martes, 31 de marzo de 2015

"El impostor", Javier Cercas

El impostor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

La historia de Enric Marco es el relato de una impostura, nuestra impostura. España, un país de conformistas, ha querido creerse siempre una nación de resistentes. Nuestros escasos momentos heroicos han sido protagonizados por los escasos compatriotas que supieron decir no cuando la mayoría decía sí. Javier Cercas supo relatar la historia del héroe que quisimos creer que eramos todos, Miralles en "Soldados de Salamina". Javier Cercas ha sabido ponernos ante el espejo del impostor que todos llevamos dentro, Marco de "El impostor".

Las encrucijadas históricas de un país llamado España son origen de miles de imposturas. La transición a la democracia es el escenario en el que germinó el engaño de Enric Marco. Tras cuarenta años de sometimiento impasible de una mayoría, la mayoria se tornó en resistente oculto o exiliado interior de toda la vida. Marco pudo existir porqué existieron millones de Marco.

Javier Cercas conecta Marco con la tradición quijotesca. Convierte a Marco en un nuevo Alonso Quijano que se crea una figura para vivir sin remordimientos la ficción de su impostura. No es cierto. Alonso Quijano se encarna en el Quijote tras haber perdido la cordura, Marco se torna en superviviente de campo de concentración consciente de su engaño. Su ficción la crea como suma poliédrica de una serie de personajes creados. Marco es más deudor de Pessoa que próximo al espíritu caballeresco del hidalgo manchego.

Dentro de unos años, conoceremos los Enric Marco que están forjándose en los años turbulentos que vivimos.

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lunes, 30 de marzo de 2015

#eSkills #Innovation #SilverEconomy Somewhere in digital Europe ... (30/3/2014)

Riga Declaration on eSkills and Jobs

On 13 March under the Latvian Presidency Riga Declaration on e-skills was signed using digital solutions during the conference on “e-Skills for Jobs 2015”. It consists of 10 principles that will guide efforts to unlock the potential of e-Skills in order to fuel growth and job creation.

Growing the silver economy in Europe

The rapid demographic ageing is one of the main factors determining future EU and global economic development. It is a major societal challenge as well as a major opportunity for economic growth and jobs, the so-called "Silver Economy". This report review the current actions stimulated by the European Commission in the area of the "Silver Economy", future activities to be build on top of it and their potential for the generation of new jobs and growth;

ICT and Innovation

This report is part of a wider assignment intended to mobilise efforts and stimulate commitment around the use of ICT to deliver growth and jobs in Europe. It is aimed at identifying relevant initiatives and involving stakeholders in the formulation of policy recommendations to foster ICT and Innovation in the EU by addressing different challenges to help bridging the gap between research and market competitiveness, in two perspectives: in and through ICT.

