Category Archives: News

Business Bridge Visa Service for Astana in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan was brought to the attention of the world by Sacha Baron Cohen in 2006 when he lampooned the country in his movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan people were a little uneasy about the film but the government were delighted with the tenfold increase in visa applications from tourists. David Cameron’s visit there on Sunday to cut the ribbon on the opening of the world’s costliest (£89bn) oil project at Kashagan, on the Caspian Sea, may show the country in a more serious light and cement its status on the world stage as a rising economic power.

The Kashagan oilfield was discovered in 2000 and is twice the size of Greater London and estimated to contain 35 billion barrels of oil. However, it is a challenging environment to work in not least because the Kashagan is located in shallow water that freezes for five months of the year. Another problem is created by the large number of partner companies in the consortium which include Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, Total, ExxonMobil, KazMunaiGas and Inpex. No one company has a big enough stake to take the lead and so the decision making process is slowed down.

The Prime Minister(PM) was accompanied on the two-day visit by a 33-strong business delegation with a mission to secure £700m worth of deals. Not all of the deals are oil related as the hope is to broaden the scope of investment and trade into new sectors, such as education, healthcare, retail and financial services. The PM said

Kazakhstan is on the rise, a dynamic country that is poised to become a high‑income country by the end of this decade. And a country that also wants to play a bigger role in the region and in the world, not just an emerging market but an emerging power. That is why I want to strengthen relations between our two countries to help us both to succeed in the global race.

Under the Bolashak (means future) Program more than 3,000 Kazakhs study in the United Kingdom. The PM talked about extending this and said that he wanted to attract the brightest and the best students to come to Britain.

The PM also wants to encourage Kazakh companies to invest in Britain. To help with visa applications he announced the piloting of a new visa service, called the Business Bridge, in the new capital of Astana for selected companies. Britain still processes visas in the old capital, Almaty, which is 60 miles away.

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Opportunities for Ireland Post G8

The G8 Summit held on the shores of Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, just a few miles from Enniskillen, is expected to give a boost to the economy on both sides of the border. This summit was hosted by David Cameron representing the UK and attended by the heads of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and United States. Enda Kenny, Ireland’s Taoiseach (PM), attended in his capacity as President of the EU.

Enda Kenny was most likely pleased to have the opportunity to be at the summit but with the crafting of the “Lough Erne Declaration” on taxes there may have been some uncomfortable moments for him as well as long term implications for his country. Politicians both sides of the border will have been delighted to have the opportunity to promote tourism in Ireland. The pictures of these world leaders in such a beautiful setting sans umbrellas was a gift.

Northern Ireland is a prime European location for software development and IT support services. According to the FT, specialisation in IT security and financial services technology has attracted investment from places such as the New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Universities are expanding IT courses to keep pace with demand and there is a plan to increase the number of IT employees in the province from 28,000 to 50,000 by 2018.

Across the border things are looking up on the IT front with companies in Dublin such as Google, Facebook, Linkedin and Microsoft based there. A lot of the jobs will not be in IT development but in sales, marketing, customer support, management and administration. The arrival of Facebook will also have resulted in an influx of multi-lingual people to support their operations in places like Spain, Italy and the Nordic Countries. Microsoft will have more IT development work taking place at their Dublin campus as will the IBM Smarter Cities Technology Centre.

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Got non-EEA Dependents? Money & Not Love Will Conquer All

On 11 June 2012 the Government announced changes to the Immigration Rules for non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) nationals applying to enter or remain in the UK on the family migration route. The changes came into effect for new applicants from the 9th July 2012 and were a response to the pressure on the government to reduce the number of immigrants. The expectation of the Home Office was that the changes would significantly reduce the number of family visas. The full details of the changes are available on UKBA’s website.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Family Migration enquiry was launched on 20 November 2012 to explore the impact of the new rules and their report was released yesterday. The main focus of the enquiry was on the following point:

The new minimum income requirement of £18,600 for British nationals and permanent residents (‘UK sponsors’) seeking to sponsor a non-EEA spouse or partner, rising to £22,400 to sponsor a child in addition and a further £2,400 for each further child included in the application; and the new rules on sponsorship of non-EEA adult dependents applying to come to the UK.

