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1 Million Workers Targeted in Tech-Reskilling Drive

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The World Economic Forum launched the IT Industry Skills Initiative to meet the global skills gap challenge and address job displacement arising from automation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The initiative is committed to reaching 1 million people with resources and training opportunities on the SkillSET portal by January 2021.

The initiative was conceived by the Forum’s IT Governors community under the chairmanship of Chuck Robbins, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Cisco. The founding partners are Accenture, CA Technologies, Cisco, Cognizant, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Infosys, Pegasystems, PwC, Salesforce, SAP and Tata Consultancy Services.

“We need responsive solutions and coordination from all parts of society – governments, citizens and private industry alike – to re-envision an educational system based on lifelong learning that can fully prepare workers for the jobs of the future,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. “This initiative is a clear example of industry leaders taking concerted, collective action to address a major social challenge at scale.”

According to a World Economic Forum report on workforce reskilling, one in four adults reported a mismatch between the skills they have and the skills they need for their current job. Therefore, enabling and empowering workers to transform and update their skills is a key concern for businesses and societies across the globe.

“In our dynamic world, technology has opened up many avenues for growth. However, we are also seeing how innovations such as artificial intelligence and automation can impact the workforce. It is important for all of us to recognize that without the talent we need, none of us would be successful,” said Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO, Cisco. “This initiative brings together the capabilities and strengths of all of our companies to help educate the high-skilled workers needed for jobs now and into the future. It is our obligation to make sure that people with jobs across every industry are given the means to learn new skills and remain competitive.”

The coalition has created a free platform of online tools to streamline the process of reskilling adults. The initial iteration of the portal will be available in April 2018.

To empower people to address fast-changing skill requirements, initiative partner companies are opening up key elements of their individual training libraries into one centralized portal. Users will have access, free of charge, to the most up-to-date, self-paced training materials from leading global IT companies, ranging from general business skills to introductory digital literacy to more advanced topics such as cybersecurity, big data or internet of things. The portal will offer a tailored Skills Assessment, developed by PwC, and based on the Fourth Industrial Revolution skills research, to help users determine which coursework and/or learning pathways best fit their current skillset and learning goals.

In creating this platform, the coalition hopes to recast continued education to a more engaging, ongoing and educationally reaffirming experience. They also hope to motivate adults of all backgrounds to use the platform, especially those from low-resource communities or under-represented groups who have historically had less access to the IT industry. SkillSET is hosted on the award-winning EdCast AI-powered Knowledge Cloud platform, accessible to anyone using desktop or mobile versions.

The coalition, which continues to add members, will be working over the next few months to develop tools and processes intended to address many of the barriers that prevent adults from reskilling or successfully completing trainings. The initiative will initially target the US market, with plans to scale to other geographies and build industry and public-sector partnerships in 2018 and beyond. Under the chairmanship of Mike Gregoire, Chief Executive Officer, CA Technologies, the coalition will report on progress at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019.

Founding Partners Speak Out:

Pierre Nanterme, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Accenture: “People need innovative ways to learn new skills in order to remain relevant and adaptive as the pace of technology change accelerates. For example, AI offers enormous opportunities for growth, but success will increasingly depend on humans collaborating with intelligent technologies. By accessing a broad range of ‘new skilling’ techniques, people will be better placed to work with machines and help businesses pivot to new growth models.”

Michael Gregoire, Chief Executive Officer, CA Technologies: “Technology is both the tool and the canvas and carries the huge promise of improving how we live and work. The counter side, however, is some degree of wariness by those who fear it disrupting their livelihoods, which is both understandable and expected. We are focused on a large-scale, proactive solution that encourages continuing education to empower and inspire today’s and tomorrow’s workforce. We must engage with technology in a way that creates new opportunities, both at an individual level and in the aggregate.”

Francisco D’Souza, Chief Executive Officer, Cognizant Technology Solutions: “The workplace issue of the 21st century is a worldwide shortage of qualified technology talent driven by a massive skills gap, which we must address together on a global scale. The pace of technological change has education systems struggling to keep up in delivering learning experiences that are relevant, immersive and readily available as workers seek to expand their skills. The future of talent development depends on new models, ways of thinking and initiatives like this one that engage individuals as lifelong learners and provide them with opportunities for continuous reinvention.”

Salil Parekh, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Infosys Ltd: “Our relevance, in an increasingly digital future, will depend on our ability to learn and evolve lifelong at the pace of technology. Democratizing digital literacy is an essential first step to make technology a force for good that moves us all forward.”

Alan Trefler, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Pegasystems Inc.: “Throughout history, we’ve seen technological advancement bring both opportunities and challenges as society adapts. With technology so central to how we live and work today, it’s critical that we enable people to acquire the skills required to be successful and to help society move forward in a positive direction.

Robert E. Moritz, Global Chairman, PwC International, PwC: “All over the world, people are asking themselves how they are going to prepare for their future, whether it’s a new job, new responsibilities, or needed new skills. By working together across the public and private sectors, our hope is to enable new opportunities for people to carve their own paths, develop new skills, and future-proof themselves. By sharing our Skills Assessment, we believe more people around the world will be empowered to learn and grow professionally throughout their lives.”

