miércoles, 10 de octubre de 2018

Foundations for an AI strategy

The technological hype now is called Artificial Intelligence. Whether you are part production or the consumer side of the digital economy, it is almost certain that you will read, listen or watch some kind of piece of new or report about AI in the next days, and in the following ones, and in days after. The references to AI look pervasive. However, It is curious that according with Google Trends, the term "Artificial Intelligence" is used and mentioned far less than in 2004.

Whether or not AI debate is more central now to the technological debate than before, many interesting studies are published continuously about its long and medium term impact. One of these studies was published some weeks ago by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). The study concludes that AI has the potential to deliver additional global economic activity of around $13 trillion by 2030, or about 16 percent higher cumulative GDP compared with today.

However, AI adoption might be not equal across territories, companies and people. The study mentioned above warns about the potential emerge of a triple divide due to  this unequal adoption. On one hand, the countries leading AI development could capture an additional 20-25% in economic benefits compared with today, while emerging economies may accrue only an extra 5-15%. On the other hand, by 2030 the AI frontrunner companies will double their cash flow while the laggard ones might experience around a 20 percent decline in their cash flow. Finally, the job profiles characterized by repetitive activities could experience the largest decline as a share of total employment to around 30 percent by 2030, from some 40 percent.

What the MGI report does not analyse in deep are the causes for the triple divide. These causes will not reside in the future, the AI divides will be the corollary of the present breaches in the adoption of the digital technology. 

To begin with the geographical divide, AI cannot be adopted if you do not have access to it. Therefore, the precondition for an equal AI development in every country and region is having an homogeneous level of connectivity worldwide. Unfortunately, we are far from it. The UN Broadband Commission has been warning of the massive lack of broadband access in the developing countries, estimating that half of the world population does not have internet connectivity.

The case for the companies AI divide is slightly difference. Almost every company has some kind of Internet. But broadband networks are not the only required infrastructure on the digital world which economy is based on data. The adoption of AI is almost impossible for those companies that do not have access to storage and processing capabilities. And the adoption divide of the cloud services which provide these computing capabilities is already there. While almost 45% of large companies  in Europe has adopted cloud services, less than 20% of SMEs has done so.

Finally, the seeds for the future workers AI divide is the current difference in digital skills adoption. More than 40% of EU workers lack of the basic digital skills. There is few risk on a bet on these workers as the future losers of the AI revolution.

There is a frenzy among countries, particularly the economy leaders, in developing AI strategies to obtain its undeniable benefits. However, these strategies, even in these countries could be doomed. The lack of solid foundations ruins even the more splendid mansion and AI could not flourish without the right and previous deployment of connectivity, storage and processing infrastructures and digital skills.

miércoles, 3 de octubre de 2018

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy - Cathy O'Neil

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens DemocracyWeapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a must read book to understand our daily life and how it is mastered by algorithms and maths in a growing manner. But do not fear to meet with a complex text, the book is written in a readable style and you will almost read in a day or two if you are on holidays.

The author calls the algorithms used by companies "Weapons of Math Destruction (WMD)", characterized by its opaciity, scalability and damage. Obviously, not all the algorithms are WMDs, but there are many cases where they are. In the book, you can find many examples of cases where maths are weaponized through bias not only towards vulnerable minorities but towards almost every citizen, except the more privilegized.WMDs are now part of our all lifecycle, dominating education, hiring, evaluation of work performance, insurance and finance sector and, of course, our daily usage of the internet.

However, the book is not just another neoluddite piece. To begin with, the author is an specialist on data analysis who has worked many years on the matter. The author pointed to the bad usage of maths, hihlighting how algorithms could be a useful tools if we introduce human values in its application. The central perversion on our usage of math is the focus on efficiency, laying aside fairness and defining a paralel reality which perpetuates and reinforce the existing discriminations.

