miércoles, 26 de abril de 2017

Digital transformation of sectors (I): Tourism

It is said that digital technologies are changing any economic activity. This is something more than a common place. This is the first post of a new serie. I plan to review some legacy activities beyond the usual suspcts (government, manufacturing, ...) and shortly review the impact of the digital transformation on them. Let´s start with tourism, and next post with farming. After that we will see the next ones.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO) defines tourism in 2015 as "“a social, cultural and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes”. As a consequence, the digital transformation of tourism has two main drivers. On one hand, the growth of people´s personal hiperconnectivity due to the spread of smartphones as a personal and professional tool that is always at hand. On the other hand, the digital transformation of the places where they move to, which is symbolized in the creation of smart cities and communities underpinned by IoT, broadband and cloud infrastructure and the digitalisation of any kind of companies established in the place and their products and services. 

Digital transformation of tourism is characterized by the creation of data ecosystems, with data flows originated by the actors mentioned above.  The visitor, destination community and companies takes advantage of the data in the three stages of the touristic activity. Before the travel, with the anticipation of the tourist needs based on the previous activities of other travelers and the information on the personal demands of the tourist. During the travel, enhancing the experience of the tourist with constant flows of information and refueling the infirmation database of the destination and its companies with the personal digital footprint of the individual. After the travel, enabling travelers to share their travel experiences so that they can help other travelers.

Sharing the information and knowledge build on top of this data could benefit equally all of the actors with the transformation of tourism in an interactive activity based on co-creation and co-production paradigms. On one hand, tourist has access to personalized and context awareness services and products. On the other hand, the visiting community makes a better allocation of resources for the benefit of residents and visitors through real-time monitoring. Last but not least, firms and companies improve its economic sustainability with access to relevant information.

The keys for a successful transformation of tourism in a place it is two-fold. Firstly, the integration of tourism on top of the smart city or community as another service, taking advantage of the infrastructure already in place as a distinguished activity. Secondly, taking into consideration of the tourist as a differentiated profile of citizen to serve in both public and private digital services, to begin with with the extensive usage on multilinguism.

The revolution of transport makes places physical closer for tourist. Digital technologies extends the time of tourist experience beyond the timespace we visit the place and makes more intense our experience with visiting blending physical and virtual worlds. To sum up,  changes completely the dimensions of travelling.

miércoles, 19 de abril de 2017

"The Establishment", Owen Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Owen Jones book is focused on the description of what he calls UK´s establishment, "the powerful groups that need to protect their position in democracy" from the control and check-and-balance mechanisms that exits in UK´s democracy. However, the book does not sound as a local book. With other actors and a different importance of each establisment´s subgroup within the power map, the establisment exists in every country. Therefore, some of the pages of the book would sound familiar to you.

To begin with, the composition of the establisment is similar in every country: media groups, think-tanks, rich families who have been rich for centuries, ... with similar abhor for the state and its mechanisms to ensure redistribution of wealth such as taxes. Patterns may sound familiar in some of the practices develop by each country establishment: newspapers that set up the framework in any policy debate according with the limits previously defined, police "trained to treat working people as the enemy within", dependance of the powerful groups on the largesse of the state, government´s lack of accountability, revolving doors between public and private sector, ...

But it is not a rare coincindence that establisment composition and practices are familiar for those who read the book outside UK. As Owen Jones warns, the "ideas of the establishment coincided with the interests of corporate power regardless of national boundaries". Globalisation has help to spread establishment ideology at the same time that the later has been the main tool for expanding the former, creating a virtuous circle that has fuel the worldwide hike of inequality. The author also reflects how it is emerging a global tiredness among the lower classes that is feeding a right-wing populism, that curiously does not defy the establishment power but underpins its force.

However, Owen Jones finalised giving a glimpse of hope. As the establishment footprint is global, it is also global the resistance to it. So it finalised with a call to develop a global movement that defies this free-market consensus with a new consensus based on the general interest and a more fair distribution of wealth.

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miércoles, 5 de abril de 2017

Saving the web

Some weeks ago, Tim Berners-Lee published one of this articles that must be read, several times, infinity times. The founder web enumerates the three trends that are killing the web: the lost of control of personal data, the easiness of spreading misinformation and the lack of transparency of online advertising (note: I have slightly changed the last one. Mr. Berners-Lee only pinpoint to political online advertisig, but as we see later the problem is in any kind of ads).

