Nortal attends St. Petersburg Logistics Days

March 19, 2014

Saint Petersburg Logistics Days is dedicated to the business opportunities and challenges in the logistics sector and brings together companies as well as public sector institutions  from Finland, Estonia, Germany and Russia. The Logistics Days take place 20 - 21 March, 2014 at Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge in Saint Petersburg. Saint Petersburg Logistics Days is organised by German-Finnish Chamber of Commerce.

Nortal as a long-term and experienced solutions provider of the logistics sector is one of the companies attending the Logistics Days. Finland’s largest harbour-operators in Kotka, Hamina and Helsinki manage the industrial production, materials, logistics and transportation through Nortal systems that help operators build cost-effective business models and run operations more efficiently. Nortal just recently finished the first successful project in Russia and opened a new office in Moscow and is therefor looking for opportunities to expand its activity and competence to the Russian market.
 
Also, Oleg Shvaikovsky, Nortal Board Member gives a speech on the trends of information flows in future logistics operations and the challenges in logistics information systems– from chain of operations to integrated flow. Mr. Shaikovsky’s presentation is part of the Logistics Days official program. 

Mr. Christian Pegel, Minister for Energy, Infrastructure and State Development, Federal State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Mr. Viktor Olersky, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation are also attending the event.

Further information: http://www.saintpetersburg-logistics.com/

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Nortal at Labquality Days

February 10, 2014

Labquality Days is a training and trade fair for the clinical laboratory field organised by Labquality Oy, which draws about 1,000 participants annually to the Helsinki Messukeskus trade fair centre. Labquality Days provide participants with world class lectures in Laboratory Medicine and Quality in Diagnostics as well as Patient Safety. This year, the 41th congress was held in Helsinki on February 6-7. The theme of the congress was Quality in Diagnostics.

Nortal eHealth started its cooperation with Labquality in April 2011. Labquality provides medical laboratories around the world External Quality Assessment (EQA) programmes that include measuring accuracy for analyses, internal processes and staff trainings. The IT development project, which was initially planned as relatively modest in scope, has now grown into a long-term and high-volume project codenamed "LabScala" with a development plan to last at least until the year 2016. 

That was also the main reason for Nortal eHealth team to attend the Labquality Days – to support LabQuality in launching and promoting their new direct integration project with MyLab's Laboratory Information System (LIS), learn about newest trends about external laboratory quality assurance and introduce who we are and what we are doing to the Finnish, and international laboratory medicine world.

Nortal-developed medical information integration between LIS and LabScala gives the possibility for laboratories to integrate external quality checks into their regular work processes. This gives them a possibility to decrease the turnover times of getting analysis of their results -  therefore laboratories know earlier about their devices needing calibration or maintenance. For us, patients, it means that it's more likely that our test results are correct :). Live of the solution is planned for October 2014 and after that also other LIS can integrate with the system. During LabQuality Days, a proof of concept demo was held, where attendees could make a measurement in MyLab's booth and immediately see their results in LabScala – around half of the visitors used the possibility. Labquality and Mylab both were extremely satisfied with the work, demo, and the comments received from participants about this project.

LabScala is currently supporting laboratories in their results reporting and not so much on what happens before and after the measurements. The congress focused more on the preanalytical than postanalytical phase of the analysis, which is not easily to be controlled (studies show that >50% of lab errors come from preanalytical phase mistakes). This includes how the samples materials should be gathered, prepared, treated after taking measurements and what kind of actions should be avoided. 

The congress topics also included: 
  • European QC Update – Where should we aim
  • Preanalytical quality – Incidents before test
  • Analytical quality – How to assess the clinical effectiveness of laboratory
  • Postanalytical quality – How to interpret test results
  • Quality systems in the laboratory - Accreditation based on ISO 17043
  • EQA update – Role for better patient safety

Further information: http://www.labquality.fi/labquality-paivat/in-english/

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Nortal developed GoSign for Lithuanian Centre of Register

January 30, 2014

On January 22, Lithuanian Centre of Register introduced a new e-documents signing and sharing portal GoSign that was developed and implemented by Nortal.