Over 280 submissions were received by the inquiry committee, including over 175 submissions from families who had been adversly affected by the rules. Charities, lawyers, local authorities, businesses and MPs submitted written evidence.
The key official findings are:

  1. Some British citizens and permanent residents in the UK, including people in full-time employment, have been separated from a non-EEA partner and in some cases their children as a result of the income requirement.
  2. Some British citizens and permanent residents have been prevented from returning to
    the UK with their non-EEA partner and any children as a result of the income requirement.
  3. Some children, including British children, have been indefinitely separated from a non-EEA parent as a result of the income requirement.
  4. The current permitted sources in order to meet the income requirement may not fully
    reflect the resources available to some families.
  5. The adult dependent relative visa category appears in effect to have been closed.

In general it is the rigid enforcement of the rules that is the problem. The proposed migrant’s salary cannot be taken into account when calculating the £18,600 even if they have a high salary. In practical terms it means that people with a right to live here cannot bring their high earning partner to live with them if they themselves are not working. They may be looking after their children and have no plans to work or to become a drain on the public purse. If their children were born in a non-EEA country and require a visa the bar to entry is set even higher. The UK misses out on the skills of the ‘dependent’ migrant and the income tax revenue from their high salary. Some people have had to claim benefits when that was never their plan and their children are then growing up in a low income one parent family. In parts of the UK average income levels are well below £18,600 and so that level of income is then not achievable.

The APPG Migration Group had this to say

We urge Government to consider the emerging evidence about what must be the unintended consequences of these rules, and hope they will agree the need fully to review whether, one year on from their introduction, these rules have struck the right balance between different interests.

Increasingly young people are working abroad as part of their career development and when starting a personal relationship are probably not thinking about the complexities of immigrations systems. It would be odd if they were. In the first flush of romance they are more likely to believe that love conquers all.

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IBM Smarter Cities

” On a smarter planet, we want to change the paradigm from react to anticipate” is the slogan of the IBM Smarter Planet global initiative which was started five years ago. IBM Smarter Cities is part of the smarter planet programme. The video Smarter Planet – a UK Introduction gives an idea of how it may impact on our lives.
With the arrival of Big Data, through the use of analytics, mobile technology, social business and the cloud it is now becoming possible to transform how enterprises and institutions operate. The embedding of sensors in cars, roads, cameras, roads, pipelines, appliances is happening and systems are beginning to ‘speak’ to each other which results in the capture of masses of data in backend systems. This data can be mined and analysed and if the queries are structured intelligently should produce information on better ways of doing or organising things.

The IBM Research – Ireland lab is IBM Smarter Cities Technology Centre and conducts research in water, energy, transportation, city fabric, risk, exascale computing, and marine environments in collaboration with top universities, cities, and industry partners. The leading academic institutions involved are Cambridge University, the Australian National University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Trinity College Dublin.

Researchers at NUI Maynooth have received €2.3m of funding for a major five-year project which will analyse how software and technology can influence life in a city. The focus will be on two cities: Dublin and Boston in the US. Boston is ranked number one on a global index of ‘smart’ cities while Dublin is a key technology hub in Europe. The research is  funded by a five-year ERC (European Reaserch Council) grant.

