Monday, 29 December 2008

Wikimocracy – The future of governance and 1 000 000 000 people starving

With the recent changes in China and with the incoming administration in the US it is interesting to note some similarities that I think have not been discussed enough. Both governments are interested in using the internet to involve the citizens more and to improve the quality on the decisions. Obviously the history and vision of the two governments differs in many areas, but the challenge of governance in a time where information is flowing fast and shared among very many people the old forms of governance are under pressure. Pressure to work in new ways as people will expect and demand new things from their governments, but also pressure to ensure that the energy is captured in the best possible way. The way countries have become powerful has changes over time, ranging from good soldiers, access to natural resources and population to high-tech weapons, industrial production capacity and control over the financial flows.

Innovation and capacity to process and turn information into knowledge is likely to be the next defining area. This in a situation where humanity also must meet the need of the many poor that probably will suffer even more. 2009 could be the first time in human history where more than one billion people will go hungry around the globe. It is time for those who want to do something significant to step forward… Hopefully some of the projects I will engage in next year can play more than a marginal role in the work to address this.

To explore participation and creativity with a Wikimocracy approach is not only something that governments can do…. The follow-up with CII to our joint report, Indian Companies with Solutions that the World Needs - Sustainability as a driver for innovation ans profit, is one very promising track...

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Three voices from India Pico Iyer: The Global Soul; Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger; Shashi Tharoor: The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone;

During my last trip to India, the same time as the attack in Mumbai/ Bombay, I read three books that I think represent a triangle that manage to capture a lot of what India is today and might be tomorrow.

In his book “The Global Soul: Let Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home” Pico Iyer manage to capture the feeling of a person that is on top of the world, but don’t have a geographical place as the reference. Belonging to a generation of global citizens (or maybe multinational citizens) he describes the distance between his own “global world” and the structures that still want people to belong in their national/cultural/racial boxes. If he would have spent less time on his experiences as a sport journalist and more on the different situations that he experience it could have been a really good book. Now it is interesting for anyone interested in India and the search for identity that I think a lot of professionals from the emerging economies like China and India feel as they enter the “global world” that actually is a Western world dominated by commercialism with bonus points at hotel rooms, multiple sim-cards and other small details that are not really important.

Shashi Tharoor have a traditional “I want to give my perspective on today’s India in a few articles”, but does it better than most. There is an amazing about of books about India and where India will go. Almost all of them are written in the shadow of China. Tharoor manages to deal with this better than most. It is obviously frustrating for those who want to say that India is such a unique place to have to end most of those sentences with “with the exception of China”. I can recommend Tharoor as he is so much better than the cadre of economists and journalists who lack both historical understanding and cultural knowledge.

Beside his ability to capture the different sides in India as complementary (but often resulting in friction) I think his genuine will to tell a story and help guide people is what I like most. The last chapter “The A to Z of Being Indian” is in the context a great ending. My only reservation might be that I might have exaggerated the quality of the book as it shines in contrast to many of the other books that people without any real knowledge or interest in India (beyond using the hunger for a new perspective to promote themselves)… If there is one thing that I really lack in this book it would be a discussion about why so many “entrepreneurs” and leading thinkers are of such low quality in India (compared with China not the least).

Aravind Adiga and his The White Tiger is a really interesting book. It is provocative, but I think anyone who has spent time in India can recognize a lot in it. Maybe it is too provocative, but it is a fresh contrast to all the polished books that focus on the amazing rise of India and to the traditional complaining against modernization. An extra bonus is that it is written as letters to Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier.

For me personally it is extra interesting as the Sino-Indian axis is something I work on, and I was in Delhi when Wen was in Delhi… The book tells the story of one person from his early years in a poor rural village, via Delhi as a driver, to an entrepreneur in Bangalore. As a book about modernity it does not tell the whole story and I think it will upset the PR people that try to sell the “modern India” or “Incredible India”, but it is a perspective well needed as it moves beyond the simple class, religion, traditional/modern and cast tensions and put them into a broader context.

Each of the three books is not something that I would say is a must to read, but together they form a triangle that I think is well worth the time.

Indian Companies with Solutions that the World Needs - SUSTAINABILITY AS A DRIVER FOR INNOVATION AND PROFIT

Download the report, "Indian Companies with Solutions that the World Needs - Sustainability as a driver for innovation and profit", in PDF format here (400k)

The joint CII-WWF report about sustainability as a driver for profit and innovation was one of the most exciting project during 2008. This report will hopefully be discussed and used during 2009 as it becomes clear to more companies that it is time to move beyond incremental improvements. We have begun to draft the strategy and during 2009 there will be a number of initiatives and we will probably see a global study looking into how the world’s leading companies are integrating poverty alleviation and low carbon solutions into their core business.

