Tag Archives: Super regions

Tackling precarity in the platform economy—and beyond

To focus on online platforms in isolation would miss the point that they are part of a wider phenomenon of spreading and intensifying precarity at work.

By Sacha Garben – In our increasingly digitalised world, a crucial role is played by online platforms. These platforms—dynamic websites which constitute digital public squares or marketplaces—affect the economy and our society in various ways and their regulation (or lack thereof) is increasingly the subject of public and political debate. Whether it be the way in which Facebook deals with personal and public information, the influence of Airbnb on our habitat, Uber’s effects on the taxi sector or the working conditions of Deliveroo couriers or tech-workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk, the ‘disruptive’ effects of the activities of the platforms regularly make headlines.

A key social problem is the labor status of those working in the online-platform economy. These drivers, riders, cleaners, designers, translators, technicians and others are often formally contracted as independent and their working arrangements tend to exhibit features which are difficult to square with the traditional employment relationship. These include use of their own materials (such as the driver’s car), autonomy concerning working hours (logging into work via a smartphone app), the short duration of the relationship (translation of perhaps a single sentence) and its multilateral character (the platform linking the producer and consumer).

At the same time, the worker may well be economically dependent on the platform work, the contractual independence can be constructed in rather artificial ways—such as if a driver works full-time for a platform for several years yet remains formally contracted per journey—and the platform can exert significant control over the work and the person performing it.

Furthermore, their ‘independent’ status often means platform workers lack the benefit of the social, labor, health and safety protections which in most countries are connected to an employment contract—even if their precarious working conditions and socio-economic position very much require such protection. more>

Giving Europe political substance

By Mary Kaldor – Many of us who live in Britain feel embarrassed and ashamed by the contortions of our politics and the meanness of our government, towards the poor, the foreign and, particularly, the European—which is only going to get worse with Boris Johnson as prime minister.

Yet, paradoxically, the continuing struggle over ‘Brexit’ is an expression of democracy: the fact that the UK has not yet left the European Union is due to debates and positions which have been taken in Parliament, based on a mix of tactical advantage, public pressure and moral conscience. ‘Britain is thinking,’ I remember the great English-European historian Edward Thompson saying during the 1980s—‘and it only thinks every 50 years or so.’

Yes, the rise of right-wing populism has unleashed the dangerous demons of racism, homophobia, misogyny and general human cruelty. But it has also galvanised a new engagement with progressive politics, which could help to make possible the reforms needed if the EU is to survive until 2025.

The problem today is the weakness of substantive democracy: we have ‘a vote but not a voice’, said the Spanish indignados. And this is the consequence of three decades of neoliberalism.

The Maastricht treaty of 1991 was a compromise between the new wave of Europeanism, constructed from below by the peace and human-rights movements which opposed the cold-war divide during the 1980s, and the then newly-fashionable (if retro) market fundamentalism pioneered in Britain by Margaret Thatcher.

Maastricht enshrined in law the requirement to reduce budget deficits and the imposition on debtor countries of the burden of deflationary adjustment of fiscal imbalances. Meanwhile, the freeing up of capital movements and the liberalization of markets associated with the establishment of the single market speeded up the process of globalization, facilitated by the emergent information and communication technologies.

In a world where democratic procedures remain focused on the national level but where the decisions that affect one’s life are taken in the headquarters of multinational companies, on the laptops of financial speculators or otherwise in Brussels, Washington or New York, substantive democracy is evidently weakened. more>

Europeanization from below: still time for another Europe?

By Donatella Della Porta – Progressive social movement organizations have long been critical of the European Union—and progressively more so. Yet at the same time they have sought to promote ‘another Europe’.

They Europeanized their organizational networks and action strategies, developing cosmopolitan identities.

Research on social movements and Europeanization had indicated a move away from protest towards advocacy, understood as an adaptation of movements to EU structures. But there was also evidence of a repoliticization of EU issues, which saw the selective use of unconventional, protest-oriented strategies among groups forming part of the GJM (global justice movement).

