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What’s New in Civic Tech: Global Food Data Project Kicks Off

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An international cohort of civic tech groups has launched a new effort to collect public input around food systems sustainability, ultimately aiming to use the resultant data to drive new innovations.

This effort is taking place under The 100 Questions Initiative, which has an aim of helping innovators and technologists better define questions in order to “unlock the potential of data and data science,” the group writes on its website. This new campaign around food sustainability is being led by the Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. For the effort, The GovLab is partnering with Italy’s Barilla Foundation and the Center for European Policy Studies, which is based in Brussels.

Dubbed Food Systems Sustainability, this new effort stems from two substantial concerns, the first of which is the damage being done to the environment by unsustainable farming practices. The second is the way climate change continues to make existing food systems more fragile as the global population continues to rapidly increase.

“Solving both of these challenges requires more sustainable approaches to producing, consuming and disposing of food,” reads the Food Systems Sustainability website.

The first step for the project is to identify the 10 most important questions to make food systems more sustainable.

In a practical sense, this means working with a group of global experts to find the most pressing questions — especially those with the greatest possible impact — that can actually be answered by data and data science. Coinciding with the launch of this campaign is a call for experts who are knowledgeable about both data and food sustainability to help.

Once the top 10 questions have been identified, the public will be asked to vote on the questions that should get solved first. (Zack Quaintance)

NEW ONLINE PLATFORM TRACKS HEALTH DISPARITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY

A new online platform seeks to use COVID-19 data to reveal how health disparities impact U.S. communities.

The platform was created in a coordinated effort by the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, Gilead Sciences, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the CDC Foundation and Google.org, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as the impetus.

Using data from five sources, the platform currently examines 15 variables, including cases, deaths and hospitalizations. By giving a detailed view of these items as they relate to several different factors, the platform’s goal is to show policymakers — as well as the public — how different communities are affected and how resources can improve inequities.

The plan is to expand the platform to include more data about COVID-19; develop policy templates for local, state and federal government; and measure progress by releasing additional data.

For more information or to examine the data, the Health Equity Tracker can be viewed online. (Julia Edinger)

KANSAS STUDY IS LATEST REGIONAL EFFORT TO OBTAIN PRECISE BROADBAND DATA

A new project in Kansas will ask residents to provide info to help create a clearer picture of Internet and broadband infrastructure, filling in gaps left by frequently criticized Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data, organizers have announced.

The effort is led by the University of Kansas, where a team of researchers at the Institute for Policy and Social Research have already surveyed students about broadband, finding what they described as valuable information around inadequate Internet access. Essentially, that same effort is now being extended to look at the issue statewide.

“The information we’ve received about uneven and inadequate Internet access among students has been valuable, but there are still a lot of geographic areas of Kansas that we know very little about in terms of Internet access and options for service provision,” said Germaine Halegoua, an associate professor involved with the work. “Policymakers still lack essential knowledge about Internet affordability and quality in rural as well as urban areas. We’re hoping that our statewide survey fills in those gaps.”

Kansas is far from the only state or region that has found FCC broadband data lacking or too broad, with similar localized efforts taking place from Georgia to California. In fact, amid the outbreak of and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, many who work in the broadband expansion and digital equity space have advocated for these types of efforts, essentially giving local stakeholders agency when it comes to reporting whether they find their Internet sufficient, rather than trusting the reports of private companies that provide these services, often with the aim of profit.

The research in Kansas is being supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, and will gauge the availability and quality of Internet access across the state, gathering detailed information on areas with slow speeds as well as data on availability and cost. Ultimately, the researchers plan to share their findings with the public, Internet service providers and state lawmakers.

TRUST FOR PUBLIC LAND REPORT: DATA ABOUT PARK ACCESS

A new data set this week provides some interesting insight into urban development trends — trends of which those in both civic tech and urban planning may want to take note.

The report, which was released last week by nonprofit The Trust for Public Land, details equity gaps in U.S. parks. For example, in the 100 most populous cities, people have 44 percent less park acreage when they live in neighborhoods that are predominantly Black, Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native or Asian American and Pacific Islander, as opposed to when they live in predominantly white neighborhoods.

