Nishant Malhotra Founder of Middle Road OPC Pvt Ltd & The middle Road platform talks about the startup

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Digital Cooperation Step Forward


Best way to fight this rising malice in artificial intelligence is to get the best kick-ass team of hackers, get them in one place and code pathways to nullify the evils of deep fake and alike.

The United Nations nudge for Digital Cooperation signifies the growing importance and role of digital interconnections between economies. This publication looks at how best to leverage digital resources for implementing sustainable development goals SGD, growing risks related to the proliferation of the internet, including Cyber Security, Deep Fakes, privacy laws, and key recommendations and policy enactments. Pic Source: UN

In recent years, technology has been a massive enabler in driving productivity but also in promoting SDGs. The rise in digital cooperation and interdependence globally backed by the UN 2030 agenda to have every adult affordable access to digital networks makes cooperation for social, economic, social, and legal leveraging technology inevitable. To facilitate this action, the UN proposes to set up a platform of multi-stakeholders’ chiefly government and private sector, civic societies, multilateral banks with shared norms and regulations.

# Leaving no one behind

Digital infrastructure has gained global footprints over the last decade, with the proportion of people online increasing from 14.5 per cent in 2008 to 45.3 per cent in 2018. The thrust, enhanced by an impetus by mobile money, drove financial inclusion. The 2017 Global Findex database, the last time the report was published, shows that 1.2B people obtained an account, including about half a billion since 2014. Between 2014 and 2017, globally, the proportion of people having an account with a financial institution or through mobile money service rose from 62 per cent to 69 per cent while developing economies registered a 9 per cent rise from 54 per cent to 63 per cent.

Yet according to Affordability Report 2019, 50 per cent of the world’s population has no pathways of connecting to the internet. Across Africa, the average cost of 1GB data is 7.12% of monthly average wage translating into $373 in the US on similar peer comparison. The competition, which is a critical enabler for driving prices down is absent in 71 of the low- and middle-income countries, alternative solutions including wholesale open-access networks (WOAN) are yet to be proven. One of its critical failures is the buy-in from multiple actors within the ecosystem. South Africa early this year withdrew from a proposed while Rwanda, where WOAN is implemented, is still lagging 4G connectivity.


Microfinancing through crowdfunding peer 2 peer platforms like Kiva or online e-commerce platforms like Taobao and online payment systems like Alipay have deeply impacted in promoting entrepreneurship among the less privileged people in the society. In China, an estimated 10M small and medium enterprises sell on Taobao platform with nearly half of them women. Kiva, a peer2peer micro-funding platform, has funded a whopping $1B to almost 3M less privileged women in 94 countries in the last 15 years alone. With 81% of the borrower’s women and 96.8% of repayment rate, Kiva’ model is an eye-opener for sustainable good. Further, the funding helps in promoting sustainable business, especially in sustainable sectors, enhancing well-being.

e-Choupal, conceived by ITC Agri commodities business, is the most extensive rural digital infrastructure. Stared in 2000, it has empowered 4M farmers with a collaborative market-driven platform helping them to plan, manage, and sell their produce online. It builds kiosks at remote rural locations, trains farmers in necessary digital literacy skills, including tutoring them on the best agricultural practices to accurately predict their produce. This initiative has been a game-changer in removing intermediaries, driving best business practices through an increase in accountability, removing corruption, and making the process on par with developed countries.

Today, technology is enabling a profound change through better analytics, lean data, and blockchain technology, among others, in bringing in accountability, transparency and decentralization. For example, only 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have data on poverty based on 2015 surveys. To take the best from around the world, the UN proposed “digital public goods”. One judicious case of digital public goods is India Stack.

“India Stack is India’s single most important innovation to formalize India’s domestic economy through digital services” NANDAN NILEKANI

Catalyzing corporation, through digital public goods exemplified by India Stack, is a great example. India Stack is a novel idea of bringing all actors within the social and business ecosystem on a unified, multi-layered software system using a set of application programming. The effort activated cashless and paperless transactions for making payments over mobile and financial inclusion, among others.

# Policy Recommendation

Digital Public Goods platform, an integrated suite of all stack along with tutorials, must include all actors within the social and business ecosystem that will help in implementing the best-shared practices, especially in the development sector. To invigorate know-how across geographies, a few police must be enacted. First, proper documentation of all breakout and effectively implemented projects using digital technology in the development sector, along with their social impact, in the system. Second, incentivized programs for promoting active participation within the platform by various actors. Finally, making a percentage of hours for voluntary service per month based on employee and turnover mandatory for all organizations complemented with tax breaks based on a preset matrix of achievement. The final policy is a top-down approach and should be implemented by governments for various actors within the development sector.

Organizations are empowering employees to learn new skills or flexible and remote working options. Finland’s transformation at work policy works wonder for its companies, and critical visionary reforms are making Helsinki a hub for gaming and digital financial services. Australia enacted legislation recently to make it easier for employees to have a flexible schedule while in the UK, only 6% of people do traditional 9 am to 5 pm work. Allowing more empowerment to employees not only improves productivity, benevolent atmosphere but also kick starts innovation. Take the example of 3M, an engineering company’s policy of encouraging employees to work on their innovation-led to the formation of one of its top-selling products Post It. Specific benchmark always helps. As an example, I incorporated 2 hours of weekly reading on topics related to their choice based on the theme of my start-up for 8 to 10 hours of work. Although a percentage this high is not sustainable, it is a step in the right direction in defining the DNA of my start-up.

# Privacy and Digital Threat

Data theft and cybersecurity remain the top concerns globally. Cloud computing, internet of things and more excellent reliability on application user interfaces have significantly increased doors of security risk. According to CISCO cybersecurity report 2019, thirty-one per cent of organizations encountered cyber-attacks on their operations technology. The surge in cybersecurity risks is exemplified by stock performance of Crowd Strike, which trades at $51 up from its IPO price of $34 but down from the highs of $96.05. The cost cybersecurity fraud ranges from $600B to $8T, making it your best guess.

Further Symantec estimates that $45 price for a credit card on underground markets, and only 10 credit card details stolen from compromised sites amounts to $2.2M per month for cybercriminals. However, monetary loss is not the only hell’s corner related to data theft. Cambridge Analytica episode laid bare the danger of manipulating and nudging people on decisions based on their trait, highlighting the importance of Data Privacy.

Graph above: YTD Crowd Strike price Good Finance Research: The Middle Road

Data privacy is now one of the widely contested issues globally. The upcoming e-Privacy Regulation in Europe which replaces e-privacy directive covers both metadata and content, including cookies and online identifiers making it more difficult for markets to cross-sell products online. A step in the right direction, the rule is more comprehensive GDPR making stricter cookie and consent rules and making marketing calls identifiable. The Europe data privacy rules will have global ramifications defining data governance issues, especially in the US, Canada and Asia. Although it remains to be seen how companies circumvent ePrivacy Regulations for digital marketing, data footprint has more sinister outcomes.

Deep fake is a rising significant concern and after-effects of AI and machine learning. The technology is frighteningly becoming real. Watch this video here where Bill Hader is Tom Cruise and Seth Rogen. Observe. Looks so easy and needs to be addressed with alacrity.Best way to fight this rising malice in artificial intelligence is to get the best kick-ass team of hackers, get them in one place and code pathways to nullify the evils of deep fake and alike.


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