The increasing criticism of existing EU institutions has targeted their democratic deficit, perceived as worsening during the financial crisis and counterposed to national sovereignty, but also their policies, perceived as less and less driven by considerations of social justice and solidarity. There has been criticism too of the definition of Europe as an exclusive polity, with proposals to go instead ‘beyond Europe’. more>

Re-made in China

By Amy Hawkins and Jeffrey Wasserstrom – The dominant image of China in the West is of a closed, dark place; a country where what reigns supreme is an authoritarianism based on an ancient imperial past that today’s leaders claim to have renounced, while simultaneously extolling China’s 5,000-year history.

It’s not a wholly false perception, but the notion of China as a fortress state, impervious to foreign influence, is something of a smokescreen. So too – as the opposite but equally flawed assumption goes – is the perception of China as forever on the brink of being Westernized by the liberalizing forces of globalization and the free market, as if, whenever the fortress gates are opened, the country were barely capable of withstanding the influx of ‘contaminating’ or ‘corrupting’ ideas.

This idea of China received a powerful boost from Francis Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ fantasy that the civilized world would converge around liberal democratic norms, leading many Western observers to believe that China’s economic boom and flirtation with freemarket forces was both inevitable, and would transform it completely.

In reality, China’s longstanding suspicion of foreign influence has not prevented the government or the people from becoming remarkably adept at marshalling the flow of overseas cultural touchstones into the country’s borders, remoulding them into something that isn’t entirely Chinese, but is also totally different from its original form.

Like authoritarian leaders everywhere, China’s are anxious about the population’s interaction with foreign ideas, and the state tries to police this closely, adapting cultural imports to fit national and regional needs. Still, the various ways that the government, villagers and city dwellers of different social classes and generations handle these mutations demonstrate that Chinese concepts of national identity are much more flexible than first impressions suggest.

Appreciating this is especially important now, as tensions between China and the United States rise. A strident form of Chinese nationalism is gaining ground. more>

Updates from Datacenter.com

Private Cloud vs Public Cloud: what is the best solution?
Datacenter.com – Cloud computing spans a range of classifications, types and architecture models. The transformative networked computing model can be categorized into three major types: Public Cloud, Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud.

Hybrid IT has rapidly proven that it offers the flexibility for delivering new software applications and enhanced features quickly critical agility in the age of digital business. With that in mind, enterprises now need to identify the best distribution of services and applications and their strategy for connecting to the clouds they use.

This article explores the key differences between the classifications of Public, and Private cloud environments.

Public Cloud refers to the cloud computing model with which the IT services are delivered across the Internet. The computing functionality may range from common services such as email, apps and storage to the enterprise-grade OS platform or infrastructure environments used for software development and testing. The cloud vendor is responsible for developing, managing and maintaining the pool of computing resources shared between multiple tenants from across the network.

The advantages of Public Cloud solutions for business customers include:

  • No investments required to deploy and maintain the IT infrastructure;
  • Flexible pricing options based on different SLA offerings

However, there are disadvantages as well, including:

  • The total cost of ownership (TCO) can rise exponentially for large-scale usage, specifically for midsize to large enterprises

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What’s Great Power Competition? No One Really Knows

By Katie Bo Williams – More than a year since the new National Defense Strategy refocused the U.S. military away from counterinsurgency and back towards the country’s greatest strategic competitors, some policy and strategy experts say the Pentagon hasn’t yet figured out how to “compete” with Russia and China.

In fact, it hasn’t even settled on a definition for the “competition” in “great power competition.”

The uncertainty has left former officials scratching their heads about how, specifically, the Defense Department plans to counter China and Russia beneath the threshold of armed conflict. It also appears to be pulling the Pentagon’s policy planners beyond their traditional purview of fighting and winning wars.

“The NDS has two pieces to it: it says you have to compete with China and Russia and prepare for conflict with China and Russia,” said Mara Karlin, a former deputy assistant defense secretary for strategy and force development. “Those are different. The way you would manage and develop your force is different depending on which one you are biasing towards.” more>

Updates from Ciena

500G transpacific. Yep, we did that!
The news from SubOptic? Let’s start with our successful single-wavelength 500G field trial over a 9,000km transpacific cable. Ciena’s Brian Lavallee explains more about this milestone as well as other highlights from this important technical conference.
By Brian Lavallée – SubOptic 2019 has recently come to a close, and as the locals say, “laissez les bon temps rouler”, or let the good times roll – and they did.

