miércoles, 21 de diciembre de 2016

Free Flow of Data in Europe: The story of the cake

The European Commission has delivered almost on time the majority the legislative and non-legislative proposals contained in the Digital Single Market Strategy. Some of them even are expected to be approved by the Council and Parliament by the first half of 2017. However, there is one of them that looks trapped in a blind alley: the free flow data initiative (FFDI).

The FFDI was initially expected to be presented in september 2016, later was delayed to november 2016 after the High Level Conference on European Data Economy, and now it is not expected until the end of 2017 Q1. In spite of the pressure of part of the industry and the sympathies of some governments, there is growing doubt about its future existence.

There is war on figures about the economic impact of the liberalisation of the free flow of data, particularly the establishment of a ban on data localisation restrictions. In a manifesto following the last Telecomunnications Council, the industry estimated the potential of data in Europe in 566 EUR billion by 2020. A more realistic estimation of ECIPE put on the table the figure of 8 EUR billion per year (which means much less than 1% of EU GDP).

But free flow of data is beyond economics, it is about building Europe. I'm greatly agree with the need to promote free flow of data in Europe and the need of regulations for its implementation. After the achievement of the freedom of movement of people, products, services and capital, the free flow of data is the 5th freedom that should define the European Unión in the digital era. However, free flow of data should not be restricted to build a regulation for deregulated massively data location requirements. The regulation of  data ownership, access and liability it is also needed to ensure legal certainty in the flow of data. 

You can't have your cake and eat it. The debate around the ownership and access to data is central for the future of our society. As Morozov remembered us recently, five firms alone digest the majority of the world data. Imagine a present where five companies own the property of land in the world to foreseen the consequences for the future if we don´t regulate the access and ownership to data right now.

Free flow of data is needed, but goes beyond the elimination of data requirements. You can´t have a cake and eat it at the same time.


miércoles, 14 de diciembre de 2016

The disturbing investigation of @propublica on algorithms

One of the more interesting web sites concerning the algorithmic society that I have discover along the last months is Propublica. It is not a website specialised on the digital economy but in investigative journalism in the public interest. In the last months they have conducted an in-depth investigation on decisions taken by algorithms and the consequences resulted from them. What follows it is just some of the cases I have found there, enough for strengthening my conviction that regulators should do something more on the issue than be just reactive.

The price of items and services sold in websites is the focus of some of the cases. Due to its dominance on e-commerce, you may be interested in reading the article about the algorithm used by Amazon to present the answer to your requests about any object that you desire to buy. Propublica has discovered how the presentation of the results ordered by price has some tricks that favoured the items sold directly by Amazon. Other article shows Propublica´s discoveries around the different pricing based on geographical area that the Pricenton Review charges for their online courses. Do Consumer Authorities have the capabilities to make such discoveries?

Let´s go to principles. I assume the majority of the people who read this blog are strongly against any kind of racial discrimination. Probably, if you read the articles regarding algorithmic racial discrimination in Propublica you would feel sick. On one hand, there are evidences that algorithms used by public authorities to predict crime in USA are heavily biased against afroamericans. On the other hand, they show how facebook use the racial classification for sorting advertisements. Any of us have any cause to be discriminated, and data hoarders are able to discriminate you. Propublica also discovered that Facebook offered to companies more than 1300 ad categories.

The most disturbing feeling you have after reading the results of Propublica research is that you would feel that you are facing just to the tip of the iceberg. Someone has dedicated time and efforts and have made some discoveries. But what have yet to be known about how the companies handle our digital profiles?


miércoles, 7 de diciembre de 2016

Regulating the objects: Stopping Orwell

The Internet of the Things is not anymore a distant concept but a daily reality. Undoubtedly, the prediction of 20 billion of objects connected by 2020 is impressive, but equally impressive  it is the estimation of nearly 5 billion connected right now. And the main driver of this rise of connected object will not be production environments as the Smart Industry, but consumers. Both in the short and long term more than half of the connected objects will be plugged by consumers.

Almost everyday we can read pieces of news regarding new kind of smart objects. For instance, in less than a week The Guardian published an article regarding the impressive growth of the smart toys market and a piece of new about digitalised sex toys. It doesn´t matter if we feel a little bit akward reading this kind texts, we will not be able to stop the introduction of chips and conectivity  capabilities in all the object surrounding us. Or were we capable in the past of stopping the disapearance of the TV with cathode ray tube?

So instead of refraining of the regulation intentions for the sake of innovation and ask for a light touch approach, we should encourage governments to explore and develop all the needed regulatory options. As any kind of objects are different, we would certainly need specific regulations  for classes of objects instead of general ones. However, we should not overlook the need for transversal rules defining common principles.  An example of the former is the US checklist for self-driving cars.  Among the latter we can include the  "Guide to the ethical design and application of robots and robotic systems" developed by the British Institute for Standards.

Specially important is the regulation of the issues regarding the handling of data privacy and data sharing. Not in vain, both of them were at the top of the US checklist for self-driving cars.  The "purpose limitation principle" and the "data minimisation" principles should be at the centre of data regulation for Internet of the Things.

1984 has arrived to our lives more than 30 years later. Not only the TV has surveillance capabilities, but all the objects around. Stopping the Orwell´s nightmare before it takes form depends on the rules we establish today.

miércoles, 30 de noviembre de 2016

Google; Just the beginning of its domain

There are few doubts of Google's domain of the online world. Currently the second most valued company (after being the first until 2016 Q1) and by far the company with the largest user base (you only need to compare the number of iphone vs android users). The debate is around if we are facing the peak of its domain or just its begining.

The multiple investigations for monopolistic practices that has been opened  in Brussels give us the impression of approaching to dissintegration, either for a sentence asking to separate part of businesses or due to an unpayable fine. Same could be said of some after the last European Commission´s proposal for regulations, heaviliy critisised in US as anti-Google regulation. However, neither the consequence of the investigations nor the new regulations could mean a drawback to the Internet giant but the opposite.

Take the issue of the EC investigation on Android operating system. The EC is accusing Google of abusing its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers. The jury is still out of the room but the a negative sentence for Google could have implications on the Android ecosystem. There would be a high probability that Google would stop publishing free versions of Android, with highly probable negative consequences both for manufacturers and developers, while Google could continue its activities with an Apple-like business model.

Similar analysis could be done on the alleged anti-Google regulation proposed by the European Commission. The paramount example of this regulations is the proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. Apparently, the regulation impose harsh obligations to Google for controlling  the publication of videos in YouTube and the obligation of taking into considerations the rights of publishers in Google News services. However, as EDRI has detailed the consequence could be an increase of Google´s monopolistic power. On one hand, Google is the only player that has the technology for controlling copyright in UGC platforms as YouTube. On the other hand, the experiences in Spain and Germany have demonstrated that Google could avoid paying any compenstaion to the publishers while others are not in the same position.