miércoles, 25 de marzo de 2015

The debate on Internet Platforms

Europe is in the middle of a period of reflection on its digital political priorities. Although we will have yet to wait until May to see which is the Digital Single Market Strategy announced in the 2015 Work Programme of the European Commission, we can expect in it the first concrete holistic result of the fierce debate around the future relationship of the European Union with Internet Platforms. The debate has had several fronts in the last months. From the ECJ sentence on the "right to be forgotten" to the unfinished study on the demand for Google anti competitive behaviour on the search market. But not always Google has been the centre of this battle, Uber, Facebook and many more has been one way or the other objective of scrutiny by the European papers or authorities or civic society or altogether at the same time.
Although the European Commission has not yet taken a decision on the approach to the relationships between EU and the Internet Platforms, other European players has made different proposals. The European Parliament approved on november 2015 an opinion on consumer rights in the digital single market where it showed it concerns on Internet Platforms in the markets of e-commerce, search and cloud computing. It was specially hard on the search market where he asked "the Commission to consider proposals aimed at unbundling search engines from other commercial services". In their contributions supporting the European Commission development of the Digital Single Market Strategy, several Member States has included the topic from different perspectives. It seems that there is a call for action on the issue, although there is no agreement among the European Institutions on the degree of harshness of the action (legal or soft-regulation).
However, it seems that the mere study of a change of the operational framework for Internet Platforms in Europe has raised concerns on the USA, the headquarter of the bigger Internet players. After the opinion approved by the European Parliament on November 2015, several members of the US Congress and Senate published open letters accusing the EU lawmakers of politicizing Google antitrust investigation. From the strategy followed by Google in its approach to the "right to be forgotten", some people sees that Internet Platforms are "encouraging conflict between apparent European and US viewpoints" in the approach to the operational framework for them. It is difficult to decide if this different approach really exists, but what is true is that some important (although conservative) US think tanks has called towards a prudent approach from regulators to the competitive cases where GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) are involved. The think-tank called for a flexible interpretation of regulations in order to avoid  "discouraging risk-taking and stifling innovation".
It is undeniable that defining a sustainable operational framework for Internet Platforms is one of the biggest challenge for policy-making in the 21st century. There is a need to create a new framework that allows a fair competition among players whatever its market position, do not harm any kind of freedom (trade, expression, privacy, ...) and respect consumer rights (choice, transparency, ...). Nevertheless, it should be a framework that should be created with care and avoid the risk of a neutral economy. As one of the best studies on platform neutrality proposed, in the short-term we should make an effective use of the legal resources and working on the medium-term on a proper organisation and regulation on the data ecosystem. Because in the future, every product will be an Internet Platform. What anything will be cars, domestic appliances or even houses?

miércoles, 18 de marzo de 2015

Grasping #IoT opportunity requires political actions

There are enough evidence of the contribution of broadband to dynamization of the global economy. We only need to remember a few data. For instance, it is said that a 10% increase in broadband penetration increased GDP growth by 1.4%. Other example, the estimation that bringing mobile broadband in the developing world to the levels of the industrial world could add $400 billion annually to global GDP. And this is only the starting point. In the same way that the impact on the economy of the road network is not comparable to the impact of the  logistics enabled by the roads, the impact of broadband on the economy will be dwarfed by the impact of the applications enabled by broadband.

The massive digitalisation based on a world of data and sensors is on the brink of bringing to the world a whole new economy based on collaboration. According with the last book written by Rifkin, the combination of broadband, big data and sensors will accelerate the coming of an economy based on zero marginal costs. This would implies a world based on abundance instead of scarcity and therefore the promise of the end of poverty. Nevertheless, reaching this point would be only possible once some obstacles are overcome.

To begin with we need to have a really abundance of data. And this condition is not as obvious as it may seem. Certainly, there are evidences of a growing amount of digital data. It is said that only in 2011 the amount of information created and replicated surpassed 1.8ZB (1.6 trillion gigabytes). Furthermore, some people estimates that 90% of the world's data has been produced in just the last two years. Nevertheless, this provisional abundance of data, especially the more useful one, could be a mirage based on ignorance. One of the main sources of data is our personal usage of the Internet and mobile apps. Up to the point, people is giving its personal information without a really awareness of their act. As the digital literacy grows, we can expect the same reluctance to give personal information in the digital world as in the physical world. How would you react if shopkeepers asked for the same permissions as apps?

Even in the case we can guarantee in the future the current flow and abundance of data, there is not any assurance that the usage of the pools of data would be the more innovative one. The pools of data are isolated and the usage of each pool of data only allowed to the company who has compiled it based on the usage of its services. Google and Facebook are the most obvious case. As these pools of data are an important input for the digital economy its access should be open, in the same manner that there are regulations that oblige incumbent telecom operators to open its access networks.  Fairness would be that incumbent digital platforms would have an equivalent treatment as the incumbents in other markets.

Last but not least, we need the people who can exploit the mix of data and sensors. And this is a growing need in every sectors as we are populated with sensors any physical items, from buildings to power plants. To give one example of many let us look to the field of cars. We are approaching the point where 90% of the car is software based on 10% of sensors. The connected cars power will not be unleashed without a critical mass of developers. And this is almost certain in any "smart" device area.