The report goes on to examine data on how this inequity impacts other variables, including health, climate and the economy. (Julia Edinger)

Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She’s currently located in Southern California.

This content was originally published here.

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Using Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in Your Tech Company

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As a tech company, you will always be looking for ways to develop. Using data science and artificial intelligence can be useful for this type of growth. While they share some similarities, there are also some differences between the two. You may be surprised to hear about the amazing benefits that AI offers for startups, especially those in the tech sector.

Artificial intelligence

You may have heard artificial intelligence being referred to as AI in countless movies and TV shows. In real life, it’s used for creating improvement rather than turning on humanity, as it is so often shown to be doing on screen, even though this makes interesting viewing.

AI has many uses, such as helping with translations, analyzing complex information and decision-making. It also has the ability to learn and therefore improve and adapt.

Rodrigo Liang is CEO of SambaNova, which provides both hardware and software to businesses for the purpose of analyzing data. While this can be classed as data science, one difference is that data science tends to use a predictive model to make its analysis, while AI can be capable of analyzing based on learned knowledge and facts. This information may not have been programmed, which is why AI can be more precise and take factors into account that weren’t previously considered.

Data science

Data science covers a broad range of techniques, including statistics, design and development. It can be used to achieve quick mathematical calculations and find hidden patterns and trends in the data it analyzes, but it needs an element of human intervention. One difference is that using AI can remove the need for human input as it learns and develops.

The programming for data science relies on already having statistics and predictive trends to work with. This information can then be used to find patterns and other details that might not be immediately obvious without hours, days or even weeks of human analysis.

Both AI and data science can be used interchangeably depending on what is required, and they can complement each other.

The benefits to your tech company

One way that AI can be used to benefit your tech company is to carry out risk analysis. Otherwise, this can be an expensive task, particularly in the event of human error. It also saves time, as AI can process and analyze large amounts of information much quicker than a person can. Therefore, although the initial outlay might be high, the savings to your business will more than compensate for this. One example of this is fraud detection, which in some cases could be enough to force a business to close if it’s not caught or prevented in time.

AI can also help with translating different languages. Most businesses rely on trading with customers and other businesses around the world, but the language barrier can make that more difficult. If you need to meet with or send emails to clients, or create content for speakers of other languages, hiring a translator can be expensive. It’s also risky if you’re dealing with sensitive information. That’s why AI is so popular for translating. It not only saves money but also inspires trust in your company, as the information is kept secure.

Data science can be used to spot trends and patterns in your business. This is useful if you need to cut costs in areas that are losing money for your business, or if you need to focus your attention on more successful aspects to boost these further. No successful tech company will want to continue spending money on the parts of it that aren’t cost-efficient. AI can work well with data science here, by thinking logically to find a viable solution and make improvements.

Although AI can translate human facial expressions, tone of voice and body languages to interpret human emotion, the ability to find solutions using logic can be an advantage to your tech company. While you and your employees may try to operate fairly and make the right decisions, it’s difficult to be completely impartial. We have our own thoughts and opinions, and these can shape our decisions, whether or not we want them to.

When it comes to repetition in the workplace, nobody wants to be stuck doing the same thing repeatedly. It’s no good for the morale of your employees, and they will eventually leave if they don’t feel like they’re getting job satisfaction. It may feel like using data science and AI in your tech company will kill off jobs for humans. However, it’s just as likely that they can be better placed doing other less menial tasks within your company. If using these technologies results in fewer financial losses and more gains, then there is no reason why employees can’t be relocated elsewhere in the company on more appealing tasks.

AI Offers Great Advantages for Tech Startups

AI and data science can be great for your tech company, removing or lowering risk, increasing profits, and generally helping you run your company with fewer problems, and with fewer job losses than you might think. Any initial costs will usually be recuperated.

The post Using Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in Your Tech Company appeared first on SmartData Collective.

This content was originally published here.

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Tech Regulatory Overhaul Series: The Glass-Steagall Act for the Internet

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Tech Regulatory Overhaul Series: The Glass-Steagall Act for the Internet

Following our introductory blog post on the bills introduced in the House to target the most successful tech companies in the U.S., this next blog post in this series will offer an analysis of the bill introduced by Representative Jayapal with the aim to engage in industrial organization and mandate the structural separation of these designated companies.

