Face of Major Cities and how it will affect our Lives

Face of Major Cities and how it will affect our Lives

  In our previous article Smart Cities to better our Lives we discussed how the concept of circular economy will change the face of major cities and how it will affect our lives.  This article written by Antoine Frérot, Chairman and CEO, Veolia Environnement and published on Wednesday 18 January 2017 is of capital interest for the future of all cities of the world, and especially of those in the MENA region. It is really the Face of Major Cities and how it will affect our Lives that is reviewed by this author.

Per Wikipedia,  Veolia Environnement S.A., branded as Veolia, is a French transnational company with activities in four main service and utility areas traditionally managed by public authorities – water managementwaste management, public transport and energy services. In 2012, Veolia employed 318,376 employees in 48 countries. Its revenue in that year was recorded at €29.4 billion.[3] It is quoted on Euronext Paris and the New York Stock Exchange. It is headquartered in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

Intelligent cities, inclusive cities?


Increasingly populated, increasingly spread out, increasingly in competition with each other, cities are facing unprecedented challenges. The digital revolution is one of the huge challenges that they must face, but so is the fight against social exclusion: being centres of wealth, cities also attract the poor. Can both these challenges be dealt with at the same time? In other words, can the intelligent city be more inclusive?

If a city wishes to be inclusive and to ensure that its citizens benefit from the promises of urban life, it must first facilitate everyone’s access to essential services.

In developing countries, public authorities are engaged in a race against time with population growth. By optimizing the operation of existing infrastructures and better managing periods of peak demand, digital technology allows cities – at least to a certain extent – to serve more people without building new drinking water production plants or new thermal power stations.

However, digital technology can never make up for the lack of basic facilities. We should remember that in Sub-Saharan Africa, only a third of the population has access to electricity, though electricity is one of the keys to development.

In developed countries, poverty is becoming more widespread. It forces cities to invent solutions to maintain access to essential services for people who already have such access but are in danger of losing it due to insufficient financial resources. In Europe, 13% of homes are in a situation of energy insecurity. By equipping the public networks of Prague and Warsaw with sensors and expert systems to collect and process data, we have optimized urban heating, which has made it possible to keep prices under control; this is tangible progress for people on low incomes. Information management – and thus digital technology – are central to energy efficiency. Cities combat energy insecurity through energy efficiency, and the digital revolution provides them with additional weapons to fight this battle.

In addition to public network initiatives, deploying intelligent technologies in homes helps private individuals to control their expenses. In Nice, which was voted the fourth smartest city in the world in 2015, we have equipped apartments with sensors to monitor consumption of water, heating and electricity. This has led to bills being reduced by between 10% and 15%. This gain might appear to be small, but it means a lot to families on modest incomes! The inhabitants can thus reduce their bills and landlords of social housing can reduce their bad debts.

The number one priority for beating inequality

The inclusive city is also a city that provides jobs for the people who live there. Somehow, it has to find a way to integrate or re-integrate the unemployed into the world of work.

Digital technology can help cities with this task, through original partnerships between local councils, companies and associations specializing in getting people back to work. In 2015, Veolia joined up with Ashoka, the world’s leading network of social entrepreneurs, to stimulate the creation of financially viable outreach organizations dealing with subjects such as the intelligent city, the environment and eco-communities.

In the social entrepreneurship incubators of Mexico, Lyons and Toulouse, promising start-ups whose businesses are based on digital technologies have already been launched. They focus on extremely diverse objectives, such as training young people without qualifications how to code apps, educating people so as to prevent families on low incomes getting into debt, and so on.

Thanks to digital innovation, local authorities can promote new kinds of cooperation with and between their citizens. This is vital where inclusion is concerned, because poverty in assets and poverty of connections usually go hand in hand. By facilitating the process of putting the population in touch with the life of the city, and participating in it, digital technology stimulates collaborative activities and strengthens every connection: among the population itself, and between the population and local councils, urban service operators, associations and companies.

By making cities more resilient, digital technology also contributes to making them more inclusive. When a natural disaster or major industrial accident occurs, vulnerable populations are at risk of sliding into poverty or unemployment. In 2005, New Orleans was ravaged by floods. In 2016, in partnership with Swiss Re, the world’s second largest reinsurer, and the Rockefeller Foundation, our Group carried out an audit of the electrical supply for this city’s water and sanitation network; its purpose was to limit the risks of interruption of those vital services and to speed up their restoration in the event of an incident. Due to their power and their flexibility, digital technologies are great assets for managing crises, reducing their impacts on the population and avoiding the aggravation of social divisions.

When technology takes the jobs

Accessibility of essential services, proximity, extension of relationship networks, professional training, and protection of vital infrastructures, the environment and public health, in all these areas which make a city a supportive city, digital technology provides solutions. On the face of it, the intelligent city and the inclusive city can therefore be combined in a harmonious whole.

The only problem is that in a number of industries, the increasing power of digital technology results in a huge loss of jobs, which are replaced by computers, automation and robots. On the one hand, digital start-ups stimulate economic growth and create high added value services and thus jobs, many of which are at a high level; on the other, by improving productivity, re-configuring production circuits from top to bottom and reducing the role of intermediaries in commercial relations, digital technology can undermine entire business sectors. There are various forecasts that assess the number of jobs that could be lost due to the fourth industrial revolution, from a few million to several tens of millions. Whatever uncertainties remain, these figures demand an active response in order to supplement digital innovation with social innovation, because the latter can mitigate the impact of the former on jobs.

This is where political and economic leaders must step in, to promote the adoption of business models that support job creation. What is important is not the technology in itself, but the more effective solutions that it can provide to the challenges encountered by cities. It is the duty of city Mayors, acting together with business leaders and civil society, to refocus digital technologies on their region’s priority needs, and in particular on employment and the reduction of inequalities, whenever necessary. Otherwise, “digital disruption” could well be accompanied by “social disruption”.

