Thursday Jan 03, 2008

Barack Obama, snow, and technology

Des Moines is cold this morning. Strong wind, with wind chill taking last night's sub-zero Fahrenheit levels down twenty more degrees.  Warming to ten degrees, possibly twenty later in the day.

Then, voting in caucuses. Then, amazingly, a shift in American and world politics.

After eight days of walking through Iowa snow to talk to possible Barack Obama supporters, here's the report:

Unanimous rejection of George Bush by Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. Republicans are disgusted by mismanagement, lying, and waste. Independents are the same, with an additional scorn for corrupt Republicans and Democrats.

A large number of Independents, and a smaller number of Republicans are re-registering as Democrats to support Barack Obama, perceived as a unifier, not tied by hatreds and partisan divides to the past.

Interestingly, as Huckabee has strengthened his appeal to religious fundamentalists, some have called to say they are sorry, but they are leaving Obama to support Huckabee.  And when the Des Moines Register, two days ago, ran the headline that Obama and Huckabee were leading in Iowa, a group of Huckabee workers came over from Huckabee headquarters to Obama headquarters to congratulate Obama, saying they respected him greatly. So there is an appeal by Obama to voters motivated by perceptions of character, integrity and fairness.

Obama's appeal cuts across old divisions.

430 houses visited: in the past two days, significant movement of Independents to Obama.

Solid support from anyone under thirty; some movement of union members who, it turns out, are not following their union's support for Hillary Clinton.

In the newest McMansion areas of suburban Des Moines, people have been hit  hard by the mortgage crisis and are deeply concerned about the economy.  They want change, now.

People are uniformly depressed about living for one more year with George Bush as President.

I've only talked to two people who were specifically concerned with science and technology policy...both concerned that there was a significant decline in the desire of the world's smartest people to come to the United States for school. No more Andy Bechtolsheims or Vinod Khoslas. Everyone else focussed on ending the war, on America's declining position in the world, on reforming health care coverage, on the declining economy.

And the recurrent theme was character; consistent, believable character.

It is startling to be in a state where almost everyone you talk to has thought about what kind of government they want. 

Maybe it's because they see they can have an immediate personal impact, in contrast to states where one person's vote is lost in a huge pool.

Here, one person can change the balance in a caucus of fifty people.  People feel a personal responsibility, so they spend the time to learn. So far, I've only met a few people with the banal comments too common in California or Silicon Valley: "the market will solve the problem", or "I'm just not interested in politics" or "It really doesn't affect me". 

Here, verbs are active, not passive.

It affects all of us.  That's why I'm here.

People here, most people, have a position, usually informed, on how to reform the health system,  how to manage the withdrawal from Iraq or whether an open Internet helps small business....everyone has thought about what would work and what would not work, many have made an effort to meet all the candidates, in this state where it is actually possible to meet them face-to-face.

This is practical democracy. And this is a political experience so far from the California or New York experience. After Iowa and New Hampshire, very few people will be able to spend time with any of the candidates, pose thoughtful questions, and receive direct answers...which, in Iowa, go directly to YouTube.

 Forty-seven more houses this morning, then more calling.

The snow is squeaking.....we're below zero...but things are heating up. 




Tuesday Jun 26, 2007

Statistics, Knowledge and Society: OECD World Forum, Istanbul

Sunshine is the best disinfectant. 

A thousand statisticians are gathered in Istanbul to consider how to measure the progress of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan just said in his opening address, "the guidance and measure every policy maker must have to act correctly" comes from their work.

The challenge is to measure the right things, and to tell the truth, when the truth can offend.

This morning, in the session dedicated to building indicators of good governance, the Secretary General of the Philippines National Statistical Office described measurements of good governance his office has created in 81 provinces in the Philippines. In the 2007 elections, of the thirty highest-ranked governors, 18 won, 7 lost; of the thirty worst governors, 19 won. Evidently, the measurement has room for improvement, and certainly a long way to go in gaining public acceptance. Still, the proposition that it is the role of the National Statistical Office to create such a measurement was attacked by the representative from Sudan, from Jordan, and from Egypt.

The Sudanese representative went further, attacking the low ranking Sudan received on women's equity by asserting that measurements imposed from outside did not take into account the structure of rural life, where women worked in complete equality alongside men. The Jordanian representative felt that the government should not report anything that could affect elections. The Egyptian questioned the reliability and stability of measurements of good governance.

