November 23, 2020

A Case Study on the Benefits and Challenges of Cancer Monitoring With Digital Apps

According to a case study written by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU), "Advances in smartphone technology, healthcare provider information and communications technology infrastructure has enabled the development of new clinical pathways involving app-based remote patient monitoring. Patient monitoring apps allow patients with chronic diseases to report on their condition from outside of the hospital – where they spend most of their time – putting the patient, rather than the hospital, at the center of the care pathway."

What is more, "A high society-wide level of smartphone penetration has presented a large market for developers, with apps now used in clinical practice for chronic disease management in diabetes, chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure and oncology. However, up until the covid-19 pandemic struck, the development of technological capabilities within healthcare had largely outpaced the capacity to implement many novel remote patient monitoring apps as part of real-world practice."

Titled Outside the hospital: cancer monitoring with apps, the study explains that the "covid-19 pandemic initiated a rapid reorganization of healthcare delivery systems, raising awareness of these digital tools that physicians can use to provide care outside hospitals. Chronic disease monitoring apps vary widely in their functionality but increasingly rely on patients to capture health data that can help inform clinical decision-making. This has enabled a high degree of patient-centricity, varying from enabling behavioral nudges from clinicians to providing real-time updates to care teams with on-demand care capabilities for patients."

Commissioned by Siemens Healthineers, a multinational digital healthcare company based in Germany, The EIU's study explores "the use of remote monitoring, particularly in oncology. We review recent health system developments, challenges to implementation of these digital tools and the emerging opportunities for their sustainable use throughout health systems."

The study presents the following benefits in using monitoring apps:
  • Patient monitoring apps can provide real-time data on cancer patients, thereby enabling much faster feedback loops between individuals and their healthcare teams.
  • Clinicians can develop personalized cancer care plans that respond to patient behaviors and support better management of adverse events related to treatment.
  • Cancer apps could support a reduction in healthcare costs arising from preventable hospital admissions.
  • They can help to improve a patient's quality of life by allowing them to become participants in co-creating their care and opening the door for shared decision-making.

Conversely, challenges of using monitoring apps include:
  • Reimbursement pathways for mobile health tools have traditionally been a barrier to implementation, but leveraging beyond the pandemic could accelerate adoption into clinical pathways.
  • Healthcare providers need to invest in ICT infrastructure that can rapidly translate data from apps into actionable and meaningful insights for clinicians – without becoming an additional administrative burden.
  • Providers will need to invest in different skills for digital workflows, or new roles will be required within healthcare settings, to support the digital patient journey.
  • Confidence in these tools could be achieved with the use of digital formularies.
  • Healthcare providers and developers will need to continue to work together to prioritize the standardization of apps so that they are interoperable across health systems. As regulations differ across geographies, this will require taking into account factors including different IT architecture, connectivity requirements, and data sharing and communication standards.

"Mobile apps can provide a more valuable, real-time dataset by enabling a much faster feedback loop between patients and their care teams," the study importantly notes. "Increased reactivity allows for deeply personalized cancer care plans that respond to patient behaviors, in addition to better management of adverse events related to treatment, a reduction in healthcare costs arising from preventable hospital admissions and ultimately improved patient quality of life. These apps provide an avenue for patients to become participants in co-creating their care pathway and open the door for shared decision-making, which may have other behavioral benefits in terms of adherence."

Having engaged with companies developing digital solutions for the healthcare industry for over ten years, I have witnessed significant advances in innovative technologies and services that provide a direct benefit for the patient. While I acknowledge the existence of the aforementioned challenges, I remain optimistic that the healthcare industry worldwide will continue to evolve to incorporate patient-centric tools including remote monitoring apps. In doing so, patients will enjoy a sense of empowerment when the receive their health information in real-time. This information will also enable the patient's healthcare team to formulate a collaborative plan with the patient to combat diseases such as cancer.

What benefits and challenges do you see in the use of patient monitoring apps?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 20, 2020

Report Looks at the Promise and Current Limitations of Precision Medicine

"Precision medicine has the potential to transform healthcare," a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) explains. "By moving away from trial and error towards more targeted, accurate diagnoses and treatments, people should be able to live longer and healthier lives and social outcomes should improve, all with less wasted time, money and energy. This is what medicine has always aspired to, but has not yet been able to deliver."

