Hadi Khatib of IMFInfo.com asks what are some Favorite destinations in the Arab world for Digital Nomads and provides answers that would not be a surprise for anyone who knows the MENA region. But before we get into Hadi’s thoughts, here are some of Kamel Daoud‘s in his latest article in Liberte. It summarises well our situation at this conjecture, specifically that of the MENA region.
Strange paradox: the journey dies in the very century that has overcome gravity, distance, arduousness. As if after inventing so many Herculean engines, it is the vengeful immobility that becomes our lot.
Flying today? It is a long, expensive act, which requires availability, compelling reasons, health tests, a rare visa and other passage documents.
Go to sea? It goes through death, or shipwreck, or uprooting. It is no longer a journey, but a swim against the current.
Here is Hadi Khatib’s
What are some favorite destinations in the Arab world for digital nomads?
The evaporation of the traditional office workplace last year shifted the spotlight to the role digital nomads play choosing to work from anywhere thanks to special visas issued by a number of countries around the globe
Entrepreneurs and young CEOs may be categorized as digital nomads when constantly exploring opportunities
Working online and remotely depends on inflation’s stability and low costs of living
The Arab world has quite a few places where remote work is possible
The evaporation of the traditional office workplace last year shifted the spotlight to the role digital nomads play choosing to work from anywhere thanks to special visas issued by a number of countries around the globe.
The UAE recognized this role and issue a special visa to attract those workers. Dubai’s Remote Work Visa provides digital nomads with the chance of mixing business with pleasure. Valid for one year, requirements extend to providing proof of employment with a minimum income of $5,000 per month, or proof of ownership of a company. The fee is $611 and must be accompanied by valid health insurance with UAE coverage.
But, as COVID-19 winds down, is a return to the office imminent? Airbnb’s introduction of long-term rentals is one indication that this model for work-life balance may have some staying power. Just like desert nomads, digital nomads are not always on the move, and often settle for periods of time before moving on again.
Who are digital nomads?
Digital nomads are mostly freelancers – the likes of bloggers, writers, editors, content creators, web programmers, translators, consultants, and photographers. Additionally, entrepreneurs and young CEOs may also be categorized as digital nomads when constantly exploring opportunities.
Digital nomads are typically drawn to destinations that meet certain requirements and that are anchored by accessible visas that allow them to legally stay in a foreign destination for a good amount of time.
While remote and exotic locations certainly are attractive, these places could quickly lose their appeal if they lack strong and reliable internet connections.
Costs of living
Working online and remotely depends on inflation’s stability and low costs of living. When paying the bills, like rent, electricity, groceries, and internet becomes a concern, it’s time to return to nomad life again.
Crime rates and safety ratings
Nomads like the presence of other nomads to hang out and share war stories with. Without them, they could feel isolated and dependent on the friendliness of locals. One thing that must be taken into consideration when choosing a destination is whether locals like foreigners and whether or not crimes rates are high.
Morocco has multiple cities that are fun to explore, such as Rabat, Marrakech, Fes, and many more. If you’re more of a beach person, Morocco has that too. English, Arabic and French languages are spoken. It’s pretty safe as a country and visas are relatively easy if you have a passport from a Western country.
You can stay in Morocco for up to 90 days with a tourist visa, which is easily extendible. In the cities, Morocco has pretty good internet access whether it is through cafes and hotels. There are also options to buy data plans for relatively cheap. Outside the cities, though, it might be tougher to find places with strong internet, but they do exist.
Morocco has multiple residence options depending on your budget. There are hostels (the cheapest option) and Riads (hotels typically created from houses in the medinas, and are the most expensive option), and many choices in between. As for the cost of living, Morocco is cheaper than the US.
Tunis, the capital, is right on the coast and is a great place for remote work. There are many places to travel to within Tunisia to see beautiful landscapes and historic ruins. People do speak English, especially in cities, but not everyone. Tunisia is also pretty safe. The tourist visa for Tunisia allows for stays up to 90 days and is free for people with US passports. Longer than that, though, and you will need to fill out another application and pay for another type of visa. The visa application is now available online.
Internet speed in some places in Tunisia is slower than in other countries, which does make it harder for remote work, but there are places with faster internet.
With amazing places to visit like Petra or Aqab, Jordan makes an amazing country for digital nomads to work from. Jordan has a lot of places to visit, food to try, and sites to explore. Many Jordanians in Amman speak English and overall, Jordan is safe.
