MENA student leaders held their first event of the school year in their newly designated room in the Asian American Cultural Center — one student leaders have worked for years to obtain.
Courtesy of Keya Bajaj
On a rainy Tuesday evening this week, students belonging to Yale’s Middle Eastern North African community attended the academic year’s first mixer to meet new students and celebrate the long-awaited opening of a physical space designated for them.
The MENA community, comprising students from 18 countries across the Middle East and North Africa region, welcomed new and returning members alike at their new room, which officially opened its doors this school year. Located on the third floor of the Asian American Cultural Center, or AACC, the MENA room is the culmination of a long effort by student leaders to claim a designated space of their own.
At Tuesday’s mixer, MENA members connected with other Yalies from the region over generous helpings of falafel and baba ghanoush. Leaders also gave students a tour of the new space.
“We hope to find forever friendships here, to celebrate cultural and religious events together,” AACC peer liaison Zahra Yarali ’24 said.
Most of the evening’s conversations took place in the MENA room. Here, in a homey space decorated with Arabic calligraphy wall art and plush floor cushions, community members swapped stories of cultures “split between two continents,” as described by MENA Student Association President Youssef Ibrahim ’25.
But some attendees did note the room’s small size, which was unable to accommodate all of the event’s attendees.
AACC Director Joliana Yee told the News that the room was furnished with the intention of it being a work in progress — a place that MENA members could personalize and make their own.
In the past years, MENA members have shared space with both the AACC and the Afro-American Cultural Center and were assigned peer liaisons from one of the two houses, depending on which region they chiefly identified with.
But student leaders have pushed back on the legacy system, noting that MENA students have an identity distinct from the other two cultural centers.
“We do not fit entirely in either house,” Ibrahim said.
This sense of not belonging, a common sentiment among MENA community members, is fueled by “a lack of awareness of how big the community is here [on campus],” AACC Associate Director Sofia Blenman said.
Blenman added that the new room is a testament to MENA’s goal of “empowering students to feel … that they are seen.”
Still, MENA students face challenges representing themselves on campus. Official documentation, including the Common Application platform, does not offer a Middle Eastern and North African identity option, so there is no administrative record of who on campus identifies as MENA. Group leaders are therefore forced to trawl through residential college class lists to find new recruits and welcome them into the community.
Yee noted the struggle MENA students face of “being racialized as white in the U.S. context but having lived experiences that are drastically different.”
“There is validity to the unique experiences we’ve had,” Yarali added. “We are reclaiming an identity that has been whitewashed for so long.”
“Leaving an impact on the world is a lot about taking up space,” Yarali added, and the newly-inaugurated MENA room may give members of this group a new sense of hope. The group’s plans for the year include celebrations for Ramadan, the Persian New Year, winter solstice and perhaps a cultural fashion show.
MENA is also looking forward to more student-driven events and continued opportunities for collaboration with the AACC, which hosted Tuesday’s mixer.
But the attainment of the room does not mark the end of MENA students’ fight for representation on campus. MENA students have spent years advocating for a cultural center of their own, and that activism will continue, Ibrahim said.
“I aspire for a physical cultural center of our own,” he said. “It is a right for us to be represented.”
The MENA room will host an event with the Arab Students Association this Saturday, Sept. 10, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Whether it is about analytics as focused on extracting insights or chasing accurate Business intelligence, today’s data appears more and more as if it is the modern lifeblood of the heavy industries in the Middle East and North African countries. It is about diversifying their economy and setting out some knowledge economy as elaborated on ITP.net today.
Data – The modern lifeblood of heavy industries in the Middle East
by Geir Engdahl
The secret recipe for many successful companies is to maintain a laser focus on their users and on improving their operational efficiency and their ability to make rapid and higher confidence decisions.
Inside nearly any type of business is a treasure trove of data. It’s the companies that understand how to maximise the value of that data and use it to improve decision making, accelerate innovation, enhance the customer experience and drive operational efficiency that will have the competitive advantage. However, it’s easier said than done and companies may find extracting this data value to be challenging.
Siloed data, outdated tools and shadow IT are the most common hurdles faced by industrial businesses. These are the barriers that companies need to overcome if they aim to democratise data and analytics, streamline collaboration and accelerate time-to-insight. The global skills shortage represents another barrier and it’s clearly one that must be addressed if companies are to have access to the right talent pool to tap into that data.
