PraxIS December 2005

05-12 Contents: US Military removes Word documents, ICT for Poverty Reduction, euro adoption in new EU member states, Excel statistics review by David Heiser

ISSN 1649-2374 This issue online at   [Previous] [Index]  [Next]

Systems Modelling Ltd.: Managing reality in Information Systems - strategies for success  


1) Risk & Security
     US Military removes Word documents from the Web?
2) ICT and Development
     ICT for Poverty Reduction: Necessary but Insufficient
     $100 laptop: hope or hype?
     Jhai PC and Communication System 
3) Euro
     Preparations in the new EU member states adopting the euro
4) Spreadsheets
     David Heiser's analysis of Excel statistics & mathematics
5) Off Topic
     'Not Valid in Kansas' poster
     'God's Debris' free ebook
13 Web links in this newsletter
About this newsletter and Archives
Subscribe and Unsubscribe information


Welcome to PraxIS

Because of my involvement with the Informatics Development Institute, I keep a watch on the mail lists for Afrik-IT, Global Knowledge Development, and others. In this issue I note some recent developments in low-cost PCs.

And as the author of 'Managing the euro in Information Systems', I also cover surveys on the planned euro conversions in Malta and other new EU states.

Our Christmas card to you is at 

Patrick O'Beirne

_______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________

1)  IT Risk and Security

US Military removes Word documents from the Web?

For some time now, inquiring minds have been googling for "password filetype:doc site:mil" and similar searches. It now appears that the word has got through and users - or their web administrators - are taking action.

RISKS-23.50 ("U.S. military sites offer a quarter million Microsoft Word documents"), reported the large number of Microsoft Word documents visible on US military sites (sites in the .mil domain) through Google searches. Diomidis Spinellis set up a script to watch the number of Word documents available through Google searches on various TLDs to see if and when the military would recognize the threat those documents posed and remove them. According to the data he gathered the number of Word documents in .mil sites returned by Google peaked at 1,180,000 on September 20th 2005, and then started gradually declining. Currently there are 942,000 documents online. No such decline was visible on other domains monitored, so the change is probably not an artefact of Google's collection or query mechanisms, but an organized move by the US military. Maybe somebody understood the risk associated with these documents and was in a position to act. charts illustrating the trends


2) ICT and Development

ICT for Poverty Reduction: Necessary but Insufficient Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme (APDIP) e-Note 6

This sixth APDIP e-Note summarizes an analysis of 21 papers and reports since 2002 that highlight the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for poverty reduction. The analysis looks at the conditions required for making ICTs effective anti-poverty tools, as discussed in the papers and reports. The analysis also notes the gaps in current research and reporting on the use of ICT for poverty reduction.

Analysis of the papers and reports shows that there is a lack of concrete evidence linking ICT to poverty reduction, thus, hindering the readiness to embed ICTs into poverty reduction programmes. A wide range of pre-conditions that make ICTs effective anti-poverty tools are given but there is little explanation or analysis of how to create these conditions, and why particular ICTs are or are not chosen in the different development circumstances. This APDIP e-Note concludes with some pointers on the way forward.

$100 laptop: blog from World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

Prototypes for a $100 laptop for Third World schools are out... what does it look like? What can it do? Is there a catch? And, hang on, there is still discussion on whether the internet is a friend or foe of education....

Jhai PC and Communication System

The Jhai PC is a low-power, rugged computer that is part of a system that includes proven community buy-in methods, proven models for business and financial sustainability, and a thorough understanding of both technology and how to build success on assets already in place in rural communities. It was built from the ground up by people very familiar with extreme environmental conditions in rural areas where people make less than $1/day. It responds to exact, expressed needs of people living in remote villages for a tool that will help them make more money
(1) through knowledge that adds economic value
(2) through communicating with market towns and relatives nearby and overseas,
(3) through education, and
(4) through better communication and information-sharing among nearby villages and worldwide.