The world of data and sensors, what some people called Internet of the Things, is one of the doors of prosperity. Nevertheless, grasp this opportunity requires actions to guarantee abundance of data, access to the data and usage of the data generated by sensors. In the current updating of the Digital Agenda for Europe, the European Commission should not forget planning actions in the IoT arena.

miércoles, 11 de marzo de 2015

#NetNeutrality #Jobs Somewhere in #digital Europe ... (11/3/2015)

Letter to the Council signed by MEPs regarding the Telecom Single Market (TSM) proposal

On March 4th the EU Council adopted its position regarding the TSM proposal. Roaming and Net neutrality are the main elements of this forthcoming regulation. There is huge gap between the position on both topics adopted by the Parliament and the Council. The letter last week signed by 126 MEPs is the first milestone of the debate

Engagement for Growth and Jobs

The "Grand Coalition and the National Coalition for Jobs" is the flagship initiative for promoting the creation of digital jobs in Europe. After more than a year of the beginning of the project, this report contains an analysis of its impact and recommendations for the second phase of the initiative.

Toolkit for National and Local Coalitions for Jobs

In order to promote the creation of National and Local Coalition for Jobs, the European Commission established a Secretariat for the initive. Among its activities, the Secretariat has published this toolkit that aims to clarify the role of National Coalitions and Local Coalitions and gives guidance on how to set them up.

domingo, 8 de marzo de 2015

Beyond #NetNeutrality (VI): Do we know which is the reality behind the headlines?

Many months without writing about net neutrality, but it is difficult to resist the temptation to continue the serie.

Due to an alignment of the stars, last week was the week of Net Neutrality at both sides of the Atlantic. On one hand, after the most successful public consultation on telecom matters, FCC announced its order on Net Neutrality. On the other hand, the EU Council announced its position towards Net Neutrality within the debate of the forthcoming regulation for the Telecom Single Market. It looks as if a great divide has opened between both sides of the Atlantic regarding its approach towards the Internet regulation. The US approach looks as a success for freedom activist while the EU approach as the rebirth of censorship and the triumph of corporations. Nevertheless, things are not so black and white as you may think.

Firstly, the European decision on the new interpretation of net neutrality is far from having been adopted. The position of the EU Council is only one step more towards the final decision. In the same manner that the decision of the EU Parliament adopted last April was another previous step. Now the Council and the Parliament has to started negotiations to reach a final consensus on the matter. The position of both sides are quite different and at the same time they have to negotiate the date and process for the end of roaming charges in Europe, so we cannot expect the real final decision before June.

Secondly, we do not know yet the decision of the FCC on Net Neutrality but what they have told us about the decision. At the time I´m writing this post (March 7th) the FCC has not yet published the complete order on Net Neutrality and it will take sometime yet. This is a policy matter and in policy matters sometimes is needed to discover the real story behind the marketing wrapping. Reading the statements of the commissioners who voted in favour and against the order is easy to find contradictions on the contains of the order. What is more, it is yet to see what are the details of the key concepts used in the order. For example, the definitions of "internet access service" and " data services do not go over the public Internet", the first will be under the net neutrality rules while the second not. Also we do not know details about how the FCC "will address questionable practices on a case-by-case basis". There are evidences that pointed towards the direction that this case-by-case analysis will be the backdoor to allowing specialised services over the Internet, which would mean that the position of the FCC and the EU Council would not be so different.

Thirdly, if there have been pressures from big companies in the policy-making process the pressures have existed on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of the European civic society groups has accused the members of the EU Council of adopting its approach towards net neutrality due to the fact that "the lobbying of their big national ex-monopolies is difficult to resist". Maybe it is true or maybe not. However, there are the same reasons to think that the FCC has adopted its decision due to the pressures of the GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook & Apple). This is even recognised by those who has fought in favour of an strict interpretation of the net neutrality principleThe different between both sides of the Atlantic is the actor of the digital value chain who is the potential guilty of the pressure.

