Global standoff going on about who stores your Data

Global standoff going on about who stores your Data

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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

By Jacqueline Hicks, University of Nottingham

knyazevfoto/Shutterstock

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.

Countries with the most Facebook users in 2019. We Are Social, DataReportal, Hootsuite, Facebook via Statista

This disconnect between new sources of data and the location of data centres has led to accusations from countries such as India of “data colonisation” and “digital colonialism”.

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.

Jacqueline Hicks, Marie-Curie Skłodowska Fellow, University of Nottingham

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

The region’s Digital Startups and Fintechs grow and prosper

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In MENA’s Maturing Ecosystem dated September 3, 2019, author Chloe DOMAT says that “as the region’s digital startups and fintechs grow and prosper, they must learn to scale, despite a highly fragmented economy.”

Once again this year, the digital economy of the Middle East and North Africa is set to break records. The first half saw $471 million in total funding and 238 deals, according to the latest report from Magnitt, a Dubai-based entrepreneurs’ network. That’s a 66% increase over the dollar volume in the first half of 2018 and 28% more deals.

Digital startups barely existed in the MENA region a decade ago. Now, fintech is a thriving sector embracing hundreds of new companies, jobs and investors. As the ecosystem expands with tens of newcomers each year, funding tickets get bigger and bigger.

“If we look back a few years, a deal at $2 million or $3 million would have made the headlines; today, we have multiple $10 million-plus deals,” says Omar Christidis, founder and CEO of Arabnet, a Beirut-based events and research company specializing in the region’s digital economy. “This is an indicator of the increasing maturity of the market.”

Major deals so far this year have included a $100 million capital injection in Dubai-based Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG); a $65 million Series A round for Yellow Door Energy, also in Dubai; and $42 million for Egypt’s Swvl, a transportation app.

There is still a disconnect, however, between the growing demand for funds at all levels and the capital currently available to satisfy it, industry insiders say. Money is expected to keep pouring in, as an increasing number of international institutions enter the region. Big names like Endeavor Catalyst (US), Vostok New Ventures (Sweden), MSA Capital (China), Global Founders Capital (Germany) and Kingsway Capital (UK) already make up a third of the Middle East’s investor list.

Aiming to attract even more foreign capital, countries including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have also started establishing funds of funds.


CompanyActivityCountryFunding ($ Mil.)
EPMGReal EstateUAE100
Yellow Door EnergyEnergyUAE65
SwvlTransportEgypt42
AWOKe-commerceJordan30
Mawdoo3e-commerceJordan23.5
Jamalone-commerceJordan10
Noon Academye-learningSaudi Arabia8.6
Spriie-commerceUAE8.5
JustCleanServicesKuwait8
yallacompareFintechUAE8
 

For the first time, numbers of local companies are successfully reaching the end of the startup lifecycle and exiting through mergers or acquisitions. In March, Uber bought Careem, a Dubai-based ride-hailing application, for $3.1 billion, in a deal that marked the region’s first unicorn exit.

The pace has only picked up. At least 15 Middle Eastern startups have performed exits since January, including digital fashion platform Namshi, sold to Dubai’s Emaar Malls in February; the purchase by Majid al Futtaim, a Dubai-based shopping mall and retail operator, of Saudi Arabian online grocery store Wadi in May; and EMPG’s purchase of Jumia House, a property portal for Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, in June.

These exits leave a new generation of former staff members with a lot of means. After Careem’s exit, 75 ex-staffers cashed out over $1 million each. That financial capital, as well as the beneficiaries’ acquired knowledge and expertise, will allow a number of them to start new business ventures.

The Imperative to Scale

While tech companies grow larger, entrepreneurs face new challenges.

“As mature startups move to larger funding rounds and raise interest for acquisitions, they need to scale operations, whether vertically with new business lines or geographically,” says Philip Bahoshy, CEO and founder of Magnitt.

Navigating across the region’s approximately 22 countries, each with its own complexities, is not easy, however. From Morocco to Iraq, Arab states differ dramatically from one another in size, population, wealth, laws, digital infrastructure and business culture.

“Seeing the MENA region as one big market is to a certain extent a misrepresentation because our markets are superfragmented,” says Christidis. “A company that wants to grow from Lebanon into Jordan into Iraq into Kuwait into Saudi Arabia has to enter five separate markets.”

