lunes, 31 de diciembre de 2018

"Permafrost" - Eva Baltasar

PermafrostPermafrost by Eva Baltasar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Me acerque a la primera novela de Eva Baltasar por dos razones. La primera, por encontrarla de modo recurrente en diferentes listas recopilando las mejores obras en prosa publicadas en 2018. La segunda por la motivación del título que figuraba en todos esos listados, estableciendo un paralelismo entre la capa de tierra permanentemente congelada de las zonas árticas con la protección ante el mundo con que se cubre a la protagonista sin nombre de la novela, y al que la autora acude un par de veces a lo largo de la obra. Me pareció crudo realismo adentrarse en centrar una novela en una práctica tan común al ser humano, proteger nuestro yo intimo con un permanente escudo que no terminamos de abrir del todo ni tan si quiera a los que se creen más cercanos.

La autora acumula varios poemarios publicados y el lirismo impregna todas las páginas de la novela. Duele la belleza con la que explora la soledad de la protagonista y sus instintos suicidas, que nacen de sentirse un accidente prescindible en la vida de quienes la rodean. Completan el retrato del personaje la artificialidad que emana en las relaciones familiares de la protagonista y el vacío protector con el que afronta las relaciones de pareja y un recorrido vital imprevisible que roza por momentos el precariado.

La novela es también una excusa para enfrentarnos con lo que aún algunos consideran tabúes sociales alrededor de la figura femenina. Las relaciones lésbicas, la no maternidad por elección o el despertar sexual de las niñas son presentados con un naturalismo que sorprende en forma escrita..

Una obra corta, cuya fuerza y atracción permite leer en una sentada, de abrupto final sin que por ello demande un mayor desarrollo. Al mismo tiempo, abre el apetito por leer la siguiente pieza de la trilogía del mundo femenino que la autora ha abierto con esta obra.

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jueves, 27 de diciembre de 2018

"After the party" - Cressida Connolly

After the PartyAfter the Party by Cressida Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some people say we are living a political period quite similar to the years previous to the II World War. It is easy to draw parallelisms between the fascist parties that emerged in the 20th century with the populist parties and movements that currently are arisen. Certainly, the ideology of both sets of political groups have many points in common, but we tend to pass over the difference of the average bigger success of the nowadays lot. The horror of the war that came after the rise to power of Hitler and Mussolini makes us forget that both dictators were the only cases that obtained an unequivocal popular support while the rest of their imitators in other countries rarely achieved neither a real political influence nor institutional representation during the years previous to the war outburst.

There´s a general lack of knowledge of the real history of those fascist parties and who were their members. "After the party" introduce us to the case of the British Union of Fascist (BUF) and its inner life. The thread of the story is the life of Phyllis, a woman that belonged to the british upper medium class who returned to Great Britain in 1938 and entered into the BUF through one of her sisters, more as an imititation game in order to win friends than due to a real convincement . The ideas the sisters declare in the novel are mainly aligned with the pacifist and non-interventionist speech of the party without traces of antsemistism, and their whole "political" activity looks more as an upper class passtime than a real power game.

Even if you hold a strong ideological stance against facism, th figure of Phyllis doesn´t arise strong feeling of rebuff. She seems along the novel as a puppet of destiny who surf on perplexity, particularly at the moment United Kingdom declared war to Germany and she is arrested to be drive to an imprisonement camp with other members of the party while her sisters remained in freedom. Neither she identifies herself as an enemy of her country nor as critical cog of the party who deserves to be imprisoned.

The author manages to build the perfect atmosphere at the different moments of the novel. From the night parties of the upper class to the live in the concentration camps, every scenario looks so a plausible reconstruction of Phyllis environment that contributes to our understanding of the main character of the novel. The structure of the narrative from two different points of view, on one hand as Phyllis´s perspective at the moment of the central plot of the story and on the other hand as her memories, also help us to be impartial on the judgement of Phyllis and her ideas, as well as on her evolution from naivety to cinism.

To sum up, "After the party" is one of those rare novels with an interesting story set on an interesting historical scenario. Both of them contributes to make it a book worthy to read.

