Connect with us


Major Push to End the Hidden Human Toll and Pollution behind Smartphone and Electric Car Batteries



Businesses, international organizations and NGOs have joined forces to end child labour, hazardous working conditions, pollution and the environmental damage behind the booming trade in batteries for smartphones, gadgets, electric vehicles and renewable energy storage systems in households and cities.

Launched today at the World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2017, the Global Battery Alliance aims to create a responsible value chain for the fast-growing battery market powering the technology and clean energy revolution. It aims to transform the entire value chain, from the mining and chemical industries to manufacturers, electronics, automotive and energy businesses.

Analysts expect a 12-fold increase in battery capacity is needed to meet consumer demands and the promise of a low-carbon economy. The market is likely to reach $100 billion by 2025 and batteries installed in homes and businesses will account for 57% of the world’s energy storage capacity by 2040.

But there are enormous human and environmental costs: an Amnesty International report highlighted the prevalent use of child labour in mining of cobalt. Materials such as lithium, nickel, manganese and graphite have been linked to pollution, water shortages and other environmental and social concerns.

Meanwhile, a recycling challenge looms over the huge quantities of spent lithium-ion batteries forecast to be discarded, with little infrastructure in place to enable a circular economy for batteries.

Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnerships at the World Economic Forum, said that the human toll is dire; and both valuable raw materials and a billion-dollar business opportunity are going to waste.

“The phones may be smart, but the system is certainly not sustainable. All the electronic waste we discarded in 2014 was worth $52 billion. It contained 300 tonnes of gold and significant amounts of silver and palladium. To get these rare minerals and metals so that all our phone, car and toothbrush batteries work smartly, many poor people are paying a terrible cost, as is the environment. We keep a smartphone or tablet on average for just 26 months and then we throw it away, battery and all.”

“The Global Battery Alliance seeks to fix this, with companies, NGOs and international organizations coming together to clean up supply chains and re-use battery waste. The World Economic Forum, as the international organization for public-private cooperation, is pleased to lend its platforms and networks to help advance this important project.”

Businesses and organizations supporting the alliance are: BASF, Enel, the Eurasian Resources Group, Johnson Controls, NEC Corporation, Royal DSM, Trafigura Group, Umicore, Veolia, Volkswagen, White & Case, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the African Development Bank, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals Minerals & Chemicals Importers and Exporters (CCCMC) and civil society organizations International Justice Mission, Pact and the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

“We want to ensure that everyone benefits from the growing demand for alternative energy. It is vital that future energy supplies include ethically sourced storage solutions,” said Benedikt Sobotka, Chief Executive Officer, Eurasian Resources Group, a major natural resources producer with cobalt mining operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Unfortunately, there is almost a 100% chance that your smartphone or electric vehicle contains cobalt that comes from child workers in artisanal mines. Although creating new ethical energy sources will help, we all need to do whatever we can to put an end to child labour. The Alliance has a critical role to play in achieving this objective.”

Continue Reading


Meet the MilleXZials: Generational Lines Blur as Media Consumption for Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z Converge

MD Staff



American consumers’ appetite for streaming video continues to grow, and they have no qualms shelling out cash for original content, according to Deloitte’s 12th edition of the “Digital Media Trends Survey” (formerly the “Digital Democracy” Survey). The report found that 55 percent of U.S. households now subscribe to at least one video streaming service, a 450 percent increase since 2009.

The survey found, on average, Americans watch 38 hours per week of video content (39 percent of which is streamed), nearly the equivalent of a full-time job. With over 200 streaming video on demand (SVOD) options in the U.S., the average streaming video subscriber is paying for three services resulting in U.S. consumers collectively spending $2.1 billion per month on SVOD services. High-quality original content appears to be driving an increase in streaming with nearly half (48 percent) of all U.S. consumers streaming television content every day or weekly, up 11 percent year-over-year.

Conversely, the report found pay TV subscriptions declined for the first time in recent years with 63 percent of households still subscribing to a traditional Pay TV service, down from 75 percent. Pay TV’s decline is especially pronounced among Generation Z (ages 14-20), Millennials (ages 21-34) and Generation X (ages 35-51).

