An innovative artificial intelligence (AI) tool that will make it easier for countries to measure the contributions of nature to their economic prosperity and well‑being was launched today by the United Nations and the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3).
Developed by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and BC3, the new tool can vastly accelerate implementation of the new ground-breaking standard for valuing the contributions of nature that was adopted by the UN Statistical Commission last month.
The tool makes use of AI technology using the Artificial Intelligence for Environment and Sustainability (ARIES) platform to support countries as they apply the new international standard for natural capital accounting, the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Ecosystem Accounting.
The new open-source and user-friendly digital tool, called the ARIES for SEEA Explorer, enables, for the first time, rapid and standardized yet customizable ecosystem accounting anywhere on Earth.
“The ARIES for SEEA Explorer is a game changer for governments that want to implement the recently adopted SEEA Ecosystem Accounting standard,” stressed Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the Statistics Division. “This application allows countries to jump-start accounts compilation from global data sources, which they can refine with national data or model parameters.”
The ecosystem accounts produced by countries will track the extent, condition and services provided by nature’s ecosystems – such as forests and wetlands – in the form of physical and monetary accounts and indicators. The adoption of the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting has been heralded as a historic step forward for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to move beyond GDP in tracking global progress.
Bert Kroese, Deputy Director for Statistics Netherlands and Chair of the UN Committee of Environmental-Economic Accounting said, “The ARIES for SEEA Explorer will give countries a much-needed tool to make progress with the SDGs and the monitoring framework of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Its low barrier to entry will ensure that no country is left behind when it comes to ecosystem accounting.”
Risenga Maluleke, Statistician-General of Statistics South Africa and Chair of the UN Committee of Experts on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics said, “The launch of the ARIES for SEEA Explorer on the UN Global Platform is an important step to mainstream the measurement of ecosystems and their contribution to the economy and wellbeing into global, regional and domestic statistics that will feed into policy and decision making. Better measures of nature will contribute to better policies to save our planet.”
Building economic systems that value nature as a central source of human wellbeing, environmental health and economic prosperity in the post-COVID-19 world is essential, according to Susan Gardner, Director of UNEP’s Ecosystems Division. “Having technology that incorporates and integrates the latest data, models and understanding of nature’s contributions through natural capital accounting will facilitate well-informed nature positive decision-making from businesses and governments – driving tangible action on biodiversity loss and climate change and a sustainable future for all,” she said.
The new platform could lead to greater collaboration. Ferdinando Villa, Ikerbasque Professor and Lead Investigator of ARIES at BC3, added, “There is a growing global demand for sustainable management of our natural resources, and to achieve this, scientists and decision-makers need to collaborate more and more. AI-based tools like the ARIES for SEEA Explorer hold the key to a future where open integration and reuse of knowledge, by both, is possible.”
The ARIES for SEEA Explorer is available on the UN Global Platform: a cloud-service environment supporting international collaboration among all countries in the world by sharing scientific knowledge, data, methods and technology.
A number of countries have already started using the ARIES for SEEA Explorer. The Explorer will continue to be expanded in the near future, by adding the functionality to derive indicators that allow to assess progress towards SDGs and the emerging post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
Huge plans for 2021 content year
Cancel that Lead to Revival
This year was quite something for Division 2. And it’s not even Summer yet! Any fan of the game out there expects the devs to share plans for the new year at the end of the current one. But instead of sharing content plans for 2021, the devs suddenly announced that Update 12 would be the game’s last update. And even though everyone knows that the game doesn’t have a particularly large base of active players still, seeing official news like this put many fans in shock. By the time this announcement was released, Update 12 was already on the servers. Basically, it means that the devs weren’t going to release any additional content or even bug fixes for the game from that moment onward.
And this felt like passing on a huge opportunity. Sure, the game could have been made better, but the setting and the unique blend of genres of true-open world action and looter-shooter set in modern times post-apocalypse, this isn’t something that should be left to rot and get forgotten. There’s tons of possibilities and unrealized potential. This must have been what people at Ubisoft thought about too, because about a month later, the devs released another announcement, but this time with plans for content in 2021.
Of Ambitious Plans and New Player Assistance
Such a drastic change of heart must mean something, but this isn’t even the best of it. Ubisoft went from sending the game to purgatory to announcing huge plans for 2021, including an entirely new game mode that the series hasn’t seen before. What is it? Nobody knows.
