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Enhancing poverty measurement through big data

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Authors: Jasmina Ernst and Ruhimat Soerakoesoemah*

Ending poverty in all its forms is the first of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While significant progress to reduce poverty had been made at the global and regional levels by 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic has partly reversed this trend. A significant share of the population in South-East Asia still lacks access to basic needs such as health services, proper nutrition and housing, causing many children to suffer from malnutrition and treatable illnesses. 

Delivering on the commitments of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and leaving no one behind requires monitoring of the SDG implementation trends. At the country level, national statistics offices (NSOs) are generally responsible for SDG data collection and reporting, using traditional data sources such as surveys, census and administrative data. However, as the availability of data for almost half of the SDG indicators (105 of 231) in South-East Asia is insufficient, NSOs are exploring alternative sources and methods, such as big data and machine learning, to address the data gaps. Currently, earth observation and mobile phone data receive most attention in the domain of poverty reporting. Both data sources can significantly reduce the cost of reporting, as the data collection is less time and resource intensive than for conventional data.

The NSOs of Thailand and the Philippines, with support from the Asian Development Bank, conducted a feasibility study on the use of earth observation data to predict poverty levels. In the study, an algorithm, convolutional neural nets, was pretrained on an ImageNet database to detect simple low-level features in images such as lines or curves. Following a transfer learning technique, the algorithm was then trained to predict the intensity of night lights from features in corresponding daytime satellite images. Afterwards income-based poverty levels were estimated using the same features that were found to predict night light intensity combined with nationwide survey data, register-based data, and geospatial information. The resulting machine learning models yielded an accuracy of up to 94 per cent in predicting the poverty categories of satellite images. Despite promising study results, scaling up the models and integrating big data and machine learning for poverty statistics and SDG reporting still face many challenges. Thus, NSOs need support to train their staff, gain continuous access to new datasets and expand their digital infrastructure.

Some support is available to NSOs for big data integration. The UN Committee of Experts on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics (UN-CEBD) oversees several task teams, including the UN Global Platform which has launched a cloud-service ecosystem to facilitate international collaboration with respect to big data. Two additional task teams focus on Big Data for the SDGs and Earth Observation data, providing technical guidance and trainings to NSOs. At the regional level, the weekly ESCAP Stats Café series provides a knowledge sharing platform for experiences related to the impact of COVID-19 on national statistical systems. The Stats Café includes multiple sessions dedicated to the use of alternative data sources for official statistics and the SDGs. Additionally, ESCAP has published policy briefs on the region’s practices in using non-traditional data sources for official statistics.

Mobile phone data can also be used to understand socioeconomic conditions in the absence of traditional statistics and to provide greater granularity and frequency for existing estimates. Call detail records coupled with airtime credit purchases, for instance, could be used to infer economic density, wealth or poverty levels, and to measure food consumption. An example can be found in poverty estimates for Vanuatu based on education, household characteristics and expenditure. These were generated by Pulse Lab Jakarta – a joint innovation facility associated with UN Global Pulse and the government of Indonesia.

Access to mobile phone data, however, remains a challenge. It requires long negotiations with mobile network operators, finding the most suitable data access model, ensuring data privacy and security, training the NSO staff and securing dedicated resources. The UN-CEBD – through the Task Team on Mobile Phone Data and ESCAP – supports NSOs in accessing and using mobile phone data through workshops, guides and the sharing of country experiences. BPS Statistics Indonesia, the Indonesian NSO, is exploring this data source for reporting on four SDG indicators and has been leading the regional efforts in South-East Asia. While several other NSOs in Asia and the Pacific can access mobile phone data or are negotiating access with mobile network operators, none of them have integrated it into poverty reporting.

As the interest and experience in the use of mobile phone data, satellite imagery and other alternative data sources for SDGs is growing among many South-East Asian NSOs, so is the need for training and capacity-building. Continuous knowledge exchange and collaboration is the best long-term strategy for NSOs and government agencies to track and alleviate poverty, and to measure the other 16 SDGs.

*Ruhimat Soerakoesoemah, Head, Sub-Regional Office for South-East Asia

UNESCAP

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Science & Technology

Internet: A luxury or necessity

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The internet is the world’s largest computer network, linking millions of computers. It has become an integral part of our daily lives. The effective use of the internet makes our lives easier, faster, and simpler. It is critical to understand that the Internet is a global network of physical cabling, which can include copper telephone wires, television cables, and fiber optic cables. Even wireless connections, such as Wi-Fi and 3G/4G, rely on physical cords to connect to the Internet. The internet provides us with facts and data, as well as information and knowledge, to aid in our personal, social, and economic development. All of this is possible by connecting a computer to the Internet, generally known as going online. When someone says a computer is online, it simply means it is linked to the Internet. The internet can be used for a variety of purposes; however, how we utilize the internet in our daily lives is determined by our particular needs and goals. It’s no secret that the internet is becoming an increasingly important part of our daily lives.