Some Findings on Dublin as a Smart City

  • A 2007 study of traffic congestion revealed that even though small if taken as a percentage of gross domestic product then Dublin was the world leader in this sphere over cities such as Manila, Dakar and Mexico City. The challenge was and still is to maintain the historic fabric of the city and  improve the transport network without any major re-development. Dublin City Council has been collecting and analysing data, in partnership with IBM and journey time information is now released and updated every minute.Residents can go online and find the quickest route to their destination. This is just the beginning and eventually people will be updated on problems via their mobiles while on route to their destinations and advice on alternative means of completing their journeys will be given which may be bicycle, tram, taxi or even on foot.
  • IBM’s vision for water is stated as

    Our vision is an intelligent, integrated, and instrumented water system for our cities of the future, where both the quantity and quality of our water resources is constantly being monitored, predicted, and optimized, from rain to drain and back again.

    The citizens of Dublin could vouch for the fact that even when there is a strong bond between rain and drain, over a prolonged period of time, that they still have water shortages. A Dublin City report states that 29 percent of the water produced never reaches the consumer due to water leaking from the city’s distribution system. This is due to the age of the network and many of the pipes are in such poor condition that they are prone to bursts, leaks and low water pressure. Replacing the infrastructure is a costly, time-consuming and disruptive especially when streets need to be dug up.

    To reduce the amount of water lost Dublin City Council in collaboration with IBM is combining analytics, sensor data, and optimization models to find the best places in the network to install pressure reducing valves. Once installed, the models recommend the best settings to minimize leakage while meeting the requirements of the city. Dublin’s Chapelizod area showed potential to reduce leakage up to 44 percent, allowing water providers to serve 15 percent more households without investment in more production capacity or adversely affecting consumers.

‘Garbage in garbage out’ still holds true so human intelligence is a requirement for digital smartness. There are and will be no shortage of jobs for big data scientists, big data analysts and others but there will be a shortage of suitably qualified people to fill the posts.

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Can SAP Dance in the Cloud?

There is an unspoken rule that startups do not combine open source technology with commercial technology according to Dan Woods, writing for Forbes. He explains that for startups dependent on Big Data this rule may have to be broken as suitable open source applications are not yet available to work with MapReduce and Hadoop.

So what does MapReduce do?

A simple  example of how it is used is given by Jen Cohen Crompton in a SAP blog:

A consumer retail brand is looking to identify the most frequently purchased products (the top three) from a cross-section of customers as part of a market research initiative focused on merchandising. Let’s say they are looking for data on women within a specific geographic area, which is information provided in each customer profile stored in their CRM database. There might be 2,000 women meeting the identified qualifications and therefore, this big data set needs to be sorted.

The input data for this query would be the profiles of the individual customers within the specifications. After the query is created and sent, the mapping function would sort through the profiles, then identify and send the most frequently purchased products to the reducer. The reducer would compare and aggregate the data generated from each map task and return an output file featuring the top three most frequently purchased products from the cross-section.

The MapReduce process is key in sorting through the big data that might be available when submitting a query. The goal is to create the most accurate output in the shortest amount of time.


Rafael Coss of IBM gives a similar explanation in his YouTube video:

And what does Hadoop do?

The official explanation is available here.

A good explanation is given by Jen Cohen Crompton here

Overall, Hadoop enables applications to work with huge amounts of data stored on various servers. Hadoop’s functions allow the existing data to be pulled from various places (since now, data is not centralized, but distributed in places using cloud technology) and use the MapReduce technology to push the query code and run a proper analysis, therefore returning the desired results.

As for the more specific functions, Hadoop has a large-scale file system (Hadoop Distributed File System or HDFS), it can write programs, it manages the distribution of programs, then accepts the results, and generates a data result set.

Hadoop’s main shortcoming is that it is a batch type system and not useful for real time processing which is necessary for real time analytics if business value is to be extracted from Big Data. Hadoop development requires advanced expertise and MapReduce is a complex form of programming. There are projects underway that will in the fullness of time provide open source applications to deal with these problems. In the meantime SAP HANA is available to startups where time to market is crucial but it is a licensed solution. According to SAP their solution will

Run your business in real real time. SAP and partner solutions powered by SAP HANA can help you dramatically accelerate analytics, business processes, predictive analysis, and sentiment data processing – all on a single in-memory computing platform.


