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Tech can empower refugee communities

Tech can empower refugee communities

Tech can empower refugee communities – if they’re allowed to design how it works.

By Reem Talhouk, Newcastle University; Andy Garbett, Newcastle University, and Kyle Montague, Newcastle University.

In Lebanon, around 350,000 Syrian refugees don’t have access to enough safe and nutritious food. To stem the crisis, the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations introduced an electronic voucher system to distribute food aid. People are given debit cards loaded with “e-vouchers” that they can use in certain shops to buy food.

But we found that Syrian refugees living in rural Lebanon often have to make difficult choices when buying essential items at the expense of food. Their e-vouchers can only be used in exchange for food, not other essentials like nappies.

Refugees have to engage in “grey-area transactions” that work around the e-voucher system, by asking shop owners to sell them the nappies and instead record on the system that they bought food. This places refugees in a vulnerable position – shop owners often charge higher prices for scanning non-food items as food, but refugees have no choice but to depend on shop owners to cooperate.

Using dialogue cards, Syrian refugees mapped out their experiences of food insecurity and their interactions with shop owners. Reem Talhouk, Author provided

Collective purchasing allows refugees to pool their cash and e-vouchers so that one person can buy non-food items for another and be repaid with food. This allows people a degree of autonomy – they don’t have to rely on shop owners to allow them to buy non-food items using their vouchers. Instead, the community can manage their resources and needs among themselves.

Unfortunately, the e-voucher system prevents refugees from buying goods in bulk. Shop owners are advised by the WFP that purchases by refugees should be typical of buying food for a family. If refugees want to buy enough rice for their community and benefit from a wholesale discount, then the shop owner can refuse the transaction. This makes collective purchasing – something refugees often prefer to do when they have cash available – more difficult.

The WFP is currently piloting blockchain technology to replace this e-voucher system in Jordan and Pakistan. This is an exciting opportunity to alleviate these problems and help to empower both refugees and the shop owners, but only if the refugees themselves are involved.


Food aid designed by refugees

Rather than using a debit card, under this new system refugees would have a digital wallet that is similar to a bank account that you can access online. And instead of it being hosted by a bank, it’s part of the blockchain.

A blockchain is a shared log of transactions, with each user being able to track how much money and goods have been exchanged. This is constantly updated as transactions of food aid and money transfers are agreed between the customer and the shop owner. Each transaction forms a block of new information. The digital ledger is an expanding chain of interconnected blocks of information – hence the name, blockchain.

The WFP is using blockchain technology to cut costs on currency exchange and bank transfers. But the blockchain still allows transactions between refugees and shop owners in the same manner as the e-voucher system. If this new and innovative technology mimics the model that came before, the restrictions on what refugees can do will continue and blockchain will mimic paternalistic aid models that focus on efficiently distributing aid, rather than empowering refugees to leverage their own ways of coping with food insecurity. But if aid is designed with input from refugee communities, the technology could give Syrian people in Lebanon more agency when buying the essentials they need to live.

A Syrian woman’s depiction of her community’s food insecurity. Reem Talhouk, Author provided

Blockchain can write smart contracts, which would allow people to buy items together. These are agreements whose terms are automatically enforced by an algorithm. Smart contracts act like a lock box with two keys that can be used to open it, one key is given for each party involved in the contract.

When the smart contract is created, both parties set the conditions that need to be met for them to be able to use the keys to open the lock box. Both keys need to be used for the lock box to open and for the money to transfer to complete the transaction. Before this can happen, both parties must agree that the conditions of the contract have been met. With this, refugee communities can negotiate collective purchases with shop owners and hold them accountable to the agreements they make.

Negotiating the terms of the smart contract means that refugees have more of a say over what they consider to be a fair deal. Once the smart contract is in place, the agreed sum of money for the purchase will be placed in a digital wallet – the lock box – that is bound by the terms of the smart contract. The value of items purchased by refugees is deducted once they’ve verified their identity with a retina scan, but the money will only be released to the shop owner if the refugees verify that they received the items.

We saw how these smart contracts could rebalance the power disparity between refugees and shop owners. Including refugees in the design process of humanitarian technologies and aid models can ensure they incorporate the values and practices of the people they’re supposed to help. Future innovations must be rooted in the daily lives of refugee communities. These technologies can empower people and make a real difference to their lives, but only if they’re allowed to design how they work.