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miércoles, 19 de diciembre de 2018

Exploring the digital regulatory challenges for the next EU legislation

The legislative period is coming to an end in Europe. Whatever its consequences and impacts in the long and medium term , the las five years will be remember as the starting of the era where regulation of the digital issues became the new normal. Approximately 40 regulatory proposals has been adopted by the EU institutions to build up the so called Digital Single Market, the EU acquis on digital issues has been multiplied by four. 

Nevertheless, there has been tough issues to tackle. Particularly, all the topics regarding digital platforms has been object of intensive debate, and only in the last stretch of the legislative period looks that it is going to be adopted the first comprehensive piece of legal framework regulating the relationship between platforms and business. However, it is light piece of regulation and would almost certainly need a refurbishment in two or three years. 

But new technological disruptions are on the table and will deserve the attention of the EU institutions in the forthcoming five years. AI, blockchain and 5G poses new challenges to tackle. The strategy to face these new issues should be cautious but decided. Firstly, exploring and confirming the issues that deserve a regulatory approach. Secondly, with the design of the appropriate rules to respond to these issues.

On the first place, each category of AI poses a new challenge. In the case of Artificial Narrow Intelligence , it is the transparency of the algorithms that define the intelligence and its behavior according with the social values and legality. Going fast forward to Artificial General Intelligence, it appears the issue of liability. Finally, Artificial Super Intelligence would bring on the table the topic of the assignation of legal personality to machines. Not all these issues will be possible to tackle in the next EU legislative period, of course, but any legislation should take into consideration the big picture.

Secondly, blockchain and the rest of the DLTs have as their main legal gap the compatibility with the the GDPR. It is needed to explore how to combine the development of these technologies with the protection of personal data principles, as the consent ofor handling data, the right to be forgotten or the anonymisation. Besides this transversal issues to blockchain there challenges related with its sectoral applications, as the need for a consumer regulation regarding smart contracts.

Last but not least, 5G may also disrupt some aspects of telco regulation. The main worry that has emerged is the compatibility of the usage of network slicing features with net neutrality regulation, but almost certainly other issues may emerge around the deployment of network infrastructure.

miércoles, 12 de diciembre de 2018

EU & Blockchain: The beginning of a beautiful friendship

Blockchain, or more generally speaking, Distributed Ledger Technologies is seen as one of the key enabler technologies for digital transformation of economy and the society. Beyond its usage in criptocurrencies and other financial services, applications are emerged in other areas of the data economy. As a consequence, the European Council pointed in October 2017 this technology as one of the emergent trends that need to be address by the European Union.

After the political support, the European Commission took the usual steps in order to work on exploring the applications of any technology. On one hand, the EC set up an initiative to collaborate with the the private sector called the EU Blockchain Observatory, that aims to identify regulatory challenges related with DLTs and explore their different use cases. On the other, hand, the EC established a group for collaboration with the Member States, called the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP), mainly focused in discovery the application of DLTs in cross-border public services and the specification and implementation of a trusted, secure and resilient European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) to support these services. 

The European Parliament has not been idle while the EC and the Member States were working in the EBPS and the EU Blockchain Observatory. After many working sessions, the Parliament has published in October 2018 a resolution called "Distributed ledger technologies and blockchains: building trust with disintermediation".  The resolution identifies many sectorial applications (energy, transport, healthcare, education, supply chains, creative industry, finances), describes the main elements of the DLT ecosystem (identity & trust, smart contracts, interoperability & standards, security), pushes for DLT public infrastructure, highlights its importance for SMEs (both as a tool for develop business opportunities and a financial mechanism) and concludes with listing policy actions to build up a blockchain-friendly Europe (strengthening skills, case-by-case regulation,  support R&D in the area and best practices exchange). 

So all the pieces are on the table for the next EU legislative period regarding blockchain. It´s time to take advantage of the Digital Single Market to develop an EU DLT policy approach and reap its benefits in the different economic sectors.

miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2018

A digital phantom menace

Along the last years, Europe has been accused many times of sgital protectionism, particularly by US private and public actors. It´s  curious that both the current US President Mr. Trump) and the former one (Mr. Obama) has critised at one moment or other some of the policies developed in the Union to build the Digital Single Market. It may has something to do with the surge of lobby spending in Washington by the GAFA.