We shared the news of a successful single-wavelength 500G field trial over a 9,000km transpacific cable, which was completed just before the event. Of course, this means we can also do 500G single-wavelength transmission across much shorter transatlantic distances too. The transpacific field trial leveraged our very latest WaveLogic 5 Extreme coherent optical technology, which truly takes our pioneering submarine networking solution,

GeoMesh Extreme, to the extreme. In just under a decade, we’ve leaped from 10G to 500G transpacific – a truly impressive feat.

How did we achieve such performance?

By leveraging advanced Digital Signal Processing (DSP) capabilities, 95Gbaud operation, Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS), throughput-optimized FEC, and nonlinear mitigation techniques. more>

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Updates from Datacenter.com

Planning a hybrid cloud implementation? Don’t forget the importance of the network
Almost every company is working on some form of cloud transformation, and we’ve noticed that almost everyone is pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy. Because hybrid sees a wide range of on-premise, hosted and cloud-based services side by side, it will only be cost-effective if you can establish reliable, secure connectivity between the various elements of your hybrid architecture.
datacenter.com – Today everything has to be on demand

The network is often forgotten because IT teams are planning hybrid cloud transformation projects. Without properly dimensioned legacy-to-public cloud connectivity, transformation projects can be compromised and run into serious customer experience problems.

“Transformation projects can be paralyzed without properly dimensioned legacy-to-public cloud connectivity”

This is why organizations are now trying to request and order on-demand capacity from the network as they need, reducing traditional constraints such as capex, delays at external suppliers and long project timelines.

From one to multiple networks

By connecting on demand, you can also adjust the bandwidth up or down to suit your project. For example, if you perform a major update on your cloud platform or your IT services go into production as quickly as they are built for the development and testing phase of your project you can adjust your bandwidth based on the (temporary) need.

“By connecting on-demand, you can also adjust the bandwidth up or down to your project” more>

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Updates from Ciena

Tomorrow’s cities: evolving from “smart” to Adaptive
Cities are going smart – trying to deal with the proliferation of people, sensors, automobiles and a range of devices that demand network access and generate mind-boggling amounts of data. However, being smart is not an instance in time, and a “smart city” is not static. To be worthy of the name, a smart city must continually evolve and stay ahead of demand. This is only possible if the city’s underlying network is just as smart and can adapt to its constantly changing environment.
By Daniele Loffreda – Cities are constantly in flux. Populations move in; populations move out. Demographics change, economic growth falls and then soars. New leadership steps in and—if you believe all the commercials—technology will make everyone’s life better.

Municipal governments understand the need to consider which smart city applications will best serve the demands of their diverse demographic segments. The City of Austin’s Head of Digital Transformation, Marni White, summed up these challenges stating, “Our problems will continue to change over time, so our solutions also need to change over time.”

The one constant in the smart city is the network running underneath these solutions—and the truly smart city has a network that adapts.

Smart city applications must be aligned with where a city and its citizens want to go. Some municipalities that created model smart-cities early on have had to initiate extensive revamping. For example, the City of Barcelona has long been at the cutting edge of using digital devices and the Internet of Things to improve municipal operations; however, in 2017, Mayor Ada Colau gave Barcelona’s CTO, Francesca Bria, a mandate to “rethink the smart city from the ground up.”

This meant shifting from a “technology-first” approach, centered on interconnected devices, to a “citizen-first” focus that responds to the changing needs that residents themselves help define. more>

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Why the US bears the most responsibility for climate change, in one chart

By Umair Irfan – Humans are pumping more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an accelerating rate. But climate change is a cumulative problem, a function of the total amount of greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the sky. Some of the heat-trapping gases in the air right now date back to the Industrial Revolution. And since that time, some countries have pumped out vastly more carbon dioxide than others.

The wonderful folks at Carbon Brief have put together a great visual of how different countries have contributed to climate change since 1750. The animation shows the cumulative carbon dioxide emissions of the top emitters and how they’ve changed over time.

What’s abundantly clear is that the United States of America is the all-time biggest, baddest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet.

That’s true, despite recent gains in energy efficiency and cuts in emissions. These relatively small steps now cannot offset more than a century of reckless emissions that have built up in the atmosphere. Much more drastic steps are now needed to slow climate change. And as the top cumulative emitter, the US bears a greater imperative for curbing its carbon dioxide output and a greater moral responsibility for the impacts of global warming.

Yet the United States is now the only country aiming to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. more>