Reem Talhouk, Researcher in Human Computer Interaction and Design, Newcastle University; Andy Garbett, Research Associate in Computing Science, Newcastle University, and Kyle Montague, Lecturer in Digital Civics, Newcastle University


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

Read more: Beyond Bitcoin: how blockchains can empower communities to control their own energy supply

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“Scientific future shaped by ICT”: Dubai Science Park Director

“Scientific future shaped by ICT”: Dubai Science Park Director

“Scientific future shaped by ICT”: Dubai Science Park Director in a TahawulTech‘s article by James Dartnell is about how and why Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi, the Dubai Science Park’s executive director made such a statement at a time of non-negligible uncertainty not only for that country but for the whole region’s main contribution to the world economy, i.e. hydrocarbons. The highly mediatised UAE’s growing ambitions in Space for notably building a new city on Mars does perhaps come handy in helping to do away with some degree of that uncertainty as well as other things, but what about its ambitions with respect to developing an industry. What about holding on to its present and possibly foreseeable future’s success story in local and regional retail and trade centre? Here is TahawulTech’s article.

“Scientific future shaped by ICT”: Dubai Science Park Director

The executive director of Dubai Science Park has said that the future of the Middle East’s scientific industry will be significantly affected by swift technological advancements.
Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi, who has been confirmed as a judge for tahawultech.com’s inaugural Future Enterprise Awards on 14th October at Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai, said that IT was now not only saving lives, but also advancing the pace of scientific research.
Dubai Science Park’s work focuses around four main areas of science: human science, plant science, energy and environmental science, and Janahi believes that all are now being inextricably linked with and transformed by technology. “Across all of these areas, technology is an important component,” he says. “There is more and more of an overlap between ICT and these sectors. The essence of managing green buildings is a building management system, which is founded on ICT. Using data to predict human conditions is another prime example of where technology is needed.”
[Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi is part of the judging panel of TahawulTech.com Future Enterprise Awards on 14th October 2018 at Emirates Towers, Dubai.| Learn more about TahawulTech.com Future Enterprise Awards.]
While Janahi believes that “all” industries are being disrupted by technology, he says that the healthcare industry in particular sets to benefit citizens through its transformation. “The changes we’re seeing in digital health are particularly impressive,” he says. “Data that sits within servers can now be mined and used for forecasting, while telemedicine gives allows people who don’t have easy access to medical facilities a chance to be looked after. Even regular GP checkups can be done remotely.”
He also believes healthcare transformation will have a significant knock-on effect on other verticals. “There will be a huge disruption in the insurance industry, and managing the journey of patient, which today is all done offline,” he says. “Wearables will be huge, while technologies for things like blood sugar monitoring that connect to smartphones will have a huge impact. The human and environmental sciences will see the biggest disruption in the scientific field.”
Janahi is a chairing member of the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment Task force of the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, which was announced in 2016. The strategy focuses on five other key areas – aerospace, maritime, aluminum and fabricated metals, food and beverages and machinery and equipment – and aims to transform Dubai from being a service-based economy, to one that creates “25%” of its GDP from industrial activity.
“The bulk of Dubai’s GDP comes from logistics, finance and tourism,” Janahi says. “Manufacturing currently creates around 9-10% of it, and we want to increase that number substantially. We want these kinds of enablers to make Dubai more successful, with opportunities for the short, medium and long-term.”
Janahi is keen to broaden his technological knowledge by participating as a judge in tahawultech.com’s Future Enterprise Awards. “I’m really excited to be a judge,” he says. “I’ve seen more and more technology adopted by the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, but for me it’s interesting to see how technology can be deployed, and how we can learn from other industries.”
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How investors can support entrepreneurship in the MENA

How investors can support entrepreneurship in the MENA

In an ever changing world, and despite the combination of factors all linked to IT infrastructure complexities and security, how investors can support entrepreneurship in the MENA region and the way, businesses and individuals alike are rushing into, for the time being at least, anything digital in the hope that such a move could assure a better present and somehow a decent future, McKinsey’s Dubai office produced this article written by Ahmad Alkasmi, consultant in McKinsey’s Dubai office, Omar El Hamamsy, senior partner, Luay Khoury, associate partner, and Abdur-Rahim Syed, partner. We republish it with our compliments to the authors and thanks to McKinsey’s Dubai office.

It goes without saying that the situation of each country of the MENA has specifics that are not covered here but it remains that to a certain degree, these are nevertheless not totally far from what is said by the authors.

How investors can support entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa

The potential for entrepreneurship in the region is high, based on digital consumption and a startling increase in investment funding for start-ups.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the most digitally connected in the world: across countries, an average of 88 percent of the population is online daily, and 94 percent of the population owns a smartphone. Digital consumption is similarly high in some countries; for example, Saudi Arabia ranks seventh globally in social-media engagement, with an average of seven accounts per individual.

Despite this sizable appetite for online content and services, key digital sectors remain nascent, and entrepreneurship potential is yet to be fully tapped. Across MENA, only 8 percent of small and medium enterprises have an online presence—ten times less than in the United States. Only 1.5 percent of MENA’s retail sales are online, which is five times less than in the United States. Research by Digital McKinsey suggests that the Middle East has only realized 8 percent of its overall digital potential, compared with 15 percent in Western Europe and 18 percent in the United States.

