sábado, 23 de junio de 2018

Gender Gap in the ICT sector

The very same women's day, the European Commission published a report on the gender gap in the ICT sector. The report shows the many faces of the unbalance between women and men around the digital economy development. To begin with, the report shows that the gender gap starts in the education on ICT ( four times more men with ICT-related studies than women in Europe), continue at the first step of entering on the digital jobs (women represent only 21.5% of all workers in digital jobs) and is maintained on the senior management positions (only  19% of the senior manangement post globally is held by women). 

A further report published on the gender representation in the audiovisual sector presents also evidences of the gender gap, as a  general underepresentation of women in creative off-screen roles and the existence of a glass-ceiling that prevents women from climbing the professional ladder. Therefore, it could be suspected that the situation is similar in all the different kind of jobs related with the digital economy.

Although the reports don´t provide evidences os the consequence of the underepresentation of women on the ICT sector, these are easly to find. For instance, the few women involved on the design on AI algorithms has as consequence that machines are learning a biased view of women and its role in society. Lack of diversity on ICT job post may have as a consequence a future where the current gains on the fight against gender discrimination get lost. 

On the occasion of a recent event, CEOs of tech companies sign a manifesto that includes concrete steps for reducing the ICT sector gender gap. Among the actions that aimed to establish a level-playing field between women and men on the digital economy development working place, the CEOs propose promoting an open and female-friendly company culture, embedding diversity as a core value of human resources policy and other positive discrimination policies that could pave the way to leadership posts for women. 

There´s no doubt that introducing measures in the working place facilitate the fight against gender gap in the sector, however, is not enough. As it was said before, the gap starts at the education level so the adoption of technology studies by girls should be promoted heavily since for the different range ages, particularly those which are critical in the election of the future professional career (12-14 years).

Finally, it also should be adopted some kind of naming and shaming measure among government. The establishment and dissemination of rankings and benchmarks is always a great pressure for the development of a policy. 

miércoles, 6 de junio de 2018

"The Power" - Naomi Alderman

The PowerThe Power by Naomi Alderman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nowadays, almost everyone knows something about "The Handmaid's Tale", that dystopian vision of a future where patriarchalism reigns and the discrimination of women has reached the summit. However, the book has passed unnoticed for years and some people gets shocked when they discovered that it was written in 1985. I remember that I read that book around 2002 and since then I have strongly recommended Margaret Atwood´s novel many times. Those who followed the advice didn´t get dissapointed.

Among many others attractiveness, the appeal of "The Handmaid´s Tale" is that it provides a framework to meditate about the unfairness of a society based on a extrem unfairness in the gender relationships. It´s a mirror to feel ashamed of our image which its deficiencies has been distorted to its maximum. You should expect the same impact when you read "The Power".

"The Power" invites you to travel through the other side of the mirror and feels the horror of the side you daily live. The novel shows a word where women gets concious of an inmense physical power that allow them to dominate men. Little by little, women begin to dominate every parcel of life in different countries and in front of our eyes appears the reverse of the more extreme forms of female discrimination applied to men. For instance, a kind of male genital mutilation called "the curving procedure".

Although the plot of "The power" could have been better developed, the progress of the story is sometime slow. However, it achieves its objetcive of making you feel the rejection and disgust against both the current patriachal society and any kind of radicalism. The novel also shows how the desire of revenge may pervert any fair cause and the dificulty of avoid being a dictator if you are powerful enough, even if you have suffered before oppression. Therefore, it is not only a novel that calls your attention about the unfairness of any kind of injustice but also about the weaknesses of human nature.

I do not have any doubt to recommend the book. However, do not expect a masterpiece as "The Handmaid´s Tale"

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viernes, 1 de junio de 2018

#Datacalypsis : the end of a decade

2007. Everything around your personal data is under control as it is for the rest of the Europeans. For more than a decade has been in place a Directive that protects your privacy and your personal data. A few months ago you has started to use from time to time a new kind  of services provided by some small innovative companies, Google and its new email service, a platforms for sharing videos called YouTube and a web that you are not sure what is its purpose yet called Facebook. Not too much people use this incredible services yet and you pass the voice to everyone about them.