In Jordan, the visa process is simple. You can get a visa at the border for single entry, two entries, or multiple entries. The single-entry visa is $56.50 and is valid for 30 days.
The prices of the visas increase from there. If you want to stay longer than 60 days, you have to register at a police station.
For internet access, there are many cafes in Amman that have internet. In addition, data plans are available to buy and are somewhat cheap.
Airbnb, hostels, and renting from locals is available. To get around in Amman, taxis are probably the best option.
The cost of living in Jordan is more expensive than in Morocco or Tunisia, although the food is cheaper than in the US. On average, the cost of living is about $1330/month.
Egypt has many places to visit including Alexandria, Luxor, Dahab, and more. Not every place in Egypt has Ancient Egyptian sites, but there are places that have beaches and are fun to explore. Not everyone speaks English but you’ll find help with the language very quickly. Egypt is relatively safe.
The visa process for Egypt is different than the other countries. A tourist visa for someone from the US costs $25 and is good for 30 days only. Beyond that, you will probably have to get a visa before traveling, which is available either online or at an embassy.
Internet in Egypt is typically pretty slow. It would be hard for digital nomads to use the internet, but in some places, like in Dahab, Egypt, there are good spots for the internet. Beyond that, though, it might be better to get a modem or find a “coworking space” to work in.
Hostels are good options for long-term stays.
As for the cost of living, Egypt is much cheaper than the U.S. The average cost of living for a single person in Egypt is $750/month, with some variance in cities.
Makarochkina, Senior Vice President, Secure Power Division, International Operations at Schneider Electric, highlights how the data centre industry in MENA can benefit from the recovery in economies across the region
With an end in sight to the major public health measures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery and renewed development is high on every business agenda.
The data centre sector in the Middle East and North Africa is poised to take advantage of the recovery in economies across the region, as businesses and consumers adapt to new realities, while also looking forward to new opportunities.
With forecasts of significant growth in spending, there is an unprecedented opportunity for the sector to achieve digital transformation goals, incorporate new technologies and build a base of sustainability that will see it thrive into the future.
According to a recent report from IDC, after a contraction of some 4.9% in 2020, IT spending across the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) will make a return to growth this year, increasing 2.8% to $77.5 billion. Furthermore, spending on digital transformation is set to accelerate in the post-pandemic period, increasing from 25% of total IT spending in 2020 to 37% by 2024.
Within that spending intent, the analyst reports that public cloud services spend will grow 26.7% to $3.7 billion, with SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS spend growing 24.5%, 30.6%, and 30.7%, respectively. Attendant with this is a professional cloud services spend growth to a total $1.6 billion.
The spend is reflective of the growth in demand for cloud services generally, combined with the pandemic effect that drove many consumers and business increasingly online for all manner of services.
From a data centre operator perspective, the pandemic has had many distinct effects. Not only is there a growth in demand, but it has been combined with limited access for hands-on operations, a general skills shortage and an increased requirement for resilience and availability.
To adapt to the increasing complexities of the industry, data centers and providers are shifting their priorities to meet the unique needs of these facilities who are facing numerous challenges from these growing, complex environments.
The general skills shortage in the technology sector across the region, combined with the desire for increased availability and resilience, is also driving renewed interest in preventative maintenance for the data centre. With the new levels of instrumentation available and greater capacity to monitor and manage infrastructure, preventative maintenance will be more effective than ever in reducing downtime, increasing availability and improving total cost of ownership, allowing operators to best leverage what specialist skills are available.
For the required growth in capacity to be met quickly, modular approaches to data centres are being widely adopted, further reducing the demand for skilled technicians on the ground. It is expected this approach will also deliver benefits for energy efficiency and operational costs while bringing capacity online quicker.
New approaches to enterprise architecture are being adopted too, in the form of cloud-based integrated digital platforms to span silos of data and services. IDC had highlighted siloed initiatives as a potential stumbling block for digital transformation efforts in the region. It had reported that 44% of organisations in the region said their digital transformation initiatives are not integrated, and more than half (51%) highlighted siloed data as a challenge, driven by limited understanding of existing data assets and a lack of enterprise-wide data management. Almost two thirds (62%) of organisations reported concern over siloed technology environments.