Digital technology provides cities with an opportunity to reinvent themselves. It makes large cities more attractive to investors, and thus better placed in the inter-urban competition. Nevertheless, while these economic and cultural changes take place, politicians must make inclusion a priority. They have a key role in managing the digital transition and introducing systems of governance to compensate for the failings of digital technology. For example, tender procedures launched by cities relating to smart cities should take more account of social criteria such as the net creation of jobs, training or apprenticeships. Selection of the lowest bidder, which still happens all too often, is incompatible with an ambitious social policy.

From economic leadership to social leadership

Thanks to digital technologies, information becomes knowledge, and knowledge becomes the power to act more and to be more useful: the power to improve the quality of urban services and to lower their costs, which makes them more affordable; the power to respond more rapidly and effectively when incidents occur, and thus to strengthen urban resilience; the power to better inform and better train; the power to increase the interactions among the population and reduce the phenomena of social marginalization… Digital technology is not opposed to inclusion, but does not automatically promote it; it is both the solution and the problem. Everything depends on the social support that is provided, on the policy choices made, and on the economic decisions taken. This is also how one can recognize cities and businesses that are leading the way, ahead of the rest: in their capacity to pursue ambitious social targets in a difficult competitive context.

Because just like cities, businesses cannot escape issues of solidarity. No business can prosper for long in a city that excludes. Businesses must also mobilize on the subject of inclusion, and many of them are making great efforts to do so. To contribute, within their capabilities, to respond to the urgent appeals received from the cities where they operate – even if doing so diverts them from their traditional activities – is one of the conditions of leadership.


Have you read the following WEF’s articles ?


Business Novelty in the Shared Economy

Business Novelty in the Shared Economy

An article of The Guardian  of July 12, 2015 by Shane Hickey elaborating on one particular business novelty in the shared economy goes on like this:

Driving across Norway to take part in a ski-jumping event, Knut Bjerke looked around his car and realised how much spare space he had.

“I thought about how much could be transported and would fit into these cars, saving the environment, reducing automotive and transport costs and ensuring rapid and precise deliveries,” said the Norwegian businessman. “As I thought more and more of this idea, I found many different scenarios which would benefit from such a service. Left keys, credit cards and passports – all things that could be easily brought on cars, vans, flights, trains and buses. But also, larger items which may be more cost effective to transport than with traditional services.” 

Read more at the address given above but in the meantime, BROOKINGS in a summary of an article  on the shared economy highlighted that it will inevitably become a major part of the global economy.  Here is BROOKINGS again highlighting what the shared economy is all about. 

Indeed, BROOKINGS TechTank published this below article authored by  Jack Karsten , Center Coordinator on Monday, January 9, 2017. 


Sharing economy offers flexibility and efficiency to consumers 


The rapid growth of the sharing economy has generated a great deal of interest in both the private and public sectors. A 2014 PwC report estimates that the sharing economy will grow to $335 billion in value by 2025, up from $14 billion in 2014. According to one definition, the sharing economy is “the peer-to-peer-based activity of obtaining, giving, or sharing the access to goods and services, coordinated through community-based online services”.[1] A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that 72 percent of survey respondents had used sharing economy services, although 73 percent were also unfamiliar with the term. In a new report, Center for Technology Innovation fellows Niam Yaraghi and Shamika Ravi compile the latest research on the sharing economy to identify its benefits to consumers and its potential regulatory issues.

Flexibility and efficiency

Using online platforms that match customers and suppliers, sharing economy services like Uber and Airbnb can achieve greater efficiency than traditional businesses. Cars and rooms can be used by their owners when not rented out, while taxis and hotel rooms often spend time empty while searching for their next customer. Many taxi drivers also work full time while an Uber driver can choose to work during times of periods of high demand to earn higher fares. Uber’s surge pricing mechanism raises fares in response to high demand to attract a greater supply of drivers. The sharing economy offers consumers the flexibility to access goods and services only for as long as they are needed.

Regulatory concerns

Sharing economy businesses have been criticized for ignoring regulations that govern traditional industries. Avoiding these regulations can yield substantial savings: an estimated 35 to 40 percent of operating costs for taxis comes from regulatory compliance. Taxis are often required to post how their fares are calculated, while Uber does not disclose its pricing algorithm. In addition, sharing economy businesses must combat bias on their platforms, both from their human buyers and sellers and in algorithms can reflect and amplify human biases. Using characteristics such as race and gender in online profiles these can impact pricing or lead to sellers rejecting customers. Omitting identifying information when unnecessary to complete a transaction can reduce discrimination in online platforms.

The global reach of Airbnb and Uber has also lead to concerns that these businesses will become monopolies. The online platforms built by these companies benefit from network effects, where a large number of customers attracts more suppliers and vice versa. Large platforms make it more difficult for new startups to compete, but the cost for customers or suppliers to switch between platforms or to traditional businesses remains low. The main switching cost for suppliers comes from building a reputation based on customer reviews on each platform.

To conclude their report, Ravi and Yaraghi make some recommendations to pave the way for the growth of the sharing economy. Much of its past growth stems from the trust built up between customers and suppliers, and sharing economy businesses can maintain this trust through self-regulation. One example of this would be for companies to share data with regulators. Imposing regulations that exist for traditional businesses would protect incumbents by raising barriers to entry for competitors. Furthermore, consumers should have control over how companies use their data. The sharing economy seems likely to grow with the level of trust between regulators, suppliers, customers, and businesses.

Read more on the shared economy and its connectivity requirements in a MENA-Forum previous article ‘Evolving into a Connected World Challenges‘.





7 Bold Predictions for the Connected Enterprise

7 Bold Predictions for the Connected Enterprise

Equinix Inc., a global interconnection and data centre company, has unveiled its 2017 predictive insights on its industry.  It is part of its 7 Bold Predictions for the Connected Enterprise and must be noted that the IT industry has already impacted our daily life and further development are seen to bring in more transformation that will trigger significant changes for several industries in this new year.

Equinox one company amongst those in the ICT industry has a spread across 40 global markets, and has key data-driven insights into the key drivers  that are pushing enterprises to succeed in the digital economy.