Ever since the pioneering work in 1990 by Mahbub ul Haq, Amartya Sen and others to go beyond simple GDP measurements to create measurements of the quality of human life, hundreds of organizations have been attempting to capture reality, measure progress, create a way to understand how well we are doing, and guide decision making. The best example is the Human Development Index, contained in the annual Human Development Report

But the list of required reading is long: Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, World Bank , the Boston Indicators Project

The Secretary General of the OECD, Angel Gurria, is challenging the world experts assembled here to create tools to guide the world.  In surveys around the world, asking citizens whether they think their national policies were developed based on facts, more that fifty per cent said no.

The State of the USA Project initiative, with Harvey Fineman, President of the Institute of Medicine and others pushing to create "outcome based measurements today" got a big push from the US Comptroller General. "It's time we had that kind of information", said Dave Walker, Comptroller General of the US GAO, who has created a project with the US National Academy of Science to create a key national indicator system.

 The US project has been underway since 2003; the prototype website is called the Key National Indicators Initiative.

The site is broken shows that a Microsoft Server cannot find the objects requested...but it should be trivial to fix it.

I'm hoping that the Sun project to rewrite the Gapminder visualization system of Hans Rosling will contribute a base....ever since Google bought Gapminder in March 2007, there has been hope to build an open system for showing dynamic change in data. 

New Zealand is creating a system in every local community; how will they combine in national systems?


Summary of presentations: 

US GAO: Dave Walker: economic output is not the only thing that is important.  What form might an indicator organization take? A government-sanctioned entity that might be chartered by the government, but not run by the government.  They shouldn't run it. What we need is a set of indicators that recognize that some things are going well, some things aren't.  We need a system of indicators that would let us move beyond today's partisan freeze.

Maybe even down to zipcodes...for comparability...and internationally.

Next week, announcement of a Rockefeller project on economic insecurity: indicators and index of individual insecurity.

 What has changed?  Key players are coming together...attempts to make domestic systems come together have failed.  The US is facing major sustainable challenges that we are not addressing well.

Capacity to measure: not enough program evaluation capability, not enough audit capability in US.

Develop core indicators, then disaggrate, at different levels of society.

I don't think it's productive to rank countries.  Do rankings on each indicator.

Importance of comparison: the US today is the only superpower. Today. That's temporary.  The US is relying too much on its past.  We have serious sustainability challenges.  We're not taking them seriously enough.  Take the OECD statistics, the US is 16th out of 28.  Very few Americans know that. That's unacceptable.  Take if from a CPA, the world's only superpower is below average.



Tuesday Jun 19, 2007

How do we know? Preparing for the OECD Statistics, Knowledge, and Policy Conference in Istanbul next week

If you can't measure, you can't manage.

Next week, in Istanbul, the measurement crowd is gathering. 

 It's the OECD Global Project: Measuring the Progress of Societies.

All the national statistical organizations, the OECD, the UN, the World Health Organization, the Tsunami Early Warning groups, the H5N1 Pandemic warning groups, the hunger and poverty and global warming analysts...all those that try to use  evidence and data to decide on matters of life and death will be there to see what we can build together to help us understand our world and change it for the better. 

Tuesday May 29, 2007

Crack the Box: Show the world at World Congress Kuala Lumpur

Will Internet connectivity change people, or will people change the Internet?  Will Internet connectivity change devices, or will devices change the Internet?

In the narrow area of devices, Sun stands for changing the rules of change.  By breaking down barriers to open design and open implementation, we hope to put the tools of change in the hands of people to innovate and design according to their own needs and imagination.

We did it in the past with the tools of the Internet: we made the fundamental implementations of Internet protocols open....with TCP/IP, with remote procedure calls turned into Network File System and distributed computing, with Java and distributed mobile computing, with Jini and Juxta for distributed peer-to-peer computing...we have opened the tool box for others to use to build and innovate.

Now we will do the same for mobile devices. 

As we deploy the JavaFX Mobile open source for mobile devices, we hope an open component architecture will bring the $10 self-configurable handset into the networked world. Built anywhere, by anyone.  Crack the box.

Providing an open source stack for a mobile device will crack the box: allow anyone to assemble any components they want into the open mobile device. 


