Fresh water is a fixed quantity. Population and water usage per capita are rising quantities. When the demand exceeds supply, various forces come into play: allocation by price and affordability, efficiency changes, investment ...
On Feb. 3, 2012, the U.S. State Department hosted its eighth conference in the Tech@State series. The two-day symposium focused on how social media and other internet-enabled data streams are used to create real-time awareness in different contexts, with sessions looking at analyzing large amounts of data, enhancing the understanding of consumer behavior, and live-mapping crisis situations.
One particularly interesting panel focused on the future of social media and real-time awareness, not only for individuals, but for a society that is still learning to deal with developments in social media, communication technologies and crowdsourced information. The speakers discussed how this pervasive technology could aid in real-time awareness, but also raised legitimate concerns about impacts on security and privacy.
Panelist Lou Martinage, with business intelligence firm MicroStrategy, offered the perspective of the private sector, focusing on how social media can be mined for real-time information on consumer preferences and behavior. Martinage described how MicroStrategy works with its clients to dig into the vast amounts of data available in the digital communication sphere, aggregate and analyze the information, and derive insights that can help the companies better address their customers’ needs.
For the past few years, MicroStrategy has been honing in on the potential of Facebook and the valuable consumer data that can be accessed through the platform. For Martinage, the primary use of Facebook is in the field of sentiment monitoring. In other words, Facebook is a spectacular tool for obtaining information on how consumers feel about a company’s product, allowing businesses to personalize marketing and commerce through promotions and offers.
Martinage says the culmination of this effort can be seen in a MicroStrategy application called Wisdom, which allows companies to analyze massive amounts of data to identify trends, gauge consumer confidence, and answer questions about market perception of a product or brand.
Others looked at the potential “dark side” of social media. Rand Waltzman, with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, pointed out that “as more life takes place in the network public sphere, the more good and bad things will happen,” highlighting privacy and national security concerns in particular. One of his main fears is the ease with which individuals can disseminate false or harmful information through the very same technologies that aid in real-time awareness and disaster relief.
For example, Waltzman cited Operation Valhalla in Iraq, where American troops succeeded in rescuing a hostage and confiscating weapons from a terrorist group, killing 16 members of the group in the process. However, before the troops had returned to their base, other members of the terrorist organization swooped in and rearranged the bodies onto prayer mats, took a picture using a mobile phone, and uploaded it to the social media space — making it look like Americans had killed unarmed civilians in the middle of prayer.
Waltzman’s concern lies in the fact that the information can reach a large number of people before the damage can actually be addressed and the false information refuted. The speed at which the internet moves is light years ahead of our capacities to monitor the information available.
Unfortunately, Waltzman added, social media and the internet is an environment filled with contradiction: One can attempt to protect their own privacy, but has a very limited ability to control what others may say about them. In the end, Waltzman said, the positive aspects of social media can easily be perverted, and we need to tackle the policies that are preventing us from better addressing these issues.
While Waltzman’s comments deserve serious consideration, the panel did end on a hopeful note, with the words of Patrick Meier, of the Ushahidi Project. Ushahidi is a platform that allows for the crowdsourcing of information through Twitter, SMS text messages, and other internet sources onto a live map that allows for real-time crisis-mapping. The success of Ushahidi in crises situations, such as the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and the Arab Spring uprisings, has brought the social media and emergency management community’s attention to its potential. The project is a prime example of crowdsourcing working to increase situational awareness in crisis situations.
Meier brought the audience’s attention to the needs of volunteers in crisis situations. Ushahidi currently does much manual crowdsourcing in real time, but developments in machine learning and natural language processing are allowing algorithms to do more work separating valuable information from useless information in the stream of text messages and tweets. Meier’s outlook is very positive, and he has given great thought to issues arising from credibility of information.
Overall, the mood at the conference was one of endless possibilities. Nonetheless, Waltzman raised valid concerns regarding privacy and security in the growing, interconnected network that is the internet. And while Meier and Martinage point out the immense potential for real-time awareness, we must not forget that there are very legitimate concerns that need to be addressed before these technologies can truly permeate every level of our society.
Have you ever wondered where your life could have taken you if you were born somewhere else, on a different street, in a different town or in a different country? Where you are born is out of your control, but this chance occurrence of whether you were born into wealth or poverty, chance or misfortune is likely to have a bigger impact on your life than any other single event.
IPS: Sewage and waste infrastructure has failed to keep up with urban expansion, leaving India to 'drown in its excreta' (If you think India has a problem with power generation, take a look at their sewer & waste problem:
Forbes recently released an updated list of the world's billionaires. The listing contains the ranking for 1,226 individuals and families who's net worth as of March of 2012 was 1 billion USD or more. Since the listings contained both a country of citizenship and residence, this allows for a peek at the geography of billionaires. Billionaire listings that had a publicly available residence noted were geocoded based on the location using Google Maps geocoding API. The GIS analysis and maps that follow in this article is based on those geolocated billionaires and the stated citizenship. A link has been placed at the end of this article to a page containing two tables: one of the counts of billionaires by country for residency and nationality, the second table contains counts of the number of billionaires per place.....
Ocean survey to pave way for wind turbinesSurveyequipment.comThe state of Virginia is looking to use specialist survey equipment to survey a vast area of the ocean bed to gather data on offshore wind, waves and wildlife.
A countries virtual borders and its security will be as good as the security systems in place and the IT personnel manning them. That day isn't that far and neither is it romantic... Posted by The Geospatial Solution at 18:55 ...
Our planet's changing climate is devastating communities in Africa through droughts, floods and myriad other disasters.
Using detailed regional climate models and geographic information systems, researchers with the Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) program developed an online mapping tool that analyzes how climate and other forces interact to threaten the security of African communities.
The program was piloted by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin in 2009 after receiving a $7.6 million five-year grant from the Minerva Initiative with the Department of Defense, according to Francis J. Gavin, professor of international affairs and director of the Strauss Center......
Ever since Gerardus Mercator created his iconic map of the world in 1569--the one that first enabled ships to navigate at sea without getting lost--people have been drawing maps using the same fundamental concept of conveying physical space.
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