So, in spite of the signs, I beat more on the option that Google is at the first phase of its domain of the technological sector. Perhaps the only clouds in the horizon are the overwhelming position of Amazon in cloud services and the fierce battle around Internet of the Things.

miércoles, 23 de noviembre de 2016

Digital skills: Targets and practices

The European Commission presented in June 2016  "A new skills agenda for Europe". The promotion of digital skills is an important part of this strategy. Among the actions proposed, we can find the revamp of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, the inclusion of digital skills in the so-called "Skills Guarantee" and   the taking into consideration of the digital skills in the "Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills". 

The revamp of Digital Skills and Job Coalition includes a demand to develop similar strategies in Member States, including sharing best practices of successful initiatives. As I have written several months before, the first practice to put in place should be the retraining of policy makers, therefore I was quite happy to know that  some countries (e.g. Norway) has already developed pilots of this kind.

Apparently, Europe is in the right path for the reduction of the skill gap. The European Commission boasts that its policies has helped to reduce the predicted shortfall of IT specialists in 2020 has been reduced from one million in 2010 to 756,000 in 2015. However, at the same time the DESI still shows that 45% of the population has insufficient digital skills. Therefore, the priority should be helping them to jump to the digital wagon.

An interesting experience regarding digital literacy efforts is Simbioza, an slovenian NGO. Simbioza is an academy based on intergenerational solidarity for lifelong learning. One of their projects aims to helps the older generation to have positive experiences with computers through the help of young volunteers.

Needed projects for spreading the digital skills aim that the children achieve the basic capabilities to access the digital resources. The classic project replicated in several country is the distribution of tablets among the pupils of basic education. Example of this kind initiative is Mobile Learning Austria, which also includes the aditional technical support and teacher for fully exploit the digital power of the tools.

The digitisation of education with projects like Mobile Learning Austria should be built up on a quality internet access. Although the provision of network access to schools are not equivalent to the digitisation of education, there is not doubt that is a needed condition. The European Commission has established for 2025 the goal of Gigabit connections in school and it also has estimated a cost of 46 € billion for providing ultra-fast internet in primary and secondary schools. It is probably an underestimated value if we take into consideration that Germany hast set up a project to connect its schools with a cost of 5 € billion and a more humble project in Spain has estimated the cost in 300 € million (and neither of them aim to have gigabit connection).

Much more things should be included in a national digital skills strategy. Besides teaching ICT in school and to the elders, it is critical re-skilling the labour force for the digital era or diseminate the digital tools among companies, particularly SMEs. We can expect that the European Commision set targets for all this areas by the end of the year as it announced in the skills agenda.

miércoles, 16 de noviembre de 2016

Reaping the digital benefits of #Brexit and #Trump

June 23th. The UK votes for the exit of the European Union. The ICT sector in Britain made bets for the "remain" option and just the day after the referendum published a statement showing its disapointment. "This is not the outcome that the majority of techUK members were hoping for. It opens up many uncertainties about the future". Losing the access to the digital single market could mean losing 2% of GDP growth.

November 8th. The US elected Donald Trump as the next President of the country. Silicon Valley called the elected President a potential disaster for innovation and there are rumors that the new president is barely able to use a computer. After the elections the same voices in Silicon valley called for "Calexit" fearing a negative impact on ICT sector of the forthcoming government policies.

The above news are probably not what continental Europe expected but could have positive effects in the European ICT sector. It is well known Europe was lagging behind other areas in ICT market.  Although Europe accounts for 21% of total global demand, European digital players now only represent 17% of global supply – a deterioration of five points between 2009 and 2013, according with this Orange´s paper. The weakening of two strong rivals as US and UK could be a benefit for the EU ICT sector. 

The DSM strategy looks as the correct path for the initial months after Brexit and Trump election. It will strengthen the ICT sector through the creation of a shared area for ICT services and products. On one hand, it would provide opportunities for expansion of EU ICT companies. On the other hand, and probably more important, it could attract UK and US ICT companies looking for a more open market. The impact of the arrival of the US and UK companies to Europe could means also a boost for innovation and creativity with a positive network effect.

Brexit and Trump are perhaps bad news for the world, but EU should grasp the opportunity to reinforce its influence and strengthening its ICT sector

miércoles, 9 de noviembre de 2016

The Global Connect Initiative: another tool for US ICT leadeship

Economic aid for development has been a traditional diplomacy tool. As ICT has been recognised as an engine for growth, the usage of a small percentage percentage of funding for development for ICT projects has been consolidated. According with the OECD data, nearly 642 $ millions was spending in 2014 by OECD countries in Official Development Aid (ODA) for development. An interesting detail is that the biggest spender in ICT for ODA were the EU institutions, more than 160 $ millions and 25% of the OECD area spending. US spent only 10 $ millions. From another source, I have found that China spent around 588 $ millions in 2012 only in Africa.

The risk of losing the battle of ICT4D funding is an strategic one. As a general rule, the main developers of the ICT4D projects are companies from the donor country. Therefore, weakening your position in ICT4D ranking could have as a consequence weakening your position in the global digital economy ranking.

The above numbers was probably the rationale behind the Global Connect Initiative. In 2014 US was clearly losing the battle of ICT4D (ICT for Development) so in order to recover its place launch this initiative that seeks to bring 1.5 billion people who lack Internet access worldwide, online by 2020. Global Connect is a global partnership of countries, international organisations and industry. The initiative was presented in a summit in April 2016.

Although the US has committed that "U.S. development agencies will begin to make Internet access a top priority in their work around the world", there is no ODA budget target associated with the initiative. Furthermore, in the list of projects of the initiative the US has included some projects but there are a majority of projects from other countries.

The initiative is a reinvention of ICT diplomacy, where the lack of funding is suplemented with leadership and marketing in order to maintain the status of US as the ICT lighthouse in the world. It would be important a similar initiative in the EU in case we really want to catch-up the US in the digital economy ranking.


miércoles, 2 de noviembre de 2016

"Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities" - Rogers Brubaker

Trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled IdentitiesTrans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities by Rogers Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The transgender issue has became a topic for the political debate in the last couple of years. The general acceptance in western societies of the diversity of sexual orientations has opened the door to the debate on gender identity. However, there is still a need for essays and articles describing the complexity of trans identities. Below the surface of well known cases of gender transition, as the case of Cathlyn Jenner, there are a whole category of different gender identities that fall outside the binary system male-female.


The book ¨Trans¨ is a good introduction to the transgender topic. First of all, it gives a good classification of the different trans identities based on the attitude of trans people towards the binary gender system. Not all trans people face the definition of its gender identity in the same manner. Some of them accept the binary system and they feel as migrants from one gender to the opposite one (trans of migration). Others are reluctant to be classified and they float with ambiguity between male and female identity (trans of between). A last group resist to the binary system and aim to overcome it (trans of beyond).

