For many publishers in the Middle East region, Nabd – the largest personalized Arabic news aggregator – has become the number one source of referrals to their portals, exceeding Social Media networks, as a traffic source.
“In BBC Arabic, we consider our partnership with Nabd to be the most valuable and important of all our digital partnerships. This reflects the growing importance of news aggregators and the position of Nabd as a market leader. Our partnership with Nabd has enabled us to widen our reach and gain a new perspective of our audience needs”, says Mohamed Yehia, Head of daily output at BBC.
In its efforts to support its partners, the local, regional and international publishers, Nabd has launched a dedicated portal for publishers, enabling them to obtain and analyze detailed insights about their content, engagement, and users in Nabd.
“NABD is one of the top sources of traffic for RT Arabic. During the last 3 months NABD replaced Twitter as the second-best source of traffic from social media to the website”, says Maya Manna, Editor-in-Chief at RT Arabic.
Today, Nabd is considered by over 1,000 premium Arabic publishers, as a corner stone in their content distribution strategy, since it enables them to reach and tap into a massive audience, and continuously engage with them.
“We extremely value and enjoy our strategic partnerships with publisher partners. Such partnerships have empowered us to achieve our mission of supporting quality journalism in our region, and delivering relevant premium Arabic content for the Arabic audience globally”, says Mazen Singer, Chief Strategy Officer at Nabd.
Nabd is a Personalized Arabic Content Reader, enabling Arab users across the globe to stay up-to-date with their favorite topics on the go. Today, Nabd reaches over 20 million users, generating over 1.6 billion page views every quarter, making it the biggest Arabic app globally. It is currently available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
The UK Labour Party is promising to provide free broadband internet to every British household by 2030 if it wins the 2019 election. To do this, the party would nationalise the broadband infrastructure business of BT and tax internet giants like Google and Facebook. Whatever you think of this plan, it at least reflects that the internet has become not only an essential utility for conducting daily life, but also crucial for exercising our political rights.
In fact, I recently published research that shows why internet access should be considered a human right and a universal entitlement. And for that reason, it ought to be provided free to those who can’t afford it, not just in the UK, but around the world.
Internet access is today necessary for leading a minimally decent life, which doesn’t just mean survival but rather includes political rights that allow us to influence the rules that shape our lives and hold authorities accountable. That is why rights such as free speech, free association, and free information are among the central rights included in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And, crucially, everyone needs to have roughly equal opportunities to exercise their political rights.
Before the internet, most people in democracies had roughly equal opportunities to exercise their political rights. They could vote, write to newspapers or their political representative, attend public meetings and join organisations.
But when some people gained internet access, their opportunities to exercise political rights became much greater compared to those without the internet. They could publish their views online for potentially millions of people to see, join forces with other people without having to physically attend regular meetings, and obtain a wealth of previously inaccessible political information.
Today, a large proportion of our political debates take place online, so in some ways our political rights can only be exercised via the internet. This means internet access is required for people to have roughly equal opportunities to make use of their political freedoms, and why we should recognise internet access as a human right.
As a human right, internet access should be “free” in two ways. First, it should be unmonitored, uncensored, and uninterrupted – as the UN’s General Assembly has demanded in a non-binding resolution in 2016. Second, governments should guarantee a minimally decent infrastructure that is available to all citizens no matter how much money they have. This means funding for internet access should be part of minimum welfare benefits, provided without charge to those who can’t afford to pay for it, just like legal counsel. (This is already the case in Germany.)
A political goal
In developing countries, digital infrastructure reaching everyone might be too expensive to guarantee immediately. But with the required technology becoming cheaper (more people on the planet have access to a web-capable phone than have access to clean water and a toilet), universal access could first be guaranteed via free wifi in public places. Supply can start off in a basic way and grow over time.
Should everyone in Britain have free broadband in their homes? There are many good reasons to provide the best possible internet access to everyone, such as increasing economic productivity, sharing prosperity more evenly across the country, or promoting opportunities for social engagement and civic participation. And, as such, free broadband for all may be a worthy political goal.
But what is most important is ensuring that everyone has the kind of internet access required for roughly equal opportunities to use their political freedoms. Guaranteed internet access should be considered a human right in our virtual world, whoever ultimately pays the bills.
Mark Anthony Karam in an October 21, 2019, article that is a response to his “Does micro-mobility have a place in the GCC?” elaborates on possibilities of moving around obviously the plush urban centres of the GCC. But only during certain times of the year unless a personalised Air Conditioning apparatus is provided with the ‘cyacle’. The image above is credit to The National.ae .