Today, mobile phones are closed; they package capabilities and components chosen by Nokia, or Motorola, or Samsun, or LG, or Sony-Ericcson in consultation with NTT Docomo, or Vodaphone or Sprint or Verizon or Orange or ATT  or MTN or Celtel; the choice of components is made in conversations closed to the rest of the world, and justified by commercial models created seventy years ago in legal frameworks devised by the ITU, the American FCC, and regulatory agencies responding to national governments.

Sun is in the unique position of partnership with all; with carriers world-wide, with equipment manufacturers, with software development groups building Java applications for deployment on the billions of mobile devices emerging, with Microsoft, with Intel, with AMD, with the Java community.

With an open stack of software, we can complement today's designs. 

Today, a mobile device is component-homologous with a laptop: keyboard, display, microphone, speaker, radio link to a network, processor, memory, storage, motion sensor, infra-red link, Bluetooth link, camera, external power link. Just different form factors and capacities.

Tomorrow, open component architectures will allow new components to join our devices, and allow us to pick the ones we want: sensors for light, heat, motion, radiation, position: accelerometers, gyroscopes, radiological counters, molecular and atomic identification devices, multispectral scanners, high-resolution pressure transducers.  And and varied links from one form of energy to another: from light to heat, from motion to music, from position to light.

Today, the small SunSpot board from Sunlabs incorporates arbitrary sensors..and just with the three-axis accelerometers on board, it's trivial to make a "Wii"-equivalent.  Your mobile becomes a motion-sensitive input device. 

Here's a proposal I made last week in Malaysia to the organizers of the upcoming World Conference on Information Technology, WCIT 2008, to be held in Kuala Lumpur starting May 18, 2008.

Begin with the plenary hall--3,000 people assembled from around the world to meet and discuss how to use information technology to change the world.  Be sure they all have a mobile device; they'll need it later.

Immerse the audience in how the world is doing today, by displaying information about the world as powerfully as possible, in as real time as possible, using some of the tools developed in the past twenty years for visualization and immersion. The goal: to increase the specificity and the relevance of information displayed until all participants can feel an empathic link with people around the world.

First, visually and aurally surround the audience as you would in a planetarium: giant screens in front, but extending to the sides and overhead. 

Begin with the surface of the earth as imaged by satellite and aerial camea: Google Earth with 20 centimeter imagery, NASA Whirlwind or Microsoft Globe, combined with the 3-D structural detail for hundreds of cities and towns.

Zoom down on Kuala Lumpur, and fly around the city.  Four years ago a lab in Kuala Lumpur created a remarkable visualization of all of the major buildings of KL, and recreated, from meteorological and hydrological measurements, the 2005 flooding of the Klang Valley; it showed the rising river, the first overflow into the downtown area, and the subsequent flooding of subterranean parking garages, utility mains, and building basements.  Show the KL Convention Center in this visualization.

Energy and water visualization: Show the detailed building plans, then merge into the building system telemetry.  Show the energy usage of the building: the mains; the use by each motor--elevator, pump, escalator, air conditioner, refrigerator; the thermal flux in the main auditorium; the exterior skin heating and cooling; the flow of water; the flow of cool and hot air.  Use the original AutoCad architectural drawings to narrow down to each electrical outlet, each water pump or air fan.

Show the day's use, starting the morning of the conference opening: show the heat load of each participant, including the energy use of each mobile phone, each camera, each recording device, each laptop.

Pull away to an overview of KL, and let the same indicia run, but now for an urban agglomerate of two million people.

Then fly to Chungdu, and do the same for fifteen million; then to Beijing, to the Olympic facilities, and do the same. Then to Kapenguria , in north west Kenya, to a small agricultural village for three thousand and do the same.

And then to Amsterdam (the site of the 2010 WCIT).

Here, change to the Second Life Amsterdam, which is startlingly accurate, and do the same.  Show the telemetry, but now use the walls of the virtual building as display surfaces.

<insert image of SL Amsterdam>

Now, superimpose the Six Million Dots, showing the location of all schools and clinics in the world. [Six Million Dots: Global Monitoring ].  Zoom down on any village school or clinic, show the national patterns.

Then, to a clinic where there has been an outbreak of H5N1.  Show the school and clinic data. 

Then, show Gapminder, first in its original form, as a visualization of national statistics of infant mortality, wealth and wealth distribution, then as a disaggregate visualization, city by city, block by block. 

Then, person by person.

Come back to the stage.  Show the Malaysian potential Olympic badminton champion on stage, hitting a bird back and forth with someone.  Then, clip a SunSpot on the racket, and have him play against the screen with a virtual bird. 