Below is the press release from WWF India (Still global media are slow to pick up interesting things from the emerging economies so it was probably not picked up a lot)…

11 Dec 2008
New Delhi, 11th Dec, 08: As the global negotiation on climate policy continue to unveil and steps towards stalemate, a new report by WWF and CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development (CESD) brings out successful stories of how Indian businesses are using innovation as a driver for sustainability and profit. The report, released during the CII Sustainability Summit ’08 highlights how successful organisations are bringing forward solutions to tackle twin challenges of poverty and climate change.

Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry, described the report as a major step towards sustainability and innovation, and said “Sustainable business and social entrepreneurship will shape future economic growth for the world and that the businesses featured in this report reflect the incredible potential in the alignment of sustainable development needs and business value”. He added, “the cases outlined are stories of great determination to achieve sustainable practices, but they also showcase the huge opportunities that emerge from such practices’.

With a special focus on climate change, this report stresses the need for rapid global emission reductions as the driver for new thinking. It provides examples from Indian companies that can be used both by industry and governments to make strategic decisions from an economic, social and environmental perspective. It demonstrates through case studies how leading Indian companies are integrating low carbon development into their strategies and targeting sustainability without losing sight of core business objectives.

Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India, speaking to the press at the release noted, “Through this report we are attempting to bring forward a special focus on climate change and the need for rapid global emission reductions as a driver for new thinking where leading companies must integrate poverty alleviation and low carbon development in their strategies”.

He added, “Climate change is still only the tip of an iceberg as we must ensure a more resource efficient development if we are to ensure biodiversity and avoid an ecological crisis that would make the current financial crisis pale in comparison”.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Assessment of Global Low-Carbon and Environmental Leadership in the ICT Sector

Here is the link to the PDF version of the report where Gartner and WWF Assess Low Carbon and Environmental Leadership Among Global ICT Companies [Click to download].

Below the Press Release from 5th of November.

Gartner, Inc., today presented the results of an assessment of 24 global information and communication technology (ICT) providers on their commitment to tackling climate change within their own company and their capabilities in innovating and developing solutions that will help them and their clients thrive in a low carbon economy. The assessment was done in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The survey revealed the emergence of several low carbon ICT leaders that are innovating in environmental and climate leadership and other providers that are maintaining the status quo. However, the assessment showed that the ICT industry overall has been slow to embrace the low carbon economy despite the tremendous opportunities that will be presented to the industry, such as smart buildings and grid applications and travel substitution.
Simon Mingay, research vice president at Gartner, presented the findings of the Gartner and WWF’s assessment of global low carbon leadership of the ICT industry during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2008, being held here through 7 November.

“This is a unique industry report the first of its kind that examines the commitment of large ICT providers to reducing the environmental impact of their business operations, their supply chain and that of their products and services,” said Mr Mingay.

Gartner and WWF invited 24 global ICT providers* to participate. Fifteen chose to participate, all of whom should be recognised for their transparency. Nine providers, namely Accenture, Acer, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, EDS, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun and TCS chose not to participate.
Of the vendors that did respond, Fujitsu, BT, HP and IBM did well in virtually every category**, while others such as Wipro, Nortel, Verizon, China Mobile, and Lenovo did not score particularly well. There were some surprises. For example, Google has some room for improvement on basic environmental practices, supply chain and solutions for low carbon economy.

The findings also showed that IT service organisations are quite immature in their environmental programmes and their innovation for a low carbon economy. Most of these have been very slow to recognise their changing market circumstances and the changing risks and opportunities associated with climate change. Only a few of these IT service providers have really thought through the implications of a low carbon economy for their own operations or the potential opportunities it represents for their own business.

The survey revealed that Fujitsu, HP and IBM have a well-structured, balanced, long-term environmental plan that demonstrates a level of commitment across the business. When it comes to managing supply chain, taking into account the provider’s visibility and assurance into it, Nokia excelled, IBM and BT have both focused on their tier one providers (their direct providers) and engaged significantly with their second tier suppliers (“sub-tier” or sub-contractors or the suppliers of their direct suppliers) and beyond. Cisco, China Mobile, Lenovo, Dell and Google all scored relatively poorly. “They do not have the level of visibility and assurance of good practice that we would expect and fall well short of the leaders,” said Mr Mingay.