Representative Jayapal introduced the ‘Ending Platform Monopolies Act’ with the aim of eliminating what some policy makers have classified as ‘conflicts of interest’ in the digital space. In reality, this bill is inspired by the Glass-Steagall Act and represents an attack on multi-sided business models that have succeeded by providing consumers a variety of integrated services.  In other words, this bill wants to break up the most successful digital service providers in the U.S., and harm consumers.  This is the main reason why some commentators have referred to it as the Glass-Steagall Act for the Internet.

Back in 1933, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall legislation, which consisted of a series of laws imposing a separation of banks’ business lines, specifically commercial and investment banking services.  Inspired by this legislation, Representative Jayapal’s bill considers that online platforms may have ‘conflicts of interest’ among the services they provide to consumers, and has crafted an approach that will impose a structural separation on a selected group of tech companies to eliminate such conflicts.  

What is the problem with this bill? The main problem is that policy makers have not really analyzed how this legislation would impact consumers in the real world, in addition to being discriminatory and contrary to market economy principles.

It is well known that digital service providers often operate under business models that, by design, offer multiple and diverse services to consumers.  For example, MacBook users typically take advantage of the Apple App Store services, or Amazon Prime subscribers enjoy Prime delivery for both products acquired from Amazon directly as well as from third party sellers that operate in their marketplace.  LinkedIn users can link their accounts to Skype services, and consumers enjoy seeing a map of the locations they searched for as part of their queries’ results.  The user centric business models that have improved users’ experience are what the bill considers to be a ‘conflict of interest’ worth tackling.

Ironically, this bill only considers that these so-called ‘conflicts of interest’ are only worrisome in the digital space, but not in the offline world.  So whereas a brick and mortar supermarket that sells third party products and private label products in its store does not raise any concerns, it would in the online space according to this bill. But the cynicism goes even further, because the reality is that this bill won’t be applicable to all online services, and thus, online supermarkets that sell private labels and third party products online won’t be considered troublesome. The reality is that this bill doesn’t tackle what has been considered as ‘conflicts of interest’ but actually would break up a selected group of companies, irrespective of whether this designation is discriminatory, or whether it makes sense or not from a market economy and consumer perspective.  

In short, the ‘conflict of interest’ dilemma expressed in the bill is nothing but a shield to justify the imposition of structural remedies to a handful of companies without having to prove harm to consumers that typically characterizes antitrust enforcement. 

The legislative classification of the violations included in this bill is no less controversial.  The bill establishes that a violation of the act will constitute an unfair method of competition under section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act).  Section 5 of the FTC Act has been a longstanding unclear provision that has not been exempt from controversy.  

Back in 2015, the FTC issued a statement in an effort to clarify what constitutes an ‘unfair method of competition’.  In such a statement, the FTC recognized that Congress “[…] left the development of Section 5 to the Federal Trade Commission as an expert administrative body, which would apply the statute on a flexible case-by-case basis, subject to judicial review […].” 

The statement also clarified that “the Commission is less likely to challenge an act or practice as an unfair method of competition on a standalone basis if enforcement of the Sherman or Clayton Act is sufficient to address the competitive harm arising from the act or practice.”  So this bill introduces an exemption to the current way of enforcing section 5 of the FTC Act, and it remains to be seen whether, if approved, it will have a further negative impact on the agency’s ability to litigate section 5 cases.  It is foreseeable that the explicit definition of an ‘unfair method of competition’ as determined in Rep. Jayapal’s bill will weaken the agency’s ability to obtain deference from courts when litigating other section 5 cases that have not been explicitly defined.  Not to mention, it renders the FTC’s statement outdated, since Congress is now defining what section 5 of the FTC Act means.

