ICOs: Crowding-in Blockchains?

Nowadays, ICOs (or Initial Coin Offerings) are all the rage. Unlike traditional IPOs, ICOs allow startups to streamline the capital raising process while at the same time enhancing the number of potential investors.  While venture capital is still part of the equation, other non-traditional investors and stakeholders are more than welcome to join. How is this possible? Is venture capital being democratized?

By default, blockchain technology (BCT) has built-in financial incentives. In the now classic case of Bitcoin, such incentive is the generation of a cryptocurrency. Users mining the Bitcoin blockchain to process network transactions get rewarded a certain amount of Bitcoins for their efforts which are computationally expensive and power hungry. Without such incentive, Bitcoin network

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25 Years of the Sustainable Development Networking Programme, SDNP

The Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) was a UNDP global program that ran between 1992 and 2004.  SDNP’s core goal was to enhance access to sustainable development information on a multi-stakeholder basis using new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Its scope of work was driven by Agenda 21, the sustainable development agenda endorsed by UN member countries at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Agenda 21 was composed of forty chapters, organized under four separate headings. The very last chapter of the agenda called for increased access to information for decision-making as one of the means of implementation of the agenda. Adding to its approach the targets of chapters 27 (strengthening non-government organizations) and 37 (capacity building in developing

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Cryptocurrencies and WannaCry

I have been doing extensive research on Blockchain Technology (BCT) focusing on its potential impact in developing and emerging economies. In particular, I am exploring BCT role in tackling the most vexing socio-economic gaps in these countries. One of my early findings suggests that BCT usability might prove to be a formidable challenge for the billions of people sitting at the bottom of the pyramid.
Both cryptocurrencies and BCT use cryptographic tools with public key cryptography being at the core. The advantages are clear: These technologies enhance privacy, security and transparency, among others. From the end user perspective, however, using such tools in effective fashion might not be that simple. Recall how Snowden had a difficult time getting journalists to use encrypted channels

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Blockchain Mining: Competition and (de)Centralization

“One-CPU-one-vote”.1 CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, nowadays also known as microprocessor. From a governance perspective, this is perhaps one of the most interesting phrases included in the original Bitcoin paper penned by a still anonymous author. Could we then say the goal is to build a democracy of devices, a CPU-democracy where each node has the same “power”, so to speak?

The phrase is part of the paper’s discussion of the so-called proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm.2 Needless to say, PoW is not the only algorithm used to add records to a blockchain. Others such as proof-of-stake and proof-of-value for example have been developed. As a decentralized peer-to-peer network, blockchain allows any CPU to run PoW. In principle, any network node could be a blockchain miner. Attaching

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, nowadays also known as microprocessor.
2. Needless to say, PoW is not the only algorithm used to add records to a blockchain. Others such as proof-of-stake and proof-of-value for example have been developed.

Tax Season 2017

Spring finally arrived but today feels more like summer. Not sure it will last but in I know New York Springs usually tend to be relatively short. Summer seems to always be extremely eager to enter the scene.

In any event, the arrival of Spring is always associated with the US deadlines for submitting taxes, the so-called Tax Day. The usual date is 15 April which works as long as it does not fall on a Friday or over the weekend. This time around it falls on a Saturday so the official deadline for filing 2016 income is Tuesday 18 April.

Filing taxes have also benefited from the rapid development of new technologies, the Internet included. Now it is possible to use one of the many online tax platforms to file one’s taxes. Some of them are free but most will charge between 30 and 50 USD

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Wealth and Income Inequality Data

A new version of the World Wealth and Income Inequality database has been available online since last January. The new website has a new slick look. It also offers an interactive tool to view and visualize data on a global scale or by country. For those who love to poke around, looking at the raw data is also feasible, as well as download in interactive fashion.  Several formats are available for downloading such as CSV, for example. Selecting a specific data structure for downloading is possible as the site offers four different options.

However, downloading the whole data set with one click is not an option users can select. Nor are there any APIs available that could facilitate such process. The website does not really support Open Data access, unfortunately.  Nevertheless, I have no

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Global Allocation of IP Addresses

Akami recently published its latest State of the Internet report for the 3rd quarter of 2016. As a content delivery provider, Akamai has access to real-time data on the status of Internet traffic and even monitors Internet attacks by country. Using primary data, Akamai reports summarize Internet traffic by quarter for over 150 countries. The report’s main focus is on broadband but also includes an analysis of security related events.1 The company produces a separate report on Internet security.

Data Collected

The report’s data comes from the company’s support network which comprises over 800 million IPv4 addresses representing over a billion Internet users. The latter is about 25% of all global users, according to the latest statistics((There are now 4.1 billion people using the Internet

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Endnotes   [ + ]

1. The company produces a separate report on Internet security.

Democracy Index and Human Development

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has recently published the latest iteration of its democracy index. The biggest headline about the new EIU report was the demotion of the US from “full” to “flawed democracy”, complemented by the medium-term decline of democracy in Eastern and Western Europe, and in North America. The latter is based on trends that first emerged a decade or so, according to EIU. Even so, Norway continues to take top prize while North Korea seems to be persistently stuck at the very bottom of the rankings.

Figure 1 presents the overall distribution of the 167 countries that the report covers. Flawed democracies are the most common type of regime, followed by authoritarian countries. In fact, full democracies only account for 11% of the total, while hybrid and authoritarian

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Best Films – 2016

Stopping a declining trend, I saw 140 films this year. That is about 40 more than last year. One big change to note here: For the first time, I watched more than 50% of films either online and/or on DVD. This is probably a reflection of increased competition as now we have many more players that just Netflix in the sector. For example, the wonderful Criterion Collection DVD outfit launched its own online channel just before the end of the year. Expect many other to jump into the fray.  Nevertheless, I still believe nothing can really beat going to see a film in a theater.

As with previous years, many supposedly “good” films were launched towards the end of the year. I did not have the time to watch them all so I will probably have those in my next year’s list if they are indeed as good as

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Towards a Philosophy of Technology

Written back in 1984, the content of Albert Borgmann’s book loudly resonates today.

Borgmann argues that contemporary life is shaped by technology that stamps its imprint all over the place, and can even define its whole character. However, such pattern is not usually evident nor always utterly dominant as technology has to compete with other factors while simultaneously threatening to obliterate some aspects of our lives.

The book is an attempt to study these phenomena which demand a robust analytical framework. The first and shorter part of the books attempts to develop this. Part 2 considers the character of technology or what the author calls the pattern of technology and its central traits in modern society. And section 3 of the book deals with the issue of reforming technology to

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