GoSign portal enables to store, share and digitally sign documents. GoSign users can sign documents, verify a signed document, send invitation to sign a document, follow the document signing process and store signed documents without registration or additional fees. No more printing, mailing, faxing or couriers. Signing anything digitally is much more convenient than signing a hard copy. It saves time and costs. Furthermore, all legally active citizens already have infrastructure to use digital signature.

It is believed that GoSign will provide users with a wider access to the personal signature of the related formalities without leaving our home or office. In this way, some of the private life and business processes will be able to move from paper to electronic space. It is usual that contract signing process usually takes from week to several months – for today it is a long period of time.

Above all, digital signatures are legally binding in Lithuania and many countries around Europe. GoSign.lt keeps documents private and secure.

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Nortal promotes Finnish-Estonian partnership in Service Bus Project

January 16, 2014

On January 15, 2014 Nortal, Estonian Embassy in Finland and Enterprise Estonia organized a joint invitational seminar to discuss the experiences of the Estonian X-Road Service Bus and the launch of new online services within the scope of the Finnish Service Bus Project. Also the Finnish-Estonian partnership for developing best practices in eGovernment was discussed. More than 60 high-ranking executives representing authorities and private service firms participated in the seminar that was held in Helsinki.

In November 2013 Finnish and Estonian governments entered into an agreement pursuant to which Estonia grants Finland the right to utilize Estonian X-Road service bus and access to its source code free of charge. Thus Finland can take the immediate advantage of readily available and proven components of the Estonian X-Road. According to Mr. Pauli Kartano, project lead of the Finnish Service Bus Project at the Ministry of Finance and a keynote speaker of the seminar, X-Road will become one of the key pillars of the Finnish digital infrastructure for eServices. The aim is to facilitate data flow between different organizations and services, as well as contribute to the emergence of new kinds of online services. “X-Road is an enabler of the new services because it provides shared data available in a safe and controlled environment, although, simply speaking, it is a data transmission layer only,” Kartano explained.

The seminar was also honored by the presence of Henna Virkkunen, Finland’s Minister of Public Administration and Local Government, and Juhan Parts, Estonia’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications, who also gave their speeches. According to minister Virkkunen, ICT-systems currently used by the Finnish public sector are siloed and non-compliant thus preventing productivity growth as well as blocking the emergence of new online services based on the use of authorities’ shared databases. The vast majority of citizens would be comfortable to deal with the authorities online over the internet whenever it suits them best. On the other hand, online services enable authorities to streamline their internal processes and lighten the administrative burden for citizens. As an example Minister Virkkunen raised the eServices provided by the Finnish Tax Administration, which successfully have combined both improved customer service and increased productivity.

There are high expectations for Finnish-Estonian cooperation but thanks to the close relations there are good reasons for success. “This is a unique opportunity both for Estonia and Finland to learn from each other´s different practices. The challenges in the ICT-area have rarely only one right solution. By cooperating we can utilize the special expertise available in both countries and achieve better results,” appraised minister Virkkunen in her post-seminar release. Minister Parts from his side sees the opportunity to deepen the partnership even further, towards the establishment of an international “Innovation Institute” focusing on eGovernment issues. “eServices in the future will become more and more cross-border. It doesn’t make sense to create the infrastructure elements by each country separately, instead it would be smart to cooperate and join forces in that activity“, envisioned minister Parts in his release.

X-Road has been in use more than ten years as part of the Estonia’s common ICT-infrastructure enabling the shared use of authorities’ databases. For software and ICT-consulting firms operating in Estonian market, such as market leader Nortal, it is a normal practice to integrate government agencies’ applications and databases with X-Road. Nortal wants to strongly promote the success of the Finnish Service Bus Project, as well as to help Finnish authorities and businesses to take advantage of the benefits of the service bus. "Nortal and its partner network has a long-term experience and accumulated in-depth knowledge of building Estonian eServices and applications, as well as the integration with X-Road. This know-how is available in Finland through our local company on one-stop-shop basis,” added Timo A. Rantanen, head of Nortal Public Sector and Services Business in Finland.

