when it comes to mobile applications. He showed us no less than 25 iPhone applications, ranging from business and travel to news and games applications, many of them built for foreign companies.

TechJini could absolutely be interesting for us, since they already built a store front for an American childrens book publisher, including inbuilt reader. They have also built store fronts for OEMs.

The third day we met with Zunaa, a relatively new company, only five months old but already having eight people employed and currently hiring four more. The shared offices, and some services, with a few other companies, among them an online advertising agency, in a very posh building. The attitude here was more laid back and in some ways more like home. Perhaps it is a telling sign that Zunaa’s flagship application is the popular Indian game Tiger and Goat, available in Apple’s app store for two dollars. But they have also developed a blog service, connected to the users google account, Voar.

The mobile application development branch is practically exploding in Bangalore. On the fourth day we attended the Mobile developer conference, arranged by Silicon India. The conference was unfortunately sponsored by Nokia, a very evident fact that nobody could miss. As an example, one of the keynotes turned into a product presentation for Nokia’s latest line of communicators. That was actually quite hilarious, as the keynote speaker asked the audience if any of them had owned a Nokia communicator. About half of them raised their hands. Impressed, the keynote speaker asked them how many enjoyed the experience. Nobody raised their hands, not a single one. People started laughing about the situation.

But the first four keynotes and the following panel debate were very interesting and gave a good perspective of the present mobile application market and what to expect form the future. Some important topics that were raised:
-    Cross platform compatibility. The situation here seems much more diversified than in Sweden, with no OEM dominating. Having your application ported to several operating systems becomes more important.
-    UI/UX. The market is evolving and the user interface and experience is now as important as the functions of the application.
-    Business models are changing every 12 months.
-    The life span of an application before it needs major function and/or UI updates is 3-5 months.
-    Few mobile application development companies have the stamina to stay in the business after the first critical 12 – 18 months.

For the future we can expect applications that takes advantage of the mobile handsets inbuilt core technology, like sensors, gyroscope and GPS. We will probably see more kinds of sensors in the phones. Locality seems to be a trend and we should probably expect more location based ads, as well as a development of money transfer functions beyond mobile banking.

The conference was filled to the last seat with mostly young developers. Unfortunately, and probably due to Nokia’s sponsorship, the sections dealing with iOS and Android development very much smaller than the one dealing with QT, Nokia’s newly acquired cross-platform application framework. Although we had registered late and paid the 500 Rs entrance fee online just the night before, we managed to sneak into the iOS section after some haggling.

The keynote there was very basic in nature, an in itself interesting fact. Apparently, judging from the following questions, many developers had come there almost as a sort of extra curricular activity. That really shows the hunger for knowledge within the development sector here in Bangalore.  We couldn’t help wonder how many Swedish engineer students that would take their Saturday off school to attend a full day, paid conference – sharing knowledge they really should be getting as a part of their education.

Outside the iOS auditorium we met Indpro, a Swedish mobile application development company, based in Bangalore since the last 3 years. This is probably becoming more and more common, as many customers in the field of applications already are foreign companies. For long time relations, it makes sense to establish a local presence or partnership, just like Nätverkstan are doing with NamNätverkstan.

The night before the conference, we had updated our project specification and took the chance to discuss it with some of the attending developers. Many were interested but very few seemed skilled enough to make serious offers. At the end of the day it was still a very worthwhile experience for us, to be hurdled directly into the epicentre of Bangalore’s emerging mobile application development scene and to learn more about the challenges it’s facing, and what the market looks like.

Text: Carl Forsberg, Nätverkstan

26 januari, 2011

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Back to the future

It may sound like a futuristic, or even slightly crazy project, to travel from Gothenburg to Bangalore in search of a developer that could build a framework iPhone application, a white label, for Swedish cultural journals. But we did it anyway.

Nätverkstan has been providing services like accounting and distribution to cultural journals for over a decade. We were among the first organizations in the cultural sector in Sweden to host our own web server and we have always tried to use new technology to empower the small-scale publisher. It is about time we find a way to get the cultural journals their own applications. And we need to find the right solutions, cheap but still meaningful and user friendly.