Nevertheless, the book is also a call for hope. In may passages of the book the author reminds us our own responsibility. Particularly, it points to those who work in the digital industry. Furthermore, it includes a kind of Hippocratic Oath for them in its final pages. In the end, reverting the situation is sill on our hands.

View all my reviews

miércoles, 26 de septiembre de 2018

The public value of broadband deployments

The rationale behind the development of National Broadband Plans is its impact on well-being, social inclusiveness and economic growth. The current Plans in Europe were developed around 2011-2012 based on the conclusions of studies written around 2007-2009. The data taken into consideration for these studies belonged to the environment created around first broadband networks which speeds were below 30 Mbps. The most well-known piece of conclusion from these studies is that 10 per cent broadband penetration has an impact between 0.9 and 1.5 percentage points on GDP per capita.

More than five years after the begin of the above mentioned National Broadband Plans, there's a lack of evaluation of their results. The need for these assessment is double. On one hand, to proof that the return of the public investments. On the other hand, due to the evolution of connectivity technology used for broadband access in the last ten years, which demands an update of the data related to the benefits the infrastructure deployment. However, the lack of methodologies and standards for  the evaluation of results made this goal a challenge for public policy makers.

As usual, one the first serious trials for the evaluation of the economic impact and public value of a superfast broadband programme comes from a country used to evaluate the results of its public policies, the United Kingdom. The British Government published an exhaustive report on the impact on economy, well-being and enconomy of its public support to superfast broadband deployment between 2012 and 2016. The total cost of the programme has been around £ 800 millions. The evaluation has been done through the statistical comparison of geograhic areas where broadband deployment received support during the programme with white areas (without superfast broadband) of similar socio-economic conditions.

Without an study similar with the evaluation done in UK, the only result of a National Superfast Broadband Plan that could be shown by a government is the coverage. However, the extension of superfast broadband coverage is meaningless without the adoption. The report show that although the users could be suscribed previously to xDSL or other broadband technologies, the adoption rise quickly in the areas which received public support for superfast broadband deployment. Nearly 38 percent of the deployed infrastructure is used, helping to bridge the digital divide.

Regarding the economic benefits, the statiscal comparison between areas benefitting from subsidised coverage and white areas also show the positive impact of superfast broadband deployment. While subsidised areas saw employment rise by 0.8 percent and turnover grow by 1.2 percent, in the white areas of similar socio-economic conditions there are not a relevant variation in employment and turnover grow 0.4 percent. To sum up, the report calculate that the Superfast Broadband Plan has given UK businesses a £9 billion shot in the arm. 

The UK government study reports other benefits, as the influence of the existence of superfast broadband in firms relocation decisions or that the evidences suggest that upgrades to non-residential premises were the primary driver of reductions in unemployment. However, there is a need to go deeper in the analysys on social benefits. A recent study on the impact of the UK Superfast Broadband Plan published by the National Farmers' Union estimates that Children who are able to access the internet on a regular basis can expect a 25 per cent boost in their examination grades.

Although the study published by the UK government could be extended to more social and economic dimensions, it is an example of the work that must be done by other government  to asses and validate its superfast broadband strategies. 

miércoles, 12 de septiembre de 2018

"Los pacientes del doctor García" - Almudena Grandes

Los pacientes del doctor García (Episodios de una guerra interminable, #4)Los pacientes del doctor García by Almudena Grandes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Almudena Grandes continúa con esta novela su serie de historias enmarcadas en los años que van desde la guerra civil hasta el final de la dictadura fascista que la siguió. La autora, desde que inicio la serie, proclamó la inspiración en los galdosianos Episodios Nacionales en la ideación de estos "Episodios de una guerra interminable", y quizás en este cuarto volumen es, hasta ahora, dónde más claramente se nota esta inspiración. De hecho, "Trafalgar" , la novela con la que arrancan los Episodios Nacionales, juega un papel protagonista en "Los pacientes del Doctor Garcia".

