Messages of Love and Hate – Can Twitter Save Us?

Just two days ago, I wrote about how Twitter was being used as a online messenger of love, particularly when you can Direct Message your beloved.  Unfortunately, it seems that it also can be used as a messenger of hate, as recently witnessed in Europe. Twitter has been cited as failing to meet European standards for removing hate speech online.  The battle betweeen European policy makers and tech companies over what should be permitted online has pitted freedom of speech campaigners against those who say hate speech – in whatever form – has no place on the Internet.

Twitter has said that it had invested in new reporting procedures to allow individuals to flag problems with hate speech, and it was striving to balance people’s right to freedom of expression with the need to police material on its network.  The European Union members are particularly concerned over the increases in terrorist attacks on their soil.  After the recent attacks in Manchester, England, Theresa May, the country’s Prime Minister, called on tech companies to strengthen their monitoring of extremist speech online.  And in Germany, lawmakers are planning new legislation that could lead to fines of up to $50 million of companies do not act quickly in policing harmful material on their digital services.

Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about Europe anymore.  So-called President Donald Trump certainly doesn’t seem to care, particularly when they talk about climate change and NATO defenses.  We have friends in Russia.

Ray Myers

No Wall Needed – Indians Stay Home

India and the United States are separated by thousand of miles of land and ocean unlike our Mexican neighbors whom the “so-called” President fears will flood into our country across our southern border.  Let’s build a wall.  You are not welcome in Trumpland!  Whether perceived or real, many potential Indian emigres to the United States also now see a different America where they had hoped to work in the Information Technology sector.  Many of their countrymen are already here by virtue of the H-1B visa program.  More than 85,000 such visas are granted yearly, the majority to Indians. 

“Generations of Indians have admired the United States for almost everything.  But many are infuriated and unnerved by  what they see as a wave of racist violence under . . . Trump, souring American allure.  The reaction is not just anger and anxiety.  Now young Indians who have aspired to study, live and work in the United States are looking elsewhere (NY Times, 4/24).”  In their eyes, they soon saw that the anti-immigrant rage in America did not discriminate.  In what was once seen as the promised land, “they now might just think that we’re terrorists.”  Is this really how we will Make  America Great Again?  I think we will be going in the other direction, making America a bastion of prejudice and nativism that will make us a lesser, NOT greater nation.

As expressed by one Indian businessman: “The U.S. has been such a good country with such good policies, and this guy comes to power, and you don’t know what he might actually do.”

Ray Myers



Climate Change – What? Me Worry?

So-called President Trump’s most recent budget proposal for NASA climate science missions would eliminate four climate science missions.  In one paragraph in their 53-page budget blueprint, the Trump administration proposed the elimination of instrumentation to study clouds, small airborne particles, the flow of carbon dioxide and other elements of the atmosphere and ocean.  I guess if we successfully fail to find these programs, we will never really know if our climate is really changing.  But maybe that’s really the point of not collecting this information?  “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.”

Unfortunately in this case, it really can hurt you.  We are talking about the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, as just two examples of our natural environment that help sustain all life on this earth.  “Climate change deniers” now have a friend in the White House.  Long before Trump was elected, climate researchers have warned that the nation’s climate monitoring capabilities – which include satellite as well as air and surface-based instruments- were less than adequate and faced data collection gaps and other uncertainties.  Elimination of any of these missions would severely limit our ability to monitor the effects on our fragile ecosystems.   Without such critical information, we are truly endangering the quality of life for all living organisms on this earth.  Al Gore was right.  This is an inconvenient truth, and one that current political leadership simply wants to deny.

We must see the world, our future and that of our children’s from a broader view.  We owe it to ourselves and to the generations that follow.  We do have to worry, as inconvenient as that may be.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be back next Wednesday after a short Easter break.  Thank you for following TechtoExpress.

