Planet Smart City acquires architectural and engineering business

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Planet Smart City acquires architectural and engineering business
Planet Smart City announces plans for more than 50 smart projects in three years
Planet Smart City collaboration to help create 15,000 housing units in India
Planet Smart City’s ‘operating system’ vision for affordable housing

Sustainability actions speak louder, says Oracle study

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TECHWIRE ASIA looks like yet another media to confirm that Sustainability actions speak louder, all per an Oracle study.

When it comes to sustainability, how much action is actually taken, given the efforts announced today? While organizations continue to make sustainability announcements and find ways to reduce their carbon emissions, the reality is, that people are fed up with the lack of progress society is making toward sustainability and social initiatives.

According to the No Planet B study by Oracle and Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor for Harvard Professional Development, people want businesses to turn talk into action, and believe technology can help businesses succeed where people have failed. The study involved more than 11,000 consumers and business leaders across 15 countries, including  500 from Singapore.  

The statistics from Singapore show an increasing demand for businesses to step up sustainability and social efforts. In fact, 97% believe sustainability and social factors are more important than ever with 95% also believing that society has not made enough progress.

About half of the respondents attribute the lack of progress to people being too busy with other priorities with 39% believing people are just too lazy or selfish to help save the planet. 53% also believe businesses can make more meaningful changes on sustainability and social factors than individuals or governments alone.

Interestingly, 92% believe businesses would make more progress towards sustainability and social goals with the help of AI, and 62% even believe bots will succeed where humans have failed. For business leaders, they are aware that sustainability efforts are critical to corporate success and even trust bots over humans alone to drive sustainability and social efforts.

As such, 97% of business leaders would trust a bot over a human to make sustainability and social decisions. They believe bots are better at predicting future outcomes based on metrics/past performance, collecting different types of data without error, and making rational, unbiased decisions.

At the same time, business leaders also believe people are still essential to the success of sustainability and social initiatives and believe people are better at educating others on the information needed to make decisions, implementing changes based on feedback from stakeholders, and making context-informed strategic decisions.

Sustainability actions lauded

Another interesting highlight from the survey showed that people will cut ties with businesses that don’t take action on sustainability and social initiatives. Simply put, businesses need to prioritize sustainability and social issues and rethink how they use technology to make an impact, or risk facing major consequences.

The report also showed that if organizations can clearly demonstrate the progress they are making on environmental and social issues, people would be more willing to pay a premium for their products and services, work for them, and invest in their companies. Business leaders understand the importance and urgency with 95% believing sustainability and societal metrics should be used to inform traditional business metrics. 93% also want to increase their investment in sustainability.

For Pamela Rucker, CIO Advisor and Instructor for Harvard Professional Development, the events of the past two years have put sustainability and social initiatives under the microscope and people are demanding material change. While there are challenges to tackling these issues, Rucker pointed out that businesses have an immense opportunity to change the world for the better.

“The results show that people are more likely to do business with and work for organizations that act responsibly toward our society and the environment. This is an opportune moment. While thinking has evolved, technology has as well, and it can play a key role in overcoming many of the obstacles that have held progress back,” added Rucker.

Juergen Lindner, senior vice president, and CMO, Global Marketing SaaS at Oracle also commented that while business leaders understand the importance, they often have the erroneous assumption that they need to prioritize either profits or sustainability.

“The truth is this is not a zero-sum game. The technology that can eliminate all the obstacles to ESG efforts is now available, and organizations that get this right can not only support their communities and the environment, but also realize significant revenue gains, cost savings, and other benefits that impact the bottom line,” said Linder.

Can Dubai be the next Silicon Valley technology hub?

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The Arabian Business tells us a story about the ongoing trends in high-tech businesses, technological innovation and the use of social media in the Emirate, wondered if Dubai can be the next Silicon Valley technology hub?

The emirate provides those in the Web 3 space with the ‘perfect balance of work and fun,’ making it attractive for talent, said the 26-year-old co-founder of interactive short video platform Vurse

Originally intending to stay in Dubai for only 12 days, Shadman Sakib ended up “falling in love” with the city and choosing it to launch his interactive short video platform Vurse from, set for the second half of 2022.

Vurse will be one of the first deep tech companies to come out of the Middle East and 26-year-old Sakib said Dubai “has so much potential and can become the next Silicon Valley.”

“We just have to fine-tune people’s mentality on a deep tech perspective and once that happens, the sky is the limit. For us people in the Web 3.0 space, we really want a nice balance between fun and work and Dubai really has the capability to provide both,” said Sakib.

“We are in the process of hiring our team members from across the world and it is actually much easier for us to attract them being based here in Dubai versus other cities because of the fine balance between work and life, plus the entertainment aspect. This is why we chose Dubai and we feel like it is going to be our long-term home,” he continued.