Commissioned by the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit organization made up of more than 50 entities working in education, research, and community development, Doing well? Fulfilling the promise of precision medicine, "looks at the promise and current limitations of precision medicine, the barriers to its implementation in public health systems, and the areas where policymakers – indeed, all stakeholders – must focus their efforts in order to realize its potential."

The key findings listed below are based on an extensive literature review and a comprehensive interview program conducted by The EIU between March and September 2020.

  • Defining the term precision medicine is challenging. It is best understood as the potential outcome of four interwoven, data-related enablers: (1) the increasing volume of data available to health systems; (2) vast growth in the kinds of data from which health systems can draw insight; (3) the increasing availability of data storage systems that permit easier access to relevant information; and (4) the quantum leaps in analytic technology that make it possible to draw greater insights from this information.
  • Hopes are high. Precision medicine is expected to benefit all healthcare stakeholders: patients will have quicker access to the treatments they need, and will be able to avoid the risks of taking incorrect medication; health systems will reduce waste and improve outcomes; payers will receive better value for money; and the overall health of populations will improve.
  • Current advances are limited but remain highly promising. There are already a number of important examples of precision medicine in action. Thanks to a better understanding of tumor genetics, more effective treatments are now possible for several cancers, notably those of the lung and breast. In the field of rare disease, genomic sequencing is cutting diagnosis times for a large number of patients. Pharmacogenomics—the study of how a person’s genetics interact with particular drugs—is a growing field, and genetic sequencing is being used to recognize pathogen mutations.
  • Proof of value remains a pressing issue. Given the possible breadth of applications for precision medicine, it is challenging to determine whether the field as a whole is cost-effective. Some interventions may be; others may not.
  • There is controversy around the concept of precision public health. This highlights fundamental issues that must be resolved if precision medicine is to become more widely integrated into health systems.
  • Those seeking to incorporate precision medicine into healthcare systems will need to address a diverse and complicated range of issues. Innovation in healthcare systems is notoriously difficult. Integrating precision medicine into standard care will require the creation of new care pathways and new kinds of interventions, all of which will require different infrastructure. In most health systems, this process is only in the initial stages.
  • To be successful, precision medicine must be delivered in a patient-centered way. Patient-centricity involves working with patients as co-creators of healthcare and health research, which involves a conversation of equals. Clinicians will need to help patients understand the implications of precision tests, the relevant data and the treatment choices. Both sides can then determine together what the patient values most in terms of the outcome(s) of any intervention. Adopting a patient-centricity can also helpto address some of the pressing ethical issues surrounding precision medicine.

The report's concluding paragraph insightfully notes: "We are still in the early stages of learning how to implement precision medicine and understanding what this will look like in practice. All relevant stakeholders need to ensure that they develop the appropriate and necessary foundations for precision medicine in order for this radically new way of doing things to deliver on its promises."

To complement its report, The EIU produced the video below (also viewable through this link) entitled "Can precision medicine fulfill its promise?"

What are your recommendations for how precision medicine can transform healthcare?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 18, 2020

Global Trade Helpdesk Aims to Provide Accurate and Trusted Information Companies Need to Plan Their Expansion Into International Markets

"Make informed decisions" is a mantra my colleagues hear me say often. In the area of global trade, while the internet hosts a wealth of information, finding accurate and trusted information is a daunting task. Therefore, I have come to appreciate the Global Trade Helpdesk (GTH), a multi-agency initiative jointly led by the International Trade Centre (ITC), the Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) that aims to simplify market research for companies, and especially Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), by integrating trade and business information into a single online portal.

The GTH website accurately notes: "Access to trade and market intelligence is critical to export success. However, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) often lack the resources and skills to acquire and process trade-related information. This places them at a disadvantage and prevents them from exploring trade opportunities."

What is more, "According to ITC's surveys of 28,000 enterprises in 56 countries (2010-2017), 'lack of access to information' and 'information transparency issues' were reported as key obstacles by nearly half of the firms surveyed. The analysis further demonstrated that the smaller the company, the greater the challenges in accessing and using the relevant trade and market information. To address these prevalent information asymmetries hindering the competitiveness of MSMEs, the GTH brings together crucial information from across agencies in a user-friendly format to improve access to information for MSMEs and to provide access to crucial resources that can empower them to become active exporters."

The GTH initiative builds on existing ITC, UNCTAD and WTO services" and several partnering organizations "to provide an integrated solution that puts a wealth of global trade information at the fingertips of entrepreneurs around the world. Using GTH, firms can compare demand for their products across markets, explore tariffs and other market access conditions, access details about buyers, navigate domestic export processes, and find business partners."