But that’s not all. The devs want to add to the variety of builds which means new brands of gear and in great numbers. The new game mode will take them several months to develop. Therefore there’ll be plenty of time to get ready. Speaking of, have you ever heard of such a thing as Division 2 boost? This is a collection of services that can help you and your Agent with anything you two might need. It’s especially awesome and helpful for new players as there’s lots of content in the game, and it’s so easy to get lost. Services like the ones that you’ll find by clicking on that link will help your character steadily grow in levels and obtain actually valuable gear throughout the levelling process. So, come over and see what we have on the menu for you!
Why Bankers use Data Rooms
Investment banks and any other institution that deals with sensitive data have a responsibility to be GDPR compliant. When it comes to non-compliance and data breaches, financial institutions are starting to realize how costly this can be. In 2020, there were over $10 billion in fines handed out for compliance failures and breaches with Capital One taking the largest individual hit.
A US banking regulator hit Capital One with an $80 million fine for a cloud-based data breach. Any bank or financial institution that fails to perform due diligence and use secure data rooms risks being hit with a heavy financial penalty.
What are data rooms, and why, and how are they used by bankers?
What is a data room?
There are effectively two types of data rooms; a physical one and a virtual one. These days, the virtual data room is becoming very common and more popular.
A physical data room is an area set aside to store records and will have security in place so that only authorized personnel can access it. In the case of a merger or acquisition, this would normally mean the seller, the buyer, and their attorneys.
A virtual data room is a secure cloud-based storage area that has software put in place to stop access by anyone that is unauthorized. They are thought of as very secure and many top banks use them today. HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Santander, and Bank of America are just a tiny portion of the financial institutions that put their sensitive information into data rooms.
A virtual data room is accessed through the internet but the actual servers will be stored in a secure facility far from the actual bank of finance house. Authorized personnel will have individual passwords and all activity is monitored and recorded.
What are the reasons for using a virtual data room?
Cybercrime is worldwide and affects individuals and businesses. Cybercrime is having an impact on the banking sector in many countries, compliance and security are paramount.
There will be different data protection laws around the world and the GDPR or General Data Protection Regulations covers all European Union countries. Banks must avoid data breaches and practice due diligence and this is why data rooms are important.
When companies are involved in mergers and acquisitions, records need to be made available to the interested and relevant parties, however, they must also be kept out of the hands of hackers or other unauthorized people. In the past, it was common for due diligence to be performed using hard copies and this makes the process much slower. Virtual data rooms allow a much faster process to take place.
Data rooms are also put in place to help share files between clients, third parties, and to store records. They are far more cost-effective than having a physical data room and so more companies than ever are now turning to these secure storage methods.
What happens if a bank fails to use a good virtual data room?
Failure to be compliant and be the victim of a data breach will lead to huge fines. In the European Union, those fines are a maximum of 18 million Euros or 4% of the total worldwide turnover.
But, it isn’t just financial penalties that can hit a business if they fail to keep their data secure. When Equifax admitted it had suffered a data breach affecting over 140 million Americans, or over 40% of the population, their company valuation plummeted. Around $3.5 billion was wiped off the stock market valuation of Equifax all because of a data breach.
Not using a secure data room can lead to loss of revenue, a drop in valuation, investors losing money, and also lead to a PR disaster. After all, people trust banks to keep their money safe and if there are data breaches then clients may leave.
How do banks use virtual data rooms?
VDRs are used in IPOs, M&A transactions, restructuring, raising capital, and for many more purposes.
Banks use them to have a smooth flow of information backward and forwards between stakeholders. They help to close deals quicker as fewer hard copies are being transferred around. Data is sent immediately anywhere in the world.
They of course store documents safely and away from prying eyes, but, at the same time allow for a higher level of transparency.
Choosing the right data room for a bank
Due diligence rooms may have been used traditionally for mergers & acquisitions but modern, virtual data rooms are used for much more, especially by bankers.
That means that a banker needs a data room that is capable of handling much more than just M&A transactions. The software that powers the data room has to provide enough functionality for buyers and sellers in M&As, loans, fundraising, debts, and many more purposes.
Some of the features you would look for when choosing a data room would be:
- Smart features
- Access control
- Customer service
- Add-on features
All of these are areas that need careful consideration when choosing the right data room.
Security of data room
If you use the internet and share sensitive data then you need to understand how to protect yourself from cybercrime. Banking requires serious levels of security and this should be the number concern when choosing a virtual data room.
A good VDR will have several certifications such as ISO 9001 and they should also have many security features set to international standards. Some things to look for are watermarks, the ability to recall documents from a user, and screen-only viewing.