But ¨Trans¨ goes beyond being a book about the transgender issue. The author aims to treat trans as a tool to think with and not only as a thing to think about. In order to achieve the goal the exploration of transgender identities is done in paralel with the (less known) transracial issue. Although the reader may be shocked at first with this approach, the book shows the similarities of the concepts that could be applied to both phenomenos and how sometimes our prejudices work as a barrier to understand identity issues.

A book that deserves a read, although perhaps the last chapter of conclusions could be shorter and leave more space to the reader to build its own ideas on the issue.

View all my reviews in Goodreads.com

miércoles, 26 de octubre de 2016

Cibersecurity & Self-Dring cars

Digitalisation is posing a great legislative challenge. On one hand, some all rules need to be changed or eliminated due to the obsolescence of the principles there were based. On the other hand, new rules are needed to face new realities. Among the former, we can include all the legislation regarding the services more impacted by the shared economy model. Among the later, one of the most exciting fields is the legislation regarding security in the IoT world.

It is expected that the installed base of active wireless connected devices will exceed 40.9 billion by 2020. There have been registered enough IoT security incidents  to foreseen this technology will be the major target of hackers in the future. A general consensus is around the need to include IoT security in the organisations strategic plans, as a recent IDC survey shows. In the public sector, this means not only to being ready to secure the IoT infrastructure, but also establish the right legal framework to enable IoT security everywhere.

As one of the paramount symbols of our way of live, self-driving cars are the connected things that are capturing for more public and press attention. But it is happening the same with the cybersecurity incidents that involve a self-driving car. Behind this incidents, there are the failure of the software embedded in cars. Demanding an exhaustive testing of software through legal obligations should be part of the future legals frameworks on the matter, as they are thinking in the US govenrment. In particular, digital security has been included as one of the items to be tested.

While US is already planning and designing the new rules for self-driving cars, EU is lagging behind again. There are not clear signs that a proposal coherent framework for self-driving cars in Europe will be produced in the next months. it should be food for thought that an European car maker as Volvo is testing its self-driving cars in USA (jontly with Uber). 

miércoles, 19 de octubre de 2016

The new bred of publishers for the digital era

For those reading this blog, it is nothing new that Internet is becoming the main source of information for a growing population. Several surveys has confirmed this fact in the last months. On one hand, the Pew Research Centre in its State of News Media 2016 has pointed that 38% of americans get news from digital sources. On the other hand, the Reuters Institute in its annual Digital Report 2016 has estimated that 73% of internet users worldwide obtain news online. 

The evolution towards getting online news could be seen as an expected one in the digital world, but jointly with this migration a new set of news intermediaries are emerging: Social media. Pew Research has estimated that 62% of the americans obtain news from social media sites, while Reuters has calculated that 48% of internet users worldwide has social networks as a news source. More worrisome is the piece of data given by Reuters about the growing number of Internet users that has social media, particularly facebook, as the main source of news. Now, it is only 12%, but this means a 50% growth since 2015.

There is a resistance in social media and digital platforms to be classified as a news media publisher. Nevertheless, the fact is that they are taken editorial decisions regarding which news are seen by their users. Sometimes, they are taken the decisions based on their own principles, like the case of the censorship on "napalm girl" picture. Other times, they respond the demand of governments regarding terrorism fight, altough politicians in UK,  Germany and other countries think social media are not tough enough in this fight.

Algorithms are seen by many people as a solution for the elimination of bias in the selection of news by social media. The Reuters report shows that more internet users trust automatic selection than manual selection (36% vs 30%). However, algorithms have shown its limitations in the selection of news and we should not expect less bias in the algorithms that the bias of their creators.

Social media is growing hub for information in the digital era. Whether the selection is done manually or based on algorithms, Facebook and the others should provide more information and be more transparent on the criteria they apply for the selection, ordering and, specially, censorship of news. Media have been always biased, and technology is not going to change it. We should forget about having digitalisation as the cornerstone for more impartial media, bits should not be an alibi for not giving details on admisible partiality.

miércoles, 12 de octubre de 2016

EU free flow of data initiative vs Alphabet?

More than a year ago, I wrote in this blog how Google had started to drive us towards what I called "The Alphabet Home". Last week this Google business line was confirmed in its autumn products launch event. A more powerful Chrome cast, New wifi routers and a Google Home device are among the presented products. It definitively looks that home will be the new battlefield for the Internet giants.

However, consumers does not look enticed yet by the dream of a fully automated home. A recent study pointed to the excessive prices of Smart Home devices as a brake for its adoption. The need for partnerships between utilities and the Smart Home manufacturers was also highlighted in the report. Probably, both of them are reasons for the lack of adoption, nevertheless, there are other more important reasons in my opinion. 

First of all, we have the security issue. Year after year, we can read articles pointed to the same threats and fears: hacking of objects, DDoS attacks to the home appliances, steal of information, ... it looks that manufacturers will not include security-by-design without a regulatory pressure from the governments. Equally important is the lack of rules regarding the handling of data. The potential early adopters are aware of the amount of data that could be generated from this devices, which companies look eager to monetise with the creation of marketplaces

Once more, it looks that the European Commission will try to innovate with an initiative to promote the free flow of data in Europe. The initiative has at its heart the need to set a favourable environment for Internet of the Things, in general, and Smart Home development, in particular. Both the need to embed security rules within Smart Home appliances and the clarification of the rules for handling data could be included in the initiative. 

Due to the contenders from both sides, the Internet giants and the European Commission, we can expect to listen again the complaints of European protectionism in Smart Homes area

miércoles, 5 de octubre de 2016

Connectivity in exchange for rights

United Nations has set an ambitious set of objectives to be reached by 2030, the so-called 2030 Agenda or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). "The Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom". Although the main objective is to end poverty in all its forms, the agenda also seek to secure the environment, guarantee an efficient and respectful usage of natural resources and achieve gender equality among others high-level goals. The stakes are really high and there is a feeling that the objectives will not be reached with a simple "business-as-usual" strategy.

Digitalisation could be the game changer that would make possible achieving the SDGs. Although it is considered to be hidden within the ninth goal, "Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation", the deployment of broadband infrastructure and services for all is the cornerstone of the global digital transformation efforts. However, the costs are high. Currently, only 40% of the population are connected to the internet and the ITU has estimated that the cost of achieving the connectivity of the 60% costs 450$ billion, around 300$ per each of the 1,5 billion people that will be connected.

The case for global connectivity has been put forward and its cost has been estimated. However, in spite of the productivity dividends and positive effects on personal life of broadband adoption, neither governments nor the disconnected people will be able to foot the bill. Therefore, private companies need to look for new cost effective manners to connect the digitally excluded in both the developed and developing world. It is not a sudden philantropic attack of the private sector, it the conviction that after providing the connection they will be able to sell aditional value added services, one way or the other.