Shadman Sakib, Tech Entrepreneur

Sakib believes Vurse’s growth will translate into the growth of Dubai in the deep tech and Web 3.0 space, giving the example of how the presence of the big tech companies in San Francisco led to the development of the American state’s tech reputation.

“Dubai is one of the smartest cities in the world. You go to the airport and immigration is done in minutes, not many cities in the world can compete with that kind of technology,” explained Sakib.

“It is therefore high time we have a homegrown company that goes beyond the traditional businesses we have in this city. Traditional companies can only grow so far versus the companies in deep tech or Web 3 space – especially the ones with proper resources – where the sky is the limit; you have the whole world to play with,” he continued.

How Sakib got into tech and conceived of Vurse

Sakib grew up in Bangladesh and says he was “pretty much of an underdog,” for most of his life, recounting how he dropped out of his undergraduate studies in the US before moving to the UK where he again pursued his studies while working as a waiter on the side.

Lying on his couch one day and playing with his phone Sakib wondered why he was using someone else’s product instead of developing a product that people could use.

“I was 20 years old at the time and while my peers were focused on enjoying life, I was consumed with finding a purpose for mine,” he recalled.

“My philosophy was all about being determined that I would have a strong footfall by the time my friends finish university so that they would come to me and ask for a job,” added Sakib.

Sakib believes Vurse’s growth will translate into the growth of Dubai in the deep tech and Web 3.0 space

Having no background in technology, Sakib talked to a few of his friends and contacts in the app design space but was frustrated with the ideas they came up with as they were a copy of what already existed.

“I wanted to look at how I can wow the customer or my user not recreate the same thing – I wanted to build something different,” explained Sakib. As such, he taught himself coding before meeting the co-founder of Vurse who is a “coding genius.”

It is within this context that the idea of Vurse came about to take the social media experience into the Web 3 space and give content creators ownership over their content rather than having a platform control that.

“Our target is to make the content creators bigger because once they are a big brand themselves, a similar effect will happen to the company itself,” explained Sakib.

“My co-founder and I have been wanting to work on a consumer-facing product for some time now because that is where we think the main fun is. We want to understand the newer generations that are coming up and their culture. We also want to understand the music industry very well,” he continued.

As such, Sakib has delegated his other businesses to fully focus on Vurse, a business he self-funded. And while he declined disclosing much information about Vurse itself, he said it is built on three verticals: a content creator marketplace where people will be able to trade NFTs, a short video platform and the AI verse, a self-created metaverse within the platform.

“The metaverse will stay but the way we see and think of it will change. Currently, you have to have a specialised device to access the metaverse which restricts access somehow,” said Sakib.

“Once the technology catches up to the extent that it is easily accessible to anyone anywhere, then the real game begins,” he continued.

Climate vulnerabilities, food security, and resilient development

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Preeti Kapuria and Debosmita Sarkar in their assertion in the ORF of today, that climate vulnerabilities, food security, and resilient development have some sort of cause to affect relationships elaborated on this article that is worth meditating on. Here it is:

Climate vulnerabilities, food security, and resilient development

Both climate risks and non-climatic drivers need to be factored in to curb food and water shortages induced by climate change in vulnerable regions of the world.

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the IPCC has estimated an average increase of the order of 1.09°C in global surface temperature over the last decade from the 1850–1900 levels. The AR6 Working Group II (WGII) makes an assessment of climate change impacts and risks as well as adaptations necessary in the context of non-climatic global concerns like biodiversity loss, natural resource extraction, ecosystem degradation, unbridled urbanisation and demographic shifts, rising inequalities, and the most recent COVID-19 pandemic[1].

Recognising the interactions of coupled social, climate, and ecological systems, AR6 draws from the natural, ecological, and social sciences in a way to understand the risks emerging from interactions amongst these coupled systems and offer reasonable solutions for the future—hedging against the risks emanating from such interactions. In WGII, impacts are assessed with respect to exposure, vulnerability, and adaptation including assessments of sustainable development models and the plausibility of climate-resilient development. Adopting climate-resilient development requires transitioning to states that reduce the impacts of climate risks, strengthen adaptation and mitigation actions, and, most importantly, conserve and restore these coupled systems. Accordingly, the report focuses on transformation and system transitions in energy; ecosystems conservation; urban and rural infrastructure; and industry and society.

Adopting climate-resilient development requires transitioning to states that reduce the impacts of climate risks, strengthen adaptation and mitigation actions, and, most importantly, conserve and restore these coupled systems.

