Daily Archives: October 10, 2014

India’s Satyarthi, Pakistan’s Malala win Nobel Peace Prize


An Indo-Pak and Hindu-Muslim combination of Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai today shared the Nobel Peace Prize honours for 2014 for their work on promoting child rights in the troubled sub-continent.

60-year-old Satyarthi, who runs an NGO in India that has been in the forefront of rescuing children from forced labour and trafficking, and 17-year-old Malala, who shot to limelight after the Taliban militants pumped bullets into her for advocating education for girls, were named by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for the top global award this year.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” the jury said.

Satyarthi, who runs NGO Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (Save Childhood Movement), has maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests, “focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the Nobel committee said.

The Committee said it “regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”

Malala, who was nominated in the peace prize category last year also, had displayed tremendous courage even after the Taliban attack when she resolutely expressed her determination to carry on with her campiagn for child rights and girls education especially in a country like Pakistan.

She has become the youngest Nobel laureate.Satyarthi, the second Indian after Mother Teresa to be named for the peace prize, and Malala join a select league of eminent international personalities who have shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their outstanding work in furthering world peace and in other fields.

Malala, who was airlifted to Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham where she was treated for life-threatening injuries, continued to campaign for girls’ education. She addressed the UN last year, met US President Barack Obama and was named one of ‘Time’ magazine’s 100 most influential people. Last year, she published her memoir ‘I Am Malala’.

In the statement, the committee said: “Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations.

“This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.” This year’s record number of 278 nominees included Pope Francis and Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, although the full list was kept a secret.

In 1993, F W de Klerk, the last president of South Africa in the apartheid regime, and Nelson Mandela were named for the award for their work for ending the apartheid regime. Next year, Israeli leaders Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin shared the honours with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for their work in reducing tensions in the Middle East.

While in 1997 John Hume (Northern Ireland) and David Trimble (Britain) won the peace prize for their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Nobel, a wealthy Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite, provided few directions for how to select winners, except that the prize committees should reward those who “have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind”.


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International communities pledge actions Ebola crisis

The international communities Thursday agreed timely actions and coordination are an urgent need to fight against Ebola epidemic, which has claimed lives of over 3,000 people in West African nations.

A high-level session attended by officials from global organisations, national health agencies, as well as nongovernmental organisations, and heads of state of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with the mission to ramp up global response to the outbreak of the deadly disease in the three West African countries, xinhua reported.

At the meeting, UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged increased resource mobilisation, saying “the best antidote to Ebola is an effective and urgent response.”

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim also called for swift actions to contain and stop the Ebola epidemic, warning without quick response, the future of Africa is at stake.

A Chinese official at the session called for reinforced efforts for Ebola vaccines and drugs research and development, in addition to timely response and coordination.

She disclosed China had pledged additional 200 million yuan (about $32) to the Ebola-hit African countries and $2 million in cash each for the World Health Organisation and African Union.

World Bank has predicted that the regional financial impact could reach $32.6 billion by the end of 2015 if the killer disease is not quickly contained in the three West African countries and is to significantly infect people in neighboring countries.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has already infected more than 8,033 people and claimed more than 3,879 lives.


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3 Big Economic Ideas in Waiting

In what has now become an iconic statement about American politics, and maybe politics everywhere, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (now Chicago Mayor) declared that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” He was making the point that it is always hard to summon the will to enact big, new policy ideas, even when they appear perfectly logical. Until some dramatic development galvanizes people to act, they sit on the shelf. And what a pity it is if that dramatic moment passes, and there they still sit, perhaps never to be put into law or regulation.

Thinking about that phenomenon, you’d be wise to wonder: what transformative ideas are sitting on the shelf right now? Three of the biggest, I would argue, come from the work of economists. They address very specific problems in very smart ways. But they might only be adopted when concern about the federal government’s deficit is again at a fever pitch.

Congestion pricing

Multiple studies have shown what all Americans can see: in many places of the country, especially on too many of our nation’s bridges, our infrastructure is either crumbling or excessively crowded. By some accounts, the bills for just public facilities (excluding additional privately funded broadband investments) could run into trillions of dollars. In principle, even with huge federal budget deficits, such investments could be funded through a special “capital budget” as they are at the state level. But past proposals for a capital budget have gone nowhere, so the only politically realistic way of funding them instead is through some kind of public infrastructure bank, which at this writing has some bipartisan support, but still not enough to get the bank created and adequately funded.