In the developed world, telecommunications companies are exploring personal data as the payment currency for an Internet connection. The price of someone's personal data is highly discussed. Consumers tend to estimated a high cost while companies thinks it is not so much as we think. Nevertheless, it seems it is enough for some US telcos to propose a "pay-for-privacy" model of broadband services. Allow to be tracked while you surf and you will have a discount in your broadband monthly bill.

The offer of companies is not so generous in the developing world. The price of connectivity in Africa and other underdeveloped areas is the complete attention of the user. The value of someone's personal data is directly related with your purchase capability, if your personal data is valueless the price is your whole digital life. That is the proposal put forward by internet.org, lead by mark Zuckenberg. The price of a free internet connection is having the Facebook's vision of the world, the news and images that Facebook would like to present you. 

Many times it is said that connectivity is the new utility. Internet is put in the same level as water or electricity. However, it looks that the only way to extend internet connection to the poor is in exchange of their privacy or their freedom of information. Internet could be the tool for their economic development but their rights are the price

miércoles, 28 de septiembre de 2016

The human factor in a dignified digitalised labour market

The digital economy is accelerating the change of the nature of work. This changes are summing up in the "OECD employment oulook 2016". The average incidence of part-time employment has increased from 2000 in the OECD area (13,9% vs 16,8%) and the same has happened with the involuntary part-time employment (1,8% vs 3,5%). Another interesting piece of data is the general increase of expected monetary loss associated with becoming and staying employed as a share of previous earnings in the OECD area. 

The OECD recognises in the above mentioned report a "labour market insecurity increase". This environment paves the way to the race to the bottom in wages, especially in the so-called gig economy jobs. Weak trade unions and the decrease of the contact among workers looks as the right environment for a return to the Victorian Britain job conditions. This have been the case in UK with Deliveroo, where they have tried to introduce even more draconian contract conditions. An unexpected coordinated action from the workers has turned the tide and set an example for other workers.

Automation of jobs could bring further labour market insecurity in some sectors. This is the case of hired drivers. Ford has announced the mass-production of autonomous car for a commercial ride-sharing service by 2021. But we do not have to wait so longer, the Helsinki Council is introducing self-driving buses. Nevertheless, another recent case give us some clue of the strategy in the short-term to dissolve the resistance of workers: pay workers for not working. This is the case of the self-driving cars introduced by Uber in the Pittsburgh trial, where human-drivers has been introduced as backup. But some Uber drivers do not forgot the long-term uber intentions: Replacing all its drivers with self-driving carsUber drivers in Pittsburgh are begining to ask about their future and to think in coordinated actions to endanger the test.

The cases of the Deliveroo bikers in London or the Uber Drivers in Pittsburgh points in the only direction to gain a future dignified for workers: recovering the solidarity among workers. The human factor can still make the difference.

miércoles, 21 de septiembre de 2016

Human Rights on the Internet

Without any doubts, both the traditional and online media pay more attention to the economist side of the Internet than to its humanistic side. it is not difficult to read all the days pieces of news and reports regarding the new services brought by the digital disruption and its impact on growth, also we receive through different media the news of the latest online consumer services and new manners to  take advantage of our leisure time. Unfortunately, less information and news are available about the impact of the new and shining world of online services on our rights as human beings.

There is a rationale behind this lack of news regarding human rights on the online world: there are more national an international organisations devoted to understand the consequences of the technology in the economic activity and promote the appropiate measures to adapt the production activity to the new paradigm. One of the few points of activity regarding human rights online is the United Nations, nearly all the papers and resolutions regarding the information society produced by UN institutions have some kind of reference to privacy, freedom of information or inequality on the Internet. Unfortunately, less and less attention is paid to UN resolutions in old Europe.

Last June, the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) approved a resolution regarding "The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet". Although not all the country delegations have voted in favour of the resolution, the document is an excellent base for the developing of a much needed common understanding on the issue. There is a strong connection between privacy online and freedom of expression on the network, as well as we can appreciate new forms of discrimination on the online world that bring us memories of overcomed prejudices.

The commitments of the resolution started with a strong affirmation that we should enjoy the same rights online as offline, particularly the freedom of expression and highlighting the connection of rights on the Internet and the role of the network on economic progress. The Council also recalled the need of spreading digital literacy to overcome any type of digital divide, particularly the gender digital divide, and encourage the development of services that are accesible to all in order to allow anyone to reap the benefits of the digital era. Finally, the Council enshrined collaboration based onn the multistakeholder model, especially in cybersecurity, to combat the new digital faces of human right violations, advocacy of hatred and other kind of abuses.

To sum up, a reference document for the future. I certainly expect the report on ways to bridge the digital divide on human rights promised in the document. Human rights by default should be one of design principles of digital services.

miércoles, 14 de septiembre de 2016

The year that Europe takes #cybersecurity seriously

It is nothing new saying that the lack of security perception is hindering the adoption of online services. Repeatedly, surveys has shown that the issues related with cybersecurity are the main concern that Internet users have about using the Internet for things like online banking or buying things online. According with the 2015 Eurobarometer on cybersecurity, when citizens buy online they are overwhelmingly more worried about the misuse of personal data (mentioned by 43%) or the security of online payments (42%) than  about not receiving goods or services that they buy online (22%). 

In spite of this background, Europe has repeatedly failed until now in the efforts to build a common cybersecurity strategy. The European Commission has put forward several EU security strategies 
  • In 2001, the Commission adopted a Communication on "Network and Information Security: Proposal for A European Policy Approach" (COM(2001)298)
  • In 2006, it adopted a Strategy for a Secure Information Society (COM(2006)251)
  • In 2013, it was adopted Cybersecurity Strategy of the European Union: An Open, Safe and Secure Cyberspace  (JOIN(2013) 1)

However, as the Eurobarometer mentioned above shows, the concerns on cibersecurity issues grows as times goes by. Fortunately, it looks that the last of these strategies is giving its fruits in 2016. Last july was finally approved the first shared EU security legal framework, the NIS directive.

The approval of the NIS Directive is an event that radically changed the European cybersecurity environment. The long period of three years of negotiation has been valuable and the new regulation really has the seeds to achieve high level of cybersecurity in Europe. The Directive will provide Europe with:
  • A higher Member States preparedness level, by requiring them to establish Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) and a competent national NIS authority
  • A framework for cooperation among all the Member States, both at the strategic as for the operational level of cyber security (although the later is voluntary)
  • A set of obligations for operators of essential services for the society (energy, transport, water, banking, financial market infrastructures, healthcare and digital infrastructure), which will be obliged to take appropriate security measures and to notify serious incidents to the relevant national authority

The NIS Directive is a changing-game event that paves the way to new ambitions. Taking advantage of the new scenario is the main objective of the new EU cybersecurity strategy.

