There is no doubt- as Baumard claims- that information warfare plays a fundamental role in today’s economy and society. Furthermore, its importance has led to the emergence of a new form of conflict and therefore led to a change in reasoning. Our highly-digitalized economies and society obviously present significant windows of vulnerability linked to the fact that the modern economic system cannot but be open and fluid. At any rate, the concept of information warfare – as is widely known – emerges primarily from American publications and emerges in the moment in which the legitimacy of information has been placed under discussion in the American context. Required to deal with significant budget cuts, the leading US federal intelligence agencies have attempted to justify the preservation of their budget by emphasizing the importance of protecting the nation’s economic security; and yet as early as the 90s, it had become clear that the logics of conflict present in the geopolitical sphere have been transferred to the context of the economic sphere in which nations must be capable of implementing strategies of dominance based on the control of both the information infrastructure and the flows of technological and economic knowledge.
A strategy that takes into account modern new needs must give careful attention to the vulnerability of critical information infrastructures (on the other hand, the rapid growth in computerized piracy has encouraged nations to create ad hoc organizations for the control and surveillance of the development of this new crime). Another observation regards the increase in the strong economic rivalry between nations that has lead to the fundamental apprehension that economic intelligence has become an authentic fact of life for the world’s leading industries; deeper knowledge of information mechanisms, in fact, becomes a fundamental element of success or failure. It is now precisely this crucial importance in economic context of the leading industries and multinationals that has compelled nations to officialize their approaches in the context of information intelligence. Even if the use of denigration, discrediting and disinformation campaigns has always been a part of both the political and economic world, in today’s world the acceleration of the data digitalization has created the need for both nations and certain companies to adopt offensive and defensive systems sufficient to the situation.
A large-scale disinformation operation waged against an industry or multinational corporation can create enormous economic damage. As known to psychological warfare experts, disinformation is certainly an offensive resource with highly particular characteristics because it is a sword that cuts in one direction only, its effects are particularly insidious and can be discovered only in a second moment, but above all, the objectives of disinformation are oriented to the loss of the adversary’s reputation and legitimacy on one hand and the loss of its financial support (in the case of companies, for example), on the other. Yet whereas in traditional conflicts the economy of forces was based on a relationship of inertia, and logistic superiority represented a fundamental dimension for either victory or defeat, in cognitive warfare, similar asymmetry cannot be imposed in the knowledge system, and above all, unlike traditional conflicts, information warfare has its own autonomy regardless of who constructs or sends the message.
Eliminating the spokesman of the message therefore does not modify the dimension of the cognitive conflict but on the contrary only strengthens the adversary. Furthermore, Anglo-American practices are based primarily on the need to immediately control the electronic sources that underlay the economic, political, and military decision-making system. In this strategic view, controlling the public news infrastructure assumes fundamental importance; in any case, a closer analysis shows that the control of the world’s information infrastructure is incompatible with its ample and de-structured way of diffusion in today’s world. The exponential growth of the information infrastructure does not permit the possibility for vertical or hierarchical coordination. Furthermore, the concept of strategic dominance is based on the ability of a state to prohibit or dissuade a rival nation from emphasizing its rules of conduct and on perception of reality.
This approach starts from the assumption that the global control of news flows infrastructure would permit the achievement of global economic and political dominion. In any case, this concept is revealed ingenuous because it ignores the fact that the control of the news differs from the formation of judgments and beliefs. Faced today with the emergence of cognitive warfare and the complexity and fluidity of information, traditional security services do not possess adequate culture because the belief system on which such systems are based is built on the collection of observable facts and the processing of such information: we have agents collecting information on one hand and agents making analysis on the other. This dual organization is certainly suited to traditional conflicts but is not adequate to cognitive conflict: the logic is completely different because due to the speed with which information moves only a very short time is available to control and analyze it this therefore requires rapid decision-making processes.
