Thursday, 24 October 2013

Folger Shakespeare Library's printed collection to go online

You will soon be able to view Shakespearean manuscripts on your mobile devices. The world’s largest collection of original Shakespearean books and manuscripts is all set to go online. According to BBC, Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC will release a series of apps next month that will allow access to these manuscripts and books.

The Folger Shakespeare Library – an independent research library in Washington, D.C. – is a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500–1750). It has the largest collection of Shakespearean works in the world. The library was established by Henry Clay Folger  along with his wife Emily Jordan Folger. However, it opened two years after his death.

The library is now listed on National Register of Historic Places, and privately administered by the Trustees of Amherst College. It offers several scholarly programs including national outreach to K–12 classroom teachers on Shakespeare education.

It’s a great way to preserve and introduce Shakespeare’s work and rare manuscripts to larger audiences across the globe, and it is thanks to projects like these that we feel like we’ve truly entered the digital age. Last month, Lloyd's List, which claims to be the world’s longest-published newspaper announced to go completely digital starting December 20 2013.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Reconsidering the value and role of libraries in the digital age

The arrival of the digital age is greatly transforming libraries. Going forward, what is the exact role a library should play? What is needed to be able to make efficient use of these vast book repositories? In search of answers, The Asahi Shimbun Globe sat down and spoke with two experts in the field.


More than 500 years have passed since Johannes Gutenberg started the printing revolution. Today, with the advent of digital technology, the dissemination of information is exploding around the globe.

In the world of the Internet, where anyone can be an originator of information, we are already saturated with an abundance of news, facts and figures. The key then is “how to combine and reuse all this accumulated information.” What is required is a method for unearthing and extracting important bits from a large quantity of accumulated information and combining them into new creations. Since ancient times, the basic system of the library, which makes a vast amount of written material easily accessible by searching an index, has served that purpose. Much more than we give it credit for, the library is still a futuristic entity.

However, problems stand in the way of the library being able to fully exhibit its potential. First, a public processing system related to copyrights and intellectual property rights is needed so material for which the owner or copyright holder is unknown can be publicly used. Second, it is necessary to train a new type of librarian who will be responsible for the digital knowledge base. As a profession, we must create an “advanced digital librarian” fully versed in information technology and intellectual property law.

When paper-based books are turned into digital media, they often blend text, video and sound. Books in the next century will probably look nothing like they do today, and the differences between museums, libraries, art museums and archives will become obscure. Information pertaining to the collected works, documents, records and books at each institution will be shared. When that happens, new value will be created via accumulating, storing, retrieving and reusing such information, and a social, institutional structure will be required.

An example of what I mean is the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake Archives that the National Diet Library is endeavoring to create. In the hope of contributing to disaster management and prevention, the archives are focused on gathering all records associated with the earthquake and creating a database that anyone will be able to search. The materials being collected range from official documents to personal websites and include sound and video along with traditional text and still images. If it is realized, the archives will probably serve as a kind of predecessor for the “library of the future.”
The European Union is already building a huge digital library, Europeana, in an attempt to unify European knowledge possessed by libraries, museums and archives across the continent.

In kanji-using cultures such as Japan, China and South Korea, there is also an accumulation of shared historical culture. It would probably be possible to build an East Asian multilingual digital library. First, however, Japan should build a “library of the future” that can serve as a model.

Lessons at your fingertips

Through videos, pictures and more, the online National Repository of Open Educational Resources promises to simplify both learning and teaching

Imagine an online library that’s as vast as the sky. It has videos, audios, books and pictures open to all for free. Anyone can contribute, critique, share, and adapt the content to suit their requirement. Teachers can use it to make lessons livelier; students can easily understand concepts they find complicated — all at the click of a mouse. That’s the National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) for you.

Going digital

An initiative of the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India and the Central Institute of Educational Technology, National Council of Educational Research and Training, the repository “will endeavour to bring together all digital and digitisable resources for the school system — for all classes, for all subjects and in all languages”. It was launched at the recently held National Conference on ICT (Information and Communications Technology) for School Education in New Delhi.

So, what is the NROER all about? A quick look at the website will tell you that it’s the best place to be if you’re a teacher and are looking at ways to take learning beyond textbooks. According to Prof. Rajaram S. Sharma who is part of the core NROER team, the repository hopes to take quality electronic content to schools across the country. It aims to put technology to good use, since the Internet is catching up in government schools.

Its homepage features links to the various resources in the repository, namely videos, audios, interactive objects, images and documents. By clicking on ‘videos’ you can browse the video files in the library, under themes such as ‘Dance forms of India’, ‘Land & people’, ‘Sports’, ‘Himalayas’ and ‘Freedom Movement’, among others. There are also videos on origami, multiplication and algebra.

