Weekend news roundup

22 Nov 2010

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

UK fraud squad faces dressing down over rising tide of cyber crime

The Financial Times reported the City of London’s fraud team faces a dressing down from MPs after senior officers conceded that the force recovered only £168m from the suspected £3.7bn proceeds of fraud cases.

The MPs on the Commons treasury committee were dismayed with the evidence they heard from officers at Britain’s senior fraud force, as they struggled to explain their efforts to tackle a rising tide of cyber crime.

One told the Financial Times: “You get the sense it’s like PC Plod trying to catch Moriarty.” Another MP said the evidence given this week was “the worst we have ever heard”.

During tetchy exchanges, Steve Head, the head of the economic crime directorate, said internet banking was less safe than traditional face-to-face banking and he would like more resources to tackle online fraud.

But his boss, Mike Bowron, City of London police commissioner, admitted that frontline services would “inevitably” be affected if he was asked to implement a 14pc cut by 2014-15.

MPs on the committee expressed concern that neither Head nor Bowron were readily able to give details of fraud recovery rates, nor about their overall ability to deal with complex financial crimes.

Voice technology to catch dole cheats?

According to The Irish Independent jobless workers will start signing on for the dole by mobile phone from next year. Their identity would be verified by voice-recognition technology.

The Government has taken the first steps to roll out a new high-tech social welfare system that will begin with a pilot scheme in January.

It is one of the key reforms in a new social welfare bill, published yesterday, to be debated in the Dail before passing into law by Christmas.

Following a dramatic doubling in unemployment, the scheme is designed to cut down on state officials’ workload and generate savings, while also using new technology to tackle fraudsters.

Currently, those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Jobseeker’s Benefit must sign on in person at their local unemployment office once a month.

But the new electronic certification system means they would only have to go to the social welfare office once for a face-to-face meeting when making their application.

After that, the monthly signing on system would be replaced by regular phone calls from officials to claimants.

Tech boom to tech bust?

The New York Times asked is the world ready for another internet bubble?

Ready or not, it appears to be coming. In fact, it may already be here. And it seems to look, not surprisingly, like the last internet bubble. (Well, maybe with fewer sock puppets.)

First, there’s plenty of deal flow. Dealogic data shows that the number of technology deals — more than 5,100 so far this year — is at its highest point since the year 2000. Back then, in the peak year for internet deal making, there were 7,007 technology mergers and acquisitions.

True to the scrappy start-up nature of tech investing, the deals are small. According to Dealogic, the average technology deal this year is $46m, not much more than the average of $40m in 2000.

It’s not just small deals and a lot of them, however, that make people feel that a time warp is under way.

It’s still boom time in technology

Forget the recession: there’s a skills shortage in Ireland, says The Sunday Business Post, but IT company bosses lament the dearth of suitable job candidates.

People with the right IT skills are getting pay rises, bonuses, perks and other boom-era incentives in Irish companies.

Some IT programmers are currently getting pay increases of up to €30,000 a year, say IT recruiters. Many more are being offered boom-era perks, such as longer holidays and more say over their working time and job structure.

Last week, it was revealed that Google had given its Dublin staff an average pay rise of €5,000, plus generous Christmas bonuses.

According to experts, bonuses with many software companies have come back into play and bonuses of 10-15pc are being achieved.

Time to focus on an enterprise-led recovery

Writing in The Sunday Tribune, ISME’s Mark Fielding argues the Government has lost sight of the importance of entrepreneurs in rebuilding the economy. That must change now.

No more side-stepping, no more drip-feeding of half truths, no more delays, no more lies. The now infamous four-year Government plan may have been rewritten by the storm troopers of the IMF/EU, but the essence of the plan to get Mother Ireland out of her sorry mess must be essentially the same as before. The one change now, of course, is that if the plan and its budget are not accepted by the Dáil, the pretence ends, time runs out and IMF rules, OK.

We must begin to rebuild an economy that has been shattered by the greed of bankers and the total ineptitude of the current Government. That requires more than just reducing the budget deficit. Whoever is in power must find a way to separate bank rescue and fiscal reform; they must take into account the impact on short-term growth and long-term potential; and they must correct the issue of the oversized and overpaid public sector.

Whichever way we look at it, cuts must be made and the public sector cannot be omitted from the equation, as the Croke Park agreement proposed. Events have overtaken this agreement and it would be totally unfair to hit social welfare with cuts and not touch the higher pay of the public service.