The new cyber security plan for Europe has a two-fold objective. On one side, it aims to increase Europe cyber resilience. On the other hand, it aims to boost European sovereignty in cyber security area through the promotion of its cyber security industry. The first goal will be reached by using the cooperation instruments laid in the NIS Directive and through the renewal of ENISA. The second goal will have a contractual public-private partnership (PPP) between the EC and the industry under the umbrella of H2020 as its main tool.

It looks that Europe has taken seriously cyber security in 2016. The completion of the Digital Single Market heavily depends on creating a secure online environment. It would be better if it works this new approach.


miércoles, 7 de septiembre de 2016

The end of the "mere conduit" principle (II)

Some months ago, I wrote about the foreseeable review of the "mere conduit" principle that we were bound to attend in 2016. To cut a history short, since the origin of the commercial Internet around 2000 hosting providers have not been liable of the storage of an illegal content as long as they do not have knowledge of its illegality. In Europe, the principle is enshrined in the E-Commerce directive. The time for the legal review of this principle has effectively come.

On one hand, the recent wave of terrorism in Europe has provoked an analysis of the role of social media as a tool for spreading the extremism and hate. Since the beginning of the year, both governments from America and Europe have required the help from Silicon Valley to fight against online terrorism propaganda. Although, the social media companies have disseminated their efforts, some policy-makers are not fully happy with the state of things. The measures taken by the social media companies are based in voluntary collaboration and in UK some voices in the Parliament are calling for the strenghtening of the obligation to collaborate. This could imply more legal liabilities for digital platforms regarding the terrorism apology and extremist contents.

On the other hand, there are also voices calling for a different distribution of Internet content revenues. Due to the "mere conduit" principle, the digital platforms have obtained revenues for the publication of links and contents with few responsibility on the legality of them from a copyright perspective. However, again in a voluntary basis, digital platforms introduce measures to to ensure the functioning” of the agreements with rightsholders, like the ContentID in youtube. This relationship model looks it will be reviewed in the forthcoming overhauling of copyright rules in Europe. Again it seems that the voluntary agreements between digital platforms and rightholders would end to pave the way to obligatory agreements.

Of course, the GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) are against these movements calling for maintaining the voluntary scheme for the sake of innovation. But this time, even in the USA , are some movements against maintaining the "mere conduit" principle interpretation as it is interpreted today. The US courts have found that an Internet provider was liable for the alleged copyright infringement carried out by its customers. This could be a precedent to be extended to the digital platforms.

So it looks that we are really walking towards a reinterpretation of the "mere conduit" principle. This would create a new balance of the economic power within the internet value chain and surely the end of the Internet as we know.


martes, 30 de agosto de 2016

Augmented reality: selling thin air

Draft material for the post "Pikachu, guardian del mundo hibrido" (Spanish), 

The fever goes on. This last summer we have seen in many corners in every street unexpected crowds, with each person of the group focused in the screen of his smartphone. The first augmented reality game for the great public arrived out of the blue, not even the Simpson predicted PokemonGo in spite of the rumours

PokemonGo is showing how augmented reality opens venues for new business opportunities. We are seeing nothing more than proofs of concept, but a hint  of the future to come. For instance, there is a clear link of the case of someone that becomes a full-time PokemonGo hunter and the appearance in eBay of PokemonGo accounts for sale. Your profile as a PokemonGo hunter is becoming an status symbol and, therefore, valuable. Augmented reality bring us the possibility of creating consumer items from thin air and a new class of manufacturers of virtuality.

Enabling the manufacturing of virtuality within augmented reality poses also new challenges regarding several rights connected with the usage of physical spaces that are used as scenarios. On one hand, we should remember the controversial debate around the freedom of panorama. Could be the the usage of an art work in a physical scenario considered a violation of copyright?. On the other hand, personal data protection frameworks also impose obligations of signalling the passers-by a possible capture of its image. Finally, it is not obvious that the usage  of the interior of buildings as scenarios of augmented reality games could be done without the consent of the owner. Whatever the final way to deal with these concerns, are enabling another new possible source of incomes for the owners of property or even taxes as a kind of "rights of pass" in the virtual world. 

Last but not least, an old business of the digital world that is leaping ahead with the augmented reality games: the virtual game coins in apps. Probably, this kind of item was the first type of virtual item that has been sold. But the revenues in augmented reality games are the triple than in legacy apps (3$bn a year in PokemonGo vs 1$bn a year in CandyCrush). Would in the future even virtual game coins from augmented reality games being accepted in the real world?

New products from nothing. Welcome to the era of selling thin air.






domingo, 14 de agosto de 2016

"La cocina de la escritura" - Daniel Cassany

La cocina de la escrituraLa cocina de la escritura by Daniel Cassany
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nuestra vida se desarrolla entre juegos con la palabra escrita. A veces, nos lanzamos con frenesí sobre las cuartillas; otras, nos escondemos de los útiles de escritura amilanados por la tarea. Cuanto más consciente hayas sido de haber vivido alguna vez en ambos escenarios, más disfrutarás de este libro.

Aprender a escribir no lo hacemos en la escuela; como mucho, nos preparan para emborronar páginas dentro de unos mínimos de corrección gramatical. Lejos queda que nos ilustren sobre el objetivo real de la escritura: comunicar mediante un texto. Sólo libros como "La cocina de la escritura" nos enseñan las rutinas y fórmulas de una escritura eficaz.

Las páginas del libro nos conducen por las sendas metodológicas y los caminos del correcto diseño de un texto. Las técnicas de maduración de ideas y planificación de un pasaje escrito, las longitudes adecuadas de frases y párrafos, la selección de marcadores de texto, el filtrado crítico de las palabras elegidas, el auto maquetado de nuestras páginas ... Podemos encontrar referencias teóricas y prácticas del buen y mal uso de los utensilios que han de colgar alrededor de nuestros particulares fogones de escritores, sean de uso profesional o en tiempo libre.

El autor repite frecuentemente que "Escribir es reescribir". Aprender a escribir, cómo el texto perfecto, nunca se alcanza. Lee el libro si escribes, y si escribes lo volverás a leer una y mil veces.

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lunes, 8 de agosto de 2016

"The power of habit" - Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Many times, we ask ourselves for the reason of our acts and behaviours, particularly those we repeat frequently or those we would like to stop doing. This book helps us on the quest for answers. It starts by building up a framework to explain how the habits work and accross its pages gives us clues for changing them (If we like).

Habits aré the answer to an stimulus or a cue. When the cue is part of our daily life, the need to react will not dissapear whatever the efforts we will do. It is easier to change the reaction. And the reaction is the path towards a compensation. We need to study seriously the 3-chain model described above (cue-reaction-compensation) to change a habit.