Why Bangalore? Are there really no able developers in Sweden? Of course there are, and we have talked to some of them. And we have learnt a lot, especially by hosting our own online bookstore, Samlade skrifter. But through Västra Götaland’s strategic cooperation with the Karnataka region, we have been able to assist in the development of our first international subsidiary company, NamNätverkstan, based in Bangalore. It is our aspiration that the project to develop applications for Swedish cultural magazines could be our first cooperation. Our colleague in Bangalore, Anand Varadaraj, has been immensely helpful in setting up meetings.

And it was in Bangalore that the IT-revolution really started in the 80s. Try googling Infosys, if you haven’t already heard of them. In every nook and corner of Bangalore, young engineers, many of whom started their career at Infosys, now emerge as entrepreneurs of their own. Many of them work in the explosive mobile sector. For an organization looking to learn more of mobile applications and to develop for their clients, like us, it feels like coming home.

After an early morning arrival, some hours of sleep and a late breakfast, we set of to our first meeting with a company, Mobisy.  From what we could learn from their website they had developed a really interesting platform called Mobitop, enabling them to port standard web development script languages to all the major mobile platforms. Impressive indeed! We were equally impressed with their young CEO Lalit, who immediately understood our needs and raised a few interesting questions of usage and further development.

To be continued…

Text: Carl Forsberg, Nätverkstan

25 januari, 2011

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Creative industries on Gotland

Three different processes in Swedish contemporary policy coincide and become quite specific during our visit at Gotland: Regionalisation, cultural and creative industries, and challenges for traditional industries.

Gotland, the biggest island in Sweden situated in the Baltic Sea, and of around 57.000 inhabitants, has from January 1 2011 become a region.

Swedish regional policy has been a policy area since the 1960s and was early a tool to mitigate the gap between state and countryside. The process continued and in the 1980s Europe launched the idea of ”The regions of Europe”. In Swedish policy a cornerstone in the regional forming was the official report looking into geographical areas of forming regions and governance of these in the 1990s. Still, in 2011 the reform work is continuing and a lot of question marks need to be solved.

For Gotland with its natural borders being surrounded by the ocean, this becomes very specific. The municipality becomes the region. Two political levels becomes in reality one. In comparison Skåne Region is formed by 33 municipalities and Region Västra Götaland by 49.

Regionalisation has meant new focus and each region has put a lot of effort into creating a distinctive profile of themselves with the aim of creating jobs and attracting new businesses. The regional level has direct contact with the EU level and money and the debated decision in the Swedish Parliament in 2010 to distribute cultural money to the regions through the koffertmodellen (”trunk model”) has been important steps in this direction. The decision means that a ”trunk of money” together with responsibility of cultural institutions and projects are transferred from state to the regional administration levels.

Cultural and creative industries have become a regional development tool in line with regionalisation. At Gotland the regional representatives we meet put forward these industries as one of the focus areas in the growth program of the region.

Three areas are of specific interest: Event, film and design. The question rises of how well anchored these ideas are among the artists? A challenge must be for the regional level to communicate and anchor these ideas among the around one thousand professional artists and 150 cultural organizations on the island who probably have another focus and priority list.

Cementa in Slite is part of yet another process: The changes from industrial to knowledge society. How do you run a traditional industry in a society where symbolic values are becoming more important and production scenes are changing? Structural changes has been present also at Gotland, where the Military Defence Forces during a long time was the major employer, but due to changes in the threat scenario from the east decided to close its activities in 2005 leaving space open and people in transition programs.

Cementa mines limestone and produces 2,5 billion ton cement per year. They are right by the Sea on the east coast of Gotland, with the unique position to have a fairly straight production line from the mines, different refinement processes and directly to the cargo of the ships. Cementa was set up in 1871 as a direct need for producing cement inland in Sweden and not importing it during industrialisation. They have been successful and managed to adapt to different cycles, changes in society, and new competition of cheap production places such as India and China.

