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Technology brings positive change, but ‘collateral damage’ must be minimized

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Digital technology has the potential to bring about a sustainable future, but the “collateral damage” of this transition must be mitigated, says the head of the UN’s technology strategy team, Salem Avan.

Speaking to UN News, Mr. Avan stressed the importance of acknowledging the negative aspects of new technology – which could include job losses and a drastic shift away from traditional ways of working – and finding ways to achieve a successful transition to the so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, which involves the mass adoption of artificial intelligence, robotics, ‘big data’ processing, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and blockchain technologies.

Mr. Avan, the Director of the Strategy, Policy & Governance Division of the UN’s Office of Information and Communication Technology (OICT), took part in a discussion on the impact of emerging technologies and innovation on society, held on Tuesday during the 2019 UN Civil Society Conference, taking place in Salt Lake City, USA, between 26 -28 August.

The UN, he says, has a strong focus on so-called “smart cities”, which make full use of inter-connected technology to empower disadvantaged residents and tackle challenges in housing, transport, employment and education in urban areas. 

At UN Technology Innovation Lab (UNTIL), a newly-established initiative in Malaysia, researchers and scientists are looking into ways of understanding and expanding the benefits of smart cities, promoting sustainable living, and helping to make inclusive growth possible in the country and region. Mr. Avan noted that, in many parts of the world, positive change is already taking place: “technologies are being implemented to improve the overall communal and individual lives of residents”.

Farming with no pesticides, and no soil

For example, a Malaysia-based company, Vfarm, is pioneering a technology which has the potential to have a transformative effect on the citizens of Kuala Lumpur: vertical farms. 

According to Rahman Roslan, the brand director of Vfarm, it is far easier and cheaper to buy a bag of candy in Kuala Lumpur than fresh fruit or vegetables. Vertical farms could change this harmful situation, and make nutritious food available to all city dwellers.

The company’s vertical farms in Kuala Lumpur look like laboratories, in which plants are grown in environments where heat and light are precisely controlled to ensure optimal growing conditions, and all without the use of herbicides and pesticides.

Even soil is unnecessary, and a tiny amount of water is used, compared to that needed in traditional agriculture. These factors, says Mr. Roslan, coupled with the fact that transport costs are drastically reduced, mean that the crops produced in vertical farms are healthier and have a far smaller carbon footprint.

Speaking to UN News during the Conference, Mr. Roslan explained that, whilst his company’s vertical farms are currently only producing around one per cent of Kuala Lumpur’s food, he can foresee a future in which the majority of crops in cities around the world are grown in a similar way.

Bridging the digital divide

All elements of society must, said Salem Avan, actively assist lesser-developed cities to integrate advanced technologies, and reduce the stark disparity in the digital divide that exists between richer and poorer parts of the world, as well as within cities:

“While it is inarguable that technology is beneficial to improving the daily lives of many, it also runs the risk of excluding certain urban inhabitants who either lack the resources or the capabilities to adapt to the rapid changes that digitization entails”.

One of the solutions he proposes, is to build partnerships across different sectors, including local and national authorities, civil society and others, to ensure that sustainability, and making sure that no one is left behind, are key goals when new technology is introduced.

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Maintenance Tips for Second-Hand Cars

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With a shortage of semiconductors continuing to plague the automotive industry, many are instead turning to the second-hand market to source a bargain on their next car purchase – resulting in a boom in second-hand car sales. Second-hand cars, while cheaper to purchase initially, can present problems quicker without proper maintenance. Here are some simple ways to maintain your second-hand vehicle.

Read the Manual and Service History

The first thing you should endeavour to do with any second-hand car purchase is to scrutinise your car’s service history book and user manual. The former will give you crucial information on prior issues that have cropped up with the car, either giving you an idea of what may fail next or what not to worry about, while the latter gives you important details regarding points of maintenance on your car: where your oil pan is, where the safe anchor points for trolley jacks are, and the location of various parts of the engine.

Keep Your Oil Fresh

One key way you can ensure the longevity of your second hand vehicle’s engine is to learn how to replace its engine oil, and to replace its engine oil regularly. The oil cleans and lubricates the engine, preventing debris from clogging moving parts and causing wear. Over time, the oil becomes dirty with this debris, and can eventually pose a threat to the engine’s safe running itself. New oil ensures the engine stays clean, and keeps it running for longer.

Keep a Regular Service Schedule

As with any vehicle, taking your second-hand car in for regular appointments with a mechanic can keep on top of potential problems before they cause more issues; booking a car service online makes managing your car’s service schedule easy, and can make sure that your car remains healthy and well-maintained thanks to regular check-ups via a professional pair of eyes. Regular servicing can also reduce the potential incurred costs from failed MOTs.

Clean Your Interior

Keeping your car’s interior clean might seem like a relatively insignificant task with regard to your car’s overall maintenance, however taking car of the surfaces and fabrics in your car can increase their lifespan, reducing the need for potential re-upholstery and preserving your personal comfort while driving. Regularly vacuuming footwell mats and seat cushions can stave off wear and tear, while regularly cleaning and polishing trim can preserve their condition.

Drive Safely

Lastly, but by no means least, your driving habits can have a profound effect on the life span of your vehicle. Those who drive fast and brake hard are sure to encounter more issues quicker than those who adopt safe driving techniques and approach the road with a sense of calm. Simple things like coasting into corners and accelerating at a steady pace can ensure your brakes, suspension and engine live their longest possible life, giving you a great run with your new second-hand vehicle.