Looking for a New House – Don’t Build It, Print It

The title of this post may be a bit of an exaggeration, but technological advances now make it possible to build your own house if you have a mobile construction 3D printer that is capable of printing whole buildings completely on-site.  Based on recent experiences in the actually construction of such homes, the estimated total cost could be $10,134, or $25 per square foot, when using the highest quality materials.  The cost includes the foundation, roof, interior and exterior walls, wall insulation, windows, floors and suspended ceiling.   The company Apis Cor continues to develop the techniques and improve upon the cost per square foot; its product could have enormous benefits for providing affordable housing and allowing for faster recovery after natural disasters.

The term “3D printing” gives way to “additive manufacturing” for industrial use.  It differs from standard manufacturing processes of starting with your raw materials and then removing from them in the form of cutting, drilling, machining, and so on – all of which leave you with material waste.  Additive manufacturing means that you start with nothing and  only add what you need.  This is true in the construction industry as well.  It seems like both a financially responsible and environmentally friendly goal to have a process that would help to eliminate additional resources and the potential for a pile of construction waste at the end of the project.  The technology also allows for different methods of printing walls to achieve the desired thermal insulation.

These hi-tech homes could be very convenient “spaces” to house unexpected overnight guests and relatives.  I would not recommend, however, that in-laws be included in this category.)

Ray Myers



Going Global with Mark Zuckerberg 

He says we need a “social infrastructure” that goes global.  Now who’s not for that?  In his own words: “There’s a social infrastructure that needs to get built to deal with modern problems in order for humanity to get to the next level.  I just think it would be good of more people thought about things like this.”  He came to realize that more people were feeling left behind by globalization, and by societal and technological changes.  “We have to build a global community that works for everyone.”

Maybe this is the technological dawning of the astrological “Age of Aquarius.”  (See the play or the movie “Hair” if you are really not that old).  Now back to the Facebook generation.  Mr. Zuckerberg also is emphasizing Facebook’s role in keeping communities well-informed, which will necessitate tackling misinformation and highly polarized news (sign me up!).  He alluded to Facebook’s shifting role as a distributor of news, saying the social network is “not just technology or media.”  I think he sees a better future in creating more tightly knit online groups that would make traditional institutions, like government, religious groups, and other communities that share interests, even stronger.

Some say that Zuckerberg is attempting to buck the tide against increasing isolationismm and nationalism that is rising around the world.  Can Facebook save us?

Ray Myers

P.S.

I will be taking a late winter break until next Monday.  Thanks for following TechtoExpress.


Facebook Wants You!  Young Muslim Jihadist.

Some call this guerrila marketing in an attempt to persuade young potential jihadist NOT to join Islamic State.   Michael Lumpkin at the State Department realized that “You’re not going to convince die-hard jihadists.  We were not resonating with the audiences that we needed to resonate with.  We needed to engage with with people who haven’t yet joined ISIL.  It’s how you starve them out of recruits.”  By buying ads on Facebook – something never before attempted in this way – the officials found that they could tap into vast troves of data on the interests and browsing habits of legions of Facebook users, allowing them to pinpoint individuals who showed an affinity for jihadist groups and causes.”  Maybe Mr. Lumpkin can help Mark Zuckerberg in his efforts to ferret out fake news?

Mr. Lumpkin further argues that the efffort remains a critical one for a reason that has been long apparent to terrorism experts around the globe:  Extremist ideologies can’t be defeated with conventional weapons alone.  “We are not going to message our way out of this conflict, nor are we going to kill our way out.  We have to have a layers and balanced approach.”  Unfortunately Mr. Lumpkin has to leave his position on January 20 (he was not a career civil servant, various types of “political appointments throughout the federal bureaucracy).  He left with this message:  “For $15,000 you can buy an audience.  And you can make sure you’re hitting them with the best information based on their profiles.  That’s good business.”

And we were always afraid that “Big brother was watching.”  In this case, I am a little less concerned since he seems to be watching us and others who may do us harm.

Ray Myers

What’s App?  Nothing, in China and Russia!