2018. News rules for the protection of your data has entered into force. You hope this would allow you to take again control of your personal data. You feel that those big platforms you use everyday has gone too far in taking advantage from the data they collect about you. But you can not stop using it without taking a big change in your life  that you are not willing to take.

More that a decade separate the two scenarios above. Everybody now knows that last week the privacy rules has changed because their e-mail boxes has been completely flooded with notices of the change from the hundred of online services yoy have used at least once. It has been a bad start for the new data protection regulation. On one hand, people do not like to be bothered with the changes in laws. On the other hand, they have started to notice that few things have changed. The notifications are still linked to long therms of service as obscure as before and even some of them try to take advantage of the notification to obtain more data.

Nevertheless, the theory is that everything has changed and that companies are now more accountable for what they do with your personal data. According to the new rules anyone can request detailed information about the handling of their data from the companies. Online companies are scared about the seismic it could caused thousand and millions of users withholding consent for certain uses of data, requesting access to their personal information from data brokers, or deleting their information from sites altogether. But the reality has been different and only the usual mavericks has filed complaints to the usual suspects.

However, the fear is running free among companies. The first day the new data protection rules entered into force some services started to be unavailable for Europeans. The many times announced balkanisation of the Internet looks to has started. Furthermore, there is a panic of which is going to be the effect on European AI development and the offer of AI services for Europeans. Therefore, a decade after the begin of the digital revolution an scenario of disminution of the offer of digital services instead of a landscape of expanding availability of them is opening.

And we have seen nothing yet. In the middle of the frenzy few people is noticing that another big change regarding privacy and personal data is on the brink of happening. On March 2019, Brexit will be a reality and a new group of those services we used daily will be provided from a country with a different data protection legal framework. The European Commission has already published a notice to stakeholders about the preparations that needed to be done.

The explotation of personal data has been the lever of digital revolution. Therefore, a decade since the introdution of the services provided by the SIlicon Valley companies, the changes on the rules of privacy and data protection introduced by GDPR is opening a new scenario of unpredictable changes, both for EU and worldwide. As our lives are  pending on those services, it is for sure that things will not be the same after May 25th.

viernes, 25 de mayo de 2018

Waiting time on cyber security

Some figures get you dizzy. That is the feeling I have ever had when I read the report of the impact of cybersecurity incidents and their cost. Reports can be found in all flavours in the internet, but here are the figures for the main dimensions of cybersecurity in one post:

  • Cyber crime damage costs to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021.
  • Cybersecurity spending to exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021
  • Cyber crime will more than triple the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs, which is predicted to reach 3.5 million by 2021
  • Human attack surface to reach 6 billion people by 2022 
  • Global ransomware damage costs are predicted to exceed $5 billion in 2017

As in any other part of the world, there is a growing concern in Europe about the above facts and figures and measures are taken in a progressive but unremmitting manner. Both in the Digital Single Market strategy and its mid-term review it is highlighted its importance and some measures are sketched, while the more concrete and holistic approach is set in the EU cyber security strategy published later under the name "Resilience, Deterrence and Defence: Building strong cybersecurity for the EU".

We will need some time to appreciate the results of the non-legislative actions, as the Cyber Security public-private partnership promoted by the European Commission. Nevertheless, the effect of the new pieces of legislation  is felt since the first day of their entry into force. Today, its the zero-day for GDPR and a few weeks ago the Network and Information Security went into effect. In both cases, the more visible impact will be be the big fines that firms will have to pay in case of cyber security breaches. as well as the investments they will certainly announced to have made in order to comply with the laws. Less visible will be if the new legal framework promote the needed trust on the digital technology and services, and therefore fulfill its final objectives.

Same could be said about the measures that are in the pipeline. It will be difficult to appreciate in the short term if the digital opportunities initiative contribute to train the needed base of cybersecurity professionals. However, we will see from day zero the cost of the implementation of the forthcoming cybersecurity certification framework without feeling in the short tem if it produces IT products and services we can trust on.