However, we believe the region is at the start of a new S-curve: MENA is experiencing a startling growth in both the number of successful start-ups and the amount of investment funding available to them (exhibit). Start-ups are scaling by adapting offerings and business models, from digital music to digital logistics, to serve local needs. Examples of this abound, from Fetchr using GPS technology to power delivery in a region with few addresses to Fawry using a local network of retailers to anchor its payment network and overcome barriers in the fintech space.

Exhibit

Moreover, the number of investors in the region increased by 30 percent from 2015 to 2017, while total funding increased by more than 100 percent in the same period. Corporate-venture-capital funds, in particular, are rapidly emerging in the evolving MENA-investment ecosystem. In 2015 and 2016, 14 new, significant CVC funds entered the MENA market. The number of CVC assets under management grew by more than 2.4 times from 2012 to 2016, reaching 20 percent of total venture-capital AUM in the region.

Through items from targeted, venture-capital–like investment funds to structured incubator and accelerator programs, public institutions are also playing an increasingly key role in the start-up ecosystem. Recent examples include the establishment of Fintech Factory in Egypt, FinTech Hive in the United Arab Emirates, and National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprise Development in Kuwait.

Overall, the ecosystem supporting the growth of MENA’s start-up landscape has been falling into place. However, distinct gaps remain for investors in properly identifying potential in new business models and in scaling chosen start-ups. We recommend investors in the start-up space adopt the following six best practices to unlock the potential of entrepreneurship in the MENA region:

  • ·         Develop robust investment theses leveraging local context.
  • ·         Capture and proactively engineer network effects.
  • ·         Invest at scale.
  • ·         Manage performance with a patient, programmatic growth mind-set.
  • ·         Secure investment independence in governance to win the right talent.
  • ·         Monitor key performance indicators in line with the value-creation model.

Local MENA entrepreneurs have demonstrated they can be innovative and bold to meet changing demand. The appropriate adoption of best practices in venture investing can create significant value for investors, promising new businesses, and the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the region

 

Autonomous Vehicles become Safer and more Efficient

Autonomous Vehicles become Safer and more Efficient

Autonomous vehicles are coming and they have the potential to radically better our lives. But to reap the rewards of this new technology, we first have to adapt the world to its requirements. This means preparing the way for massive engineering projects that will introduce the latest generation of mobile networks into our cities. As future autonomous vehicles become safer and more efficient, they will rely on high-bandwidth mobile networks to wirelessly share and receive data from each other.

Here is an account of  Saber Fallah, Director of Connected Autonomous Vehicles Lab at the University of Surrey on what looks like the ‘not-so-far-future’ in the developed world; the MENA region being only marginally affected with some realisations in the Gulf countries. Hence our proposed featured above picture with our due compliments to the author and publisher.

Driverless cars are forcing cities to become smart

File 20180424 57584 1ahosub.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Driverless cars will transform the transportation industry.
daxis/flickr, CC BY-SA

 

 

Self-driving vehicles currently work by collecting data from an array of sensors, which is then interpreted by various algorithms. These algorithms tell the vehicle where to drive, at what speed and when to stop.

But the data that these sensors collect is inherently limited. The vehicle cannot see any vehicles outside of its field of vision, nor can it be aware of traffic occurring ten miles further down the road. To overcome this, future autonomous vehicles will be constantly accessing and interpreting data collected by thousands of surrounding vehicles, and roadside units (computing devices that provide connectivity support to passing vehicles). Huge swathes of additional information will be provided to the vehicle about road surface, weather, traffic conditions, other vehicle information and intended control actions.

We expect that driverless cars will be commercially available by 2025 and the whole UK transportation system will be fully automated by 2070. When this happens, these vehicles will sometimes be controlled by a traffic management system, which could activate useful manoeuvres such as platooning, when automated vehicles travel very closely together at very high speeds, and intersection management. These connected autonomous vehicles (CAV) will create a completely different transportation network for future generations and one that is safer, faster, more efficient, more environmentally friendly and more productive. As we rapidly approach the point at which CAVs are ready for the streets, we have to make sure that our streets are ready for them.

Transforming infrastructure

With so much data needing to be shared, having a high bandwidth and fast wireless communication technology is essential. The next generation of wireless communication systems, based on the faster 5G technology, can potentially provide the required bandwidth. But to achieve this, we need to begin drastically increasing the number of radio antennas and roadside units in cities.

Even the most recent networks (4G LTE) that exist today simply aren’t up to the task and will have to be upgraded. 5G networks will demand faster and more flexible infrastructure that can adapt to unexpected problems. Countries across the world will also have to invest heavily in new roadside units’ that can help reduce any data delays and minimise the reliance on network data centres, by acting as alternative data sources. At the same time, the security of these networks have to be considered, ensuring the safety and privacy of all communication over them.