A multitude of risks can arise from exposure to climate-related hazards, that have significantly varying impacts across regions, sectors, communities depending upon the vulnerability of the affected human and ecological systems. It can also arise from climate change mitigation or adaptation strategies—a new aspect considered under the risk concept of AR6. Climate change has already induced substantial and increasingly irreversible losses spanning across socio-economic-ecological systems. Frequent high-intensity climate and weather extremes have pushed millions of vulnerable people across regions below the poverty line, confronted with acute food and nutritional insecurity, water scarcity, employment vulnerability and loss of basic livelihoods. Besides, it has also led to higher incidences of food-borne, water-borne, or vector-borne diseases as well as humanitarian crises driven by widespread displacement (forced migration). Most of these impacts have been concentrated in the countries of the Global South and the Arctic region.

As per the estimates of the report around 3.3 to 3.6 billion people, globally, are highly vulnerable to the risks associated with climate change. The global hotspots of human vulnerability are particularly concentrated in the Global South, the Small Island Developing States and the Arctic—regions with extreme poverty, governance challenges, and limited access to resources, violent conflict, and higher engagement rates with climate-sensitive livelihoods.

Major challenges: Food insecurity and water scarcity  

Increased exposure to climate-induced risks have undermined the possibility of achieving food and nutritional security, especially in vulnerable regions of the world. Frequent, high intensity and severe droughts, floods and heatwaves, accompanied by substantial sea-level rise continue to increase such risks, especially for regions with lower adaptive capacity. Higher global warming pathways in the medium-term pose even higher risks to food and nutritional security. Consequently, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, and the Small Islands will remain considerably vulnerable to such risksWith global warming progressively weakening soil health and altering natural processes, a substantial reduction in marine animal biomass and changes in food productivity on land and in the ocean are expected. Reduced water availability and streamflow change in many regions, predominantly in parts of North and South America, the Mediterranean region, and South Asia present some additional challenges to food security.

Frequent, high intensity and severe droughts, floods and heat waves, accompanied by substantial sea-level rise continue to increase such risks, especially for regions with lower adaptive capacity.

As per AR6, around 4 billion out of 7.8 billion people experience severe water shortages for at least one month per year due to interactions of climatic and non-climatic factors. The rising population pressure in the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East continues to exacerbate the crisis associated with poor water quality, low availability, limited accessibility, and poor water governance. These regions are, therefore, likely to experience even higher rates of depletion of groundwater resources. In the absence of irrigation and varying rainfall patterns, yields of major crops in semi-arid regions, mainly in the Mediterranean, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Australia, are already experiencing negative growth.

As for the urban areas, over this decade, almost three-quarters of the urban land across South and Southeast Asian countries is expected to experience high-frequency floods while some parts of Africa may experience severe droughts of similar magnitude. Without adaptation, these water-related impacts of climate change, not only present severe implications for food security but, is likely to contribute to a 0.49 percent in decline in global GDP by 2050, with significant regional variations. Estimates suggest declines to the tune of 14 percent in the Middle East, 11.7 percent in the Sahel, 10.7 percent in Central Asia, and 7 percent in East Asia. Even across countries at different income levels within a region, such water-related impacts are projected to have a differential impact on overall economic growth.

Making the choice: Adopting a climate-resilient development

It is evidently clear that the exposure and vulnerability to climate change-induced risks are strongly influenced by the development trajectories pursued by communities and nations, their patterns of consumption and production, the nature and extent of demographic pressures, and unsustainable use and management of ecosystems and related services. Going forward, meeting food security targets will have to cope with climate risks and non-climatic drivers that continue to cause forest cover degradation (including biodiversity loss), land degradation, desertification, and its submergence (mainly in coastal areas), and unsustainable agricultural expansion, land-use change, and water scarcity.

Almost three-quarters of the urban land across South and Southeast Asian countries is expected to experience high-frequency floods while some parts of Africa may experience severe droughts of similar magnitude.

Greater emphasis will have to be placed on adaptation planning and implementation at a system level that cuts across sectors. In this context, amidst growing public awareness and political cognisance, the WGII  AR6  nudges policymakers and communities to adopt a climate-resilient development pathway, while cautioning against its limits and the plausible impacts of maladaptation. To cite an example from the report, in the context of water-related climate change-associated risks, a complimentary design of non-structural measures like early warning systems; structural measures like levees, enhanced natural water retention through wetlands and rivers restoration; land use planning and forest management; on-farm water storage and management; and, soil conservation and irrigation can be effective in ensuring economic, institutional, and ecological benefits of water. Promoting sustainable food systems and ensuring nutritional security will require community-based adoption of sustainable farming practices, agro-forestry, and ecological restoration and supportive public policies to make it a reality.

Interestingly, AR6 highlights effective and feasible adaptation solutions based on climate justice, entailing distributive and procedural justice complemented by recognition of diverse cultural and social perspectives. Integrated and inclusive system-oriented solutions that are based on equity and justice can reduce risks and enable climate-resilient development. Inclusive processes that strengthen the ability of the nations to contribute to effective adaptation outcomes can enable climate-resilient development.


[1] This article is based on a technical summary of the Working Group II’s contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, titled “Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change”, released on 28th February 2022, announced until 1st October 2021.

