Commitment to Development Index 2005

Center for Global Development released the 2005 Commitment to Development Index. The Index reminds the world that reducing poverty in developing countries is about far more than giving money.

Now in its third year, the CDI ranks 21 of the richest nations trying to give us the big picture on their performance in each of the following policy areas:

  • aid
  • trade
  • investment
  • migration
  • security
  • environment
  • technology policies

View the rankings in charts, learn what the Index rewards and penalizes, compare country report cards, and post comments or suggestions. Or see an interactive (flash) version here.

Via World Bank’s Private Sector Development Blog.

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Romanian EU Accession Debate

Just bumped into 2 interesting articles on Romania published these days in some international magazines.

First, published by Manuela Paraipan in The Global Politician, Romania: In or Out of the Anglo-American Axis?:

From the beginning of his mandate as a President of Romania, Traian Basescu declared himself a supporter of the so-called Axis of Washington-London-Bucharest. The idea was received with a cold attitude by the European powers, especially by the Germans and the French – long time friends of the country. Nonetheless, it became the leit motif of Romania’s foreign policy.

But apparently the interest for this friendship axis is almost non-existent from both the UK and the USA. When the Romanian authorities asked for a visa-free entry in England and America for the Romanian citizens, the response was a clear and concise ‘no’! But, when the Romanian troops were needed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere on this globe, the answer was “Yes, Sir!”

Some felt that there is something wrong with this picture. Is Romania a friend country of the world powers? Or merely their hobbyhorse?

And more than that, related with Romanian EU admission:

In this regard, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu stated that the EU officials in spite of their critiques do not have a plan B in case Romania and Bulgaria fail to join the EU in January 2007. Ungureanu said: “Not even the Brussels bureaucracy has considered the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2008. There is much trust that the two states will accomplish missions and become members of the EU in January 1, 2007.”

With a poor Romanian lobby for the accession, with a political class lacking the stamina to urge clear reforms, with a justice obedient to the interests of various politicians and mafia bosses, the chances of seeing an European Romanian any time soon are indeed very low.

More on the subject, in an Oxford Business Group article published by Turkish Daily News (free registration required):

the question of Romanian accession as a whole has come back onto the political agenda elsewhere in Europe, particularly since doubts over enlargement surfaced with such force in the EU constitutional referenda in France and the Netherlands earlier this year. […]

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told Deutsche Welle on Aug. 10 that Romania and Bulgaria could see their EU entry delayed by one year due to an invocation of the safeguard clause in the enlargement treaty signed with both back in May.[…]

Adding more gloom was a poll of analysts undertaken by Reuters on Aug. 8-11. Romania’s chances of joining the EU in 2007 were thought to be 50 percent or higher by only 26 out of the 34 analysts questioned — one less than for neighboring Bulgaria.

Yet for many the hope is now there that such uncomfortable thoughts may indeed serve as an impetus for the Romanian government and Parliament to press ahead speedily with the changes needed to meet the EU’s criteria.

The Future of Search

The search-engine advertising will be a $22 billion industry worldwide by 2010, up from an estimated $8 billion today, according to Safa Rashtchy, a senior analyst with Piper Jaffray in San Francisco. It’s the reason search has become the most hotly contested field in the world of technology. In this context Time Magazine is publishing an in-depth analysis of the trends in the field.

Picture and video. Now that still and moving images are increasingly digitized, they too can be searched with a click, by looking for their titles and other attached identifying text, known as their metadata.

A more futuristic image search, which can scan and recognize facial images, is being developed by Massachusetts-based Viisage. It focuses on unique marks on the human face and can cross-reference pictures with databases

Cell Phones Mobile search is mostly done today with limited text messaging, but by 2008, when more than 75% of new cell phones globally are expected to be Internet-ready, searching the Web on the go will be standard.

Boston-based Mobot, for example,  has developed technology that maps the features in a picture taken with a cell-phone camera and matches it to a database of images.

