Politecnico Milano switches to English: Good or bad?

Politecnico di Milano
Politecnico di Milano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From a recent BBC News article:

One of Italy’s leading universities – the Politecnico di Milano – is going to switch to the English language. The university has announced that from 2014 most of its degree courses – including all its graduate courses – will be taught and assessed entirely in English rather than Italian.

I still remember my master thesis dissertation at Politecnico in 1997. My thesis, “Modelling the Self-motion and Environmental-motion Coherence in Yaw” was entirely developed in English during a stint at Delft University in the Netherlands. At the time, I was forced to translate back in Italian a 10-page summary of the thesis and my slides. The defense presentation was also delivered in Italian.

I for one welcome the change. English is (still) the language of international business and academia. It will only benefit students to spend a few years prepping for communications in an English-dominated world.

But some strongly disagree:

Something of the precision and quality of teaching and learning will be lost in translation, when both teachers and students are using a second language. “Speaking Italian to our countrymen is like watching a movie in colour, high definition, very clear pictures. On the contrary, speaking English to them, even with our best effort, is, on the average, like watching a movie in black and white, with very poor definition, with blurred pictures,” says Professor Matricciani.

I am not sure I agree with the spirit of the objection. Do you?

Who in the world gets the best broadband access?

Any strategic consideration about the development of web-based applications in a specific market must take into consideration broadband penetration rates and the performance of last mile public connectivity. This is especially true of applications that use large amounts of bandwidth capacity such Broadband and OTT TV, streaming and online gaming. So if you are looking for good worldwide ISP performance data, one source should be the Akamai State of the Internet Report. In their words:

Each quarter, Akamai publishes a quarterly “State of the Internet” report. This report includes data gathered across Akamai’s global server network about attack traffic, average & maximum connection speeds, Internet penetration and broadband adoption, and mobile usage, as well as trends seen in this data over time.

You can download the free quarterly report here, and also use a fun visualization tool to chart network performance in different countries. Who in the world gets the best broadband access?  Find out.

Akamai State of the Internet chart

How is BAIA doing?

For the past 5 years, I have been involved with BAIA, Business Association Italy America. I am currently a member of the board and have been its Executive Director in 2009 and 2010. BAIA is a nonprofit association of professionals, entrepreneurs, students and business people who operate between Italy and the USA.

I am often asked “how is BAIA doing?”. The nonprofit just celebrated its 5th anniversary, so I took a step back and took a moment to look at what we have done lately. By all accounts, BAIA is going strong:

This massive amount of work has been accomplished through the efforts of a dedicated team of pro-bono volunteers (BAIA has no paid staff and every member of BAIA’s Governance and Board is required to volunteer time to run BAIA programs). Most of all, it has been the result of terrific team effort. It is so rare to find such level of team performance in a professional environment. The fact that those who contributed to it do so for free makes the results all the more remarkable.

BAIA has a new website

BAIA, the nonprofit business network I am proud to serve as Executive Director, has a whole new set of web properties. We are starting the new decade with a bang.

BAIA is first and foremost a community, so it comes at no surprise that BAIA Link, our online social network, has become a reference resource for BAIA members and friends. The network is on its way to reach 1,000 members early this year and all performance indicators are on the upswing. Very good.

When entering the US market, think about the cost

Entrepreneurs around the world often grossly underestimate what it takes to enter the US market. Take for example technology or software, sectors that I know. Attracted by the size of the American market and the potential opportunity to raise millions in capital that is not available home, entrepreneurs decide to take the leap and create a beachhead.

Conventional wisdom around Europe and Asia is that a local parent company will keep its engineering and product development home and “open a Silicon Valley office to market the product/service/technology”. Perfect. Until you get down to assessing what resources are required. And assessing you must, least finding out later in the game that you are grossly undersized for the challenge.

I may cover legal costs, accounting, infrastructure, rent and other investments another time. Now I want to focus on talent, the scarcest of resources, even in this market.

Continue reading “When entering the US market, think about the cost”

IMD launches country competitiveness “stress test ranking”

The recently published IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2009 shows some significant changes over last years overall rankings, though not much at the top:

Of the 57 economies ranked by IMD, the US still ranks No. 1 in 2009. Hong Kong has switched places with Singapore to gain the 2nd place and is swiftly “closing the gap” with the US. Switzerland maintains its 4th rank from last year.

Continue reading “IMD launches country competitiveness “stress test ranking””