SAP is doing its best to answer the challenges presented to it by the arrival of the cloud and Big Data. Most of the big companies with whom they have long established relationships want their data kept safely in SAP’s data storage centres and some have more data than a few of the biggest cloud users. SAP has started running existing corporate applications on HANA for these customers in its own data centres. This is giving their staff direct contact with office workers for the first time which should improve usability and their profile.

New cloud application companies appeal directly to office workers by giving them free applications and charging further down the line for enhanced developments. Young companies have no ties to old IT and are free to build on new computing architecture and thereby depriving companies like SAP of future customers. The company has launched a $155 million fund partially to encourage use of SAP HANA by startups. For it to be adopted by this fraternity it needs to become easy for them to download and experiment with to see where Hadoop and SAP HANA can work together and have a reasonable pricing model.

Can SAP Dance in the Cloud?

Last month for the first time SAP broke down their sales figures for their cloud business from their other sales and this showed that revenue from HANA had tripled year-on-year to £86 million. When Bill McDermott, co-chief executive was asked to comment by the FT he responded with “We said that we would focus on the cloud, mobile and big data. We can grow as fast as them and gain share against them, so why not break it out and show SAP can dance – and that’s what we’re doing, we’re dancing,”

Click How Hadoop and SAP HANA can Accelerate Big Data Startups to read the full article by Dan Woods.

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Jobs for Oil, Gas & Renewable Energy Consultants in Aberdeen

A report published in Novemeber 2012 by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) revealed that Aberdeen was one of the three happiest locations in the UK – Oxford and Reading/Bracknell were the others – and the most contented in Scotland. With Aberdeen this is due in no small part to their second oil boom which continues to bring prosperity to the area.

In March 2013 the Scottish Government announced consent for the development of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay.The development of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy offers a new field of technology and expertise. Only 2% of residents claim benefits. Jobs are plentiful in Aberdeen, highly specialised and well paid. The skills are transferable to most places in the world.

The prosperity brings its own problems it seeems. “Aberdeen is the only place in the country that is suffering from the challenges of success rather than the problems of failure.” Robert Collier, CEO of the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce told the Guardian. The biggest concerns are housing, transport and a shortage of skilled energy sector workers.

The housing shortage is so severe that it is difficult to get a bed in the youth hostel during the working week. If you do manage to book in to go walking in the hills you may find plenty of oil workers to chat to in the evenings. House prices in the area have more than doubled in the last ten years. For those who manage to ‘find their feet’ Robert Collier has encouraging news “We also have two very strong universities here, and 30% of all Scotland’s food and drink exports come from here. Our tourism and biosciences sectors are flourishing, and there is social and cultural hinterland beyond with great skiing facilities and the Cairngorms national park nearby.” There are plans to extend the airport runway, improve shipping channels and the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour, create an Olympic sized swimming pool and an iconic university library building.

In the opinion of PwC Aberdeen needs to recruit 120,000 skilled workers over the next 10 years or risk losing its place as one of the world’s great energy centres. Half the local industry’s workforce is aged over 45 and so just replacing them is a challenge in itself. With the planned and potential increases in activity there is the added challenge of recruiting these new people to work in Aberdeen while competing for staff with other oil and gas centres around the globe. There are and will be opportunities for consultants in oil, gas and renewable energy for the forseeable future.

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Big Data Scientist | Big Data Specialist is the Hot New Career in IT

Big Data Scientist / Data Specialist is the hot new career in IT. Big Data could add £216bn to the UK economy by 2017, as well as create 58,000 new jobs according to a report released in April 2012 by The Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) claimed that .

Big data is a broad term for data sets that are too large and complex to manage with conventional database tools. Not long ago computer programmers wrote their code with the cost of memory firmly at the forefront of their minds and data storage was expensive. Now we have the Cloud which gives affordable and easily available data storage and processing power online.