So now we are entering into waiting time. The time to wait and see if Europe has taken the right measures to provide a secure digital environment we can trust on. If some rectifications are identified, it would be difficult to have time enough to react.

miércoles, 16 de mayo de 2018

Around the Digital MFF proposal

The European Commission started three years ago the development of the Digital Single Market Strategy. According with the press release published on the day that the initiative was presented, "The aim of the Digital Single Market is to tear down regulatory walls and finally move from 28 national markets to a single one".  The implementation of the DSM Strategy is not being easy. After all this time, the legislative train panel has only registered that a handful the regulations has been fully approved by the EU institutions.

However, as important as the implementation of the DSM Strategy is thinking in the following steps. Breaking the barriers has not sense if you don't unleash later the forces of digital entrepreunership and creativity in the new space. It looks that the European Commission thinks also that way and has the intention to promote the development of a whole set of digital projects on top of the DSM. For this purpose, the EC has proposed a significative increase of funding for the digital area in the Multiannual Financial Framework (or 'MFF'), an almost 9 fold increase of investments in digital transformation and networks to reach € 12 billion.

The budget proposal for the digital area has been divided in two blocks. On one side, under the Connecting Europe Facility, the European Commission aims to promote the deployment of the very high capacity networks that the innovative digital services needed to flourish. More than 3.000 € million has been estimated for this purpose. On the other hand, a new programme called Digital Europe has been designed for the digital transformation of public services and businesses. More than 9.000 € million has been thought as needed for boosting frontline investments in high-performance computing and data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and advanced digital skills.

The music sounds correctly but the devil could be in the details. In the documents published up to now there are few details on how this money would be allocated and spending, and we will probably do not know until the end of May. We should remember that in the last MFF proposal the EC also included an estimation of 9.200 million € for the digital area that was almost completely rejected by Member States, mainly due to its centralised management rules. Whether the EC has the same idea in its mind we can foresee a similar end for the proposal. 

miércoles, 9 de mayo de 2018

Digital outlooks for the future

The political ideas of Emmanuel Macron are far away from my vision of the world. However, he is perhaps one of the few front-line politicians who is able to speak more than five minutes about the world digitalisation, the policies needed for boosting it and its consequences. Some months ago, he gave an interview focused on his plans to make France a leader on AI development. To begin with, he chosen for put forward his ideas on the field a prestigious and global digital sector magazine, Wired, which is in itself a declaration of the importance he gives to the technological issues.

One of the passages of the interview was dedicated to the different models of AI development that USA and China are followed and what should be the European model. His thesis are not only applicable to AI field, but to digitalisation broadly speaking. On one hand, the firm-driven digitalisation model , "In the US , it is entirely driven by the private sector, large corporations, and some startups dealing with them. All the choices they will make are private choices that deal with collective values". On the other hand, the governments-driven digitalisation model, "Chinese players collect a lot of data driven by a government whose principles and values are not ours".

The President Macron did not develop completely the consequences of the above models neither which model could be an alternative to both, except some vague ideas about putting forward human development instead of technological development. Therefore, we should first stop a few minutes thinking about the different economic and social models that may be the outcome of firms-driven digitalisation and a governments-driven digitalisation.

Perhaps, we are more familiarized with the firms-driven model. As a consequence of our free-market economy embedded in a global trade system,  Europe initial steps towards digitalisation have been promoted mainly by private companies. We are witnessing how the digital giants are extending their outprint each day in more services beyond information and contents, like transport or lodging. From time to time, we get awareness that huge pile of data is held and exchanged within the private sector with few control from the citizens and their governments. The main usage of dgital technologies is for increasing productivity whatever the consequences. 

The final outcome of such a firms-driven model would certainly be an open a global economy, but based only in private interests with a diminishing weight of democracy and collective decisions. A private surveillance system would be globally established, with positive consequences for our consumer face but a dark side for our citizen part. There would also be a risk a neo-slaveism and precarization emerging from the pressure of a growing automatisation and the provision of job posts through digital platforms.

It is more difficult for us to visualise an exclusively governments-driven model due to our geo-political belonging to the Western World. However, it is easy to imagine as the first consequence the balkanisation of Internet promoted for governments in order to control the information and contents available. The governments would play a crucial role in the digitalisation of all the activities. Therefore, the application of digital technologies could be guided not only with productivity as the main goal but also to seek the society well-being.

