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Blockchain to tackle supply chain failures exposed by COVID-19 and boost economic recovery

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The pressure created by the COVID-19 outbreak on global trade systems highlights an urgent need for global cooperation to maintain and strengthen the resilience of international supply chains.

To help organizations improve future pandemic preparedness and accelerate an economic rebound post COVID-19, the World Economic Forum is releasing today the Redesigning Trust: Blockchain Deployment Toolkit which enables leaders to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of the technology. Resilience in supply chains depends on trust, transparency and integrity, which can be improved through the responsible deployment of blockchain technologies that offer a “shared truth”.

The current pandemic underscores the need for businesses and governments to improve the integrity and provenance of pharmaceutical products and medical supplies, as well as food, goods and industrial and consumer products.

The first of its kind toolkit is the culmination of more than a year of efforts to capture best practices from blockchain deployment across industries. Drawing on the global expertise of more than 100 organizations – including governments, companies, start-ups, academic institutions, civil society, international organizations and technology and supply chain experts – the toolkit helps companies manage the complexities of deploying this new technology and will accelerate its positive impact.

“The blockchain deployment toolkit is essential for designing solutions that work for a multitude of actors, including smaller players who may not have access to the resources required to unlock the value of blockchain technology. For this reason, the toolkit can level the playing field for small and medium-sized enterprises. There are many lessons to learn from the current pandemic and this toolkit is a starting point for improving long-term pandemic preparedness and accelerating an economic recovery led by public-private cooperation.” said Nadia Hewett, Blockchain and Digital Currency Project Lead, World Economic Forum USA.

The toolkit has been piloted in a variety of different contexts by organizations developing blockchain solutions within their supply chains, including the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Hitachi, Saudi Aramco as well as a number of SMEs.

“Gavi continues to explore how technologies such as blockchain can be used to create more resilient supply chains for critical vaccines, particularly in light of COVID-19. The World Economic Forum’s toolkit ensures that the exploration and use of blockchain technology is done in a responsible and holistic manner,” said Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“The Blockchain Deployment Toolkit sets a new benchmark for a comprehensive guidebook to design blockchain-enabled solutions. At a time when the technology is nascent and evolving, it helps accelerate alignment and understanding of the many considerations that both the public and private sectors face to deploy solutions responsibly,” said Linda Pawczuk, Global Blockchain and Digital Assets Leader, Deloitte Global. “Deloitte intends to leverage the toolkit across its blockchain practice of over 2,000 professionals to guide clients across sectors and industries in developing robust blockchain networks in supply chain and finance. Further, Deloitte plans to integrate the toolkit frameworks into learning curriculums to drive a consistent approach in developing blockchain business models that account not only for strategy and product, but also for often-overlooked issues around enterprise risk, tax implications, and financial compliance.”

“We see an acceleration of digitalisation in Maritime Singapore, which has improved productivity and efficiency of the sector. Blockchain has tremendous potential applicability in areas such as bills of lading, cargo-tracking and trade financing. Maritime Singapore has piloted blockchain technology in electronic bills of lading used by shippers and shipping lines, and the ship registration process between class societies and ship owners. The Singapore Government will continue work with industry partners to push forward on this front. The Blockchain Deployment toolkit’s global best practices will be helpful for the Maritime Digitalisation Playbook that we are launching soon for our shipping companies,” said Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

The toolkit was created by the World Economic Forum with the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network Fellows from Hitachi, Deloitte and Saudi Aramco. Among the many others who contributed to its development, in over 50 countries, were the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE, the Port of Los Angeles, Latham & Watkins, Cardiff Business School, University of Berkeley, Tech Mahindra, Maersk Angola, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Food Program.

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Digital Technologies Could Help Uganda’s Economy Recover Faster

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Uganda’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2020 is projected to be between 0.4 and 1.7% compared to 5.6% in 2019, according to the latest edition of the Uganda Economic Update released by the World Bank today. 