With the rest of the world continues to see the micro-mobility sector enjoy growing success, could we see a similar success in the GCC?
Micro mobility was an ideal solution to the last-mile issue in countries like China or the US
The GCC might not be as ideal for a replicated success
There are several factors today that pose obstacles impeding its growth
Micro mobility, which involves light-weighted means of transportation like electric scooters and bikes for short trips, usually in urban areas, has continued to grow internationally. Countries like China, the United States and many EU nations are finding great success with this novel sector, which builds on many of the concepts of the sharing economy that innovators like Uber brought into the mainstream.
Lime and Bird, US rivals in the sector, reached unicorn status in a handful of years each since their founding. One of the reasons for their sudden success is that they solved the long-standing last-mile issue, capitalizing on a neglected market gap.
The GCC goes mobile Today in the GCC, some are attempting to solve this last-mile problem as well. Earlier this year, Careem announced that it had acquired Abu Dhabi bikeshare startup Cyacle, which would add a micro-mobility offering to their services. Launched in December 2014, Cyacle is a fully-automated docked bike-share service currently operating in Abu Dhabi. Stations run 24-hours a day via an app, a touch screen kiosk and docking system that releases bikes using a ride code or a member key.
At the time, Careem had also announced that it was partnering with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to install 350 bike docking stations across the Emirates, where citizens would have access to 3,500 bicycles to bike share.
Another firm, Dubai-based Arnab Mobility, is also providing a similar service.
“Global cities are currently trying to find solutions to the global warming problems mainly caused by fossil fuel vehicles,” Dr. Dheeraj Bhardwaj, Group CEO of Arnab Mobility, tells Gulf News. He ponders an age-old question: “Also, city inhabitants and visitors struggle with first/last mile transportation, congestion and expenses. How efficient is it for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person two to three miles? Conventional transportation systems are currently insufficient with people dealing daily with traffic, a lack of parking spaces, as well as long walks from bus stops and metro stations.”
Yet, while these solutions offer a service on par with international counterparts, it is important to remember the financial, cultural, and climate situation of the region.
Firstly, it is important to remember that the GCC region is known for its oil-derived wealth, with many nationals owning multiple vehicles and often employing personal drivers to help family members commute. Secondly, travel distances for major outings are already quite short.
“With urbanization on the rise, the majority of trips people take fall within the category of micro-mobility and thus are prime candidates for bike and scooter usage. In the US, for instance, roughly 60% of all trips are 5 miles or less,” CBinsights explains.
One of the reasons micro-mobility solutions are so attractive abroad is because of their perceived value for the service provided. Instead of paying a whopping fee for a taxi get you across 4 city blocks in New York, a US citizen would opt to rent a Lime scooter for a fraction of the cost. In the GCC, with its small-sized nations, large roads and affordable taxi services, this is not yet a problem. The countries in the region, save for Saudi Arabia, are sometimes comparable to entire Western cities in size. Bahrain, for example, has an area of 765.3 km², which is half the size of London (1,572 km²).
Therefore, from a financial and spatial perspective, micro-mobility services might struggle.
Then arises the issue of culture perceptions. While women have been driving for more than a year now in Saudi Arabia for example, breaking gender bias and perception is still an ongoing challenge. The country is certainly moving towards progress, but micro-mobility firms will have to consider this nonetheless. Also, consider that environmental awareness and consideration only just recently began to receive mass attention in the region in the past few years. Getting people to opt for bikes over a more convenient car ride will still prove a struggle.
Finally, and perhaps the most glaring of the issues plaguing micro-mobility companies in the region, is the climate and weather. The GCC is infamous for its scorching desert sun and sweltering heat. While public transportation like the Dubai metro or public buses offer some reprieve from the heat with their AC units, an e-scooter or bike doesn’t. When it’s 50 degrees Celsius outside and you need to just get home after a long day at work, a taxi or Uber, even for the higher fee, will prove the go-to choice. That remains the sector’s greatest obstacle. How it addresses it is still in question.
Mark Anthony Karam has 4 years of experience in the field of visual and written media, having earned his Masters degree from the UK. You can get in touch with him here: firstname.lastname@example.org
The latest political upheavals in certain countries of the MENA cannot separate from the recent developments and trends in social media usage across the region. In effect, whether it is those gigantic streets demonstrations of Algiers, Khartoum, and Cairo and more recently those in Bagdad, it is to be acknowledged that these have something to do with the ease and spread of information to and from any movement of their respective populations. Facebook, of course, with more than 150 million active monthly users would by any standard be first with online Egypt its biggest national market. Besides that, lots of Twitter users in MENA post original content and YouTube channels together with Facebook are turned to for first-hand news, debates and any other information on all those on-going and immediate situations. In response to all that, countries have quickly devised new social media and websites regulations with distinct objectives of monitoring.