Factory Manager Per Ole Morken and Environment Manager Kerstin Nyberg put forward the environment challenges as important and an area where Cementa has put in an effort to show that they take their responsibility for a sustainable environment. And thanks to a research team and persistent work, they can show impressive figures of reducing factory effluents, something you understand as one of the success factors putting Cementa in Slite in focus as modern and responsible factory.

Stina Lindholm at Skulpturfabriken (Sculptorfactory, my translation) is one of the customers of Cementa. A very small customer in the amount of cement bought, but important in her visionary ideas of what can be done with this product. She is a sculptor and designer creating artistic products of concrete. Her ideas have no limits; outdoor benches, candle light holders, bowls, kitchen benches, sculptors, garden decorations. Her imagination opens eyes of the use of the material.

And there are ideas among a group of designers at Grasp Studio, where Stina Lindholm is one, to start something in an empty building close to the cement factory and in, they hope, cooperation with the factory.

If it is true that symbolic value of products is growing along side the production of classical industrial products, such a cooperation could well be the future.

The visit was part of the work of Rådet för kulturella och kreativa näringar (Swedish Council for Cultural and Creative Industries), a fairly newly formed council supporting the Cultural and Enterprise Ministry in the work with these industries. Read more of the Council here.

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19 januari, 2011

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Real projects in education

At Kulturverkstan, our two-year training programme International Project Management within Culture, the students get a flying start.

As soon as the introduction is done, schedules distributed and the first getting-to-know-each-other-exercises performed, they are put into groups that during the semester work on a project together. The result is presented in public at the end of the semester.

The projects are real life assignments from cultural and civil-society organizations, institutions or university in the city of Göteborg. All courses during the semester on culture and the local city, project management, democracy, communication (written and oral), team building, and so forth are integrated during the semester, including contact and communication with the constituent.

Thursday, January 13, the seven groups presented the impressive results of their projects relating to the Glocal (global and local) city of Göteborg. Each project had in dialogue with the project owner, and as part of their education, worked out seven very relevant and important projects where culture and society meet in the very real sense.

In the project Lost in Migration they wanted to put focus on authors in exile and are producing a booklet with short stories from exile writers in the region; in Röstverket the group held a workshop in the Art Exhibition Hall Röda Sten combining knitting as telling stories; Gothenburg Shout had the aim of creating meeting spaces through digital storytelling as a way of putting personal stories in a public room and has showed the short films at various places around the city; Nya Grannar (New Neighbours) a project working with the new Mosque in Göteborg creating dialogue with university-students studying to become teachers and the Mosque to mitigate the religious gaps and increase knowledge of Islam; Att förtöja en stad (To moor a city) is an artistic research project where they aim to understand the city from the grassroot level, which goes directly into the debate on city development; and the project En drake i Göteborg (A dragon in Göteborg), an assignment where the Göteborg International Film Festival asked for a small study of the role of the festival in a growing city; and one project as a sort of reaction of the ”projectification” in society and the need for something else than effectiveness, goals, and instrumentalization.

Several of the projects have gotten attention in the city outside of the education and have had public events and shows.

To work with real projects in education is a challenge and a necessity in training as Project Managers in Culture. To be able to handle the unexpected, teamwork, flexibility, conflict management, and communication are a few of the important competencies for managers in this field.

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15 januari, 2011

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Rope walking as a profession

Johanna Abrahamsson is a rope walker and hula hoop dancer living outside of Uddevalla, a bit north of Göteborg, and with an enthusiasm that is directly catching.

She started with rope walking at a young age, inspired and picked up by the local (and internationally known) rope walker Reino, who devoted time and energy into the young girls progress. She has since then continued with formal education in circus, worked as a freelancer and with circuses in Sweden and elsewhere. She now wants to start a circus school for children in the area where she lives. In a way going back to where she started herself.

It’s the last day of the course ”Learn more on Cultural Industries!” for business advisors. Johanna Abrahamsson is one of the invited artists describing her work and how she does to live on her art. It’s hard to resist her joy over her profession and the possiblities she foresee for the local area.

How should business support to local small-scale cultural businesses and freelances like Johanna’s be designed to be able to see and pick up the potential in this field?

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8 januari, 2011

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Authors

Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

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