SecureNet consolidates in China with banking pilot

IT security specialist SecureNet has completed its first electronic commerce pilot in China with the prestigious Bank of Communications just weeks after winning a $A9 million order for hardware and software components of its e-commerce trust platform from a Chinese organisation (See the Insider Edition section of The Rust Report, October 20). Both deals were arranged by the company's Top Hawk joint venture.

Geoffrey Ross, managing director of SecureNet, said the banking deal is significant because the Chinese banking sector is "a notoriously complex and difficult market" to enter and operate in, and he expects more activity in that area for the company over the next 12 months.

Ross added that the pulse and energy of the region, and the scale of opportunities as businesses there begin to realise the potential of online and Internet-based trading emphasise the importance of targeting pan-Asia markets.

KAZ to process Federal cheques

KAZ Computer Services will process all Australian Government cheques issued by the Reserve Bank of Australia under an outsourcing contract it finalised during the week. The contract, to be undertaken by KAZ's subsidiary Ausdata, will use KAZ's own document image processing system to image and lift the MICR line from all cheques issued by the bank. It is expected that some 100,000 cheques will be processed each day, and the contract requires the data and images to be returned to the Reserve Bank the same day.

KAZ now claims to be the largest outsourcer of document processing facilities in Australia and believes the Reserve Bank contract is an important step in retaining that position. "It also extends the reach of our outsourcing activities within the public sector. This is an area of our business which I believe represents an attractive growth opportunity for KAZ," explained Peter Kazacos, the company's managing director.

VeCommerce talks up a storm at TAB

VeCommerce, the voice recognition portion of what used to be Scitec, has won a contract for the implementation of a speech recognition telephone wagering system for TAB Limited. The system will have 1000 ports - making it one of the largest systems of its type outside North America - and will be designed to handle up to 80.000 calls an hour. It is intended to allow telephone customers to place bets by speaking in a natural, conversational tone with an accuracy of more than 95 per cent.

The installation follows an order VeCommerce had received from a consortium of five TAB's in April. TAB Limited is the first of the group to commit to deployment of the system, which will be installed by mid-2001.

A spokesman explained the contract includes system development and will continue with enhanced functionality and technical upgrades. The other consortium members - in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT - will then deploy the system on their own computers and telephone systems. VeCommerce has previously installed a similar system as the foundation of Queensland TAB's Telebet Express.

Davnet turns to Open Telecommunications

Davnet has signed up for software from Open Telecommunications (OT) to support its voice-over-IP network deployment. A spokesman said the VoIP net will be based on Cisco's voice architecture and OT's Call Control platforms and applications.

The spokesman added that OT's contribution will include a preselection and number portability application as well as freephone (1800) and local rate (13) solutions. "These will provide Davnet with significant early-to-market opportunities, allied with cost and network functionality advantages that may be derived from the deployment of a next generation IP network", the spokesman added.

Robert Turner, group COO of Davnet, said the use of OT's expertise will allow Davnet to extend its reach and achieve efficiencies in the delivery of aggregated Internet, data, voice and video high-bandwidth communications.

Davnet's Singaporean subsidiary has obtained agreement in principle from the United Overseas Bank to site Davnet's third hub on the bank's premises in the heart of Singapore's CBD. The deal gives Davnet access to a further 90,000 square metres of high-rise commercial office space, taking its total to almost 10 per cent of the space available in Singapore. The company expects to have 15 buildings cabled and broadband-ready by the end of this year, Turner explained.

Outsourcing review likely to be opened

Much as the Federal Government would like to keep control of any review of its "Outsourcing Initiative", it is becoming apparent that Labor and the Democrats will join forces to have the Senate Public Finance and Administration Committee hold a public inquiry. That is a far cry from the review envisaged by John Fahey, Minister for Finance and Administration, when he reluctantly bowed to pressure and agreed to have some scrutiny of the controversial outsourcing regime.

Fahey had planned to have the review conducted by Richard Humphry, managing director of the Australian Stock Exchange, who would then report to a steering committee made up of Max Moore-Wilton, secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet; Dr Peter Boxall, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration; and Ross Smith, CEO of the Office of Asset Sales and IT Outsourcing. Humphry would have to complete his review and report before Christmas.

Labor Senator Kate Lundy and MP Dr Carmen Lawrence were not impressed. Lawrence described the review as "a quick and dirty inquiry done internally" and Lundy noted that the steering committee involved "the chief proponents of the IT outsourcing program".

It is unclear whether the government will defer the two contracts that are now being finalised - Centrelink and Group 11 - while the review and/or inquiry take place, but it seems unlikely that Fahey would want to hold them back.

Election stalemate stymies Microsoft

Microsoft's share price did some cartwheels this week as the results of the US election seemed to favour Bush, then Gore, then Bush - and now no-one. It seems investors believed that Bush would look more favourably on Microsoft's antitrust suit than has the Clinton administration because Bush has said he prefers "innovation over litigation". Such sentiments may, however, be displaced since the Department of Justice was joined in its original suit by a number of state attorneys general, many of whom have been strident in their criticisms of Microsoft. It would also take some considerable time to have Bush candidates appointed to the Justice Department.

While the election clouded the case a little, court activity continued. America Online was given permission to file a friend-of-the-court brief, but only as part of a joint brief being prepared by three trade groups - the Software and Information Industry Association; the Computer & Communications Industry Association; and the Project to Promote Competition & Innovation in the Digital Age.

Two groups that wanted to support Microsoft must also file a joint brief.

News briefs

Telstra has decided to begin negotiations with a consortium led by Deloitte Consulting and EDS for the supply of outsourcing services for two of the three streams it has up for grabs. The work covered by the two streams included billing software maintenance and development, and the ERP stream, which includes finance, personnel, and administrative IT systems. Discussions about the third outsourcing stream - CRM, service activation and assurance, wholesale and international operations, fixed and mobile networks systems and marketing support systems -- are under way with IBM Global Services AustraliaPEG Technology has won a deal to provide its Thin POS system to Telesource, which operates the largest Telstra licensed shop in Australia. The first installation of the technology was undertaken for the recently-opened Virgin Mobile stores.

The big four banks - ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac - seem sure to come under the very close scrutiny of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission after announcing that they intend to form an electronic portal for the distribution of wholesale financial products and services online. They plan to call their joint venture AusMarkets.com.

Internet developer Speedwell Media has turned to RSA Security for the provision of PKI technology that will allow it to implement, issue and manage digital certificates.

Share Trend Software was disappointed when the Supreme Court of Victoria denied its application to set aside injunctions obtained by the Australian and Securities and Investment Commission. The injunctions affected the sale and distribution of the Stock Market Navigator software in breach of an enforceable undertaking given to ASIC in 1998.

The Australian Computer Society has called for the Australian Government to reinstate 150 per cent R&D tax incentives. John Ridge, president of the ACS, said that Prime Minister Howard's intimation of more funding for science and innovation was "very welcome" but added that he believed the R&D syndication scheme offered more widespread benefits than funding increases.

Researchers led by Professor Kamran Eshraghian of the Centre for Very High Speed Microelectronic Systems at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia have been awarded a Research Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities Grant of $A900,000 by the Australian Research Council. The grant will be used to implement a networked tele-testing facility linking universities and the microelectronics industry around Australia, Eshraghian said.

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