Problem statement

The Internet not only became one of the most widely utilized commodities, but it also improved dramatically, becoming the most marketable entity since then. We used to live without the internet, just as we used to live without electricity but in the contemporary it is unimaginable. A huge number of researches have been done on the importance of internet, it’s role in our lives  but my research is specifically focused on how has the pandemic highlighted that the internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today’s world.

Objective

Theoretically, the purpose of this study is to determine the following research objectives:

  • To assess the importance of  Internet
  • To analyse that the internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today’s world

Research question

How has the pandemic highlighted that the internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity?

Literature review

The literature is based on detailed analysis of internet and the use of internet in our lives. The importance of internet has been discussed in various research papers. Based on available literature, it is critical to expand knowledge in this area. As a result, this study is proposed to be a comprehensive study based on detailed analysis of how the internet is not a luxury anymore and how it has become a necessity, as the pandemic has proved.

Methodology

To achieve this research’s major objectives, I have used an interpretive approach that focused on the importance of internet in our lives that has been highlighted during the pandemic and has changed the perception of humans about the access to the internet. The research is deductive in nature as it examines the data which is qualitative and narrative in nature and it is obtained from the credible secondary sources consisted of official documents, academic studies, articles and reports.

Research Analysis

There are some things in life that we perceive to be a necessary part of our daily lives. However, a few years ago, the same things were either non-existent or viewed as luxury rather than a necessity – the internet being one of them. Internet access is a basic requirement of modern life for me and most individuals I know. When the internet first arrived in Pakistan in the 1990s, it was not only pricey, but many people predicted that it would not remain long owing to its complexities. Fortunately, they were all incorrect. The Internet not only became one of the most widely utilized commodities, but it also improved dramatically, becoming the most marketable entity since then. We used to live without the internet, just as we used to live without electricity or indoor plumbing back in the days, but life with each of these things is so much better than life without them that we all agree that everyone should have them. But from 2000’s the internet has become critical for day-to-day tasks. It is the only way we can communicate with and care for close friends and family living far away, most of the institutions have started providing services online, For example, if we want to take admission in a university, we will have to fill an online application form, but it is only possible if we have internet access. So now, we have compelling reasons to recognize a right to Internet access. If there was any doubt about how important internet access is, the current coronavirus outbreak might has eliminated it.

 When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out earlier this year, much of the world went online, hastening a decades-long digital change. Children with at-home Internet access began attending class remotely; many employees began working from home. Universities also moved teaching and tutoring online, which has produced issues for students who do not have or do not have enough Internet connectivity. During the pandemic, most people could only work if they can do so online. Those who do not have access to the Internet are unable to apply for jobs that need them to work online. Working and learning from home, have all been made possible by the internet. Seeing friends and going to the doctor without exposing yourself or others became possible during the lockdown because of the access to the internet. The world  recognized that the unavailability of internet is a dilemma for people and states.

Furthermore, practicing political rights like as free speech and free assembly are only feasible virtually under quarantine. Access to politically relevant information, such as scientific research and other information that helps citizens to form their own opinions about how the government is handling the pandemic, is also important. These examples demonstrate that the Internet provides critical infrastructure for many essential activities in the current pandemic. In such a context, a lack of effective internet access jeopardizes individual liberties and is thus particularly a serious social concern. Our dependence on internet during the coronavirus crisis has reshaped how we will act once the pandemic has passed. The real lesson is that we have made the internet an essential element of our personal and professional life. This isn’t about to change. The pandemic has introduced a new narrative or worldview in which we rely on the internet to bring economic and social activities to us rather than us going to them.

So  access to Internet is not only one of the most visible, but also one of the most shocking inequities shown by COVID-19.This  might surprise you but even in developed countries, internet availability is frequently less than you might expect. Take, for example, the United States. More than 6% of the population (21 million people) do not have access to the Internet. In Australia, this figure is 13%. Even in the richest countries, the internet cannot keep everyone connected. In addition, 3.7 billion individuals do not have access to the internet. The vast majority live in underdeveloped countries. More than one billion children worldwide are currently barred from attending school due to quarantine procedures. Even though teachers hold daily online lessons, many of these children are unable to participate due to the unavailability of Internet.

When we say internet access is a necessity not a luxury, this narrative is also supported by the increase in  number of internet users over time.  Since 2005 to 2019 there has been a sharp increase in the penetration of internet.

