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New approach needed to make digital data flow beneficial for all

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Digital connectivity is indispensable to overcome the pandemic, and for a sustainable and inclusive recovery. Photo: United Nations/Chetan Soni

The world needs a new approach to allow as many people as possible to access digital data across borders, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said on Wednesday. 

This should help maximize development gains and ensure that they are equitably distributed, said the agency, launching its Digital Economy Report 2021

A new approach should also enable worldwide data sharing, increase the development of global digital “public goods”, increase trust and reduce uncertainty in the digital economy, UNCTAD added. 

The report stressed that the new global system must help avoid further fragmentation of the internet, address policy challenges emerging from the dominant positions of digital platforms, and narrow existing inequalities. 

“It is more important than ever to embark on a new path for digital and data governance,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his preface to the report. 

“The current fragmented data landscape… may create more space for substantial harms related to privacy breaches, cyberattacks and other risks” he added.   

New governance 

Digital data play an increasingly important role as an economic and strategic resource, a trend reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, the report says. 

For example, sharing health data globally is of “critical importance” as it can help countries fight disease outbreaks, and for research purposes, in the development of effective vaccines: “The issue of digital governance can no longer be postponed,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said.  

“The global data economy calls for moving away from the silo approach towards a more holistic, coordinated global approach,” UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant added.  

New data body  

UNCTAD is proposing the formation of a new United Nations coordinating body, focused on assessing and developing global digital and data governance. 

The body should seek to remedy the underrepresentation of developing countries and provide sufficient policy space to ensure countries with different levels of digital readiness and capacities, can truly benefit. 

Differing approaches 

The report notes that now, there are widely diverging approaches to data governance, with three leading players – the United States, China and the European Union (EU). 

In essence, the US approach focuses on control of data by the private sector, the Chinese model emphasizes control of data by government, while the EU favours control of data by individuals, based on fundamental rights and values. 

“The absence of a global data governance framework hampers countries’ ability to reap benefits from the digital economy,” UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics, Shamika N. Sirimanne, said. “It also hinders their ability to protect the privacy of people from both private sector and government use of data and to address concerns related to law enforcement and national security”. 

The new approach would allow countries to better harness data for public benefit, agree on rights and principles, develop standards and increase international cooperation. 

The report also highlighted that the governance of cross-border data flows is at an impasse due to diverging views and positions on their regulation. 

The proposed new global data governance approach could contribute towards developing a middle-ground solution, it said pointing out that the current regional and international regulatory frameworks tend to be either too narrow in scope or too limited geographically.  

Data divide 

The report warned that a data-related divide is emerging, resulting in many developing countries becoming mere providers of raw data to global digital platforms while having to pay for the digital intelligence generated from their data. 

Only 20 per cent of people in the least developed countries (LDCs) use the internet, and when they do, it’s typically at relatively low download speeds and with a relatively high price tag attached, the report said. 

It also noted that the average mobile broadband speed, is about three times higher in developed countries than in LDCs. And while up to eight out of 10 internet users shop online in several developed countries, only less than one out of 10 do so in many LDCs, it added. 

US, China dominate 

The US and China are the frontrunners in harnessing data, according to the report. They account for 50 per cent of the world’s hyper-scale data centres, the world’s highest rates of 5G adoption, 70 per cent of the world’s top artificial intelligence (AI) researchers, and 94 per cent of all funding for AI startups. 

The two countries also make up about 90 per cent of the market capitalization of the world’s largest digital platforms, and during the pandemic, their profits and market capitalization values have surged tremendously.   

Corporate growth 

The report warns that it has become increasingly difficult to consider regulations of cross-border data flows without also considering the governance of the digital corporations. 

These platforms continue to expand their own data ecosystems and increasingly control all stages of the global data value chain. 

The largest digital platforms, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Facebook, Tencent and Alibaba, are increasingly investing in all parts of the global data value chain, the report said. 

Amazon for example, has invested some $10 billion in satellite broadband, while Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, were the top acquirers of AI startups between 2016 and 2020. 

Four major platforms (Alibaba, Amazon, Google and Microsoft) accounted for 67 per cent of global cloud infrastructure services revenues in the last quarter of 2020.  

The report’s findings will feed into discussions during UNCTAD’s 15th quadrennial conference to be held online from 3 to 7 October. 

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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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