In the coming years, "the initiative will continue to expand and integrate crucial trade intelligence and strengthen links with national and international information sources to provide the most comprehensive information possible to global exporters."

Specifically, the initiative will focus its efforts in four key activities to enhance MSME access to key market information:
  1. Develop an interactive web application integrating relevant and comprehensive trade and business information;
  2. Build a network of international, regional and national partners coordinating trade information collection and dissemination;
  3. Strengthen data collection efforts, to maximize synergies and ensure comprehensiveness and updates of the information; and
  4. Provide capacity building to enhance GTH dissemination especially for MSMEs to make better informed trade decisions.
The video below (or available through this link) provides a brief overview of the GTH platform.

Will the Global Trade Helpdesk help you find accurate and trusted information for your company or organization to plan its expansion into international markets?

(Along with the GTH, you may find posts on trade, including "Export 101: Choosing Your Export Market," useful in deciding how to evaluate which international market presents the best opportunity for your business or organization.)

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 17, 2020

UNCTAD Report Aims to Tackle the Relationship Between Illicit Financial Flows and Sustainable Development in Africa

In a Forward for a new report, Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, writes: "Worldwide, a loss of trust in multilateralism is weakening the capacity of globalization to deliver a more sustainable and fairer world. Growing awareness of the scale, scope and cost of illicit financial flows is stoking growing skepticism about the power of collective action versus unilateral measures. It is against this backdrop that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Economic Development in Africa Report 2020 tackles the relationship between illicit financial flows and sustainable development in Africa."

Dr. Kituyi adds: "Illicit financial flows – cross border exchanges of value, monetary or otherwise, which are illegally earned, transferred or used – cost African countries around $50 billion per year, dwarfing the amount of official development assistance the continent receives annually. Illicit financial flows are a shared problem and a shared responsibility for developed and developing countries; their economic impacts are a major development issue across the globe, even more so for African economies whose sustainable development prospects critically pivot on massive investments."

The Economic Development in Africa Report 2020: Tackling Illicit Financial Flows for Sustainable Development in Africa argues that illicit financial flows (IFFs) "are a shared responsibility between developed and developing countries, at the core of multilateralism. Illicit financial flows appear to be large, but irrespective of their scale, they need to be tackled as a significant impediment to the economic development of Africa. High levels of illicit financial flows, as shown by the prevalence of misinvoicing and capital flight, indicate that many African Governments do not benefit from a significant portion of their international trade transactions and experience significant losses in capital and foreign exchange. Key stylized facts, resulting from the models developed in this report, include":
  • In Africa, IFFs linked to the export of primary extractive resources were estimated as being as high as $40 billion in 2015 and $278 billion (cumulative) over the past decade. This is a conservative estimate and should be taken as a lower bound (chapter 2).
  • In Africa, on average, extractive export underinvoicing is equivalent to 16 percent of merchandise exports of the commodities covered in this report (chapter 2).
  • Generally, commodities show a similar pattern across countries: at 77 percent, gold is the largest contributor in total African extractive export underinvoicing, and other precious metals, such as platinum (6 percent) and diamonds (12 percent), are also persistent positive contributors (chapter 2).
  • Capital flight, which captures trade misinvoicing and other balance-of-payment transactions, was estimated at $88.6 billion, on average, during 2013–2015 or around 3.7 percent of African GDP.
  • Capital flight between 2000–2015 was $836 billion or 2.6 percent of GDP. In terms of capital flight, the largest positive absolute outliers are Nigeria ($41 billion), Egypt ($17.5 billion) and South Africa ($14.1 billion), on average, during 2013–2015.
  • IFFs are negatively associated with target 8.2, on achieving higher levels of economic productivity. As indicated by the econometric analysis in chapter 5, labor productivity, as an indicator for productive capacity, is inversely related to IFFs. This suggests that an increase in illicit financial flows is decreasing domestic productive capacity. The effect is likely however to be low in Africa due to the continent’s relatively low productive growth.
  • As IFFs were found to be negatively correlated to poor financial sector regulation, improvement in the latter could stimulate productivity growth. It could also reduce capital outflow through stronger compliance with the Financial Action Task Force and capacity to track financial flows.
  • Curbing IFFs is an avenue for improved prospects for environmental, social and economic development in Africa. The impact of IFFs on environmental sustainability has hardly been assessed in the literature, although environmental damage in the extractives sector is a major concern. Countries with high IFFs may be more vulnerable to climate change and appear to have the lowest ability to leverage investments for health, education and climate change mitigation.
  • Public expenditure reductions potentially have unequal impacts on gender, especially if cuts affect health and education expenditures. A negative impact of IFFs is prevalent where tax evasion affects the allocation of scarce government funds and reduces fiscal expenditure on public services where women and youth are the majority beneficiaries.

