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Europe in Brief The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to outsource its entire corporate information system infrastructure services under a single prime contractor, the organisation announced earlier this week. The contract will be for a maximum of seven years with a total value exceeding €100m.

Until now, all the Agency's information systems infrastructures and associated services have been outsourced through a number of separate procurements with different contractors.

The new contract will combine the different systems and services into one large contract to be phased in during the third quarter of 2005. The tender is open to companies in ESA Member States and Canada.



Germany: East Germans discover the web

Citizens of East Germany are catching up. According to a new survey of the Institut für Empirische Forschung (LEIF), 56 per cent of East Germans now own a computer, and 45 per cent have access to the net. Five years ago only 9 per cent had internet access.

LEIF interviewed more than 1,200 Germans of 16 years and over in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Berlin, Branchenburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Thüringen and Sachsen. According to LEIF, those with Internet access spend seven hours per week online, about 30 minutes longer than in 2002.



Malta: e-id system deployment imminent

Malta is to introduce an innovative system of electronic identification for all citizens, paving the way for different advanced online services including VAT and income tax.

The e-id, Malta Business Weekly reports, is used to ensure security of personal details when accessing services and processing transactions online. The electronic authentication system, based on encrypted key technology, was developed by Microsoft and Malta Information Technology and Training Services Ltd.



Germany: Hands-free puzzle

At CeBIT this week the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS will demonstrate a computer puzzle (pictured here) which allows contactless play without voice or keyboard. The system recognises via camera the player's hand and face and acts according to the his or her gestures.

Today, man-machine communication is still dominated by keyboard or touch-panel interfaces. The new technology could - in addition to the toy and game sector - find a use for vandal-proof info screens or virtual shop windows.

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