Unfortunately, the censorship of apps on the Internet is a much easier tool for repressive governments to apply.   In countries such as China and Russia, it is like a return to the “good old days” when books were banned by totalitarian governments or local authorities and other self-appointed censors.  It seems like censoring apps can be done in a very effective and efficient way if any government so chooses.  Banning an app from an App Store is like shutting down the printing press before the book is ever published.  If the app isn’t in a country’s App Store, it effectively doesn’t exist.  The censorship is nearly total and inescapable.

In the last few weeks, the Chinese government compelled Apple to remove the New York Times apps from the Chinese version of the App Store.  Then the Russian government had Apple and Google pull the app for LinkedIn, the professional social network, after the networks declined to relocate its data on Russian citizens to servers in that country.  Finally, two weeks ago, a Chinese regulator asked App Stores operating in the country to register with the government, an apparent precursor to wider restrictions on app marketplaces.

Decentralized communications was once a central promise of the Internet.  Not any more.  Big brother may be watching, and blocking.

Ray Myers




Tech and Trump Collide!

Figuratively speaking that is.  But this all about how technology has expanded as an industry that has a global reach.  Not only in terms of the powers of the Internet, but its effect on humanity around the world.  Many different races and people from all corners of the globe can now benefit and contribute to its continuing growth and reach.  Silicon Valley has brought some of the most talented tech “workers” from around the world into the U.S.  We are talking about companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon, Netflix and Microsoft.  Trump’s proposed immigration ban could impair the ability of top U.S. companies to recruit and retain such talent in order to better compete globally.

In a company-wide email, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, stated his opposition very clearly, particularly in terms of its impact on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries.  “I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.  I share your concerns.  It is not a policy we support.”  In open letters and other public statements during the Presidential campaign, tech executives and workers also objected to Trump’s anti-Muslim statements, and some signed onto a commitment not to help design his proposed Muslim registry.

Well, it’s the start of another work week at the White House.  Although it’s only the second one, it already seems like a long time from the inauguration.  I’m still waiting for the part where we become “great again!”

Ray Myers


More Than Technology Needed

Sometimes our desire to find the technological solution(s) to our problems exceeds the reality of what technology really can do.  Let’s go back to Africa where I spent some time earlier this month.  Park rangers in Kenya, as well as other African countries, play a critical role in preventing poaching (killing for sport or profit) of endangered species living on these governmental preserves.  Sometimes, however, investments in high-tech solutions get in the way of needed financial support for the manpower needed to patrol and protect the endangered animals living on these lands.

Despite the critical role that rangers play in the poaching crisis, conservation organizations tend to overlook the need for everyday resources.  Donors outside of Africa want to see sexy, high-tech solutions like drones and ground sensors and not hear about the need for warm clothing, boots and better food for rangers.  Large nongovernmental groups spend huge amounts, yet there are rangers needing socks.  “Our rangers were herders, but now they’re effectively soldiers,” said David Powrie, a preserve game warden.  And the enemy are the poachers who have been known to attack and kill the rangers.

When rangers are well taken care of and receive appropriate training, poaching rates tend to drop.  Technology can certainly help, but it is still only a tool that has to be used wisely in the hands of well-trained and financially supported rangers.

Ray Myers



African Digital Schools Initiative Launched in Kenya

On November 11, the African Digital Schools Initiative (ADSI) was launched here in Nairobi, Kenya, under the auspices of the Globel e-Schools and Communities Initiatives (GESCI), far away from the political aftershocks of the Presidential election in the United States.  ADSI is a comprehensive program to implement digital school development in secondary schools to transform secondary schools into digital schools of distinctiIt is designed specifically to build secondary-level student 21st century skills and teachers’ innovative practice in a way that is responsive to the needs of the market place and to the emerging knowledge economies and societies. 