The report also presents the following findings:
  • Strengthen African engagement in international taxation reform
  • Intensify the fight against corruption and money-laundering
  • Invest in data infrastructure and transparency (including gendered data)
  • Strengthen regulatory frameworks at the domestic level through a multi-track approach
  • Devote more resources to the recovery of stolen assets
  • Protect and support civil society organizations, whistle-blowers and investigative journalists
  • Build bridges between multinational enterprises, taxation and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • Invest in research to account for links between illicit financial flows, environmental sustainability and climate change
  • Rekindle trust in multilateralism through tangible actions in the fight against illicit financial flows
  • Engage on illicit financial flows and ethics

The report concludes that "[t]he role of multilateralism in reducing the harm from IFFs and encouraging greater participation by African countries in global governance on the matter is clear. The expectation is that the recommendations drawn from the analysis presented in this report will strengthen the policy approaches taken to tackle the incidence and impact of IFFs. A stronger and more resilient Africa, as a result, would be better situated to tackle the current coronavirus disease pandemic, as well as future challenges."

With a youthful population and a growing middle class, I view the African continent as a basket of significant business and investment opportunities. However, having maintained business interests on the continent for over two decades, I have encountered corruption on many levels that have limited the returns of my investment or stymied the activities of those company's I advise. As Dr. Kituyi notes, IFFs "and corruption are inhibiting African development by draining foreign exchange, reducing domestic resources, stifling trade and macroeconomic stability and worsening poverty and inequality. These illicit flows rob Africa and its people of their prospects, undermining transparency and accountability and eroding trust in African institutions. Faced with high capital flight, tax avoidance and a marked dependence on corporate income taxes, African Governments face significant constraints to widening their tax base."

What recommendations do you have for how to eliminate illicit financial flows so that economic development in Africa can flourish?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 16, 2020

EIU Report Explores How Latin America Can Take Advantage of Shifts in the Global Supply Chain

"The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has exposed the fragilities of globalized supply chains, raising the possibility that many of them will be localized over the coming decade to reduce operational risks," says a report published by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU).

Titled Will Latin America take advantage of supply chain shifts? the report explains that "[g]iven its proximity to the US market, localized supply chains would present a big opportunity for Latin America where, aside from Mexico, the region has not really been part of the boom in global supply chains in recent decades." Furthermore, "As the pandemic has exposed the fragilities of the global supply chain—and the enormous disruption that can take place when only a few links in the chain are broken—nearshoring some of this production to Latin America has become a more attractive prospect."

With an approximate population of 129 million, according to the Central Intelligence Agencies' World Factbook, The EIU asserts that "Mexico is the country in Latin America with the most success in regional supply chain integration, owing to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the US and Canada. Currently, about 80% of Mexican exports are orientated to the US, of which the bulk are manufactured goods, including vehicles, electronics and machinery."

What is more, "the current moment should provide a golden opportunity for Mexico to increase its share of manufacturing in US-bound exports from East Asia. Instead though, so far at least, the pandemic has caused Mexico's share of US imports to slump badly to just 20% of Asian imports in May, although there were signs of recovery in June. The immediate question, then, relates to when Mexico can get back on track and be seen to manage coronavirus-related uncertainty."

In addition to the aforementioned finding about the Latin America region not being part of the boom in global supply chains in recent decades, the report's key findings include:
  • The region faces considerable obstacles to supply chain integration, including poor infrastructure and logistics capabilities and legal and regulatory deficiencies. As such, although there is some opportunity for localization, the region as a whole is unlikely to take full advantage.
  • Mexico seems best placed to increase its position in the US supply chain, but there are issues here too. In the very near term, the problem will center around the country's slow emergence from the health and economic effects of Covid-19. More fundamentally, Mexico will struggle without government policy to actively promote supply chain shifts, and without policy that attracts investment more broadly.
  • Looking elsewhere in the region, a number of key metrics in The Economist Intelligence Unit's business environment rankings suggest that Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile and Colombia are, relatively speaking, better placed to compete with Asia in supply chains.