"We are very pleased for the first concrete steps of service bus-related cooperation between Finland and Estonia, It's great that the best know-how in both countries is harnessed to develop increasingly versatile, cost-effective, user-friendly and reliable online services for eGovernment," said Rantanen.

Nortal´s contacts for further information:
Jukka Lehtonen, +358 500 502 639 
Juha Manninen, +358 40 671 6145
Timo A. Rantanen, +358 400 621 597

See also:
Release by Henna Virkkunen, Finland’s Minister of Public Administration and Local Government
Release by Juhan Parts, Estonia’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications (in Estonian)

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Lithuanian Post's eDelivery is Lithuanian "Best Technological Product of Year 2013"

December 27, 2013

"Best Product of the Year" award is organised by Lithuanian Business Confederation. Lithuanian Post's eDelivery was nominated and consequently won in the category of the "Best Technological Product of the Year". The eDelivery solution of Lithuanian Post was developed and implemented by Nortal.

eDelivery is a national electronic post system which allows to deliver electronic documents and notices. With eDelivery system registered correspondence sent by state institutions can legally be received and sent online. 

According to Mikas Jovaišas, the Head of Business Development Department of Lithuanian Post, Lithuania is one of the first countries in the world that has a possibility to send the registered correspondence online. "The key advantage of the eDelivery system is that the system mode is legally regulated: it has the same evidentiary and legal power as a registered postal item has. Furthermore, service is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week and despite the system user's location: all you need is internet access. The period of registered mail delivery is reduced from several days to several seconds. This is an innovative approach and another step towards the efficient use of information and communication technologies which would almost completely change the registered paper correspondence in the future and enable to create convenient, easily accessible, and useful electronic services for delivery of electronic messages and documents to private and legal persons," Jovaišas added.

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Äripäev: Nortal takes Omani Government to the Cloud

December 16, 2013

On December 11, Estonian daily business newspaper Äripäev published an interview with Peeter Smitt. Here's the translation. 


Nortal, Estonian IT company will take Omani Government's e-administration to a next level – soon Oman could pass E-stonia by taking a step further in terms of the speed of tax declaration. Peeter Smitt, Nortal Country Manager in the Gulf Region answered Äripäev's questions. 

Nortal recently won three major public procurements in Oman with total volume of 20 million euros. One of the procurements was Oman Tax Administration. Is there anything different compared to the Estonian Tax Administration?

Nortal develops the Omani Tax Administration project with a local company. But paying, declaring or collecting taxes in Oman is similar to any other country. The main difference compared to Estonia is probably the fact that as Oman's main source of revenue is oil and gas, the collection of taxes is not as high a national priority as it is here. It is also important to note that the Tax Office processes only the business income tax. There has also been talk of implementing VAT in a more distant future.                            

What do you think how much will implementing an e-tax system change the overall business culture in Oman?

I don't think Tax Administration's electronic environment will substantially change the business culture. Paying and declaring taxes will become faster and easier for the businesses, collecting taxes will become cheaper for the state.

The current situation in Oman resembles very much the Estonian pre e-tax era – everything is still on paper. There is a back-office system, but it does not cover everything. When our project is completed, the Omanis should have as an effective system as do the Estonians. There's also hope Omanis could declare their taxes even faster than the Estonians once the new system has been implemented in 18 months. Mainly due to their less regulated legislation. 

You are also developing Oman's electronic business register – Once Stop Shop. What will change?

The main purpose of the Oman One Stop Shop project is to change the current processes and to support electronic business management. The two-year-long project will replace the existing back office system and build a new self-service environment. 66 new e-services will be created involving Oman's police, Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Oman's chamber of commerce, and many other government institutions. The new consolidated e-services environment will also include the business register, the information system of the business register, annual reporting, a centralized registry of licenses (both application and registration). Once the project has been realized all of the daily communication between Omani businesses and their state should be conducted electronically.

What do you think how keen will the Omani entrepreneurs be to use the e-business register?

Oman is a very modern country and naturally the entrepreneurs would like to use more e-services. For the past 40 years, Oman has completely built up its state infrastructure. Their new goal is to substantially raise their e-capabilities. This is a national priority. They have even developed an E-Transformation Plan that sets the how and at what speed the ministries should increase their e-levels and in which direction to move. 