In other words, the capacity for interpretation and attribution of meaning in real time is the basis for cognitive warfare; furthermore, given that most non-state organizations are in fierce competition and have access to the same news from the same sources, it is highly improbable that a private or state-owned organization will acquire a decisive competitive advantage unless an improvement is made in the satellite control system over news and human information. After this clarification has been made, it must be repeated once again how crucial the control of the news flow is to victory and how mistaken it is to believe that merely destroying the adversary’s information infrastructure will suffice. On the contrary, the destruction of the latter can offer the adversary a greater degree of freedom or promote the use of alternative information tools in a context where – as is known – the distribution of information has been liberalized. Security services must realize that the current trend in worldwide information infrastructure is its Balkanization, or in other words, its dispersion and fragmentation. Efficiency in any case depends more and more on the mastery of decentralized cognitive capacity and less and less on the control of the information infrastructure. Their economy of forces in the context of modern political conflict lies on the mastery of very different cognitive systems and the imposition of a unified interpretation schema is not a strategy capable of providing fruit in the long-term.
Stating that Western Society depends- as Baud claims -on information is certainly an undeniable logical truth. An awareness of current events but also the ability to provide prompt, pertinent response has become an integral part of today’s society. Yet in regard to information warfare too much accent has been placed on the West’s growing dependency on information technology; in any case the real threats come not only from the technological sector but also the amount of influence wielded by information. Consider the fact that terrorism can be seen also as a way of communicating. At any rate, unlike traditional weapons, those of information warfare can be used whenever necessary both to serve economic interests and neutralize international competition. Furthermore, they can be placed into action very easily and adopted by both organizations and individuals. The extent of dimension of the information warfare depends on three other types of war:
information warfare or the war of numbers regarding the destruction of information infrastructure and that aims at paralyzing the adversary’s defense system;
the cognitive warfare with the objective of acquiring, circulating and integrating the information necessary to maintain greater knowledge than the adversary in order to gain an operative advantage;
the war of influence waged to manipulate both religious and public opinion in order to facilitate action against the adversary.
Even if these three aspects are autonomous they are in any case closely interlinked. It must now be forgotten that in the struggle against terrorism the West has all too often concentrated its attention only on the information dimension whereas the real vulnerability of democratic society lies in the context of the influence that represents, we repeat, the terrorism’s field of action. Yet intelligence must intervene in information warfare – as in any other form of conflict – as a useful element in making decisions and not as a weapon. There is no doubt, in this regard, that with the objective of learning all it can about the adversary, intelligence may prove useful to information warfare in revealing the enemy’s weaknesses and waging influence campaigns.
We would now like to dedicate our attention to cognitive warfare that includes all the methods and processes required to acquire, explore and distribute the information necessary in operative context. Acquiring information in all its forms, even computerized, is a part of warfare and implies not only the power of obtaining more news than the adversary but also faster access to the sources of information in order to act on the same with greater efficacy. Consequently, cognitive warfare includes measures for the camouflage and protection of information – the so-called passive measures – and also the instruments destined to deceive the adversary of one’s real operative intentions (the so-called active measures). Furthermore, cognitive warfare is an element that is also found both in the mechanisms of industrial management as a completion of the notion of economic intelligence and in knowledge management mechanisms and processes of the diffusion of knowledge through mechanisms of protection.
The war of influence is not only a fairly present threat but also lies at the base of numerous asymmetrical conflicts, and primarily regards the use of the media and the utilization of messages destined to influence or manipulate public opinion (or political decisions). Democratic society based on the free circulation of information does not accept – at least openly – an active practice of influence; despite this, our democratic societies are very vulnerable to information manipulation. Such manipulation is naturally not only made by nations but also by private pressure groups, and can play a significant role in influencing public opinion. Second of all, the influencing actions must necessarily be aimed at the achievement of strategic objectives, known jointly in both civil and military context, monitored to achieve specific psychological ends, and be founded on close cooperation between civil and military intelligence organizations; as it concerns actions of influence, they have one fundamental objective, in other words, the restoration or maintenance of the trust of the civil population in the authorities or the weakening of the adversary’s will to fight. In order to achieve these objectives efficaciously, such influencing actions must be conducted as if they were military operations and therefore on the basis of non-factious objective information.
Naturally enough, these objectives can be pursued through secretive operations that include propaganda and disinformation. On the other hand, increasing one’s own power advantage – also by denigrating or compromising that of the adversary through disinformation – has always played a part in the art of war. In an open and democratic society, the manipulation of public opinion is certainly possible, of course, but it must be implemented through new forms. In the context of the struggle against terrorism, information remains a determinant element, and must be developed through these three objectives during information warfare:
- a) there must be an information matrix upstream from the operative decision-maker, and this requires the ability to generate an awareness of the battlefield and to integrate this knowledge with the information necessary to wage war (which is substantially the ability to anticipate the enemy’s moves);
- b) the information matrix downstream from the operative decision that serves to acquire and maintain the technical means and the processes of command and conduct that permit any determined mission to be followed;
- c) the communication matrix between the state and public opinion regarding the management and perception of the conflict.