3) Europe

Preparations in the new EU member states adopting the euro

The European commission published in November 2005 their second report on the practical preparations for the future enlargement of the euro area {SEC(2005)1397}. These are the links to the paper and the annex, and my selections from the paper:

Current plans and preparation status

Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia aspire to adopt the euro on 1 January 2007, less than three years after they joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. All three countries joined ERM-II on 28 June 2004. Cyprus, Latvia and Malta will endeavour to join the euro area one year later, on 1 January 2008. They entered ERM-II on 2 May 2005. Slovakia aims to adopt the euro on 1 January 2009. Practical preparations in all these countries have been initiated. National changeover plans have either been approved or are under preparation. The Czech Republic and Hungary aspire to join the euro area in 2010. Poland and Sweden have no target date for the time being.

The state of preparations is quite uneven between countries. In general, its pace needs to be stepped up. The situation in Cyprus, Latvia and Malta also causes some concern since preparations are still in a preliminary stage and need to be stepped up.

Except for the coin collection campaign mentioned in the Estonian plan, little attention is paid to the return of national currency cash. The massive backflow of national currency banknotes and coins however caused major logistical difficulties in the first-wave countries, leading to significant delays in the shipping and counting of national currency notes and coins and in the crediting of accounts. Future entrants should properly anticipate this problem.

Current plans contain no mention of possible agreements concluded at national level with representative retail organisations in order to guarantee fair pricing practices. Similar commitments made at the level of the individual retailers (e.g. “fair-pricing” stickers) are currently only being considered in Lithuania.

Changes in coin design

4.2. The designs of the common and national sides of the euro coins The common side of the bi-colour coins (1- and 2-euro) and the “Nordic Gold” coins (10-, 20- and 50-cent) currently represents the European Union before it was enlarged on 1 May 2004 and only depicts 15 of the 25 EU Member States. Following a Recommendation from the Commission, the Ecofin Council decided on 7 June 2005 that the modified designs of the common side should depict a geographical representation of Europe (see Annex 4).

Differences between future changeovers and the first-wave experience  ANNEX

In many respects, future changeovers will differ significantly from the initial introduction of the euro on 1 January 1999. The present section analyses the key differences as well as the practical consequences on future changeover scenarios. “Big-bang” becomes the preferred scenario. For the general public, an artificial distinction between cash and non-cash operations could be perceived as confusing, particularly since euro cash already exists and can be easily obtained. Several of the recently acceded Member States went through a cash changeover in the recent past and have learned from this previous experience.

Simultaneous changeover on €-day of all bank accounts in national currency becomes the rule. The big-bang approach pursued by most future euro-area entrants will lead to the conversion of all national currency accounts to euro accounts at the date of the country’s entry into the euro area. The gradual conversion of accounts in the course of 2001 as practiced in the 12 euro-area countries is no longer applicable. Frontloading remains crucially important. The sub-frontloading of consumers with euro coins however remain a necessity, since the sources of coin supply are much less numerous than those for banknotes. It will moreover ensure that, as from the start, euro coins with the national side will represent the major part of the euro coins entering circulation. The instantaneous switchover of ATMs from the national currency to the euro proved one of the key elements determining the speed of the changeover. On 2 January 2002, 83 % of euro-area ATMs had been fully converted, while the conversion was virtually completed by 4 January 2002. Dual displays are vitally important for preserving consumers’ confidence