What can be said about your third large project - the so-called Government Cloud?

Nortal will develop a platform based on open source that enables the Oman Government and other state authorities to locate their information systems to a central state-managed private cloud. Meaning the state authorities will no longer need to maintain their IT-infrastructures. By implementing gCloud, Oman will take a step further and thus pass Estonia e-government wise.

What is the attitude towards Nortal projects in Oman?

Nortal team has successfully implemented three projects in the past two years and this has given us a very good reputation at the local market – if you trust Nortal with something it will be done as agreed. Our new contracts are a living proof of that.

Both One Stop Shop as well as gCloud (Government Cloud) are extremely visible and significant projects – one is expected to improve Omani business environment and thereby create new jobs, and the other is to substantially save the whole public sector IT-infrastructure costs and set an efficiency example.

Surely Estonia's reputation as an e-state and our government's commitment to help Estonian businesses abroad cannot be underestimated. Estonia is very well known for its e-government in Oman and also in other Middle East countries. 

Oman is a sultanate – do the laws and registries apply as they do in other countries or are there any eccentricities?

Oman is a modern state, which does not differ in its foundations or in any other way from Europe. Surely there are differences in specific laws and regulations, or in the level of atomization of the registers, but generally the country functions the same way as most of Southern Europe. Laws apply the same way but the lawmaking is probably faster and more efficient. And there is much more personal interaction and communication and fewer e-mails compared to Estonia.

Was there anything surprising about Oman IT-solutions and developments?

We have come across in Oman as well as in other countries that m-services are often more applied than the e-services, mainly because 3G is more common than high-speed internet. 

Do you have an office in Oman?

Nortal has had a registered company and an office in Oman for the past three years. There are approximately 50 people of seven different nationalities working at our Oman projects. And there are over 20 people working daily at our Muscat office. The numbers are constantly growing.

Omani culture is extremely friendly and social, but it's also very personal at the same time. In order to open some doors and to get a foot in the door, you have to communicate face to face. You have to build and maintain relationships. 

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Nortal Spin-Off Plumbr Raises $1M Seed Round

November 13, 2013

Plumbr, the company that helps customers such as NATO and Dell predict and avoid software failures, today announced the closing of a $1 million round led by London-based US/UK angel investor Matt Arnold. Other participating investors include the former head of Skype Estonia Sten Tamkivi and the founders of global mobile-payment firm Fortumo. Nortal is also an investor from a previous round. 

Known for its capability to find and solve memory leaks, Plumbr has about 100 paying customers, half of whom are in the United States. Current customers include NATO, Dell, and HBO, as well as banks and telecom companies. The company expects to at least double its customer base in 2014.

"You can collect tons of metrics from your IT systems, but we know from experience that engineers still need to do a lot of manual work to understand the real reasons behind performance problems," said Plumbr CEO and co-founder Priit Potter. "Completing our vision will free thousands of operations and development engineers from endless needle-in-the-haystack procedures." 

 "New investment allows us accelerate product development and disrupt the space of monitoring and troubleshooting solutions even faster," Potter said. To date, Plumbr has detected the cause of more than 3,500 memory leaks in its customers.

"Plumbr is an extraordinary example of deeply technical innovation created by members of the new wave of Estonian startups with global ambitions, affectionately called #estonianmafia," said Sten Tamkivi. "Their product harnesses machine learning to understand how monitored software works and why it breaks, which to me signals a game changing mindset in how we make sure that critical software runs fast and stably."

Priit Alamäe, Nortal CEO also said he is happy that Nortal's decision to finance Plumbr two years ago has paid off and that the team's ingenious technological idea has grown into a company. "Nortal spin-off Plumbr operates on a market with growing demand, and this is why we believe the product has great potential to succeed in export markets. The fact that the Plumbr is run by a very strong team is no less important - I know these guys for a long time and I am personally convinced in their ability to succeed. Nortal has always encouraged entrepreneurship and the aspirations to make the software development more efficient - Plumbr will save many of the important and large organizations around the world, both money and time," added Alamäe.