Keith Block, Vice Chairman, President and COO, Salesforce: “As the Fourth Industrial Revolution spurs incredible innovation, it is our responsibility as business leaders to ensure that the benefits created by this opportunity – now and in the future – are accessible to all.”

Bill McDermott, Chief Executive Officer, SAP: “Our focus on building digital skills will unleash amazing potential in dreamers from all backgrounds. Instead of fearing automation, we should be optimistic about the exciting possibilities when people and machines work together. Bigger than artificial intelligence, we are entering a new frontier of ‘augmented humanity’.”

Rajesh Gopinathan, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd: With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, enterprises are leveraging the combined effect of emerging technologies to transform their businesses. Employees will also have to transform their skills and adopt newer ways of working to participate in today’s opportunities that are as enormous as in any of the previous generations. It is important for enterprises to make investments in reskilling and upskilling employees and prepare them for digital-age careers.”

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Human Rights

Millions in Yemen ‘a step away from starvation’

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Mobile health clinics are distributing nutritional supplements to children in Yemen. WFP/Saleh Bin Haiyan

The crisis in Yemen, now in its seventh year of war, continues unabated, with thousands of people displaced and millions “a step away from starvation”, the UN Humanitarian Relief Coordinator said on Wednesday during a high-level side event on the margins of the 76th General Assembly.

“The country’s economy has reached new depths of collapse, and a third wave of the pandemic is threatening to crash the country’s already fragile health-care system”, Humanitarian Affairs chief Martin Griffiths told world leaders at the meeting: Yemen: Responding to the crises within the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

Underscoring that the most vulnerable always “bear the highest cost” of the crisis, he said that females were more likely to be hungry, sick or exposed to gender-based violence and, with little access to essential services, millions of internally displaced people face “a daily struggle to survive”.

Cause for hope

In a positive development, the UN official credited the international community for stepping up support to the country’s humanitarian aid operation.

Thanking the world leaders, he said that Yemen’s Humanitarian Response Plan is “among the most well-funded”, with 98 per cent of the pledges made at an event in March fulfilled.

With over $2 billion received, the UN and its partners were able to “prevent famine and pull people back from the brink of despair”, delivering assistance to “every single one of the country’s 333 districts”.

‘Far from done’

Despite these important achievements, Mr. Griffiths acknowledged that the work there is “far from done”, as many sectors still face “alarming funding gaps” and humanitarians are working with less than one-fifth of the money needed to provide health care, sanitation, and shelter.

“Without additional funding, these and other forms of critical life-saving support – including food assistance – will have to be reduced in the coming weeks and months”, he warned.

Three requests

The UN relief chief asked global leaders to continue generously supporting Yemen’s humanitarian operation; respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians; and address the root drivers of the crisis, including restrictions on imports, which elevate the prices of essential goods.

He urged them to do “everything in our collective power to stop this war”, saying, “at the end of the day, peace is what will provide Yemenis the most sustainable form of relief”.

Children robbed

The war has robbed too many of Yemen’s children of safety, education and opportunities.

“Each day, the violence and destruction wreak havoc on the lives of children and their families”, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told the meeting.

She painted a grim picture of 1.7 million displaced youth, 11.3 million youngsters depending on humanitarian assistance to survive and 2.3 million under-five “acutely malnourished” – nearly 400,000 of whom are at “imminent risk of death”.

“Being a child in Yemen means you have probably either experienced or witnessed horrific violence that no child should ever face”, said the UNICEF chief.

“Quite simply, Yemen is one of the most difficult places in the world to be a child”.

Millions ‘marching towards starvation’

In his address, World Food Programme (WFP) chief David Beasley said that in a nation of 30 million people, food rations are needed by 12.9 million; while 3.3 million children and women need special nutrition, together with 1.6 million school children.

“We’re literally looking at 16 million people marching towards starvation”, he said.

With one thousand people a week dying from a lack of food and nutrition, the senior WFP official warned that if $800 million is not received in the next six months, the need to cut rations could lead to the death of 400,000 children under the age of five next year.

We have a moral, obligation, to speak out and step up”, he stated, appealing to the world leaders to “put the pressure on all parties…to end this conflict”.

“These are our children; these are our brothers and sisters we need the donors to step up immediately otherwise children are going to die. Let’s not let them down. Let’s do what we need to do”, concluded Mr. Beasley.

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Africa Today

South Sudan ‘determined to never go back to war’

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Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, Vice-President of the Republic of South Sudan, addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 76th session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

South Sudan is “ready to turn a new page” towards greater peace, development and prosperity, Vice-President Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior said in her speech in the UN General Assembly on Friday. 

A decade after gaining independence from Sudan, the country remains “on a path of nation-building” and is working to implement a 2018 revitalized peace deal which led to the formation of a unity government last year.

 “I want to assure our friends and partners that we are determined to never go back to war,” said Ms. De Mabior.

“We must replace the destruction of war with the productive use of our vast natural resources and national assets for the good of our people.”

Prioritize nation-building

The Vice-President recalled that when South Sudan became independent, the international community pledged to build capacity in nation-building, establishing a UN mission in the country, UNMISS, to support this process.