But the book also gives us another valuable lessons. Firstly, that habits exist not only in individuals, companies and communities have also their routines. Secondly, the influence on the individuals' reactions of the behaviour of their closer relationship environment. Last but not least, how the stronger incentive to change our habits is ourselves, willpower is the main driver for change our routines.

To sum up, you are the main responsible of your behaviour. The assumption of this responsibility  is the rational path to success. You only need to develop the right habits.

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miércoles, 27 de julio de 2016

Brief introduction to surveillance capitalism

Some weeks ago, I was fortunate to attend a keynote speech given by Shoshana Zuboff. Many people study the digital transformation we are living and makes easier to others to understand it, but it is difficult to find someone who is more brilliant explaining the excesses and rationale of the greed for information of Internet giants.

Her speech was around the concept of "surveillance capitalism", which she defines in one of her papers as "a new form of information capitalism that  aims to predict and modify human behavior as a means to produce revenue and market control".  Silently, we are attending a mutation of capitalism based on the accumulation of data assets. As she warns, we have lived previous technology revolutions that have brings new levels of automatisation "But when it comes to information technology, automation simultaneously generates information that provides a deeper level of transparency to activities that had been either partially or completely opaque". This new source of knowledge becomes in a source of unlimited power to those who are in control of it. The data originated from automatisation and mediation of activities starts up a virtuous circle of creation of services based on behaviour that generates new information and, therefore, new services. 

Until the present century, capitalism was based on the division of labour. After many generations, we reached a balance (probably not fair enough) between firms and workers based on the awareness of the unity of worker-customers. The companies saw the human beings as the source of customers and employers, and therefore there was an interdependence between the progress of companies and workers-customers. This is not the case of the Internet giants, the so called GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon). On one hand. although they are heading the list of more valued companies the number of employees are a few ten of thousands ( As contrast: at the height of its power in 1953, General Motors was the world’s largest private employer). On the other hand, they break the unity worker-customers through mediation. GAFA customers are not the consumers but the private companies who hire the ads and other services.  So in "surveillance capitalism" the value of human beings for companies are not as worker-customer but merely as a source of information and the new power is not based in the division of labour but in the division of learning.  The more the companies are able to learn the more powerful they are, so it is needed a new equilibrium around data: Who participates and how? Who decides who participates? What happens when authority fails?

The rationale described above is behind the interest of GAFA in avoiding regulation related with the management digital information, not the risk of stifling the innovation. As Shosana Zubof says, the strategy to capture data is "incursions into legally and socially undefended territory until resistance is encountered". Therefore, the bigger the lack of regulation regarding the handling of information, the less the resistance and the better for increasing their resources of data. And therefore, their power.  

This is only an introduction on surveillance capitalism. In this summer, read a paper or essay written by Shoshana Zubof. You will feel like Neo in his first minutes out of the Matrix.

miércoles, 20 de julio de 2016

The free flow of data: Lost in the maze of legacy regulations

The free flow of data is one of the basis of Internet services. The conscious of its importance is growing with the threat towards its survival. 

Since October 6th of last year a exists a certain risk of the end of Internet as we know. The European Court of Justice ruled the invalidity of the agreement. Although the European Data Protection Watchdogs initially declared their will to be patient, their initial deadline has been fulfilled without an effective agreement. Furthermore, the watchdogs do not like happy with the draft of the new agreement reached by the European Commission for personal data flows, the so-called "Prvacy Shield". 

The European Parliament is equally unsatisfied with the "Privacy Shield" . The MEPs approved a resolution signalling how some of the deficiencies of the "Safe Harbour" are still alive in the new agreement. Not listening its advice, as well as the advice of the Data Protection Watchdogs, may have as a consequence a future declaration of invalidation of "Privacy Shield" by the European Court of Justice.

However, the European Institutions are used to reach consensus in difficult issues. It will be more difficult to convince the US government on providing more guarantees on data protection as a citizenship right, but in the end and agreement will be reached because there is no alternative but a new deal. So let us be optimistic. 

But Is it everything solved with the "Privacy Shield"? Unfortunately, it is not everything solved. Beyond, personal data protection regulations other laws impose data location restrictions across Europe. Although few deep studies have been done on the matter, the tip of the iceberg points to restrictions on data flows for tax and accounting records, public archives, financial sector documents and health files. The European Commission has set the course to overcome this barriers within Europe. An initiative will be presented by autumn as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy. 

The idea of creating a Schengen Area for data in Europe is not new, but it looks that Europe is now mature for it. An important group of Member States has welcomed the idea. Although the devils are in the details, they even called for the removal of barriers to the free flow of data both within and outside the European Union. A similar claim was made by the US negotiators of the TTIP according with the GreenPeace´s leak of the negotiation documents. The importance of the issue also has also deserve a relevant position in the recent OECD declaration on digital economy. 

So the aim is shared and crystal clear: there is a need to ensure the free flow of data in the network. The question is which should be the roadmap to reach that point. Until now, governments have been reluctant to reach international agreements on the matter. Digital data is the new form of the paper based documents. The maze of legacy regulations for paper documents has a way out difficult to find. 

lunes, 18 de julio de 2016

#Innovation #Brexit Somewhere in #digital Europe ... (18/7/2016)

European Innovation Scoreboard

The European Commission reviews each year the state of innovation in Europe. The European Innovation Scoreboard provides a comparative assessment of research and innovation performance and the relative strengths and weaknesses of national research and innovation systems.



Procedural steps towards Brexit

One of the many detailed descriptions of the Brexit roadmap. Worthy to read.



miércoles, 13 de julio de 2016

The #digital dimension of #LGTB rights

The recognition of LGTBI rights is spreading, at least in Europe. The policy of naming and shaming the countries less respectful with gender indentity and sex orientation is having as a result in the European Union a relentlessly progress towards equaility. However, if we take a closer look, we will discover that in this matter, once more, we are forgetting the digital dimension of policy making. For instance, there is usually no explicit recognition of the same rights of laws to the digital world. Although it could be understood an implicit extension of equality rights, this oblivion sometimes creates gaps and could be improving in its enforcement.

There are few policy papers dedicated to the LGTBI dimension of Internet policies. I have only encountered one paper called "A Vision for Inclusion: An LGBT Broadband Future" and a debate in the IGF 2015 on "How Can Internet Policy-Making Support LGBT Rights?". Both of them put forward common ideas. Above all, the importance of having internet access for LGTBI individuals based in some results of the 2013 study of the Pew Research on LGTB behaviours. LGTB adults use more social networks than the general public (80% vs 58%) , it is for them a critical tool for connecting with each other (more than 55% have ever met a friend online) and helps in getting out of the closet (46% have revealed their identity or orientation online). 