Having this data presents opportunities for business if they can identify growth or savings opportunities. They can even sell their data. According to IBM big data spans four dimensions: Volume, Velocity, Variety, and Veracity. The last one is the most challenging. 1 in 3 business leaders don’t trust the information they use to make decisions. Establishing trust in big data presents a huge challenge as the variety and number of sources grows.

Here are some examples of how big data is used:
(Source: New Scientist Magazine 27th April 2013)

  • There was a 35 minute power outage at this years Superbowl which is the climax of the US footabll season. It has an audience of 100 million and advertisers pay $4 million for a 30 second airtime advertising slot. A big data company called Datashift was giving feedback to the advertisers in real time on how the ads were perceived by extracting information from twitter feeds. The biscuit maker Oreo put an new ad together on the hoof which simply said “Power Outage? No Problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” Oreo’s quick action was actually more successful thant their carefully planned advert. The message was retweeted 14,000 times and increased their Twitter following by 14%.
  • Through store loyalty cards companies can send tailored offers to people depending on what the data says is happening in their lives. In the US a man complained to a company called Target because they sent his teenage daughter vouchers for baby related products and he felt this was inappropriate. It transpired that his daughter was pregnant.
  • A casino thought that the best revenue generators were the ‘hig-rollers’ but data analysis showed that elderly slot players contributed more to their bottom line.

Big Data Employment Opportunities
Data scientist jobs will mention requirements such as experience in working with large data sets and working with distributed computing tools, such as Map/Reduce, Hadoop, Hive, Mahout, Pig, R, Matlab, NumPy SAS Sql and NoSQL. Most big data systems have to be built on top of Hadoop or some distributed environment.  There are very few packaged applications that run on top of Hadoop. Right now the technical jobs outnumber the analysis jobs.

IQWorkforce, a US analytics company, has this to say about employing big data specialists “There are lots of foreign nationals working in big data. If you want to recruit a data scientist, an engineer or a distributed system architect you should be prepared to sponsor a work visa.” Furthermore they say ” If you want a 2-3 year data scientist or a 2-3 year statistical modeler you can either catch lightening in a bottle or sponsor a visa.” It is a similar situation here in the UK. Demand for UK big data specialists will increase by 92% over the next five years and we are already experiencing a skills shortage axccording to SAS, a leading company in analytics software and services.

You might like to read about IT Consulting on Tier 2 General.

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UK Trying to Simplify Visa Access for Chinese Tourists

The government recognised that it could greatly help the economy if the process was made easier for particular groups of people to come here on business, as students or as tourists. At the end of March 2013 the abolition of UKBA was announced. It was replaced with two services one of which is focused on making high-quality decisions about who comes here, with a culture of customer satisfaction for business men and visitors who want to come here legally.

Home Office ministers are to start talks with Chinese tour operators with the aim of setting up an easier visa application system for high spending Asian visitors. Chinese visitors can visit the whole of Europe on a Schengen visa apart from the UK and Ireland. Consideration was given to having one process for both visas but it was reported in the FT yesterday that Mark Harper the immigration minister, had considered this but it was ruled out because of complex issues around IT and data protection. He is keen to make the process as simple as possible for tour operators.The rest of Europe has not got a real vested interest in this issue and the only country that would stand to gain from this is Ireland. Visiting the UK is a bigger draw for the Chinese simply because of London, the Royal Family and it is so much bigger with so many places of historical importance to see. Once they have a visa for here it is very easy to then tag Ireland onto their trip.

In China there are two ‘Golden Weeks’ – Spring Festival Week and National Day Week which is at the beginning of October. During these two weeks, most people go out and enjoy themselves which boosts the economy, hence the nickname ‘Golden Week’. Increasingly Chinese people travel abroad and spend about £2.4 billion on luxury goods such as watches, perfume, handbags, designer clothes, fine wines and cigars. Retailers in the UK would like them to spend more of their money here. Selfridges for example employ Mandarin speaking staff and accept China’s main credit card which is China Union Pay. The last two weeks of July is also a period of high spend here as families and students prepare for graduation ceremonies.