"Labor markets, economic policy and political effectiveness are crucial," the report notes. "Although weaknesses in logistics have been central to the failure of Latin America (with the exception of Mexico and Central America) to integrate into major global supply chains, there are clearly other challenges. One of these is the region's readiness to adopt new technologies and preparedness for industry 4.0 (the fourth industrial revolution) as firms in all sectors increasingly adopt, for example, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics into supply chain processes."

The EIU assesses global technological readiness in its Business Environment Rankings, "looking at issues such as research and development (R&D) spending and infrastructure, the quality of e-commerce and e-government, patent applications, and technology usage. Taking all of these factors into account, and combining our assessment of technological readiness with an assessment of the infrastructure capacity of countries in the region, our rankings show that Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia stand out ahead of the pack in Latin America."

Moreover, companies in the region making supply chain location decisions "will take into account factors such as policy towards private investment and foreign direct investment (FDI), the prevalence of free-trade agreements (FTAs) with other key players in the supply chain, and political and policy effectiveness and predictability."

Importantly, "An assessment of all of these factors, along with infrastructure, technological readiness and labor markets, taken from our Business Environment Rankings, suggests that, within Latin America, the economies most prepared for supply chain integration are Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. This preparedness matters, given the stickiness of local investment. Moving manufacturing from one place to another is difficult and expensive. So, notwithstanding considerations that companies are giving to supply chain diversification and resilience, relocating requires the right conditions. There are sectoral implications here too: it is much easier to relocate a textile manufacturer than an autoparts or aerospace manufacturer, for example."

The EIU encouragingly maintains that "Latin America clearly has the opportunity to gain from nearshoring in the coming decade, given some comparative advantages, including its long list of FTAs, proximity to the US market and increasingly competitive wages. And some movement is likely, particularly to Mexico. To the extent that supply chain shifts happen, they would prove enormously beneficial, boosting local suppliers and helping the region's middle-income economies to move up the value chain."

Apart from those countries blessed with natural resources, the Latin American economy has experienced a variety of socioeconomic challenges in the past few decades often exasperated by corruption. However, with policy reform, support to expand infrastructure capacity, and private sector investment in technology R&D, I am expect to see a rise in regional supply chain integration. This will present opportunities for firms provided they effectively identify the country-level risks and prepare strategies to mitigate those risks.

Do you think Latin America can take advantage of shifts in the global supply chain?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 15, 2020

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Region Will Be Home to More Than 50 Million 5G and Add Almost 330 Million New IoT Connections by 2025

Like most regions globally, "The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the digital landscape in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region and around the world," says a report by the GSMA, a UK-based organization representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide. "The social distancing measures put in place to curb the spread of the pandemic have brought to light the value of connectivity for social and economic wellbeing. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of a robust and inclusive digital economy, underpinned by universal access to fast, reliable internet and a range of digital services for individuals and businesses."

Available in English and русский, the Mobile Economy Russia & CIS 2020 report, which is authored by GSMA Intelligence, GSMA's research and consulting arm, explains that "mobile industry in the CIS region has endeavored to keep citizens connected during the pandemic, despite changes in data consumption patterns and the challenges associated with serving prepaid consumers during lockdowns. Operators have engaged with the public and private sectors on initiatives to alleviate the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups and the most affected firms. Measures include zero-rated use of educational services and access to government websites, discounted tariffs for healthcare workers, and free access to online conferencing solutions to enable business continuity and support economic recovery."

In addition to the pandemic highlighting the importance of digital connectivity, the report also produced the following findings:
  • 4G became the region's leading mobile technology in 2020 and will account for 65% of total connections by 2025.
  • Smartphone adoption is set to reach 81% by 2025 due to the availability and popularity of lower cost handsets.
  • The mobile ecosystem employed over 830,000 people in the region in 2019 and contributed $14b to public sector funding.
  • The CIS region will add almost 330 million new IoT connections by 2025, with smart home and smart buildings two key growth areas.

While 4G remains a priority in the CIS region, fifth generation technology (5G) will spread in the near future. "Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia are expected to launch 5G during 2021; networks in the region's other nine markets will be live by 2025," the report explains. The CIS region will be home to more than 50 million 5G connections by 2025, representing an adoption rate of 13%."

What is more, "Despite the economic uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, operators in the region will invest more than $25 billion in infrastructure rollouts between 2020 and 2025, of which 57% will be 5G-specific. Delivering 5G connectivity will increase operators' capital intensity, with initial monetization strategies centered on enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and other consumer applications."