A recent article on the New York Times focused in the special importance of Internet access for the transgender community. The minor size of the group and its fragmentation makes the network one of the few scenarios where they can meet others like themselves. Therefore, Social Networks are growing in its importance for activism and visibility of a long time ignored community

But the networks can also be a dangerous place for the LGTBI individuals. For instance, in Spain nearly 13% of Internet hate speech cases in 2015 were focused in gender identity or sexual orientation and school cyberbullying is thrice more frequent towards LGTB children. The former are consistent with the data from a GLSEN study that showed that US LGTB youth were nearly three times as likely as non-LGTB youth to say they had been bullied or harassed online (42% vs. 15%). However, no special attention to this sad reality is paid in pro-LGTBI rights legislation.

Freedom of information in the network has also a different dimension for LGTBI individuals. Beyond the usage of the network for LGTBI activism and visibility, the network provides affordable access to prevention and health information and LGTBI-oriented goods and services. The GLSEN study, once more, remarks its special importance for the transgender subgroup. In spite of this, it is still usual to find that internet filters are not LGTBI friendly and classifies LGTBI information as porn and, therefore, makes it non-accesible. This biased classification has a big consequence in rural areas where Internet access relies in libraries or schools where a growing amount of educational resources are Internet based.

The internet platforms poses also policy making challenges to ensure LGTBI rights. To begin with the enrollment, some big platforms are respectful with gender identity as facebook (58 gender options) or google (free definition of gender), but this is not the case of all of them. Besides being respectful with your identity, colaborative economy providers may be legally forced or should self-regulate the conformity with LGTBI rights of prosumersThe recent outcry about transgender discrimination on AirBnB in The Guardian should be an example of naming and shaming.

In spite of the last years progress, we are just at the beginning of long and winding road towards to equality of LGBT individuals.  The global dimension of the Internet provides a unique platform for spreading the message of equality and denounce the cases of gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination. The network is just another battlefield. nevertheless there is still some efforts to do in order create the awareness of it. Even in the European Union supporting an LGTB friendly Internet it is not seen as one of the the ten key actions for improving LGTB rights.




lunes, 11 de julio de 2016

#Skills Somewhere in #digital Europe ... (11/7/2016)

How mobile is tech talent? A case study of IT professionals based on data from LinkedIn

Skills, labour mobility and Information technology (IT) all rank high on the European policy agenda and feature among the key priorities of the European Commission. This report aims to produce new insights into how European IT professionals move from one region to another within Europe and beyond, using the sizeable collection of data amassed by the business networking site LinkedIn, aggregated by region and provided to us in anonymised and relative terms.


The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet

There is a clear need of reaffirming that we should enjoy in the network the same rights that we enjoy offline. The UN Human Rights Council approved in its last session a resolution on "the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet".

miércoles, 6 de julio de 2016

An insurance sector for the #digital era

We can define an insurance policy as a risk-transfer mechanism that ensures full or partial financial compensation for the loss or damage caused by events beyond the control of the insured party. The digital revolution of society and economy is introducing both new risks and new tools for monitoring risks. As a consequence, big changes in an industry as ancient as the human being are about to happen. Some of these changes can be appreciated already.

The main new risk brought by the digital revolution is our growing technology dependence. Companies try to establish protection measures against threats for their digital assets. Cybersecurity is a flourishing industry valued in $75 billion in 2015 and it is expected to be worth $170 billion by 2020. Nevertheless, whatever the protection deployed a failure could happen. The number of security and data breaches are also growing and, as a consequence, the laws defining the economic liabilities for the companies who have not deployed the right measures.  These new kind of economic liabilities have created the new cyber insurance sector. Only in the US, the businesses spent more than $2 billion for cyber insurance in 2014 and it is expected the market grows up to $6 billion by 2020

Beyond the basic insurance policies that aims to ensure compensation for the failure of the IT security measures, the complexity of some digital products will require an specific type of policies. That is the case of driverless cars and other kind of robots. The amount of different components that collaborate in providing the final service to the consumer, demands to set a clear divsion of responsibilities in case of failure. Who is accountable for it? The hardware? The AI software? The telecommunication network? Some driverless car insurance policies have already be launched in some countries, like United Kingdom, for the basic autopilot functionality already in place in high-rank cars (e.g. auto-parking). However, a bigger debate should be opened to develop a future-proof legislation, whatever evolution of technology happens.

The sharing economy is offering also new business opportunities to the insurance sector. With the new services of the digital economy also appear new grey areas of responsibilities. In the medium term, these grey areas could both inhibit consumers from using sharing economy services as private persons from providing services and products. So platforms are turning to the insurance sector as strategic partners to bridge this potential gap of trust. An incipient market for sharing economy insurance products is under development, mainly based on start ups that offer this kind of products like "Take Slice" or "Safe Share". Even some of them are also offering products based on the sharing economy paradigm, as Lemonade.

Not only new business opportunities are appeared for the insurance sector in the digital era. IT are providing the sector with new tools to be more efficient and productive and develop more personalised products. Telematics provide more data that could be handle in a more efficient way with Big Data technologies and smart phones the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the new breed of customers composed of digital natives. For instance, it is forecasted that "remote healthcare monitoring will become as common as internet banking " in the medium term, it is not difficult to imagine health insurance products with different designs depending on your sport practices or feeding habits. The potential for insurance products based on remote monitoring is behind the investments of insurance companies in Internet of the Things industry.

Every day, each European spends €5.4 on life and nonlife insurance combinedIn 2014, U.S. insurance companies earned approximately $338 billion in profitsThe digital technology paved the way for new kind of insurance products and more appealing versions of the existing products. The way we face daily risks is about to change,  jointly with the big disruption of another big economic activity.

lunes, 4 de julio de 2016

#Broadband #BigData Somewhere in #Digital Europe ... (4/7/2016)

State of the Internet

The executive summary of the lat Akamai´s report on analysis of Internet connectivity. It includes the significant metrics and learnings on Security and Connectivity.


Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization

This article describes an emergent logic of accumulation in the networked sphere, ‘surveillance capitalism,’ and considers its implications for ‘information civilization.’ Beyond automatisation, digitisation brings the generation of a huge amount of information that creates a new form of exploitation.


martes, 28 de junio de 2016

The digital face of #Brexit

The UK's citizens have decided to leave the Union. Europe is facing an unprecedented situation. For the first time, the European Union is facing a shrinking process instead of a enlargement one. The procedures are of similar complexity, once the UK will ask oficially for the leaving there would be several sectoral negotiation tables to achieve a global arrangement.  Regarding the technological sector, there would be issues to be negotiated under the umbrella of different EU Council configurations.

Although the United Kingdom is not among the top five EU performers in the DESI, the Brexit will shake both the EU technological scene and the UK economy. As in many other economic sectors, both EU and UK will lose.