Watermarks are used to identify who downloaded and printed a particular document. Screen-only viewing means that some documents cannot be printed or downloaded, reducing the risk of having several hard copies floating about.
One other important feature is being able to pull back documents from unauthorized hands. This means that if someone has previously downloaded some records and has now had their access revoked you can ‘pull’ those files back from their computer.
Other areas to look for in a data room
These include the ability to search for keywords and phrases much like you would in Google. It helps when trying to find documents that fit together or when you have forgotten a particular heading.
You need to be able to access the documents remotely and to control who is allowed to view and download records.
A good firm will offer 24/7 customer service all year round. This is vital as clients may be working in different time zones and need assistance at unusual times of the day. A company such as Firmex can offer this kind of customer service and may fit your virtual data room needs.
Many virtual data rooms allow for extra features so they can be used for more than just mergers & acquisitions. These can include project management and can help streamline many processes.
Lastly, the other consideration is cost. Virtual data rooms offer a cost-effective alternative to a physical room but there is still a price to pay. There are free cloud-based storage systems but when it comes to security it is worth paying for so corners aren’t cut.
Banks have some different needs than other businesses when it comes to data rooms but VDRs can help with many areas. They use them for IPOs, M&As, raising capital, and many more banking processes.
Modern data rooms offer a high level of security and functionality that traditional, physical due diligence rooms cannot and are ideal for the banking world.
Europe fit for the Digital Age: new rules and actions for excellence and trust in AI
The Commission proposes today new rules and actions aiming to turn Europe into the global hub for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI). The combination of the first-ever legal framework on AI and a new Coordinated Plan with Member States will guarantee the safety and fundamental rights of people and businesses, while strengthening AI uptake, investment and innovation across the EU. New rules on Machinery will complement this approach by adapting safety rules to increase users’ trust in the new, versatile generation of products.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said: “On Artificial Intelligence, trust is a must, not a nice to have. With these landmark rules, the EU is spearheading the development of new global norms to make sure AI can be trusted. By setting the standards, we can pave the way to ethical technology worldwide and ensure that the EU remains competitive along the way. Future-proof and innovation-friendly, our rules will intervene where strictly needed: when the safety and fundamental rights of EU citizens are at stake.”
Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said: “AI is a means, not an end. It has been around for decades but has reached new capacities fueled by computing power. This offers immense potential in areas as diverse as health, transport, energy, agriculture, tourism or cyber security. It also presents a number of risks. Today’s proposals aim to strengthen Europe’s position as a global hub of excellence in AI from the lab to the market, ensure that AI in Europe respects our values and rules, and harness the potential of AI for industrial use.”
The new AI regulation will make sure that Europeans can trust what AI has to offer. Proportionate and flexible rules will address the specific risks posed by AI systems and set the highest standard worldwide. The Coordinated Plan outlines the necessary policy changes and investment at Member States level to strengthen Europe’s leading position in the development of human-centric, sustainable, secure, inclusive and trustworthy AI.
The European approach to trustworthy AI
The new rules will be applied directly in the same way across all Member States based on a future-proof definition of AI. They follow a risk-based approach:
Unacceptable risk: AI systems considered a clear threat to the safety, livelihoods and rights of people will be banned. This includes AI systems or applications that manipulate human behaviour to circumvent users’ free will (e.g. toys using voice assistance encouraging dangerous behaviour of minors) and systems that allow ‘social scoring’ by governments.
High-risk: AI systems identified as high-risk include AI technology used in:
- Critical infrastructures (e.g. transport), that could put the life and health of citizens at risk;
- Educational or vocational training, that may determine the access to education and professional course of someone’s life (e.g. scoring of exams);
- Safety components of products (e.g. AI application in robot-assisted surgery);
- Employment, workers management and access to self-employment (e.g. CV-sorting software for recruitment procedures);
- Essential private and public services (e.g. credit scoring denying citizens opportunity to obtain a loan);
- Law enforcement that may interfere with people’s fundamental rights (e.g. evaluation of the reliability of evidence);
- Migration, asylum and border control management (e.g. verification of authenticity of travel documents);
- Administration of justice and democratic processes (e.g. applying the law to a concrete set of facts).
High-risk AI systems will be subject to strict obligations before they can be put on the market:
- Adequate risk assessment and mitigation systems;
- High quality of the datasets feeding the system to minimise risks and discriminatory outcomes;
- Logging of activity to ensure traceability of results;
- Detailed documentation providing all information necessary on the system and its purpose for authorities to assess its compliance;
- Clear and adequate information to the user;
- Appropriate human oversight measures to minimise risk;
- High level of robustness, security and accuracy.