Tackling proprietary data protocols
When looking at process-heavy industries, focusing on core operational technologies is key. Systems from multiple vendors, each paired with proprietary protocols, can lock down data, and these systems have an average lifespan of around 20 years. The impact of this mix of legacy kit, disparate control systems, non-compatible data models and communication interfaces can limit a company’s ability to collect and contextualise its data.
Cognite experienced this challenge first hand when it supported an oil and gas company that had 30 oil platforms with more than 300 wells. The operator lacked a unified overview of maintenance activities within and between all assets – ultimately a costly and ineffective way of working. As the data team coming in to fix this challenge, the Cognite focus was on ensuring that this business didn’t have too many disparate control systems using proprietary data models and communication. By bringing these systems together into a shared platform, this oil and gas operator could consequently optimise scheduling, improve communication across organisational silos and make data-driven decisions.
Concentrating on user needs
The secret recipe for many successful companies is to maintain a laser focus on their users and on improving their operational efficiency and their ability to make rapid and higher confidence decisions. Data plays a role here, and the work to structure an organisation’s data can bring value to multiple users. The key is understanding how people interact with data across the operation and be aware of how the data needs to be presented to the various roles in the company. By maintaining a user-centric focus and having a solid foundation of scalable data, companies can accelerate time to value.
Across industrial operations there is also a major focus on data analytics to support optimised decision making and to enhance operational efficiencies. In the future, this could lead to the adoption of AI and machine learning to intercede in the operation of industrial facilities in complex use cases, such as where Distributed Energy Resources (localised energy generation) is deployed.
Environmental impact is also something increasingly important for users. One example of this is from another Cognite customer, Aker BP. This oil and gas company used machine learning smart monitoring systems to visualise all data relevant for troubleshooting water contamination and identify factors related to high oil-in-water concentrations. This helped the company decrease its time spent on mitigating actions, a savings equivalent to an annual revenue potential of $6 million. So, concentrating on user needs not only helps to unlock the power of data, it also to drive operational resilience.
Using trusted data sources
Industrial data empowers everyone who engages with it but the analytics and applications that leverage this data will come from the end users, software providers and equipment manufacturers. When you have a trusted data source with common assets you have a very strong basis for using low code to develop in-house applications, as well as AI to enhance decision accuracy. Given the current industrial landscape, as well as greater market requirements, such as data-intensive carbon reporting and business model disruption from digital technology adoption, companies that do not focus on data as a key asset will face a significant competitive disadvantage.
In the last few years, we’ve seen digital technology adoption increase across the Middle East as businesses in the region look to industry 4.0 tools to enhance their operations and formulate better data driven strategies. A latest study by IDC forecasts enterprise IT spending in the Middle East, Turkey & Africa to grow by 2.7percent in 2022. The same report also estimates regional spending on AI to grow by 24.7percent and big data analytics to grow by 8.1percent this year. Regional businesses that can adjust their people and processes will have a first-mover advantage in this new data-driven era. Those that remain wedded to past investments will eventually have to shoulder twice the technology debt.
Unlocking the power of data will be key to ensuring companies can maintain business continuity, drive operational resilience and grab on to all the benefits they can from emerging technologies.
Standards are a hidden part of the information and communications technology networks and devices that we all use every day. Though rarely perceived by users, they are vital in enabling the interconnection and interoperability of ICT equipment and devices manufactured by hundreds of thousands of different companies around the world.
For example, 95% of internet traffic is on fiber, built on standards from the International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations for ICT. ITU has also played a leading role in managing the radio spectrum and developing globally applicable standards for 5G cellular networks.
But while technical standards are clearly indispensable for business and society to work in our industrialized world, it is also becoming clear that technical standards have a key role in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals.
Indeed, the focus of the recent ITU Global Standards Symposium, which brought together more than 700 industry leaders and policymakers, was how standards can help address some of the most pressing needs of the planet, such as eradicating poverty or hunger and mitigating climate change.
To address SDGs 1 and 2 on ending poverty and hunger, an ITU focus group on “Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) for Digital Agriculture” is working toward new standards to support global improvements in the precision and sustainability of farming techniques.