This goverments-driven dgitalisation model has as its main negative outcome its orwellian footprint. Also different Internet fiefdoms would emerge with few connectivity between them, losing the global scale of the network and the unlimited availability of services. Nevertheless, a smoothest transition to automatisation could happen and its social consequences more easily absorbed.

Neither of the scenarios are probably appealing for our European minds. As President Macron said in the interview, "Europe is the place where the DNA of democracy was shaped", and the shared consequence of the firms-driven digitalisation and governments-driven digitalisation is jibarisation of citizenship. Therefore, the vaccine against both models should be around citizen empowerment, through enshrining both individuality and the importance of commonality. The individual has rights but the progress could only be based on public interest decided by the collectivity.

So the alternative to the governments-driven and firms-driven model for digitalisation should be based in a radical transparency of algorithms usage by governments and firms. Neither checking the effective fulfillment of our rights nor the defend of the public interest are possible without it. Algorithm transparency is the enabler for the limitation of surveillance but also the brake to censhorship and the lantern on unfair relationships in the labour and business spheres.

We know the alternatives, the question is finding the path to the right one.

miércoles, 2 de mayo de 2018

"Jose Antonio: Realidad y Mito" - Joan Maria Thomas

José Antonio: Realidad y mitoJosé Antonio: Realidad y mito by Joan Maria Thomàs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fue una presencia constante y callada en nuestra infancia. El retrato con su imagen de juventud perennen estaba en las paredes de todos los recintos oficiales. Sin embargo, nunca nadie era capaz de contarme quien habia sido, de dar muchas más señas más allá de su nombre, Jose Antonio, sin apellidos. Sabían que había sido el fundador del Movimiento, que había sido fusilado durante aquella Guerra Civil que entonces se empeñaban que llamaramos el Alzamiento Nacional. Jose Antonio había sido el mártir por excelencia cuya sangre daba legitimidad al régimen fascista del General Franco.

Jose Antonio era un misterio, y continuó siendolo cuando, unos años después, su retrato desapareció de las paredes de colegios, oficinas de la Administración y centros sanitarios. Leer sobre su vida, obra e ideas era una deuda pendiente con mi infancia, que he saldado con este magnífico tomo de Joan Maria Thomas. Una biografía más allá de aquel lejano mito en blanco y negro de nuestros días infantiles, la realidad de un hombre hijo de su tiempo, aquellos tumultuosos años treinta en Europa.

Vida, obra e ideas de Jose Antonio son un continuo, forman un triangulo cuyos vértices no pueden ser entendidos en análisis aislado. Una vida corta e intensa, marcada por la figura de su padre, primer dictador militar en la España del siglo XX. Unas ideas marcadas por las pasiones extremas de entreguerras. Una obra que no existió más allá de un solar vacío con apenas unos cimientos.

El trasfondo de la Europa violenta de los años treinta y sus extremismos que se propagaban sobre el caldo de cultivo de las sangrantes desigualdades y la miseria de España, una España que en vano un régimen republicano trataba de regenerar. Entre aquellos extremos, Jose Antonio tomó partido por el fascismo, sobre el que diseño un marco de ideas donde se mezclaba la nostalgia por el imperio perdido, una fe católica intensa y un vago sentimiento social. Unas ideas apenas pergeñadas que encontraron poco tiempo para ser llevadas a un papel.

Sobre su vida flota un aire de contradicción del que se contagian ideas y obra. A partes iguales, busca el destino de liderar un partido de masas y se siente arrastrado a la fuerza a la vida pública, siente la República como una necesidad para la regeneración de España y fruto de una esteril e injusta revancha contra la obra de su padre, teme y a la vez desea la violencia en las calles como medio de resolución de los problemas políticos. Una contradicción que se intensificó en sus últimos dias, donde trató de erigirse en mediador de un conflicto cuya mecha había contribuido a encender y que muchos de sus seguidores alimentaban a diario de forma extrema, y se prolongó despues de su muerte, cautivo para siempre del aparato propagándistico de un régimen infinitamente lejano de una parte central de sus ideas.

Al final, sigue el misterio, la duda sobre quién realmente fue Jose Antonio. Y termino de entender porqué en mi infancia nadie era capaz de decirme quién había sido aquella persona eternamente joven en un retrato en sepia.

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