The report, “Digital Solutions In A Time of Crisis” shows the economy has suffered from the triple shocks of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) related economic and social disruption, a locust invasion and floods. Up to three million Ugandans could fall into poverty due to economic hardship and a lack of alternative means of survival. 

Global and local restrictions in the movement of people and goods and provision of services to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in lower consumption, loss of jobs and a 43% reduction in remittances. Due to a sharp drop in tax revenues, Government has also been forced to borrow much more to continue providing services to Ugandans. 

Uganda, however, remains at low risk of debt distress based on the April 2020 joint World Bank-IMF debt sustainability analysis. With total debt service (interest and principal due) expected to average around 55 percent of government revenues over the next three years, there is a need to cut back on non-priority spending in order to provide essential public services such as health, education, water and sanitation and electricity. 

A more widespread pandemic could pose significant risks to the outlook, as well as any further significant locust invasion. Weak economic growth in the post COVID-19 period will continue to reduce overall consumption and commodity demand. In addition, crude oil prices are expected to average $35 per barrel this year and $42 per barrel in 2021. Although this will limit external inflationary pressures for import-dependent Uganda, these prices are below the estimated breakeven price of $60 for oil production in Uganda. This could negatively impact Uganda’s prospects of becoming an oil producer within the next four to five years.

The increased use of digital technologies during the COVID-19 lockdown such as mobile money, on-line shopping, on-line education, digital disease surveillance and monitoring, and dissemination of public health messages shows the great potential to support faster economic recovery and strengthen resilience against similar shocks. 

“The digital space in Uganda is very innovative – and has quickly adapted during the pandemic. Fintechs have offered payment options, and digital solutions have reinforced and enabled the health sector’s calls to social distance and limit movement and contact. These solutions, if upscaled and developed to their potential would boost the digital economy and maximize its benefits to Ugandans,” said Tony Thompson, World Bank Country Manager for Uganda.

The report points to the current national ID system as one of the successes of technological advancement, which can be leveraged to support more efficient e-government systems and authentication by the public and private sectors while expanding financial inclusion, strengthening social protection delivery, supporting immigration control and refugee management. 

While Uganda has made reasonable technological strides, the analysis notes that it still lags with a phone penetration rate of 69.2% of the population, far below the average of 84%for Africa. There are gender and geographical gaps in access; for example, 46% t of female adults have access to mobile phone compared to 58% of male adults. Similarly, adults in urban areas are more likely to own mobile phones (70%) and have access to the internet (25%) compared to adults in rural areas (46%own phones and 5 percent have internet access).

The economic update makes several recommendations for the economy and ICT sector, including implementing supportive policies and regulation, review of taxation in the digital economy, leveraging technology to support the health sector and economic recovery through increased digitalization of agribusiness and manufacturing, expansion of social safety nets, and transparency and accountability of government’s response to COVID-19. It also recommends the development of a coherent strategy of ecosystem support and catalyzing regional and global integration of Uganda’s digital economy.

“There are areas of the economy that have shown resilience in the current crisis and by leveraging digital technologies are inventing new ways of operating and doing business,” said Richard Walker, World Bank Senior Economist for Uganda.

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Safeguarding Your Mailbox from Spam, Hack & Phishing

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An email goes a long way before getting to the addressee. After all, malicious software may be introduced in this chain or the server owner intentionally takes certain actions to obtain confidential information and damage the mail server by sending spam. In addition, the recipient may be an attacker and use the information received for a personal gain.

However, that’s not all. An additional problem is associated with the massive use of personal mobile devices to access corporate mail services. In the case of a device hack, the company’s reputation is damaged and important information is lost or stolen. Luckily, all problems can be solved comprehensively. There are email protection systems and the spam email checker Cleantalk email checker that can help you do that.

 Email Security Methods

Comprehensive protection of information is aimed at the following tasks:

  • Ensuring the unhindered receipt of letters by the addressee, without the possibility of their interception, opening, reading, as well as the prevention of possible forgery;
  • Protection of information sent via e-mail from its distribution by an attacker without the knowledge of the sender;
  • Blocking and the automatic deletion of spam email entries and attempts to hack a mail server.