“Consumers now enjoy unparalleled freedom in selecting media and entertainment options and their expectations are at an all-time high,” said Kevin Westcott, vice chairman and U.S. media and entertainment leader, Deloitte LLP. “The rapid growth of streaming services and high quality original content has created a significant opportunity to monetize the on-demand environment in 2018.”

Pay TV penetration declines

With video streaming enabling unprecedented choice and access to content, consumers perceive a widening gap between their expectations and what pay TV companies deliver, according to the report:

  • Nearly half (46 percent) of all pay TV subscribers said they are dissatisfied with their service and 70 percent of consumers feel they get too little value for their money.
  • Among respondents who said they no longer have a pay TV subscription, 27 percent reported they cancelled their service within the last year.
  • Furthermore, 22 percent of millennials say they have never subscribed to a pay TV service.
  • Twenty-two percent of all consumers without pay TV say they don’t watch enough TV to justify the expense and another 19 percent say they simply cannot afford it.
  • Fifty-six percent of current pay TV subscribers say they keep their pay TV because it’s bundled with their home internet access.

“As video streaming and demand for original content continue to grow, traditional and premium cable broadcasters will continue to rethink their business models,” continued Westcott. “Media companies are increasingly going direct-to-consumer with their own digital streaming services and snackable content. Ultimately, one challenge we see is that consumers may be reluctant to pay for exclusive content on top of their other paid subscription services and this may lead to some form of re-aggregation as limits on consumer spending could potentially hinder the growth of content platforms.”

The emergence of MilleXZials: 50 is the new 20

This year’s data indicates a convergence of media behavior across three key demographics. Gen X emerged as cutting-edge adopters of digital media embracing the digital media behaviors already adopted by Gen Z and millennials. Deloitte calls this combined demographic group “The MilleXZials.”

  • Seventy percent of Gen Z households had a streaming subscription, closely followed by millennials at 68 percent and Gen X at 64 percent, respectively.
  • About 70 percent of Gen Z and millennials stream movies compared with 60 percent of Gen X on a weekly basis.
  • Binge-watching behavior also witnessed a convergence among MilleXZials:
    • Ninety-one percent of Gen Z, 86 percent of millennials and 80 percent of Gen X binge-watch TV shows.
    • More than 40 percent of millennials binge watch weekly, and they watch an average of seven episodes and six hours in a single setting.
  • Ninety-six percent of MilleXZials multitask while watching TV.

“Millennials were the first generation to embrace streaming media and watching video content on smartphones,” said Dr. Jeff Loucks, the executive director, Deloitte Center for Technology, Media and Telecommunications, Deloitte LLP. “Some hoped that as millennials got older, they would settle down and watch pay TV. Instead, their Gen X parents are acting more like millennials, using streaming services, watching TV shows, movies and sports on smartphones and binge watching.”

Consumers want more control over their personal data

Consumers are increasingly concerned about putting their personal data online. The study found 69 percent of consumers believe that companies are not doing everything they can to protect their personal data. However, 73 percent of all consumers said they would be more comfortable sharing their data if they had some visibility and control and 93 percent of U.S. consumers believe they should be able to delete their online data when they want.

The 12th edition of Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends survey provides insight into how five generations of U.S. consumers interact with media, products and services, mobile technologies and the internet. This year’s U.S. data was collected in November 2017 and employed an online methodology among 2,088 consumers.

Continue Reading


Coding with impact: Training female tech talent from Latin America

MD Staff



Photo ©Laboratoria

“We want to train young women to make them talented and globally competitive software developers.”

Meet Mariana Costa Checa, a young social entrepreneur from Peru. She is the CEO and Co-founder of Laboratoria a company that has been training young women coding and software development skills in Latin America since 2014. Mariana will be attending Mobile Learning Week – UNESCO’s yearly flagship ICT in education event – taking place from 26 – 30 March 2018 in Paris.

What inspired you to start Laboratoria?