5G vital for autonomous vehicles to run.
Carllender/flickr, CC BY

The slowly turning gears of policymakers are currently lagging behind the astronomical progress of connected autonomous vehicles. The Netherlands is currently the country furthest ahead in preparation, thanks mainly to its excellent road infrastructure. Singapore’s decision to allow self-driving cars to be tested on public roads mean that it is quickly also becoming a world leader in this field. Both the United States and Sweden are also beginning to prepare for this future.

Across the world, many governments are coming to realise the necessity of infrastructure change. For example, the UK government recently announced its goal of becoming a global leader in autonomous vehicles, with new development and testing areas to be championed. Indeed, several UK-based projects are attempting to lead the country onwards. UK CITE is equipping 40 miles of urban roads, dual-carriageways and motorways within Coventry and Warwickshire with extremely fast data networks required by CAVs. Another project, E-CAVE, is adapting Ordnance Survey digital data to help the development of CAVs. The data, which is used to create a local map of the environment, enhances the perception of CAVs and allows them drive more safely.

The ConversationEven with the vast technological challenges and regulatory hurdles currently encompassing the deployment of autonomous vehicles, it’s not a question of “if”, but rather “when” they will be prevalent on the roads. Now is the time to have a conversation over developing the correct urban infrastructure for this new age.

 

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

MENA 2018 IT spending to be a three-year high

MENA 2018 IT spending to be a three-year high

 

It is set to hit $155 billion in 2018, according to Gartner, Inc. a US research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500 in a press release in Dubai today, where the MENA 2018 IT spending will be a three-year high with notably a 3.4% increase spending from 2017 and with its highest anticipated to be in communication services, primarily mobile voice and data by mostly consumers.

 

Gartner Says Middle East and North Africa IT Spending to Reach $155 Billion in 2018

 

Middle East and North Africa (MENA) IT spending is projected to reach $155 billion in 2018, a 3.4 percent increase from 2017, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc. 

Gartner analysts are discussing key IT and business issues that are driving the evolution of digital business during the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Dubai from Monday through Wednesday. 

In 2018, the MENA region will exhibit its highest IT spending increase in the last three years. Spending in communication services (mobile voice and data primarily), mostly by consumers, is the segment that will largely contribute to the rise in IT spending in MENA this year (see Table 1).

Software is projected to exhibit the strongest growth in 2018, with a 12.7 percent increase year over year. Software spending has also been growing at a double-digit rate the last two years. The growth has been driven by companies pursuing new functionalities in major back-office systems like supply chain managemententerprise resource planning and customer service.

Table 1. Middle East & North Africa IT Spending Estimates (Billions of U.S. Dollars)

2017 Spending

2017 Growth (%)

2018 Spending

2018 Growth (%)

Devices

26,956

1.4

27,397

1.6

Data Center Systems

4,605

4.0

4,633

0.6

Software

5,500

10.9

6,199

12.7

IT Services

10,128

4.1

10,588

4.5

Communications Services

102,996

-1.4

106,547

3.4

Overall IT

150,185

0.04

155,364

3.4

Source: Gartner (March 2018)

Not all categories of IT spending in MENA will surpass the regional total average in 2018. Cloud spending in the region is among the lowest in the world when measured as a percentage of total IT spending.

“There are insufficient local hyper-scale and large-scale data centers to support cloud systems, which cause local organizations to derive cloud offering from abroad,” said Peter Sondergaard, executive vice president and global head of research at Gartner. “Moreover, latency, legal and local currency makes this option problematic and limits cloud adoption among businesses in MENA.”

The communications services segment — the largest spending segment in MENA — is growing to serve increasing demand for premium mobile phones. Communications services are expanding coverage and increasing data transfer rates while keeping prices low. The rising demand of premium mobile phones by consumers is also set to fuel growth in the devices spending segment in 2018.

“The MENA region witnesses continued focus on technology initiatives and improvements,” said Mr. Sondergaard. “Digital business transformation is creating new industry revenue streams. In 2018, the leading segments driving IT spending growth in the region are banking and securities growing at 3.6 percent, insurance at 2.9 percent and retail at 2.8 percent. IT spending in the banking sector is driven by its move into digital business and the corresponding investments in technologies such as analytics, blockchain and artificial intelligence. For the insurance sector, IT spending is led by investment in software applications.”

Digital Is Here and Is Mainstream

Clearly, digital is here and digital disruptors are emerging in all industries. “We’ve seen this in books, clothing, and now it’s happening in other industries such as traditional grocery markets and consumer durables,” said Mr. Sondergaard. “MENA CIOs must embrace digital transformation. They need to build the momentum to scale and create value by amplifying the power of their people, their organization culture, and their technology platform to deliver breakthrough value.”

Organizations that are not creating new digital business models, or new ways to engage constituents or customers, will begin to lag. “Those vendors that do not move more quickly than their clients will be left behind,” Mr. Sondergaard concluded.