The following article on the same social media as used in countries of the GCC is illustrative on the specifics of that sub-region of the MENA’s.
Social media has continuously evolved and adapted to how users use it by presenting new methods and platforms to take advantage of its service. Apart from personal use, social media is a boon for businesses seeking identification, recognition and a broader reach. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) aims to enhance the social media experience through a variety of tools to target the right audience. In effect, AI is facilitating this journey for businesses by developing a better user experience on social media platforms.
Automation and chatbots
Businesses can no longer afford to overlook the added value and service that chatbots offer in regard to automated responses and replies as a form of a feedback mechanism. Customers today have a plethora of options when it comes to choosing a product or service, and the longer a business’s response time is, the less the chance of a conversion. Thanks to auto-responders, more deals are being closed and locked down without any human interaction than ever before, effectively selling your products or services while you are asleep.
VR and AR adoption
More than 50 per cent of investments in Silicon Valley are currently related to virtual reality (VR), which is a clear indication of its impact and importance, especially when considering its fast integration with social media as a means for further exploring the realm of communication. Alongside it is augmented reality, which has helped businesses offer a real-time view of their product, service or experience, with the sector poised for maximum benefits from AR and VR being leisure and entertainment.
It is all about engagement
According to a 2017 survey, Instagram was rated as the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing, with the platform contributing to higher levels of anxiety and depression. Experts say that public display of likes has some significant negative impacts. In response, Instagram will no longer publicly display the number of likes in an experiment that will alter how the platform is used, especially regarding influencers, whose main metric is the number of engagements. However, this will emphasise the importance of comments, elevating them as the primary source of a person’s or brand’s true influence.
There is a global standoff going on about who stores your data. At the close of June’s G20 summit in Japan, a number of developing countries refused to sign an international declaration on data flows – the so-called Osaka Track. Part of the reason why countries such as India, Indonesia and South Africa boycotted the declaration was because they had no opportunity to put their own interests about data into the document.
‘Digital colonialism’: why some countries want to take control of their people’s data from Big Tech
With 50 other signatories, the declaration still stands as a statement of future intent to negotiate further, but the boycott represents an ongoing struggle by some countries to assert their claim over the data generated by their own citizens.
Back in the dark ages of 2016, data was touted as the new oil. Although the metaphor was quickly debunked it’s still a helpful way to understand the global digital economy. Now, as international negotiations over data flows intensify, the oil comparison helps explain the economics of what’s called “data localisation” – the bid to keep citizens’ data within their own country.
Just as oil-producing nations pushed for oil refineries to add value to crude oil, so governments today want the world’s Big Tech companies to build data centres on their own soil. The cloud that powers much of the world’s tech industry is grounded in vast data centres located mainly around northern Europe and the US coasts. Yet, at the same time, US Big Tech companies are increasingly turning to markets in the global south for expansion as enormous numbers of young tech savvy populations come online.
Accusations of ‘digital imperialism’
Take, for example, the case of Facebook. While India is the country with the biggest amount of Facebook users, when you look at the location of Facebook’s 15 data centres, ten are in North America, four in Europe and one in Asia – in Singapore.
The economic argument for countries in the global south to host more data centres is that it would boost digital industrialisation by creating competitive advantages for local cloud companies, and develop links to other parts of the local IT sector.
Many countries have flirted with regulations on what sort of data should be stored locally. Some cover only certain sectors such as health data in Australia. Others, such as South Korea, require the consent of the person associated with the data for it to be transmitted overseas. France continues to pursue its own data centre infrastructure, dubbed “le cloud souverain”, despite the closure of some of the businesses initially behind the idea. The most comprehensive laws are in China and Russia, which mandate localisation across multiple sectors for many kinds of personal data.
Countries such as India and Indonesia with their massive and growing online populations arguably have the most to gain economically from such regulations as they currently receive the least data infrastructure investment from the tech giants relative to the number of users.
The economics aren’t clear cut
Supporters of data localisation cite developing countries’ structural dependency on foreign-owned digital infrastructure and an unfair share of the industry’s economic benefits. They dream of using data localisation to force tech companies into becoming permanent entities on home soil to eventually increase the amount of taxes they can impose on them.