The three trends enumerated above also compose a virtuous circle. Our personal data helps to design algorithms to disseminate news that are wisely used by those who want to spread misinformation, who funded their activity with online advertising that fuels the business of trading personal data. On one hand, this fact makes the trends stronger, but, on the other hand, makes them easy to fight: Combat one of them with all your strength and you would kill the three

We have tried in vain to fight the loss of control of personal data. Create people  awareness on this issue has proved to be an impossible mission. Services in exchange of data are widely spread because people prefers to pay with this new currency than with actual money. Equally difficult is fighting the spread of misinformation. As the spread of "good" and "bad" information can not be separated, we can not fight against this part of the circle. Fighting the lack of transparency in online advertising is the unique option, but also the wiser option: follow the money is always a good strategy. 

Although Google and Facebook made some vague promises about cutting the flow of advertising to fake-news sites after the US election, it looks that politicians are not going to rest their faith for tackling the issue in self-regulation. Firstly, UK MEPs and Her Majesty Government criticised the lack of transparency of the ad distribution in Google for their customers. Afterwards, EU consumer authorities announces some kind of measures designed to make social media giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook abide by EU consumer laws.

It will take time to assess the effectiveness of this new strategy. Maybe it is the last opportunity to preserve non-commercial side of Internet, its role as a communication tool among humans.

miércoles, 29 de marzo de 2017

Review of the Digital Single Market: looking for clues

The European Commission has started to give some disperse clues on its intentions for the review of the Digital Single Market Strategy. To begin with, it has confirmed in a publication on its website the publication of the review on May 2017. Although its has not provided a concrete date, it is for sure that we can expect the publication on the days inmediately before or after May 6th, a happy coincidence with the second anniversary of the publication of the DSM strategy.

Regarding the possible content of the review, I recently reviewed the forgotten gaps and missing links of the original DSM strategy. Apart from this review of the pending issues, the VP Ansip has identified in his blog two areas that is needed to work on: cibersecurity and digital health care. Regarding the first one, the VP highlight the need to review European capabilities to face cyberthreats, possibly strenghtening the role of ENISA (EU's agency for network and information security). As for the second priority, the EU Commission has already set up a task force to develop a new data-centric digital healthcare strategy

The EU Commission has published also a non-official paper called "Advancing Europe's Digital Future". The paper enlarge the objectives mentioned by Ansip with the need to invest in data and connectivity infrastructure, support startups and the development of the digital skills. It also defines another big project for Europe: Working towards automated and connected mobility. It is not a new great target, there is also a European strategy published by the Commision on 2016 with the focus on "services that can be readily deployed in the short to medium-run but display long-term benefits on road safety, sustainability and automation" 

All the topics above were present on the Digital Day in Rome. The program of this event oriented to celebrate the future of Europe on the 60th anniversary of the creation of the EU (originally European Coal and Stee Community), gives us a clue of another possible prioririty for the review: Europe as a global player in high performance computing




miércoles, 22 de marzo de 2017

Robotics: State of the Art of the European debate

I am quite obsessed muy the topic of robots in the last weeks. And it happens the same to many people around me. The origin of the stir is probably the approval by the European Parliament of the call for Civil Law Rules for robotics (with an annex). Although the European Parliament does not have legislative initiative under the EU Treaties, its decission serves to definitively open the debate about the robotic society we are entering. The initial reference in the Parliament´s opinion introduction to our cultural references for robotics (Frankestein, Golem, ...) has contributed to draw the attention on the document.

The Parliament's resolution has a holistic approach. It starts with a call for a definition of smart robot, which describes in its features, and its cover the whole production value chain of robots (from research to its registration once it starts its working life and the need for standards in its production), the need for specific rules in some sectorial usage of robots (transport, health, ...), the exploration of a  comon framework for cross-cuting issues (liability, enviromental impact, ...) and the creation of new governace institutions (a European Agency). 

However, once more, the European institutions is losing an opportunity to prove its value for European citizens. The gap of the resolution stands in call for solutions for the citizens worries about robots, which are basically the rise of unemployment. Although the resolution calls for an analysis of the consequences of automatisation on employment, it doesn´t include any call to study concrete proposals as the basic universal rent or taxation of robots. And every day the papers give us some hints of the massive automation of jobs that is coming in every sector, from trucks to public sector. It looks that not everything can be solved providing new skills to the citizens.

