Mine Your Digital Business

11. October 2014

Date: 10-10-2014
Source: Project Syndicate

NATHAN EAGLE

Nathan Eagle is the CEO of Jana, a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer.

BOSTON – Nearly everyone has a digital footprint – the trail of so-called “passive data” that is produced when you engage in any online interaction, such as with branded content on social media, or perform any digital transaction, like purchasing something with a credit card. A few seconds ago, you may have generated passive data by clicking on a link to read this article.

Passive data, as the name suggests, are not generated consciously; they are by-products of our everyday technological existence. As a result, this information – and its intrinsic monetary value – often goes unnoticed by Internet users.

But the potential of passive data is not lost on companies. They recognize that such information, like a raw material, can be mined and used in many different ways. For example, by analyzing users’ browser history, firms can predict what kinds of advertisements they might respond to or what kinds of products they are likely to purchase. Even health-care organizations are getting in on the action, using a community’s purchasing patterns to predict, say, an influenza outbreak.

Indeed, an entire industry of businesses – which operate rather euphemistically as “data-management platforms” – now captures individual users’ passive data and extracts hundreds of billions of dollars from it. According to the Data-Driven Marketing Institute, the data-mining industry generated $156 billion in revenue in 2012 – roughly $60 for each of the world’s 2.5 billion Internet users. Read the rest of this entry »


Philosophy on Top

9. April 2014

Date: 09-04-2014
Source: Project Syndicate

PETER SINGER

Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, is the author of Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, One World, The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason), The Life You Can Save, and the forthcoming The Point of View of the Universe (with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek). In 2013, he was named the world’s third “most influential contemporary thinker” by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute.

MELBOURNE – Last year, a report from Harvard University set off alarm bells, because it showed that the proportion of students in the United States completing bachelor’s degrees in the humanities fell from 14% to 7%. Even elite universities like Harvard itself have experienced a similar decrease. Moreover, the decline seems to have become steeper in recent years. There is talk of a crisis in the humanities.

I don’t know enough about the humanities as a whole to comment on what is causing enrollments to fall. Perhaps many humanities disciplines are not seen as likely to lead to fulfilling careers, or to any careers at all. Maybe that is because some disciplines are failing to communicate to outsiders what they do and why it matters. Or, difficult as it may be to accept, maybe it is not just a matter of communication: Perhaps some humanities disciplines really have become less relevant to the exciting and fast-changing world in which we live.

I state these possibilities without reaching a judgment about any of them. What I do know something about, however, is my own discipline, philosophy, which, through its practical side, ethics, makes a vital contribution to the most urgent debates that we can have.

Read the rest of this entry »


Closing the Skills Gap

21. November 2013

Date: 21-11-2013
Source: Project-Syndicate

MONA MOURSHED

Mona Mourshed leads McKinsey & Company’s global education practice.

WASHINGTON, DC – In an age of skyrocketing unemployment, it may seem reasonable to assume that companies do not have to worry about finding workers. But a recent McKinsey survey of more than 2,800 employers worldwide has underscored just how flawed that perception is. Four out of ten employers said that they cannot find workers to fill entry-level positions in their firms, with more than one-third of respondents saying that their businesses are suffering from a lack of appropriate skills in the labor market.

Meanwhile, young people worldwide are struggling to find jobs. While the eurozone crisis helps to explain why more than half of young people in Greece and Spain are unemployed, rapidly growing economies like South Africa and Nigeria are experiencing similar rates of youth joblessness. In the Middle East and North Africa, one in three young people are unemployed. And, in the United States, roughly half of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 were jobless or underemployed upon graduation last year.

All of this points to the costly skills mismatch at play in today’s economy. In the US alone, the opportunity cost of failing to improve education would amount to $1.7 trillion by 2030. Similarly, by bridging its growing skills gap, China could augment its GDP by $250 billion by 2020. So why isn’t more being done to ensure that young people acquire the skills they need?

The problem is rooted in divergent perceptions among the various players in the labor market. More than 70% of the educational institutions surveyed by McKinsey believe that their graduates are ready for the job market; more than half of employers and young people disagree. Closing this gap requires that educators and employers work together more closely. Employers should communicate their requirements to educators; educators need to give their graduates the tools that will enable them to meet these requirements. The problem is missed connections, so the solution is to make more of them. Read the rest of this entry »