Detractors point to the high business costs of local servers, not just for the tech giants, but also for the very digital start ups that governments say they want to encourage. They say localisation regulations interfere with global innovation, are difficult to enforce, and ignore the technical requirements of data centres: proximity to the internet’s “backbone” of fibre optic cables, a stable supply of electricity, and low temperature air or water for cooling the giant servers.
Attempts to measure the economic impact of localisation are extremely partisan. The most cited study from 2014 uses an opaque methodology and was produced by the European Centre for International Political Economy, a free trade think-tank based in Brussels, some of whose funding comes from unknown multinational businesses. Not surprisingly, it finds gross losses for countries considering localisation. Yet, a 2018 study commissioned by Facebook found that its data centre spending in the US had created tens of thousands of jobs, supported renewable energy investments and contributed US$5.8 billion to US GDP in just six years.
Like the equivalent arguments for and against free trade, taking a dogmatic position for or against the issue masks other complexities on the ground. The economic costs and benefits depend on the type of data stored, whether it’s a duplicate or the only copy, the level of government support for wider infrastructure subsidies, to name just a few factors.
India has been the most vocal supporter for localisation, promoting its own regulation as “a template for the developing world”, but it’s in a strong position to do so given the country’s relatively advanced digital industrialisation and technical manpower. Other emerging economies with large online populations, such as Indonesia, have vacillated on their localisation regulations under pressure from the US government which has threatened to pull preferential trade terms for other goods and services if they went ahead with restrictive regulations.
What governments do with the data
While the international economics of personal data may follow some of the same general dynamics as oil production, data is fundamentally different from oil because it does a double duty – providing not just monetary value to businesses, but also surveillance opportunities for governments. Some civil society activists I’ve met as part of my research in India and Indonesia told me they were sceptical of their own governments’ narratives about data colonialism, worrying instead about the increased access to sensitive personal information that localisation gives to governments.
It’s not just large corporations and states that have roles to play in this bid for “data sovereignty”. Tech developers may yet find ways to support the rights of individuals to control their own personal data with platforms such as databox, which gives each of us something akin to our own personal servers. These technologies are still in development, but projects are springing up – mostly around Europe – that not only give people greater control over their personal data, but aim to produce social value rather than profit. Such experiments may yet find a place in the developing world alongside what states and large corporations are doing.
The Middle East and Africa is poised for major IP
traffic growth, according to Cisco.
Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast predicts 4.8 billion Internet users to
be connected globally by 2022 – out of which 549 million will be living in the
Middle East and Africa.
“Cisco Connect: Say Hello to the Future” event on March 12, held at the
Atlantis The Palm resort at the end of Dubai’s iconic Palm Jumeirah, Cisco
celebrated 30 years of the World Wide Web by sharing insights from the VNI
Forecast to predict trends and behaviours evolving in the digital landscape in
the region and globally.
VNI Forecast predicts four key drivers of IP traffic growth in the MEA region
1. A 9% increase in the number of Internet users
number of people using the Internet will grow from 23% of the region’s
population in 2017 to 32%.
features high on the national agendas of most of the region’s countries. Cisco
estimates that the MEA region will have approximately 549 million Internet users
and account for the highest growth rate in IP traffic worldwide, with a 41%
increase from 2017.
2. An increasing number of connections
predicts there will be approximately 2.5 billion devices connected to the
network, equating to 1.4 networked devices per capita in MEA.
devices will drive 91% of regional Internet traffic by 2022. With projected
average mobile network connection speeds to grow by as much as 28%, smartphones
in particular are expected to make up 79% of Internet traffic in MEA, with 1.2 trillion
connected smartphones by 2022. Cisco anticipates the enhanced connectivity to
create new possibilities for AI and machine learning across industries and in
3. Faster broadband speeds
broadband connection speed is a key enabler for IP traffic growth, Cisco
predicts the speeds will increase more than two-fold, from 2017 to 2022.
it is expected that broadband speeds in MEA will increase from 7.8Mbps in 2017
to 20.2Mbps by 2022 – enabling businesses and individuals to operate with
greater speed and efficiency. As this speed continues to increase, large
downloads will go from taking hours to a matter of minutes and eventually,
4. More media-rich content and applications
terms of rich media, data-heavy files and videos are anticipated to make up 81%
of the MEA region’s IP traffic by 2022, up from 65% in 2017.