Earlier this year, ADSI began reaching out to 140 schools in Kenya, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire. 4200 teachers will be trained through the project, including 1400 teachers in science technology, English and mathematics (STEM) as well as 210,000 students, including 70,000 STEM students.  More information about ADSI can be found at: http://gesci.org/our-work/ict-in-stem-education/african-digital-school-inititiative/.  Also please see earlier blog of October 10, concerning GESCI’s work with the African Knowledge Exchange.

GESCI founded by the UN, has worked since its inception in 2004 to provide capacity building, technical and strategic advice to countries seeking to harness the potential of ICTs in order to increase access to, and to improve the quality and effectiveness of education.  GESCI currently works with 16 African governments.

Ray Myers

Nairobi, Kenya

How is Your Growth-Mind-Set?

Please don’t mistake this blog for an endorsement. This online intervention just seemed to strike a chord about how web-based technology tools could be valuable resources to a wider variety of students who do not have access to individual tutoring opportunities. Based on some preliminary research conducted at Stanford and The University of Texas, one of the most significant findings was that the greatest impact/improvement was greatest among black and Latino students.

Brain work will make you smarter, and perhaps one reason for the more positive results for minority students (surprisingly?) is that their classroom teachers are not directly involved.  These students are far more inclined to see teachers as prejudiced and school as a hostile environment.  In the virtual world of online tutoring, this perception, or reality, can be mitigated in the online environment.  Perhaps even more enhancing for these students is that these simple interventions can help remedy toxic self-doubt. The most significant finding may be that intelligence is malleable, not fixed, and that the brain is a muscle that can grow stronger with effort.

For more information about how the Growth-Mind-Set initiative is being implemented in one county in the U.S., please go to  https://ydekc.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/strategies-growth-mindset.pdf

Ray Myers

P. S.

Over the next few days, I will be traveling to Africa to participate in an Advisory Board meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. In a blog post last month I mentioned this organization and its pioneering work in empowering youth in Africa, and around the world, with the digital tools and skills needed in the Twenty-first Century: the Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (www.gesci.org). I will be posting my next blog from there on Friday, and into the following week.

Mobiles for Education – U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

USAID created the mEducation Alliance over six years ago in order to capitalize on the increased availability of mobile devices in the developing world. The use of these new portable communication tools can become powerful forces in establishing twenty-first century educational systems no longer bound to legacy systems from the past. The mEducation Alliance is committed to reducing barriers to access appropriate, scalable, and low-cost mobile technologies to help improve learning outcomes in formal and non-formal education across all levels, especially in low-resource and developing country contexts.

The Alliance is working to empower evidence-based decision making through an explicit focus on the evaluation of education technology interventions. Our community is full of enthusiasm and innovative ideas, the Alliance serves to refocus our collective efforts towards impact.
Representatives from around the developing world (Asia, Africa, Central and South America) will be gathering in Washington, D.C. next week, October 18th-20th. To find out more about the full agenda for the week, please visit http://www.meducationalliance.org/

Ray Myers

African Knowledge Exchange (AKE)

How do we help prepare our youth to become more engaged participants in an increasingly globalized economy.  One pioneering group in Africa is seeking to empower their young citizens with the digital skills needed to succeed in the twenty-first century.  The organization is known as GESCI based in Nairobi, Kenya.  Their African Knowledge Exchange (AKE) is addressing this challenge.

“In today’s world, the changes to which education and training need to respond include globalisation and the demands for new and emerging skills required by knowledge-based economies and new media production and services. These new skills incorporate the extensive use of digital technologies which are changing many existing sectors and enabling the emergence and proliferation of new industries and digitally-based services.  The Global–Schools and Communities Initiative (GESCI), an international NGO founded by the United Nations in 2003, is pioneering an innovative training and enterprise program model combining culture and digital media technology dubbed ‘African Knowledge Exchange (AKE) – ‘A Creative Media Venture’.  Participants develop industry- standard digital media production skills and acquire and apply their entrepreneurial skills to set up small enterprises in the cultural industries arena. The creation of small start-ups is an integral part of the program as well as a range of supports for their development and sustainability in the digital creative media sector.  The program addresses the changing global jobs and employment contexts driven by new technologies in the contexts of growing youth unemployment which is particularly affecting youth.”