About Plumbr

Founded in Estonia in 2011 as a spin-off of Nortal, Plumbr aims to revolutionize the way people think about monitoring tools. Its software automatically understands how an application should behave by detecting anomalies in its memory usage patterns. Eschewing endless data and graphics, Plumbr tells customers exactly what they need to fix, helping predict and avoid software failures.

See also www.plumbr.eu 
And Tech Crunch article on the investment news

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Nortal to build a new Surveillance Activities Information System

October 18, 2013

​On October 7, Nortal signed a frame agreement with Estonian Centre of Registers and Information Systems (RIK) for developing a new Surveillance Activities Information System. The new system will be fully implemented by January 1, 2015. 

RIK (Estonian Centre of Registers and Information Systems) wishes to develop a new Surveillance Activities Information System, which allows surveillance agencies, the prosecuting authority and the courts to apply for the execution, extension and authorisation of fully digital surveillance activities. System has to ensure an overview of all executed surveillance activities, of all formalised applications and authorisations to conduct the surveillance activities, and of all the notifications and presentations of collected data. In addition, the information system will enable an integrated and comprehensive collection of statistics.

The base to develop this system was provided by and proceeded from the amendment of the Estonian Law of Criminal Procedure. Nortal tender win was announced in early September and it was not disputed. The whole project consists of two phases, the deadline of the first procurement contract (phase) is February 28, 2014. 

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Nortal to develop a self-service portal for Lithuanian Railways (Lietuvos geležinkeliai)

October 09, 2013

Nortal signed an Agreement with Lithuanian Railways (Lietuvos geležinkeliai) in the beginning of September, 2013 for the implementation of a new self-service internet portal. Implementation of the project is estimated by February, 2014.

The overall goal of the agreement is to create a new high-functioning self-service internet portal which includes following functionality areas: usability, availability, accessibility, privacy and security. The self-service portal’s customer interface will include general passenger information, routes, timetables, cargo and freight transport, infrastructure etc. The new self-service portal will be much easier to use compared to the current system. Part of the new portal’s functionalities will be automated. The portal will also be adapted for the disabled.

The new self-service portal content management system will be built on Liferay, a web platform with features commonly required for the development of websites and self-service portals. Nortal will use CSS3, jQuery and others technologies to develop the self-service portal. Also, the portal will be adapted to different diagonal screens. The project team will consists of over 5 Nortal Lithuania employees.

Lithuanian Railways is a national, state-owned railway company, which operates most of the railway lines in Lithuania and employs almost 11 000 employees. 

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Priit Alamäe for Arengufond on the export of Estonian IT and its future possibilities

September 25, 2013

Arengufond, an Estonian public institution subject to the Parliament with an aim to contribute to the economic development of Estonia, asked Priit Alamäe to write to their special edition of visionary opinion stories. Priit chose to write about the export of Estonian IT and its future possibilities.

PRIIT ALAMÄE: WHY PUT YOUR NECK ON THE LINE?

In the world of software development, work is most secure and trouble-free when it takes place in the same room with a client who speaks the same language, when the partnership dates back many years, and when you know the client completely. However, there are risks in every project, such as those associated with the team, the client, communication problems, cultural differences, payment behaviour, and a long list of other variables. As soon as we leave the so-called "safe zone", the number of risks increases exponentially.

I cannot speak for other industries, but in software development, risk measurements should be multiplied rather than added together. In the world of theatre, there is a saying that if there is a gun in the first act, it will be fired by the third. The same applies to risks – as a rule, all risks that are predicted at the beginning of the project end up occurring to a greater or lesser extent. The question that logically arises is why should we then bother dealing with all this and put your neck on the line? 

At the same time, taking new geographical risks presents an opportunity to minimize other risks. The home market is nice and safe, but in today's world, the reality is that different continents have different levels of economic development and different economic cycles that are not necessarily synchronised. If we are in a crisis, there is most likely another area enjoying an economic boom. During the last economic crisis, we managed to grow because we were present in markets where this cycle was at a different stage.