predicted 16% increase in media-rich Internet traffic can be partially
attributed to the rapid growth of OOT film, television and music streaming
services in MEA. As online gaming also continues to grow in popularity, Cisco
predicts that the region will experience a five-fold increase in Internet
gaming traffic from 2017, making up 1 percent of total IP traffic in MEA by
Commenting on Cisco’s VNI Forecast and the changes predicted to affect MEA,
Cisco Middle East and Africa vice president David Meads said: “It is
undeniable that the Internet is growing at an exponential rate. As governments
continue to invest in infrastructure, a faster and stronger Internet opens the
doors to unprecedented opportunities for individuals and industry alike.”
more. “Digitisation is a critical force for economic growth, so businesses
must adopt a mindset that is proactive, rather than reactive. DDoS attacks can
represent up to 25% of a country’s total Internet traffic while they are
occurring. By implementing the appropriate cyberdefence mechanisms,
organizations can protect themselves throughout the full attack continuum –
before, during and after an attack.”
Meads also added: “With nations such as the
UAE championing innovation, the Internet has, and continues to change our lives
in an infinite number of ways. Recognising the changes that are affecting MEA,
government, policymakers and service providers must continue to unite in their
efforts to create an accessible Internet that is available to the masses,
underpinned by a secure framework to aid sustainable growth.”
March 12, 2019, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the
“World Wide Web”, Tim Berners-Lee’s ground-breaking invention.
In just thirty years, this flagship
application of the Internet has forever changed our lives, our habits, our way
of thinking and seeing the world. Yet, this anniversary leaves a bittersweet
taste in our mouth: the initial decentralized and open version of the Web,
which was meant to allow users to connect with each other, has gradually
evolved to a very different version, centralized in the hands of giants who
capture our data and impose their standards.
We have poured our work, our hearts and a lot
of our lives out on the internet. For better or for worse. Beyond business uses
for Big Tech, our data has become an incredible resource for malicious actors,
who use this windfall to hack, steal and threaten. Citizens, small and large
companies, governments: online predators spare no one. This initial mine of
information and knowledge has provided fertile ground for dangerous abuse: hate
speech, cyber-bullying, manipulation of information or apology for terrorism –
all of them amplified, relayed and disseminated across borders.
control: between Scylla and Charybdis
Faced with these excesses, some countries
have decided to regain control over the Web and the Internet in general: by
filtering information and communications, controlling the flow of data, using
digital instruments for the sake of sovereignty and security. The outcome of
this approach is widespread censorship and surveillance. A major threat to our
values and our vision of society, this project of “cyber-sovereignty” is also
the antithesis of the initial purpose of the Web, which was built in a spirit
of openness and emancipation. Imposing cyber-borders and permanent supervision
would be fatal to the Web.
To avoid such an outcome, many democracies have
favored laissez-faire and minimal intervention, preserving the virtuous
circle of profit and innovation. Negative externalities remain, with
self-regulation as the only barrier. But laissez-faire is no longer the
best option to foster innovation: data is monopolized by giants that have
become systemic, users’ freedom of choice is limited by vertical integration
and lack of interoperability. Ineffective competition threatens our economies’
ability to innovate.
In addition, laissez-faire means being
vulnerable to those who have chosen a more interventionist or hostile stance.
This question is particularly acute today for infrastructures: should we
continue to remain agnostic, open and to choose a solution only based on its
economic competitiveness? Or should we affirm the need to preserve our
technological sovereignty and our security?
a third way
To avoid these pitfalls, France, Europe and
all democratic countries must take control of their digital future. This age of
digital maturity involves both smart digital regulation and enhanced
Holding large actors accountable is a
legitimate and necessary first step: “with great power comes great
Platforms that relay and amplify the audience
of dangerous content must assume a stronger role in information and prevention.
The same goes for e-commerce, when consumers’ health and safety is undermined
by dangerous or counterfeit products, made available to them with one click. We
should apply the same focus on systemic players in the field of competition:
vertical integration should not hinder users’ choice of goods, services or
But for our action to be effective and leave
room for innovation, we must design a “smart regulation”. Of course, our goal
is not to impose on all digital actors an indiscriminate and disproportionate
Rather, “smart regulation” relies on
transparency, auditability and accountability of the largest players, in the
framework of a close dialogue with public authorities. With this is mind,
France has launched a six-month experiment with Facebook on
the subject of hate content, the results of which will contribute to current
and upcoming legislative work on this topic.
In the meantime, in order to maintain our
influence and promote this vision, we will need to strengthen our technological
sovereignty. In Europe, this sovereignty is already undermined by the prevalence
of American and Asian actors. As our economies and societies become
increasingly connected, the question becomes more urgent.