Although it may be difficult to determine what is digital protectionism, what it is true is the increasing difficulty of the GAFA to do business in Europe. Without being exhaustive, we have seen last year how new data protection rules has entried into force in EU, the finance ministers mulling with the idea of a Digital tax, a review of the audiovisual legal framework that aims to establish new obligations to Netflix-alike services and several antitrust investigations leaded by the European Commission are in different stages of its proceedings.

It would be an endless debate to discuss about the fairness of the above measures. While someone may call it to stifle innovation, others call it a mechanism to level the playing field. What it is true, it is that it is starting to float the idea of a partial or total shut down of GAFA services in Europe. The most clear and recent threat in this sense has come from Google, who has been ambiguous on the possibility to close down Google News in Europe in case the new EU copyright rules includes the so-call link tax. 

We should recognise that for many of us the GAFAs are so ingrained in our daily life that it´s difficult to imagine a life without them. However, it may not be a tragedy for EU it´s total shut down in Europe. As the Sweden example show us, it is possible to survive without, for instance, Amazon services. Furthermore, according with the results of the last DESI, Sweden is the second most digitally advanced country in Europe and 84% of the internet users shop online, well above the EU average and only overcome by UK.

So the menace of the shut down of GAFA service in Europe should not be as bad as it is feared, the Sweden example show us that there is life without digital platforms and also may have some postive effects in the digital performance of a country. The consequences, it the end, may be worst for the GAFAs than EU if the bluff is called.

miércoles, 28 de noviembre de 2018

"Lejos del corazón" - Lorenzo Silva

Lejos del corazón (Bevilacqua y Chamorro, #11)Lejos del corazón by Lorenzo Silva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Como tantos otros, sigo leyendo y devorando cada nuevo relato de un caso de Vila y Chamorro. Y Lorenzo Silva, como ya hizo con la corrupción local en "Los cuerpos extraños" o el estado de la cuestión catalana en "La marca del meridiano", utiliza el trasfondo de las preocupaciones y actualidad como contexto. Toca en esta ocasión el lado alegal de Internet, que combina con los perennes negocios turbios de las mafias del Estrecho.

La novela es, también, un ajuste de cuentas de Lorenzo Silva con la cara oscura de Internet. Pocos novelistas existen más combativos que el autor contra la distribución ilegal de sus obras en la red. Lorenzo Silva relata, deleitándose en el detalle, la estrecha relación entre apps gratuitas que ocultan recopiladores de información personal, mineros escondidos de bitcoin, redes de blanqueo de dinero y webs de enlaces ilegales a contenidos protegidos con derechos de autor. Son páginas profusamente documentadas en sus contactos con los técnicos informáticos de la Guardia Civil, un ejercicio de divulgación que agradecerán muchos de sus lectores.

Una gran novela de la serie de Bevilacqua y Chamorro, aunque no sea la mejor de ellas. La trama tiene la solidez que nos tiene acostumbrados Lorenzo Silva. Retratos perfectos de los delincuentes de turno y su entorno, en este caso tan diversos como frikis informáticos, escenarios de intercambios sexuales con pretendido alejamiento de la sordidez, patrulleras y voladoras que pueblan el Estrecho y barrios sin ley donde la solidaridad la crea el mercado negro.

Al terminar, una queda con el deseo de leer la siguiente entrega, el mejor signo que, tras veinte años de aventuras, nuestra pareja favorita de guardia civiles aún tiene casos por delante y malos a los que derrotar. El deseo de seguir cumpliendo los mismos años que Bevilacqua acompañado por su integridad.

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miércoles, 21 de noviembre de 2018

AI and human rights

There´s a race among the different economic areas for a quick and effective deployment of Artificial Intelligence. The promise of a new surge of productivity growth accompany Artificial Intelligence is fueling investments in all the continents. The promise is an increase of 14% on global GNP by 2030, the private investments for reaping AI benefits are expected to reach $232B by 2025.

Nevertheless, besides its economic benefits, AI is carrying fears of a soul-less world where human beings will be subdued to machines. These fears that are captured human imagination would almost be an unavoidable future without a general consensus of the limits to be respected. A well positioned forum to hold this debate are the United Nations, where documents as the report on AI implications for human rights published by the UN Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression are debated.

