Deadly COVID19

Over a week ago, a mainstream media news outlet published an article (behind a paywall) suggesting that the disease caused by the SARS–CoV-2 virus, COVID19, was not as deadly as initially thought. The article cited the results of a non-peer review study completed by a Stanford-led team seemingly showing that the number of people infected in one California county was over 55 times higher than initially assumed. Using COVID19 immunity tests to check the actual population infected, the study went on to conclude that the county disease death or fatality rate was around 0.17 percent. By the way, such a rate is still 70 percent higher than the overall U.S. flu mortality rate for the 2018-2019 season of 0.10 percent.

The study was certainly not welcome by experts and statisticians due to glaring

Read More

Natural Disasters and Carbon Concentration

In 1988, the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) launched the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) with the idea of promoting national and international humanitarian support to countries and regions affected by such events. Having a structured set of global data on the subject can also help policy and decisionmakers develop more comprehensive preparedness plans, properly assess vulnerabilities and facilitate on the ground interventions based on previous experiences.

Disaster data included in EM-DAT must fulfill at least one of the following conditions. 1. 10 or more people dead.  2. 100 or more people affected. 3. A declaration of a state of emergency. And 4. A call for international assistance. Data coverage starts in 1900 and covers 230 countries and

Read More

Carbon Removal Policies for the U.S?

Founded almost 40 years ago with the financial support of the MacArthur Foundation, the World Resources Institute (WRI) is one of the U.S most prominent research organizations working on environmental issues since its inception. The entity centers its efforts on scientific research and development while explicitly ignoring “ideology” or fostering activism. WRI has a wide range of scientific publications that have made outstanding contributions to the field over the years.

Last month, WRI published a paper, the 4th of an ongoing series, identifying the policies and technologies the U.S. will need to adopt to undertake carbon removal at scale. The publication offers four broad options, each discussed in detail, backed by relevant research and data, and linked to clear investment strategies

Read More

Technology and Earth Hacking

Hacking the Sky

Low, angry gray clouds, seemingly non-stop light rain and damp breathing air were hometown weather traits that most bothered me when I was growing up. Like most other children, I had a fascination with airplanes and could spend hours watching them. Going to the airport was one of the coolest things – nowadays not anymore. Planes, however, almost always managed to beat antagonistic weather. The opposite was my case. Bad weather automatically meant no outdoor play, parents reinforcing such terrible predicament. How could we change this, I started wondering.

My solution was simple. Equip a few small planes with some magical powder and get them to spray the menacing and sempiternal clouds. Viola! I could not understand why adults had not come up with such a brilliant idea.

Read More

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.


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

Read More

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

Read More

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

Read More

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,

Read More

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

Read More

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

Read More