Category Archives: Broadband

Skills and Global Value Chains

OECD – Since 1990s, the world has entered a new phase of globalization. Information and communication technology, trade liberalization and lower transport costs have enabled firms and countries to fragment the production process into global value chains (GVCs): many products are now designed in one country and assembled in another country from parts often manufactured in several countries. To seize the benefits of GVCs, countries have to implement well-designed policies that foster the skills their populations need to thrive in this new era.

GVCs give workers the opportunity to apply their skills all around the world without moving countries: an idea can be turned into a product more easily and those who are involved in production can benefit from this idea.

GVCs give firms the possibility of entering production processes they might be unable to develop alone. At the same time, the demand for some skills drops as activities are offshored, exposing workers to wage reductions or job losses in the short term. In the long term, however, offshoring enables firms to reorganize and achieve productivity gains that can lead to job creation.

The rise of GVCs has prompted a backlash in public opinion in some countries. This negative reaction has sometimes focused on the leading role of multinationals and foreign direct investment. Multinationals can boost production and job creation in the host country by engaging local companies as suppliers, but they can also quickly relocate parts of the production process from country to country. This increases uncertainty about the demand for jobs and skills in each country, while making uncoordinated policy response in each country less effective. Multinationals are often seen as responsible for offshoring jobs while contributing to the increase in top incomes.

In all countries, more educated workers enjoy high job quality than low-educated ones. But the gap in job strain between low-educated and high-educated workers is larger in countries that participate more in GVCs (Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia). Investing in skills along with increasing participating in GVCs is particularly important in developing economies that tend to be at the lower end of value chains, where working conditions are more often poor.

Strong cognitive skills are not enough on their own to achieve good performance in GVcs and to specialize in technologically advanced industries. Industries involve the performance of several types of tasks, but all require social and emotional skills as well as cognitive skills. To succeed in an internationally competitive environment, countries and industries needs in addition to those related to their domain specializations. more>

“I have nothing to hide. Why should I care about my privacy?”

By Fábio Esteves – There are two sets of reasons to care about your privacy even if you’ve got nothing to hide: ideological reasons and practical reasons.

Don’t confuse privacy with secrecy. I know what you do in the bathroom, but you still close the door. That’s because you want privacy, not secrecy.

A company like Facebook or Google allows you to upload unlimited data to their servers, for free. What’s their business model? How do they make so much money? They sell your info to advertising companies. But they never asked you if you wanted to sell your information. If someone asked you in person 100 questions about your personal life to sell it, would you answer them? Probably not, right? But you let this happen every time you use a service that makes money selling your info. more>

How social media filter bubbles and algorithms influence the election

By Alex Hern – One of the most powerful players in the British electiLogusNoes9]on is also one of the most opaque. With just over two weeks to go until voters go to the polls, there are two things every election expert agrees on: what happens on social media, and Facebook in particular, will have an enormous effect on how the country votes; and no one has any clue how to measure what’s actually happening there.

Not all of that comes from automation. It also comes from the news culture, bubbles of education, and people’s ability to do critical thinking when they read the news. But the proximate cause of misinformation is Facebook serving junk news to large numbers of users.” more>

You Can’t Solve These Problems on an Ad Hoc Basis

By Sasha Cohen O’Connell – Resolving today’s most pressing cyber security and Internet governance challenges is dependent on the tech industry and the government working together on both policy development and policy implementation.

Specifically, collaboration is required to successfully research, design, debate, and ultimately implement effective solutions.

While there is overwhelming consensus on the need for collaboration, it remains a huge challenge. Why?

While many factors contribute to the problem, including differing incentive structures, cultures and business models, one critical element—organizational structure—is a significant and often overlooked hurdle that needs attention and creative solutions.

Most collaborations today are done by ad hoc teams of operational personnel, lawyers, government affairs departments, and/or trade associations or other outside third parties. This setup is neither efficient nor effective. more>

Updates from GE

Leaner Than Lean: How Digitalization Transforms Manufacturing
By Randy Stearns – If you want to see the future of manufacturing, follow the Tama River about 45 kilometers upstream from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to the GE Healthcare facility in Hino, Japan. Inside this outwardly conventional, low-rise suburban business complex is emerging the blueprint for the future of manufacturing, tweak by painstaking tweak.

The Hino factory makes both parts for large medical scanners and small, precision equipment. Compared with similar facilities, its production lines are exceptionally efficient — fast, with less waste, errors and unplanned downtime — thanks in part to the successful integration of advanced digital information technology with operational systems. GE calls this convergence of hardware and software on the shop floor the brilliant factory.

The Hino plant is where the Industrial Internet meets Kaizen, the Japanese concept of continuous improvement pioneered by Toyota after World War II that undergirds Lean methods for eliminating waste in manufacturing. more>

What we don’t know about high schools can hurt us

By Mark Dynarski – High school graduation in the U.S. is like this. First, researchers struggled to understand why it was low and unchanging for a long time. Now, researchers are struggling to understand why it is rising. And there are few studies going on about effective approaches for helping students graduate.

