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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Students turn dreams into hi-tech business
Maggie Taggart
BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent

Students with some of the brightest ideas in computer technology are making huge early strides into the business world.

Even before they leave college in Northern Ireland they have set up their business and have already completed pilot schemes to prove there's interest in their products.

Millions of people play online computer games every day
One fledgling firm has developed a way for companies to call their branches anywhere in the world without running up telephone bills.

Another is tackling the problem of cheating in online computer games.

The scam is netting crafty players thousands of pounds in ill-gotten winnings.

Two young Higher National Diploma students at the North Down and Ards Institute of Further and Higher Education have set up UberWorld.

Millions of people play online computer games every day and some of them are competing for big cash prizes.

Videogames, which have traditionally been enjoyed in front of the television, are now increasingly played against faceless gamers online.

At a recent trade conference in Los Angeles, about 20 young Irish entrepreneurs were sealing deals that will put the country on the global gaming map
Companies such as Microsoft offer huge prizes for top players - but, just as traditional athletes have succumbed to illegal chemical enhancements, some online gamers are cheating to win

They hack into the game's code to find ways of increasing their statistics.

Chris Magee, one of the partners in UberWorld, said they were combining a number of existing anti-cheat programmes and are developing more of their own.

They are also starting their own online competitions which have plenty of safeguards built in, of course.

Chris Magee
Chris Magee is helping devise anti-cheat software

UberWorld is just one of a number of fledgling companies in Ireland pioneered by the joystick generation.

At a recent trade conference in Los Angeles, about 20 young Irish entrepreneurs were sealing deals that will put the country on the global gaming map.

The prospect of free phone calls could make the fortune of another youthful company at the North Down college.

Q-Intranet Solutions says it can offer companies with branches across the world a free communications link, via broadband.

Their extra unique selling point is the security of the system.

They say they can virtually guarantee that outside hackers will not be able to link into the system and pester workers with unwanted phone calls.

Darren Dickey says he has been appalled at the amount of money businesses spend on traditional phone calls using the public switched telephone network.

Accredited work

The North Down and Ards Institute has nurtured a number of new businesses and counts the commercial set up as part of the students' accredited work.

While some universities do similar work, but take a share in the company's equity, the NDAI doesn't take any share.

It says its reward is to send out creative and happy workers who may, or may not, create a money making business.

And Northern Ireland needs more people to take that risk.

There are fewer people willing to become entrepreneurs, even though research shows people in the province consider it a high status occupation.

It seems Northern Ireland people do not like to take risks, so fewer start their own businesses.

However, when they do start up, they have apparently made sure they are onto a winning idea and there's a lower rate of business failure than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

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