Then, tell everyone to take out their mobile phone.  Have them clip a SunSpot sensor board to the phone, which transforms it into a Wii.  Panasonic has sold thirty each phone can be a Wii controller.  [? Will 3,000 Bluetooth connections work?  Will a Java applet work, using the local mobile cell concentrator?  How quickly, and with what resolution, can data come from one phone over any connection? Can one person in the audience play against the champion, using the screen? ]

Do a recreation of what we did with Loren Carpenter of Pixar, years ago...sum the control movements of 3,000 people to fly a virtual plane, or play badminton, or control some aspect of water and power use in a city or building.  Maybe control the IPV6 lights in the KL Convention Center.


And then, a visualization of the spread of Internet connectivity....a global ping...if something doesn't respond, it's not on the net....a way to bring some accuracy to the exaggerated figures governments are fond of trotting out about access.

 More later about visualizing the net.


Monday May 21, 2007

United Nations Information and Communications Technology for Development

Powerful presentation by the head of Orange Wireless, Sanjiv Ahuja, showing the remarkable drop in cost and price for mobile access in Africa. 

He and I joined in a call to the Ministers of Telecommunications and the national regulatory agencies in all African countries to reexamine their allocation schemes....and take spectrum away from the military in every country, since allocations are uniformly based on technology of forty years ago.

United Nations Conference: Information Technology and Developing Countries

Geneva hosts thousands of meetings a year....this week in Geneva has meetings devoted to IT and development issues first brought forward on the formal international stage by the UN World Summits on Information Technology: Geneva four years ago, Tunisia two years ago.

Usually these discussions are like ships passing in the night....people worried about globalization gather to attack the Internet as a mechanism of globalization, people worried about unequal distribution of resources worry about the Internet as the vehicle of domination, people worried about cultural imperialism worry about the Internet as the pathway for Western cultural domination. 


Think of Engineers Without Borders, or GeekCorps....volunteers with technical expertise who are contributing their time, and their company's support, to changing lives in the developing world.

The questions are simple; the answers are complicated. 

What can computers and networks contribute to changing the lives of the four billion people who have intermittent power, or no power, struggle for clean water, lack good roads or telephone connections... 

Last year, Athens hosted the continuing talks on Internet governance--international code for the feeling the International Telecommunications Union has that since it is one of the few members of the UN family to deal with technology,  and since it has a great deal of experience in setting telephony and communication standards, it should have some role in deciding how the Internet works.

Here, we have the multilateral agencies: ITU, WHO, UNCTAD, WIPO, the UN Secretary General; we have NGO's; we have sixty countries; we have Oracle, Sun, IBM,

ITU has an initiative with Grameen Bank called "Network for the World",  to bring inexpensive devices and microcredit to the world. Language recognition tools are needed, a lot of innovative research is needed, according to Deputy Secretary-General of the ITU Houlin Zhao.  Zhao heads the standards efforts of the ITU.  With Cisco, ITU is creating training centers world-wide for Internet access.


Saturday May 19, 2007

Prime Minister Badawi of Malaysia: Darfur, Malaysia, Petronas, and the Organization of the Islamic Community

When the Prime Minister met with El Bashir of Sudan three weeks ago, he emphasized that no military solution was possible.

I told the PM today that we would happily cooperate with him to fulfill his pledge to bring networks and schools to the Darfur camps and towns...


Monday May 14, 2007

Malaysian Java Incubator: CyberJaya Innovation Center

Today I visited the Java Incubator here in CyberJaya....a remarkable growth of new companies and new entrepreneurial interest.  Over the past two years, over eighty Java entrepreneurs have passed through the program, and over sixty have now started companies or have joined companies using Java to create new applications.

In the next few months this program expands to four other cities in Malaysia: Malacca, Johor, and two others.


Tuesday Apr 17, 2007

Beijing Sun

A big week for Sun:  the tenth Sun Education and Research Conference in Beijing.


Sun, in partnership with the Minister of Education and the Chinese Education and Research Network  CERNET   中国教育和科研计算机网

has presented the annual update on the world's most advanced computing and technical developents.

Ten years ago I sat in a large auditorium in Beijing as the first Sun conference explained how Chinese universities working together across the Internet could change themselves and each other.  For the last ten years, CERNET has expanded to reach a thousand universities, with the world's largest pure IPV6 network, and gigabit connectivity.