Under ITU and the World Health Organization, a focus group on “Artificial Intelligence for Health” aims to establish an “open code” benchmarking platform, highlighting the type of metrics that could help developers and health regulators certify future AI solutions in the same way as is done for medical equipment. Also, standards for medical-grade digital health devices — such as connected blood pressure cuffs, glucose monitors, or weight scales — are helping prevent and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Standards are helping bring broadband to rural communities with lightweight optical cable that can be deployed on the ground’s surface with minimal expense and environmental impact. The installation of ultrahigh-speed optical networks typically comes with a great deal of cost and complexity. Standards can change that equation by providing a solution able to be deployed at low cost with everyday tools.
To address SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities, more than 150 cities around the world have started evaluating their progress toward smart-city objectives and alignment with the SDGs using so-called key performance indicators based on tech standards. These cities are supported by United for Smart Sustainable Cities, an initiative backed by ITU and 16 other U.N. partners.
International standards, recognized around the world, are essential for making technologies … accessible and useful to everyone, everywhere.
Addressing SDGs related to climate action and green energy, ITU standards for green ICT include sustainable power-feeding solutions for 5G networks, as well as smart energy solutions for telecom sites and data centers that prioritize the intake of power from renewable energy sources. They also cover the use of AI and big data to optimize data center energy efficiency and innovative techniques to reduce energy needs for data center cooling.
Financial inclusion is another key area of action to achieve SDG 1 on ending poverty. Digital channels are bringing life-changing financial services to millions of people for the very first time. Enormous advances have been made within the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative and the associated development of technical standards in support of secure financial applications and services, as well as reliable digital infrastructure and the resulting consumer trust that our money and digital identities are safe.
However, the complexity of global problems requires numerous organizations with different objectives and profiles to work toward common goals. Leading developers of international ICT standards need to work together to address the SDGs, using frameworks such as the World Standards Cooperation, with the support of mechanisms such as the Standards Programme Coordination Group — reviewing activities, identifying standards gaps and opportunities, and ensuring comprehensive standardization solutions to global challenges.
Including a greater variety of voices in standards discussions is crucial. It is particularly important that low- and middle-income countries are heard and that a multistakeholder approach is made a priority to have a successful and inclusive digital transformation.
Uncoordinated and noninclusive standardization can spell lasting harm for countries that already struggle to afford long-term socioeconomic investments. Without global and regional coordination, today’s digital revolution could produce uneven results, making it imperative that all standards bodies work cohesively.
Sustainable digital transformation requires political will. It was notable that last year in Italy for the first time, leaders from the G-20 group of nations used their final communiqué to acknowledge the importance of international consensus-based standards to digital transformation and sustainable development.
This important step could not have been made by one standards body alone.
Cities, governments, and companies face a significant learning curve while adopting new tech as part of low-carbon, sustainable, citizen-centric development strategies to meet the challenge of addressing the SDGs. International standards, recognized around the world, are essential for making technologies in areas like digital health and 5G — combined with bigger and better data use — accessible and useful to everyone, everywhere.
The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex’s editorial views.
About the author
Chaesub Lee is the director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau at the International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations for ICT. Lee has contributed to ICT standardization for over 30 years, specializing in areas such as integrated services digital networks, global information infrastructure, internet protocol, next-generation networks, internet protocol television, and cloud computing.
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.
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.
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.
Hassan El-Banna, Sr. Business Development Manager Middle East, Turkey & Africa (META) at Genetec gives us in AMEInfo, a Look out at these physical security trends in 2022.
Standardization of open and interoperable solutions across smart cities, faster hybrid cloud adoption, and a tighter focus on supply chain risks are some of the top physical security topics to keep an eye on
Organizations are employing spatial analytics data to cut wait times
Video analytics apps will be easier and more cost-effective to implement at scale
Smart city investments would reach $203 billion by 2024
The long-term impacts of the pandemic and other geopolitical events will generate new technical developments and considerations in 2022. Standardization of open and interoperable solutions across smart cities, faster hybrid cloud adoption, and a tighter focus on supply chain risks are some of the top physical security topics to keep an eye on.
Top physical security trends in 2022
Monitoring occupancy and space usage will continue to be a significant focus.
Occupancy tracking is still expanding nearly two years after the pandemic began, as businesses see value in the data collected. Organizations are employing spatial analytics data to cut wait times, manage staff scheduling, and improve company operations, in addition to safety goals.
Corporate organizations are also figuring out how to make their workplaces more efficient by splitting their work time between the office and home. The use of data on space utilization translates to increased operational efficiency, better resource management, and significant cost savings.