We reproduce the first 3 Equinix’s 2017 predictions that are part of :

Equinix’s 7 Bold Predictions for the Connected Enterprise in 2017

As things change quickly, we’re taking advantage of our special perspective at the center of it all to predict what you can expect in 7 Bold Predictions for the Connected Enterprise. We’ll be exploring these predictions in more detail in the coming days, but these previews will get us started … 

2017 Prediction #1: The Multi-Cloud Convergence Hits a Tipping Point

Enterprises are increasingly relying on cloud infrastructures, and a convergence of multi-cloud deployments is emerging as the way forward. The appeal of multi-cloud deployments is that they combine best-of-breed solutions and services from different cloud providers, while at the same time solving old, entrenched pain points like vendor lock-in, lack of flexibility and prohibitive costs (just to name a few). We predict that 2017 will be a tipping point for multi-cloud convergence, where multiple clouds across the enterprise – data, applications, infrastructure and personal clouds – will fundamentally change the way people and businesses operate.

 2017 Prediction #2: The Rise of the Digital Edge

The convergence of multiple clouds demands a natural extension of corporate boundaries for today’s digital business to where users and data reside. Those boundaries, where the physical and virtual worlds meet, is “the digital edge,” and in 2017, it will become a critically important place for the enterprise to grow and expand its market presence. It’s where companies manage real-time engagement with customers. It’s where SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) technologies engage together. And it’s where the on-demand insights enabled by the big data explosion will need to be enabled and managed. We also believe the geographically distributed expansion of data centers along the digital edge will be essential to handling it all.

2017 Prediction #3: The Interconnected Fabric Emerges

As more companies turn to multi-cloud deployments to support their business around the globe, they’ll face challenges managing solutions across different cloud environments from different vendors. A management structure will need to be in place early to avoid a situation where smaller operational issues quickly accumulate and cause bigger problems. In 2017, companies will do that by using carrier-neutral colocation facilities to deploy a system of interconnection nodes, an “interconnected fabric,” to create a sort of central nervous system that links and synchronizes their cloud environment. This will mark a shift to a more responsive, user-centric approach.

Read more on the original site of Equinix 

The World 2017’s Top Technology Trends

The World 2017’s Top Technology Trends

The Conversation produced this article that is a very commendable effort of Research Fellow, School of Creative Technologies, University of Portsmouth.  The author elaborates on the near future of all things robotic and The World 2017’s Top Technology Trends .  

We reproduce this brilliant piece for the benefit of all with our best wishes for a New and Prosperous Year for each and everyone.   


Why connecting all the world’s robots will drive 2017’s top technology trends

If you want to make predictions for the future, you need to find the trajectory of events in the past. So to work out what shape digital technology will likely take next year, we should look back to the major developments of 2016. And the past year’s developments point to a 2017 shaped by the next phase of virtual and augmented reality, the emergence of an internet for artificial intelligence and the creation of personalised digital assistants that follow us across devices.

Virtual world

One technology in particular has dominated the news throughout the year and made the birthday wish-lists of children and adults alike: virtual reality. VR began to bloom commercially in 2016 – with HTC, Oculus (owned by Facebook) and PlayStation all releasing their latest headsets. But 2017 will almost certainly be a pivotal year for VR, given its rather precarious position on the “hype cycle”.

This is a research methodology for predicting the commercial dominance of an emerging technology as it matures and goes through periods of increasing hype, sudden disillusionment and eventual success. Presently VR is on the precipice of the “peak of inflated expectations”, where the hype exceeds the reality and quality comes second to novelty.

In the hype cycle model, the peak of excitement is followed by an inevitable fall (the “trough of disillusionment”), as consumers realise the gap between what they expect and what they actually get. Here is where opinion is divided on VR. For some this will be a gentle dip, while for others the drop will be a portent to collapse.

The big question splitting these opinions is whether the consumer reaction to the VR games and applications currently being released will be the wrath of disillusionment or the mercy of patience. The more convincing assertion is that mobile phone-based VR platforms (with their greater ease of use, lower cost and wider range of games and applications) will help stabilise VR throughout 2017.

More than a gaming platform? Shutterstock

Augmented success

But stability is not the same as success. VR also has the problem that its consumer appeal is primarily recreational, limited largely to games and 360-degree videos. So far it has had relatively little impact on social or functional applications such as providing an interface for social media.

The same cannot be said for its more versatile but currently less well-known cousin, augmented reality. AR – which involves overlaying images of the real world with additional graphics or information – has enjoyed much success of late as a gaming platform, particularly thanks to the release of Pokémon Go.

Yet AR functionality already goes beyond games, and it is an ideal delivery mechanism for limitless forms of digital information. Concepts include heads-up displays attached to cyclists’ helmets that provide them with a 360-degree field of view and also alert them to potential dangers by tracking overtaking vehicles. But also applications such as visual overlays that can virtually redecorate your entire home without a single lick of paint.

The real future of AR however is in it’s potential to give us a new and improved means of accessing content and services we already cannot do without. As Microsoft’s HoloLens and Google Glass have alluded to, 2017 could see us using AR to check our emails, posting on Facebook and discovering the best route to our meeting place across town, with all content delivered straight to our eyes. Not a single aversion of our gaze or break in our stride required.

Current investment in the sector is prioritising advances in relevant underlying technologies such as depth-sensing camera lenses and physical environment mapping systems. This suggests that the industry is readying hardware to ensure these exciting ideas can materialise. It doesn’t mean that all ambitions of AR will be realised in 2017, but they are tantalising possibilities, depending on whether the underlying technology can make them a reality.

Intelligent connection. Shutterstock

Internet of Robots

The other area where we are likely to see some fascinating research developments moving into commercial applications is artificial intelligence and machine learning. And the application most likely to dominate 2017 is the Internet of Things, the connection of millions of ordinary devices, from cameras to kettles, to the internet.

