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From discards to employers: Fast growth at Eco Furniture

first_imgPeter Haralambous, co-owner of Eco Furniture Design, helped build the business from a small concern began by constructing a table from discarded wood to one of the fastest-growing small businesses in South Africa. Eco Furniture Design has made craftspeople out of people who came to them with no skills.(Images: Eco Furniture Design)MEDIA CONTACTS • Tameron GrahnOwner, Eco Furniture Design+27 21 827 1336Sulaiman PhilipEco Furniture Design, a Cape Town company, has been named the fastest growing small business incubatee by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti).The recognition came at the National Technology Awards, held in Durban in October. The awards celebrate small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that embrace technology to improve their competitiveness.There are 12 incubator programmes across the country in industries as diverse as IT, construction and agriculture. The programmes are designed to get enterprises from a survivalist stage or from the informal economy into thriving businesses in the mainstream economy. The awards, made by the the dti, were held at iNkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.Eco Furniture Design was recognised for the fastest growth across all the industries. “We went from two employees as a start-up almost two years ago to a point where we employ 12 people today,” says founding partner Peter Haralambous. The business grew out of Peter and his partner, Tameron Grahn, building a table from some wood they found discarded at the side of the road.The partners saw a business opportunity once friends started asking them to build furniture for them as well. Without funding or woodwork experience, they approached the Furntech incubator in Woodstock, Cape Town. “They have a two-year programme that helped us to build our business from scratch. It has given us the freedom to employ unskilled people with potential and have them trained at the centre by Seda technicians. This is an aspect of the business that I really enjoy,” Haralambous explains. Support for small enterprisesSeda, the Small Enterprise Development Agency, falls under the dti. Its mission is to develop, support and promote small enterprises, ensuring their growth and sustainability in co-ordination and partnership with various role players, including global partners, who make international best practices available to local entrepreneurs.The Furntech incubator, one of the smallest in the country, has space for 12 furniture-related businesses, from designers to manufacturers like Eco Furniture. It has state-of-the-art machinery and trained technicians who help teach skills to entrepreneurs and their employees. Furntech’s business technology incubation is affiliated to the Seda Technology Programme, which develops innovative technology based platforms that result in the creation of sustainable, globally competitive small, medium and micro enterprises.Lucky Mhlanga, an Eco Furniture employee, has been with the company since it began. He started with no carpentry skills but today is a carpenter, having been trained to artisan level at the incubator.Access to equipment works on rotation, which has inadvertently proven to be a good business lesson for Haralambous. It has taught him the importance of lead times and scheduling production. It is early days yet for the company, with the hiccoughs that come with starting a business. Easing the way, though, along with the technical assistance offered at incubators like Furntech, entrepreneurs can access funding and business skills training. Training and teaching skills“Being part of this programme has allowed us to build our business. It’s allowed us to hire unskilled people and train them. It has allowed us to grow steadily in a relatively safe environment. It’s early days yet but we’ve been given firm grounding.”Haralambous is looking for new factory premises as Eco Furniture is almost two years old and must soon leave the Furntech space. The dti has moved it from one programme to another, one that gives businesses that come through the incubator system grants to help fund the purchase of equipment. “The programme is designed to assist with technology transfers and ensure that we build on the last two years of success.”The department and its minister, Rob Davies, recognise the importance of South African businesses embracing technology to remain competitive. “Technology is no longer a luxury for small- to medium-sized enterprises. The Technology Awards are designed to inspire and encourage creativity and technological innovativeness among business people by rewarding those that make use of technology to advance their business,” Davies said on the eve of the awards ceremony.The awards showcase successes from three programmes the dti runs with various parastatals:● With the Industrial Development Corporation, it runs the Support Programme for Industrial Innovation. This fund helps companies that develop innovative products or processes from the conclusion of research and ends once a prototype has been developed.● With the National Research Foundation, it runs the Technology and Human Resource for Industry Programme, which spends R390-million a year on research in science, technology and engineering. The focus is to train and develop researchers and technology managers who will help develop and improve competitive practices across all industries.● With Seda, it has run the Seda Technology Programme since 2006 with a focus on improving government support for small- to medium-sized businesses. Government research has found that most small, technology based businesses that failed did so in their first three years. STP is designed to give small start-ups support and training to improve access to technology and management support to improve productivity and performance. Other winnersOther winners on the night were Durban IT development and training company Smart Xchange, and Thabong Bakery, from Welkom in Free State. The awards are growing more prestigious and more competitive, says the director-general in the dti, Lionel October. “The development of small, medium and micro enterprises in partnership with the government, using programmes like these three, can bring a positive spin to the creation of jobs.”It is this network of resources that has helped Anna Lelimo, the owner of Thabong Bakery, to grow her business from a home-based caterer to one that supplies bread and confectionaries to 30 supermarkets. The mother of two made a brave decision to change careers in 2001 to follow her dream to be her own boss.Lelimo told her hometown newspaper, The Weekly, after receiving her award: “It is liberating to take your life in your own hands and decide what you are going to do with it and where you want to take it. When I embarked on this new chapter in my life as a business owner, there were a lot of challenges and sacrifices, but when you are determined to succeed, no matter how difficult the road, you will find a way to accomplish your dreams.”last_img read more