We started Laboratoria when I moved back to Lima after living abroad for many years. Before venturing into this, my two co-founders and I actually started a web development agency. It was through that experience that we realized there was a lot of demand for software developers, but that there was a big shortage of talent in that particular area. There were also very few women in that sector so there was a huge gender gap. Even in our team, we had 10 developers and all of them were men. We were puzzled by this disparity in a field with so many job opportunities. In contrast to other sectors, the field of software development is quite flexible in terms of the requirements for qualifications. Many talented individuals working in web development did not necessarily have degrees in computer science from prestigious schools. Some did not even have a degree at all. It is one of those fields where you do not necessarily need an actual degree to find a good job. With all this in mind, we saw the opportunity to create a social enterprise that would train young women in this skill set, and especially women who have not been able to access higher education due to their financial situations.

How did it all come together?

We started Laboratoria as a pilot project and we wanted to keep it very lean and focused. We created a curricula, secured a loan and partnered with two non-profit organizations in two different parts of the city to select a group of students to launch the programme. Our goal was to validate the idea and prove that we could actually teach coding skills to women who had no previous contact with technology and help them build a better future. We learned a lot after the initial pilot. Many of the students performed really well and we hired some of them in our agency and we placed others into other companies. We also realized that there was a lot of interest from the hiring companies who were impressed by the talents and they started reaching out to us. After the pilot, we decided to refine the project and in 2015, we turn it into a full-time, six-month bootcamp training programme with nearly a thousand hours of training to build not only the technical skills of our students but also the soft skills that are needed in the professional world. It has been a long process of adjusting and improving our programme to better prepare our students to make them globally competitive software developers. We have also been working with the hiring companies to create a smooth transition for them after their training. The average income of our graduates has been multiplied by three. We started in Lima, and we have already expanded to Santiago (Chile), Mexico City, Guadalajara (Mexico) and we are now setting up in São Paulo (Brazil). We managed to prove that our model was strong in terms of social impact and that it can be scaled to change the lives of young women across Latin America. To date, more than 580 students have graduated from Laboratoria, and they have been hired by more than 200 companies across the industry.

What is the recipe for a successful social enterprise?

It has been years of very hard work! And there is still so much more to be done. The most important thing for us was the focus on learning. Learning as much as we could, following a methodology to continuously improve our work. We are very focused on gathering data to monitor exactly how the programme is performing and to keep improving it. That is what has enabled us to track and improve our work in such a short period: we have built a culture around learning and we try to attract people who share the same mindset to work at our company. And we want to make sure that we do that with excellence by forming the best junior developers who are competitive in the global job market.

How can the digital and gender divide be tackled?

The digital divide and the gender divide are two issues that are of critical importance. As the economy is shifting and becoming more automated, we are seeing the depletion of many low-skilled jobs. And that is usually where women are overrepresented. But in high-skilled professions, particularly those related to tech where there are many job opportunities, women are underrepresented. Unless we urgently do something to change that ratio, women are going to be left out. The private sector needs to know that diversity adds value, not because they need to check in a box, but because their products will be better by having people from different backgrounds and experiences: it will ultimately benefit the companies. Accountability is a key factor, particularly from education institutions. They must ensure that they are training people with the right skills that are needed and that are relevant to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s economy. Properly analyzing job prospects is essential because a diploma on its own is not going to do anything. As for governments, they should be enablers of the private sector and of civil society by putting the right incentives to help initiatives that tackle these issues and encouraging companies to be more diverse for a better use of technology.

What is your advice to young women – and young people in general – in today’s hyper-connected economy?

We are living in an era of unprecedented opportunities because of Internet, connectivity and the immense access to information. The most valuable skill-set is to know how to learn by yourself. Be curious to go out and take responsibility for your own learning process. That is what we teach our students at Laboratoria as well. Education is being challenged in all sorts of ways because the future of work is still being defined. People need to take advantage of the opportunities of access to information in order to shape their own paths.


Continue Reading


Leveraging Community Mapping to another Level

Magdalena Pawlowicz



Community Mapping, often referred to as Public Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS), can be used to narrate a story surrounding what is occurring everyday (at every second) in our communities. However, community mapping as we see it, can in some parts of the world be a drawing in the sand.

Whereas regular maps seek conformity, community maps embrace diversity in their presentation and content. That said, to be useful for outside groups such as state authorities, the closer the maps follow recognized cartographic conventions, the greater the likelihood they will be embraced as effective communication tools.