La dignidad de la resistencia interior y exterior al franquismo tras la Guerra Civil es también de nuevo la protagonista, en este volumen de la serie, personificada en esta ocasión en el Doctor Garcia y su amigo Manuel Arroyo. Quizás más que nunca, también son protagonistas la amargura y la incredulidad que la tiranía fascista en España fuera consentida por la comunidad internacional. En paralelo, con más fuerza que en otros elementos de la serie, el contraste de la ruindad y depravación de la dictadura, que se muestra en su hospitalidad tras la II Guerra Mundial a los criminales de guerra que intervinieron en el Holocausto judío.

El cuarto episodio de la guerra interminable es un relato de espías, centrado en la existencia en la España franquista de redes de apoyo a la fuga hacia Argentina de criminales nazis. Los protagonistas, el Doctor Garcia y el diplomático Manuel Arroyo, tienen como misión infiltrarse y desarticular la red. La plausibilidad de la historia la proporciona un contexto de personajes reales y hechos verídicos que Almudena Grandes combina coon su habitual maestría.

La obra es, como los anteriores episodios de la serie, un ejercicio de memoria histórica. Se incluyen hechos verídicos olvidados y alejados durante años del foco de los historiadores. La desesperada y descabellada idea de la rebelión estudiantil de año 1946, coincidiendo con la suave condena de la ONU la régimen franquista, es el elemento más destacable de este tipo incluido dentro del relato. También existen menciones a otros hitos históricos, como hechos concretos de la rebeldía universitaria de los años sesenta.

A mi juicio, "Los pacientes del Doctor García" es la más conseguida hasta ahora de las novelas que componen la serie. Como indicaba antes, las aventuras de Guillermo Garcia y su amigo Manuel Arroyo es el relato con mas reminiscencias galdosianas. De igual modo, la novela es la de mayor riqueza de escenarios, que abarcan no sólo la España reprimida por el fascismo y próxima frontera pirenaica, una parte mayoritaria de la acción transcurre en la Europa y en la Argentina de la segunda mitad del siglo XX. Todo ello le permite a la autora poner en primer plano el hilo que une la dictadura franquista con la Alemania nazi y las sucesivas dictaduras argentinas.

Solo nos queda esperar a la nueva entrega de la serie.

View all my reviews

miércoles, 5 de septiembre de 2018

5G, the game changer

It`s a platitude repeated thousand times per second that 5G is something more than a new wireless technology, a standard that goes beyond that a mere heir of 4G. 5G is a game changer in the digital economy and the relationship between the different players of the ICT ecosystem. The first inklings of this fact are emerging. 

To begin with, we can expect a complete change in the manufacturers´ arena. Handsets will be one of the main lever for the adoption of 5G as it is not possible such an expensive technology (a whole new network) to be deployed without a mass market. The eyes were looking to Asia for the first announcement of a 5G phone, but, unexpectedly, Motorola has been the winner of the handsets race. Could this mean that the handset manufacturer who reigned during the 1G and 2G will recover its throne as the main seller of mobile phones?

But a possible disruption in the handset market could not be the only change ahead among manufacturers. Something may be changing also in the distribution of network equipment markets among regions and manufacturers. It is not a surprise that the approaching of the 5G commercial stage is revitalising Ericsson, the old lady among the networks manufacturers. What is more surprising is that this resurrection is not due to its traditional European market but due to the early 5G deployment in the USA. Could this mean that Ericsson would be definitely abandon the European market?

During 4G deployment we attended to the decline of Europe as the main driver of the adoption of the new mobile technologies. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the European countries are also lagging behind in the deployment of 5G. But the disruption on the driver seat of 5G adoption may be also on the making. According with some studies, China is outgunning US on 5G. China now has a total of 350,000 5G cell sites across the country, compared with just 30,000 in the US.