Authors

  • Debosmita Sarkar is Research Assistant with the Economy and Growth Programme at ORF Kolkata. Her research interests include macroeconomic policy, international finance and development economics.
  • Preeti Kapuria is currently a Fellow at ORF Kolkata with research interests in the area of environment, development and agriculture. The approach is to understand the linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and ecosystem services and to examine how environmental governance, participatory economics and the commons, and the workings of social-ecological systems influence these linkages.

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Developing countries are being left behind in the AI race

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Developing countries are being left behind in the AI race in spite of what is constantly vented out by the local media in the MENA region.

Developing countries are being left behind in the AI race – and that’s a problem for all of us

By Joyjit Chatterjee, University of Hull and Nina Dethlefs, University of Hull

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is much more than just a buzzword nowadays. It powers facial recognition in smartphones and computers, translation between foreign languages, systems which filter spam emails and identify toxic content on social media, and can even detect cancerous tumours. These examples, along with countless other existing and emerging applications of AI, help make people’s daily lives easier, especially in the developed world.

As of October 2021, 44 countries were reported to have their own national AI strategic plans, showing their willingness to forge ahead in the global AI race. These include emerging economies like China and India, which are leading the way in building national AI plans within the developing world.

Oxford Insights, a consultancy firm that advises organisations and governments on matters relating to digital transformation, has ranked the preparedness of 160 countries across the world when it comes to using AI in public services. The US ranks first in their 2021 Government AI Readiness Index, followed by Singapore and the UK.

Notably, the lowest-scoring regions in this index include much of the developing world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Carribean and Latin America, as well as some central and south Asian countries.

The developed world has an inevitable edge in making rapid progress in the AI revolution. With greater economic capacity, these wealthier countries are naturally best positioned to make large investments in the research and development needed for creating modern AI models.

In contrast, developing countries often have more urgent priorities, such as education, sanitation, healthcare and feeding the population, which override any significant investment in digital transformation. In this climate, AI could widen the digital divide that already exists between developed and developing countries.

The hidden costs of modern AI

AI is traditionally defined as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. To solve problems and perform tasks, AI models generally look at past information and learn rules for making predictions based on unique patterns in the data.

AI is a broad term, comprising two main areas – machine learning and deep learning. While machine learning tends to be suitable when learning from smaller, well-organised datasets, deep learning algorithms are more suited to complex, real-world problems – for example, predicting respiratory diseases using chest X-ray images.

Many modern AI-driven applications, from the Google translate feature to robot-assisted surgical procedures, leverage deep neural networks. These are a special type of deep learning model loosely based on the architecture of the human brain.

Crucially, neural networks are data hungry, often requiring millions of examples to learn how to perform a new task well. This means they require a complex infrastructure of data storage and modern computing hardware, compared to simpler machine learning models. Such large-scale computing infrastructure is generally unaffordable for developing nations.

The developed world has an inevitable edge in the AI revolution. MikeDotta/Shutterstock

Beyond the hefty price tag, another issue that disproportionately affects developing countries is the growing toll this kind of AI takes on the environment. For example, a contemporary neural network costs upwards of US$150,000 to train, and will create around 650kg of carbon emissions during training (comparable to a trans-American flight). Training a more advanced model can lead to roughly five times the total carbon emissions generated by an average car during its entire lifetime.

Developed countries have historically been the leading contributors to rising carbon emissions, but the burden of such emissions unfortunately lands most heavily on developing nations. The global south generally suffers disproportionate environmental crises, such as extreme weather, droughts, floods and pollution, in part because of its limited capacity to invest in climate action.

Developing countries also benefit the least from the advances in AI and all the good it can bring – including building resilience against natural disasters.

Using AI for good

While the developed world is making rapid technological progress, the developing world seems to be underrepresented in the AI revolution. And beyond inequitable growth, the developing world is likely bearing the brunt of the environmental consequences that modern AI models, mostly deployed in the developed world, create.

But it’s not all bad news. According to a 2020 study, AI can help achieve 79% of the targets within the sustainable development goals. For example, AI could be used to measure and predict the presence of contamination in water supplies, thereby improving water quality monitoring processes. This in turn could increase access to clean water in developing countries.

The benefits of AI in the global south could be vast – from improving sanitation to helping with education, to providing better medical care. These incremental changes could have significant flow-on effects. For example, improved sanitation and health services in developing countries could help avert outbreaks of disease.

But if we want to achieve the true value of “good AI”, equitable participation in the development and use of the technology is essential. This means the developed world needs to provide greater financial and technological support to the developing world in the AI revolution. This support will need to be more than short term, but it will create significant and lasting benefits for all.

Joyjit Chatterjee, Data Scientist (KTP Associate), University of Hull and Nina Dethlefs, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, University of Hull

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.