The Gartner and WWF’s report highlighted that Google does not have an environmental policy. Nortel and Cisco possess environmental policies that are bland and non-committal compared to BT’s policy, which is specific, challenging and linked to key performance indicators (KPIs).
Dennis Pamlin, global policy advisor at WWF, said the biggest challenge in moving an organisation forward strategically to address climate change and environmental sustainability is to ensure a shift from reactive to proactive and make low carbon solutions a driver for innovation and profit. HP, BT, IBM and Fujitsu did well in this area and all have relatively sophisticated programmes related to low carbon solutions.

The survey also showed that self professed leaders lacked an overall greenhouse gas (GHG) target. “An overall GHG target is one of the most basic requirements of a climate change programme, and without it organisations should be sceptical about a provider’s overall climate change programme,” said Mr Mingay. Companies without GHG targets at the time of the survey included Nokia, Ericsson, Google, Nortel, Cisco, SAP, and Wipro. Lenovo and Cisco have very recently set themselves a target.

The major difference between the ICT providers was in the way they approach the challenge of climate change. Some focus on their own direct and indirect GHG emissions. Dell and Lenovo are focusing on the 2 per cent of ICT’s global CO2 emissions, whereas BT, HP, Fujitsu and IBM are starting to focus on both the 2 per cent and the 98 per cent (e.g. building solutions that target high carbon areas of the economy to reduce the need for travel or transportation). “Those that look at the wider 98 per cent solutions will drive real innovation and help reduce the overall environmental footprint of their company,” said Mr Mingay.

The other striking difference was in relation to influencing the national, regional and international policy and regulation for a low carbon economy. Two companies do close to nothing in this field; China Mobile, and Wipro, and a third SAP does very little directly. Mr Mingay noted that while none of the respondents have crossed the line into greenwashing, Cisco, Dell have a tendency toward more talking than action on their internal climate programme. Dell and Nokia have a myopic response to the needs of a low carbon economy compared with companies like BT, IBM, Cisco and HP that are starting to target high carbon areas of the economy, such as transport solutions, smart grids and buildings.

There is evidence that taking a leadership role in climate change can create a competitive edge. “Organisations increasingly want to do business with ICT providers and look at them as potential partners in innovation to exploit the opportunities of a low carbon economy,” said Mr Mingay. However, demonstrating or proving relative “greenness” is very difficult for ICT providers. A lack of standards and metrics against which greenness can be measured exacerbates the problem. This also means that there is no level playing field. The new framework developed by Gartner and WWF will help in the development of a system where companies can be measured. Gartner and WWF will follow up on this study during 2009.

“There is work to do in 2009 and beyond. A particular focus will be needed on a standard approach and methodology for life cycle assessments (LCAs) that measure the varied environmental impacts of a product or service throughout its lifecycle and consequently help reduce its carbon emissions. In addition, ICT providers will need to create innovative solutions with inter-industry partners and show a net reduction in GHG emissions in the context of a macro-economic scale system boundary,” said Mr Mingay.

“The winners in a low carbon economy will be those that realise which products and services have a material and observable effect on carbon emissions and especially those that create low-carbon feedback. The current financial crisis provides an interesting short-term opportunity for ICT providers to position themselves as low carbon leaders that deliver services that both save money and carbon emissions, especially compared with many other solutions where there is a choice between money or the environment,” concluded Mr Pamlin.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Catching the big fish: David Lynch

As I think campaigning is an art form - if you want to deliver real results and not just change things on the margin - I think a lot can be learnt from creative processes such as film making.

Many people that I meet think that the big challenge is to find the right tools, but artists start with an idea and create/find the tools necessary to realize the idea. If you want to copy already existing things you can ask for a list of things to do or ask for a handbook with tools, but if you what to do something new that will not help.

Lynch focus on meditation in his book and the search for the creative place where you can both see new aspects and get new ideas is a key aspect for any person that want to deliver results. If meditation sounds strange, try think of it as "focus".

The book is divided in small observations/reflections and can be read in an afternoon if you want to know more about a creative process. Among the many observations there should be something for everybody.

For me it was probably the balance between the urge for clarity and also a real passion/desire that he captured best. Probably because I often find that on the one hand there are those who run things and lack passion and any real will to change things and on the other hand there are those who have passion and empathy, but often struggle with their suffering.

“There are some people who try to run the whole business on fear. But I think it is such a joke – it’s pathetic and stupid at the same time.”