Please visit their website to learn more about this exciting work: http://gesci.org/fileadmin/user_upload/2_Youth_Skills_Enterprise_Files/African-knowledge-exchange-brochure-2016.pdf

Ray Myers

Pope Warns of Becoming “Couch Potatoes”

Don’t retreat into video games and computer screens: engage in social activism and politics to create a more just world.  This is not your usual encyclical message from the world leader of Catholicism, but this is not your typical pope.  “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to vegetate, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on.  No, we came for another reason: To leave a mark.”  Pope Francis decried a modern escapism into consumerism and computers that isolate people.  In many ways I believe this has become an unintended consequence of technology’s power to connect us with the rest of the world.  It also empowers us to escape into a more self-centered existence.

Francis’ call challenges Christians to be more courageous, to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes, and to set out on new and unchartered paths.  Leave your comfort zones and tend to the needy of the world was also a major part of the pope’s appeal.  I believe that technology is also a tool that can help us reach out to the needy of the world.  This may not have been part of the Pope’s message that day, but I am sure he wouldn’t mind this interpretation.  You can go online to find an organization that may be of interest to you in meeting the Pope’s challenge.  Have a look at the many social action websites listed on charity.org.

Please also keep those walking shoes handy.  Maybe you will also be inspired to set out on new and unchartered paths.

Ray Myers



Lost in Space – Broadband for All at What Level of Risk?

In the past five years the number of operational satellites has nearly jumped 40 percent, and nearly 1,400 now orbit the planet.   Companies such as OneWeb, Boeing and SpaceX plan to put up constellations of small satellites that could number in the hundreds, if not thousands, and beam the Internet to the billions of people not yet connected.  That’s if they don’t crash into each other first.  “As space becomes more congested and contested and competitive, there needs to an agency with unambiguous authority that can compel somebody to maneuver,” says U.S. Congressman Jim Bridenstine.

In the U.S. we have multiple agencies that would potentially be involved in trying to regulate all this outer space activity and, to me, that might be the most challenging problem of all.  Let’s just name three agencies that might be the most familiar: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  And that is just a small sampling of government regulators on the U.S. side.  We are not the only nation interested in the increased communication capacities utilizing outer space.  Some have suggested that this is simply a matter that can be left to the satellite companies to regulate themselves and work together to stop collisions.  Really?

Congressman Bridenstine is also wary of self-regulation.  There would be no “watchdog” agency to ensure that private companies would make safety decisions in the best interests of the world’s population instead of the corporate bottom line.  Any potential collision of these satellites “could create 5,000 pieces of debris that would be up there for 100 years.”

Ray Myers

Happy Fourth of July!

It’s Independence Day in the U.S.A., so please enjoy the day with family and friends.  And wherever you are,  please appreciate the freedom you have with or without all the technology at your disposal.  Perhaps this is one of the greatest freedoms we have in our twenty-first century world!  

Let’s wish the same for citizens around the world.  Back on Wednesday.

Ray Myers


Faster Supercomputers, but no Google?

Well I guess you can’t have everything, especially if you live in China.  I really didn’t know this myself (a little hyperbole), but when I was traveling back and forth to Vietnam over the past two months and stopped in Guangzhou, compliments of Southern China Airlines, I eagerly took my iPad to the airport lounge hoping to connect with family, friends, and colleagues to update them on the status of my travels.  After a few unsuccessful tries on my own, I went to the “reception” area and learned the sad news: no Google in China!

Maybe I am not being completely fair since I only had a very small sample of government censorship in this part of the world.  I’m sure that there are some clever Chinese who have found a “work around” to this internet service blockade, but I really did not spend enough time there to find out,  and what if I did?   Oh yeah,  China is also building supercomputers, and they are the biggest and fastest in the world.  They can now claim global superiority in this area after being fourth in the world only ten years ago.  The United States had been the world leader for all the years before.