NROER features over 300 videos of science toys made of everyday objects by innovator Arvind Gupta — these include ‘Magic paper fan’, ‘Lighthouse generator’ and ‘Inertia pump’; audio clips about Gandhiji, Charles Darwin, Galileo, Baba Amte; photographs from across the country, documents on science concepts…

The repository is a collaborative platform, and anyone who has an interesting concept can upload it. They will also be given credit for the same, adds Rajaram. Of course, content uploaded may “require a little editing” to ensure it is suitable to be presented to students.

Content in Indian languages

The best thing about NROER is that it will feature content in Indian languages. Since their material has a Creative Commons licence, anyone can adopt it. For instance, “put a Tamil script and subtitles and share it with each other”, says Rajaram. Teachers can use it to “transform the classroom” by incorporating the concepts in the teaching process. “A volcano can be understood better if students watch a video of it and a slide show containing 10 to 20 photos,” he says. Wouldn’t it be easier to talk about the magnificence of sea waves to school children in a remote village in the Nilgiris using a video, he asks. A teacher can start a lesson with it to take children into the subject. This way, they can “give something more”.

Teachers can also comment on the resource they accessed, giving an evaluation of it to others in the field, adds Rajaram. His team hopes to take the repository to every nook and cranny of the country — through events and training programmes. If things go as planned, NROER could be among the best things that happened to our education system.

In a nutshell

NROER is a collection of videos, audios, interactive objects, images and documents to help teachers and students. The resources are organised into a semantic map of concepts. Anybody can access, edit, contribute and share the content

Source | The Hindu |

Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations


A collaborative effort of the NDLTD, OCLC, VTLS, and Scirus, the NDLTD Union Catalog contains more than one million records of electronic theses and dissertations. For students and researchers, the Union Catalog makes individual collections of NDLTD member institutions and consortia appear as one seamless digital library of ETDs.  The NDLTD provides free resources to contribute your institution's metadata - click to learn more about the Union Catalog project.


Two tools have been developed specifically to search and browse the NDLTD Union Catalog.  Other valuable tools have been developed for searches focused on specific countries or regions. Select the tool below that meets your needs. 

Search tools developed for the NDLTD Union Catalog

Scirus ETD Search
A comprehensive scientific research tool from Elsevier, Scirus ETD Search provides an advanced search that can narrow results to theses and dissertations as well as provide access to related scholarly resources.

VTLS Visualizer
This is a dynamic search and discovery platform with sophisticated functionality.  You can sort by relevance, title, and date.  In the current implementation, faceted searches are available by language, continent, country, date, format and source institution.  Additional facets, such as subjects or departments, can be added if desired.

Other useful ETD search tools

ADT (Australiasian Digital Theses Program)
This search portal provides searching, browsing, and access to ETDs produced in Australia.
Biblioteca Digital de Teses e Dissertacoes
A search tool for accessing ETDs produced in Brazilian universities.
A portal developed jointly by the University of Chile, the Universites de Lyon, Montreal, and Alexandrie, and the University of Geneva for accessing full text ETDs from many countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Hong Kong, Mexico, Peru, Spain, and the United States.
DART-Europe E-theses Portal
A discovery service for open access research theses awarded by European universities.
Deusche National Bibliothek
Dissertations since 1998 are available via search in the German National Library.
This portal provides access to ETDs and research publications written at 26 institutions in Scandinavia.
Electronic Theses Online Service (EThOS) offers free access, in a secure format, to the full text of electronically stored UK theses--a rich and vast body of knowledge.

This search portal provides access to ETDs produced in the Netherlands, as well as access to a variety of other research and data sets.
National ETD Portal (South Africa)
This search portal provides access to ETDs produced in South Africa.
ProQuest Dissertations and Theses
Many university libraries provide password access to this commercial database, but the link above also provides access for individuals without a connection to a research library. The collection includes most recent North American ETDs and selective coverage for other regions of the world.
RCAAP - Repositório Científico de Acesso Aberto de Portugal
The RCAAP's mission is to promote, support and facilitate the adoption of the open access movement in Portugal. RCAAP The project aims to: increase the visibility, accessibility and dissemination of academic activity and Portuguese scientific research, facilitating the management and access to information about scientific production and integrate Portugal into a set of international initiatives.  This portal offers a union catalog with digital contents from more than 30 institutions.
A union catalog of Canadian theses and dissertations, in both electronic and analog formats, is available through the search interface on this portal.
NDLTD Union Catalog hosted by OCLC.