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Choosing the Best Engine Hoist for your Garage

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An engine hoist is an extremely valuable piece of equipment. It will allow you to remove an engine from a vehicle easily, without putting yourself or others in danger. People have been using ropes and pulleys for centuries to lift heavy objects – and some modern engine hoists work via the same principles. However, there are a few alternatives which offer distinct advantages.

So, what’s the best kind of engine hoist for your garage? Let’s look at choosing the best engine hoist for your next car repair job.

Manual

The manual hoist uses old-fashioned pulleys and cords to lift a heavy object. These tend to be the simplest option, and therefore the cheapest. Simply pull on the chain, and the other chain will move. The main drawback here is that the manual hoist needs to be suspended above the room. That means that you’ll need a suitably-rated ceiling that’s capable of carrying the load.

A manual chain can allow a single person to lift tonnes of weight, since the arrangement of pulleys will result in a larger transfer of force. The cost is that you’ll be moving the chain a large distance to move the engine just a small one.

Hydraulic Hoists

Hydraulic hoists work using fluid, spread over multiple vessels. By reducing or increasing the amount of fluid in one vessel, you can change the amount of fluid in another, attached by a length of hose. In this way, you can push or pull heavy loads. A telescopic boom arm actually does the lifting, with the help of pumps, cylinders, and oil.

Hydraulic hoists are positioned on the ground rather than the ceiling, and they tend to come with plenty of castors so that they can be moved from one side of the workspace to the next. The relative mobility of the hydraulic hoist puts it at a considerable advantage over the mechanical one in situations where you need to be flexible. You can even use a hydraulic hoist outdoors.  

Electric Hoists

The electric hoist is similar to the manual one, except that you don’t have to pull on the chain – an electric motor will do that for you. This makes life much more convenient – though you can expect to pay a little extra for the remote-control console. Electric hoists tend to be underpowered in comparison to hydraulic ones, which might be something to consider if you’re lifting loads heavier than a few hundred kilos.

Electric hoists tend to be operated by a single dangling button, which means that you might not have the same degree of precise control as you do on a manual hoist. For most applications, however, this won’t be an issue.

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Tech Start-ups Key to Africa’s Digital Transformation but Urgently Need Investment

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The World Economic Forum’s latest report, “Attracting Investment and Accelerating Adoption for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Africa” analyses the challenges Africa faces in joining the global knowledge-based digital economy and presents a set of tangible strategies for the region’s governments to accelerate the transition.

The Forum’s report, written in collaboration with Deloitte, comes just weeks after the announcement by Google of a $1 billion investment to support digital transformation across Africa, which centres on laying a new subsea cable between Europe and Africa that will multiply the continent’s digital network capacity by 20, leading to an estimated 1.7 million new jobs by 2025. Africa’s digital economy could contribute nearly $180 billion to the region’s growth by the by mid-decade. Yet with only 39% of the population using the internet, Africa is currently the world’s least connected continent.

Tech start-ups such as Kenya’s mobile money solution Mpesa and online retail giant Jumia, Africa’s first unicorn, represent what the continent’s vibrant small business sector is capable of. Despite raising $1.2 billion of new capital in 2020 – a six-fold increase in five years – this represents less than 1% of the $156 billion raised by US start-ups in the same year. Meanwhile, Africa’s investment in R&D was just 0.42% of GDP in 2019 – less than a quarter of the global average of 1.7%.

“African governments urgently need to drive greater investment in the tech sector and the knowledge economy,” said Chido Munyati, Head of Africa Division at the World Economic Forum. “Policy-makers can make a difference by reducing the burden of regulation, embedding incentives within legislation and investing in science and technology skills.”

The report breaks down these three policy enablers:

  • Pass legislation such as “Start-up Acts” designed to spur private sector innovation, reduce the burden of regulation and promote entrepreneurship, in which Tunisia and Senegal are leading the way.
  • Embed incentives for start-ups in legislation, such as start-up grants, rebates on efficiency gains through technology implementation, co-investment of critical infrastructure, tax-free operations for the early years, and incentives for R&D.
  • Invest in workforce education, skills and competencies. Currently, only 2% of Africa’s university-age population holds a STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) degree.

However, the analysis of 188 government incentives for business across 32 African countries finds that just 14 incentives – fewer than 10% – facilitate investment in Fourth Industrial Revolution technology. And most of these incentive schemes lack an efficient monitoring and evaluation system to gauge their effectiveness.

Delia Ndlovu, Africa Chair, Deloitte, believes that digital transformation promises to boost economic growth in Africa: “Connecting the region to the global digital economy will not only open new avenues of opportunity for small businesses, but will also increase intra-Africa trade which is low at 16% compared to markets such as intra-European trade which is approximately 65% to 70%.”

African governments have much to learn from each other. In Côte d’Ivoire, an R&D tax incentive has been created to direct investment away from commodities and into innovation. In South Africa, the Automotive Investment Transformation Fund created by the largest manufacturers in the country is facilitating the development of a diverse supplier base to realise the 60% local content target set by the Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP). In Tunisia, the government offers state salaries for up to three start-up founders per company during the first year of operations, with a right to return to their old jobs if the venture fails.

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