Experience of Small & Medium Enterprises with euro conversion

The statistical survey “Experience of SMEs with the transition to the euro” was conducted in June 2004 and covers 2,402 SMEs from the twelve countries of the euro area. The report shows that most SMEs managed the changeover very well which is notably due to the considerable lead time of 3 ½ years between the lifting of the derogation and the introduction of the euro cash. Nevertheless, not all companies completed their preparations in time and some went through considerable difficulties. Adaptation of accounting systems: while 50.9% of the companies switched over their accounting systems on 1 January 2002, 46.1% converted them during the transitional period (4.7% on 1 January 1999, 5.7% during 1999, 9.6% during 2000 and 26.1% during 2001). 3.1% admitted that they did not manage to prepare themselves in time and introduced the euro in accounting only after 1 January 2002. In two countries, this share even exceeds 10% of SMEs. While the number of companies that did not manage to complete the preparations in time is on average not so important, the rate of those reporting problems is more pronounced. 21.5% report to have experienced some problems compared with 6.8% that faced considerable difficulties. The adaptation of IT systems represents one of the major sources of changeover related risks. 8% of the respondents reported considerable problems with the adaptation of information technology. In three countries, more than one company out of eight confirmed this. On average, 49% replaced their computer systems on the occasion of the changeover. This development was favoured by the substantial lead-time provided by the transitional period. In spite of the lead-time, some companies faced bottlenecks with the availability of IT-consultants and software experts during peak periods of the changeover preparations. 16.9% indicated that they had some problems to find sufficient IT resources, while 4.5% had considerable difficulties.

The psychological aspects of the transition to the euro Euro-Workshop (IAREP), Vienna, Austria, 3-5 July 2003. These papers are useful lessons for the new member states planning euro adoption from 2007 onwards. Here are two examples:  Psycho-social effects of transition to the Euro, a longitudinal study Luigina Canova and Anna Maria Manganelli Department of General Psychology - Università degli Studi di Padova - Italy "The relationship of this Italian group with the Euro and the Europe is positive; however the perception of negative economic effects (like the perception of the value loss of money) risks provoking a process of re-evaluation, or even a nationalist revival, that could undermine the process of the construction of an European identity." Living with the Euro but Thinking in Punts? A Preliminary Report of Experiences in the Republic of Ireland. Notable for its use of colourful quotations from the interviews to illustrate the somewhat relaxed approach by consumers: ‘Ah no, but you see that’s to do with me, I wouldn’t know the price of a pint of milk in euro or in pounds you know. And I don’t know the price of petrol, or…..I’m actually very…very casual about the price of things really’.

The state of public opinion in the recently acceded member states

The second Eurobarometer survey on public opinion in the newly acceded Member States, concerning their attitudes to and knowledge of the introduction of the euro, was conducted by EOS Gallup in September 2005, one year after the first one, polling over 10 000 citizens. Citizens want to be better informed. The level of interest in the introduction of the euro is still rather low, with only 48% of respondents declaring an interest and 49% being uninterested. Knowledge among the general public about the euro and the conditions for its adoption remains relatively low. Most of those polled (58%) are unaware that the adoption of the euro is a mandatory step for their country, and do not know how many countries are already in the euro area. However, a majority of respondents know the target date for the introduction of the euro in their country and most of them are familiar with euro banknotes and coins.

The highest share of respondents feeling happy about the replacement of their national currency is found in Slovenia (58%) and Hungary (49%). These are also the only two countries where the share of happy respondents outnumbers the share of those feeling unhappy. This result is similar with the outcomes of the 2004 survey. The opposite attitude prevails in the three Baltic countries, where most of the respondents feel unhappy about the introduction of the euro: Lithuania (69%), Estonia (64%) and Latvia (64%). One possible interpretation is that the recently acquired independence in these countries leads to a certain willingness to preserve all attributes of the national identity, such as the national currency.

All in all, there is a clear contradiction between the positively perceived practical consequences of the euro and the actual support of the adaptation process.

Fourth annual survey of public opinion in the current eurozone

The euro, 4 years after the introduction of the banknotes and coins. Between 5 and 14 October 2005 the EOS Gallup Europe network conducted this survey among 12,035 citizens aged 15 years and over in the 12 Member States of the euro zone. However, a significant number of respondents, 47%, within the euro zone countries still claim they have difficulties with the euro although four years have passed since the replacement of the national currency by the single currency. No difficulty at all Ireland 84%, Italy 31% On the contrary, a negative trend emerges in Greece and Italy. 15% more Greeks state they have difficulties with the euro and logically 15% less recognise no difficulties at all. The evolution is more moderate in Italy, the respective figures being +5 points and -4 points.