The report focuses particularly on the impact of AI on rights to freedom of opinion and expression, privacy and non-discrimination. In order to begin from a right starting point, the report includes a definition of AI as a “constellation” of processes and technologies enabling computers to complement or replace specific tasks otherwise performed by humans, such as making decisions and solving problems. Another cornerstone of the report is the human responsibilty as central in AI development. The author highlights the human role in in the design of AI systems (by the definition of its intentions), deployment (through the modellation of algorithms and the procurement of data) and implementation (in the decision of how to apply its outputs).

In order to be effective, the reporter narrow the scope of its task to concrete applications of AI. However, the selection does not mean a reduction of the relevancy of conclusions of the report, as the applications chosen are "Content display and personalization", "Content moderation and removal" and "Profiling, advertising and targeting". It´s not needed to say that the above mentioned applications are present in the daily surfing of internet users.

The reporter raises concerns in several areas related to human rights. Firstly, for its impact on right to freedom of opinion and expression, as AI endangers individuals’ self-determination and autonomy to form and develop personal opinions based on factual and varied information. Secondly, regarding the right to privacy the reporter warns on the mass collection of data that once processes may drive to sensitive information about people. Last but not least, the reporter points to the threat of non-discrimination that poses AI.

Governments are pointed by the author as the main responsible for pushing towards a human-centric development of AI. But he also identified several tools that could help to enable a right regulatory framework for AI:
  • human rights impact assessments performed prior, during and after the use of AI systems;
  • external audits and consultations with human rights organisations;
  • enabled individual choice thanks to notice and consent;
  • effective remedy processes to end human rights violations.

To sum up, AI development should not only fulfill the principle of ethic-by-design, there is also a human right framework to take care of  and tools for its enforcement that governments could use.

martes, 13 de noviembre de 2018

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" - Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of HumankindSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have also fallen to read "Sapiens", one of those books that everybody has read or plan to read, one of those books that plays the role of the perfect gift for your brother or sister, one of those books that pops up time and again in family dinners. It´s not a perfect book, sometimes it is quite superficial and orther extremely presumptuous. However it is written in a highly readable style and it is a light manner to extend your knowledge on the human race.

For some people, the book will be expendable, but I have the feeling that for many more it should be a must read. Otherwise, the later would not have a panoramic landscape of what has made the humankind the master and commander of the earth. That is the great value of the book. For the majority of its readers it is their first (and probably last) meeting with how an once weak and vulnerable animal has been capable to overcome its limitations once and again through multiple revolutions of its lifestyle.

Five hundred pages (footnotes and references included) is a short space to tell a story that spans across several hundred thousands of years, but in a well structured narrative in four stages, the author achieves his objective. By the end of the book, the reader have a basic knowledge (from the author perspective) of our first steps on earth as one of the many human species, the evolution from nomadism to sedentarism through the discovery of agriculture, how the humankind get connected thanks to imperialism and, finally, the unfinished era of an unended stream of scientific discoveries that may lead in the medium term to the definitive step of a self-designed race.

Of course the narrative has many gaps, from my point of view the most important is not paying enough attention to the Greco-Roman culture and the supposedly dark period of the Medium Age in Europe, and sometimes the author gives conclusions not based enough on evidences but on his own personal ideas. Nevertheless, that are the usual limits and downs of this kind of books that you should know before you invest in the effort of reading them.

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miércoles, 7 de noviembre de 2018

Zero rating for social good

It looks that debate around net neutrality has been opened again. To begin with, net neutrality deabate has entered in the mid-term elections debate in USA. It is expected also that that net neutrality will be one of the thorny regulatory issues when network slicing features will be deployed in 5G networks. Beside these new debates, it is the still open debate on zero rating services and their fulfillment of net neutrality principle.

One of the many faces of zero rating is the focus of this post. But let´s start with a brief reminder of the zero rating concept. Zero-rating is the practice of providing Internet access without financial cost under certain conditions, such as by only permitting access to certain websites or by subsidizing the service with advertising. As fixed internet services are based in flat rate, zero rating services are commercialised within the scope of mobile (broadband) data services. 

Obviously, there are uses of zero rating services that would violate net neutrality principle. Let´s say for instance the case of a vertical integrated mobile ISPs that offers its own VOD service including in its Internet service under a zero rating model and the rest VOD service under a normal tariff based on the usage. 