The Covid After-Effects and the Looming Skills Shortage
The shock of the pandemic is changing the ways in which we think about the world and in which we analyze the future trajectories of development. The persistence of the Covid pandemic will likely accentuate this transformation and the prominence of the “green agenda” this year is just one of the facets of these changes. Market research as well as the numerous think-tanks will be accordingly re-calibrating the time horizons and the main themes of analysis. Greater attention to longer risks and fragilities is likely to take on greater prominence, with particular scrutiny being accorded to high-impact risk factors that have a non-negligible probability of materializing in the medium- to long-term. Apart from the risks of global warming other key risk factors involve the rising labour shortages, most notably in areas pertaining to human capital development.
The impact of the Covid pandemic on the labour market will have long-term implications, with “hysteresis effects” observed in both highly skilled and low-income tiers of the labour market. One of the most significant factors affecting the global labour market was the reduction in migration flows, which resulted in the exacerbation of labour shortages across the major migrant recipient countries, such as Russia. There was also a notable blow delivered by the pandemic to the spheres of human capital development such as education and healthcare, which in turn exacerbated the imbalances and shortages in these areas. In particular, according to the estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) shortages can mount up to 9.9 million physicians, nurses and midwives globally by 2030.
In Europe, although the number of physicians and nurses has increased in general in the region by approximately 10% over the past 10 years, this increase appears to be insufficient to cover the needs of ageing populations. At the same time the WHO points to sizeable inequalities in the availability of physicians and nurses between countries, whereby there are 5 times more doctors in some countries than in others. The situation with regard to nurses is even more acute, as data show that some countries have 9 times fewer nurses than others.
In the US substantial labour shortages in the healthcare sector are also expected, with anti-crisis measures falling short of substantially reversing the ailments in the national healthcare system. In particular, data published by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), suggests that the United States could see an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care.
The blows sustained by global education from the pandemic were no less formidable. These affected first and foremost the youngest generation of the globe – according to UNESCO, “more than 1.5 billion students and youth across the planet are or have been affected by school and university closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic”. On top of the adverse effects on the younger generation (see Box 1), there is also the widening “teachers gap”, namely a worldwide shortage of well-trained teachers. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), “69 million teachers must be recruited to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030”.
From our partner RIAC
Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake to Boost Malawi’s Economic Recovery
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries including Malawi have struggled to mitigate its impact amid limited fiscal support and fragile health systems. The pandemic has plunged the continent into its first recession in over 25 years, and vulnerable groups such as the poor, informal sector workers, women, and youth, suffer disproportionately from reduced opportunities and unequal access to social safety nets.
Fast-tracking COVID-19 vaccine acquisition—alongside widespread testing, improved treatment, and strong health systems—are critical to protecting lives and stimulating economic recovery. In support of the African Union’s (AU) target to vaccinate 60 percent of the continent’s population by 2022, the World Bank and the AU announced a partnership to assist the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) initiative with resources, allowing countries to purchase and deploy vaccines for up to 400 million Africans. This extraordinary effort complements COVAX and comes at a time of rising cases in the region.
I am convinced that unless every country in the world has fair, broad, and fast access to effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines, we will not stem the spread of the pandemic and set the global economy on track for a steady and inclusive recovery. The World Bank has taken unprecedented steps to ramp up financing for Malawi, and every country in Africa, to empower them with the resources to implement successful vaccination campaigns and compensate for income losses, food price increases, and service delivery disruptions.
In line with Malawi’s COVID-19 National Response and Preparedness Plan which aims to vaccinate 60 percent of the population, the World Bank approved $30 million in additional financing for the acquisition and deployment of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. This financing comes as a boost to Malawi’s COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness project, bringing World Bank contributions in this sector up to $37 million.
Malawi’s decision to purchase 1.8 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines through the AU/African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) with World Bank financing is a welcome development and will enable Malawi to secure additional vaccines to meet its vaccination target.