Gartner’s IT spending forecast methodology relies heavily on rigorous analysis of sales by thousands of vendors across the entire range of IT products and services. Gartner uses primary research techniques, complemented by secondary research sources, to build a comprehensive database of market size data on which to base its forecasts.

Gartner’s quarterly IT spending forecasts offer a unique perspective on IT spending across hardware, software, IT services and telecommunications segments. They help Gartner clients understand market opportunities and challenges. The most recent IT spending forecast is available here.

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo

Additional analysis on IT spending outlook and how to drive digital innovation to the core of your business will be provided during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2018, March 5-7 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the world’s most important gathering of CIOs and other senior IT executives. Follow news, photos and video coming from Gartner Symposium/ITxpo on Smarter With Gartner, on Twitter using #GartnerSYM and on LinkedIn.

 

Measuring the Information Society Report 2017

Measuring the Information Society Report 2017

The 2017 edition of the Measuring the Information Society Report was launched during the World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS) 2017, in Hammamet, Tunisia. In it, all related Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Development was produced, in which countries were ranked as based on 3 ICT’s criteria that are “Readiness”, “Use”, and “Capabilities”. Over the years, this report has generally been accepted as a reliable snapshot of the current ICT development situation in the world and this year’s confirmed that parallel advances in the Internet of Things, big data analytics, cloud computing and artificial intelligence have concurrently enabled innovations that not only affected but will continue to impact business, government, and society at an ever-increased speed in all domains of human activities with opportunities, challenges but also some implications.  Countries especially those lagging behind such as the above mentioned above will have to create and / or improve conditions to support the next-generation networks and service infrastructures. The first three places are held by Iceland, South Korea and Switzerland in this descending order. A Regional Ranking was also proposed for Africa, the Americas, Asia & Pacific, CIS and Europe. As far as the MENA countries are concerned, it is under the label of the Arab States, that it is to be found. The first place was given to Bahrain at 31st, followed by Qatar at 39th, the United Arab Emirates at 40th and Saudi Arabia at 54th. Lebanon comes at 64th and Oman at 62nd. The North African countries of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, ranked from 99th, 100th and 102nd with Egypt at 103rd respectively. An extract of the report SUMMARY OF REPORT FINDINGS is reproduced here and for more details, please click on the links. ICT development index – country ranking  The ITU ICT Development Index 2017 (IDI 2017) featured in the MIS report is a unique benchmark of the level of ICT development in countries across the world. Iceland tops the IDI 2017 rankings. It is followed by two countries and one economy in the Asia and the Pacific region, and six other countries in Europe, which have competitive ICT markets that have experienced high levels of ICT investment and innovation over many years. The IDI has up to now been based on 11 indicators. However, recent developments in ICT markets have led to the review of those indicators. As a result of that review, in 2018 the index will be defined by 14 indicators that should add further insights into the performance of individual countries and the relative performance of countries at different development levels. Measuring ICT development The latest data on ICT development show continued progress in connectivity and use of ICTs. There has been sustained growth in the availability of communications in the past decade, led by growth in mobile cellular telephony and, more recently, in mobile-broadband. Growth in fixed and mobile-broadband infrastructure has stimulated Internet access and use. The number of mobile-broadband subscriptions worldwide now exceeds 50 per 100 population, enabling improved access to the Internet and online services.

MENA Youth take to the Free For All Social Media

MENA Youth take to the Free For All Social Media

Al Monitor IRAN PULSE produced this article that is summarised as the US tech giants Apple and Google have removed Iranian-developed apps from their online stores, sparking a backlash.  Meanwhile most of the MENA youth take to the free for all social media without any second thoughts as to who is offering these media and for which purpose. As put by The Economist : “A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable . . . .” Reviewing some of the comments to this article clearly shows the overall sentiment of the local users bear against the above named data providers. More thoughts? Please comment.

Iranians rail against Apple, Google over pulling of apps

Holly Dagres September 26, 2017

REUTERS/TIMA Iranian youths use their mobile phones as they rest at a park in Tehran, Iran, May 16, 2017.

Imagine trying to hail an Uber on a street corner only for the Uber app on your iPhone to suddenly stop working. That’s what happened to some Iranians when Apple pulled Snapp, a popular local ride-hailing app, from its App Store on Aug. 24. The US technology company purged over a dozen popular Iranian apps, including Alopeyk, an on-demand delivery service; Delion, a food delivery service; Digikala, an online store; Takhfifan, a coupon service; and Zoraq, a travel-booking service.

Now when the name of a popular Iranian app is typed into Apple’s App Store search engine, suggestions for alternative titles pop up, or in some cases, the following message appears: “The item you requested is not currently available in the US store.” Amid the confusion, Iranian iOS app developers received a message from Apple, stating, “Under the US sanctions regulations, the App Store cannot host, distribute, or do business with apps or developers connected to certain US embargoed countries.” The week after Apple’s purge, Google followed suit, removing Iranian apps for Android phones from Google Play.