“However, after the outbreak of the war, that vision was abandoned, and priority was placed on protecting civilians and providing humanitarian assistance. As a result, support for capacity building of the State was terminated,” she said.

Ms. De Mabior stressed that supporting a State’s ability to govern responsibly and effectively is essential.  It is also necessary to guard against what she called “the unintended consequences of dependency on humanitarian assistance.”

Given improvements in peace and security, she said it was now time to transition from emergency towards sustainable development.

“It is a painful and shameful situation for a country endowed with vast fertile land to be regarded as poor,” she added.  

“We must ensure peace and security in the country and double our efforts to support our people who want to return, and are returning, to their areas of origin, for them to participate fully in nation-building and contribute to building food security in the country.”

Support youth and women

South Sudan is also “a youthful country”, and the Vice-President called for continued efforts to develop the skills of its youth and women “to provide an alternative to picking up the gun again and engaging in destructive behavior.”

Encouraging developments have included joint efforts by the national security forces and their UNMISS counterparts to promote rural peace and security, while the Government is set to unveil a national youth service programme.

“To fulfill the vision of our liberation struggle, we must use our oil revenues to fuel economic growth through investment in agriculture,” she said.  

“We will invest in infrastructure to connect our rural communities to the markets. We need the public and private sectors, including foreign investors, to join hands in turning South Sudan’s potential wealth into a reality.”

Glass ‘half-empty’

Ms. De Mabior reported progress in implementing aspects of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, particularly in the creation of state and national bodies and public financial management reforms

However, “the glass remains half-empty” in implementing a permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements, she said, noting the urgency for a unified army.

“The security sector reform is the most challenging part of the Agreement as it contains elements at the center of the violent conflicts in the country,” she said, calling for continued dialogue.

“Building sustainable peace requires inclusivity, collective investment, determination, diligence, and patience.”

Meanwhile, relations with Sudan have also improved, though outstanding issues remain over the oil-rich Abyei border area.

Ms. De Mabior stressed her country is determined to learn from the past.

 “We must make the Revitalized Peace Agreement succeed, and we can only do that with the support of our regional and international partners. Simply stated, South Sudan desires and is ready to turn a new page,” she said.

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Health & Wellness

WHO backs Regeneron COVID-19 drug cocktail – with equal access, price cut

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A technician carries out an experiment in the Regeneron laboratory. © Regeneron

The Regeneron antibody drug cocktail – casirivimab and imdevimab – has been added to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of treatments for COVID-19 patients, the UN agency said on Friday, before underscoring the need for lower prices and equitable distribution. 

“This is a major breakthrough in the care of COVID-19 patients”, said Dr. Janet Diaz, WHO head of clinical care. “This is our first recommendation for a therapeutic for those patients with mild, moderate disease,” she said, because it reduces “the need for hospitalisation if they are at high risk”. 

Effective ‘reduction in mortality’  

WHO’s conditional recommendations are for use of the drug combination on patients who are not severely ill, but at high risk of being admitted to hospital with COVID-19, or those with severe cases of the disease and no existing antibodies.  

“Giving them this additional antibody seems to show an effect. And what effect is that? A reduction in mortality” Dr. Diaz told a briefing in Geneva. 

The antibody therapy was granted emergency use authorization in the United States November last year after it was used to treat former President Donald Trump when he was admitted to hospital with the virus. The United Kingdom has also approved Regeneron, while it is under review in Europe. 

‘Meaningful’ benefit 

The WHO recommendations were largely based on data from a British study of 9,000 patients in June which found that the therapy reduced deaths in hospitalised patients whose own immune systems had failed to produce a response. 

“We are taking the information (from the UK study) and generalizing it to other persons,” said Dr. Diaz. “We saw there was a benefit we thought was meaningful.” 

The treatment has been on the market for decades to treat many other diseases, including cancers. It is based on a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies which mimic natural antibodies produced by the human body to fight off infections. 

Equity, price cut call 

Swiss drugmaker Roche, has been working in partnership with Regeneron, which holds the patent, to produce the antibody treatment. 

Dr. Diaz urged Regeneron to lower the drug’s price and work on equitable distribution worldwide: “We know that the life-saving benefits and the benefits for patients with COVID-19 is significant and requires action.” 

She added that WHO-hosted health agency UNITAID, has been negotiating directly with Roche for lower prices and equitable distribution across all parts of the world, “including low and middle-income countries”. 

WHO has also been in discussions with the company for a donation and distribution of the drug through UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, following an allocation criteria set by the health agency. “We are working together with the company so we can address these very important issues so we can have equitable access” she said. 

Call to manufacturers 

In a statement, WHO said in parallel it had “launched a call to manufacturers who may wish to submit their products for pre-qualification, which would allow for a ramping-up of production and therefore greater availability of the treatment and expanded access. 

ACT-A partners are also working with WHO on an equitable access framework for recommended COVID-19 therapeutics”. On that subject, Dr Diaz added that “there are bottlenecks and we are aware of those. 

WHO has launched the pre-qualification expression of interest call so that the manufacturing companies can start to submit their dossiers to WHO”. 

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