To continue to attract investment in the sector, data centre operators will need to have sustainability at the core of activities, with transparency and standardised reporting. A key factor in these sustainability efforts will be energy supply and consumption. Recent information from market data firm MEED Insight has found that so far in 2021, renewable energy project contract awards in the region have surpassed those for conventional power plant projects.
Building on this momentum, it will be possible for data centre operators to engage in power purchase agreements (PPA) for energy from renewable sources. PPAs will contribute significantly to reducing carbon footprints overall, while driving the development of RES generally in the region, with wider benefits for all from an increased supply of clean, renewable energy.
Challenge and opportunity
Despite challenges such as skills shortages, siloed initiatives, and changing patterns of usage and demand, the advent of new technologies, increasing supplies of renewable energy, and targeted investment, mean that the data centre sector in the MENA region will have the resources and the demand to grow significantly while building in the latest technologies to achieve new levels of service and sustainability.
As the market for data services becomes increasingly global, the unique characteristics of the region can build a vibrant industry, leading in digital transformation. The widespread availability of digital platforms and services can spur further economic development and drive innovation generally, ensuring a more prosperous future for all.
“Cities, more than any other ecosystems, are designed by people. Why not be more thoughtful about how we design the places where most of us spend our time?” wondered Anne Guerry in a Stanford University article in which Sarah Cafasso explains how Researchers develop new software for designing sustainable cities.
Stanford researchers develop new software for designing sustainable cities
By 2050, more than 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. Stanford Natural Capital Project researchers have developed software that shows city planners where to invest in nature to improve people’s lives and save billions of dollars.
New technology could help cities around the world improve people’s lives while saving billions of dollars. The free, open-source software developed by the Stanford Natural Capital Project creates maps to visualize the links between nature and human wellbeing. City planners and developers can use the software to visualize where investments in nature, such as parks and marshlands, can maximize benefits to people, like protection from flooding and improved health.
By 2050, over 70 percent of the world’s people are projected to live in cities. As the global community becomes increasingly urban, cities are looking for ways to design with sustainability in mind. (Image credit: Zhang Mengyang / iStock)
“This software helps design cities that are better for both people and nature,” said Anne Guerry, Chief Strategy Officer and Lead Scientist at the Natural Capital Project. “Urban nature is a multitasking benefactor – the trees on your street can lower temperatures so your apartment is cooler on hot summer days. At the same time, they’re soaking up the carbon emissions that cause climate change, creating a free, accessible place to stay healthy through physical activity and just making your city a more pleasant place to be.”
By 2050, experts expect over 70 percent of the world’s people to live in cities – in the United States, more than 80 percent already do. As the global community becomes more urban, developers and city planners are increasingly interested in green infrastructure, such as tree-lined paths and community gardens, that provide a stream of benefits to people. But if planners don’t have detailed information about where a path might encourage the most people to exercise or how a community garden might buffer a neighborhood from flood risk while helping people recharge mentally, they can’t strategically invest in nature.
“We’re answering three crucial questions with this software: where in a city is nature providing what benefits to people, how much of each benefit is it providing and who is receiving those benefits?” said Perrine Hamel, lead author on a new paper about the software published in Urban Sustainability and Livable Cities Program Lead at the Stanford Natural Capital Project at the time of research.
The software, called Urban InVEST, is the first of its kind for cities and allows for the combination of environmental data, like temperature patterns, with social demographics and economic data, like income levels. Users can input their city’s datasets into the software or access a diversity of open global data sources, from NASA satellites to local weather stations. The new software joins the Natural Capital Project’s existing InVEST software suite, a set of tools designed for experts to map and model the benefits that nature provides to people.
To test Urban InVEST, the team applied the software in multiple cities around the world: Paris, France; Lausanne, Switzerland; Shenzhen and Guangzhou, China; and several U.S. cities, including San Francisco and Minneapolis. In many cases, they worked with local partners to understand priority questions – in Paris, candidates in a municipal election were campaigning on the need for urban greenery, while in Minneapolis, planners were deciding how to repurpose underused golf course land.
Running the numbers
In Shenzhen, China, the researchers used Urban InVEST to calculate how natural infrastructure like parks, grassland and forest would reduce damages in the event of a severe, once-in-one-hundred years storm. They found that the city’s nature would help avoid $25 billion in damages by soaking up rain and diverting floodwaters. They also showed that natural infrastructure – like trees and parks – was reducing the daily air temperature in Shenzhen by 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) during hot summer days, providing a dollar value of $71,000 per day in benefits to the city.
