An interesting article about Chinese cyber-hacking makes some great points but also point to an American weakness that concerns me.
The following lines, specifically, point to the lack of moral creativity in the thinking of a comfortable elite in a longtime power, namely us:
The Internet, poorly secured and poorly governed, has been a tremendous boon for spying. Every major power has taken advantage of this, but there are unwritten rules that govern espionage, and China’s behavior is out of bounds.
Out of bounds of what? Oh, yes, the rules we wish to enforce, for our own good. I actually have no problem with that, but I think that we would get farther in our thinking/work on such problems if we acknowledged that we are not the bearers of a grand moral standard. In fact, we are protecting ourselves and our interests.
The writer has enough imagination to understand that the world looks different to the Chinese. He writes: As one Chinese official put it in recent talks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “In America, military espionage is heroic and economic espionage is a crime, but in China the line is not so clear.
He may not understand just how different the world looks to the Chinese. Calling their actions ‘out of bounds’ is not likely to impress them. If the purpose is to get the American public agitated, well, then that’s a different matter.
You may have read by now about recent cyber-attacks on defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The following quote, from Anup Ghosh, “a former senior scientist at the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency who worked on securing military networks” stuck me especially:
“I think it tells us that DHS [the US Department of Homeland Security] doesn’t know much about what’s going on.”
The increasing level of organization of cyber-attacks can surely be met, in some measure, by improved technology and increased vigilance. But do centralized organizations such as Lockheed attract too much attention to be sustainable in a future in which the barriers to entry for sabotage are lower? And can weapons of war, for instance, be reliably developed in organizations that are anything other than centralized?
Here’s a link to the live map (map below is static).
And here’s an interesting piece (from The Atlantic) on the subject. Key quote:
“It’s one thing to blindly trust the experts. It’s quite another to doublecheck them with a distributed network of 215 Geiger counters — forcing them to earn that trust.”
And this blogger and “Information Visualization enthusiast” wonders if
“grassroots projects like geigercrowd and pachube make progress in closing the data gap [of unreported values].” [brackets mine]
An interesting example of a traditional government function being taken over (in some measure) by the crowd.
The US State Department has been developing mobile phone technologies designed to support pro-democracy activists:
A “panic button” that erases mobile phone address books and sends emergency alerts is being developed in the US, which would be of help to pro-democracy campaigners.
The special application can be activated if the smartphone is confiscated by security authorities.
The US State Department is targeting countries ranging from the Middle East to China with the technology, according to a Daily Mail report.
It wants to equip the activists with the tools to fight back against repressive governments, the report said.
Michael Posner, US assistant secretary of state for human rights and labour, was quoted as saying: “We’ve been trying to keep below the radar on this, because a lot of the people we are working with are operating in very sensitive environments.”
This is a forward-thinking and heartening development. Whatever our government’s imperfections, this level of trust in citizenry power is something we should celebrate.
China and Google are currently arguing over who is responsible for the current slowness of Gmail in China. Naturally, I don’t have any specific information about who is to blame but can report the following technical observations, pursuant to my recent return from China:
- Unsurprisingly, expats with whom I spoke universally blame the Chinese government for the problems.
- The problems seem to be manifesting themselves all over the country.
- I couldn’t open my Google Calendar on several occasions and couldn’t open Google Docs at all during my 8-day trip
- One investor indicated that much of his fund’s information infrastructure is located on Google and that his firm was accordingly affected negatively.
It was interesting to note that at least one experienced expas seemed to think that the central government would eventually change its policy. He, a savvy China-based consultant who has lived there for two decades, believed that the Chinese government’s interest in creating a friendly business environment would overwhelm other considerations with regard to the speed of Gmail.
A somewhat technical discussion on what it took for Egypt to shut down its internet, as well as a discussion of how difficult such an action would be in the United States.
I recently spoke to a pioneer in health gaming, who explained to me that there are four types of health games:
+exergames: think of the Nintendo Wii, where you are actually required to work out in order to play certain games
+condition management: games that help a person learn more about a condition and even, perhaps, that add a dimension of fun to the monotony of treatment (examples: Re-Mission, which I have not played, looks to be an intriguing game for young people with cancer; Bayer recently released DIDGET, which rewards user with points and game access codes, after it verifies successful glucose management through a plug-in monitoring system)
+training games: simulations for health professionals, for instance
+nutrition games: similar to condition management games in terms of its educational and behavioral management aspects
We all know that many people learn through visual and/or interactive methods. That’s one reason we should expect health gaming to be increasingly important in future public health efforts. And, games are almost universally appealing: expect the phenomenon to go global.
Could the next revolution in global health care be mobile? The United Nations Foundation’s mHealth Alliance (hat tip: Peter Groen) explains that
Today there are approximately 5 billion mobile devices in use around the world — and close to two-thirds of them are in the hands of people living in emerging market economies. Mobile phones have the ability to dramatically change the lives of those who use them, including healthcare providers.
DataDyne, A Washington, D. C.-based nonprofit, open source software company is helping lead the way in this new field (in part with the help of a UN Foundation grant). DataDyne claims that their EpiSurveyor (profiled by the BBC) application is “the most widely-used mHealth software in the world.”
The BBC quotes/summarizes a few words from co-founder Dr. Joel Selanikio:
“Interestingly, there are a lot of people out there apparently who are neither working in health nor working in developing countries who wish to do similar things.”
For example, he said, the Ministry of Agriculture in Canada use the tool to collect data on veterinary disease in rural farms.
“And the World Bank is planning on using EpiSurveyor to do judicial reform surveys in Argentina,” he said.
These more commercially-minded clients provide DataDyne the ability to experiment with payment models previously out of reach to developing world users.
Until now, the project has been kept afloat by grants from the likes of Vodafone and the UN Foundation.
(A thought: Is the pattern of using grant money to develop a nonprofit service/application, then selling the service to commercial enterprises, becoming more common? it seems to me that that approach could constitute a wise business plan (by providing start-up funds), to put aside the social value for a moment.–BE)
A conversation I had yesterday with a senior executive at a health management firm shed some light on the challenges of working internationally in the field. Our conversation centered on China; three details stood out:
1) American medical coding systems are completely foreign to many Chinese health officials; they employ a coding system that is, in some ways, influenced by traditional Chinese medical practices.
2) Chinese records are sorted by numbers only, and not according to the alphabetical system (naturally, this flows from the fact that Chinese words are composed of ideograms and not letters; still it presents challenges to international collaboration in this area).
3) Chinese patients are expected to bring to their doctors a file including their basic medical information/background. If they do not bring the file with them, doctors tend to proceed with a reevaluation of the patient’s baseline health; the very idea of electronic records is quite remote from this paradigm.
The challenges of working internationally in any field are, of course, great. Human services, with its sensitive records and involvement in intimate issues make addressing challenges such as those above all the more daunting.
Even so, future posts will attempt to explore promising pathways for such endeavors.