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Smithsonian showcases agricultural innovation

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is introducing visitors to the ingenuity of America’s farmers and ranchers through new interactive exhibits and programming that showcase innovation in agriculture. On July 1, the museum welcomed the public to the American Enterprise exhibit at the ground level of its new Innovation Wing in the Mars Hall of American Business.Visitors get to see firsthand how innovation has driven American business as they walk through the four eras of enterprise: the Merchant Era (1770s–1850s), the Corporate Era (1860s–1930s), the Consumer Era (1940s– 1970s) and the Global Era (1980s–2010s). The exhibit shows the breadth of the American business story, and agriculture takes a leading role as one of the “five pillars” of enterprise, alongside consumer finance, information technology/communication, manufacturing and retail service.At the center of the new exhibit, a 1918 Fordson tractor — the exhibit’s largest artifact —shows the shift to modern farming practices and production that cleared the path for American agriculture to become a leader in the global marketplace. From Eli Whitney’s cotton gin to a prototype of an experimental gene gun, the agricultural items on display demonstrate how farmers have long been in the business of making their practices more environmentally friendly and efficient.But Smithsonian’s new exhibit does more than show museum-goers evidence of the strides farmers and ranchers have made, it gives them a chance to take on real business decisions in the new Wallace H. Coulter Exchange. At the Farming Challenge, visitors of all ages can take the wheel in an interactive tractor cab where they quickly learn that, much like corporate CEOs, farmers face tough decisions each day that can make or break their businesses. From choosing how to irrigate their crops to investing in new equipment, visitors will see the consequences of their choices and learn if they have what it takes to farm in today’s economy.The Smithsonian is also putting faces to the American Enterprise story through a special biography wall that includes interactive kiosks to highlight stories of business leaders and visionaries—from agricultural innovators like Norman Borlaug and Barbara McClintock to well-known food industry names like Henry Heinz to family farming businesses like Hartman Farms of Parma, Idaho. These stories whet the appetite for visitors looking to learn even more about how business and modern agriculture have evolved. The museum continues to build its online archive as well, and will preserve and share the story of farming and ranching across the U.S. through its Agricultural Innovation and Heritage Archive.Finally, the museum’s new first floor will also play center stage for the Smithsonian’s Food History Project. Cooking demonstrations, talks and tastings will take place at the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza to highlight innovation on the plate. American farmers and ranchers will have a special opportunity to join in the conversation each month at the museum’s “Ask a Farmer” program. Every third Wednesday of the month, beginning this month, farmers will share their stories, the challenges they face and the role innovation plays on their farms.The new American Enterprise exhibit has not only chronicled the story of innovation in agriculture, it’s bridging the gap for consumers far removed from the farm. Smithsonian is opening the door for farmers and ranchers to keep telling their stories for generations to come.last_img read more