A recent report estimated that by 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. Getting to college means getting through high school.

ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) gives states more authority over K-12 education. But we should not confuse authority to plan and deliver education services with authority to plan and deliver education research.

Research generates ’positive externalities’ in the jargon of economists. Any one state has an incentive to invest in research up to the point at which that state values it. But all states might benefit from research in any one state. The net result is that states will under-invest in research from the perspective of the nation.

This is true for just about any area of research, and it’s why we have the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on a wide variety of diseases and conditions, but no New Jersey Institutes of Health doing the same. more>

Net neutrality 2.0: Perspectives on FCC regulation of internet service providers

By Stuart N. Brotman – The final outcome of this high-profile, high-impact proceeding will not be apparent until sometime late in 2017, at the earliest. Congress may also become more seriously involved at some point on the legislative front.

But without a doubt, as Chairman Pai noted in his Newseum speech, a “fierce debate” lies ahead for a number of months at least. And if past is prologue, the FCC may well receive an avalanche of comments in response to these proposed changes; the record in the Title II Order shows that over four million comments were filed by interested parties and the general public combined.

There will be no lack of political discourse, to be sure.

As we move into 2016, an unresolved national communications policy dilemma remains: whether the public-switched telephone network and the internet are parallel systems or parts of a larger ubiquitous network environment. Determining which characterization will be followed has profound consequences for regulatory treatment.

Given the emerging dominance of mobile over fixed service, if the FCC can’t regulate both, it may win the battle but lose the war. Given that a further appeal is likely regardless of which side prevails, including possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress may find itself re-emerging as the best source of guidance for the FCC. Legislative action can definitively clarify whether Congress intends for the telephone network and internet to be joined at the hip, or should continue to function in parallel with differing regulatory treatment. more>


Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex

By Walter Vannini – Coding isn’t the only job that demands intense focus.

But you’d never hear someone say that brain surgery is ‘fun’, or that structural engineering is ‘easy’. When it comes to programming, why do policymakers and technologists pretend otherwise?

For one, it helps lure people to the field at a time when software (in the words of the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen) is ‘eating the world’ – and so, by expanding the labor pool, keeps industry ticking over and wages under control. Another reason is that the very word ‘coding’ sounds routine and repetitive, as though there’s some sort of key that developers apply by rote to crack any given problem.

It doesn’t help that Hollywood has cast the ‘coder’ as a socially challenged, type-first-think-later hacker, inevitably white and male, with the power to thwart the Nazis or penetrate the CIA. more>

Updates from GE

The Power Of Data: How Software Is Helping Keep Iceland’s Lights On
By Julie Khoo – There are many reasons to visit Iceland. This former Viking stronghold is now the most peaceful country and home to the happiest and most literate people in the world — one in 10 Icelanders on average reportedly has published a book.

A nation of glaciers, volcanoes and waterfalls, Iceland is also, at least metaphorically, one of the greenest places, generating all of its electricity from renewable sources such as hydropower and geothermal energy.

The grid receives electricity from generators that move at a constant frequency, just like the merry-go-round. When a power-hungry load suddenly disconnects from a high-inertia grid with lots of generators, the grid frequency will barely change.

But when a generator or load goes offline in a low-inertia grid like the one in Iceland, Landsnet has to act quickly to return the frequency to its normal level.

This can be a real headache. If the frequency drops or climbs too quickly, it can knock down parts of the grid and cause power failures. It can even cause a geothermal power station to automatically disconnect from the grid to protect the equipment from large stresses. Dramatic changes in frequency can also create “electrical islands” as different areas on the grid react to the changes. This can lead to blackouts. more>

Why cyber warfare isn’t

By Mike Hearn – One of the issues (though not at all the only one) is how governments understand the term “cyber warfare”. This term has spread rapidly throughout government in the past 20 years. Presidents, Prime Ministers, generals and journalists all believe they understand what “cyber warfare” is, but they don’t and this lack of understanding leads to events like today’s.

The big problem is that cyber warfare is totally different to normal warfare, in fact it’s so different that calling it warfare at all is meaningless. In regular warfare you can build up your own defenses without improving your opponent’s defenses, and you can develop new weapons that your opponents will not have. This basic asymmetry is key to the very concept of war: the side with the better weapons, defenses and tactics should normally win.

But cyber warfare doesn’t work like that. Because everyone uses the same software infrastructure, and the “weapons” are nothing more than weaknesses in that global infrastructure, building up your own defenses by fixing problems inherently builds up your opponents defenses too. And developing new “weapons” is only possible if your opponents are able to develop the very same weapons for themselves, by exploiting the very same vulnerabilities in your country that you are exploiting in theirs.

Governments have huge problems understanding this fact because politicians tend to reflexively trust their own intelligence agencies, who deliberately obfuscate about it. more>