With respect to the mobile industry driving economic growth and social development, the report says that "Over the coming years, 5G technologies will drive further contributions to the CIS economy, impacting key sectors such as manufacturing, utilities and professional & financial services."

Furthermore, "Beyond economic impacts, operators are making significant contributions to the welfare of society more broadly. Continued investments in networks are helping bridge the digital divide and drive inclusion across the region. The mobile industry is contributing to progress with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This includes providing access to life-enhancing educational tools and platforms, delivering the infrastructure to build sustainable smart cities, and supporting efforts to combat climate change."

As for policies to support the region's expanding digital economy, "Access to digital services and technologies has been crucial to keep economies active and mitigate the harms caused by Covid-19. Post pandemic, these same factors will be vital to reinvigorate the CIS economy and rebuild businesses and communities. The rollout of mobile broadband can help spur socioeconomic growth and transform traditional industries. It is therefore more important than ever that governments and regulators implement policies to drive investment in resilient digital infrastructure, enhance access to connectivity and encourage adoption."

The report adds that "5G offers the potential to underpin a range of enterprise and consumer applications. However, uncertainty around spectrum access and returns on investment can be significant barriers to releasing value into the digital economy. A comprehensive national 5G development plan accompanied by the effective management of spectrum resources are key to maximizing the opportunities that next-generation mobile connectivity can bring to the region."

Lastly, "Policymakers must also revise the outdated electromagnetic emission rules that could hinder cost-efficient 5G deployments, as well as rethink fiscal policy to strike the right balance between tax revenue generation and operator investment."

Infographic: GSMA Intelligence

Through my experience working in the CIS region, I have witnessed how mobile technology, starting with feature phones operating on 2G networks, benefited millions of people as information flowed to high density urban areas and the sparsely populated countryside alike. Significant geopolitical challenges exist in many of the region's countries, but I remain optimistic that governments, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector will continue to coordinate on policy reform and allocate investments to modernize the region's mobile infrastructure and increase research and development. Such actions will bring value-added services to the projected 244 million unique mobile subscribers in 2025.

What are your thoughts about the report's findings? Do you see opportunities to develop hardware or applications for enterprises or consumers in the CIS region?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 14, 2020

Exploring the Business Case for Responsible AI

According to a report produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU), "Lofty estimates of the future value of artificial intelligence (AI) reflect the growing role it is playing throughout the economy, supporting greater output capacity and productivity improvements."

Sponsored by Google Cloud, "The report is a timely call to action on responsible AI development and explores the key considerations that technology companies must take into account when designing, developing and implementing artificial intelligence (AI) responsibly. The purpose of the report is to highlight the value of responsible AI practices in an increasingly AI-driven world. The findings are based on an extensive evidence review, an expert interview program and an executive survey program."

Entitled Staying ahead of the curve: The business case for responsible AI, the report offers a conceptual toolkit to help firms realize the full potential of AI, while balancing critical questions around ethics and responsibility. Moreover, "While many ethical AI guidelines have been published globally, many firms have yet to meaningfully implement these, and need to do so in order to realize the full benefits of AI. The core purpose of this study is to assess the full benefits of responsible AI, both short- and long-term, and to outline the necessary investments to support it, as firms design, develop and implement the technology."

Below are the report's key findings:
  • Responsible AI should be seen as a potential source of competitive advantage, not only as a reactive measure to assuage ethical concerns.
  • Firms that incorporate responsible AI practices throughout the product development lifecycle will build competitive advantage through enhanced product quality.
  • Responsible AI can significantly benefit talent acquisition, retention and engagement, especially given employees' growing scrutiny of their employer’s ethics, beliefs and practices.
  • Companies' growing reliance on user data is emphasizing the need for better data management, security and privacy, which will in turn fuel growth in the AI industry.
  • AI regulation is imminent and firms should invest in readiness.
  • Responsible AI can improve a firm's top- and bottom-line growth by increasing customer engagement, broadening revenue streams, offering procurement advantages in competitive bidding processes, and increasing pricing power in the marketplace.
  • Societal belief in the virtue of technology companies remains high, but heightened focus on the sector has increased the trust and branding risks associated with a lack of responsible AI.