The UAE is clearly driving the game. In the first half of 2019, the Emirates received 66% of the money invested in all MENA startups and captured 26% of the deals, according to the Magnitt report. Dubai has by far the most developed ecosystem, with a concentration of global firms’ regional headquarters, major funding institutions and accelerators.

The UAE, and Dubai itself, have worked to build an advantage. In 2017, the UAE became one of the first countries in the world to appoint a minister of artificial intelligence. Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum has promised that the government will go 100% paperless by 2021.

“The UAE has been leading from the front,” says Amol Bahuguna, head of payments and cash management at Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD), which just launched a new e-invoicing service. “Everything that has to do with the government is going digital. You have a real top-down approach to innovation and things move fast.”

Much will hinge on how the UAE, and Dubai in particular, manage their response to the current economic slowdown. Recent government data show that real estate, financial services and tourism—the pillars of the economy—are in a slump. In 2018, Dubai also recorded its biggest net loss of jobs since the global financial crisis.

The Emirates have competition, too, from Saudi Arabia, the biggest emerging market in the region with over 34 million people and high purchasing power. The authorities there are keen to diversify their oil-based economy, including promotion of the digital sector.

Riyadh set up a fund of funds to attract foreign investors to support startups. Saudi authorities will invest dollar-for-dollar as a limited partner in any new fund that commits to investing in the kingdom. They have also promised to streamline the licensing process for foreign startups so that they can settle in Saudi Arabia easily.

New Saudi-based funds such as Saudi Telecom’s $500 million ST Ventures, Vision Ventures and Hala Ventures, that have emerged in the past three years, are becoming large players in the regional venture capital game, leading $10 million-plus investment rounds.

On the other side of the MENA map, North Africa is also showing strong digital growth potential. Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are investing heavily in the development of their own high-tech ecosystems, aiming to become the bridge to Europe and the gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. Tunisia recently passed laws supporting tech innovation; and in September, Tunis will welcome Afric’Up, a large pan-African startup-pitch competition.

Fintech’s “Gold Mine”

Although it hardly shows in this year’s top deals, fintech remains the fastest growing sector within MENA digital economy. In the first half of this year, fintech accounted for 17% of all deals, up 9% from 2018. Interestingly, almost 90% of the total $24 million funding went to early stage startups, underscoring that the sector is still in its infancy.

The data also reveals enormous potential. Arab countries are home to over 380 million people, half of them under age 26. Financial inclusion is among the lowest in the world, with only 52% of men and 35% of women owning a bank account as of 2017. The vast majority of those with bank accounts, however, own a mobile phone (86% of men and 75% of women).

By mid-2018, the whole MENA region, including North Africa, had 381 million unique mobile subscribers, according to GSMA Intelligence, a mobile industry trade body. Smartphones accounted for 52% of all connections and are expected to grow to 74% by 2025.

“These figures highlight the tremendous opportunity,” says Nameer Khan, founding board member of the newly established UAE-based MENA Fintech Association. “The region is literally a gold mine.” The lure for fintech investors and entrepreneurs is the chance to enter an untapped market in which hundreds of millions of users could leapfrog from the cash economy to the digital.

Fintech subsectors widely thought to hold growth potential include insuretech, robo-advisory wealth management and sharia-compliant services. But payment services, not surprisingly, stand out prominently for both the number of startups and the value of deals. Mobile payment, money transfer and lending platforms remain the main focus; while more-sophisticated technologies such as blockchain, the cloud and artificial intelligence still lag.

Egypt’s Fawry is one of the biggest success stories in payments. Launched in 2008, the company raised $122 million; its initial public offering on August 8 sold 36% of its share capital for $97 million.  Also attracting notice in the sector are PayTabs, a Saudi Arabian online payment facility that announced in August that it had raised $20 million to support its expansion in the region and into Southeast Asia, India, Africa and Europe; and the Dubai-based peer-to-peer lending platform Beehive, with a total capital injection of $15.5 million as of March 4.

The payment landscape looks to change rapidly, however, as larger players seek their share of the fintech market. Careem, for instance, claims over 30 million users in the region and is currently rolling out its Careem Pay e-wallet. If the service succeeds, Uber-owned Careem could become one of the biggest MENA fintechs.