These shopping sprees are important to the West End but also important for designer outlets throughout the country as they are popular too with the Chinese who want luxury Western goods at bargain prices. McArthur Glen is a company heavily involved in the development of these retail outlets and is so keen to encourage the Chinese to visit that it is a founder member of the UK China Visa Alliance which campaigns for the change in the visa application process. The Home Office is to begin publishing visa guidance in Mandarin from next month but the form itself will still be in English. According to a report in CNBC the French culture is something that exports well to China and consumers who are nouveau-riche want to do displays of conspicuous consumption. The Chinese consumers are already big buyers of French luxury products, wines and cheeses. According to Mark Henderson of the UK China Visa Alliance, we need to do more to make these people welcome and not just those who come here on tours but high net worth visitors who may never use a tour company.


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Record Investment Flowing into the North Sea as Oil Flows Again

Oil and gas engineering contractors and consultants roll up, roll up and hear the good news!

According to BBC News a consortium of oil companies is to invest more than £330m in an appraisal drilling programme which could lead to the development of a massive Atlantic field. The BP-led consortium said drilling had already started on the first of five wells planned over the next two years at Clair, West of Shetland.

Oonagh Werngren,Oil and Gas UK‘s Operations Director, said: “We welcome the news that BP is investing significantly in appraising the third phase of its Clair field to the west of Shetland. By applying the latest technologies, BP and its partners have, through continued investment over a number of years, unlocked significant potential that had previously lain unexplored. The Clair field is proving that there are exciting giant fields still to be explored on the UKCS.

There have been other announcements in recent months. The UK sanctioned $7bn investment by Statoil of Norway in the Mariner field which requires pioneering technology and will bring hundreds of high skilled, long-lasting oil and gas jobs across the country. It is expected to produce oil and gas for thirty years.

The change in North Sea Oil fortunes is partly due to the emergence of new technology that has helped extract reserves from sites that were in the past classed as uneconomic and are referred to as ‘awkward squad’ fields. According to a report in the FT, Malcolm Webb, Chief Executive of Oil and Gas UK Group,the capital investment in new fields will rise from £11.4bn last year to £13bn in 2013. There is a five fold increase in production on the average for the past three years resulting in 470 million barrels of oil and gas coming on stream.

The other influence has been the government’s series of tax allowances promoting the exploitation of small and technically challenging fields. A strategy document entitled ‘UK Oil & Gas – Business and Government action. You can access a copy here.

This industry provides a source of employment for over 400 thousand people across the UK.

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Appointment Fee for UK Visa for a Fairer and Faster System

Overseas business people and students have suffered from long delays in acquiring visas simply because they have not been able to get an appointment. The problem was caused by individuals and organisations booking several appointments at a time which then prevented others from taking up those appointments. 20 to 30% of the appointments were ‘no shows’ and a waste of visa officials time. According to a BBC investigation ‘scammers’ were selling free appointments for as much as £200 to people wanting to process their visas.

A new pre-payment system to help prevent the abuse and increase the efficiency of premium visa appointments was launched on the 8th April 2013 by Immigration Minister, Mark Harper. Visa applicants pay £375 for an appointment and will now have to pay a refundable deposit of £100 when booking an appointment. If they fail to keep it they will not get a refund unless they have cancelled it at least five working days days in advance. The Home Office also plan to launch an online application pre-payment service later in the year as part of its commitment to improving customer service.

Mark Harper said “We are determined to ensure that genuine visa applicants receive the very best visa service possible, and this is just one of the changes that we will be introducing to make sure this is the case.

The new system will help to make more appointments available for genuine applicants and help protect them from paying unnecessary and often unfair fees to agencies or individuals.”

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