Investments in the most strategic disruptive
technologies, construction of an innovative normative framework for the sharing
of data of general interest: we have leverage to encourage the emergence of
reliable and effective solutions. But we will not be able to avoid protective
measures when the security of our infrastructure is likely to be endangered.
To build this sustainable digital future
together, I invite my G7 counterparts to join me in Paris on May 16th.
On the agenda, three priorities: the fight against online hate, a human-centric
artificial intelligence, and ensuring trust in our digital economy, with the
specific topics of 5G and data sharing.
Our goal? To take responsibility. Gone are
the days when we could afford to wait and see.
Our leverage? If we join our wills and
forces, our values can prevail.
have the responsibility to design a World Wide Web of Trust. It is still within
our reach, but the time has come to act.
Audiovisual Heritage of the UN News came up with this call to action for all to try and ‘bring to life’ any audio-visual recordings of their life, be it private or public, all presumably for posterity’s sake.
Old, grainy film and video footage from years gone by, not only stirs powerful memories – it’s also a vital resource for future generations, the United Nations cultural agency has highlighted, urging everyone to safeguard audio-visual heritage and make archives more accessible.
These images and sounds recorded on film, video and audio tape, “feed into our collective memory and establish links between generations”, Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in her message marking the official World Day for Audio-visual Heritage.
“[However,] this memory, which has remained alive and is essential to historians, scientists and ordinary citizens seeking knowledge of their past, is nonetheless fragile,” she added, noting the increasing neglect of archives which are made up of what is now obsolete analogue media, like LP records and quarter-inch audio tape.
Focusing this year on the theme, “Your Story is Moving,” UNESCO, in partnership with the Coordinating Council of Audio-visual Archives Associations (CCAAA), is calling on everyone to showcase personal and family archives.
“Bringing them out of lofts and cellars, sharing slices of life, moments captured on film or videotape, can bring alive, with emotion, an existence that has become a thing of the past,” continued Ms. Azoulay in her message.
“Heritage is not an inanimate object; it is full of meaning, significance and all the emotions that have accompanied the lives of past generations,” she added.
Alongside events globally to mark the World Day, UNESCO is also appealing on everyone to share their stories with the hashtag #AudioVisualheritage to bring their own “moving stories” to the world.
Preserving world history at the UN
In this special video, take a peek into the work of our expert UN archivists, as they protect tens of thousands of records documenting the history of diplomacy from the last century, preserving them for future generations.
Marked annually, on 27 October, the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage aims to raise awareness of the importance of audio-visual documents, redouble efforts to safeguard them and promote greater access to archives.
The World Day is a commemoration of the adoption, in 1980, of the Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images by the 21st UNESCO General Conference.
In this episode of The Anthill podcast we talk to historians, future thinkers, designers and sci-fi watchers about our love of predicting what’s to come.
We talk to somebody who does it for a living, Anders Sandberg, research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, who explains how he got into future studies, and what it’s like predicting the future as a day job. Thankfully, not all doom and gloom.
Back in the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes predicted the future of work would leave us more time to sit back and relax. With robots taking on more and more menial tasks, he thought technology would reduce the working week to just 15 hours and the rest of our time would be devoted to leisure.
So why haven’t we got there yet? As we hear from Martin Parker, professor of organisation and culture at the University of Leicester, it will take more than just robots to make this happen; society will need to be entirely reorganised in the process. Meanwhile, Ursula Huws, professor of labour and globalisation at the University of Hertfordshire, identifies four areas where jobs will boom – in spite of all the robots.
We delve into the history of how our ancestors imagined the future too. Selena Daly, assistant professor in Italian Studies and an expert in the Italian futurists, tells us the story of the avant-garde art and cultural movement started by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti a few years before World War I. Both destructive and provocative in its vision, it’s a case study in how visions of the future can get wound up in politics.
Helping us to track other visions of futures past, Nick Dunn, professor of urban design at Lancaster University who runs its Imagination design research lab, reveals his favourite dystopian and utopian visions for what future cities could look like. And Amy Chambers, who researches science communication and screen studies at Newcastle University, explains how both utopias and dystopias in science fiction have been used to help imagine a better future. Today, she says, science fiction on the small screen is taking the idea of AI and running with it, creating a range of near futures that we can all be scared of.
This most beautiful article produced and published on Friday, March 10, 2017 by Common Dreams and written by Nika Knight, staff writer about Thousands Marching for Native Nations, a movement of populations reacting to the newly elected president of the United States standing for the Big Oils forcing their way with a pipe-line through indigenous lands in the Dakota plains.