Tyler Cullis, an associate sanctions attorney with Ferrari & Associates, P.C., told Al-Monitor, “It is unclear why Apple and Google were permitting the hosting of Iranian apps on their respective app stores in the first place, but the decision to remove them appears consistent with US sanctions laws.”

There is indeed the possibility that Apple and Google may have misinterpreted US sanctionslaw. In March 2010, under the Barack Obama administration, the United States granted a license — known as the General License D-1, or Personal Communications GL — authorizing a range of activities, including permitting Iranians to access and download mobile phone apps from US app stores. Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said at the time that the license was to ensure that Iranian citizens, and others, could practice their “most basic rights.” Cullis pointed out, however, “[It] does not appear to permit Apple or other US tech companies to host apps created by Iranian users on their app stores and make those apps for sale.”

Apple and Google are not alone in barring Iranians from their services. Iranians also have no access to Adobe, Android Developer, Dropbox and PayPal, among many other online services.

Although Apple has no corporate presence in Iran, millions of Iranians have jailbroken iPhones imported from China, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. The devices are sometimes sold for double or triple the original price. There are even shops in Tehran that claim to be legal distributors, and in some cases, emulate the Apple Store experience. Local media reported on Sept. 24 that the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus arrived in Iran less than 24 hours after their release and were going for double the US price, with shops charging customers a pre-sale price of 130 to 250 million rials ($3,864 to $7,431) for the iPhone X.

According to Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, more than a tenth of the 48 million smartphones in Iran are iPhones, making Iran one of the largest markets in the Middle East. Despite Apple’s purge, some Iranians, accustomed to having to resort to circumvention, are bypassing the restrictions by downloading alternative, Iranian-designed iOS app stores, such as Sib App and Nassaab. Meanwhile, others, unaware of the alternative iOS stores, are even going so far as to switch to Android phones, so they can use Iranian-designed Android marketplaces, like Cafe Bazaar, to download Iranian apps. Google’s Android operating system is compatible with an array of mobile companies’ devices, including from Samsung, which opened a Tehran sales center in February.

Iranians quickly took to social media — much of which is accessed through circumvention tools since it is blocked by the Iranian government — to express their frustration, using the hashtag #StopRemovingIranianApps. Many tweeted in English during Apple’s annual September product event using the hashtag #AppleEvent. One developer tweeted, “I wont be able to buy the great iPhone X because as a persian iOS developer I wont have a job soon.” Another Iranian posted on Twitter, “Today @Apple is the first enemy of iranian iOS developers. We are developing software not nuclear weapon.”

Since the apps’ removal, an online petition addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has circulated, attracting more than 16,000 signatures as of Sept. 26. On Sept. 18, the Bloomberg Editorial Board defended Iranian entrepreneurs, arguing that the goal of the sanctions was to pressure the Iranian government, but also stating, “Restrictions on apps have instead handed Iran’s government a propaganda gift, allowing it to rail against American technology companies for discriminating against Iranian business people and consumers.”

Cullis told Al-Monitor that while some Iranian officials believe the measures harm the Iranian people, hard-liners bemoan the concern and urge Iranians to develop their own technologies, so reliance on companies like Apple is not necessary.

Payam, an Iranian computer engineer who only gave his first name, expressed his frustration to Al-Monitor, “Google’s Play Store was not allowing Iranians to use it until a couple of years ago since there are alternatives, but the app removal is just sad. It’s like the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] never happened.”

It is unclear whether the Donald Trump administration is applying pressure on US technology companies, given the president’s staunch stance against the Iran nuclear deal. During remarks to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, Trump called the nuclear deal, which was signed by Iran and the six world powers, “an embarrassment to the United States.” He went on to explain how the Iranian people were suffering under their own government.

If Trump cares for the well-being of the Iranian people, and wants them to “be happy and prosperous once again,” he can start by getting their apps back on Apple and Google’s online stores.

 

Holly Dagres is an Iranian-American analyst and commentator on Middle East affairs. Currently living in Egypt, she is the assistant editor at the Cairo Review of Global Affairs. On Twitter: @hdagres

 

IoT in the GCC for a Brighter, more Sustainable Future

IoT in the GCC for a Brighter, more Sustainable Future

The situation in the GCC countries is improving after moves to compromise were made by all parties.  Business as usual is soon to be had and in so doing the Internet of Things (IoT) would be top of everyone’s agenda, public and private organisations alike. This has like everywhere else the potential to unlock in the GCC region up to 11% driving all economic growth in every country, according to A. T. Kearney’s latest report on the IoT in the GCC for a brighter, more sustainable future.  AT Kearney is an American global management consulting firm that focuses on strategic and operational CEO-agenda issues facing businesses, governments and institutions around the globe. 
The local media have profusely covered this topic for some time, and according to the above report, the GCC’s governments have before the Qatar crisis started, been investing in it mainly within their respective policies of diversifying their economies or as a help towards that goal away from dependence on oil. Investing in IoT does offer a variety of avenues for economic growth. It has also the potential to address many of the region’s challenges to the point where per the same report, the region’s IoT solutions market would, by 2025, be worth $11 billion, thus generating potential value for the economy anticipated to nearly $160bn.