UNESCO launched Global Open Access Portal

The Global Open Access Portal (GOAP) [], aiming at presenting a top level view of Open Access to scientific information, was launched at a special side event organized during the36th session of the UNESCO General Conference, on Tuesday 1 November 2011, at Paris Headquarters.
The Global Open Access Portal (GOAP) presents a snapshot of the status of Open Access (OA) to scientific information around the world.
For countries that have been more successful in implementing Open Access, the portal highlights critical success factors and aspects of the enabling environment. For countries and regions that are still in the early stages of Open Access development, the portal identifies key players, potential barriers and opportunities.
The portal has country reports from over 148 countries with weblinks to over 2000 initiatives/projects in Member States. The portal is supported by an existing Community of Practice (CoP) on Open Access on the WSIS Knowledge Communities Platform that has over 1400 members.
The GOAP is a knowledge portal that has the following features:
Country-wise distilled knowledge on the status of Open Access
Key organizations engaged in OA in Member States
Thematic focus areas of OA
Important publications on OA coming from different regions of the world
Critical assessment of major barriers to OA in each country
Potential of OA in UNESCO Member States
Funding and deposit mandates
Links to OA initiatives in the world
The Global Open Access Portal (GOAP), launched together with the revamped Open Training Platform (OTP) and the first UNESCO Open Educational Resources (OER) Platform, provides the information for policy-makers to learn about the global OA environment and to view their country’s status, and understand where and why Open Access has been most successful.
Development of the Global Open Access Portal has been made possible with support received from the Governments of Columbia, Denmark, Norway, and the United States. This GOAP will be a work in progress, and shall be further improved with the support received from the community of OA practitioners.
Open Access is at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate to provide universal access to information and knowledge, and the UNESCO Open Access programme shall continue to facilitate policy dialogue in Member States, share knowledge and best practices in the field of Open Access, and build and share local capacities through North-South and South-South co-operation to build knowledge societies for sustainable development.

JSTOR Launches JPASS Access Accounts for Individual Researchers

n an effort to enhance access options for people who aren’t affiliated with universities, colleges, or high schools, not-for-profit digital library JSTOR has launched JPASS, a new program offering individual users access to 1,500 journals from JSTOR’s archive collection. The move follows the March 2012 launch of JSTOR’s Register & Read program, which allowed independent researchers to register for a free MyJSTOR account, and receive free, online-only access to three full-text articles every 14 days. That service has since attracted almost one million users including independent scholars, writers, business people, adjunct faculty, and others, and JSTOR plans to continue offering the service in its current form. However, in a recent survey, many of Register & Read users expressed interest in an individual subscription model that would offer enhanced access, encouraging JSTOR to move ahead with JPASS.
“With Register and Read, you can read three articles online every two weeks for free, and for a lot of people, that’s great…. Other people really need to be able to download [articles], they need to be able to read more extensively,” said Heidi McGregor, VP of Marketing and Communications for Ithaka, the parent organization of JSTOR.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

MANTRA: Free, Online Course on How to Manage Digital Data

Research Data MANTRA is a free, online course with guidelines on how to manage the data you collect throughout your research. The course is particularly appropriate for those who work or are planning to work with digital data.
Once you have finalized the course, you will:
Be aware of the risk of data loss and data protection requirements.  Know how to store and transport your data safely and securely (backup and encryption).
Have experience in using data in software packages such as R, SPSS, NVivo, or ArcGIS.
Recognise the importance of good research data management practice in your own context.
Be able to devise a research data management plan and apply it throughout the projects life.
Be able to organise and document your data efficiently during the course of your project.
Understand the benefits of sharing data and how to do it legally and ethically.
MANTRA set-up
The course contains the following eight units of aproximately an hour:
Research data explained
Data Management plans
Organising data
File formats and transformations
Documentation & metadata
Storage & security
Data protection, rights & access
Sharing, preservation & licensing
And four software practicals: R, SPSS, NVivo, and ArcGIS.
The units contain explanations, descriptions, examples, exercises, and video clips in which academics, PhD students and others talk about the challenges of managing research data.
MANTRA is maintained by Data Library staff in Information Services, University of Edinburgh.
(source:post created by sarah dister)
click on the link for more information:

The first bookless library: BiblioTech offers only e-books

Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 11:30 am | Updated: 4:45 pm, Thu Oct 10, 2013.
By Julianne Pepitone |
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - BiblioTech is a new library in Texas, but you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The library houses no physical books.
Staffers at San Antonio's BiblioTech say it's the first "bookless library." And in addition to its catalog of 10,000 e-books, this techy library also provides a digital lifeline to a low-income neighborhood that sorely needs it.
BiblioTech opened its doors Sept. 14 on the south side of San Antonio, a mostly Hispanic neighborhood where 40% of households don't have a computer and half lack broadband Internet service.
Although the library houses no printed books -- and members can even skip the visit by checking out its e-books online -- BiblioTech's staff says the library's physical presence is still key to its success.
"We're finding that you really have to get your head around a paradigm shift," said Laura Cole, BiblioTech's special projects coordinator. "Our digital library is stored in the cloud, so you don't have to come in to get a book. But we're a traditional library in that the building itself is an important community space."
That 4,800-square-foot space looks more like an Apple Store or a Google breakroom than a library. It's decked out with funky orange walls, a colorful play area for children complete with plush seats and glowing screens, plus loads of devices available for in-library use: 45 Apple iPads, 40 laptops and 48 desktop computers.
Members checking out one of the 10,000 e-books -- provided through 3M's Cloud Library service -- can borrow one of 600 stripped-down e-readers or 200 "enhanced" readers for children. Audiobooks and educational software are also available.
BiblioTech's efforts have attracted 7,000 members so far, and staffers relish sharing anecdotes about the people who walk through their doors.
Cole relayed a story about a young family's recent visit, during which the twentysomething father revealed that the regular e-readers were of no use to him; he couldn't read.
"One of our staff offered him a children's reader, which is enhanced with activities that help learn to read," Cole said. "He started shaking, and his wife couldn't stop crying. It was a really profound experience for him. And this is why we worked to start something like BiblioTech."
The genesis of the idea came from Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, a self-described book fiend who felt libraries aren't evolving with technology. Wolff gathered about a half-dozen county employees, including Cole, to brainstorm ideas for a library that helped an underserved neighborhood in a truly modern way. Last October, the group began researching to find other libraries that had gone completely digital -- but they couldn't find any.
"Not all libraries are going to be like us, and we understand that," Wolff said. "But we sure do hope it's going to drive them to do more to evolve. The world is changing, and libraries can't stay the same. Not if they want to stay relevant."

Widening Access to Educational Resources

By launching the National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) portal‒a free online repository of National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) courseware‒the government has taken a significant step towards widening and improving access to learning resources and has provided a fillip to the movement for free and open knowledge in the country.

Rohini Lakshane ( is a freelance technology journalist and Wikimedian based in Mumbai.

Imagine a student learning a science experiment at school and supplementing her knowledge by watching a programme on the subject aired on Doordarshan many years ago. Or learning a difficult concept in geometry by using interactive software free of cost. Or a teacher adapting a useful lesson from a curriculum taught in a different language elsewhere in the country. All this and more is now possible, after the National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER), a free online repository of National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) courseware, was launched in August 2013, by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The launch of the portal, which houses open-licensed school textbooks and other educational content developed and published by the government-funded NCERT, comes as a big breakthrough for the movement for free and open knowledge in the country; knowledge that can be accessed, applied, and shared freely.

What Does the Open License Mean?

All the NCERT course books for students from class 1 to 12 for all subjects have been available for free downloading, though under copyright restrictions, for many years. However, copyright meant that students, self learners, or teachers could not legally modify, reuse, or redistribute the books without written permission from the NCERT. About 30 textbooks of class 9 and 10 put together are now accessible on the NROER under a Creative Commons-Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License (CC-BY-SA).

The Creative Commons license is a legal tool which enables copyright owners to manage their rights over their works. The CC-BY-SA license enables the creators of educational content to reuse, modify, build upon, or redistribute with attribution the vast collection of text files, audio files, videos, images, interactive applications and documents uploaded to the NROER. In case the content is tweaked, the same license will apply to the new work, setting up endless possibilities for NCERT courses to be modified and re-modified till they become an inextricable part of the expansive digital commons. The content could be used in classroom presentations, blogs, or books, be harvested for use on other open education resource (OER) projects such as WikiEducator and repositories such as Wikipedia or its sister projects. Licensing knowledge resources is a way of bringing knowledge to those who find accessing it either difficult or impossible.

Those who wish to collaboratively create new courses, start their own courses, or donate the open educational resources they create can upload them to the repository. Those who remix or adapt the NCERT content can give back to the community by posting the new work on the NROER.

Students and self learners can now freely access the courseware, including some finely scripted and directed audio and video programmes and appealing interactive content, which would aid their learning. Some of the videos are distance learning programmes created by the NCERT and previously aired on Doordarshan.