A majority of the citizens (43%) of the euro zone continue to count the prices of exceptional purchases in their former national currencies. At the country level, only in Ireland and Greece the majority of the respondents calculates exceptional purchases in euros.

There is weak knowledge on the usage of bankcard and making money transfers in the euro zone being free of extra charges. Lack of knowledge on the costs of using a bankcard to withdraw money in another euro zone country prevails since 2003. The share of correct answers outnumbers the amount of incorrect replies only in Belgium and The Netherlands. Respondents in Luxembourg (46%), Ireland (45%), and France (43%) give the incorrect answer most often in stating that using a bankcard to withdraw money in another euro zone country entails extra costs. The level of knowledge on the charges of banking transfers is the lowest, the rate of correct answers reaching 23% and logically the number of those giving either incorrect response or stating they do not know arriving at 77%. The remarkable level of lack of knowledge can presumably be explained partly by the lack of concrete experience of the respondents.

The Netherlands (82%, +3 points) continues to be the country with the largest number of respondents prepared to give up the dual displays, followed by Ireland (77%, +7 points) and Austria (76%, -2 points). (POB comment: but where is dual display? It ended a long time ago).

As was observed already in 2004, a clear majority (62%, -3 points) of the citizens in the euro zone believes that the removal of small euro coins would increase prices.

The survey asked about using the euro in non-eurozone countries. (POB: But surely they should have asked where these people were going? That question would have given a more direct response than trying to infer from what they did ask.)

Just over half of the citizens (51%, -2 points) in the euro zone continue to recognise the adoption of the euro as an advantageous event in their country. Notwithstanding this result, the score obtained in 2005 is the lowest since the first survey conducted in 2002. When asked about the reasons for viewing the adoption of the euro as an overall disadvantageous event, an overwhelming majority (78%) of respondents implicate the increase of prices to be the main reason for their negative perception. An overwhelming majority (93%) of respondents experience that the introduction of the euro has lead to an added increase in the prices.

Luxembourg (79%, -2 points) continues to stand out as the country where the citizens assess the economic situation to be better than in other EU countries. Ireland (+8 points) and Austria (+7 points) follow with a 62% share. At the other end, Portugal and Greece top the ranking for the shares of respondents feeling that the economic situation of their country is not as good as in other EU countries, the score being 86% in Portugal (+3 points) and 78% in Greece (-1 point).


4) Spreadsheets

David Heiser's analysis of Excel statistics & mathematics Microsoft Excel 2000 And 2003 Faults, Problems, Workarounds And Fixes

'This paper reviews some of the previous literature on errors and faults with Excel. The paper includes many more detailed tests made on Excel functions and routines by the author. The use of Excel in teaching introductory statistics is also reviewed and commented on.

There are 18 sections covering tests and evaluations of both the Excel 2000 and 2003 versions on graphics, univariate statistics, ANOVA, covariance, linear and non-linear regression, the statistical distributions, significance tests, random number generators and add-in packages. A review of the inherent problems with Excel's computing and display "machinery". The Excel statistical distributions are extensively analyzed. This paper also includes 26 notes covering more extended discussions on complaints and faults, suggested improvements in Excel, guides to the use of Excel and on other issues.'

David posted info about it on the Microsoft news groups, on EDSTAT and some other Excel user sites. But the lack of response to his articles implies that users don't care about the accuracy of the numbers that pop out, believing "The computer/software can not make any errors". Users can't deal with the possibilities of wrong numbers. He comments that this attitude has been noted in "The American Statistician".