Digital Banking Multiples

Banks and financial institutions view the fintech surge as an opportunity to outsource innovation and digitization. From simple online banking and mobile applications to investment platforms and e-wallets, most MENA lenders are seeking partnerships with startups. Some have even rolled out fully fledged, branchless digital neobanks, including Emirates NBD’s Liv., Mashreq Neo, and Gulf International Bank’s Meem.

These operate under a conventional lender’s license, however. Since they were developed by traditional banks, they are not industry disruptors, like startups Revolut and N26; rather, they act like new-business verticals, intended to seduce tech-savvy youth and target the unbanked. For a digital banking startup to seriously challenge the major players would be a monumental task.

“Banks in the Middle East are very large; what we are seeing recently is market consolidation, so they are getting even bigger,” says Arabnet’s Christidis. “I don’t think any of the startups really want to take them on, head to head. I’m not sure either that there would be investors ready to bankroll that kind of an investment. Furthermore, I question what kind of industry lobbying bite the banks would put on if they really started seeing that kind of thing emerge.” Christidis believes only an already established player from outside the region would have the financial muscle to give it a chance to compete.

Such a competitor might come from outside the financial sector entirely, however. Abu Dhabi Global Market, a key Emirati financial center, announced in July that it is ready to issue digital-banking licenses to nonbanking firms “with innovative value propositions.”

As this suggests, while the MENA digital economy is developing faster than ever, legal and regulatory frameworks need to adapt for growth to be sustained. Procedures to register a company, licensing and liability laws in case of business failure or bankruptcy are among the key differentiators governments will have to consider as they look to make themselves more competitive.

“Governments are showing concerted interest in building digital ecosystems for their countries,” says Magnitt CEO and founder Bahoshy. “There are still challenges to be overcome, but we can expect success stories to be more frequent, have higher value and have more impact in the coming years.”

Tech can empower refugee communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Food aid designed by refugees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Mission to teach Kids how to Code

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Entrepreneur Middle East‘s Education Tech published this fantastic story on May 14, 2019, on a certain Hadi Partovi who “Having built (and funded) great startups, this entrepreneur and investor opens up on his mission to teach kids how to code .

Here is his story.

Transformative Change: Code.org Founder Hadi Partovi

By Tamara Pupic Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East.

Hadi Partovi

Sitting in a corner of The Third Line Gallery in Dubai’s arts district of Al Serkal Avenue, Hadi Partovi, a tech entrepreneur and angel investor known for his early bets on Facebook, Dropbox, Airbnb, and Uber, is quietly tapping away on his laptop prior to an invite-only fireside chat organized by VentureSouq, a Dubai-based early-stage equity funding platform.

He is here, wearing his signature baseball cap, to present Code.org, a Seattle-based education non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools around the world, of which he is the founder and CEO. The main reason for founding this global social-impact initiative is his belief that mastering computer science is no less than a life-giving skill.

Sonia Weymuller, Founding Partner of VentureSouq, introducing Hadi Partovi at a VSQ Talks event at The Third Line Gallery in Dubai. 

Yet, before we expand on that, I decide to focus on his approach to investing in early-stage tech startups, knowing that I will hear something different from a phrase that gets thrown around by every startup investor out there: “I invest in people, not ideas.” Partovi also has a people-first investment philosophy; however, not only can he specifically point out to what “investing in people” actually means for him, but he can even measure it.

The Partovi twins, Hadi and his brother Ali, currently the founder and CEO of Neo, a community of young engineers and the world’s top programmers, were jointly investing in startup founders for 17 years (since 2018, they have decided to focus on individual investments), but only in those who passed their coding test. It started with the founders of Dropbox, Partovi explains. “The best tech companies don’t hire a single technical person without putting them through a lot of tests, so why would an investor consider giving hundreds of thousands of dollars without even one test to show that they can do something?” he says. “Most VCs don’t do this because they themselves don’t know the technology, so they just think whether they like the idea or not, and they just take it for granted that a person can do it. If you look at the companies that have succeeded, the idea often isn’t unique, it’s the execution.” He points out that Google was not the first search engine company, Facebook was not the first social networking platform, and Microsoft was not the first company building an operating system- but what set all three of them apart was having the strongest engineers on board.

