Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thin Client Saves Energy Costs

I just read an article about the application of thin clients at Queen Margaret University as a green ICT case study. In this case, the project team used access to a remote desktop service, leveraging the thin-client infrastructure as an incentive, allowing users to log on from any computer, anywhere, and access all of their files and applications. They had made a successful major changeover of student PCs to thin-client and the remainder of staff PCs were migrated prior to the campus move in summer 2007.

Even though some educational resources such as complex audio editing cannot run on the thin client while the cost of building this infrastructure of thin clients is similar to standard PCs, overall it is a success in the long term because the lasting time of thin clients doubles the standard one and it saves the electricity at a huge amount.

I’m wondering if this idea will be applicable at Tulane. Because I don’t think it is wise to use the Mac computers with huge storage space just for daily browsing at the library. Since once we log out, all the files will be erased. Why do we need 250G for every single computer? Introducing thin clients may be a trend for the college technology advancement.

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Crowd-sourcing: Wikipedia

On Tuesday, our guest lecturer, Adam Papaendieck, brought up the notion ‘micro-tasking’ as an example of crowd sourcing in ICT4D. His example was of the ‘mark spam’ feature on email providers. Each user is providing information so that they are able to collectively make a more efficient spam filter. It enables a collection of small, individual actions to make a better product. I would like to take this entry to remind everyone about the another micro-sourcing platform that I’m sure we all use quite frequently: wikipedia

At this point Wikipedia has been around for quite a few years and it’s safe to assume most people have read an entry or consulted wikipedia in some fashion. It’s a widely used portal for information based on the relatively simple notion that anyone and everyone can collectively contribute their knowledge or time to making a better online encyclopedia. Aside from authoring articles, users are able to edit pre-existing articles, flag articles or sections that are questionable (overly biased, no sources included or otherwise wrong) and contribute to the discussion on articles. Once you make an account, you are able to access the ‘edit’ and ‘view history’ tab of the article in order to see what sections of the article have changed and who made the edits. If there’s a bogus edit made, this allows users to flag the contributor who made the edit. Criticisms are often directed to the abuse of the system and the reliability of the articles. (Ironic wikipedia article: reliability of wikipedia) An open source encyclopedia is certainly susceptible to reliability and bias issues, but this is true of virtually any news source.
Although I share similar reservations, I still use wikipedia on a regular basis. It’s difficult to argue with a seemingly infinite amount of free and rapidly updated information. It’s just so easy to use it as your go-to source when you want what is more or less a comprehensive collection of information about countless topics. In fact, it’s so widely used that I’ve actually had professors recommend certain Wikipedia pages to our class. I’m interested in hearing what others think about the accuracy of projects that use ‘micro-tasking’ as its basis. Even if there are a lot of contributors to a project, it could still ultimately end up failing if their contributions are of so poor quality that the project has no value. Is crowd-sourcing tasks like this a good idea if the outcome could be of an unreliable quality?

The Cloud in Africa

Cloud computing technology is becoming increasingly important in ICT. This technology provides hardware and software services over a network. “The Cloud and Africa: Indicators for Growth of Cloud Computing” discusses predictors of cloud computing success in Africa.

The paper first discusses the potential benefits of the cloud in Africa– economic growth, greater data storage, increased communication and collaboration, and lower overhead costs. In addition, cloud computing can specifically be used in different ICT4D projects like e-education, e-health, and e-commerce.

The article describes the idea of “cloud readiness,” focusing on five indicators of cloud readiness: ICT, infrastructure, business, investment, and socioeconomic factors. These indicators help to determine which nations are most ready to employ cloud technology. In order to conduct this study, the author chose the 10 largest internet using nations in Africa: Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Zambia. Finally, Rwanda was added to the study because of its government’s focus on ICT4D.

The author then created a Cloud Readiness Index (which is described in much greater detail in the paper). The top five countries for cloud readiness were, in order: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Sudan, and Kenya. A visual representation of the Index can be seen below:

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In his conclusion, the author reemphasize the importance of the cloud as one tool in the ICT4D toolkit, but also reminds us that each country will need its own individualized path to cloud readiness and this should be a focus in coming years.


For Syria’s Rebel Movement, Skype Is a Useful and Increasingly Dangerous Tool

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/world/middleeast/syrian-rebels-turn-to-skype-for-communications.html?ref=technology&_r=0

 

Upon the shutting down of the Syrian nation’s complete internet network by oppressive leader, Bashir Al-Assad, the Syrian rebels have found themselves their own technology in order to compensate for communication fallacies: Skype. Despite Al-Assad being the self-proclaimed “father of the internet” and a supposed catalyst to the recent technological revolution of Syria, he recently decided to completely cut the internet network this past Thursday in order to interrupt rebel communications between the Syrian revolutionaries. With that being said, the Syrian Rebel front has proved themselves to be adapting to Al-Assad’s increasingly panicked oppression. For months, Syrian rebels have been smuggling in handheld devices and mobile devices in order for themselves to communicate from battalion to battalion via Skype. The application runs almost completely without any sort of Internet connection, provided that there is some mobile connectivity, so rebels have used the program to communicate news stations, allied factions in other nations as well as each other. Unfortunately however, Skype’s capabilities make it much easier for the Syrian government to capitalize on 3G location services that can actually give them the direct physical location of the rebels. Furthermore, the Syrian government has been able to induce malware into rebel applications which can furthermore capture even more information regarding the rebels’ intentions.