During Community Mapping events, community members come together to collect data, which by nature is varied – an inventory of health centers, restaurants, pedestrian infrastructure, toxic emissions, health conditions, the list is endless. The goal – improve the community, curb violence, and increase local economic revenue bases. Community mapping empowers the public by providing opportunities to have a lasting, positive influence on their community. The maps that are generated are used to document community needs and assist with consensus-building and decision-making for improved program designs and policies at a public-sector level.

There are several great websites which are creating training sessions on how to get people more involved in community mapping. Engaging Together is a U.K. organization aimed just this where they list all community assets present in the Dudley borough, and communicate how they use these assets to build relationships and strengthen communities by bringing together a contingency of individuals thus creating a sense of belonging. However, to create community mapping that sticks, one needs technology.

The next generation of community mapping is the app which aims to include community asset mapping on various levels. This will help to stimulate and motivate change in the local society, and the app is specifically useful is when:

  • There are people not engaged in their local community and/or isolated from relationships with their neighbors.
  • A community is fractured with little belief that it can change.
  • There are no community associations or where those that do exist are exhausted, characterized by low membership and dominated by public agency agendas.
  • Agencies only see the community as a source of problems and needs and cannot visualize potential solutions.
  • There is a group of people who organizations see as dependent – for example, people with learning disabilities. This people can thus be empowered.
  • Communities and staff who both desire change and see the world differently. By making potential changes visible, assets are uncovered which is where change can thus occur.

Community Asset mapping levels – actual and potential:

The assets of community individuals: these are skills, knowledge, networks, time, interests and passions. Residents can be asked what is positive about where they live, and what they could do to make life better for their community. This can be done by a municipality using the app.

The assets of associations in community: this is not just formal community organizations or voluntary groups. It includes all the informal networks and ways that people come together: football teams, allotment associations, workplaces and so on. For example, a pub quiz team has members of interest, but it could also offer fundraising and networks.

The assets of organizations in community: this is not just the services that organizations deliver locally, but also the infrastructure assets they control, e.g., parks, community centers etc. In fact, it covers anything that could be put to the use of a community to improve its wellbeing. It includes staff and their influence and expertise.

The physical assets of a local community: the green space, unused land, buildings, streets, markets, and transportation in the area. Mapping these assets helps people to appreciate their value and to realize the potential productive uses.

The economic community assets: economic activity lies at the heart of rebuilding a community. What skills and talents are not being used in the local economy? How do local associations contribute to the local economy by attracting investment and generating jobs and income? Could public spending in the area be used to employ local people instead of outside professionals? How could the residents spend more of their money in local shops and businesses and increase local economic activity?

The cultural community assets: everyday life is full of creativity and culture. This involves the mapping of talents for music, drama, art and opportunities for everyone to express themselves in ways that reflect their values and identities.

We are asking all local authorities worldwide to embrace community mapping not as expert mapping, but as a human interaction mapping initiative. Let’s map together!

Continue Reading


Energy1 hour ago

Global energy demand grew by 2.1% in 2017- carbon emissions rose for the first time since 2014

Global energy demand rose by 2.1% in 2017, more than twice the previous year’s rate, boosted by strong global economic...

Green Planet2 hours ago

World looks to nature-based solutions for urgent water challenges

As more than 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and more than double that number lack access...

Energy8 hours ago

Forum held in Kigali on increasing access to sustainable energy in East Africa

The Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa took place between 19 and 21 March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. Over 400...

Defense10 hours ago

Assessing Washington’s “strategic and military” options in Syria

For Washington, Eastern regions around Mediterranean holds “vital strategic interests” centrally to which lies Syria, policy makers within the White...

New Social Compact11 hours ago

Political Parties, Church and Grand Mufti in Bulgaria: No Rights for Women

On 12 March, the European Parliament called upon EU countries including Bulgaria to ratify the Istanbul Convention. However, only one...

Energy12 hours ago

Energy has a role to play in achieving universal access to clean water and sanitation

The world has a water problem. More than 2.1 billion people drink contaminated water.  More than half the global population –...

Middle East13 hours ago

Ahed Tamimi, the Detained Heroine

Ahed Tamimi has accepted a plea deal under which she will serve eight months in prison, during a closed-door hearing...



Copyright © 2018 Modern Diplomacy