We would take this opportunity to remind that the right of marginalised indigenous individuals as well as communities are almost unknown or unheard of in the MENA region populations. The very best example that could laid out for illustration would be the Kuwaiti Bidoons that are by the way found in pockets in almost all countries of the Gulf, Palestine and North Africa.
We recommend reading the article in its original setting for a better appreciation of the embedded message of justice, and eventually provision of some equity as it were in our consumption of the environment.
The march began at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters and ended at Lafayette Square, in front of the White House. En route, demonstrators erected a tipi at the Trump Hotel to “reclaim stolen land”:
Afterward, the rights and land defenders marched on to the White House:
The march culminated in a rally at Lafayette Square. Indigenous people and protesters spoke, prayed, played music, and repeated calls for environmental justice, sovereignty, and a meeting between President Donald Trump and leaders of tribal nations.
“Standing Rock was just the beginning, “said a journalist with Indigenous Rising Media, speaking to a plaintiff in one of the multiple lawsuits against the U.S. government for permitting the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction.
A live broadcast of the march and rally can be found here. Throughout the day, participants and journalists are also posting photos and videos of the action under the hashtag #NativeNationsRise:
Thomas Baekdal in his “Something to think about” blog, has written and published this article on September 5th, 2016. Where are Baekdal Plus subscribers from is not only about the origins of his subscribers, pondering on whether in this day and age it matters that much, Thomas quite rightly pointed out that the Internet accessible now to billions is having bearings on the conventional media as well as on the ensuing trans-border cultural mutations. Baekdal expresses loud and clear how for the sake of ease of communication, the media are increasingly published in English for reach, spread and for future growth.
One of the things that often defines a digital native is that they have no country. Traditional media companies are all country-based. We often hear that traditional publishers are ‘expanding into [insert country]’, as if they are not already there.
Digital natives don’t think like this, because they are global by default. A US YouTuber would never say, “I want to expand into Canada,” because they are already in every country in the world.
I wrote much more about this in my recent newsletter, which you can see here (and if you aren’t getting it already, do add yourself to the list).
Another place I see this is looking at this site, Baekdal Plus. My audience comes from all over the world (although some countries are dominating more than others), and it’s quite interesting to look at.
The way I run my business simply wouldn’t be possible 10-15 years ago. Baekdal Plus is 100% digital, but only 3% of audience is coming from my own country. 97% is coming from other countries, which I would not have been able to reach before the internet.
But let me show you the data.
There many ways we can measure an audience. Do we just look at the traffic, or do we look at conversion (which in my case means subscribers)? Well, let’s look at both.
Here is a graph illustrating which countries my audience is coming from if you look at unique visitors.
As you can see, I have a ton of traffic coming from the US, but keep in mind that the US is also a country with 318 million people, so it’s not really surprising that this one country stands out.
When we instead look at this per capita, now we see that most of my traffic is coming from countries that are close to my own (Denmark/Northern Europe) and/or English speaking.
Notice how I have just as much traffic from Australia as from the US, when compared per capita. Language is more powerful than distance in the connected world.
But notice how people from almost every single country in the world visit this site. The only ones missing are a few countries in Africa, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Eastern Europe… and North Korea.
This would have been impossible just 15 years ago.
But I’m not really interested in unique visitors, because I don’t make any money just from the traffic. Baekdal Plus is monetized by subscriptions, so it’s far more relevant to me to look at that.
So, here is the same map but for all ‘conversions’, being both actual subscribers and people signing up for a free trial.
Yes, the US is dominating Baekdal Plus in a big way. About 60% of all my subscribers and free trials come from the US.
But again, because the US is so big, it is kind of hard to see what’s going on everywhere else. So here is the same data excluding the US.
What you see now is that the UK and Belgium are my two largest (non-US) countries in terms of where my subscribers are coming from. Next are Norway and Sweden. Then comes Australia, followed by my own country (Denmark), Germany, Canada and Brazil.
Yes, Brazil. How awesome is that?
You will also notice that I’m getting more and more subscribers from India and Indonesia, which is just brilliant.
Africa is a bit of a problem though, and so is China. I have a few important subscribers in Hong Kong, but because of China’s media laws, it’s impossible for me to make Baekdal Plus relevant for them.
I want to mention Turkey here as well. As you can see above, I do have a number of subscribers in Turkey, which I find to be very interesting. Or rather, I used to have subscribers in Turkey, but not anymore.