In particular, all remote biometric identification systems are considered high risk and subject to strict requirements. Their live use in publicly accessible spaces for law enforcement purposes is prohibited in principle. Narrow exceptions are strictly defined and regulated (such as where strictly necessary to search for a missing child, to prevent a specific and imminent terrorist threat or to detect, locate, identify or prosecute a perpetrator or suspect of a serious criminal offence). Such use is subject to authorisation by a judicial or other independent body and to appropriate limits in time, geographic reach and the data bases searched.
Limited risk, i.e. AI systems with specific transparency obligations: When using AI systems such as chatbots, users should be aware that they are interacting with a machine so they can take an informed decision to continue or step back.
Minimal risk: The legal proposal allows the free use of applications such as AI-enabled video games or spam filters. The vast majority of AI systems fall into this category. The draft Regulation does not intervene here, as these AI systems represent only minimal or no risk for citizens’ rights or safety.
In terms of governance, the Commission proposes that national competent market surveillance authorities supervise the new rules, while the creation of a European Artificial Intelligence Board will facilitate their implementation, as well as drive the development of standards for AI. Additionally, voluntary codes of conduct are proposed for non-high-risk AI, as well as regulatory sandboxes to facilitate responsible innovation.
The European approach to excellence in AI
Coordination will strengthen Europe’s leading position in human-centric, sustainable, secure, inclusive and trustworthy AI. To remain globally competitive, the Commission is committed to fostering innovation in AI technology development and use across all industries, in all Member States.
First published in 2018 to define actions and funding instruments for the development and uptake of AI, the Coordinated Plan on AI enabled a vibrant landscape of national strategies and EU funding for public-private partnerships and research and innovation networks. The comprehensive update of the Coordinated Plan proposes concrete joint actions for collaboration to ensure all efforts are aligned with the European Strategy on AI and the European Green Deal, while taking into account new challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. It puts forward a vision to accelerate investments in AI, which can benefit the recovery. It also aims to spur the implementation of national AI strategies, remove fragmentation, and address global challenges.
The updated Coordinated Plan will use funding allocated through the Digital Europe and Horizon Europe programmes, as well as the Recovery and Resilience Facility that foresees a 20% digital expenditure target, and Cohesion Policy programmes, to:
- Create enabling conditions for AI’s development and uptake through the exchange of policy insights, data sharing and investment in critical computing capacities;
- Foster AI excellence ‘from the lab to the market’ by setting up a public-private partnership, building and mobilising research, development and innovation capacities, and making testing and experimentation facilities as well as digital innovation hubs available to SMEs and public administrations;
- Ensure that AI works for people and is a force for good in society by being at the forefront of the development and deployment of trustworthy AI, nurturing talents and skills by supporting traineeships, doctoral networks and postdoctoral fellowships in digital areas, integrating Trust into AI policies and promoting the European vision of sustainable and trustworthy AI globally;
- Build strategic leadership in high-impact sectors and technologies including environment by focusing on AI’s contribution to sustainable production, health by expanding the cross-border exchange of information, as well as the public sector, mobility, home affairs and agriculture, and Robotics.
The European approach to new machinery products
Machinery products cover an extensive range of consumer and professional products, from robots to lawnmowers, 3D printers, construction machines, industrial production lines. The Machinery Directive, replaced by the new Machinery Regulation, defined health and safety requirements for machinery. This new Machinery Regulation will ensure that the new generation of machinery guarantees the safety of users and consumers, and encourages innovation. While the AI Regulation will address the safety risks of AI systems, the new Machinery Regulation will ensure the safe integration of the AI system into the overall machinery. Businesses will need to perform only one single conformity assessment.
Additionally, the new Machinery Regulation will respond to the market needs by bringing greater legal clarity to the current provisions, simplifying the administrative burden and costs for companies by allowing digital formats for documentation and adapting conformity assessment fees for SMEs, while ensuring coherence with the EU legislative framework for products.
The European Parliament and the Member States will need to adopt the Commission’s proposals on a European approach for Artificial Intelligence and on Machinery Products in the ordinary legislative procedure. Once adopted, the Regulations will be directly applicable across the EU. In parallel, the Commission will continue to collaborate with Member States to implement the actions announced in the Coordinated Plan.
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