The Partovi brothers know this from their own entrepreneurial experience. Partovi may come across as being humble, quiet, and almost reticent, but he is a man who was part of the team that founded and sold Tellme Networks, a voice recognition software developer, to Microsoft for US$800 million in 2007. A decade earlier, in 1998, Ali Partovi was a co-founder of LinkExchange, an internet advertising company, that also got acquired by Microsoft for $265 million. The brothers’ website has a page listing their 34 ongoing investments, which include Airbnb, Classpass, and Uber, and 23 successful exits: Dropbox (IPO), Facebook (IPO), and Zappos (acquired by Amazon), to name just a few. If you scroll down this page, you will also find a list of 10 of their unsuccessful investments, and Partovi is open to say that there had been a few bruises before the brothers developed their investment muscle. “I did invest in a bad idea when I liked the person, but if I look at all my investments, the worst ones were the cases where I liked the idea but I didn’t like the entrepreneur, and also there are investment decisions that I chose not to invest even though I liked the entrepreneur,” he says. “And, I’ve made other mistakes too, such as when one of my college classmates wrote to me in 1998, saying that he had just joined a group of friends from his graduate program to start a company, and he was like, ‘They are the smartest people I know.’ I remember thinking that nobody needs another search engine, and that I wouldn’t invest in this company, that he was just the first employee, and that it was going to be a complete failure. Turned out that the company was Google, and he was their first employee and the Chief Technology Officer. He was also in the top of my class in computer science at Harvard. So, if I could go back and invest in all the best computer scientists I had graduated with, I would have made a lot more money, although I have done well, but I wouldn’t have missed the opportunities like this one.”

A key element of his stressing the importance of the engineering talent is that it was a key factor in how the Partovi brothers came to be where they are today. Born in Tehran, Iran, the twins taught themselves to code on a Commodore 64, which has fueled their passion for programming ever since. The family fled to the US in 1984, following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Upon earning a master’s degree in computer science from Harvard University, Hadi Partovi rose up the executive ranks at Microsoft, before he went about launching his own startups. And now, he believes that every young person around the world deserves to be propelled forward in life by learning this specific skill. “This is a story about opportunity, and how we can expand who has access to that opportunity, what the jobs of the future will look like, and how we can ensure that everyone gets an opportunity,” Partovi says, on why he advocates computer science training, and why Code.org provides coding curriculum for schools around the country. “In the world of accelerating technological change, the most important thing everybody can learn is how to adapt to new technology. Many schools teach technology, but they teach kids how to use it, whereas we want to teach them how to create technology. And learning to create technology is important, not only because it leads to an opportunity, and not only because of the future of the job market, but because for kids, it’s fun and it teaches them creativity. Creativity is such a natural human desire, something that drives adults, and especially youth, but it doesn’t really exist in the school system.”

Since launching in 2013, Code.org has created the most broadly used curriculum platform for K-12 computer science in the United States. Its computer science classes have reached 30% of American students, while its Hour of Code initiative, a global campaign offering a one-hour introduction to computer science, has reached 10% of students around the world. Furthermore, the Code.org team informs that the nonprofit has more than 100 international partners and supports 63 languages in 180+ countries, with students having created 35 million projects on the platform. Importantly, they also state that 48% of Code.org students are underrepresented minorities. In addition to all of this, Partovi is a firm believer that among the future codingskilled founders tackling the world’s biggest problems, we will see many more women than today. According to a teacher survey by Code.org, 46% of users on the company’s Code.org Studio are female. “There is a misconception that this is for boys not for girls, which is totally not true,” Partovi says. “When girls reach 13 or 14, and if they haven’t tried computer science yet, there are too many other things to do and a pressure to be cool, and that this is not cool for them, because of that social stereotype that this is for boys. So, as a girl, if at 13, you haven’t tried it yet, you have to go against that social stereotype. However, for a boy, the social stereotype is that this is for you, that’s fine. It’s hard to go against the social stereotype for anybody, but it is especially hard for a 13-year-old, when you’ve just started learning how to be secure yourself.” To illustrate, Partovi mentions that Google search results for “software engineers” will mainly show the images of men, whereas the results for “students coding” will show men and women in almost equal numbers.