With respect to the first finding that responsible AI should be seen as a potential source of competitive advantage, the report says "Firms that shift their AI development processes to align with more responsible practices are likely to see reduced medium- and long-term downside risks associated with challenges such as dealing with a data breach. However, this study shows that the benefits of responsible AI actually extend far beyond risk management. For instance, improved data security and privacy can boost the availability and use of reliable data, and clearer 'interpretability' can make it easier to understand AI use cases within a business. Among EIU executive survey respondents, 90% agree that the potential long-term benefits and cost savings associated with implementing responsible AI far outweigh the initial costs."

Regarding the finding the AI regulation is imminent and firms should invest in readiness, the report notes that "Despite concerns about overregulation, many stakeholders in the broader AI ecosystem believe that the current lack of regulatory clarity may be feeding uncertainty, undermining public acceptance of the technology and stalling investment. EIU survey data confirms this, with over 85% of business leaders from across sectors reporting that formal AI regulation is long overdue. Regulation is coming, and it is incumbent on market leaders to invest themselves in the process in order to promote a responsible and balanced approach, rooted in the realities of AI technology and its applications. Preparedness for regulation is essential. Companies that invest in responsible AI practices now will be able to engage with regulators and act as industry advisors in crucial conversations about future regulations, potentially preventing the development of sweeping or overly restrictive AI regulations."

As for the final finding, the report suggests that "In the technology industry, the connection between trust and branding (including publicity) has never been stronger. A number of recent scandals have increased external scrutiny of industry practices, and 64% of EIU survey respondents report that these scandals have made them more distrustful of the technology sector. These developments have occurred against the backdrop of the fourth industrial revolution, and amid growing skepticism in many quarters about the overall benefits of new technologies. As a result, firms must realize that decisions made today about AI ethics could have long-lasting implications for how their brands are perceived in the marketplace."

Do you agree with the report's findings? What are your recommendations on how a business can implement responsible AI practices?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

November 13, 2020

UNCTAD Report on Maritime Trade Presents Six Policy Actions to Be Taken in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Until the global spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic earlier this year, most consumers worldwide never considered how the toilet paper or baking goods they purchase arrive on the shelves of their local grocer. Reports about disrupted supply chains, reduced cargo volumes, and shortage of healthy workers at seaports in distance lands, which normally are found in specialized news sources, started to appear in the mainstream media as the COVID-19 began to impact the global economy. Even if they did not comprehend its specific nuances, people took notice of the role maritime transport has on transporting their home goods to a regional distribution center for ordering via an e-commerce platform. And these consumers quickly began to understand disruptions in the maritime transport industry has a direct impact of obtaining goods they rely on purchasing with ease.

I have long been interested in the logistics industry starting with a tour of a local post office during my childhood where I learned how a letter dropped in the corner letter box is delivered to a friend who lived a few blocks away or my grandparents hundreds of miles from my residence. And I was enthralled by the massive cargo ships docked at the Port of Seattle when I moved to the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. As a member of board of advisors of TRInternational, Inc., a Seattle-based chemical distributor, which imports many products into the United States via cargo ships, I closely follow the maritime transport industry. Therefore, I took a great interest in reading the Review of Maritime Transport 2020, a recurrent publication prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) secretariat since 1968 with the aim of fostering the transparency of maritime markets and analyzing relevant developments.

Structured around five substantive chapters, the report explains that the "pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of maritime transport as an essential sector for the continued delivery of critical supplies and global trade in time of crisis, during the recovery stage and when resuming normality." What is more, "The global health and economic crisis triggered by the pandemic has upended the landscape for maritime transport and trade and significantly affected growth prospects. UNCTAD projects the volume of international maritime trade to fall by 4.1 percent in 2020. Amid supply-chain disruptions, demand contractions and global economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the global economy was severely affected by a twin supply and demand shock." Encouragingly, "UNCTAD projections indicate that maritime trade will recover in 2021 and expand by 4.8 percent."

On the topic of cybersecurity, "Increased cyberattacks in shipping during the COVID-19 crisis were exacerbated by the limited ability of companies to sufficiently protect themselves, including because of travel restrictions, social distancing measures and economic recession." Moreover, "With ships and ports becoming better connected and further integrated into information technology networks, the implementation and strengthening of cybersecurity measures are becoming essential priorities."

New International Maritime Organization (IMO) "resolutions encourage administrations to ensure that cybersecurity risks are appropriately addressed in safety-management systems. Owners who fail to do so are not only exposed to such risks but may have their ships detained by port State control authorities that need to enforce this requirement. Cybersecurity risks are likely to continue to grow significantly as a result of greater reliance on electronic trading and an increasing shift to virtual interactions at all levels. This deepens vulnerabilities across the globe, with a potential to produce crippling effects on critical supply chains and services."