Large-scale deployments of video analytics will become more feasible.
Video analytics solutions have been in high demand in recent years. More companies are keen to invest as AI techniques such as machine learning, and deep learning continues to increase the power of analytics. However, complex video analytics still necessitate extremely powerful servers for appropriate data processing, making them impractical for large-scale adoption.
We predict that by 2022, video analytics apps will have matured to the point that they will be easier and more cost-effective to implement at scale.
Cybercrime will continue to evolve, requiring new approaches.
According to an analysis by Cybersecurity Ventures, global crime expenditures are expected to exceed $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. This is the most significant transfer of economic wealth in history, with a growth rate of 15% per year. According to the EMEA Physical Security in 2021 survey results, with the rise of work-from-home and the growing adoption of IoT, 48% of MEA respondents believed in the prioritization of the implementation of better business continuity plans. Against this backdrop, 67% of respondents planned to prioritize the improvement of their cybersecurity strategy in 2021. Cybersecurity concerns will continue to be a priority in 2022, with companies needing new approaches to face the growing cybercrime risks.
Businesses will need to be agile and sensitive to the expanding threat landscape as more devices come online and data processing becomes vital to operations. Customers want companies to keep their data safe and secure. Thus businesses must provide more openness. This will bring in a new cybersecurity model based on continuous verification rather than network and system hardening, alongside an increased focus on choosing partners who offer better degrees of automation.
The smart city movement will be aided by open architecture.
Smart city investments would reach $203 billion by 2024, according to a report titled IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Smart Cities and Communities 2021 Predictions. These smart towns are gathering massive amounts of data and seeking to improve urban safety and liveability. According to the IMD-SUTD Smart City Index 2021, the UAE ranks 29th amongst the world’s smart cities, with 78.5% of the respondents believing in the importance of data-driven physical safety procedures such as facial recognition as a part of necessary processes to improve law enforcement.
The ecology of the smart city also includes intelligent structures. Various businesses are attempting to evaluate data from different sensors and automate procedures. The problem is that this necessitates a shift away from proprietary solutions by cities and corporations. Human and data silos are inherently created by the closed-architecture concept, which stifles growth prospects.
By focusing on open and interoperable solutions, decision-makers will get the most out of their current technology investments by improving data sharing and collaboration. Longer-term, they’ll become more adaptable to changing requirements and more self-sufficient in data unification and ownership.
Adaptable access control technology will continue to be adopted by businesses.
Today’s businesses want more from their access control systems. They desire more flexibility in hardware choices, streamlined processes, and increased convenience for those who pass through their buildings daily.
Many businesses had to get innovative to comply with increased health and safety regulations during the pandemic. Regardless of where they are on the return-to-work spectrum, organizations today recognize that the new normal necessitates agility. This is why they’re investing in PIAM systems (physical identity access management).
Businesses may automate employee and guest access requests and remotely alter access rights for all employees using a self-service PIAM system, ensuring greater safety and compliance. Additionally, by combining access control and PIAM systems, onsite movement may be tracked, making it easier for businesses to spot possible COVID-19 transmission. We expect this trend toward more modern and adaptive access control systems to continue as the new year progresses.
Supply chain operations will receive more attention and emphasis.
Organizations are under pressure to evaluate their entire supply chain ecosystem as cyber threats get more sophisticated and global disruptions influence supply management everywhere. During the SolarWinds Attack, a flaw in its own IT resource management system exposed over 18,000 customers to malware, including Fortune 500 firms and US government agencies.
More enterprises and government agencies will widen the scope of their cybersecurity policies to create baseline security criteria for the products they acquire and the vendors they engage with, in a world where organizations no longer have clearly defined network perimeters.
Any supply chain issues in obtaining physical security equipment will encourage firms to become less reliant on proprietary solutions from a single provider. Should product availability, best practices, or lack of transparency for a specific vendor be questioned, decision-makers will be able to browse different vendor options and easily change out system components.
More businesses will migrate to the cloud and use a hybrid deployment model.
The adoption of cloud computing is increasing. While many businesses aren’t ready to make the entire leap to the cloud, many are looking to the hybrid cloud deployment approach as a way to try out new apps.
As more physical security teams begin to experiment with cloud apps, the advantages of hybrid cloud will become clear. This will propel the use of cloud technology even further forward this year.
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