But there could be also cases where zero rating maybe used for social good that have not yet been fully exploited, particularly as a government tool for digital inclusion. A first possibiliy is applying zero rating for subsidising the access to digital government services. Although on a general basis could  be a complex kind of filtering due to the multiplicity of government web sites, a simplification for an specific kind of services as health services or to fulfill the yearly tax return it is feasible and it would mean relevant savings for the Treasure.

Neither has been explored the application of zero rating within the scope of the universal service, perhaps because mobile internet has not yet been saw as part of the universal service. And it may be so in the short term because the substitution of fixed connections by mobile access is a reality. A public subsidy for vulnerable people of a mail service or messaging service of their choice would probably be also within the respect of net neutrality spirit.

A last example of the usage of zero rating for social good is for promoting digital entrepreunership, connected with awards for solving social challenges. For instance, a government may sponsored the access to private services developed by start up companies presented within a call for projects. This model could help digital SMEs to be known among the general public and promote a level playing field between them and the digital giants. 

Almost any tool has a dual usage, one for good and one for evil. Zero rating is not an exception. Beside its usage by private companies to crowd out competition, governament should explore its usage as a tool for digital inclusion, both for citizens and companies.

miércoles, 31 de octubre de 2018

Beyond digital skills

Many times in the past I have written about the need to promote digital skills. In particular, I think that it´s highly important to provide policy makers with the digital skills (most red post of this blog)  they lack of. However, I think that once more it´s needed to think out of the box and we need to go beyond the trending topics. Although digital skills are needed to work and joy in the digital era, they are not the only skills that are needed for the digital era.

Particularly, ethical skills should be in equal foot of importance as digital skills in any skills development strategy, wether in the national/international level or in an education centre. Digital technology applications are colliding with the principles and values we wre taught in many areas every day. The crash could only be avoided if "Don´t be evil" motto goes beyond being a catchy phrase, continuouslly forgotten even by the digital company who promoted it, and begin to be infused in engineers DNA.

Although many times is tried to be hidden, engineers and digital companies have a responsibility in the consequences of their invention. In the past, IBM played a central role as an enabler of the holocaust promoted by the nazi regime. Today, Amazon, Microsoft and others are providing the tools for the implentation of Trump´s anti-inmigration agenda

It´s not possible to stop the bad usage of a technology, but it´s possible not to develop this bad usage. Killer robots will be used for war it they are developed, but its development could be stopped. In the same manner, technology could be used for good purposes as warning about the existance of gender divide at work. But an ethical approach to tech development it´s only possible if ethics are included as a core matter in enginneer training.

Digital skills are needed for humans in the digital world. Ethic skills are critical for the existance of a digital world.

miércoles, 17 de octubre de 2018

No "data sovereignty" without "tech sovereignty"

A couple years ago, when the GDPR debate was in it last stretch, "data sovereignty" was one of those buzz words constantly repeated. Behind the mentioned concept is the idea that data sgould be subjected to the laws and governance structures within the nation it is collected. "Data sovereignty" was finally one of the pillars of the GDPR in spite of the opposition of US government and companies.

The idea of "data sovereignty" has taken roots in EU regulation and be extended beyond personal data. In the institutional agreement reached around the free-flow of non personal data regulation, the right of public authorities to access data for scrutiny and supervisory control wherever it is stored or processed in the EU was enshrined. Now, it looks that a new e-evidence regulation will provide EU authorities some kind of right to access to data for law enforcement purposes wherever is stored in the cloud.

Although EU "data sovereignty" is gaining momentum both for personal and non-personal data, it could loose the battle in the long term without the development of a deterrence force. This deterrence force is High Performance Computing (HPC) capabilities. It´s hard to imagine maintaining a strong EU authorities control on data processing and storage without a strong base of HPC. And this is not the situation now, while EU provides about 5% of supercomputing resources worldwide but consumes one-third of them. 

It is quite depressed that the EU looks behind in all the central pillars of the digital future, although as in many other cases in HPC it looks that now the EU is trying to join forces. Maybe the EU will recover some positions or maybe not, but we perhaps should start to forget about how to jump forward in a concrete ranking and readjust the complete framework that makes the EU lags behind in all the fields of the digital race. Otherwise we should forget about any kind of tech sovereignty.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

miércoles, 8 de agosto de 2018

Transexualidades. Otras miradas posibles - Miquel Misse

Transexualidades. Otras miradas posiblesTransexualidades. Otras miradas posibles by Miquel Missé
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Un libro imprescindible como introducción al entendimiento de las identidades trans*. El autor propone una aproximación liberada de nuestros prejuicios, acompañando en un viaje a la transexualidad desde una visión social no medicalizada. Precisamente, la despatologización de las identidades trans lo configura como el principal instrumento para entenderlas. En su relato, huye de buscar una razón para la existencia de personas de personas no conformes de la uniformidad entre sexo biológico y su vivencia de género, incitando a aceptarlo como una manifestación de la diversidad humana.