Initially, the CC-BY-SA-NC ‒a license with a clause to disallow commercial use of the content‒ was going to be appended to the NROER. This would have ruled out the use of the content, in say, a paid app, a paid online tutorial or a paid course. After much lobbying by the Wikimedia Chapter (India), a non-profit organisation that promotes Wikimedia projects, and other proponents of open knowledge, the CC-BY-SA license was adopted instead. The move was in keeping with the 2012 Paris Open Educational Resources (OER) Declaration of the UNESCO, which recommends that governments freely license educational resources developed with public funds “to maximise the impact of the investment”. As the NCERT is an autonomous government body, much of the lobbying was driven by the belief that knowledge, research and information funded with public money should be freely accessible to the public.

The Platform

The Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education built the NROER website over a period of six months on the open source Gnowsys-Studio kernel. Simply put, the website is powered by a customised semantic network. All the content has been broken down into small web pages. The user interface allows the content to be searched, edited, rated, modified, described and commented on. The website has the potential to build a community around the content and to rope in more people to contribute to it.
The Road Ahead

The portal needs to iron out a few creases to fully achieve its purpose of enabling access to education for all. Open access to knowledge and information is linked to the use of open source software, the implementation of open standards and the licensing of open content. Usually the content on open education portals such as the NROER and Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL), University of Mumbai is present in proprietary file formats (for example, docx). To ensure flexibility across platforms, it is crucial that all content is posted using open standards.

Only 30 out of the 334 NCERT textbooks have been uploaded to the NROER, since work on the website started six months ago. The rest are expected to be uploaded over the next four and half years along with graphs, maps, photos, graphics, diagrams and audio-visual material.

As of now, the textbooks are available in Hindi, English, and Urdu. Hopefully over time . textbooks and course materials in different regional languages would be uploaded. The NROER website should display a consent form for contributors so that they do not unknowingly upload copyrighted content. Also, they would be made aware that they are licensing away the content they put up. Overall, the user interface needs some improvement for better usability.

Numerous universities and institutions in India are working towards the creation and diffusion of open education resources ‒from crafting and digitising content to building quality assurance frameworks. The NROER is the first open educational resources portal to be launched by the government under the CC-BY-SA license. The rest are under either the CC-BY-SA-NC license (Project Oscar, National Program for Technology Enhanced Learning) or copyright (eGyankosh, IDOL). The NROER may set the ball rolling for other entities in India to throw open their repositories of precious knowledge and impart momentum to the country’s open knowledge movement.

Foreign technical varsities will still need AICTE's nod: Shankar S Mantha

Interview with chairman of All India Council for Technical Education

The government might have decided to allow foreign universities to operate independently in India and set up campuses but Shankar S Mantha, chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), says they would still require the regulator’s approval. In an interview with Kalpana Pathak, he also talks about what AICTE is doing to check the quality of educational institutions. Excerpts:

With foreign varsities allowed to enter India under the new Companies Act, would international B-schools need AICTE’s permission to be here?

Anybody operating under the definition of technical education requires AICTE’s permission to be here. Within the AICTE Act, Section 2(H) says technical educational institutions — engineering, management, hotel management or architecture — need AICTE’s approval, unless, of course, these are explicitly exempted from certain provisions of the AICTE Act itself, or by another Act of Parliament. They are bound by the existing rules of the land.

But would that not discourage international institutes from coming to India?

I don’t think so. All I am saying is, any international technical institution coming to India should abide by the rules here. They cannot operate without my permission.

In that case, what is AICTE doing to check quality of Indian institutions?

By checking quality, if you mean more number of institutions coming up, I don’t think there is a direct relationship between the seats remaining vacant and the closure of institutions. In a country where the gross enrolment ratio is hardly 19, you need more people to come into the system and you should really look at the supply side. Access is very important. Just because I stay in a slum, it does not mean I should be deprived of access to education. Talk of bringing in quality are fine but if, in the name of quality, I do not provide a college for these fellows, what happens? I am depriving them of basic education. In fact, the rate of enrolment is increasing every year. If that is the good point, how does it matter if institutions are closing? In fact, the bad ones should close. I am not worried about seats going vacant and new colleges starting.    

But industry says AICTE is responsible for approving new institutions and seats going vacant…

Our Constitution says every person has the right to practise one’s profession. When a private enterprise puts in money, provides for land and says it is ready to follow all the rules of the regulator, under what pretext can I say I will not allow him to start a college? Suppose you give a theory that there are too many colleges and quality is an issue. The entrepreneur says why AICTE presupposes he will not be able to provide quality. And then, he will go to court and say AICTE is stopping him from setting up an institute. Here, the biggest role is that of the university.
How do you say that?