As in any policy issue, regarding the net neutrality issue everybody has his own idea of which is the best approach. It is curious also that as in any other policy question both extremes of the debate argue in the similar manner in order to defend its position. In this case, for instance, they accused each other to propose a solution that stifles innovation. Therefore, we should not forget that net neutrality is no longer a technical question but a policy issue when we read the news. And as in any policy issue reality is far away from the headlines.

miércoles, 4 de marzo de 2015

Digitalisation and labour relationships (II)

Smartphone adoption has not stop growing in an spectacular manner since the appearance of the first iPhone. The penetration worldwide is close to 30% and in Spain has surpassed 50%. As times goes by, it is more difficult to find someone using a basic phone. We are attending a one of the quickest shift in technology of the history. One of the main drivers of this change are apps. It is quite difficult to resist to the appeal to have a solution to any need in the pocket with zero cost in most cases. Whether you need to book a ticket for the theatre, know the weather forecast or checking your e-mail, you can be sure that there is an app for that. As there is an app for everything. Now the apps are beginning to change our whole relationship with the world of labour.

The more visible change is in our relation with labour as customer of services. As The Economist said a couple of months ago, whatever service we need there is an app for that. The smartphone is on the way to revolutionised our access to any kind of small jobs. The possibility to hire a car driver through apps like Uber or Lyft is just the starting point. To name a few, there are apps for hiring someone to clean our apartment (Handy), asking for someone to look after our children (care) or looking for a professional for do the shopping for us (instacart). 

In the afterwards of the big depression, stable job does not look to return easily. Being hired through this apps has become the modus vivendi of a part of the population (certainly, not big yet) and the way to survive of the more techie individuals who are on the dole. Among the sectors of the so called "shared economy", online staffing is one of the two sectors where experts expect a bigger CAGR in the period 2013-2025. Therefore, we can expect a growing base of freelancers depending for their jobs on a loose and weak relationship with an Internet platform. Certainly, the temporary employment agencies are in the frontline of disruption, but will not be the only victims of this wave of digitisation.

The almost certain dramatic reduction of employees at the expense of freelancers could be the last nail on the coffin of the trade unions. The union trade density has decreased in OECD area in the last 15 years from 20,8% to 16,9%. The continuous decrease of the public sector since the conservative revolution of the 80's and the shift of the industrial production to developing countries in the globalised markets have eroded its main sources of members. It is difficult to imagine that the trade unions will regain strength in labour world with a dominance of freelancers, nevertheless there is a chance for them if they convert their organisations in platforms for the connection of a disperse workforce. Obviously, apps and smartphones would be the compulsory entry point for the "trade-union-as-a-platform". To be sincere, personally I do not have too much expectations on an evolution of the traditional trade unions to the platform model, but as a worker I hope that digital disruptions will bring us a new trade union model. The appearance of the "California app-based drivers association" reflects there is a demand of an app for workers rights.

Maybe you could think that very few of the things described on the above paragraphs affect you. Neither you are freelance nor a member of a trade union. But you are wrong, apps are called to disrupt also the internal life of big corporations and the public sector. The hierarchical model of organisation has inefficiency shortcomings and it discourages innovation. Digital platforms could be the enabler of new models  with a more efficient allocation of human resources through the spontaneous association of co-workers based on self-management and peer review of outcomes. An app in our smartphone would be the tool that provide the agility and transparency that the new model of organisation need.

Smartphone and apps have already changed the way we asked for work labour for the services we need. Either we are freelancers ourselves or not, this is only the starting point of a broader change in our labor relationships brought by apps, and therefore our whole life due to the importance role of work in it. Unfortunately, we do not have yet an app for soothsaying the social and personal consequences of this changes.

lunes, 2 de marzo de 2015

#security #5G #Benchmark Somewhere in #digital Europe ... (2/3/2015)

State of Privacy Report 2015

Data is the cornerstone of digital economy. The more valuable data is the personal one. Symantec in this report answers to fundamental questions on our attitude towards sharing our personal data with others on the digital world.

Why the EU is betting big on 5G

Europe is lagging behind USA and other competitors in the digital economy. 5G deployment could be the last chance for Europe to recover a leading position in technology. This magazine review the research activities under development in Europe in the 5G arena.

Digital Economy and Society Index

Europe is designing its new digital agenda, the Digital Single Market Strategy. The new Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) gives a view of the weakness and strengths of Europe in the digital economy,

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