EU is losing an important force in its tech sector. According with the most recent OECD data, the ICT and subsectors contribution to UK GDP is 5,53%, the largest among the big five EU economies. Besides the UK current weight in the EU digital sector, UK has been a driving force in the inception of the Digital Single Market project currently under development. Furthermore, the now improbable UK presidency of the EU by the second semester of 2017 would have been a guarantee of a definitely push towards the conclusion of the negotiations of critical legislative proposals as the review of the audiovisual sector or the new rules for e-commerce (end of unjustified geoblocking, rules for online sales, regulation of cross-parcel delivery).

As for the UK, the Brexit will have a bigger impact on the ICT sector than in others. The last TechNation report noted that the UK digital economy grew a third faster than the UK economy as a whole and estimated that 1.56 million people were employed in digital companies in the UK. The access to the EU market has been a cornerstone of this thriving force. An important part of the human and financial capital needed to bulid the sector came from Europe. On one hand, there will be new barriers to inmigration and recruiting EU workers in a country that leads the number of forseen unfilled vacancies by 2020 in the ICT sector. On the other hand, there could be a decrease in financing funds to UK start ups as the European Investment Fund is the largest investor in UK venture capital firmsAfter two years competing head-to-head with London, it is more than probable that Berlin will definitely gain the post of the StartUp's European capital.

Establishing a new legal framework for the digital relationships between UK and EU will require to deal with a diverse and large set of issues. Some of them, as mobile roaming charges, will attract a huge attention. However, other more subtle will have a bigger impact. It is the case of the new data protection regulation that will not enter into effective force due to Brexit. EU is discovering the complexity of achieving an agreement with the US for the free flow of personal data between the two blocks. A similar difficulty could emerge between EU and UK, that could be extended to other fields where a strong level of trust is required, as cibersecurity.

We have in front of us a two year period of negotiations to make effective the brexit. Whatever the final result, it will be a bad result. Europe (including UK) will lost another two years of work deaing with the ICT face of brexit while their digital competitors  enlarge its advantage in this sector.

lunes, 27 de junio de 2016

#Skills #innovation Somewhere in #digital Europe ... (27/6/2016)

The impact of ICT on job quality: evidence from 12 job profiles

The European Commission has just published a report on the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on job quality. Looking at the evidence from 12 specific types of non-office jobs, the report found that the use of digital technologies is beginning to have a profound effect on the tasks carried out and the skills required for many jobs outside the traditional office.



Growing a Digital Social Innovation Ecosystem for Europe

The study focuses on the social innovation enabled by the "network effect" of the Internet and by new models for co-production and sharing of content, and open development of apps. It includes the analysis of how the open innovation ecosystems can be more fluid for new entrepreneurship and enterprise creation based on societal innovation. It involved entrepreneurs, academics, students and "geeks", NGO and volunteers, citizens.

miércoles, 22 de junio de 2016

An EU Digital Skills Agenda: Challenges and actions

There is a extended agreement on the need of digitising the society and the economy. It is not a matter where the countries have any room for maneuvering. Either they jump into the digitalisation wagon or they will perish in the platform of irrelevance. It is assumed that it is not possible to face the digital transformation without the previous deployment  of the right networking infrastructures. However, as important as having access to quality broadband connections is being able to reap its benefits. What is more, there is a vicious circle between the lack of digital competences and the lack of internet access, the former is the main reason given for not having internet at home.

Since 2013, the European Union is exploring different strategies to provide the right level of digital competences to the working population. The prioritisation of these efforts has been increased since the publication of the strategy for the completion of the Digital Single Market. To be more concrete, "a human capital ready for the digital transformation with the necessary skills" is considered one of the cornerstones of the roadmap for "Digitising European Industry - Reaping the full benefits of a Digital Single Market".  Following the recommendations of the European Parliament, digital competences will be part of the New Skills Agenda for Europe to be published on the second half of 2016.

The first step to develop an EU digital skill agenda is reaching an agreement on the objective, on what is the definition for the digital competences that we would like that the population will have. An starting point could be the definition provided by the European Parliament in its 2006 recommendation

"Digital competence involves the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication. It is underpinned by basic skills in ICT: the use of computers to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet."

Although the definition need a refurbishment in order to update some of its wording, it is still a base good enough for starting the dialogue on the issue. For instance, "communication" is needed both at "work and leisure" so probably could be dropped from the definition.


As with any public policy, once we have reached an agreement on the final goal we need to identify both challenges and actions to tackle the challenges.

The main challenge of digital competence is its polyhedral nature. There are different set of skills and not all the digital skills are equally importance for all the population. The importance of a digital skill for a citizen is given by the environment where he is going to apply it. So the second challenge for policy-making on digital competences is identifying the different scenarios where the digital skills would be useful and which subset of skills are useful in that scenario. We can basically identify four scenarios (skills at work, skills for recovering a job, ICT specialist and leisure), but these scenarios could be refined. The third challenge is the identification of the causes for not having digital skills yet. This is a thorny issue, because it is not difficult to see that both the lack of opportunities as the lack of interest has an influence on why a citizen has not adquired digital skills. Last but not least, there is the challenge of funding. There is around 40% of the population that we need to provide with some kind of digital skills, so we are facing a challenge that is equivalent with the literacy process we faced at the begining of the XX century. In the current scenario of tight public budgets, it would be difficult to find an stable source of funding for this policy. And the source should be stable because we need to face both the short-term and long-term scenarios, providing skills at school and life-long learning.

The complexity of the challenges obliges to follow a multifaceted strategy. Each group has different causes for the lack of digital competences and they need different roadmaps for its adquisition. So we need to develop different catalogues of skills for the different groups, based on its demographic profile (age, gender, rural vs urban, social class, ...) and which is the purpose that is guiding them for achieving the skills (improving his working competences, finding a new job, being an ICT professional, leisure, ...). We also need to determine which should be the priority objectives of our capacity building actions. For this aim, we need to build new tools. One possibility is building heat maps based on data analytics that combine the population demographical profile with the causes for the lack of digital competences in order to identify the areas with the bigger risk of digital exclusion. To build the kind of tools described above, we need to deploy platforms for multistakeholder collaboration and a whole-of-government approach. As the ICT is a multipurpose technology and cross-sectoral, a single deprtament would not be able to face the challenges in an isolated manner. Finally, we need to face the funding issue. The basic skills are beginning to be include in the schools curricula, but the responsibility on the life-long learning should be taken by the companies as part of its corporate social responsibility. As for unemployed who are looking for a job, the main responsibility should be for governments, but there is also a room to promote patronage and public-private partnerships in order to decrease the public expenditure.

The case for a digital skills strategy is on the table. Both we need ICT specialists (there is a lack of 900.000 in Europe) and the rest of the workers need ICT skills for his job (90% of the jobs will need ICT skills in the medium term). Having the most advanced broadband network infrastructures would be useless without power-users.


palyginti kainas