The Big Picture is monthly PESTLE analysis that provides you with an outlook on innovation. Today we look at Legal and Environment. This month articles on Politics and Economics, Society and Technology are also available.
Privacy and sharing, the two antagonisms of Legal2.0
The Internet has thrown us in an virtual environment of virtual freedom, opinion variety and sometimes conflicts. Information and data that can be used either for good or bad purposes. It leaves us with the responsibility of judgement, which is a great, if not the most important one. How do we, as one global community interacting on one global platform, draw the line between good and bad, that is sharing freely and protection our freedom of privacy?
What can we share and how?
Sarah Cannon has published an article on HBR where she specifically points at regulation as being a barrier to sharing economy: “However, rather than rolling out the red carpet, city governments have resisted many of these new entrants issuing subpoenas and cease-and-desist orders. Just in the last month, Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission issued a cease-and-desist order on Lyft and Uber operations. The companies face fines of $1,000 per day, and 23 drivers face civil and criminal charges. Regulation is often the most significant barrier to future growth for sharing economy firms.” AirBnB and Uber have shown in the recent weeks how difficult it is to develop a sharing economy with regards to local, global, national, regional laws that necessarily affect their business. Raphael Minder from The New York Times reminds the amount of the difficulty for AirBnB to launch in Europe: “In July, the house-sharing start-up received its first fine in Europe, of €30,000, or about $38,500, for violating a 2012 law introduced by the regional government of Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, that forbids renting individual rooms for tourism purposes”. Further in his article, he highlights the contrast with cities such as Paris or San Francisco which have enabled AirBnB to operate in their cities and enter local tourism market.
Isn’t it the nerve of the discussion, as Ron Miller asks in his article for Tech Crunch. According to Ron, “The two businesses have obviously hit a nerve though and that’s likely because they’re starting to be more than an irritant to established businesses in each of their industries. Uber has received $1.5B in funding so far on an otherworldly valuation of $17B. Whether that number is right or not is subject to debate, but if you believe one number tossed out there, the total available worldwide taxi/limo market is valued at $100B. That means that Uber is already at 17 percent of that number in terms of its projected valuation. Airbnb meanwhile has raised in the neighborhood of $795M and reportedly has a valuation of around $10B, not quite as hot as Uber, but consider that according to a Fast Company article from earlier this year, the company “boasts 550,000 listings in 192 countries, and will soon surpass the InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide as the world’s largest hotel chain.”
A crowded discussion
One way to lower this barrier to market is to proactively go ahead of regulators and have a transparent and clear definition of what a business aims to do, with identified and validated benefits for all stakeholders, as Sarah Cannon suggests. DigitalEurope, a group representing major IT’s in Europe, has followed this advice and went on a meeting with Council of the EU to discuss the reforms needed to protect and reinforce EU data protection law. According to Peter Sayer from Computer World, “The current Data Protection Directive dates back to 1995, and the reform is aimed at reinforcing consumer confidence in online services, updating the rules to take account of new technologies, and potentially saving businesses €2.3 billion (US$2.9 billion) a year through reduced administrative burdens.” Members of DigitalEurope, which include companies such as Apple, HP and SAP, criticise the new proposed laws as being complex (and therefore costly).
These efforts to drive relations prove difficult, but that may be because EU and other regulations have a lot on their plate. As Menno Weij explains for Big Data Startups, in The Netherlands, “governmental plans for SyRI (System Risk Indication) caused some panic, since this system is meant to enable governmental institutions to detect fraud easier by using, amongst others, data mining and profiling.” In the UK, William Thomson explains in Power Admin that “The legal framework regulating the big data business model is based on existing principles of intellectual property, confidentiality, contract and data protection law.” He argues that a better model would be the one as posed by the Association for Computing Machinery Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct: “prohibiting use of computing technology in ways that result in harm to any of the following: users, the general public, employees, and employers. Harmful actions include intentional destruction or modification of files and programs leading to serious loss of resources or unnecessary expenditure of human resources such as the time and effort required to purge systems of “computer viruses.”
A crowded priority list
At the same time, Tara Terregino from The Street reminds that “the European Union’s competition authority is opening a formal investigation of Amazon’s European corporate income tax practices”, showing blurring limits of legal and economic difficulties. Other urgencies: Dave Lee from BBC News reports on Internet giants attending EU anti-extremist meeting to discuss the challenges posed by terrorists’ use of the internet and possible responses, internet-related security challenges in the context of wider relations with major companies, and ways of building trust and more transparency. Last but not least, BBC News mentions Europole’s difficulty to track cybercriminals, with the borderless activities and globalised actions required to track international experts, time and efforts needed. “We can still cope but the criminals have more resources and they do not have obstacles. They are driven by greed and profit and they produce malware at a speed that we have difficulties catching up with”, quotes BBC News.
Let the crowd decide
Who’s to decide? Jonathan Brandon, from Business Cloud News, mentions a survey from CSA that “suggests increasingly strong support is starting to emerge for harmonising privacy laws towards a universal set of principles as well as facilitating a global consumer bill of rights that builds on themes regarding data sovereignty and other principles set out in the OECD guidelines. Many respondents felt the United Nations could play a pivotal role in fostering some sort of global consumer bill of rights for data privacy”. Should we expect such a political change to happen or should we define a “bill of rights 2.0” (http://www.ddhn.org) ourselves, as some already did according to Les Echos?
Synergies that could save more than money
AirBnB and Uber get one thing right: sharing means less costs and greater reach, even though complex difficulties. Same goes for environment. Sharing resources, knowledge, findings and enabling technology to find its right place in overall efforts leads to result. As a proof, the ozone layer is starting to recover, mentions Live Science: “an evaluation, conducted by 282 scientists from 36 countries, credits much of this recovery to international action that phased out the production and use of ozone-depleting chemicals”.