Even if this should happen, however, many economists have argued for years that before much construction of additional roads in particular is undertaken, existing roads, which are less than full during off-peak hours, could be more rationally used, reducing somewhat the need for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in new roads. That rational way is by charging drivers more during congested periods when their presence on the road generates “negative externalities” for other drivers.

However much congestion pricing may make sense to an economist, the politics make it all but a non-starter: people accustomed to driving on public roads for free are not likely to embrace these charges, even if they are told it will mean less taxes required for building new roads. The regressive nature of the charges only complicates the politics.

A very different result may be possible, however, as more states and localities authorize the construction of roads that are privately owned and financed, or even sell off existing roads and other infrastructure in order to relieve their own budgetary pressures. Private owners are likely to have greater freedom in how they set tolls than is the case for governments. Private ownership of roads and infrastructure raises a host of other issues – such as whether certain roads are deemed to be so essential that their rates are regulated to prevent monopoly exploitation – but in our “new normal” age of austerity, taxpayer funding of roads seems less and less likely, leaving private financing and ownership as the principal way to rebuild and expand a good portion of America’s aging physical infrastructure.

Medicare vouchers

Another idea waiting for implementation at some point that will have major implications for the entire health care industry is vouchers (euphemistically and for political reasons probably called “premium support”) for Medicare, and possibly Medicaid, as a replacement, or at least an option, for those over 55, in lieu of the current fee-for-service reimbursement system. Under such a system, beneficiaries would purchase health care insurance on their own (without regard to preexisting conditions, of course), with insurers receiving a support payment.

In some versions of this idea, initially proposed in the 1990s by Brookings Institution scholars Henry Aaron and Robert Reischauer, the supports would be geographically based, and in all versions would increase with the growth of the economy, and perhaps with the cost of medical care itself. Clearly, the lower the escalation factor for the voucher, the greater would be the incentives of premium support for medical care cost control, but also the greater risk that beneficiaries would have to pay more for care out of pocket (which for many seniors would translate into receiving less care).

Another long-time Brookings Senior Fellow (and public policy servant extraordinaire) Alice Rivlin briefly agreed on a premium support plan several years ago with Rep. Paul Ryan, the current chairman of the House Budget Committee, but the two later parted ways over the magnitude of the escalation factor. Even though medical cost inflation has slowed in recent years, economists have not agreed on how much of the slowdown is cyclical and how much is likely to be permanent.

Whatever the facts, the continued aging of the population means that Medicare spending will continue to rise, and it is because of this fact that federal policymakers eventually may be driven to adopt some kind of premium support plan. When then happens, look for even more pressure for medical cost control than exists now including downward pressure on provider earnings. Also look for more cost-effective medical delivery models, such as Minute-clinics in pharmacies, and also innovation and entrepreneurship aimed at cutting the growth of health care spending.

Tax on carbon

A third policy idea that has been on the shelf for some time and which has many intellectual “fathers” and “mothers” is a carbon tax, which has two rationales. One is to correct an “externality,” namely the contribution of carbon dioxide emissions to climate change (though the magnitude of that contribution continues to be hotly disputed, pun partially intended). A second benefit of a carbon tax is that its revenues could make a significant contribution toward long-term deficit reduction. For example, a tax of $20/ton on carbon, would raise roughly $1 trillion over a decade, though the net increase in revenue would be somewhat smaller to the extent that some of this amount would (as it should) be rebated to lower income households because of the tax’s regressive nature. A potentially more politically palatable way of introducing a carbon tax is to trade it for a reduction in the social security tax and thus keep the whole package revenue neutral, but at least tax a “bad” (pollution) while encouraging a “good” (the supply of and possibly the demand for more labor).

Any one of these ideas, if implemented, would change the economic environment for firms and compel them to respond strategically. The thinkers behind them would join the pantheon of the trillion dollar economists whose ideas have transformed business. For now, they’re on the shelf, still in waiting for their crisis.