Every university has a University Development Council. Their job is to create a perspective plan and find out — where, for instance, in a particular area, does one need a women’s college or a minority institution; in what streams are students enrolled, how many students are enrolled in a particular category, etc. But how many University Development Councils have created such perspective plans? Not even one. All these perspective plans need to be collated to create a state perspective plan. When such state perspective plans come to us, we create a national perspective plan. But nothing comes to us. Recently Maharashtra sent us a plan, but it is highly sketchy. If I go to court with that report, court will throw me out. We need a scientific study that clearly talks about our student outflow from the 10th and 12th class. That will stand its ground in court and help us determine the number of students who can be accommodated in the higher education system and the number of institutions needed in a particular area or stream.

So what is AICTE doing about bringing in quality?

We have a policy of self-disclosure to put in a self-regulatory mechanism. If you are a good citizen, the police will not come after you. That is what we are trying to do in the technical education space. Self-regulation will bring in quality much faster and in a better manner than policing around. If you give me wrong data, you will be liable to penalty. In a self-regulatory system, colleges will close. Five years ago, there was no system, no transparency and no accountability.

Source | Business Standard | 17 September 2013

Foreign varsities get independent access to India

Foreign universities can now set up campuses and offer degrees in India without having a local partner
New Delhi: The government has decided to allow foreign universities to operate independently in India, set up campuses and offer degrees without having a local partner—a move that finally opens the gates for foreign educational institutions seeking to establish a presence in the country.
To foreign universities, the move presents an opportunity to tap a country with a population of 1.2 billion. To Indians (at least those who can afford it), it is an opportunity to receive quality education without leaving India (and without paying in dollars). And to India, it could mean significant foreign direct investment.
The department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) and the department of economic affairs (DEA) have agreed to allow overseas universities to operate as so-called Section 25 or non-profit companies under the newly passed Companies Act, the human resource development (HRD) ministry said on Tuesday.
Companies registered under Section 25 of India’s Companies Act cannot distribute profit or dividends to members, which means that the foreign universities cannot repatriate money—a constraint that was criticised by at least one expert.
Several foreign universities have been keen to enter India to tap a higher educational market that is worth Rs.46,200 crore and expanding by 18% every year, according to 40 million by 2020, a report from audit and consulting firm EY. They have been constrained by the need to do so through partnerships.
The Foreign Education Providers’ Bill is still awaiting parliamentary approval. Tuesday’s announcement, which is effectively an executive order, doesn’t need to be approved by Parliament and could see a rush of foreign universities to enter India.
“The ministry had sought comments and observations of the department of industrial policy and promotion and the department of economic affairs on the rules. Both DIPP and DEA have supported the proposal,” the HRD ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
Ministry officials said that the details are being vetted by the law ministry and an official notification will be published soon.
With the powers vested in it through the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act, the ministry will allow foreign universities to set up campuses in India and award foreign degrees. Currently, a foreign university needs to join hands with a local education provider to offer courses and the degrees are not considered foreign degrees.
Under the proposed rules, foreign universities can set up campuses in India once they have been notified as ‘foreign education provider’ by UGC. An educational institution wishing to operate in India needs to be in the top 400 in one of three global rankings: the UK-based Times Higher Education Ranking; Quacquarelli Symonds ranking published in UK again; and the China-based Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings.
An HRD ministry official said that at least 20 foreign universities—mostly from US, followed by Australia and Canada—have expressed their desire to enter the market.
“Universities such as Duke University, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and VirginiaTech are some of the names that have shown interest,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.
Mint could not independently verify this. In September 2012, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business’ deputy dean Robert H. Gertner told Mint that the school was exploring opportunities to open an executive education centre in India.
The degrees awarded by foreign universities in India will be considered foreign degrees and students holding these degrees need to get an equivalence certificate from the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), the HRD ministry said in its statement. These universities will also function under the UGC rules.
The profit motive
A foreign university cannot repatriate money that it makes in India. And any university seeking entry to India must be accredited by bodies in its home country. “Quality control is key and we will build the safeguard mechanism with each of the universities,” a second official in the HRD ministry said.
An expert was critical of these provisions. “On the one hand you are saying, we want top 400 institutes to come and on the other, you are not allowing them to repatriate surplus to the home campus. It’s a fundamental problem. I think there is still an inherent trust deficit between the government and the (foreign) educational institutes,” said Pramath Sinha, founding dean of the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
“They have to stop questioning everybody, at least the best of the institutes. This problem was there in the Bill and if they are retaining it in the executive order, it will be a huge drag,” added Sinha, who is setting up a liberal arts university, India’s first, in Haryana.
The two HRD ministry officials said enough changes have been made to make it attractive for foreign universities to enter India. The India campus will function as a branch campus of the parent, rather than as an independent campus. The universities will offer the same degree they are offering in their parent campus. And the ministry has reduced the deposit universities have to maintain with the ministry (and which they will forfeit in case of any violation) from Rs.50 crore to Rs.25 crore.
To be sure, it will not be easy for foreign universities to acquire land, especially in the context of India’s new land acquisition law. “We will not facilitate the university in getting land at a concession. Anyway, procuring land and other infrastructural facilities in India will be way cheaper than in developed countries,” said the first ministry official.
He added that there were still three things that would attract foreign universities to India: a huge education market and the young demography to grow that further; lower recruitment and research costs; and the opportunity to offer executive education programmes and consulting services to Indian companies.
The second official grandiosely described the ministry’s move as “liberalizing the higher education space the way India economy was liberalized between 1991 and 1993”.
Manish Sabharwal, the chief executive of staffing and training company TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd, said that India remains an attractive destination for education. In many countries there are two problems, he added—demography and cost—but in India both the issues are in the right place. The problem, he said, is in the details.
Anton Muscatelli, vice-chancellor of the UK-based University of Glasgow, too stressed the importance of details. The Indian government’s willingness to allow universities to come into India should certainly boost the entry of foreign universities, but the details will be important, he said. His own university, he added, has several partnerships in India and will continue to work with strong Indian partners.
Once it is notified, the ministry’s order will render irrelevant the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill 2010, a brainchild of former HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who is currently in charge of the telecom and law ministries.
Source | Mint – The Wall Street Journal | 11 September 2013

