Deep Learning and Breast Cancer: Improving Detection?

A recent paper published under the auspices of Google Health makes a case for using deep learning algorithms to improve breast cancer detection. The research has been positively received by most and widely publicized as yet another victory of smart machines over weak, dumber humans. Only a few have been critical for good reasons. In this post, I will explore the methodology used in the research to highlight other critical issues. But before I take the dive, let me first set the scene.

Background

Like education or justice, health is an information-rich sector, thus prone to rapid (not just digital) technology innovation and overall digitization. Unlike its peers, most if not all health-related services use a gamut of technologies, from simple thermometers and stethoscopes to noisy, giant

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Blockchains in the Public Sector

My paper on blockchains for the public sector in developing countries has been published by Frontiers, one of the leading open-access and community-driven academic publishers.

The paper develops an analytical framework that combines sustainable development, state capacity and digital technologies. In principle, the framework can be used to explore the adoption of technologies and innovation in the public sector and is thus not limited to blockchains.

As the central focus of my research was governments, exploring ways to increase state capacity by building strong and resilient democratic institutions and deploying new technologies was on the table. Like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, blockchain is a technology that works best at the application layer. That means that the

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Best Films – 2019

I have a distinct impression that, in my book, 2019 was not a stellar year for high-quality films. I actually saw a few less films this year and lack of time was not really the issue. The latest by Bi Gan and Bon Joon Ho are exceptional. The former is outstanding in terms of cinematography and storytelling. The last hour or so is shot in 3D and apparently in one single take. I also saw the 2D version and could not tell the difference. Parasite has attracted almost universal claim, deservedly so. After the Okja disaster, this is good news for film-making.

Online viewing continues to gain ground, unfortunately. I could not see The Irishman in a local theater so streaming was the only option. In the US, ticket sales continue to decline while ticket prices in New York continue to rise. Some theaters

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Yet Another Global AI Index

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) seemingly continues to permeate all interstices of society, measuring its undaunted progress in the age of data is more than a priority. In a previous post, I share some insights on the Global AI Readiness Index that covered almost all UN member states. The new Global AI Index (GAII), created by Tortoise media with the support of experts from government, academia and the business sector, is geographically less ambitious but aims at a more sophisticated target. It covers 54 countries and its core goal is not readiness but rather capacity. The company informs us that the index is a response to demands from some government on the subject. However, the report is intended not only for governments but also for businesses and communities.

In spite of obvious differences,

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The Development Onion

Governments in developing countries are just one of the many players involved in promoting sustainable development –  in many cases, with direct support from bilateral and multilateral donor organizations. However, governments are, in principle, bound by the overall development commitments they make at the national and international levels.

There are indeed several different interconnected layers here that constitute what can be called the development onion.

At the international level, most governments in the Global South have committed to the SDG agenda and should achieve the many targets set by 2030. This is the outer layer of the onion. However, international cooperation is not limited to the SDGs. Global themes such as cybersecurity, terrorism, refugees and other humanitarian issues

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More CO2: Consumption-based Emissions

In a previous post, I explored the relationship between C02 emissions, country income levels and population looking at production data only. Here, emissions are assigned to the country where goods or services are produced or generated, disregarding final consumption. In a globalized economy, however, we should expect that many products are indeed consumed far away from their home countries. Migration is the normal state of affairs. For example, steel produced in China, Japan or India, the top three world leaders, might travel to the U.S or the E.U for final consumption. CO2 emissions generated by such steel consumption should thus be allocated to the countries importing steel – and not to the steel producers.

Note that in our example the U.S. and the E.U can, in turn,  export products that

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Barefoot, like Abebe Bikila

The age of reason. No, not the Enlightenment but rather the age when children supposedly start thinking “rationally.”  For some irrational reason, I remember my parents and their adult friends having conversations on the topic in front of us, children, my siblings and I. After all, they believed most of us were still in the age of unreason, thus incapable of understanding adult language. Back then, the magic number of years to reach the reason realm was seven, give or take. Today little seems to have changed, and seven has managed to survive science evolution and the new Millennia.

Reaching the age of reason became a landmark for those of us under seven. It was empowering. Siblings and friends who had already reached the rational paradise used it as a way to either disregard our ideas or

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A Glance at Carbon Dioxide Emissions Data

Lack of data is certainly not one of the issues at the table when discussing energy production and carbon emissions. Well-known sources for the former include the UN Statistics Division, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and British Petroleum (BP).  The latter publishes an annual report while IEA data is behind a paywall. EIA offers open data access to a vast number of resources, including international carbon emissions. The main source for the latter is the Global Cabon Project created in 2001 and operating as an international partnership. The World Bank has carbon emissions data starting in 1960, but updates seemed to have stopped in 2014. The Global Carbon Atlas, initially funded by the BNP Paribas Foundation, is a good secondary source

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Blockchains and Food Safety

Trade is one of the main trademarks of the globalization process. Nowadays, most countries in the world exchange products and services on a regular basis and use local comparative advantages to specialize in specific trade sectors and/or commodities. Food and agricultural products are important components of this process. Within countries, rapid urbanization has increased the demand for food. At the same time, the number of people working in the agricultural sector and living in rural areas has decreased substantially. While some food staples are imported, others are still produced locally but must travel from rural areas to urban centers and big cities to meet the demand.

Food products are thus in perpetual motion, moving from their place of birth as soon as possible towards a wide variety

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Measuring Artificial Intelligence Development

In the last decade, Artificial Intelligence (AI), including siblings machine learning and deep learning, has been growing by leaps and bounds. More importantly, the technology has been deployed effectively in a wide range of traditional sectors bringing real transformational change while raising fundamental socio-economic (joblessness, more inequality, etc.)  and ethical (bias, discrimination, etc.)  issues along the way.  As it stands today, AI, understood as a set of still-evolving technologies, seems poised to become a general-purpose technology that could leave no stone untouched.

As with other digital technologies, most developing countries face the daunting challenge of harnessing AI to foster national human development  Prima facie, AI looks mostly like software, code that one can

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