Harvard Business Review

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10 Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users


Gartner has revealed its top predictions for IT organisations and IT users for 2015 and beyond. The predictions for 2015 begin to examine a shift in the age old relationships between man and machine due to the emergence of digital business.

1) By 2018, digital business will require 50 percent less business process workers and 500 percent more key digital business jobs, compared with traditional models. Near-Term Flag: By year-end 2016, 50 percent of digital transformation initiatives will be unmanageable due to lack of portfolio management skills, leading to a measurable negative lost market share.

The rapid evolution of social media and mobile technologies is driving consumer behavior. These behavior trends and supporting technologies will significantly change how we live and go about our daily lives; for example refrigerators will order groceries, robots will have them collected and drones will deliver them to your door, eliminating the need for grocery clerks and delivery drivers. This new digital business environment will profoundly change business processes along with the employment demographics and the need for higher competencies both for the consumer and the providers across all industries.

2) By 2017, a significant disruptive digital business will be launched that was conceived by a computer algorithm. Near-Term Flag: Through 2015, the most highly valued initial public offerings (IPOs) will involve companies that combine digital markets with physical logistics to challenge pure physical legacy business ecosystems.

The world economy has become ripe for digital disruption, as evidenced by global marketplace companies such as Uber and Airbnb, which are disrupting ground transportation and hotels, respectively. Since such businesses exhibit network effects (that is, their value increases with each new participant) they tend to form natural monopolies, but are challenged by very complex regulatory and marketplace dynamics, which makes them amenable to computational analysis. Meanwhile, the wealth creation upside of success in such models valuations in the tens to hundreds of billions for companies less than five years old represents an irresistible attraction for capital investment.

3) By 2018, the total cost of ownership for business operations will be reduced by 30 percent through smart machines and industrialized services. Near-Term Flag: By 2015, there will be more than 40 vendors with commercially available managed services offerings leveraging smart machines and industrialized services.

Consumers’ need to get faster, cheaper, better products and services in a mode that supports any time, any place and any channel is fueling the digital business revolution. Business processes and the entire value chain of business operations will shift from a labor-driven and technology-enabled paradigm to a digital-driven and human-enabled model. Smart machines will not replace humans as people still need to steer the ship and are critical to interpreting digital outcomes. Thus, smart machines will not replace labor, rather they will displace the complacency, inefficiency and add tremendous velocity to business operations. With consumers’ preference to use Internet and mobile services to drive business efficiencies and optimize time management, every industry is striving to improve the customer experience by simplifying, automating and making more intelligent end-to-end processes, minimizing manual interventions and allowing the consumer to self-serve.

4) By 2020, developed world life expectancy will increase by 0.5 years due to widespread adoption of wireless health monitoring technology. Near-Term Flag: By 2017, costs for diabetic care are reduced by 10 percent through the use of smartphones.

Wearable monitors hold huge promise. Today, a simple wristband can collect heartbeat, temperature and a number of environmental factors. Wireless heart monitoring patches, smart shirts and sensors in accessories promise more accuracy, choice and comfort to wearers.

Transmission through wireless is straightforward. Data can be correlated against large cloud-based information repositories for sanctioned actions and through social networks for anecdotal advice.

5) By year-end 2016, more than $2 billion in online shopping will be performed exclusively by mobile digital assistants. Near-Term Flag: By year-end 2015, mobile digital assistants will have taken on tactical mundane processes such as filling out names, addresses and credit card information.

Fixed events such as grocery replenishment will be common and will build trust for these type of assistants to take on more. By year-end 2016, more complex purchase decisions such as back-to-school backpacks and chained events such as scheduling: a highly rated, date-type movie along with dinner and car pick up on an anniversary will be easily achievable. Yearly autonomous mobile assistant purchasing will reach $2 billion dollars annually, representing about 2.5 percent of mobile users trusting assistants with $50 a year. Digital assistants will be on multiple platforms, but mobile will be the most accessible, adopted device for digital assistants and will be the killer application by year-end 2016.

6) By 2017, U.S. customers’ mobile engagement behavior will drive mobile commerce revenue in the U.S. to 50 percent of U.S. digital commerce revenue. Near-Term Flag: A renewed interest in mobile payment will arise in 2015, together with a significant increase in mobile commerce (due in part to the introduction of Apple Pay and similar efforts by competitors, such as Google increasing efforts to drive adoption of its NFC-enabled Google Wallet).