The report also presents "six priority areas for policy action to be taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the persistent challenges facing the maritime transport and trade of developing countries":

1. Support trade so it can effectively sustain growth and development.

"Trade tensions, protectionism, export restrictions, particularly for essential goods in times of crisis, bring economic and social costs. These should, to the extent possible, be avoided. Further, non-tariff measures and other obstacles to trade should be addressed, including by stepping up trade facilitation action and customs automation."

2. Help reshape globalization for sustainability and resilience.

"Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak have re-ignited the debate on the risks associated with international manufacturing production and extended supply chains. It will be important to carefully assess the varied options when it comes to changes in supply-chain design and outcomes that are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For example, a shortening of supply chains through reshoring or near shoring may reduce transport costs and fuel consumption, but it does not necessarily future-proof supply chains against disruptions that could take place, regardless of the location. Multi-sourcing approaches may guarantee greater resilience than approaches that concentrate production in a single location, whether at home or abroad. The debate on globalization should focus on identifying ways in which unsustainable globalization patterns could be mitigated to generate more value to a wider range of economies."

3. Promote greater technology uptake and digitalization.

"Polices should support a digital transformation that improves the resilience of supply chains and their supporting transportation networks. For maritime transport to play its role in linking global economies and supply chains, it should leverage the crisis by investing in technology and adopting solutions that meet the needs of the supply chains of the future and support resilience efforts. Digitalization efforts should enable enhanced efficiencies, including energy efficiency, and productivity in transport (for example, smart ports and shipping). It should also help countries tap e-commerce capabilities and transport facilitation benefits that boost trade. For more impact, cybersecurity should be strengthened
at all levels."

4. Harness data for monitoring and policy responses.

"The use of fast-evolving data capabilities can support efforts to forecast growth and monitor recovery trends. New sources of data and enhanced possibilities emanating from digitalization provide ample opportunities to analyze and improve policies. The pandemic has highlighted the potential for real-time data on ship movement and port traffic, as well as information on shipping schedules to generate early warning systems for economic growth and seaborne trade."

5. Enable agile and resilient maritime transport systems.

"There is a need to invest in risk management and emergency response preparedness beyond pandemics. Future-proofing the maritime supply chain and risk management require greater visibility of door-to-door transport operations. To do so, it is necessary to formulate plans setting out key actions and protocols to be implemented in response to crises while ensuring business continuity. Special consideration is needed to address seafarers' concerns, most of whom come from developing countries. Collaboration across port States and among different actors within countries remains key to improving crew changeover processes and ensuring standardized procedure and risk management protocols."

6. Maintain the momentum on sustainability, climate-change adaptation and resilience-building.

"Current efforts to deal with carbon emissions from shipping and the ongoing energy transition away from fossil fuels should remain a priority. Governments could direct stimulus packages to support recovery while promoting other priorities such as climate-change mitigation and adaptation action. Thus, policies adopted in the context of a post-pandemic world should support further progress in the shipping industry's transition to greening and sustainability. Meanwhile, sustainability and resilience concerns, such as connectivity among small island developing States and climate-change adaptation, remain key priorities. In these States, critical coastal transport infrastructure is a lifeline for external trade, tourism, and food and energy security. The generation and dissemination of tailored data and information plays an important role in risk assessment, the improvement of connectivity levels, the development of effective adaptation measures, the preparation of targeted studies and effective multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder collaboration. In addition, progress towards the realization of target 8.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals – sustainable economic growth in the least developed countries – is ever more important to strengthen the resilience of the least developed countries and their ability to cope with future disruptions."

I concur that the "COVID-19 pandemic is a litmus test, not only for globalization but for global solidarity and collaboration as well. The success of the above-mentioned policy measures will depend on effective international collaboration to ensure coordinated policy responses. Coordinated efforts are also necessary for the standardization of data, tracking of port performance and development of protection mechanisms against cybercrime."

Lastly, "In facing the challenges ahead, policymakers should ensure that financial support, technical cooperation and capacity-building are provided to developing countries, in particular the most vulnerable groups of countries, including the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States."

Do you agree with the six policy actions to prepare for a post-pandemic world? Which cybersecurity tools and strategies should companies in the maritime trade industry employ to combat cybercrime?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.