IoT in the GCC for a Brighter, more Sustainable Future

IoT in the GCC for a Brighter, more Sustainable Future

Internet of Things in the GCC: Building a Brighter, More Sustainable Future

The Internet of Things has the potential to unlock up to 11 percent in incremental GDP, driving growth and prosperity across the region for the next decade.

Citizens in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have long enjoyed a standard of living known to be among the best in the world, thanks to the region’s wealth of abundant natural resources. However, the slump in oil and gas prices has shed light on a number of challenges and calls for transformational efforts from governments, businesses, and individuals.

Low oil prices may mean the region’s governments will struggle to balance their budgets and find the resources needed to address other issues. For example, serving the region’s young, ambitious population will require generating a plethora of attractive jobs and providing the education needed to bridge any skill gaps. Healthcare will also be in the spotlight as the population has an array of health issues, including high rates of adult obesity. In addition, energy and access to water could become more challenging as the region has high rates of consumption. For example, per capita water consumption in the United Arab Emirates is about 80 percent higher than the global average.

The region’s governments know they need to wean their economies away from oil to ensure continuity in high standards of living, and they are making progress in their diversification and transformation efforts. Large investments in innovation, such as Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund infusing money into Uber and Softbank and the anticipated launch of the $1 billion e-commerce company Noon, are testament to the importance of innovation on the business and national agendas of GCC countries.

The Internet of Things—the exponentially growing ecosystem of connected devices and systems—offers a major avenue for innovation and has the potential to address many of the region’s challenges while also spurring economic growth. The seamless combination of embedded intelligence, ubiquitous connectivity, and deep analytical insights creates a platform for unique and disruptive value for companies, individuals, and societies.

Here we discuss what IoT is, how it can transform major business sectors across the region, and what it will take for companies, governments, and the high-tech industry to attain the ultimate connectivity—bringing together the tremendous potential of this unifying phenomenon.

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These are the World’s Most Liveable Cities

These are the World’s Most Liveable Cities

According to the WEF’s ‘ These are the world’s most liveable cities ’ in this order: Auckland, Berlin, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Melbourne, Stockholm, Sydney, Vancouver, Vienna, Zurich.

The article goes on:

There are some cities you visit and wish you could move there tomorrow, because the quality of life on offer seems so appealing.

Whether it’s down to lots of easily accessible amenities and open space, low levels of traffic and pollution or plenty of opportunities for enjoying a life outside of work, everybody values particular aspects of urban life in different ways.

As such, the idea of ‘liveability’ is a contested one and will differ wildly in the eyes of different groups of people: young students, families, expats and the elderly – to name just a few. It’s given rise to numerous indices – in fact there are now more indices covering the issue of liveability than any other area, and each varies significantly depending on the author and audience . . .

In another article of the WEF, titled ‘These are the most dynamic cities in the world – and they’re not the ones you’d expect’   it was about which world cities are the most dynamic and it was found that the ones that are, have adopted such fundamental keys as :

  • Innovation and technology,
  • Environment and housing,
  • Short-term versus long-term momentum.

It is to be noted that from all cities of the MENA region, only Dubai figures at 11th, in the proposed illustration of the ranking of the most Dynamic Cities world map.

Image: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

These are the 10 most magnetic cities in the world

By Rosamond Hutt, Formative Content

We often think of ‘magnetism’ as a human quality, as well as a physical phenomenon. Cities also have the power to draw people to them.

The Global Power City Index (GPCI) ranks the world’s most important cities according to their ‘magnetism’, that is, their perceived power to attract creative people and businesses from across the globe, and to “mobilize their assets” to boost economic, social and environmental development.

The Index, compiled by Japan’s Mori Memorial Foundation’s Institute for Urban Strategies, analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of 42 global cities based on six criteria: economy; research and development; cultural interaction; livability; environment; and accessibility.

Which cities come out on top?

In the 2016 report (the first GPCI was released in 2008), London kept its No.1 spot for the fifth year running, despite a slight drop in its overall score. Ratings in the ‘economy’ category fell, but the UK capital was strong on ‘cultural interaction’, with an increase in the number of overseas visitors and students.

The report notes that data was gathered before the June 2016 Brexit vote. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of foreign visitors to the UK increased by 3% in 2016, and in the three months to December this figure was 6% higher than the same three months in 2015. The plunge in the value of the pound following the referendum result has given London a tourism boost, but the long-term effects of Brexit remain unclear.