A map of the Paris metropolitan area of France showing neighborhoods with the lowest access to green spaces (yellow), the lowest income neighborhoods (red), and an overlap of the two (blue) where, according to the Urban InVEST software, investing in green spaces like parks would have the greatest impact on reducing inequalities. (Image credit: Perrine Hamel et al)
Nature is often distributed unevenly across cities – putting lower-income people at a disadvantage. Data show that lower-income and marginalized communities often have less access to nature in cities, meaning they are unable to reap the benefits, like improved mental and physical health, that nature provides to wealthier populations.
In Paris, the researchers looked at neighborhoods without access to natural areas and overlaid income and economic data to understand who was receiving benefits from nature. The software helped determine where investments in more greenspace – like parks and bike paths – could be most effective at boosting health and wellbeing in an equitable way.
Planning for a greener future
In the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota region, golf revenue is declining. The downturn has created an appealing opportunity for private golf courses to sell off their land for development. But should developers create a new park or build a new neighborhood? Urban InVEST showed how, compared to golf courses, new parks could increase urban cooling, keep river waters clean, support bee pollinators and sustain dwindling pockets of biodiversity. New residential development, on the other hand, would increase temperatures, pollute freshwater and decrease habitat for bees and other biodiversity.
Healthy city ecosystems
Urban InVEST is already seeing use outside of a research setting – it recently helped inform an assessment of how nature might help store carbon and lower temperatures in 775 European cities.
“Cities, more than any other ecosystems, are designed by people. Why not be more thoughtful about how we design the places where most of us spend our time?” said Guerry, also an author on the paper. “With Urban InVEST, city governments can bring all of nature’s benefits to residents and visitors. They can address inequities and build more resilient cities, resulting in better long-term outcomes for people and nature.”
SmartCitiesWorldNews team informs that AI is used to examine construction following earthquakes in its vital assessment concerning quality, safety and potential risks in its future usage.
The picture above is about how an App helps engineers identify structural issues. Photo courtesy: Build Change
AI used to examine construction following earthquakes
An open-source project hosted by the Linux Foundation with support from IBM and Call for Code will use machine learning to help inform quality assurance for construction in emerging nations.
A new open source machine learning tool has been developed to help inform quality assurance for construction in emerging nations.
Build Change, with support from IBM as part of the Call for Code initiative, created the Intelligent Supervision Assistant for Construction (ISAC-SIMO) tool to feedback on specific construction elements such as masonry walls and reinforced concrete columns.
The aim is to help engineers identify structural issues in masonry walls or concrete columns, especially in areas affected by disasters.
Users can choose a building element check and upload a photo from the site to receive a quick assessment.
“ISAC-SIMO has amazing potential to radically improve construction quality and ensure that homes are built or strengthened to a resilient standard, especially in areas affected by earthquakes, windstorms, and climate change,” said Dr Elizabeth Hausler, founder and CEO of Build Change.
“We’ve created a foundation from which the open source community can develop and contribute different models to enable this tool to reach its full potential. The Linux Foundation, building on the support of IBM over these past three years, will help us build this community.”
The ISAC-SIMO project, hosted by the Linux Foundation, was imagined as a solution to help bridge gaps in technical knowledge that were apparent in the field. It packages important construction quality assurance checks into a mobile app.
“ISAC-SIMO has amazing potential to radically improve construction quality and ensure that homes are built or strengthened to a resilient standard, especially in areas affected by earthquakes, windstorms, and climate change”
The app ensures that workmanship issues can be more easily identified by anyone with a phone, instead of solely relying on technical staff. It does this by comparing user-uploaded images against trained models to assess whether the work done is broadly acceptable (go) or not (no go) along with a specific score.
“Due to the pandemic, the project deliverables and target audience have evolved. Rather than sharing information and workflows between separate users within the app, the app has pivoted to provide tools for each user to perform their own checks based on their role and location,” added Daniel Krook, IBM chief technology officer for the Call for Code initiative.
“This has led to a general framework that is well-suited for plugging in models from the open source community, beyond Build Change’s original use case.”
According to Build Change, the project encourages new users to contribute and to deploy the software in new environments around the world. Priorities for short term updates include improvements in user interface, contributions to the image dataset for different construction elements, and support to automatically detect if the perspective of an image is flawed.
