ICT acronyms: What’s hot, what’s not
By A. Asohan August 9, 2013
- Company names may become outdated, but a cool acronym can stand the test of time
- Malaysian quasi-government agencies, believe it or not, have come up with some gems
THE information and communications technology or ICT (there’s your first one) industry is notorious for peppering its conversations with acronyms. Indeed, there’s even an acronym for those with three letters: TLAs, or three-letter acronyms.
IBM and NCR: You’re guilty of this.
Of course, when companies start off with unwieldy names such as International Business Machines and National Cash Register, and later find that their businesses have transformed, you can’t blame them for preferring acronyms. Acronyms can be timeless, while words and phrases may go out of style.
Some organisations even make an effort to ensure that their acronyms are cool, or even better, descriptive of what they do. But there are horrible acronyms out there, while others are just bland and functional.
Take Mimos Bhd, for example – originally the uninspired shortening of the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronics Systems, but now a proper name in itself after it was corporatised. Yawn.
Yet Mimos had great acronyms for some of its early projects and initiatives. When it established a network to link universities so that they could collaborate on research projects, it named it the Joint Advanced Research Networking project. Sounds unwieldy … until you shorten it to ‘Jaring,’ which is Malay for ‘net.’
Now, how appropriate is that? Especially given that a few years later, Mimos would ‘pivot’ Jaring into becoming Malaysia’s first Internet service provider, or ISP (yet another TLA), making the name even more apt!
Mimos was on a roll in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It moved quickly to get ‘.my’ for the country’s domain name, which even I admit is one of the coolest country domain names and which in turn, produced cool names from other companies too: MyEG, My-This-and-That … you get the picture.
It was at this time that the Malaysian Government came up with its first computers-in-education project, which would have seen computer labs in every school, and computer skills a compulsory part of the school syllabus – something the nation is still struggling with now, decades later.
Mimos was tasked with developing the software for the locally designed and manufactured Atom-1 personal computer (for the life of me, I can’t remember if ‘Atom’ ever stood for anything). It developed the Computer Integrated Learning software or ComIL for short, which is Malay for ‘cute’ or even precocious. It was for schoolkids, remember?
The entire project was ill-fated, and the Atom-1 was not the best designed PC in the world, but the names were at least great.
Malaysia’s most important project in that era may have had a bland and functional name – the Multimedia Super Corridor (just the ‘MSC’ then, later rebranded into ‘MSC Malaysia’ for some obscure reason) had an uninspiring name, and was run by the just-as-bland Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC at first, later rebranded into MDeC for just as obscure a reason).
But at least its Integrated Content Development initiative, which seeks to get more developers to build mobile apps, amongst other things, was shortened to the rocking ICON. Kudos to MDeC for that!
And according to sources within the company, MDeC did manage to talk the Government out of officially ‘acronymising’ its digital transformation programme – in line with the GTP (Government Transformation Programme) and the ETP (Economic Transformation Programme) – as the ‘DTP,’ which would have got Aldus PageMaker and other desktop publishing users in a dither. Or even ROFLing.
Instead, it was just called ‘Digital Malaysia.’ While I know that MDeC staff use the acronym ‘DM,’ they usually only do so internally, perhaps realising that it may confuse the millions of Malaysians for whom the use of ‘DM’ would conjure images of Dungeon Masters getting their players to roll a D20 to make their ‘to-hit’ or ‘saving throw’ rolls in a game of Dungeons & Dragons.
It pays to think about a cool acronym. It also pays to check with possible language conflicts when you decide to shorten your long-winded product name by just applying the first letter of every word, as Microsoft Corp found to its horror in 2009 over its Java analysis tool, Class Invariants By Abstract Interpretation.
Even non-ICT firms fall victim to this, as Ernst & Young did when it rebranded itself 'EY,' which is also the name of a Spanish-language gay underwear magazine.
So, what ICT industry acronyms do you think are cool (or not)?