Category Archives: Economic development

Updates from ITU

Advocacy Target 4: Digital Skills & Literacy
ITU – Effective education systems are essential for meeting future challenges and delivering on the SDGs. Although rapid technological change has taken place over the last thirty years, education systems in many countries have remained largely unchanged over the last century. Education is about much more than merely providing people with the skills and knowledge to work, and must create a framework through which people can lead diverse and fulfilling lives. People of all ages should have opportunities to learn about their own cultures, in their own languages.

There is broad agreement that education needs to ensure that people gain four main skills: creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Alongside skills such as literacy and numeracy, people should now also gain basic digital skills. They need to have a comprehensive understanding of the rapidly changing world in which they live, as well as their roles and responsibilities within it. ITU’s Global ICT Development Index (IDI) includes a measure of digital skills and capabilities.

There is considerable debate as to what proficiency in digital skills and an ‘adequate’ level really mean. Digital skills have been broken down into three categories:

  1. the basic digital literacy needed for all workers, consumers and citizens in a digital society;
  2. the advanced ICT skills (coding, computer science and engineering) which are needed to develop innovative ICT products and services; and
  3. e-business skills or the specific know-how needed for digital entrepreneurshipn. Figure 15 shows how global averages for digital skills vary from 5.2% (using a programming language) to 43.7% (transferring files).

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Updates from Chicago Booth

Is corporate market power really surging?
By Alex Verkhivker – In economic circles, an argument has gained traction that corporate market power is surging, resulting in skyrocketing markups, a falling labor share, and other negative consequences for consumers and workers. But some researchers are pushing back, emphasizing weaknesses in the argument and urging policy makers to be cautious before taking any actions.

Proponents of the market-power argument often rely on one of two methodologies, one that calculates and compares total revenues and costs at the economy-wide level and another that uses company-level data. University of Minnesota’s Loukas Karabarbounis and Chicago Booth’s Brent Neiman focus on the first of these two, in which the economy is considered a pie that is made of up three slices: the labor share (which goes to workers), the capital share (costs incurred to use factories, equipment, software, etc.), and economic profits. Economic profits are calculated by finding the difference between revenues and costs, including the cost of capital faced by companies to fund their assets used in production. more>

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Updates from Ciena

The Future of the Internet Is Fiber Deep
By Elias Cagiannos – Netflix is the poster child for over-the-top (OTT) content and has no doubt played a large role in shifting the status quo when it comes to our entertainment and viewing habits. The company can be credited with reimagining content distribution — investing in homegrown content and a content delivery network to feed our binge-viewing habits.

However, these habits are primarily supported on MSO networks, which have one of the best internet service products on the market. These companies are focused on the future, making investments in the people, processes and infrastructure necessary to help them match their capabilities to a new generation of users.

Consumer demand for improved viewing options has created an environment where MSOs can’t tolerate service disruptions or quality issues. However, aging coaxial plants, analog repeaters and limited spectrum make meeting customer demand for fast and reliable service a challenge. MSOs recognize this and are already moving in the right direction, but they will advance even faster with fiber deep — the concept by which operators push fiber closer to the end user, which helps improve service. more>

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Updates from Autodesk

AI is coming for industrial design
By Mark Wilson – MIT researchers have debuted a tool that automatically generates products–and analyzes them in detail–on your behalf.

Take these two task lamps. They each have three heads, bent and placed in very different ways. So which has the better stability? It’s a trick question. They’re equally stable–and that was discovered by an algorithm, which designed them both.

MIT researchers have debuted a tool that automatically generates products–and analyzes them in detail–on your behalf.

Take these two task lamps. They each have three heads, bent and placed in very different ways. So which has the better stability? It’s a trick question. They’re equally stable–and that was discovered by an algorithm, which designed them both.

MIT researchers, in conjunction with Columbia University, have unveiled a new tool for designers who work with computer-aided drafting software. Building on previous work over the past year, their technique can optimize a design for any object, like a lamp or boat or wrench, for all sorts of metrics like mass, drag, and stress tolerance. And then it can create dozens of designs of that object, each tuned to different optimal efficiencies.

In other words, it removes iteration from the design process–and it could be applied to the design and engineering of consumer goods and industrial parts, replacing some of the human guesswork of product design and augmenting the intuition of designers themselves. more>

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Updates from datacenter.com

How Cloud Demand Positively Impacts further growth of Amsterdam
datacenter.com – As one of the top data center markets in the world, the Amsterdam area is poised for more growth over the coming years as cloud demand increases. The amount of data going through the cloud will reach 14.1 ZB by 2020.

After Microsoft opened their €2 billion campus, Google opened their data center in North of the Netherlands (Eemshaven) and the recently the announcement came that Google will expand with a second campus in The Netherlands (Amsterdam region). Other large cloud companies are expanding their supply in and around Amsterdam.

Datacenter.com opened Datacenter.com AMS1 in Amsterdam South-East this year, the best connected data center Campus, which will soon will upgrade to the second phase due to the fast growth and the high interest. more>

Updates from Siemens

Solutions for Semiconductor Equipment Product Lifecycle Management
Siemens – To be successful in the marketplace, semiconductor equipment companies must provide innovative semiconductor process solutions to chip makers at low cost and with leading-edge features, superior quality and reliability. The architectural elements of these process solutions are mechanical functions, electrical controls and software-driven electronics.

