Daily Archives: February 18, 2021

Gig workers: guinea pigs of the new world of work

Most discussion of gig workers has focused on their material insecurity. More attention also needs to be paid to what goes on in their heads.
By Pierre Bérastégui – The ‘gig’ economy has grown to become an intrinsic part of our society and yet the benefits and risks of this new way of working are still much debated. Understandably, the employment status of gig workers captures most public attention.

Most European Union member states lack clear regulations on this, so a platform’s terms and conditions determine the status of its ‘users’, based on the existing regulatory framework. Although there are instances of platforms offering employment contracts, most consider gig workers as self-employed.

This is often referred to as ‘bogus’ self-employment: workers are treated as such for tax, commercial and company-law purposes, yet remain subject to subordination by and dependence on the contractor and/or platform. As new forms of work outpace regulation, the key legal challenge is to ensure no workers are left outside of the regulatory framework.

That should, however, not hide the fact that gig workers deal with unique challenges when it comes to working conditions. In addition to the specific hazards entailed by the different types of activities mediated through online labor platforms, there are also risks related to the way gig work is organized, designed and managed. Addressing these is essential, to safeguard working conditions and ensure a socially responsive transition to the new world of work. more>

Updates from McKinsey

America 2021: Renewing the nation’s commitment to climate action
To America’s leaders, innovators, and changemakers; here’s how you can help build a low-carbon economy that is resilient, competitive, prosperous, and fair.
By Dickon Pinner and Matt Rogers – The new federal administration has arrived in Washington with ambitious plans to address the climate crisis—and in so doing, revitalize the US economy and reclaim a leadership position on the international stage. During their campaign, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted “the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy—one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide by no later than 2050 […] and, in the process, create millions of good-paying jobs.”

Their vision recognizes that the global transition to a low-carbon economy is well under way. The cost of many clean-energy technologies fell significantly during the past decade—as much as 90 percent for some renewable-energy projects. The capital markets are funding the use of these technologies at historically low costs of capital, thereby accelerating scale-up investments. A climate-friendly policy tilt is taking hold in many places. With China, Japan, and the European Union having announced targets to achieve net-zero emissions, more than 110 countries, accounting for more than 70 percent of global GDP, have made net-zero pledges. Of the US states, 23 have established emissions-reduction goals and 12 have instituted carbon-pricing policies. Groups representing prominent American companies have endorsed the use of market-based mechanisms to promote emissions reductions. Some large businesses, along with four former Federal Reserve chairs (including the new treasury secretary), have voiced support for a nationwide carbon tax. These trends are creating possibilities for American leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship, competitive advantage, and economic growth.

With the wind at their backs, government agencies and private-sector organizations can continue advancing the new national climate agenda that’s been set in motion already. The stimulus and government appropriations bill of December 2020, which received bipartisan support, set out tax incentives and funding for energy innovation and climate-related programs. And within days of his inauguration, President Biden signed executive orders initiating the process to reenter the Paris Agreement, positioning climate as a foreign-policy and national-security issue and calling on federal agencies to coordinate an all-government push to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, purchase clean-energy technologies, support innovation, conserve nature, and create economic opportunities across America. 1 Making good on these intentions will require new information, products, operations, and market innovations from public officials and business leaders. To inform their work, this memo highlights four sets of practices with notable potential to deliver the prosperity, security, and social-justice outcomes that the administration has prioritized. more>

Updates from Ciena

For years we’ve been hearing that 2020 would be the year that 5G networks would begin to be deployed. Well, it’s finally here, and MNOs are indeed starting to roll out 5G services. But beyond new phones and RAN technology, it’s going to be those that embrace automation who will ultimately drive faster transitions to 5G. To that end, Blue Planet has unveiled new capabilities for 5G automation.
By Kailem Anderson – As we watched the standard come together, 5G set some lofty expectations in terms of performance gains that 5G networks will deliver to users over 4G. These included things like 10 to 100 times faster speeds, 1000 times the bandwidth, support for 10 to 100 times more devices, 99.999% availability, and latency as low as 1 millisecond.

This vastly improved speed, capacity and latency opens up all kinds of new use cases for mobile network operators (MNOs). The increase in users and use cases also means the number of network services connections required of 5G networks is unprecedented and, more importantly, the speed at which these services need to be created and managed, typically in a multi-vendor environment, is significantly faster than what today’s OSS, NMS, and manual processes can handle. This velocity and volume will affect the entire network lifecycle, including planning, designing and deploying services, and day-to-day operations. Automation will play a critical role in helping operators meet these challenges to speed the delivery of 5G networks and derive new revenues.

Finally, with 5G still being an emerging technology, the standards associated with it too are evolving. In order to adhere to the emerging 5G standards, MNOs need a cloud-native 5G solution that is designed and developed based on openness and works in a multi-vendor network with no vendor lock in.

As 5G scales, automation will, in turn, increasingly rely on AI and ML (machine learning) to fully automate some operational processes, including predicting situations like a network fault before it occurs and taking corrective actions before it impacts customers, or understanding when specific network resources are near capacity and scaling them up to meet the growing requirements of the services that rely on them. Of course, this type of AI-assisted operations is a topic I’ve been discussing for quite some time.

The promises of 5G, automation and AI are great, but the path to get there is filled with many technical hurdles. Here on the Blue Planet team, we’ve been working hard to deliver an intelligent 5G automation solution that helps MNOs lessen the bumps. more>

Stock Market Outlook 2021: Bull Market, But Buckle Up

In what may become the second year of a bull market, where can investors look for returns, amid the appearance of historically high valuations?
By Andrew Slimmon – Stock market returns in 2020 eerily resembled the trend in 2009—that is, the strength of the first year emerging from a deep stock market recession. While past performance does not necessarily predict future results, being an active equity investor does require understanding historical moves.

Last year, as the market recovered from its drop in March, many investors were way too bearish in retrospect, keeping too much cash on the sidelines. Once the rally began, volatility dropped, and the bull market climbed significantly before the bears eventually capitulated late in the year.

Now in 2021, amid hope and excitement that the pandemic might soon be behind us as vaccines are distributed, investors may actually find it tougher to generate the kind of stock market returns we saw last year in the midst of COVID-19. Strange I know, but as we saw last year, equity returns need not align with what is the current state of the economy. Instead, stocks this year may resemble their performance in 2010, i.e., year two of the bull market that started in 2009. After the S&P 500 Index’s stunning 68% return from the March 2020 low to the end of the year, stocks likely need to take a breather, much as they did in the second quarter of 2010. Importantly, however, overall returns of a second year of a bull market are historically positive, like in 2010.

We should therefore brace ourselves for a lot more stock market volatility in 2021. This will likely shake out the reluctant bulls, those who only recently put their cash to work in equities, at the exact wrong time. Based on history, investors should hold tight and keep eyes on the longer term. The second year of a new bull market historically performs quite well overall, though it tends to be more gut-wrenching along the way. more>