Training course in spreadsheet auditing methodology  now taking bookings for:
Dublin (city centre) Thursday 16 February 2006
London (city centre), Thursday 23 February 2006

The intended audience is anyone who builds or reviews spreadsheet models, such as managers, accountants, actuaries, financial modellers, or IT analysts in enterprise IT audits. You need to have an intermediate or advanced knowledge of Excel. You should leave the seminar with the confidence to use the tools and methods shown to risk-assess and test spreadsheets in your organisation.

• Where to start and what are the most efficient techniques to use
• How you can cut down a huge system of spreadsheets to a manageable audit task
• The symptoms that indicate potential or actual problems
• How a company can create an inventory of its critical spreadsheets, assess them for risk, and prioritize scarce resources
• How the top spreadsheet auditing software tools compare, including little-used secrets of Excel's auditing features
• Includes a copy of "Spreadsheet Check and Control", my new book of 47 professional checking techniques
• Reinforce your learning with an optional hour of hands-on practice using demonstration versions of auditing software

Spreadsheet Check and Control book reviews

Pat Cleary added his review of my book on and Gary Hinson and Damon Longworth have added their reviews to Colm Toolan's at May I ask you to add a review to the Amazon web site in your country? France and Canada need reviews.



Simply send your comments to FEEDBACK (at) SYSMOD (dot) COM

Thank you! Patrick O'Beirne, Editor

_______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________

5) Off Topic

Not Valid in Kansas

Many things are no longer valid in Kansas, thanks to the November 8, 2005 mandate by the Kansas State Board of Education. As a public service, the IgNoble Prize committee have created warning stickers that say:

NOT VALID IN KANSAS as per order of the Board of Education, November 8, 2005

Use of this device or substance may require, imply, and/or endorse the existence of one or more of the following: chemistry; evolution; electromagnetism; gravity; mathematics; thermodynamics; education. INKANSAS.pdf

The Kansas Board of Education is co-winner of the 1999 Ig Nobel Prize for Science Education for its earlier work on this subject.

God's Debris now available as a free e-book Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) is giving it away because he found out that most people who read it end up either recommending it or buying the paper version as gifts for other people. The Dilbert blog


Copyright 2005 Systems Modelling Limited, . Reproduction allowed provided the newsletter is copied in its entirety and with this copyright notice.

We appreciate any feedback or suggestions for improvement. If you have received this newsletter from anybody else, we urge you to sign up for your personal copy by sending a blank email to   EuroIS-subscribe (at) yahoogroups (dot) com - it's free!

For those who would like to do more than receive the monthly newsletter, the EuroIS list makes it easy for you to discuss issues raised, to share experiences with the rest of the group, and to contribute files to a common user community pool independent of the web site. I will be moderating posts to the EuroIS list, to screen out inappropriate material.

Patrick O'Beirne, Editor
"Praxis" means model or example, from the Greek verb "to do". The name is chosen to reflect our focus on practical solutions to IS problems, avoiding hype. If you like acronyms, think of it as "Patrick's reports and analysis across Information Systems".
Please tell a friend about this newsletter.
We especially appreciate a link to from your web site!
To read previous issues of this newsletter please visit our web site at

This newsletter is prepared in good faith and the information has been taken from observation and other sources believed to be reliable. Systems Modelling Ltd. (SML) does not represent expressly or by implication the accuracy, truthfulness or reliability of any information provided. It is a condition of use that users accept that SML has no liability for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions. The information is not intended to constitute legal or professional advice. You should consult a professional at Systems Modelling Ltd. directly for advice that is specifically tailored to your particular circumstances.
We guarantee not to sell, trade or give your e-mail address to anyone.
To subscribe to this Newsletter send an email to
EuroIS-subscribe (at) yahoogroups (dot) com
To unsubscribe from this Newsletter send an email to
EuroIS-unsubscribe (at) yahoogroups (dot) com
EuroIS is the distribution list server of the PraxIS newsletter. It also offers a moderated discussion list for readers and a free shared storage area for user-contributed files. The archives of this group are on YahooGroups website