To keep up with the increasing complexity of these elements, diverse customer needs, and strong competition amid rapid technological change, semiconductor equipment makers must consistently and successfully invest in product and process research and development (R&D), and maximize the R&D productivity.

To increase R&D productivity and avoid wasteful investments, equipment makers must effectively collaborate with semiconductor ecosystem partners, such as foundries and chip makers. The equipment makers must reduce cost through smart sourcing or outsourcing in a global electronics supply chain. To tackle the product complexities, they must implement a modularized product development strategy based upon a common platform with a well-defined technology roadmap and interfaces. more>

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Updates from Georgia Tech

Neuroscientists Team with Engineers to Explore how the Brain Controls Movement
By Carol Clark – Scientists have made remarkable advances into recording the electrical activity that the nervous system uses to control complex skills, leading to insights into how the nervous system directs an animal’s behavior.

“We can record the electrical activity of a single neuron, and large groups of neurons, as animals learn and perform skilled behaviors,” says Samuel Sober, an associate professor of biology at Emory University who studies the brain and nervous system. “What’s missing,” he adds, “is the technology to precisely record the electrical signals of the muscles that ultimately control that movement.”

The Sober lab is now developing that technology through a collaboration with the lab of Muhannad Bakir, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The technology will be used to help understand the neural control of many different skilled behaviors to potentially gain insights into neurological disorders that affect motor control.

“By combining expertise in the life sciences at Emory with the engineering expertise of Georgia Tech, we are able to enter new scientific territory,” Bakir says. “The ultimate goal is to make discoveries that improve the quality of life of people.” more>

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Investing in People to Build Human Capital

World Bank – Scientific and technological advances are transforming lives: they are even helping poorer countries close the gap with rich countries in life expectancy. But, poorer countries still face tremendous challenges, as almost a quarter of children under five are malnourished, and 60 percent of primary school students are failing to achieve even a rudimentary education.

In fact, more than 260 million children and youth in poorer countries are receiving no education at all.

“Human capital” – the potential of individuals – is going to be the most important long-term investment any country can make for its people’s future prosperity and quality of life.

In many countries, the workforce is unprepared for the future that is fast unfolding.

This is a key insight from the World Bank’s forthcoming World Development Report 2019: The Changing Nature of Work. The frontier for skills is moving faster than ever before. Countries need to gear up now to prepare their workforces for the tremendous challenges and opportunities that are being driven by technological change. more>

How evil happens

BOOK REVIEW

Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours, Author: Noga Arikha.
Eichmann in Jerusalem, Author: Hannah Arendt.
The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty, Author: Simon Baron-Cohen.
Home Fire, Author: Kamila Shamsie.

By Noga Arikha – The ‘sapiens’ in Homo sapiens does not fully describe our species: we are as violent as we are smart.

This might be why we are the only Homo genus left over in the first place, and why we have been so destructively successful at dominating our planet. But still the question nags away: how are ordinary people capable of such obscene acts of violence?

Today, biology is a powerful explanatory force for much human behavior, though it alone cannot account for horror. Much as the neurosciences are an exciting new tool for human self-understanding, they will not explain away our brutishness. Causal accounts of the destruction that humans inflict on each other are best provided by political history – not science, nor metaphysics. The past century alone is heavy with atrocities of unfathomable scale, albeit fathomable political genesis.

The social neuroscientist Tania Singer at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig in Germany defines empathy as the ability to ‘resonate’ with the feelings of the other. It develops from babyhood on – as imitation at first, then joint attention – into the ability to adopt the point of view of another, along with a shift in spatial perception from self to other, as if one were literally stepping into another’s shoes.

This requires an ability to distinguish between self and other in the first place, an aspect of the so-called ‘theory of mind’ that one acquires over the first five years of life.

But while empathy ensures the cohesion of a group or a society, it is also biased and parochial. Revenge thrives on it. more>

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The Temp Economy and the Future of Work

BOOK REVIEW

Temp: How American Work, American Business and the American Dream Became Temporary, Author: Louis Hyman.

By Gabrielle Levy – The way people work is changing. Machines and computers reduce the need for labor. Companies have shifted to hiring relatively few permanent staff and opting instead to strike temporary contracts with outside workers.

Uber, the ride-sharing behemoth, is perhaps the best known of these modern companies, with its thousands of drivers operating as independent contractors, but it did not invent the form. The roots of the gig economy go all the way back to the years after World War II, with the creation of the first temp and consulting agencies, including Manpower Inc. and McKinsey & Co.

We will see work become less tied to a particular employer in lots of ways. For some people, that’s fantastic, If you’re a consultant or independent contractor and you have lots of control over your life and you get paid pretty well, then this is a fabulous turn. And if you are a gig worker and you are running errands for somebody else, it’s kind of a nightmarish turn.

Do people really want full-time work? Do they want secure work? And the answer is, yes and no.

Everybody likes to work when they want to work, just like every employer wants workers who will start and stop as needed.

How do we create a system where work can be flexible but we can still have a baseline level of security for our health and our families that allows us to take risks and be entrepreneurial and explore new economic possibilities? more>