Monday Apr 16, 2007

Beijing Standards Edge Conference

Beijing Standards

Wednesday Apr 11, 2007

Arab Competitiveness Summit: Doha

 The economic analysis of the region emphasized the fundamental role of education, and the emerging level of higher education for students, not only from the region, but world-wide.

Doha participants al Thani


Major conclusions: 

The impressive effort by Qatar  to build a first-class higher educational system is succeeding, but the long-term view should attempt to match the needs of the region for specific skills to the curriculum.  Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Texas A&M, and Cornell have made impressive gains building a curriculum, dealing with faculty issues of relocation and collaboration, and equivalency of degrees.

However, there can be further improvements.

In conversations with Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, it became clear how important the insistence on the highest standards is for the overall formation of the staff. Only by complete adherence to strict rules on on-time departures, to complete even-handedness in customer treatment, and to extremely demanding maintenance and inspection regimes can such a rapidly growing airline maintain its reputation for quality.

Akbar Al Baker, John Gage 


The infrastructure investments: airport, port, bridges, roads, telecommunications are moving ahead rapidly; Qatar has the forest of construction cranes associated usually with Dubai.

However, there are some delays in implementation.  Qatar is adhering to the highest world standards, and that is causing pressure on contractors and contract management.

A fundamental issue for the regional states is the presence of very large numbers of workers from Kenya, from Sri Lanka, and from India.

Remittances are critically important, and the need for reform is urgent.


Tuesday Apr 10, 2007

Arab World Competitiveness Summit: Doha

Today, Tuesday, April 10, the World Economic Forum releases its third report on the economic, social and political progress in the region.

 Progress has been significant, largely due to the rising prices of oil and gas.  The analysis carefully distinguishes three different levels of development, and, for the first time, explicitly attempts to separate the effects of resource-based economies (read: those that sell oil and gas) from more broadly-based economies, by analyzing the world ranking of the Arab economies based on nine separate pillars of development.

Stage 1: Factor-driven
Egypt, Mauritania, Syria, Morocco
India, China
Basic requirements:critical
Efficiency enhancers:impt

Stage1 to Stage 2

Algeria, Libya, Oman, Tunisia, Jordan
Colombia, Thailand, Venezuela
Basic requirements: critical
Efficiency enhancers:increasingly important
Stage 2: Efficiency-driven
 Turkey, Russian Federation
Basic requirements: very important
Efficiency enhancers: critical
Transition: 2 -> 3
Barbados, Czech Republic, Korea
same as above, but innovation factors more important
Stage 3: Innovation-driven
Qatar, UAE, Kuwait
United States, UK, Japan
All three important

The nine pillars are an extension of the categories utilized by the World Bank and the UNDP  for human development indices.

  1. Institutions
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Macroeconomy
  4. Health and primary education
  5. Higher education and training
  6. Market efficiency
  7. Technological readiness: capacity to absorb latest technologies
  8. Business sophistication
  9. Innovation: ability to develop entirely new products and services

The first four are grouped as Basic Requirements: Institutions, Infrastructure, Macroeconomy, Health and Primary Education.
The next three are grouped as Efficiency Enhancers: Higher Education, Market Efficiency, Technological Readiness
The last two are grouped as Innovation and Sophistication factors: Business Sophistication, Innovation.

In world-wide rankings:

 Switzerland 1 
 Singapore 5 
 US 6 
 UK 10 
 UAE 29 
 Qatar 32 
 Kuwait 36 
 Bahrain 39 

Examination of the progress of the Free Trade Agreements, beginning with the Jordanian Free Trade Agreement.



Presidents, Ministers



Saudi Arabia











Sri Lanka





Thursday Apr 05, 2007

Second Life and Architecture for Humanity

Preparation for the April 24 session in Second Life that will show Cameron Sinclair's Archtitecture for Humanity: thousands of architects and engineers around the world contributing designs for schools, playgrounds, sports facilities, telecenters...all open, all peer-reviewed, all ready for implementation in Kenya, or Rwanda, or Cambodia, or India.

 Cameron and I plan to build a building in Second Life from designs contributed to Architecture for Humanity....and, in SL, we can fly around it, enter it, try it on for size.

Tuesday Jan 23, 2007

Davos meeting begins

The Annual Meeting begins, and the topic remains the same: how to improve the world

Monday Jan 01, 2007

Richard Newton

Richard died on January 2, 2007.



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