Questions and answers Search engines are good at matching words across websites but have struggled with nuance to answer questions in everyday language. Google today can answer basic factual queries. The next step is semantic search–looking for meaning, not just matching key words.

User Generated One of the fastest-growing search techniques is tagging, a grassroots phenomenon whereby users label websites with descriptive tags, building a network of knowledge dubbed folksonomy–a taxonomy of knowledge organized by ordinary folk.

Audio Exactly when in the movie did Clark Gable say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”? Blinkx.TV can track down that video clip in a matter of seconds. Speech-recognition technology is improving so rapidly that the company founded by 27-year-old Suranga Chandratillake can capture the audio tracks of videos and turn them into searchable text–making any recorded spoken words immediately searchable.

Satellite Online maps are widely available but now, because pictures are easier to understand than maps, satellites are changing the game. Since buying Keyhole last fall, Google has launched Google Earth, which offers searchable satellite views of the planet. Amazon’s search subsidiary, sent trucks around 22 U.S. cities with digital cameras linked to laptops to photograph every street. So far it has 35 million pictures, which will be overlaid on maps.

Personalized One of the hottest and most controversial new areas is designing software that will get to know individuals’ interests, mostly through their search history–the clickstream.

Internet Battlegrounds – July 2005

ZDNet’s IT Facts blog published the July 2005 data for several battlegrounds of the big internet players: search, web mail and (the new one) instant messaging.

ComScore Networks is quoted in a Reuters article with the data on Web-based e-mail usage. With 221 mln users (35.5%) MSN Hotmail leads the market, followed by Yahoo! Mail with 219 mln users and 35.1% of the market.

On searches Google accounted for 59% of searches in July 2005, (with an incredible 14% Year-to-Year growth). Yahoo! was second with 29% of searches, MSN was third with 5.5%.

On instant messaging AOL IM and ICQ had about 41.6 mln US users, followed by Yahoo! Messenger with 19.1 mln, and MSN Messenger with 14.1 mln. Google just entered the game this month so we’ll probably need to wait for a while until they will appear in the top 5.
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dbrom Is dead. Long live dbrom!

One of the earliest promoters of the collaborative citizen journalism in Romanian web has closed its doors. was started in 2000 “for the people that had something to say about contemporary romanian society” as “a page prepared to put a gray smile straight on your face”.

dbrom is shutting down because “rarely” become “way to rarely” maybe even impossible. dbrom is shutting down because it cannot do follow its purpose anymore. […]. Noboby in the group that was close to dbrom in latest years doesn’t have the force, the time and motivation to carry on with this site, which doesn’t bring any money and it requires time and care

Well life moves on. As for me personally, I’m gonna miss it. dbrom is dead. Long live dbrom.

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Google – Innovation as Strategy

Since bursting onto the public scene one year ago today at an impressive (yet in hindsight conservative) market valuation of $23 billion, and a corresponding stock price of $85, Google has been busy innovating. It’s launched at least a dozen new products since its IPO.

In its first year as a public company, Google managed to capture investor attention by repeatedly topping their earnings expectations, and by constant innovation, a thing expected, given that Google’s corporate culture and organizational principles include dedicating 20% of work time toward musing, exploring, and quite simply — creating.
Google stock history
Exactly one year after their initial IPO Google announced that it has filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed public offering by the company of 14,159,265 (yeah those are the decimals in PI) shares of Class A common stock.

Decided to pick-up the glove Microsoft (with its or new buzz around its new IE7.0) and Yahoo! (with recent launch of AdSense‘s competitor, Yahoo!Publisher Network) is launching a new products campaign.

Google just released Google Desktop Search 2, which includes a new piece of software that could challenge both Microsoft and Yahoo, on various levels. The free program, known as Sidebar, presents consumers with a pane of customized information — such as weather forecasts, stock quotes, news headlines, text feeds from favorite Web sites, photo slideshows and email alerts — that sits alongside whatever else the user is viewing. It provides some functions similar to Yahoo’s popular MyYahoo customized Web-page service.