The concept of the Internet of Things champions our seeming desire for constant connection, with the physical objects we use everyday all linked together in a glorious (or terrifying) chain. 2017 could be the year we’ll all be telling our telling our barista coffee machine at home to prepare us a chocolate fudge Café Cubano from five miles away, using a bespoke interface in our car as we’re driving home.

Or perhaps not. But this ethos of interconnectivity is already reaching the realm of artificial intelligence with Cloud Robotics. These systems allow robots that have been optimised for different tasks to work on specific problems individually, but to pass solutions between each other.

The robots use the cloud to share the data, enabling it to be analysed by any other robot or intelligence system also connected to the same network. One robot teaches something to another, who in turn develops it and passes it forward in a collaborative effort that could massively increase the learning potential and connectivity of machines.

Personal digital assistants

All of these trends comes together for our final 2017 prediction: the rise of humanised digital technology in the form of intelligent personal assistants. These are essentially human-emulating data hubs. They use advances in artificial intelligence to capture and interpret our data, the Internet of Things to operate everything around us, and the advances in augmented reality to project themselves convincingly into our mobile world.

This will provide a single, naturalistic interface between us and our digitally connected universe. It is the next iterative step for the likes of Siri, Cortana and Alexa: an intelligent assistant able to travel with us wherever we go, across every device we use, to assist us in nearly every aspect of our lives.




The insanity of Black Friday is upon us

The insanity of Black Friday is upon us

The insanity of Black Friday is upon us, but don’t succumb to the madness at the malls  tweeted many observers – and it’s only one day, I for one would not mind adding.  Newsweek Europe published this article about the introduction of the notion of Black Friday into the Middle East or rather into the countries of the Gulf part of the region.  The other regions are either undergoing traumatic upheavals of civil wars and / or internal political unrest and have no serious propensity or disposition of mind to indulge into acquiring at an exceptional bargain a desired product.  The varying levels of ICTs penetration into the countries of the Middle East play against all other countries other than those of the Gulf.  And within these latter countries, the diverse populations can also be differentiated through their response to the afore-said notion of Black Friday.     



Souq, the Amazon of the Middle East, aims to break its own records in third year of sales bonanza.

BY JACK MOORE ON 11/25/16 AT 10:12 AM

The dizzying array of discounts, department store frenzies and violent wrestling bouts over electronic goods that have come to define the American tradition of Black Friday have arrived in the Middle East—not in the shops, but online.

Souq, the largest e-commerce site in the Arab world launched a four-day online shopping bonanza known as ‘White Friday’ in 2014 and this year it began on Wednesday, seeing consumers from seven Arab countries vie for a bounty of luxury goods until Saturday. The site’s chief executive, Syrian entrepreneur Ronaldo Mouchawar, earned the company a billing as the ‘Amazon of the Middle East’ and prompted a host of other Middle Eastern retailers to follow suit.

White Friday takes an American tradition and turns it on its head. It seeks to resonate with the culture of the Middle East, where Thanksgiving is not celebrated, and Friday is a weekend day, reserved for the holy worship of millions of Muslims, both Sunni and Shia. While black can denote a sombre event (in the U.S., Black Friday actually refers to hoisting a business “back into the black”), the color white takes on a more positive meaning for Mouchawar and the team at Souq.

Mary Ghobrial, Chief Commercial Officer, SOUQ

Mary Ghobrial, Chief Commercial Officer, SOUQ

Mary Ghobrial, chief commercial officer of and Ronaldo Mouchawar, chief executive and co-founder of, two of the faces behind the Middle East’s White Friday sale.


“We wanted to own an event that was not really tied to thanksgiving as much but more tied to our Friday, our White, which is kind of positive and happy,” says Mouchawar, speaking to Newsweek from his Dubai office by Skype. “We launched it in 2014 and it was a massive success. Last year, we did about 600,000 units, and hopefully this year we go over a million.”

The scenes of mayhem witnessed in the West upon the opening of Black Friday sales across thousands of stores will not be reflected in the Middle East, but the feverish hunt for bargains online will be, in what is predicted to be a record year for the sales event. The event has grown year on year, Souq’s co-founder says, and this year they have expanded to three new countries, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, on top of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Read more on Newsweek .


Improving Data Collection for a better Welfare

Improving Data Collection for a better Welfare

A subject that is currently preoccupying all MENA’s oil exporting countries leadership is the subject of this article.  It is in fact about how to re-distribute the export revenues of the underground resources amongst their national populations.  Nobody throughout these countries, these days has any doubt that it should be done and to be undertaken only through improving data collection for a better welfare.

This article written by Aziz Atamanov and Nandini Krishnan was published on The World Bank website on May 10, 2016, is meant to follow on our previous ones about the on-going revolution of the ICTs that is presently affecting all countries, oil exporting and importing alike of the MENA. 

Improving data collection to improve welfare in the Middle East

Submitted by Aziz Atamanov On Wed, 10/05/2016

co-authors: Nandini Krishnan

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has witnessed a surge of conflict and economic uncertainty and, while the causes of conflict vary, there is no ambiguity about the negative impact it has on people’s wellbeing. Today, the region is both the world’s largest host for displaced populations and the single largest source of forcibly displaced people. As a result, for us the development challenge has broadened beyond issues of governance, accountability, youth unemployment, and job creation, to humanitarian aid, post-conflict reconstruction, and targeted help for a range of vulnerable groups—all set within a difficult security and political environment. In such a context as this, developing countries in the MENA region will face a huge challenge meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The data challenge Timely, accessible, good quality data is key to measuring and tracking poverty and other SDG indicators. And monitoring progress in poverty reduction starts with collecting household consumption survey data. MENA’s 13 developing countries have been making progress on this front since 2000—in the 1990s, one-third of them had not done a single survey but between 2006 and 2015, all collected data for at least one survey, and two-thirds collected data for at least two. Despite this, the availability of household surveys in MENA is far from ideal. MENA countries collected on average four surveys per year between 2006 and 2010, but this rate slowed to three per year between 2011 and 2015. To the best of our knowledge, only three countries of 13 considered had two comparable surveys after 2009. And in the Mashreq region (Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria and Iraq), where conflict and displacement have been particularly acute, no poverty estimates using household surveys have been released since 2012.  Thus, the region is at risk of data deprivation.