All in all, it almost pains me to see that the Syrian rebels can’t catch a break despite them learning to overcompensate in order to battle pro-government factions. While the fallacies of Skype are undoubtedly evident, it is clear that they cannot be blamed considering that they did not anticipate themselves being the main social medium dictating a full-scale civil war in the Middle East. I hope that the Syrian rebel forces find the capacity to defeat the governmental forces, I am just genuinely curious to learn what more types of technology will be used through this war which has been heavily influenced by the social media.


Energy and Cost Effectiveness in the Cloud

Energy and Cost Effectiveness in the Cloud

When discussing the benefits of cloud computing, we talked about it being cheaper than other options, such as buying external hardwear, etc. However, what we did not delve deeply into was the macro cost effectiveness of cloud computing, often with the added bonus of it being better for the environment. For example, as Google expands its service, it created “Google Apps for Government,” which focuses on providing a secure and efficient cloud server for government agencies to utilize.

Benefits that it advertises include the decreased amounts of infrastructure that needs to be built to house a data center. It also allows less maintence of said centers, which lead to monthly costs such as electricity, air conditioning to maintiain the equiptment, and water for cooling the systems. The elimination of all these costs leads to huge amounts of savings, which makes the cost of “Google Apps for Government” itself negligible in comparison.

Another way that these Google apps minimize environmental and cost impacts is through a decrease in the need for travel. This service offers efficient video and digital interfacing, so that it can decrease the need for travel. This is a huge cast saver, as well as helping the environment as it decreases the harmful greenhouse gasses that are released when flying or driving.

Overall, Google Apps for Government seems to be a useful way in utilizing the cloud to save money, help the environment, and allow the government to address its consituents concerns to release less carbon. Google seems to be leading the field in this focus on adapting the cloud for specific fields, and it is an innovative way to make money and improve efficency at the same time.


GIS in New Orleans

I intern at the Beacon of Hope Resource Center which is based in New Orleans. Beacon of Hope attempts to help with community issues. The mission has been changing to fit the needs of the neighborhoods. In the beginning days of Beacon of Hope, the problems were mostly construction related, now, six years after the storm, there is a little less action being taken in terms of helping people fix their homes. Now, it is more about fixing the communities. The main neighborhood that Beacon of Hope works with is Gentilly. In the Beacon neighborhoods, everything from tracking blighted homes and assisting the elderly with their homes, to planning community fundraising events and surveying neighborhoods is done.

Most specific to Beacon of Hope is their mapping capabilities. During class on Thursday, the maps that we were creating reminded me of what I do at the Beacon of Hope. I worked with Beacon of Hope to help them, and the Ninth Ward community, conduct field research in the Lower Ninth Ward using an ArcGIS surveying app. This survey was both for outreach and information purposes. The data collected is a source of information that reveals important information for people and businesses looking to move back to New Orleans and the government. For this event, I we had 20 iPhone owning volunteers for a full day of surveying. Collectively, we entered relevant information pertaining to hundreds of homes and lots. As we have seen there are many ways we use GIS in New Orleans and it very important for us as development majors to understand uses of GIS.

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Big Data: Trends, Concerns, Implications

Having heard Adam Papendieck discuss the value of big data, I looked into an article about how it’s being utilized in the Caribbean. Given the abstract nature of these huge sets of data, Michele Marius characterizes big data by the 3 V’s (and three corresponding challenges in big data processing): volume, velocity, and variety. She explains that the volume is growing exceedingly large, making conventional processing expensive and tedious. With velocity, she explains that the rate at which data is generated is vital, as many firms must be able to process and evaluate the information in real time. Lastly, as we heard from Adam, big data can come from a variety of sources, and the analysis of each source’s data together is becoming increasingly relevant.

As Adam described the trends in ICTs around the world, there are trends developing in how big data is utilized as well:

  • With analytics becoming more effective and faster, the value of big data may be realized by groups other than just big corporations
  • Data may become even more commoditized, but mainly of value to organizations as opposed to individuals
  • There is a shift toward using big data to provide more personalized user experiences

Despite these exciting developments in this valuable yet expansive information, significant issues must be addressed. Although big data allows for better end user services, private information is often compromised, and Marius warns that consumers may have to concede even more privacy in the future. In addition, she explains that the U.S. alone may be lacking up to 190,000 trained analysts by 2018 to make effective decisions with big data.

In developing countries, the prevalence of data mining is presumably limited in volume, but not necessarily utility. As seen with the use of Twitter in crises, even relatively scarce big data can offer impressive insight. With big data processing still emerging in these areas, firms that emphasize it can gain a competitive advantage over similar firms.

Do you think a solution exists in the balance of privacy vs. firms’ interests? Can you think of any additional challenges associated with analyzing big data?