Getting the right picture of climate change
Scientists need the right tools and data to analyse climate change and recommend actions that can continue lowering our negative impact on environment. In some areas, data inacurracy remains a challenge. As Anne M Starck found out for R&D Magazine, the level of temperature in Southern hemisphere has been underestimated, as the set of data used until now is largely outdated. The underestimation has impact on budget and policies rolled-out to protect oceans. This is the reason why the EU Commission had launched the COMBINE project, in order to provide accurate modelling to better estimate climate change and results are being shared with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The good news is they can count in technology support, but they’ll have to wait a little. As a way to better measure the amount of carbon contained in forests, a Lidar-based satellite from NASA called GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation) will be ready in 2018, as Michael Franco from CNET reports. GEDI will be able to scan tropical and temperate forests with a bouncing laser technology that has a fine enough scale to estimate carbon content in canopies both horizontally and vertically. This accurate picture will enable to understand how deforestation is devastating environment. Other projects to monitor ocean temperature, clouds and hurricanes are also under development or will be starting soon.
Learning from others
Sharing also means witnessing change and perhaps bringing our own brick to the wall. Emerging economies, as business strategist and author Navi Radjou explained to Mark Hillsdon from The Guardian, “There is a growing awareness that there needs to be a new model for both producing and consuming that focuses on doing better with less,” he explains. Brazilians call it jeitinho, the Chinese zizhu chuangxin, the Kenyans jua kai. Tellingly, there’s no such word in English. The closest we get is “make do and mend”, which doesn’t quite have the same kick.” Companies like Microsoft and their Digital Green initiative, the MIT and Tata Center for Technology and Design have become involved to deploy new innovation that would learn from and help emerging economies develop “frugal innovation”.
Some argue we critically need to look elsewhere. Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Australia’s Charles Sturt University and a prominent critic of geoengineering, argues in an interview by Olivia Boyd for Innovation Policy that “in a way the greatest risk is human hubris, our penchant for persuading ourselves that we know the answers and we have all the necessary information, we can intervene and take control of the earth. Another nightmare scenario might be one where an attempt by one major power to engineer the globe’s climate system attracts a hostile response from another major power, who doesn’t take kindly to competing for control over their weather and it escalates into a military confrontation.” With the clear need of democratical move to include people in discussions and projects, he hopes “the nascent environmental movement in China would take an interest in geoengineering because I think it’s going to be a dominant political question in China in several years time. I’m sure if China did go down the geoengineering path it would try to present its actions as motivated by the need to protect the interests of vulnerable people across the developing world.” Jenna Nicholas from Stanford Social Innovation Review mentions how foundations also help understand the divest-invest impact needed for sustainable projects. “At the UN during Climate Week late last month, more than 70 foundations in collaboration with individuals, universities, faith-based groups, schools, hospitals and cities from around the world—representing $50 billion—announced that they would divest from fossil fuels and invest in new energy solutions.”, he reports. From his point of view, “To slow climate change, according to a recent Ceres report, we need to close the clean investment gap with a “clean trillion” dollars invested every year, from now through 2050. If all philanthropic institutions deploy a portion of their assets toward renewable and clean tech, and other sustainable options, we can participate in closing that investment gap and help scale industries.”
The positive impact on economies
Cost efficiency, job growth and research excellence, these are the outcomes for all. Bloomberg quoted the latest report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate to explain how “Countries can expand their economies through emissions reductions in cities, land use and energy”. They explain that several countries including the U.K. could save over $3 trillion by investing in better connected cities, restore world’s degraded land to feed 200 million people and raise farmers’ income by $40 billion a year, and phase out $600 billion of fossil fuel subsidies while investing 0.1 percent of GDP in research and development in low carbon technologies. The PlantingSeedsBlog refers to a report that details how “the biobased economy is, in fact, growing and it offers great potential for increased job creation in numerous sectors across the U.S”. After mentioning a new contract with USDA BioPrerred to further investigate the impact of bio-based products on the economy, they explain that “The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has estimated that U.S.-based jobs for the renewable chemicals sector will rise from approximately 40,000 jobs in 2011, which represents 3%-4% of all chemical sales, to over 237,000 jobs by 2025. This employment level would represent approximately 20% of total chemical sales.” On the energy side, Vincent Champain from Le Monde explains in following article that the Long Term Observatory (Observatoire du Long Terme) is favoring a German-French energy space. They argue that by exchanging sustainable projects (for example sun energy in South of France and wind energy in other German regions), energy would be more cost-efficient.
What about us?
Put together, all this knowledge could enable us to adapt to climate change. On R&D Mag, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory takes us through the ACME project that involves 8 US national laboratories, academic institutions and private sector into “accelerating our progress towards actionable climate projections to help the nation anticipate, adapt to, and ultimately mitigate the potential risks of global climate change”.
Innovation is also about global food security. Joanna Roberts from the Horizon magazine EU reports on the EU-Funded YIELD project that which uses “groundbreaking applications of modern genomics to stabilise and increase the yield of processing tomato hybrids, which are used to make ketchup and sauces”. She quotes Dr Julia Cooper from the University of Newcastle who explains how “The high yields we now achieve in crop production are beneficial because they’re feeding the world’s growing population but it’s coming with this decline in efficiency. That means that all of the nutrients that the crops aren’t taking up and using to produce yields are causing damage to the environment.’ Dr Cooper said the project’s work is important in working towards global food security.”
Green innovation may just be about living. As Ben Schiller from Fast Co-Exist explains, the health co-benefits of cutting greenhouse gas emissions could save 3,500 American lives a year. He mentions a new paper from researchers at Harvard, Syracuse and Boston universities that explains how Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania would mostly benefit from deploying emissions reduction measures.