When it comes to other misconceptions about learning computer science, Partovi mentions the notions people falsely have about its scope and complexity. “I’ve probably made this worse, because of the name of our non-profit, but computer science is more than coding,” he says. “Code.org is about a whole bunch of fields that all are technical, and they are all part of computer science, and I believe that all of them belong in primary and secondary education. Just like you think of science, science has biology and chemistry and physics; you don’t teach just one of them.” Partovi adds, “The other misconception is that this is just for rocket scientists. People imagine that computer science is as hard as calculus, but they don’t realize that six-year-olds can start learning it. If you think about math, first grade math is easy, but 12th grade math could be more difficult, and university math is extra hard. Computer science is the same, the first-grade level of stuff is very easy.”

Code.org founder and CEO Hadi Partovi speaking about the importance of teaching computer science in schools.
Source: Code.org

For all these reasons, Partovi, despite coming across as a quiet man, is ready to make some noise with the recent announcement of the single largest expansion of Code.org’s computer science curriculum. Code.org’s Computer Science (CS) Fundamentals course, geared toward primary school, will be translated into the 10 most widely spoken languages in the non-profit’s database – Chinese (traditional and simplified), French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish- while it will also offer a new offline version of CS Fundamentals to empower schools in low- and no-bandwidth environments to teach computer science to all students.

Expanding into the MENA region is on Partovi’s agenda too. He says, “There are already 500,000 students and about 20,000 teachers in the Arab world using Codeiorg, despite it, for now, being only in English language and only on internet connected computers, meaning that we haven’t done almost any work to overcome the obstacles in the region, we haven’t properly transitioned into Arabic, we don’t yet support use on disconnected computers, we don’t yet work well on smartphones and tablets. Most of the students are in private schools or international schools, because they are using it in English, but it shows that the interest in what we do is already high.”

Region by region, Partovi hopes to achieve Code.org’s mission of changing the educational system, making computer science a permanent part of school curricula. “The education establishment especially doesn’t recognize that this is a field that is as fundamental as mathematics or science,” Partovi says. “Everybody understands that technology is the future, nobody needs to be explained that, and nobody needs to be explained that there is money in technology, and that it is changing everything. What people don’t realize is that when you start learning the alphabet, you can also simultaneously start learning computer science. Nobody questions why we are teaching math or science, but what they do question is whether they should teach computer science. They are not even asking whether they should also teach computer science.”

Code.org founder and CEO Hadi Partovi teaching students. 
Source: Code.org

However, some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent leaders did not need much persuasion- so far, Code.org has been backed by Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Infosys Foundation USA, and many others. Furthermore, Partovi recently helped Pope Francis to write a line of code for an app, during an event organized by the Scholas Occurrentes foundation in Vatican City. “Computer science belongs in primary and secondary schools as a fundamental thing, not just for the students who want to become coders, but for those who want to become lawyers, nurses, farmers, because understanding technology is going to be important,” Partovi concludes. “It’s because building the creativity that computer science teaches will be important, and learning the digital skills that will be required in every career will be important. The biggest obstacle for us is this education administrative mindset. Individual teachers and parents recognize this, but nobody thinks that this should be a part of schools. They want their own child to learn to code, and they don’t think about why schools are not teaching it.”

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MEA with world’s highest IP traffic growth – Cisco

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Further to The responsibility for a sustainable digital future  after the World Wide Web turned 30, CommsMEA elaborated on the latest Cisco report in this article dated March 12, 2019.

Middle East and Africa poised for world’s highest IP traffic growth – Cisco report

12 March 2019

The Middle East and Africa is poised for major IP traffic growth, according to Cisco.

Cisco’s 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.

At its “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.

Cisco’s VNI Forecast predicts four key drivers of IP traffic growth in the MEA region by 2022:

1. A 9% increase in the number of Internet users

The number of people using the Internet will grow from 23% of the region’s population in 2017 to 32%.

Digitisation 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

Cisco predicts there will be approximately 2.5 billion devices connected to the network, equating to 1.4 networked devices per capita in MEA.

Non-PC 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 smart homes.

3. Faster broadband speeds

As 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.

Accordingly, 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, seconds.

4. More media-rich content and applications

In 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.

The 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 2022.

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.”

He said 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.”