According to Statista’s report, the statistics of internet penetration globally are as follows:

Number of internet users worldwide from 2005 to 2019 (fig 1)

There were 4.66 billion active internet users globally in January 2021, accounting for 59.5 percent of the global population. 92.6 percent (4.32 billion) of this total accessed the internet. A world without the internet is now unthinkable. Now the internet, which connects billions of people globally, is a key pillar of the modern world.

The focus on the pandemic should not cause us to lose sight of how important the Internet has become during normal days as well. Online access has become part of the routine to the majority of us. Every day, we utilize the Internet for a variety of purposes, both significant and insignificant. Most of us couldn’t fathom working or communicating with loved ones without it. This is not the case for a large percentage of people. A reclaimable right to basic internet access would significantly improve their lives. Along with the daily use, Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated unequivocally that the Internet is no longer a luxury, a convenient addition to those who can afford it. Internet access, on the other hand, has become a basic requirement. All we need to do is shift our perception of internet access from a luxury to a necessity.

Recommendations and Conclusion

To sum up everything that has been discussed so far it is past time for us to acknowledge the fundamental relevance of internet access. It is the right time to value internet access in the same way that we value electricity, drinking water, and paved roads. Each is necessary for a healthy and prosperous society, which is why we spend so much money to make these requirements available across the country. To be sure, the problem of providing and regulating inexpensive internet access for everyone is complex and costly, but it is not impossible. Governments should work on making the availability and affordability of internet a possibility for the people- because there is no denying to this; that in the contemporary world the access to internet has become a necessity.

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First Quantum Computing Guidelines Launched as Investment Booms

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National governments have invested over $25 billion into quantum computing research and over $1 billion in venture capital deals have closed in the past year – more than the past three years combined. Quantum computing promises to disrupt the future of business, science, government, and society itself, but an equitable framework is crucial to address future risks.

A new Insight Report released today at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 provides a roadmap for these emerging opportunities across public and private sectors. The principles have been co-designed by a global multistakeholder community composed of quantum experts, emerging technology ethics and law experts, decision makers and policy makers, social scientists and academics.

“The critical opportunity at the dawn of this historic transformation is to address ethical, societal and legal concerns well before commercialization,” said Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum. “This report represents an early intervention and the beginning of a multi-disciplinary, global conversation that will guide the development of quantum computing to the benefit of all society.”

“Quantum computing holds the potential to help solve some of society’s greatest challenges, and IBM has been at the forefront of bringing quantum hardware and software to communities of discovery worldwide,” said Dr. Heike Riel, IBM Fellow, Head of Science and Technology and Lead, Quantum, IBM Research Europe. “This report is a key step in initiating the discussion around how quantum computing should be shaped and governed, for the benefit of all.”

Professor Bronwyn Fox, Chief Scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s science national agency said, “the Principles reflect conversations CSIRO’s scientists have had with partners from around the world who share an ambition for a responsible quantum future. Embedding responsible innovation in quantum computing is key to its successful deployment and uptake for generations to come. CSIRO is committed to ensuring these Principles are used to support a strong quantum industry in Australia and generate significant social and public good.”

In adapting to the coming hybrid model of classical, multi-cloud, and soon quantum computing, the Forum’s framework establishes best-practice principles and core values. These guidelines set the foundation and give rise to a new information-processing paradigm while ensuring stakeholder equity, risk mitigation, and consumer benefit.

The governance principles are grouped into nine themes and underpinned by a set of seven core values. Themes and respective goals defining the principles:

1. Transformative capabilities: Harness the transformative capabilities of this technology and the applications for the good of humanity while managing the risks appropriately.

2. Access to hardware infrastructure: Ensure wide access to quantum computing hardware.

3. Open innovation: Encourage collaboration and a precompetitive environment, enabling faster development of the technology and the realization of its applications.

4. Creating awareness: Ensure the general population and quantum computing stakeholders are aware, engaged and sufficiently informed to enable ongoing responsible dialogue and communication; stakeholders with oversight and authority should be able to make informed decisions about quantum computing in their respective domains.

5. Workforce development and capability-building: Build and sustain a quantum-ready workforce.

6. Cybersecurity: Ensure the transition to a quantum-secure digital world.

7. Privacy: Mitigate potential data-privacy violations through theft and processing by quantum computers.

8. Standardization: Promote standards and road-mapping mechanisms to accelerate the development of the technology.

9. Sustainability: Develop a sustainable future with and for quantum computing technology

Quantum computing core values that hold across the themes and principles:

Common good: The transformative capabilities of quantum computing and its applications are harnessed to ensure they will be used to benefit humanity.

Accountability: Use of quantum computing in any context has mechanisms in place to ensure human accountability, both in its design and in its uses and outcomes. All stakeholders in the quantum computing community are responsible for ensuring that the intentional misuse of quantum computing for harmful purposes is not accepted or inadvertently positively sanctioned.