In other words, as analysts put it:

“I guess the plan is to demote browser to ‘rendering engine,’ and combine all its other functions into “desktop search,” er, that is, ‘Google Desktop.'”

If Google really does turn IE into little more than a rendering engine, Microsoft will only have itself to blame. Wasn’t the whole justification for making the browser part of Windows to make the rendering engine a platform, so that developers could make it part of their applications? Looks like Google is doing exactly that.

Well it seems that Google Sidebar not only put pressure on Microsoft, but Yahoo as well.

If Google gets traction with Sidebar, users will find that it’s a more convenient way of accessing weather info, news, stock quotes and photos, as well as email, than going to (which is the biggest content provider at the moment) and finding the appropriate links.

What’s missing?

Google needs to add instant messaging and probably personal web publishing to the tool”, Internet Stock blog says.

The New York Times said in an article couple of days ago

Google executives say they plan to unveil on Wednesday a “communications tool” that is potentially a clear step beyond the company’s search-related business focus.

While executives would not disclose what the new software tool might be, Google has long been expected to introduce an instant messaging service to compete with services offered by America Online, Yahoo and MSN from Microsoft.

It’s even more than that.

There’s a host responding at and is actually redirecting to

Tom Servo, tried to connect to using his Trillian client. What he got was a secure XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, alternatively known as Jabber) server waiting for connections. And according to this post, Jabber server listening on port 5222 of ‘’.

Well, while waiting for new developments here are some of theGoogle’s new products launched in the year passed frot its IPO:

October 2004

  • Google bought Keyhole, which delivers a multi terabyte database of images and mapping information that let’s users “fly around the world from their home computer.”
  • Google announced Desktop search
  • Launched its SMS product, enabling people to get information instantly on their mobile handsets,
  • introduced Google Print, which lets people read excerpts of book content.

November 2004

  • Google launches Google Scholar a service that search through journal articles, abstracts and other scholarly literature

December 2004

  • the company announced its offer to the world’s premier libraries to digitize their collections and make them searchable on the Web
  • Google suggest is launched

January 2005

  • With Google Video, users can search the content of TV programs, such as PBS, the NBA, Fox News and C-Span.

February 2005

March 2005

  • Google rolled out enhancements to Google News, making it possible for users to customize the service to fit their needs.
  • Google Maps was integrated with Google Local products and then Keyhole, for satellite imagery.
  • Google upped the storage it offered for Gmail users to 2 GB, and it is still growing today

April 2005

  • Google began to offer users the ability to upload video to Google with the aim of allowing them to distribute and monetize that video.
  • Google launched My Search History, a service that let’s people find their past searches.

May 2005

June 2005

  • a free enhanced version of Keyhole was offered, and it became known as Google Earth

You can see all new Google products (including the ones in beta stage) at Google Labs.

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The Future of Advertising – Today

The August issue of Inc Magazine is presenting an comprehensive guide in advertising tools of the future that are already out there on the market.

    • Accenture has designed a 10-foot-wide touchscreen that lets crowds in malls or on the street interact independently with characters, games, and information.
    • Imagine a day when you can text-message a discount coupon to a cell phone user just as she walks past your shop. That day is here.
    • With Reactrix Systems’ interactive images, 10 or more people can kick around a virtual soccerball, splash in a virtual pool, or (below) swirl through a logo.
    • In cities like New York, taxi-top messaging signs are tied to GPS location sensors, so that a cab can pitch nearby stores and restaurants as it roams.
    • In Massachusetts, Stop & Shop is testing a touchscreen that with a swipe of a loyalty card can remind shoppers of past purchases and suggest alternatives.
    • Claria is using behavioral targeting service tracks the online habits of Web surfers and hits them with relevant advertising
    • Pulse, of San Francisco, California, is using online tools turn a photo of any person or animal into a lip-synched talking head for viral ad campaigns.
    • Zebra Imaging produces large promotional holograms that make images of objects or people stand out in 3-D — no glasses needed.
    • Reactrix is using a motion-sensitive projector that turns any surface into a crowd-drawing, brandable interactive display.
    • Massive from NYC inserts ads via an online connection into video games while they’re being played. Coming is technology that will adapt the ads to individual players.