Increasingly powerful smartphones and tablets, and the correspondingly rich and powerful applications available for each, enable consumers and business customers to interact seamlessly with companies, content and commerce experiences at virtually all stages of the purchase process. As device manufacturers and application developers improve usability and functionality and address users’ security concerns, devices will become even more of an essential tool for customers. This is particularly true of the younger demographics. Customers who were born and grew up utilizing the Internet as a communications, information and transaction platform, and tethered to their mobile devices, will demand that service providers and retailers deliver on the expectation of connected and channel-agnostic commerce experiences.

7) By 2017, 70 percent of successful digital business models will rely on deliberately unstable processes designed to shift as customer needs shift. Near-Term Flag: By the end of 2015, five percent of global organisations will design “supermaneuverable” processes that provide competitive advantage.

As a result of business model innovation, some business processes must now be deliberately unstable. Deliberately unstable processes refer to processes that are designed for change and can dynamically adjust according to customer needs. They are vital because they are agile, adaptable and “supermaneuverable” according to shifts in customer needs. These supermaneuverable processes exist within the context of larger, more stable processes. They are a competitive differentiator because they can support customer interactions that are unpredictable and require ad hoc decision-making to enable the larger, more stable processes to continue. They are often impossible for other competitors to duplicate. Deliberately unstable processes will mandate a drastic shift in the ability of an enterprise and its people to change in a more fluid manner. The ability to change faster will leverage the concepts of organizational liquidity. This holistic approach, blending business model, processes, technology and people will fuel digital business success.

8) By 2017, 50 percent of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations. Near-Term Flag: By 2015, more than half of traditional consumer products will have native digital extensions.

In many industries, hyper-competition has eroded traditional product and service advantages, making customer experience the new competitive battlefield. This is no truer than in consumer products markets, which face disproportionate commodity pressure as consumer access to pricing and product information via search and social channels undermine brand loyalty. The reality is that focusing innovation on new products and even new business models is subject to shrinking periods of competitive advantage. Competitors and alternatives abound and product innovation is subject to accelerating commoditization. Customer experience innovation remains the secret to lasting brand loyalty.

9) By 2017, nearly 20 percent of durable goods e-tailers will use 3D printing (3DP) to create personalized product offerings. Near-Term Flag: By 2015, more than 90 percent of durable goods e-tailers will actively seek external partnerships to support the new “personalized” product business models.

3DP is already having a profound impact on enabling startups to reduce infrastructure costs, compared with existing traditional manufacturing processes. As consumers increasingly show an appetite to control more product features and capabilities, e-tailers are recognizing the business potential of moving from “configurable” products to “personalized” made-to-order products enabled by 3DP.

Almost every single durable goods category will see a surge in 3DP-enabled personalization and manufacturers will develop capabilities for bringing the consumer closer to the design experience. The companies that set the strategy early will end up defining the space within their categories. This requires a corporate culture that is supportive of nonconformance products, new front office “concierge” business capabilities, and back office IT and operations skills. It will require a new agility that goes beyond rigid process automation, and may require entirely new business systems.

10) By 2020, retail businesses that utilize targeted messaging in combination with internal positioning systems (IPS) will see a five percent increase in sales. Near-Term Flag: By 2016, there will be an increase in the number of offers from retailers focused on customer location and the length of time in store. Digital marketers are increasingly focusing on mobile advertising and advanced analytics to take advantage of the rich opportunities presented by the growth of mobile device usage. Context is playing an increasingly central role in these efforts, enabling highly targeted ads based on recent purchases, buying habits, city of residence and interests. But amid all of this data, a customer’s current location is among the most important of contextual cues available. Mapping is being exploited by digital marketers, but is still used in relatively simple ways. Recently, however, indoor positioning systems have become increasingly viable. Rather than using satellites, these systems use low-energy Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi access points to pinpoint a mobile device’s location inside a building, with accuracies in the centimeter range. Support within newer mobile devices for IPS will enable location cues for targeted ads and messages, and real-time mapping to lead customers not only to store locations, but to specific products themselves.


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