Now when you go to China, skip the Great Wall!  I’m sure that you will be equally satisfied with seeing one of these modern wonders in action, supercomputing like nobody else can.

Ray Myers 

 

Vietnam – Open for Business!

The 2016 Vietnam International Retail and Franchise Show opened earlier this week in Ho Chi Minh City (Obama missed this one).  It is the eighth edition of this event which features 317 booths with all kinds of retail and training information.  Yes, the latest technologies to meet the demands of the modern retail industry are included in the Show.  Young entrepreneurs may find unexpected opportunities here that were nonexistent in Vietnam’s recent past.

I will be leaving here tomorrow, and am very grateful for having had the opportunity to visit here.  Go East, young man may not be for everyone, but it is more than a geography lesson to travel here.  Of course, there are still many challenges  that at one time may have seen insurmountable, but it is a young country that is not living in the past. They are ready to grow, and raise their children in a more modern Asia, that hopefully will be more peaceful and prosperous than in the past.  And I think they are more likely to see America as a partner in that journey.

It may have been a hard and tragic lesson for both sides to learn.  Older Americans (like me) and Vietnamese may remember it all too well, but perhaps the new world of mutual economic benefit aided by smarter business technologies will save us all?

Ray Myers

Vietnam (en route to U.S. the next few days, back to blogging next Wednesday)

Viva Vietnam!

So everybody knows that Obama was here last week, and it seems like the Cubans are now very interested in forging some deeper science-technology ties with their comrades here in Vietnam.  Maybe technology can really help the world become smaller, reaching across oceans and continents that share some common economic goals.  Obama actually helped us reconnect with Cuba, and now both these Communist countries see technology as a tool that will help them establish new commercial partnerships.  Or as the Vietnamese Prime Minister said: “enhance comprehensive ties with the Caribbean country.”  “Comprehensive” will do.

Similarly, the Cuban Minister of Science, Technology and Enviroment said “her visit aimed to consolidate the co-operation in science-technology and natural resources between the two countries.”  I don’t think that Obama actually intended to bring these two countries closer economically as part of opening the diplomatic and commercial doors with the U.S., but it could have played a role?  Call it an unintended consequence if you will, but increasing and consolidating trade cooperation can be a mutual benefit to all trading partners on a bi-lateral or multi-lateral basis.

It doesn’t always have to be about political ideology, but that could be a beginning to expand economies on a more global basis.  And technology may be the unintended tool that creates such an environment.

Ray Myers

Hanoi

Live Free or Die – Internet Freedom in Vietnam!

Well the slogan comes from New Hamshire, U.S.A., but we could just as well be talking about Vietnam, and their pursuit of Internet connectivity that would exceed their Asian neighbors.  Let’s just say they are trying to set the record straight after there were some “unkind” reports around Obama’s recent visit by several foreign news outlets that Vietnam “restricted” access to the widely-popular Facebook social network during the visit.  To make matters worse, the Vietnam News reports that “Some reactionaries and dissidents .   .  . posted this ill-intentioned information on their personal blogs.”  Not a good idea!

Now here is what the News reports:  “Compared to 2000, the number of Internet users in Vietnam has soared 200-fold.”  They now have 45.5 million Internet-users or 48 per cent of the population, ranking sixth in Asia, behind China (674 million), India (354 million), Japan (114.9 million), Indonesia (73 million) and the Philippines (47.1 million).  They    proudly add that they are “also among the top countries in terms of Facebook user growth, not to mention other information channels.”  Furthermore, Vietnam’s growth in this area “prove the Vietnamese Party and State’s consistent viewpoint of ensuring press and Internet freedom.”

So there you have it.  Vietnam is open for business and social networking on the Internet, and they’re proud of it.  Just don’t believe all of those “unkind” reports by some foreign news outlets.

Ray Myers

Hanoi