Endless opportunities. See full Inc Magazine article.

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Romanian Investment Environment

BusinessWeek online is running an article analyzing investment environment and opportunities of Romania and Bulgaria.

analysts say the countries are catching up [with the other ex-communist countries], and their economies have been expanding rapidly since 2000. Economic growth is expected to hover at around 6 percent for the next three years in both countries, with Bulgaria seeing lower inflation.

“Romania and Bulgaria are perceived as the new forces,” said Radu Craciun, an analyst at ABN Amro. “They have low labor costs, and due to their geographical positions have better access to the Middle East, Russia and the Balkans.”

Both are scheduled to join the European Union in 2007, but could face one-year delays if they fail to reform their inefficient justice systems and crack down on corruption.

While both countries already have easy access to EU markets, a postponement would delay EU funds for infrastructure improvements and rural development. But it wouldn’t have a major impact on large investors, Craciun said, as they take a long-term view.

This year, however, direct foreign investment reached euro951 million (US$1.16 billion) from January to May, a 12 percent rise compared to the same period last year, according to official figures.

The article sees also another aspect of Romanian’s development and investments trend:

The economic boom is not evenly distributed, however, with a strong concentration of investment in urban areas and around Bulgaria and Romania’s Black Sea coasts, while few foreigners venture in rural, poorer regions of eastern Romania.

This is confirmed by a recent study conducted by the Romanian Centre for Economic Modelling, which is showing increasing differences in terms of entrepreneurial activity among Romania’s eight regions with Bucharest and Western regions of the country heading as regarding to the pace of entreprenurial development.

Also it seems that fears that the introduction of a 16% flat tax in January would depress revenues are not real as corporate tax revenue increased by 21.1% in the first half of the year, while tax receipts rose by 17.3%.

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Traditional Media About Romanian Blogsphere

After Saptamana Financiara mentioning this blog a couple of months ago (along with and, now it’s time that prestigious romanian economic weekely Capital (romanian version only, unfortunately) is doing the same, in an article commenting on blogging and romanian blogsphere.

Totally agree with Mihai that the title of the article is not the best they could choose, but on the other side, the initiative of spreading word around about blogging in traditional media is a good thing.

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Blogs Audience – Q2 2005

An interesting research conducted by comScore Media Metrix, and sponsored in part by SixApart and Gawker Media is giving us an overall image of the Behaviors of the Blogosphere, scale, composition and activities of weblogs audiences.

The research is conducted on a panel of more than 2 million Internet users (out of which 75% are US based).  An analysis of the traffic of thousands of blogs identified some 350 top blog sites and blog networks; that list was supplemented with other popular blogs in smaller segments, such as business blogs.  The analysis also included more than two dozen large weblog hosting services, including Blogspot, Xanga, TypePad and others, which collectively represent millions of blog sites.

Key findings of the report:

  • 400 blog domains tracked by comScore were visited by 50 million U.S. Internet users in Q1 2005.  This represents an increase of 45 percent compared to Q1 2004.
  • Traffic to the top blog hosting services has grown considerably in the past year. Six of the top ten hosts have grown by more than 100 percent compared to last year.  Top gainers included (+241 percent), TypePad (+240 percent) and Blogdrive (+223 percent).
  • Politcs/News weblogs are preffered by 43 percent of blog readers followed by Hipster Blogs (17%) and Tech blogs (15%), with business blogs ending the list with only 3 percent.
  • Blog visitors are 30 percent more likely than the average Internet user to live in households where the household head is 18 to 34 years old and are 11 percent more likely to access the Internet using a broadband connection.

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