World’s first data storage system’ discovered

New York: Prehistoric CDs! Scientists have discovered the world's "very first data storage system" - 5,500-year-old clay balls unearthed in Iran that were used for record-keeping in Mesopotamia.

The clay balls, often called "envelopes", excavated in the 1960s, were made about 200 years before writing was invented.
The balls were sealed and contain tokens in a variety of geometric shapes, varying from golf ball-size to baseball-size.
Researchers used high-resolution CT scans and 3D modelling to look inside more than 20 examples that were excavated at the site of Choga Mish, in western Iran, in the late 1960s, 'LiveScience' reported.
The clay balls were created about 5,500 years ago at a time when early cities were flourishing in Mesopotamia.
The clay balls may represent the world's "very first data storage system," said Christopher Woods, a professor at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, in a lecture at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum.
Researchers have long believed these clay balls were used to record economic transactions.

That interpretation is based on an analysis of a 3,300-year-old clay ball found at a site in Mesopotamia named Nuzi that had 49 pebbles and a cuneiform text containing a contract commanding a shepherd to care for 49 sheep and goats.
But, how these devices would have worked in prehistoric times, before the invention of writing, remains a mystery.
How people recorded the number and type of a commodity being exchanged without the help of writing is also not known.
Researchers have found that the tokens within the balls are in 14 different shapes, including spheres, pyramids, ovoids, lenses and cones, the report said.
These shapes, instead of representing the whole words, would have conveyed numbers connected to a variety of metrological systems used in counting different types of commodities, Woods said.
For instance, one ovoid could mean a certain unit, say 10, which was used while counting a certain type of commodity.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Seven awesome cloud apps

Seven awesome cloud apps

Good software is expensive, right? Wrong! If you have access to a decent internet connection, you can access some truly fantastic services on the internet for FREE. Savio D'Souza and Ashutosh Desai list...


If you've ever been jealous of colleagues because of their fantastic slide-shows , then Prezi gives you a chance to go one-up on them. This online service lets you create animated presentations, where words, images and videos work together to present an idea in a virtual 3D space (you have to actually see this to believe it).

Sign up for a free account, and you are given 100MB of storage. Creating a dynamic presentation is simple. You can choose from the myriad templates - and then, simply go with the flow: adding words, photos, audio narrations and videos. Since this whole service is on the web, you can directly insert YouTube clips and even images from the internet. Prezi is simple to learn; you'll be adding slides, images, and changing colour themes in no time.

It should be noted that with a free account, all your presentations will be open to the public to view. Sign up for a paid package, and you get up to 2GB of storage; you can keep your presentations private; and if you sign up for a Pro account, you can also download the Prezi Desktop software that lets you work offline without an internet connection.

The best part, you can even create an online bio data or portfolio on this site to share with prospective clients over the internet.