Build Change seeks to help save lives in earthquakes and windstorms. Its mission is to prevent housing loss caused by disasters by transforming the systems that regulate, finance, build, and improve houses around the world.
What Is the Internet of Taxes? A question answered by Toby Bargar in his article dated May 13, 2021, explains how in this day and age, the Internet generally is gradually spreading wider and wider to cover most daily life. But to this extent, who would have thought so?
So, let us see what it is all about.
What Is the Internet of Taxes?
According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, IoT could have an annual economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion by 2025. Adoption is accelerating across several settings, including factories, retailers, and even the human body. In fact, smart cities will reportedly create business opportunities worth $2.46 trillion by 2025, and by 2030 more than 70% of global smart city, spending will be from the United States, Western Europe, and China. With AI and the rollout of 5G facilitating faster speeds and scalability, we will see even greater demand across sectors for IoT solutions.
An oft-repeated phrase says that nothing is certain but death and taxes; however, in the case of IoT, we can say that nothing is certain but growth and taxes – we don’t yet know how it’s all going to shake out. The demand for IoT is going to tempt federal, state, and local jurisdictions to tax it. With voice communications taxable revenues declining, taxing IoT is an attractive option to replenish their coffers.
In 1998, Congress passed a moratorium banning state and local governments from taxing internet access. This ban was extended several times. The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA) converted the moratorium to a permanent ban and was fully implemented nationwide on July 1, 2020. Since the initial moratorium, the internet has risen to be a critical communication tool over other more highly taxed wireless and landline voice options, which continue a steady decline.
The ability to tax IoT may require changing laws and regulations. This process could take some time, but there is a complicated web of laws, regulations, and tax liabilities surrounding IoT in the interim. As we continue to adopt smart solutions, companies have to get smart about the nuances and risks of IoT taxability.
There are two easy questions that will help you to begin to understand your IoT taxability risk.
1) Is your company selling internet access? 2) Is your connectivity embedded or over-the-top?
Over-the-Top or Embedded Connectivity
If your device is networked over a user-supplied connection, then access is over-the-top or bring-your-own Internet connectivity. The over-the-top connection can be wired, Wi-Fi, or purchased separately from a wireless service. For example, if you sell a wireless printer, users connect through their home or office network. You are not supplying the internet, but the device. In these cases, as an IoT device maker, you likely have no responsibility for the customer’s internet connection.
Different than over-the-top, an embedded connection is part of the device. If you sell a device that comes with its own data connection as a component of the sale or service plan, it is embedded. Smartphones are a great example of an embedded connection. The relationships between device makers and network operators can feature widely variable structures. The device provider may need to account for any taxes that need to be collected related to the connection.
The World Wide Web of Gray
Defining internet access may appear intuitive, but not all connectivity is considered internet access. If you are selling a service that meets the statutory definitions of ISP service, the federal law provides a moratorium against state and local taxes.
Private connectivity, however, is often taxable. Unlike the public internet, private connectivity occurs via a Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN). This type of access is considered a taxable communication service in most states. If the network is interstate, this will also subject you to the Federal Universal Service Fund fee (FUSF), which is currently 33.4%, an all-time high for this fee and growing higher every quarter.
However, there are questions about whether connections to devices that do not enable a WWW experience – you connect to the internet, but the end-user can’t log onto Facebook or perform a Google search – meet the federal definitions of ISP service. If you do not meet those definitions, then your likely tax destination could be LAN/WAN.
Avoid the Dead Zone
IoT is here to stay. As you develop and deploy IoT solutions, it will be critical to stay informed on the web of tax rules that may or may not apply to your business. Monitor federal and state agencies that have jurisdiction over internet taxation and stay abreast of any changes on the horizon.
With so much uncertainty, it can be tempting to push the envelope, but a conservative interpretation of tax guidance can proactively protect you from being caught off guard.
Finally, to avoid hitting a dead zone, don’t try to navigate the changes on your own. Consult with your tax and legal advisors to ensure that you are aware of the latest developments and plan your course of action accordingly.
Originally posted on HUMAN WRONGS WATCH: Human Wrongs Watch (UN News)* — Disinformation, hate speech and deadly attacks against journalists are threatening freedom of the press worldwide, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday [2 May 2023], calling for greater solidarity with the people who bring us the news. UN Photo/Mark Garten | File photo…
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