The lack of recent data is the reason why estimates of extreme poverty have not been produced by the World Bank for MENA since 2010, and why they are not included in the “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016” flagship report. Access to survey data is another problem: Only one-sixth of the surveys from 2006–15 contained data needed to measure poverty and were freely available to the public for downloading. Turmoil has also diverted resources from data collection. Official sensitivity to numbers about poverty has reduced accessibility, as has concerns over confidentiality. At the same time, though, national statistics agencies recognize the need for data to inform policy, particularly during these tumultuous times.

Gathering to troubleshoot

Participants from national statistics’ offices discussed the challenges involved in collecting micro-data

Participants from national statistics’ offices discussed the challenges involved in collecting micro-data

To stimulate peer-to-peer learning both outside the region and in it, the Bank’s MENA Team for Statistical Development organized a regional conference at the Centre for Mediterranean Integration in France. Keynote speakers and high-level participants from national statistics’ offices across MENA discussed the challenges involved in collecting and sharing micro-data for monitoring welfare, and for evidence-based policy making. Speakers from Mexico and Indonesia shared their experience of systems for micro-data collection, data access, and linking systems to policy making. They emphasized the importance of informing policy by creating a loop connecting frequent, high-quality data, to rich public feedback.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) is an example of this as it shares most of the micro-data it collects on its website. Its president, Ola Awad, said the main goal of statistics bureaus was to produce data and disseminate it: Any responsibility for its misuse lay with users and was anyway rare. The Bank has used Palestinian household budget surveys and a census to construct a detailed poverty map of the territory, drawing links between various barriers and constraints to growth and investment. Najla Ali Murad, the Director of Iraq’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, showed how Iraq was turning to new technology and data collection methods during a time of crisis. Iraq’s statistical offices, supported by the Bank, collected high-quality household budget surveys for 2006 and 2011—they are available on the Bank’s website. The 2011 data helped the Government of Iraq assess the implications of the crises Iraq faced in 2014 on poverty. The Bank itself has advanced tools that may be able to help countries collect new information, and may be able to measure wellbeing in fragile and conflict-affected areas. These include the use of satellite images when census data is either not available or outdated; using small-area estimation techniques for poverty maps; and using the Survey of Well-being via Instant and Frequent Tracking to collect household income and expenditure data in a cost-effective, user-friendly way. The ways countries can benefit from tools to help statistics agencies anonymize, document, and disseminate their data were discussed. Many countries in the region share problems in common, including the widely held perception that national statistics agencies need only publish indicators rather than share microdata. Collecting meaningful data and putting it to good use is a critical step for countries—in MENA and around the world—to identify and manage the many challenges their people face.




Mobile World Live  has undertaken in partnership with Mahindra ComViva an interesting report titled the Business of tomorrows.  It deals with all future developments in the ICT world.  Some excerpts of  the report are reproduced here.



The Business of Tomorrows report gives us an insight into how operators around the globe see the future of their companies, and what impact current and emerging technologies will have on the wider telecoms ecosystem.

This in-depth report quizzed large operators across the world on some of the biggest issues facing their businesses today. The idea was to garner a perspective on what ails today’s operators and what measures they are likely to take to resolve those issues.

The report is split into six of the market’s most important segments; Overall Industry Landscape, Mobile Payments, 5G networks, Content, Customer Analytics and Mobile Broadband.

We found that the results highlighted a wide range of opinions from operators on the impact and development these technologies and services will have on both the enterprise side, as well as the end consumer.

. . . . Biggest priorities

Customer experience management (CEM) ranked as the highest priority for operators going forward, with 27 per cent of respondents putting this ahead of other key metrics like big data, cloud computing, network function virtualisation and BSS/OSS transformation.

From Comviva’s experience, it is clear that as mobile operators improve their systems to understand the pattern of customers, usage, network quality, and how their businesses are performing against competitors, it becomes ever more essential to match real time data collection with customer experience.

Big data followed in close second as a top priority. Indeed, we have found, that, as technology evolves and new sources of data are uncovered, service providers are seeing an unprecedented rise in volume, variety and velocity of information due to the rollout of next generation mobile networks, increased use of smartphones and the rise of social media.

With a quarter (25 per cent) of survey respondents placing big data as a top priority, it suggests operators are keen to step up their efforts and investment in this area, with strategies now imperative for all to increase market share, as well as drive external revenue streams.

. . . While 5G standards are yet to be defined, there is a growing consensus around what the next generation of mobile networks will bring to the industry.

Delivering faster mobile broadband speeds from today’s 4G LTE technology will only be one element to 5G, with the network also expected to act as a catalyst for a wide range of services, both on the enterprise and consumer side.

In addition to improved spectral efficiency, lower energy consumption, better battery life and security, 5G is also expected to fuel the Internet of Things (IoT), drive possibilities in advanced virtual reality and connected cars, as well as better enable data intensive applications.

. . . 75% of respondents believe IoT will drive growth in the internet sector.

IoT is no doubt considered a huge opportunity, with respondents hailing it as the prevailing digital service to generate incremental revenue rises, and the reason why 5G will be a game changer for future business opportunities.

A Youtube rendering of the report is embedded below.

Global Information and Communication Technologies Revolution

Global Information and Communication Technologies Revolution

In Algeria like elsewhere, the Global Information and Communication Technologies Revolution (ICTs) are a set of technologies used to process, edit and share information as well as transport, store it.  This would definitely have implications on the political governance, business management and administrations.  It also has an impact on our new lifestyle referring to the knowledge and innovation sectors.  We, as politicians, entrepreneurs and / or citizens of today all live in a plural and immediate communication society that compels us to make decisions in real time.  Control of time would be the main challenge of the 21st century and any inadequacies in these mutations might isolate still more this country.

