Its that time of year when the tech industry flocks in droves to that dreary, grey German city called Hanover to celebrate the sector, to make deals, to network and connect and to round it all off in the evenings with swanky company dos, right? Well, that used to be. We know that CeBIT has lost its glam factor, its lustre â even if it still claims to be the worldâs No.1 tech and IT fair. And, alas, we know that the industry is increasingly shifting its focus to the much hotter trade shows in Spain and the United States. In hindsight, could it have been a desperate attempt to ward off the slide into oblivion when CeBIT invited Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to open the fair last year? Or a sign of times to come? Schwarzenegger symbolises a mix of Californian innovation and Hollywood glamour. But the state he governs is in a budget crisis and some are asking is California AmericaÂs first failed state? Not a comforting sign. And then thereÂs this: GermanyÂs very own chancellor Angela Merkel said what has been on the mind of industry experts for years now, given a massive decline in visitors and the absence of top executives. âIt hasnât always been easy and even now, one has to be hard-nosed about it â it is still the (sectorâs) biggest tradeshow, but one does feel the breeze of the competition, â Merkel said, speaking at this yearâs CeBIT opening ceremony â the 25th since its inception. Merkel also said that she wanted CeBIT to remain the industryâs biggest event, looking forward to the fairâs 50th birthday (that would be in 2035â¦). Yet, if the top-dog barks, itâs clear that somethingâs not right. What do you think, whereâs CeBIT headed? Does it have a future or will it sink into oblivion?
The temperature is near freezing, but the felt-lined, wood-lattice structure provides shelter from the blustery winds of the Gobi Desert. The thick portable tent of the typical nomadic home traps both heat and the gamey smells of mutton boiling on the stove and strips of meat hung from the ceiling.Milk in a large cloth sack is left to strain into a metal bucket nearby.While the Mongolian government relies on the country’s resources such as gold, copper, coal and other minerals to attract foreign investment, some of its nomadic population are offering homestays to supplement their rural incomes, capitalising on the opening up of their country.”We are happy to let visitors stay in our ger. In Mongolia, we can drop in on friends and people can visit us without any notice,” said Tovshinto Vaanchig, a 51-year-old horse herder who also owns sheep and goats.But getting to the homestays, often in the herders’ own one-room gers, remains tough.Visitors must endure hours in four-wheel drives on bumpy terrain across sweeping steppes. The landlocked country remains in a time warp, with many of its people living side-by-side with animals and retaining old traditions.The Gobi Desert, which spans northwestern China and southern Mongolia, is notable in history as part of the great Mongol Empire and the Silk Road. More recently, the desert has been a treasure trove for anthropologists and miners.Tour guide Oyunbolor Demberel and her father Demberel Otgon rely on tourists who want to see the unspoilt natural wonder of the Gobi’s sand dunes, mountains and steppes for work during a few months each year from May to September.”I am happy to be on the road several months of the year when I have the chance to meet foreigners and take them around the Gobi,” said the 72-year-old Otgon, who used to be a government accountant but now freelances with tour agencies.CAMEL COUNTRY, WILD HORSESAfter a few hours of driving around a region of the desert inhabited by horse herders, Otgon finds a family who have suitably calm, wild horses for tourists. Mongolian children learn to race these small horses when they are about six years old and many are expert riders who use no saddle.Apart from horses, cows, goats and sheep, Mongolia’s herding economy depends on the hardy, two-humped Bactrian camel which is indigenous to Central Asia.Enktuya Borokhin, 52, is the matriarch of a camel-herding family. She moved six weeks ago to find pasture for 400 animals and will relocate again in a month in search of better shelter for winter. The Gobi has extreme temperatures, from minus 40 degrees Celsius in winter to more than 40 degrees in summer.Borokhin’s tourist ger is spartan but the walls are decorated with colourful cotton cloth from China. The family moves their only stove into the ger for guests and end up cooking all their hot meals with their visitors.The daily staple is meat, such as mutton and goat, although Mongolians also seat camel, horse and beef. Milk tea is commonly served with curd and fried biscuits.They cook a stew by candlelight. As night falls, the camp eases into sleep, lulled by sounds from braying camels to barking dogs.Borokhin is up at dawn when the sun pokes through the horizon in a soft haze of pink.Her daughter Gantsetseg skillfully lines up goats for milking behind the gers. The necks of the animals are tied with rope woven so that they are lined up in two rows facing one another. The milk, cheese and other animal produce, including wool, are sold.Borokhin says she is pleased that three of her children are studying agriculture and technology in the city, while three others have chosen to live in the countryside as herders.CITY OPPORTUNITIES, COUNTRY LIFE”My children have new opportunities in the city but in the country we can live off the animals and the land,” she said.Mongolia does not manufacture substantial amounts of finished goods and cannot sustain economic growth without significant exports of resources to neighbouring countries. People who move to the capital Ulan Bator are hard pressed to find work and unemployment is a problem.Bordering Russia and China, Mongolia has a population of about 2.8 million, with less than half living a nomadic life. It is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world and does not have the skill base, the capital nor the capacity to carry out large mining projects without foreign investment.Tourism is also hamstrung by poor infrastructure.”I earned good money when I worked for a mining company doing data entry, but these jobs are hard to come by,” said tour guide Demberel, 35.”We hear stories of people who have found gold and now everyone hopes they too can find gold. The big cars in the cities are owned by those people in mining,” she said.Even as Mongolia looks forward, the past remains close in the form of legendary warrior Genghis Khan, who established the Mongol empire in 1206. His name is on everything from the capital’s airport to postcards and vodka.”We don’t have much but we are a rich country with a long history. In Mongolia, we say that Chinggis Khaan is still feeding us,” Demberel added.
* Shares close 2 pct higherLONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - British life insurer Standard Life said an upcoming regulatory change could deliver 400,000 new members to the pension schemes it runs for corporate clients, boosting sales.The influx of new customers will be triggered by the switch in November next year to so-called auto-enrolment, under which employers will automatically sign staff up to a corporate pension plan, Standard Life Managing Director Stephen Ingledew said in a presentation to analysts on Wednesday.Standard Life, Britain’s fifth-biggest insurer, runs about 35,000 corporate pensions schemes which currently attract just 55 percent of their total potential members, Ingledew said.Standard Life shares closed 2 percent higher at 212.75 pence, lagging at 3 percent rise in the Stoxx 600 European share index .”The group is very well placed for the structural changes taking place in the UK market and we think this will become clear in 2012,” analysts at JP Morgan Cazenove wrote in a note.”Overall we stick with our view that Standard Life will be the winner from auto-enrolment.”Standard Life finance chief Jackie Hunt reiterated that a programme of technology investment aimed at preparing the group for auto-enrolment and other regulatory changes would cost about 200 million pounds ($315.5 million) this year, falling to about 180 million pounds in 2012.Standard Life said in August that the investment contributed to a bigger than expected increase in its first-half profit, soothing investors who had criticised the company for failing to spell out when the spending would yield results.