Miquel Missé, sin dejar de reconocer los tratamientos médicos como elementos que mejoran la calidad de vida de las personas trans, señala a la patologización como origen de la transfobia. El tratamiento de ciertos cuerpos como incorrectos y, por tanto, tratables desde el punto de vista médico, señala a las personas trans como seres que han de adaptarse a un sistema. Se convierte esta mirada también en el puntal principal de la propia transfobia interna y el rechazo a su propia diversidad que aparece en algunas personas trans.

La aceptación de la existencia de las personas trans, con la mirada del autor, se convierte en instrumento de cambio social, que enlaza con las reivindicaciones feministas. La discriminación de la mujer y de las personas trans parten de una misma raíz, la identificación por las clases dominantes de un solo modo de ser mujer o de ser hombre.

En definitiva, el ensayo nos invita a arriesgarnos a explorar nuestra visión del mundo. Desechar las identidades trans como problema médico nos lleva a cuestionar nuestro sistema social, la educación que se da a nuestros hijes y el marco legal que define y clasifica a las personas.

Frases entresacadas del libro en este hilo de twitter

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martes, 7 de agosto de 2018

"Rayuela" - Julio Cortázar

RayuelaRayuela by Julio Cortázar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No es la primera vez que leo "Rayuela". Antes de cumplir el cuarto de siglo de vida la había leído ya dos veces, una en cada uno de los diseños de lectura recomendados por su creador. Sin embargo, la novela de Julio Cortázar es quizás solo abarcable en el siglo XXI, cuando el viaje por sus páginas puede ser acompañado de una conexión a Internet, cuando podemos situarnos en cada lugar de París citado y escuchar de fondo el jazz que rezuman sus mejores pasajes .

Leer de nuevo "Rayuela" es también encontrar el tiempo perdido de nuestras vidas. La lectura juvenil nos subrayaba la vida en París, el viaje al mundo que queríamos para el resto de nuestros días, amores locos con la Maga y noches de bohemia y diálogos intelectuales. La lectura adulta nos hace reparar más en los pasajes de nostalgia, en los momentos que Horacio recuerda de vuelta en Buenos Aires el amor perdido y el tiempo pasado al otro lado del océano, el último canto de rebeldía que supone enamorarse sin esperanza de la mujer de otro.

"Rayuela" es, también, una parábola de la vida. No es sólo la tragicomedia de las rupturas amorosas llenas de comicidad y la amargura de los amores sin sentido. La novela es la continua decisión entre ser protagonista de nuestro propio relato o ser instrumentos pasivos. Ir en el orden acelerado con que los acontecimientos se nos presentan o deleitarse también en vivir el detalle de los capítulos prescindibles, aquellos que dan razón de ser a los que nos sucede. Cada vuelta al relato principal nos atrae la tentación de no volvernos a dejar llevar a saltar fuera de la senda, aun sabiendo que sólo la verdad de nuestras vidas podemos encontrarla allí.

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martes, 17 de julio de 2018

Our responsibility on the digital revolution

I am currently reading "The Folly of Technological Solutionism" by Evgeny Morozov. The book is a must read essay on the many dangers to a democratic society that Internet and technoloy are seeding. One of them is the destruction of any possibility of dissent. In Mozorov´s words, we are close "to build a technological environment where lawbreaking is impossible" and, therefore,  the outcome will be " to close the important social valves through which social change happens."

We are witnessing the dawn of a "Black Mirror" alike society. The TV distopia looks as closer to be real each day. At least it´s what it is pointing byt the pieces of news of a system for rating people in China to detect dissidents, the ever expanding usage of algorithms for detecting situations  and areas where crimes could arise or the build of robots for policing missions. Soon, lawbreaking will be impossible and therefore any form of social dissent would be in danger.