However, Malawi’s vaccination campaign has encountered challenges driven by concerns regarding safety, efficacy, religious and cultural beliefs. These concerns, combined with abundant misinformation, are fueling widespread vaccine hesitancy despite the pandemic’s impact on the health and welfare of billions of people. The low uptake of COVID-19 vaccines is of great concern, and it remains an uphill battle to reach the target of 60 percent by the end of 2023 from the current 2.2 percent.
Government leadership remains fundamental as the country continues to address vaccine hesitancy by consistently communicating the benefits of the vaccine, releasing COVID data, and engaging communities to help them understand how this impacts them.
As we deploy targeted resources to address COVID-19, we are also working to ensure that these investments support a robust, sustainable and resilient recovery. Our support emphasizes transparency, social protection, poverty alleviation, and policy-based financing to make sure that COVID assistance gets to the people who have been hit the hardest.
For example, the Financial Inclusion and Entrepreneurship Scaling Project (FInES) in Malawi is supporting micro, small, and medium enterprises by providing them with $47 million in affordable credit through commercial banks and microfinance institutions. Eight months into implementation, approximately $8.4 million (MK6.9 billion) has been made available through three commercial banks on better terms and interest rates. Additionally, nearly 200,000 urban households have received cash transfers and urban poor now have more affordable access to water to promote COVID-19 prevention.
Furthermore, domestic mobilization of resources for the COVID-19 response are vital to ensuring the security of supply of health sector commodities needed to administer vaccinations and sustain ongoing measures. Likewise, regional approaches fostering cross-border collaboration are just as imperative as in-country efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. United Nations (UN) partners in Malawi have been instrumental in convening regional stakeholders and supporting vaccine deployment.
Taking broad, fast action to help countries like Malawi during this unprecedented crisis will save lives and prevent more people falling into poverty. We thank Malawi for their decisive action and will continue to support the country and its people to build a resilient and inclusive recovery.
This op-ed first appeared in The Nation, via World Bank
An Airplane Dilemma: Convenience Versus Environment
Mr. President: There are many consequences of COVID-19 that have changed the existing landscape due to the cumulative effects of personal behavior. For example, the decline in the use of automobiles has been to the benefit of the environment. A landmark study published by Nature in May 2020 confirmed a 17 percent drop in daily CO2 emissions but with the expectation that the number will bounce back as human activity returns to normal.
Yet there is hope. We are all creatures of habit and having tried teleconferences, we are less likely to take the trouble to hop on a plane for a personal meeting, wasting time and effort. Such is also the belief of aircraft operators. Add to this the convenience of shopping from home and having the stuff delivered to your door and one can guess what is happening.
In short, the need for passenger planes has diminished while cargo operators face increased demand. Fewer passenger planes also means a reduction in belly cargo capacity worsening the situation. All of which has led to a new business with new jobs — converting passenger aircraft for cargo use. It is not as simple as it might seem, and not just a matter of removing seats, for all unnecessary items must be removed for cargo use. They take up cargo weight and if not removed waste fuel.
After the seats and interior fittings have been removed, the cabin floor has to be strengthened. The side windows are plugged and smoothed out. A cargo door is cut out and the existing emergency doors are deactivated and sealed. Also a new crew entry door has to be cut-out and installed.
A new in-cabin cargo barrier with a sliding access door is put in, allowing best use of cargo and cockpit space and a merged carrier and crew space. A new crew lavatory together with replacement water and waste systems replace the old, which supplied the original passenger area and are no longer needed.
The cockpit gets upgrades which include a simplified air distribution system and revised hydraulics. At the end of it all, we have a cargo jet. If the airlines are converting their planes, then they must believe not all the travelers will be returning after the covid crisis recedes.
Airline losses have been extraordinary. Figures sourced from the World Bank and the International Civil Aviation Organization reveal air carriers lost $370 billion in revenues. This includes $120 billion in the Asia-Pacific region, $100 billion in Europe and $88 billion in North America.
For many of the airlines, it is now a new business model transforming its fleet for cargo demand and launching new cargo routes. The latter also requires obtaining regulatory approvals.
A promising development for the future is sustainable aviation fuel (SAP). Developed by the Air France KLM Martinair consortium it reduces CO2 emissions, and cleaner air transport contributes to lessening global warming.
It is a good start since airplanes are major transportation culprits increasing air pollution and radiative forcing. The latter being the heat reflected back to earth when it is greater than the heat radiated from the earth. All of which should incline the environmentally conscious to avoid airplane travel — buses and trains pollute less and might be a preferred alternative for domestic travel.
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