The new information system; a global revolution ?

The birth of new ICTs is notably due to the convergence of computing, telecommunications and audio-visual technologies.  The development of broadband Internet, the democratization of the computer and new technologies stem basically from a decrease of the rates proposed by suppliers and by an ever increasing demand.  The boom of the blogs and email gives all ICTs an increasingly wider presence in our society.  This interaction of electronics and Informatics explains ICT applications to be able to meet the needs of both business and Government; households and individuals alike.

Now subject to the same laws of the market like any other activity in market production, the ICTs are, in addition, a sector where competition is played directly on a global scale.  The globalization of businesses, markets and finance channels has not only involved a reshaping of the economic structures and exchange flow, it has also led to the professionalization of the communication and information sectors, as well as to a more integration of the phases of design, creation and consumption of the products along with the merger of formerly separate or even opposed activities.

More than just an opening to the general public , the ICT are revolutionizing the internal organisation of the enterprise, in its management so-called ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software to manage different tasks such as inventory or cash, collaborative work is simplified through the use of the Intranet and messaging, the ‘wireless’ system or ‘Paperless office’ maintains a permalink with employees on the go just like the video conference; all this generates a better sharing as well as better internal information flow.  Thus, the world has become a large glass house, granted against totalitarian regimes insofar as the information is no longer the fourth power but the power by itself.

Today, the infrastructure of the Internet is spreading around the world to create a broad global network and thanks to computers that can now digitise all information and manage new systems.  The integration of telecommunications, computing and audio-visual technologies gave rise to the Digital Society which is the subject of special attention on behalf of all States and international organizations.  For more than a decade, this interest increased because of all socio-economic and cultural benefits of the ITCs :  indeed, the ‘Digital divide’ transcends the geographical enclosures and goes through all human societies.  The new means of communication facilitate the exchange and dissemination of knowledge.

So, these new ITCs are deeply changing the daily lives of citizens, the functioning of enterprises, and of the State.  That means new mental and social representations.  This is most obvious in the mass-media (TV, DVD, GPS, Music, etc…) on cell phones.  On a macro level, new processes implemented through ICT have consequences on the analysis of the value of goods and services, throughout their life cycle that tend to be shortened whilst affecting productivity gains and growth related to the introduction of ICTs.  These also influence all scientific and technical R&D and indirectly allow new discoveries that have in turn a macroeconomic effect.

Finally, ICTs do impact in many other areas such as recreation, culture, health, time management, and all behaviour in society.  The advent of the Internet and its tremendous development in a few years has practically put on notice the enterprise – of any importance whatsoever – to both adapt and make the most sensible and productive use. Competitiveness, forcing it to get or give information in real time, the enterprise will indeed invest the web and use electronics to face competition and develop its activities further.  In a few years of ICTs presence, these have helped organizational models of work to gain characteristics that are decentralization and flexibility.

The phenomenon of relocation of employment is largely due to the research of gains in productivity as well as certain possibilities that offered by ICT to companies, particularly those that are large :  interactive TV, teleprocessing and maintenance are now a reality of every day.


Algeria and the challenges of globalization of the information society

In recent years, the ICT industries contributed a great deal to the growth of the economy and remain an important sector in trade at the global level as well as for the development of intra companies’ trade.  In Algeria, the 4G was recently installed with some delay despite the 3G largely outdated and the existing skills.  Every day, new technological advances increasingly make obsolete any previous progress.  Hence the issues – in terms of opportunities but also risks of marginalization of this country – posed by ICT or lack of it for growth and social development.

This delay is partly due to a problem of mentalities and negative attitudes that hinder innovative and very interesting projects that are proposed by experts.  The Internet connection being too slow, Algeria has failed to catch up this year in ICT world; on the contrary, it lost ground in its ranking by the World Economic Forum on the development of these technologies.  Algeria however got three small notches up as per the WEF report 2016, from the 120th to 117th out of 139 countries.  It is not even among the top ten African countries due to the prevailing environment and its current use of ICT below world standards.

Between 2010/2015, Algeria went from the 114th place in the global ranking of 167 countries in the development of ICT index according to the report of January 2016 of the ITU.  And according to the more detailed Global Information Technology Report 2013 on 144 countries, the NRI index calculating the ability of a country to exploit fully the ICT in terms respectively of ICT, the cost of access and availability of skills needed for optimal use, the use of ICT by Governments and the business community, the economic context and the climate for innovation infrastructure in the policy and regulatory framework, and the economic and social impact of ICTs, Algeria displays a low leverage of ICTs, with a worldwide economic impact (143rd place in the world for this criterion).

The poor (119th) ICT infrastructure, combined with a low skills base (101st), translate into a very low usage of ICT (140th) levels, finishing respectively in 100th place on the basis of the criterion of the individual use of ICT, ranked 144th in business, and 139th in institutional and Government with serious deficiencies in the regulatory framework (141st) shortcomings in Environmental Affairs and innovation (143rd).  An Algerian study shows that only 15% of the country’s SMEs on the identified 321,000 use ICT in their activities according to the National Agency for Development of SMEs (ANDPME).

In summary, Algeria is in need of a strategy so as to adapt itself to the new world that with the advent of the fourth economic revolution will be based on digital technology, and environmental industries with an energy Mix between 2020 and 2030.  It is a matter of national security provided that it quickly adopts a strategy of passage from a rentier economy, through deep structural reforms, currently suffering from a crisis of governance and not of a financial crisis to that of realistically balanced economy.

Without deep structural reforms, whilst assuming a minimal political and social consensus, a visibility and coherence in the approach of the reforms, miracles are not to be expected.  The more these are deferred, the more the reserves of foreign exchange will be depleted and this crisis of governance might risk to go into financial, economic and political crises with the risk of regional destabilisation.