“Anger and depression and sorrow are beautiful things in a story, but they are like poison […] They’re like a vise grip on creativity. If you’re in that grip, you can hardly get out of bed, much less experience the flow of creativity and ideas. You must have clarity to create. You have to be able to catch ideas.”

I hope to get around in 2009 to write the “campaigning for real results” handbook.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Eric Drexler launches METAMODERN - a new blog

One of the better brains on this planet has launched a new blog Metamodern. Eric’s amazing capacity to link in-depth knowledge about the frontiers of science with an understanding about the broader social trends in society make him a person that is not only interesting to read, but also important.

This is a blog that I think can provide guidance in some of the most important areas today.

I also look forward to a couple of days of joint work with Eric and Rosa in January where we will finalize the report about nanotech that we are working on.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Traffic flow and virtual ecosystem entries win “Grid computing for a greener planet” competition

Was in the Jury for this competition and it is good that people start thinking about low carbon IT solutions. Not sure about the traffic flow system as a winner though. I have not seen the winning concept, but from what I can see it looks like a solutions that could result in long-term increased traffic and therefore not really qualify as a solutions that contribute to a greener planet...

Below is the press release.


Traffic flow and virtual ecosystem entries win “Grid computing for a greener planet” competition

• Grid Computing Now! names Nick Pringle and Christos Melissidis winners of the “Grid computing for a Greener Planet” competition
• Winnings entries detailed how to use grid computing to improve traffic flow and produce a simulation of our ecosystem
• The competition was supported by Microsoft, Intellect, The British Computer Society (BCS), The 451 Group, Memset, the National e-Science Centre (NeSC), Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC), WWF, and The Technology Strategy Board
• Prizes included a Sony Vaio laptop, the appointment of a mentor from industry to enable the winner to take their idea forward, an XBox360 and subscription to the British Computer Society (BCS) and The 451 Group
• Second prizes were awarded for a solution that would locate carbon hot spots, and one that would monitor methane levels

London December 3rd Grid Computing Now!, a government funded knowledge transfer network, today announced the winners of the “Grid computing for a greener planet” competition.

The first prize for the Non-Professional Track was awarded to Christos Melissidis, an MSc student from Cranfield University. His concept is a simulation of our ecosystem. Melissidis wants to create a virtual ecosystem in order to solve environmental problems. The idea is to feed real time data derived from various data sources, such as the weather channel, into the virtual ecosystem while measuring its response.

The first prize for the Professional Track was awarded to Nick Pringle, an IT consultant and part-time PhD student, for his predictive traffic flow model. His solution would involve enhancing existing GPS information by submitting individual route information to a grid computing system, which would calculate a journey time based on how many other people would be choosing to take the same route at the same time. This has the potential to reduce, and potentially avoid, time spent in traffic jams and carbon emissions.

Entrants were judged primarily on their solution’s feasibility, scope and creativity. Grid computing, a service for sharing computer power and data storage capacity over the Internet*, can be applied to any environmental issue that stands to benefit from a huge amount of raw processing power to calculate massive data sets.

Both entrants have been appointed an industry mentor, Dr David Wallom, Technical Manager University of Oxford, to help them progress their ideas.

Ian Osborne, Grid Computing Now! Director said, “Over the past year we have seen tremendous growth in the number and scope of grid computing solutions available. The winners of this competition have demonstrated the immense potential for grid computing to help solve, or monitor environmental issues.”

Bob Harvey, Chair of the BCS Carbon Footprint Working Group, says “I am delighted to see students and professionals involved in this competition and producing solutions that offer real benefits, especially in terms of reducing carbon emissions.”

Dennis Pamlin, Global Policy Advisor, WWF says “We’re pleased to have supported this competition, and hope it inspires further technological initiatives that help monitor, or even solve, environmental problems.”

Judges included: Anne Trefethen, Oxford e-Research Centre (OERC); Kate Craig Wood, Memset; Jerry Fishenden, National Technology Officer Microsoft; John Barr, Research Director The 451 Group; Liam Newcombe BCS Datacentre Specialist Group; Dennis Pamlin, Global Policy Advisor, WWF Sweden; John Whittall, Lead Technologist for Environmental Sustainability, Technology Strategy Board.

The first grid computing competition, launched in 2006, invited participants to solve any type of problem. Entries ranged from using grid computing for asteroid tracking intelligence to exploiting the Internet to help combat terrorism. The previous winner, Gopok Goteng, proposed the use of grid’s processing power to crunch real time CCTV footage and biometric data to identify potential high-risk incidents. After winning the competition he went on to present his solution at Microsoft's Annual European Research and Innovation Day in Brussels.