Now it is the turn of the European Commission to answer to the Parliament's resolution. As a matter of fact, the communication "Building a Data Economy" published a month before highlights many times that rules for ownership, access and liability on data are closed linked to automatisation and robots. In a recent speech, the DG responsible on the topic announces a clarification of the European Commission position "either towards the end of this year or at the beginning of next year". Let´s hope that the forthcoming proposals will include also the societal perspective of the robotic revolution.

miércoles, 15 de marzo de 2017

Towards a biased automatisation

As times goes by, I feel myself more in the ranks of those who don´t think that robots will mean the end of work. The job posts will evolve in their tasks but that does not mean the end of all of them. Therefore, when we see a list of the works in risk of extinction we should interpret a list of professions that would change in their duties in order to survive. Furhermore, I find quite difficult a generalised automation due to the lack of intellectual resources to think on it.

However, it is undeniable that some jobs could perish or diminish the demand of the services associated to them. This is nothing new. Take the case of the smiths, the importance of their work and the need for them where drastically reduce with the decrease on the demand for horses shoes as a consequence of the disminution of horses at the first industrial revolution. What it is a change now is that every profession now is at risk of automatisation if we dedicated enough amount of intellectual resources to that aim.

So are we at risk of losing our jobs or not? The answer is yes and no. My thesis is that all depends if someone want to make it disappear. In the end, the jobs at risk will not be those we need to automatise but those someone decide to automatise. For instance, as some people hate the job security of public sector employees it is expectable works towards the automatisation of their post

The selective automatisation of jobs is not an isolated risk of the development of artificial intelligence. The bias will reach also to the different solutions adopted for the automatisation, because in the end algorithms are the fruit of human thinking. So it is correct that people in the last Davos meeting show their worries on the lack of diversity in AI workers and line of works. The risk is not automatisation but the biased automatisation.

martes, 7 de marzo de 2017

Digital Single Market Strategy: The review

The European Commission presented on May 6th 2015 the Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy. Although the implementation of some the envisioned measures have not been as intensive or extensive as initially expected, the Commission can claim they have finalised its part of the job. In January 9th, the EC gave flesh to the last measures to be implemented.

In the never ending European policy making cycle, it starts now the period to review the implementation and delivery of the DSM Strategy. The starting point for this revision will be the next European Council to be held in March 9-10, According with the Bratislava Roadmap, the European Council will review in the meeting the "progress as regards delivering on the different Single Market strategies, including the Digital Single Market".

The formal review of the state of the art on the implementation of the sixteen measures included in the DSM could be done through the Legislative Trains page of the European Parliament. However, in that page you will only find (with a certain delay) the state of the art of what have been proposed, but not a compilation of the potential gaps of the strategy. There is not (as far as I know) a page open to homing this debate.

Let´s think in the potential gaps. Regarding the first pillar, the European Commission has made complete proposal in order to provide better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe. Nevertheless, the end of the antitrust competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector opened by the DG COMP will pave the way for new proposals. The deliverable of the enquiry will be avalaible in the first half of 2017 jointly with more legislative proposals on e-commerce.

As for the second pillar of the DSM strategy, there are a couple of open chapters. On one hand, after the publication of its communication on Digital Platforms, the European Commission open an assessment of online platforms in order to find if it is needed to make proposals to tackle the role intermediaries plays in the protection of intellectual property rights. On the other hand, in the same communication, the Commission anounce a targeted fact-finding exercise on B2B practices in the online platforms environment. Therefore, it could be expected some legislative proposals regarding online platforms. Linked with this pillar, the EC has also launched the idea of creating some kind of cybersecurity labelling scheme for IoT.

Finally, the third pillar of the DSM could be enlarged in several manners. Firstly, with the presentation of some proposal to improve the European ICT standardisation system. Secondly, with the presentation of a legislative proposal to promote the free flow of data as it is insinuated in the recent communication "Building the Data Economy". And last but not least, we can not discard a review of Reuse of PSI legal framework.

Beside these "natural" enlargements of the DSM strategy, other issues could be part of the review of the EU digital strategy. The European Parliament has put on the table several topics as robots or the usage of electronic means to reinforce democracy in Europe. There are still strategic gaps regarding topics like Smart Cities or IoT in the European Union broad view of the digital future.

A new digital policy cycle, a new era for debates.
palyginti kainas