Written by Dr. Abderrahmane Mebtoul, University Professor, International Expert,

Translation from French by Microsoft / FaroL


NB – Dr Abderrahmane MEBTOUL, son of a National Liberation activist, former emigrant whose primary and secondary studies, a fraction of universities studies were in Lille, France has a PhD in Economics (1974), Accounting Expert from the Institute of Management of Lille (1973).  Dr A. Mebtoul is a member of several international organizations, and author of more than 20 books and more than 500 national and international conferences

  • A. Mebtoul has been an administration officer at the Road of African Unity – (1972/1973)
  • Director of Studies in the Department of Energy/SONATRACH 1974/1979-1990 / 1995 – 2000 / 2006
  • A former magistrate – first Adviser – Director of economic studies at the Court des Comptes (1980/1983)
  • President of the Privatisation Program Council, with the rank of Minister delegate – (1996/1999)
  • Director in the Office of Sacurity – DGSN – (1997/1998)
  • Expert economic and social Council 1995 2007
  • Expert at the office of the President 2007/2008 – with independent Expert the Prime Minister (from January 2013 to date) who headed several important s records on behalf of successive Algerian Governments from 1974 to 2016
  • Independent Expert since November 10, 2016, for economic issues directly to the Secretary General of the ruling FLN party and the Presidency of the Republic.


Evolving into a Connected World Challenges

Evolving into a Connected World Challenges magazine has published this piece of reflexion on the amazing progress of technology of information sharing and processing generally. Evolving into a connected world challenges is an article on the prospective vision of our daily life in year 2020 and beyond but also a retrospective review of past revolutions in the technological world.  It is based on a report of a recent Euromonitor.  Professor Khalid Al Begain elaborates in the second article for a better grasp of the workings of such changes.  Here are 2 articles on the latest happenings.

Meanwhile, “The southern Mediterranean Governments should subsidize connectivity instead of subsidizing energy”, said Professor Adel Ben Yousef at the inaugural meeting of the economic week in the Mediterranean, the 10th SEM on November 2 through 4th at the Villa Mediterranée in Marseille.   Read more in French on its programme here.

Humans 2.0: Evolving into a connected world

November 2nd, 2016

  •  Almost half of the global population will be using the internet by 2020
  •  People are connecting through different devices such as smartphones, automobiles and fridges
  •  Society is on the brink of a new technological revolution, dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The number of Internet users has doubled during the past seven years, reaching 3.2 billion users globally in 2016, According to a recent report published by Euromonitor International.

According to the findings of the 2016 Digital Consumer Index, the figure accounts for an estimated 43 per cent of the global population. In 2020, 49 per cent of the global population is expected to be connected to the Internet.

The connectivity of such a vast percentage of the global population has created a fundamental shift in almost all industries, especially commerce. Today’s consumers browse and buy products and services in a different manner: online.

While developed nations lead in terms of Internet access through fixed broadband connections at home, digital connectivity among emerging markets has been driven by mobile, given the cheaper network investment and falling prices of mobile devices.

China, ranked 12th, and the UAE, ranked 17th, lead emerging markets on the Digital Consumer Index.

In developed markets, as of 2016, 79 per cent of consumers use the Internet, compared with 36 per cent in emerging markets. According to the findings, this gap is expected to narrow by 2020 as the number of Internet users in emerging markets is expected to grow vastly, expanding four times faster than that of developed markets.

Moreover, today’s consumers expect brands to interact with them before, during and after they make a purchase.

Connect through your fridge!

Connectivity is no longer limited to certain devices, as today’s consumers are connected through almost anything – a computer, a Smartphone, a Smartwatch, or even a fridge or an automobile.

Given the variety of media enabling connectivity, consumer behaviour changes across the way they live, play, work and shop.

A new way to do business

Catering to the new consumer behaviours across the globe, brands are changing how they do business, allowing new ways of engaging and conducting commerce.

The new model also allows firms operating through their own, unique formulas to prosper – one of the major aspects of disruption, such as the shared economy, given the likes of Uber and Airbnb, and other subscription-based services, such as Netflix.



Fourth Industrial Revolution

According to the experts, society is on the brink of yet another technological revolution, dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Below is a quick look at the three previous revolutions the world has witnessed:

  • First Industrial Revolution: Leveraged water and steam for manufacturing in the 1700s.
  • Second Industrial Revolution: Electrically powered production machines to introduce mass production in the 1900s.
  • Third Industrial Revolution: Used electronics and information technology to automate production in the 1970s.
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution illustrates the fusion of technologies and the physical, digital and biological spheres, creating new horizons for humanity. Breakthroughs such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and self-driving cars are new advances under the Fourth Industrial Revolution umbrella.


The Challenges of a Connected World

Professor Khalid Al Begain of the University of South Wales asks how mobile technology of the future will affect our lives.

Connectivity and information access is evolving. In the space of just four decades, our needs have evolved from basic connectivity for e-mail and document sharing, to the Internet revolution and finally the introduction of social media. But where are we going next?

In parallel, mobile networking and mobile connectivity have experienced unprecedented development. From the start of mobile telephony in 1990s with the introduction of GSM (2G mobile networks) followed by data capabilities through technology enhancements including General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) in 1997 for low rate access (around 50Kbps), 3G technology in 2001, High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) in 2010 and currently Long Term Evolution Technology (LTE) (promising 50Mbps) that has been advertised as 4G mobile technology although it does not yet meet the technical specification of 4G according to the technical standards.

In the coming years, research and development will turn to 5G technologies with keywords being mobile broadband; sensors; automation; Open Data; Big Data; Information Explosion; Security and Privacy.

Mobile broadband will become the enabler for a wide range of services such as mobile TV and video sharing on the fly. LTE network deployment will reach 60% in the world in 2018, and mobile users will reach 7 billion. New technologies such as LTE Advance, Voice and Video over LTE and mobile video conferencing will become available to enable new creative services and applications.

People connectivity will be overtaken in the coming few years by sensor connectivity. It is predicted that over 50 billion sensors will be connected to the Internet in 2020 (equating to 6 devices per person) creating what is called “The Internet of Things” and paving the way for the realisation of  Smart Cities and Smart Communities.  Ambient sensing and automation will become global phenomena.