To achieve all the above goals, traditional cryptography methods are used, while protection against possible forgery involves the use of the electronic digital signature. The technical side of the security issue most often involves the installation of a special, independently compiled software module (plug-in) for the mail client. This is usually enough because this small-sized additional software automatically encrypts letters and signs them. Possible vulnerabilities in such a set of security measures appear only in the following cases:

  • The installation of clearly weak cryptographic algorithms;
  • Malfunctioning cryptographic algorithms or protocols involved;
  • Bookmarks originally made by the attacker into cryptographic algorithms that make it possible to crack email;
  • Actions of a virus capable of intercepting an already decrypted message on the device of the addressee or gaining access to the keys of the sender’s machine.

With an integrated approach to protecting mail or when using professional solutions, these vulnerabilities are identified and eliminated.

Antispam Action Algorithm

After checking the received message, the solution determines its status: spam, possible spam, or not spam. When analyzing email contents, the following assessment criteria are applied:

  • The blacklist of senders, as well as the list of spam phrases – If the sender is not present in the blacklist and contains no content considered as spam, the email is marked as not spam. If a sender is listed in the blacklist or there are “no-go” phrases in the email, the letter is blocked and doesn’t land in your mailbox.
  • Headers – The header text is analyzed using the special algorithm, embedded images and links are checked as well.
  • Email structure – By analyzing the email structure, its status can be determined as well.

Some services also check the IP address of a sender. In case the same IP is involved in many “email-sending” operations within a short period of time, it is considered a spam bot and all its activities are blocked on your end.

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UN and Sony PlayStation team up with new virtual experience to raise gamers’ awareness of climate change

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The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Sony PlayStation have teamed up to create an immersive virtual reality experience designed to increase global awareness about what a climate change-friendly lifestyle looks like.

For the first time, UNEP and Sony have collaborated using the DreamsTM platform to create an immersive video that seeks to bring viewers face to face with their individual carbon footprints. It takes the audience on a 5 minute journey through an average day, observing what they eat, how they travel and the homes they live in. The video ends with viewers witnessing a giant 34 meter high heaving ball illustrating the carbon footprint of an average person in a developed country.  

“COVID has brought unprecedented disruption to how we live our lives, but now as we move out of lock-downs, we have an opportunity to develop new habits that can keep us within the safe limits of a 1.5 degree world. We hope that this ‘virtual reality check’ will show people how beautiful and possible these new lifestyle choices are” said Ligia Noronha, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division

As a member of the Playing for the Planet Alliance, launched in 2019 with the support of UNEP, Sony hopes to see more game designers becoming more deliberate about tackling climate change.  The Alliance hosted a Green Mobile Green Jam with 11 companies in April that will see more companies integrate green activations into their games.

Explaining this project’s approach, lead illustrator Martin Nebelong said, “Virtual reality is an extraordinary storytelling medium for climate change – as an artist, I wanted to design a beautiful and sometimes frightening experience that shows the true scale of our emissions and the impacts we should expect to see.  This is not possible in two dimensions.”  

Speaking in support of the initiative, Kieren Mayers, Director of Environment and Technical Compliance at Sony PlayStation said, “Gaming reaches a huge audience worldwide, and has the power to inspire social change. Sony Group has a global environmental plan “Road to Zero”, and following, and following our commitment at the September 2019 UN Climate Summit in New York, we have partnered with UNEP to explore various ways to use gaming and virtual reality to educate and bring messages of hope – and are excited to see this video using DreamsTM as one of the first initiatives from this.”

Viewers will not need virtual reality devices to experience it – the video will also be streamed through Youtube in a 360 degree format so that viewers can interact with the experience on desktops or mobile devices.  The video will also be shared via Earth School which has been visited by some 700,000 young people as a result of UNEP’s collaboration with TED-Ed for students and educators around the world.

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