As you may know, Turkey has decided to close down its internet to global players by forcing, for instance, payment providers to operate entirely within its borders (similar to what is happening in China). And as a result, PayPal has been forced to stop all payments from my subscribers in Turkey.
It’s yet another example of how Turkey is destroying itself and hurting not just the media industry, but also the tech industry. It’s really sad to see.
So, I’m unable to get any new subscribers from Turkey, and my existing subscribers cannot renew their subscriptions (although what I have done is to extend their subscriptions indefinitely, so that all my current Turkish subscribers are getting Baekdal Plus for free).
So, thank you Turkey for being an idiot.
The above map, however, shows you all conversions, regardless of whether people are currently active subscribers or not. So what if we just look at the active subscribers?
Well, here you go:
Again, the US is dominating. Not as much as before though. While 60% of all free trials and subscribers are from the US, only 29% of all active subscribers are from the US.
But while the US is awesome, let’s exclude it from the data so that we can see the pattern everywhere else, which looks like this:
Again, we see that the UK and Belgium are huge countries for Baekdal Plus, but Sweden is not far behind. Then comes Norway and Germany, followed by Australia and Canada. Brazil is pretty high up as well. Spain, France and India are pretty good too, as well as Mexico and Argentina.
But look at Denmark. My own country has almost dropped off the map, and I have nowhere near as many subscribers coming from my own country as the countries around me.
As I said before, only 3% of my annual revenue is coming from media companies within my own country. 97% comes from other countries. And you simply couldn’t do this 10-15 years ago. This is what happens when you live in the connected world.
So, when I define my location as ‘global’ on Twitter, that’s really what I am. I may live in Denmark, but my work, my analysis, my business… and in many ways also my culture… does not.
For instance, I was recently introduced by a Swedish magazine as a ‘Danish media analyst’, but I’m not. There is nothing specifically Danish about my work or analysis.
The next generation
Anyway, this was just a bit of data fun that I wanted to share with you. What’s interesting about this, though, is the larger trend.
Fifteen years ago, none of this would have been possible. But today, it’s not just possible for me, but also for many other digital native publishers. And if we look 15 years into the future, this will become the new normal.
And a big part of this is because of language. The countries with a very high English proficiency are also where we see most of the digital natives. And every young person today is growing with the internet, social media, blogs, and other channels, where communicating isn’t defined by any specific country nor the local language.
Already today, people don’t really think about what country someone is from before they follow them on Instagram. We only look at what they do, who they are, and why they are sharing things.
The older generation is still mostly just following people locally because of old habits and existing networks, but the younger generation isn’t really defined by country anymore, and especially not in countries where English proficiency is very high.
We see this even more with magazines and newspapers from English speaking countries. More and more of their audience is what is usually referred to as ‘out of market’, as people are reading their publications from outside their old markets.
Local newspapers in the US, for instance, are slowly turning more and more national, and UK magazines are increasingly focusing on the entire English speaking population of the internet, as opposed to just the UK population.
And, of course, digital natives are doing all of this by default. Here is the most popular YouTuber in Norway. Yes, she is obviously creating all her videos in English, because that’s the only thing that makes sense.
As you can see in the map above, real English proficiency is still only a thing in parts of Europe and a few other places, but if you live in any of those places, it is becoming increasingly important to look at publishing in English as a key driver of future growth.
If you are a Norwegian magazine, for instance, does it really make sense to continue to publish in Norwegian and only reach a maximum of 5 million people, or would it make more sense to create a more global magazine in English just like the popular Norwegian YouTubers are already doing?
That’s the shift that is currently happening.
Of course, if you live in France, where English proficiency generally is still low, it’s too soon to make that shift. I would not recommend to a French magazine to do what I would tell a Norwegian magazine.
But, again, this is a generational thing. The future generation in France will have grown up communicating in English with all their friends, so whether something is in French or in English won’t really matter to them.
That’s why we call this a transitional trend. Our world is transitioning from a country-based media industry, to an interest based media industry. And this change is happening faster in countries with a high proficiency in English, because it allows being global by default (which is impossible for an Italian magazine).
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a multinational professional services network headquartered in London, United Kingdom, surveyed major world cities and produced Another Ranking of Top World Cities that are generally metropolises of developed countries. The report was published on September 7th, 2016; we reproduce excerpts of it below.
London claims pole position for the second time in a row in a comprehensive benchmarking study of 30 leading business centres globally, boding well for its ability to withstand post–Brexit competition on a number of fronts. (more…)
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