Pro music software - complete with loops, aural effects, virtual instruments, et al - can cost a pretty packet. And till recently, only professional musicians could afford such an investment. Soundation, however, is all about the democratisation of the music-making process.

Sign up for a free account and you are given 100MB storage, your own powerful online studio with its mixers and effects, and over 700 loops and sounds. And although it's free, you still get all the functionality of a professional Digital Audio Workstation.

Sign up for a paid account, and you get access to a premium library of sound files and instruments and up to 5GB of storage. Here, you can even record audio via your microphone, and upload the WAV file to Soundation servers to use in your mix.

And in case you're wondering, Soundation comprises a detailed set of how-tos that will help you understand all the nuances of the software, even if it's your first attempt. Besides, it has an active community where you can post your compositions for others to listen to and comment.


So you want to post professional quality holiday photos to your Facebook and Flickr account, but cannot because you don't know how to use imageediting software. Picfull to the rescue. This free cloud-based service provides a simple web interface that allows you to apply over 20 photo effects - each one with sliders and colour palettes - to edit your snapshot.

Simply browse your PC's hard drive to upload the image you want to edit; choose the filter you want to apply; play around with the sliders that appear till you get the effect you desire; and hit Save. You are given a link to download your edited photo, or the option to directly email it to friends, or share on Facebook and Twitter.


Given the number of online services and social networks available today for storing photographs, emails, and documents, keeping a check on all of them has become quite a bother. Backing up this data on the cloud is a bigger hassle. Try Primadesk.

A free account provides you with 1GB storage and lets you manage up to five online services (Flickr, Dropbox, Yahoo!, Gmail, Google Drive, Evernote, Photobucket, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc).

Alternatively, you could opt for a Pro or Premium account that lets you manage more than five accounts - and provides you with up to 30GB of space.

Figuring Primadesk is quite simple - it splits your accounts into documents, e-mail and photos. And like Windows Explorer, you also get the familiar folder pane that makes it easy to transfer or copy files from one service to the other. The backup process is also intuitive, and requires a one-time setup only.


Content - whether its images, audio or video - comes in different formats. You have AAC, WAV, MP3, OGG, M4A, FLAC, AU, WMA, AMR... and this is in audio only. Some MP3 players, for instance, might not support FLAC. Or your Smart TV might not support FLV and MKV. In such cases, your only option is to convert the files to a format that's supported. But to do this, you no longer need to download any special software. Head to Convert Files - a service that lets you convert audio, video, image, document, presentation and archive file types to the data format of your needs. At last count, CF supported 335 possible conversions - and it's frequently adding more formats and combinations.

Simply upload a file (max size: 250MB), and then from a dropdown menu, choose the format into which you want it to be converted. CF does all the dirty processing on its servers, to provide you with a link from where you can download your converted file.

Uploaded files are destroyed immediately after being converted - and output files are kept on CF's servers for 24 hours only.

Interestingly, you can also provide video links from YouTube, MetaCafe, MegaVideo, DailyMotion and Vimeo, and CF will create a downloadable video file for you. Even better, you can choose to extract the audio from the video file and convert it into a format like MP3.

Trying to keep tabs on current affairs - visiting each and every bookmark you have saved on your PC - can be quite a task, especially if you have to open a new browser window for each resource.

But it doesn't have to be so cumbersome. With Netvibes you can eliminate all this clutter. Simply add the websites you follow into the service by providing their RSS links to generate widgets for each entry.

Furthermore, you can create tabs within this service and sort news widgets according to verticals like technology, sports, business, etc.

Since Netvibes is cloud-based , you can check your feeds from any PC by logging in with your ID. Each tab's layout can be tweaked and you also get the added option of hosting a public page with news widgets of your choice - it's like a news bulletin curated by you.

What we really like, however, is that you can also add your Facebook account, Twitter, and e-mail addresses, putting multiple sources of information right at your finger tips.


Are you getting fed up of backing up your Instagram photos to Flickr and Dropbox every week? And would you prefer an easier way to post your Foursquare check-ins to LinkedIn without having to do it manually? If yes, then IFTTT (If This Then That) is the answer to your web woes. It is a resource that lets you automate a whole bunch of online tasks, saving you loads of time.

First you need to activate the services you use - Picasa, Google Drive, Flickr, Instagram, etc - before you browse through the treasure trove of readymade actions. For instance, you could choose one that downloads and backs up Facebook photos you have been tagged in to Dropbox. All you need to do is activate the Facebook and Dropbox service within IFTTT and activate the task. You can edit these tasks or create new ones altogether. Don't forget to share them so others can also benefit from your nifty shortcuts.

Source | Times of India | 16 September 2013