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Obama Unveils Online Information Sharing Strategy To Fight Cyberterrorism

first_imgA Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… “As President, I have no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety and security of the United States and the American people. Meeting this responsibility requires the closest possible cooperation among our intelligence, military, diplomatic, homeland security, law enforcement, and public health communities, as well as with our partners at the state and local level and in the private sector. This cooperation, in turn, demands the timely and effective sharing of intelligence and information about threats to our nation with those who need it, from the President to the police officer on the street.”President Barack Obama, writing in The National Strategy For Information Sharing And Safeguarding.On Wednesday the President issued a 16-page game plan aimed at strengthening the process and protection of online sharing to fight cyber attacks. It’s called the the National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding. The NSISS is a guideline aimed at creating a “balance between sharing information with those who need it to keep our country safe and safeguarding it from those who would do us harm,” the President wrote. “Sharing and safeguarding are often seen as mutually exclusive, in reality they are mutually reinforcing. This Strategy, therefore, emphasizes how strengthening the protection of classified and sensitive information can help to build confidence and trust so that such information can be shared with authorized users.”In short, it’s a directive on how to share data, and improve data flow, informing U.S. citizens that they are now partners in this battle, and thereby required to share their data in the name of national security, all the while promising to protect civil rights and privacy. Less an executive order than a vision, “the strategy does not define particular categories or types of information that must be shared.” Instead, it focuses on a sharing policy with three main principles:Designating information as a national asset.Shared risk management and safeguarding,Informed decision making.  1. Information As A National AssetMaking information a national asset is basically a step to streamlining the flow of data between governmental agencies. The push to cut across siloed Federal branches and bureaus and integrate information is extremely important for both national and regional security. What’s likely going to happen is interconnected federal networks and new databases. The strategy lists five goals:Driving collective action through collaboration and accountability.Improving data flow and discovery.Improving effectiveness by sharing services.Defining new policies and processes and reform to protect data.Protecting user privacy and civil rights.Number five “protecting privacy and rights” is tricky. The document cleverly words that data management extends to U.S. citizens, stating that these “stakeholders” also have a responsibility and are an integral part in the success of this plan. “Information collected, analyzed, and disseminated by every stakeholder must be discoverable and retrievable, consistent with necessary legal restrictions, and guided by government-wide policies, standards, and management frameworks.” In other words, while supposedly toe-ing the civil rights line, the government is saying if they need your data, it’s your job to give it to them. Just how jurisdiction is enforced will no doubt be a contentious issue. The document states that privacy will be leveraged by “governance bodies and existing procedures, to continually refine and establish necessary guidelines for appropriate protections of shared information.” But the how and why of collecting citizen’s data will likely unfold on a case-by-case basis, most likely with howls of protest from civil rights groups like the ACLU. 2. Information Sharing And Safeguarding Requires Shared Risk ManagementThis step is basically a relationship builder, calling for trust between the private and public sectors. It’s the government’s pitch that more sharing and safeguarding improves both policy development and tackling security problems.“Policies, practices, and methods for information sharing and safeguarding can enable appropriate confidentiality while increasing transparency,” Obama writes. “To realize the benefits of sharing information, stakeholders mitigate and manage risk by taking appropriate measures to build trust in the processes that safeguard information from compromise.”Part of the sharing process will also include heavy data tagging to improve discovery and new authorization and authentication controls to likely bolster security and accountability. 3. Information Informs DecisionmakingThis third directive ties together the first two steps. It states that the ability to discover and retrieve accurate data “depends upon an ability to make information easily accessible to federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, private sector, and foreign partners.”In other words, here’s your “we’re all in this together” notice from Uncle Sam. You do your part, we do our part, and this ship should sail. “The above principles and below goals will help us achieve an environment wherein decisions are driven by information that reflects our best assessments at every level — from frontline personnel to agency heads,” Obama writes. Is This Plan… A Good Thing?In the wake of the failed SOPA and PIPA regulation bills, there’s been a lot of public mistrust when it comes to the government keeping tabs on the Internet. But could this be a positive step? At least one major security pundit thinks so. “Government needs to be part of that system,” wrote Dan Kaminsky in a recent op-ed in Politico along with Stewart Baker, a former general counsel at the National Security Agency and assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.“I’m encouraged to see Obama creating a framework,” said Kaminsky, one of seven Recovery Key Shareholders for the Domain Name System, and chief scientist at security firm DKH. He says sharing data is a key to making the Internet safer. Trust Is The Key QuestionIn an interview with ReadWrite, however, Kaminsky said the public culture of fear and mistrust may make his support of the President’s move less than popular. Still, he says we know dangerously little about the details of cyber attacks on the whole – and sharing data could help lower the risk.  “You can’t solve a problem without data.”“If our goal is to have a foundation for commerce, information, freedom, privacy, we need better data on what bad guys are dong and what stops them,” he added. “The hard truth is that American information assets are under attack. Public, private, and personal resources are being extracted wholesale.”These acts of espionage are “tremendous, and the ability to respond is insignificant,” Kaminsky said. “It’s not like bad guys just attack military targets,” Kaminsky explained. “Everyone’s under attack.”According to Kaminsky, the government has a strong interest in avoiding a situation where “in order to run a business you have to field an army. That would destroy small business and any compeitive environment. At the end of the day, can every business large and small deal with activity of foreign nation state attackers? Honestly, no.”In order for the effort to succeed, Kaminsky said, information must flow in both directions between the private and public sectors. But he warned that “We have a lot of work to do in figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Step one is collecting information. The challenge is – who watches the watchers – and how do you make sure that aggregating force that makes the ground rules doesn’t turn on everyone?”Going After Bad Guys… Or 9-Year-Olds?That’s a key issue. With SOPA and PIPA fresh in their minds, many worry that the feds will use the shield of national security to go after regular people. It’s “ridiculous,” Kaminsky said, but the issue is “our ability to arrest 9 year-olds. The average kid is not breaking into Honeywell and stealing nuclear secrets to cause terror. The average kid is listening to Justin Bieber. There’s some definite fear in our effort to protect the rest of the economy that we’ll see the same techniques used to deal with nation-state hackers used on our kids.”If the feds pursue matters not linked to national security, Kaminsky warned, it’s going to threaten the credibility of the entire effort. Still, he’s optimistic that the NSISS is a much-needed good-faith step in the right direction. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock. Related Posts Tags:#privacy#security adam popescucenter_img Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