It is a fact that during the next decade, markets in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America will grow and develop a great deal faster than our closest markets. People who have studied economic sciences have been through the Boston Matrix to the point of exhaustion, but within the wider picture it is extremely relevant – Cash Cows, Dogs, Question Marks and Stars can also be seen in the context of different markets. The wise entrepreneur always strives to maintain an optimally balanced portfolio.

In today's smart economy, everything eventually boils down to people. And people are interested in very different things. There are people in our company who say that they have no more challenges left in their home country, and that if we weren't as international or interesting, they would no longer want to work at Nortal. We have people who do not wish or bother to travel and prefer working in their home country. In both cases, they are top specialists in their field, and both groups are right to feel the way they do. If we want our top performers to stay with us, we must offer them conditions that are personally tailored to them.

The Estonian market has many attractions, but size is not one of them. There are sectors in which maintaining a team of specialists with world-class capabilities is essentially impossible, because there are simply not enough projects available. I dare say that companies operating only in the Estonian market have a very difficult time building up and maintaining a core team of specialists of an optimal size – the market demand simply has its limits.

For example, our public finance and taxation team and e-health team are world-class, but if we did not have sufficient international projects, we would not be able to nurture and engage them enough. At the same time, our clients expect us to produce them with something new and innovative; instead of us inquiring about their preferences, our clients expect us to bring new ideas to the table, complete with the experience of putting them to practice.  

Fresh ideas – these days referred to as innovation – often emerge when people with different experiences as well as varied cultural and educational backgrounds come together. In science, this is called interdisciplinarity. We actively try to foster an environment where our people work alongside colleagues from different backgrounds, allowing them to brainstorm together, learn from each other, and come up with innovative ideas and solutions.

An isolated system has no exchange of energy with the outside world, and if our activities remain within the boundaries of this system, we also set limits on our professional development. What we must ask ourselves then is how we can find and keep a sufficient number of talented and ambitious professionals in order to be visible enough in the international arena and thus offer sufficient challenges to our talents through our international presence. The same applies to building the core management of the company.

Activities, processes and people with critical importance to the company have often gathered at the company headquarters. Headquarters is where a large part of our technological and business model innovation is carried out, where the majority of our R&D activities are performed, where high-income senior managers and specialists make decisions influencing various regions, and where, in the end, capital tends to concentrate. Headquarters are never moved offshore, even though salaries may be several-fold lower or the tax environment more favourable.

A country's economic durability is defined by whether companies in that country are consolidators or consolidatees. Here, it is important not to fall into the trap of the "we want national capital"-type slogans – Apple is not the property of US citizens, nor does Toyota belong to the Japanese. This is not important. What matters is that one has headquarters in Cupertino and the other in Aichi. And this is where decisions are made whether production takes place in Guangzhou or Elva.

Let us go even further and bust another myth – Estonia will never become rich by producing something with our own little white hands, which is then dispatched somewhere else by ship, train or over an internet connection. We will never be able to develop enough software to win five per cent of Germany's market. But if we act smartly, we may be able to establish subsidiaries located in Germany with an Estonian parent company, and these subsidiaries can then get five per cent of the German and maybe even some other markets.  

There are simply too few of us, and we need to reinforce ourselves through others. Even the most efficient self-employed person can never create the same amount of value as a good ten-person team. We must create a situation where people in other countries work for our companies, and then bring the value created through their work back onto Estonian balance sheets and income statements.

We should nurture, respect and support the companies that have enough will, ability and confidence to sell and invest outside Estonia. It requires a coordinated strategy, which among many other things combines supporting and guaranteeing external investment, organising a combined effort by the private and public sectors to enter foreign markets and protect the interests of our undertakings there, and simplifying the procedure for bringing specialists and managers required for manning an international company's headquarters to Estonia.

Finally, we need to acknowledge that even if we do everything right, the results will start showing no sooner than in 5 to 10 years, and even this is possible only if companies' actions are backed up by a clear collective understanding, a long-term agreement, and a common effort. It is a lot easier to defend a mountain peak than to attack it. Climbing up the value chain requires sweat, blood and tears, but if we are honest, when thinking long-term, we have no other alternatives.

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