New York maintained its second place on the GPCI, also for the fifth year in a row. NYC turned in another set of strong results in the categories of ‘economy’, ‘research and development’ and ‘cultural interaction’.

Image: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Tokyo leapfrogged Paris to move into the top three for the first time, having been fourth for the past eight years. Its improved ratings were due to a number of factors, the 2016 report says, including a cut in Japan’s corporation tax rate, a rise in the number of visitors from abroad and more direct flight connections to overseas destinations. Tokyo’s ‘livability’ score also received a boost from lower housing and general living costs (in US dollar terms).

Paris’s lower ‘cultural interaction’ ratings were due to a fall in the number of overseas visitors, international students and foreign residents. The report says the November 2015 terrorist attacks are likely to have had an impact on these figures.

Singapore held onto fifth place, despite experiencing a decrease in its overall ratings because of slowing GDP growth and a decline in total employment.

Two more Asian cities, Seoul and Hong Kong, were ranked sixth and seventh, while three European capitals — Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna — rounded off the top 10.

 

Internet of Things : More than Smart “Things”

Internet of Things : More than Smart “Things”

Per Ahmad Benafa, the Internet of Things (IoT): More than Smart “Things” is the network of physical objects accessed through the Internet. These objects contain embedded technology to interact with internal states or the external environment. In other words, when objects can sense and communicate, it changes how and where decisions are made, and who makes them.

By 2020, according to Ahmad, more than two thirds of computing devices will be other than computers, tablets and / or smart phones but sensors, terminals, household appliances, thermostats, televisions, automobiles, production machinery, urban infrastructure and many other “things” that will be optimally hooked onto the Internet for an improved service.

The following article focused on the Industrial space is written by Shayne Heffernan and published on March 28, 2017 by Live Trading News.com and could be best to date in illustrating the latest in the world of Internet.  It did citing a report of PricewaterhouseCoopers who is a multinational professional services network headquartered in London, UK and New York in the US.  Also, in the Middle East for more than 25 years, PwC provides industry-focused services for public and private clients, facilitating at the same time a good understanding of the forthcoming 4th Industrial Revolution of which the IoT could its first concrete expression.

The Next Big Thing: Industrial Internet of Things


The Chief Information Officer’s (CIO’s) role in defining a company’s strategy has become more important than ever, the report affirmed.Industrial companies are planning to commit approximately $907 million annually to their Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives, according to a new PwC report launched in coincidence with the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) in Abu Dhabi.

In its latest report, PwC said that managing the transition to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will be a highly complex task, which CIOs cannot afford to miss out on. It points to studies that show that by 2020, companies will likely spend $1.7 trillion a year on the combined industrial and consumer Internet of Things (IoT) . That transformation to IIoT is materialising fast, cited a recent PwC Industry 4.0 Survey which found that industrial companies are planning to commit approximately $907 million annually to their IIoT initiatives. Those companies expect $421 billion in cost reductions and $493 billion in increased revenues annually from the implementation of IIoT, with 55 percent expecting a payback within two years.

The sheer size of the Industrial IoT opportunity, which PwC says far outweighs all expectations of the consumer oriented IoT, means that CIOs will have to take centre stage in leading a digital transformation that aligns strategy and technology with the manufacturing environment and the manufactured product.

Dr. Anil Khurana, Partner, Strategy & Innovation at PwC Middle East and the report’s lead author, said:”The IIoT will place huge demands on the CIO. It is indeed an opportunity that few will want to miss. First-mover status is critical to gaining a competitive edge as companies begin moving en masse to reap the benefit of digitization. Our research into the IIoT domain suggests that CIOs take six important steps towards their companies’ future digital transformation, which has been outlined at length in the report. These steps include key elements such as the development of a digital strategy, building capabilities and eventually, initiating pilot programmes.”

“Supporting the GMIS vision to promote manufacturing and industrial innovation; driving towards sustainable development; and contributing to wealth generation and prosperity, PwC has facilitated connections between enterprises of all sizes that are now embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, and embracing IIoT. PwC has facilitated the development of the pilot programmes being discussed and presented at GMIS,” Dr. Khurana added.

Commenting on the report, Badr Al-Olama, Chief Executive Officer, Strata Manufacturing, and Head of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit Organising Committee, said: “For the manufacturing sector, the Industrial Internet of Things is at the heart of 4IR. As PwC points out in this report, the CIO is the key driver in helping organisations to adopt IIoT, aligning business strategy with technology transformation. Their role is to ‘normalise’ innovation in large, complex organisations, drawing on a new capacity to intelligently connect people, processes and data through devices and sensors” ” For manufacturers, this creates the prospect of the digital factory where ‘smart’ manufacturing technologies are controlling energy, productivity and costs through real-time monitoring and application of data insights. PwC’s report sets out a roadmap for IIoT transformation, prepping the experts – including CIOs from leading global manufacturers – to put together a vision for manufacturing that is based on the 4IR technologies” he explained.