Inclusiveness: In the development of quantum computing, insofar as possible, a broad and truly diverse range of stakeholder perspectives are engaged in meaningful dialogue to avoid narrow definitions of what may be considered a harmful or beneficial use of the technology.

Equitability: Quantum computing developers and users ensure that the technology is equitable by design, and that quantum computing-based technologies are fairly and evenly distributed insofar as possible. Particular consideration is given to any specific needs of vulnerable populations to ensure equitability.

Non-maleficence: All stakeholders use quantum computing in a safe, ethical and responsible manner. Furthermore, all stakeholders ensure quantum computing does not put humans at risk of harm, either in the intended or unintended outcomes of its use, and that it is not used for nefarious purposes.

Accessibility: Quantum computing technology and knowledge are actively made widely accessible. This includes the development, deployment and use of the technology. The aim is to cultivate a general ability among the population, societal actors, corporations and governments to understand the main principles of quantum computing, the ways in which it differs from classical computing and the potential it brings.

Transparency: Users, developers and regulators are transparent about their purpose and intentions with regard to quantum computing.

“Governments and industries are accelerating their investments in quantum computing research and development worldwide,” said Derek O’Halloran, Head of Digital Economy, World Economic Forum. “This report starts the conversation that will help us understand the opportunities, set the premise for ethical guidelines, and pre-empt socioeconomic, political and legal risks well ahead of global deployment.”

The Quantum Computing Governance Principles is an initiative of the World Economic Forum’s Quantum Computing Network, a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on accelerating responsible quantum computing.

Next steps for the Quantum Computing Governance Initiative will be to work with wider stakeholder groups to adopt these principles as part of broader governance frameworks and policy approaches. With this framework, business and investment communities along with policy makers and academia will be better equipped to adopt to the coming paradigm shift. Ultimately, everyone will be better prepared to harness the transformative capabilities of quantum sciences – perhaps the most exciting emergent technologies of the 21st Century.

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Closing the Cyber Gap: Business and Security Leaders at Crossroads as Cybercrime Spikes

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The global digital economy has surged off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, but so has cybercrime – ransomware attacks rose 151% in 2021. There were on average 270 cyberattacks per organization during 2021, a 31% increase on 2020, with each successful cyber breach costing a company $3.6m. After a breach becomes public, the average share price of the hacked company underperforms the NASDAQ by -3% even six months after the event.

According to the World Economic Forum’s new annual report, The Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022, 80% of cyber leaders now consider ransomware a “danger” and “threat” to public safety and there is a large perception gap between business executives who think their companies are secure and security leaders who disagree.

Some 92% of business executives surveyed agree that cyber resilience is integrated into enterprise risk-management strategies, only 55% of cyber leaders surveyed agree. This gap between leaders can leave firms vulnerable to attacks as a direct result of incongruous security priorities and policies.

Even after a threat is detected, our survey, written in collaboration with Accenture, found nearly two-thirds would find it challenging to respond to a cybersecurity incident due to the shortage of skills within their team. Perhaps even more troubling is the growing trend that companies need 280 days on average to identify and respond to a cyberattack. To put this into perspective, an incident which occurs on 1 January may not be fully contained until 8 October.

“Companies must now embrace cyber resilience – not only defending against cyberattacks but also preparing for swift and timely incident response and recovery when an attack does occur,” said Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum.

“Organizations need to work more closely with ecosystem partners and other third parties to make cybersecurity part of an organization’s ecosystem DNA, so they can be resilient and promote customer trust,” said Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture. “This report underscores key challenges leaders face – collaborating with ecosystem partners and retaining and recruiting talent. We are proud to work with the World Economic Forum on this important topic because cybersecurity impacts every organization at all levels.”

Chief Cybersecurity Officers kept up at night by three things

Less than one-fifth of cyber leaders feel confident their organizations are cyber resilient. Three major concerns keep them awake at night:

– They don’t feel consulted on business decisions, and they struggle to gain the support of decision-makers in prioritizing cyber risks – 7 in 10 see cyber resilience featuring prominently in corporate risk management

– Recruiting and retaining the right talent is their greatest concern – 6 in 10 think it would be challenging to respond to a cybersecurity incident because they lack the skills within their team

– Nearly 9 in 10 see SMEs as the weakest link in the supply chain – 40% of respondents have been negatively affected by a supply chain cybersecurity incident

Training and closing the cyber gap are key solutions

Solutions include employee cyber training, offline backups, cyber insurance and platform-based cybersecurity solutions that stop known ransomware threats across all attack vectors.

Above all, there is an urgent need to close the gap of understanding between business and security leaders. It is impossible to attain complete cybersecurity, so the key objective must be to reinforce cyber resilience.

Including cyber leaders into the corporate governance process will help close this gap.

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