In conclusion, this bill is a discriminatory effort to avoid competition enforcement and break up designated companies regardless of whether as a result consumers and the economy would be better off or not.  As a spillover effect, this bill is likely to weaken the FTC’s authority to identify and pursue section 5 cases beyond what is defined by Rep. Jayapal’s bill, decreasing the agency’s competence to win cases against businesses’ conduct that may have a real negative impact on consumers.  In essence, this bill will punish consumers and antitrust institutional design, which are the opposite effects of what members of the House are seeking to achieve by introducing the legislation being analyzed in this series of blog posts.

The post Tech Regulatory Overhaul Series: The Glass-Steagall Act for the Internet appeared first on Disruptive Competition Project.

This content was originally published here.

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3 Helpful Tech Gadgets You Need To Use at Home — Anne Cohen Writes

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Many individuals purchase intelligent home gadgets for convenience’s sake. Smart devices simplify the day-to-day operation of your house, making the user input lesser energy. They have the potential to save you both time and money. Installing smart home technology has the potential to save you up to an hour every day, and we can all agree that time is money. Additionally, you might save a significant amount of money on bills each year. There are currently more gadgets available than ever before. The following article examines the top three devices that every house should have to save time and money.

1. Premium D-Sub Cable – 25-PIN (DB25)

Cable connection is still one of the most dependable methods of data transmission. A D-sub cable is a channel that is compatible with a D-Sub port, commonly known as a VGA port, a long-established analog connection standard. D-sub cables are, in most cases, used to connect monitors to system units. 

The D-Sub Cables provide exceptional resistance to EMI/RFI interference in unsuitable environments such as medical and broadcast facilities. Such critical infrastructure should have a dependable data communication route since many losses may occur if the system fails. Information on where to find, how to use, and specs of the cable is available on Cables On Demand.

Safe To Use

Each connection is protected from electromagnetic interference and maintains shell-to-shell continuity by being encased in a stainless steel EMI cage. The DB25 interface is ideal for RS232 serial data transmission, control, and low-voltage applications. Having this cable installed at your home service provides optimal efficiency, durability, and data transfer speed. Having this product at home will facilitate a smooth flow of involved events in your house.

2. Smart Lighting System

Smart light bulbs are another critical component of smart home systems. This means that you can manage the lights in your house from any location without walking to switches. Everyone hates the awkward and uncomfortable situation where you switch off the lights and start finding your way back to the bed in the dark.

You can even link them to your network and operate them using just your voice if you have a smart hub. Instruct the system to switch off the lights, and you’ll avoid the embarrassing predicament of returning to bed in the dark.

Money-Saving Gadgets

Additionally, smart bulbs may help you save money on your energy bills since you won’t have to worry about keeping lights on while you’re away. Alternatively, if you’re away, you may periodically turn lights on and off to reduce the likelihood of being stolen while you’re gone. The bulb systems can help you save money on your light bill since you can program the system to turn off lights automatically if you forget.

3. Robot Vacuum Cleaner

If you have mobility concerns or other physical limitations, a robot vacuum cleaner is the ideal cleaning solution for you. Robotic vacuum cleaners are especially beneficial for senior people who may have arthritis or joint problems. Certain types even enable you to activate them remotely using a smartphone or tablet. 

The messier a room is, the longer it will take the unit to clean it. Most of these vacuum cleaners may be programmed to clean automatically as necessary, and they usually need minimal maintenance.

Programmed Maintenance

You can program a Robot vacuum cleaners to begin cleaning automatically at specific periods of the day. The vacuum will promptly return to its docking station after performing a job. Specific units will even pause their cleaning cycle and return to their docking station to recharge. The virtual wall functionality provides impassable limits for your device, eliminating the risk of broken gadgets or damaged furnishings. 

Due to their diminutive size, robotic vacuums can clean areas that are ordinarily inaccessible to human cleaning. Producers make These machines with higher-quality materials and to last for years. It’s beneficial for holidays, work travels, and other lengthy times away from home. Cleaning with a robot vacuum is more accessible than with a standard vacuum. Additionally, robot vacuums clean inaccessible locations such as corners, crevices, and crannies that a regular vacuum may not reach.

Every day, technology advances and everyone has a right to be educated about new technologies that make life simpler. Every day will be a breeze with these smart home gadgets. They’ll save you time and money, allowing you to focus on the little joys of life.

This content was originally published here.

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