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Commitment key for women’s team

first_imgPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hosting MOST READ PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Uncharacteristic losing skid in All-Filipino Cup lights a fire under San Miguel View comments More than talent, skill and popularity, national women’s volleyball team coach Shaq delos Santos is looking for commitment from players looking to represent the country.“[W]e are looking at their commitment and willingness to tough it out because we have a busy year ahead,” said Delos Santos Wednesday.ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES SEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte PDEA chief backs Robredo in revealing ‘discoveries’ on drug war Oil plant explodes in Pampanga town Grace Poe files bill to protect govt teachers from malicious accusations ‘We are too hospitable,’ says Sotto amid SEA Games woes Officials said sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Manabat, who missed the tryouts because they are seeing action in the tough Japan League, will be included in the national pool.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next ‘We are too hospitable,’ says Sotto amid SEA Games woes US judge bars Trump’s health insurance rule for immigrants Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Volleyball federation president Peter Cayco said they will release the national team roster this month as the team prepares to participate in several international meets.Cayco said the team will compete in the Asian Women’s Clubs on April 27 to May 5 in Tianjin, China, and in the Asian Seniors on Aug. 17 to 25 in Seoul, South Korea.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSUrgent reply from Philippine ‍football chiefSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesThose tournaments, plus the Southeast Asian Games this year and the players’ club commitments, will fill the schedules of the volleyball stars, thus Delos Santos wants them to be really committed to the national team.“So far everyone showed up [in the tryouts],” said Delos Santos.last_img read more

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