But 5G will be also the driving force behind more deep changes in the digital ecosystem. For instance, new relationships are been forging between telecom operators and OTTs to provide services based on 5G capabilities, as 5G TV. But that  will be the story of another post.

martes, 28 de agosto de 2018

"To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism " - Evgeny Morozov

To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological SolutionismTo Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since the beginning of the century, many things have happened to humanship as a collective of living beings. Geopolitical balance has changed, a deep economic crisis, revolutions and wars, ... and among them, it has also happened the rise of ubiquous connectivity thanks to the Internet. Furthermore, the internet has entered in every moment of our lifes thanks yo another recent invention, the smartphones. Through the internet, we keep in continuous contact with the news of the world, we maintain alive our social life, we registered our leisure activities, we increase our working productivity, .... But have we stopped for a moment to think about the social consequences of the Internet?

E. Morozov invite us to think about the social implications of the unleashed use of Internet and technology in "To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism ". Perhaps, the more important part of the debate is not about the Internet but about our deification of technology. Not every task need to be executed perfectly and, therefore, technology not should be allowed to entered in every aspect of our personal and working life. Many times as I was reading the book I thought in the many things we lost when we have substituted a phone call by a whatsapp message almost for everything.

But apart from the impact in our personal and working life, Morozov reflects on the impact on society and democracy. The author is specially critical with the understanding of technology by politicians. On one hand, the usage of self.cuantification of life as a tool to avoid taking painful and structural decissions in policy making, he particularly mentioned the fight against obessity. On the other hand, he negatively underlines the selling of political ideas as any other digital product, which could help to rise turn out on the short term but endangered the need of reflection and study in policy-making before choosing among options for tackling challenges.

Of course, you will find also in the book a critical narrative about platforms, but this narrative is now the on the rise. Probably, on that issue you will not discovered anything, but it will serve you to value properly the author as a foreruner of what it is now a general opinion. And therefore, you will provide more value to the rest of the author´s warnings included in the book.

View all my reviews

martes, 21 de agosto de 2018

Digital consumer benefit and the long term

Last July, the biggest fine ever in a competition case was imposed to Google for illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices to strengthen dominance of Google's search engine. Basically, the European Commission accused Google of illegaly tying its search engine to the distribtion of the Android system, which it´s licensed free for mobile devices on the condition (among others) of including the Google query box. As the search engine is Google´s flagship product and Android is used in 80% of EU mobile devices, the EU Commission understands that Google is taking advantange of its dominat postion in the mobile market to cement its overwhelming 90% market share in the market of search services.

However, the more painful part of the sentence for Google was not the monetary fine, but the accompanied remedies. Google was called by the EU Commission to stop its illegal practices within 90 days. Cuiriously, this measure has not raisen any relevant comments from Samsung, Huawei, HTC or any other handset maker supposedly abused by Google.

The inmediate reaction by Google was a post highlighting that Android has created flexibility choice and opportunity. Particularly, the company underline that consumers have been the main beneficiaries of the existence of Google. And this have been the main value of Android development strategy since its inception in 2007, its role in decreasing the prices for smartphones, which in its cheaper version can be found now for 50$ compared with the price of the cheaper in 2007 which was 500$ or more. 

The consumer benefit is usually the main line of defence and resistance of many other digital players. Take the case of the so-called sharing economy services. There are also strong callings to avoid its regulation, although some of them have evolved in genuine transport companies according with the ECJ (like Uber) and other are now the biggest lodging company in the world (like Airbnb). The main reason given by those who opposed its regulation is again the consumer benefit. 

However, they are overlooked many other consequences of the consumer benefit approach. In the Android-Google case, it is not needed to highlight the absolute knowledge that Google is accumulated of our wherabout, thoughts and customes. In the case of Airbnb and Uber, in the same manner that Facebook algorithms have been used to presumably corrupt electoral processes, it is not difficult to imagine how Airbnb  algorithms could be used to favour the prices of flats in a certain area or Uber algorithms to provoke a urban chaos through a massive petition of services in a district.

But should be consumer benefit the main goal of regulatory sentences or legislative actions? Remembering Matrix or Brave New World give us a reason to act against this line of thought. 

palyginti kainas