As a result, according to Cisco, it is predicted that

The data traffic will grow 12 fold between 2013 and 2018.

By 2016 3 zettabytes of data will whiz around the world’s wires (372 exabytes in 2011).

Video downloads are expected to increase five-fold between 2013 and 2016.

Digital television uptake will surge from 694 million subscribers last year to 3 billion in 2016.

Peer-to-peer traffic volumes will rise, from 4.6 exabytes a month to 10 exabytes by 2016.

Storing and making sense of this data will create new challenges. This has evolved into the new concept of “Big Data”: datasets so large that it is difficult to capture, store, manage, share, analyze and visualize with typical software tools.

Knowledge extraction will be the next revolution namely the “Knowledge Revolution” but it won’t be straightforward. The collected data is incomplete and as such it may provide intuitive knowledge in contrast to traditional algorithms as not everything can be abstracted into data for computers to act upon. In the future, service delivery will be based on massive abstractions and virtualization technologies.  In addition, this “Big Data” will not be “Open Data”. It can be owned by many different authorities and organisations.

A large portion of this data will be personal which raises questions regarding privacy and security. Who can store personal data and in what format? How can we ensure it is securely stored and shared? How can we make sense of data without violating personal freedom? How can we stop malicious and criminal use? These are questions that will have to be considered together with the technological research and development.

On a final note, cyber security will be important in the design of any future system. Innovation and creativity will become one of the most important Intellectual Property assets targeted by criminals. One major UK company hosting significant government and other data have to deal with over 80 million individual security attacks per day. This is an example of the growing challenges we will face in the future.

Language as a Communication Tool for all Sciences

Language as a Communication Tool for all Sciences

Further to our article on Which languages do most people want to learn?, we propose here to dwell on the preoccupying issue of the Language as a Communication Tool for all Sciences between individuals as well as between communities and countries at the dawn of the Fourth Revolution, which today, all mass media worldwide refers to as the ‘Digital Revolution’ or the ‘Knowledge Revolution’.  

Languages in Facebook

In fact, the Fourth Revolution for most relate to the technological advances of cheap long distance, interactive communications, predicting that because of the current development of the technology, the reel revolution is deemed to happen, because it fundamentally increases the collective cognitive capability of humankind in a manner never possible before.

We propose the reading of a brilliant article written by Cedric Villani, a French academic under the title of “LA LANGUE DE CHEZ NOUS”.  We took the initiative of translating some of the first paragraphs for the subject’s historical background setting out.  We shall endeavour to bring in more of the same for the subject is an on-going as we speak topic and would most probably remain so with us in the foreseeable future. 

This article dated back to February 2016 gives out also an idea of the current resentment perceived here and there towards the technological related ever increasing use of the English language. 

The MENA region which is in our view itself, between the Anglo and Francophone worlds in its day to day relations with the world share in the same preoccupations. 


A global language for science?

In 2013, the American geologist Scott Montgomery published a book entitled “Does Science need a Global Language?

After over 200 pages of discussion, Montgomery answered YES… a fairly natural response: global business, science works according to global exchanges, and research articles should be accessible to all.

But as one might expect, the debate is more subtle, and the book was not all completely devoted to the question: it dealt with, more generally, of the delicate subject of the language of science communication and all that this implies.  Because «language is power.

Let us put the discussion back in a historical context. Simplifying by big strokes, we can say that the language of science was first Greek; then Arabic; then Latin.  The rediscovery of Greek authors, translated from Arabic into Latin, was a considerable upheaval in Europe in the 13th century…

During the Renaissance, Latin has established itself as the language of international scientific exchanges, for several centuries — Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Euler will publish most of their major works in Latin.  In parallel, the scientific writings in common languages multiply; so Galileo wrote his scientific-polemics works in Italian ”Il saggiatore and Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo”, or as Euler writes in French his “Letters to a young German Princess”.  The first scientific journals appear in Paris and in London in the 17th century, and are published in the language of the country.

When Latin goes out of fashion, common languages take off.  For mathematicians, differential geometry perhaps best symbolizes this evolution: If Gauss publishes his famous “Theorema Egregium” of 1827 in Latin; it’s in German that his student Riemann posed, a quarter century later, the foundations of a general theory of non-Euclidean geometry.

However, it was not question to use all common languages; the multiplication of language barriers would have hindered the flow of ideas. On the other hand, as the European academics were all, at this time, more or less multilingual, it wasn’t a matter of letting several languages co-exist.  In the 19th century, three languages therefore got cleared: French, German and English – and, to a lesser extent, Italian.  Thus, Einstein published in 1905, his famous articles in German in “Annalen der Physik”, the most important journal of Physics of the time.  In fact, German was the dominant language in physics and chemistry, while French had the leadership in mathematics.

Came then the world wars!  Provisional annihilation of French and German Science at the end of the first world war; boycott of German scientists; rise of a generation of American scientists who wanted to publish in their own language; propulsion of American universities to the top global ranks, with the help of an economic boom and the massive immigration of European scientists…  All this made English establish itself as the dominant language as much in science as in world culture.  Beyond simple communication, linguistic domination was also a source of power and income in a world where the handling of knowledge became an economic issue.  Two other notable scientific languages of the 20th century, Russian and Japanese, remained rather confined to their respective spheres of influence, and got finally erased also.

Symbol of this evolution: in 1924, Einstein still took the trouble to translate the work of Bose from English into German; twenty years later, no one was thinking anymore of doing the same.  Another symbol: in the interwar years, Torsten Carleman, the greatest Swedish mathematician of his time, published in French, in German or (more rarely) in English; nowadays, his brilliant Nordic successors publish exclusively in English.  As for “Annalen der Physik”, it became a 100% Anglophone review, except for its title!

In search of the universal language of mathematicians

Where is the mathematics in this context? Without claiming to be a detailed study, we can find a reflection of the problem by studying the actions of the International Congress of mathematicians.