Few times we reflect about the origins of the inventions described above. We see those digital applications as coming from thin air, the press usually described them as an outcome from the evolution with few human intervention. But the reality is that companies and persons has produced them. A couple of months ago an article in The Guardian recalled this and the benefits that companies obtain from this activity. The same article started with a remembrance on how IBM´s puching-machines paves the way to the Holocaust.

Perhaps it is the right time to open the debate of the ethical limits of the technology workers activity. Furthermre, also our responsibility as consumers of digital products and services who are fueling the perfectioning of them for its usage in different spheres. Digitalisation is not happening in the vacuum, all of us have some responsibility on it.

martes, 10 de julio de 2018

Connected mobility: One of the cross-roads for 5G development in EU

The completion of the Digital Single Market will change once for all the European economy. On top of the shared digital economy space many applications will be more easy adopted. One of these applications are connected mobility. In order to to make Europe a world leader in the deployment of connected and automated mobility, the European Commission adopted in May a communication which sets the strategy for the mobility of the future.

One of the elements of the strategy is the adoption by the end of 2018 of a delegated regulation under the Intelligent Transport Systems Directive to ensure secured and trustful communications between vehicles and infrastructure. This legislation may be the cornerstone for a sophisticated market of entertainment and business services and products which revenues could exceed EUR 620 billion by 2025 for the EU automotive industry and EUR 180 billion for the EU electronic sector. As a consequence, the fight wthin the EU Council  and the EU parliament spurred by lobbys has already started.

The core of the fight is related with the role 5G will play in the legislation. Currently, cars are equipped with V2V technology based on wifi and there is a fear among many that the EU Commission will not impose any interoperability obligation between this systems with the forthcoming 5G infrastructure. While others are against given any prominence to 5G and judges that "imposing interoperability on the market warrants the same response as imposing one single technology: it stifles competition".

But will it be possible to fully develop  the V2V market without 5G interoperability? Many think-tanks and researchers do not see it possible and see 5G as the key for the develop V2V market. However, others thing that linked V2V to 5G will delay V2V development due to the lavk of maturity (and availability) of the new cellular technology. At the same time, telecom operators willnot be interested in the deployment of 5G networks along roads without a ceratinty that this infrastructure will be used and provide a reasonable ROI.

So we have arrive a new chicken and the egg problem. 5G is the key for the development and digitalisation of many industries, but at the same time needs a demand from this industries in the medium short-term. The adoption of 5G as a standard in connected mobility is one of the many cross-roads that 5G development in EU will face in the next years.

martes, 3 de julio de 2018

Digital Single Market: Where are we?

After two years of regulatory frenzy, the Digital single Market Stratefy is close to its completion. Although all the initial proposals put forward by the European Commission has been sustancially changed, the number of EU digital regulations have been multiplied by four (from less than two decens to nearly half hundred). It would be difficult to say from now on that the digital dimension of the single market is an space without law. 

The importance of the work already done was forseseen in its inception. The main global think-tanks that published analysis on the future of Europe a couple of years ago included a chapter about the digital outlook. Perhaps it is time to reviews if the former goals are now a reality: Elimination of cross-border barriers, establishing the pillars of a data economy and the creation of a level playing field.

Firstly, certainly the cross-border barriers for digital trade has decreased. The end of roaming charges, the ban on geoblocking, portability for digital content suscriptions  and other regulations has armonised the digital regulatory approach. P2B relationship regulation now under debate will be the final milestone to be reach. The fragmentation of the digital European market has been certainly avoid in a high degree. 

Secondly, the flow of data across Europe will be easier from now on. Beyond the GDPR, a regulation on the free flow of non personal data has been also approved. Location restrictions on data will need to be justified and the mere legacy of the Gutenberg era will not be a reason anymore.

However, it is not so clear that the third objective regarding establishing a level playing has been achieved. There are suspicions that the innovative regulations as the GDPR, the forthcoming copyright directive or the P2B regulation will benefit the bigger platforms more than limiting their power. Comply with the GDPR or  developing the automatic copyright filters will be easy to develop for the Google of Facebook but perhaps more difficult for small european start-ups.

Lights and shadows. For the next five years, the task of the next European Commission should be to monitorise and observe the outcomes and try to assess if things has been develop the right way or some excess should be corrected.

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.

palyginti kainas