The Conversation, on Working from home

Working from home: Twitter reveals why we’re embracing it

Mixing worlds. unsplash.com/@charlesdeluvio
Fiona Carroll, Cardiff Metropolitan University; Mohamed Mostafa, Cardiff Metropolitan University, and Simon Thorne, Cardiff Metropolitan University

The effects of coronavirus on the economy already appear bleak. Unemployment and government borrowing are soaring and a recession seems inevitable.

Yet amid these worrying developments there are positive elements to be found. Many of those who have kept their jobs have found they can keep working without the need for a daily commute. Recent research suggests that up to half of UK workers can do their jobs remotely.

And it’s not just office workers. Teachers, GPs, politicians and judges have all swiftly adapted to professional isolation. In just a few weeks, the traditional workplace has been transformed.

Suddenly fears that technology will destroy job have given way to relief that it can help save them. (Although the prospect of robot doctors treating patients, drones transporting vaccines and 3D printers producing face masks does not seem like a bad idea all of a sudden.)

Of course, working from home (WFH) requires considerable levels of adjustment. But data from our ongoing research shows that, on the whole, people seem seem quite positive about this aspect of their restricted lives.


Read more: Working from home? Why detachment is crucial for mental health


In the middle of March 2020, we collected tweets using the hashtags #Coronavirus and #COVID-19 to observe how people were reacting on social networks to the pandemic. After processing 60 million tweets and removing the retweets, we focused on 6,500 messages from March 14 to April 6 that contained the hastag #WFH.

The idea was to assess how people were feeling about working from home. Overall, we found that 70.6% of the tweets reflected a positive sentiment towards the idea. The tweets that came from UK users after the lockdown on March 23 saw a rise in the positive feedback sentiment to 78.6%.

We used something called “sentiment analysis” to assess the tweets. For our purposes this was a lexicon-based approach where every tweet is represented as a group of words, which are each scored on a scale from negative to positive. A mathematical algorithm is then applied in order to a make a final assessment of the tweet’s overall sentiment.

Overall sentiment before lockdown, limited to #WFH.
Overall sentiment after lockdown, limited to #WFH.

We were also curious about the topics people were talking about. One of the more popular methods to extract themes from text is called “topic modelling”, which is essentially a way of processing large amounts of data – in this case tweets – to find out what words and phrases are being used the most.

Word power

Words such as “respect”, “inspire” and “proactive” appeared between 1,000 and 3,000 times in the #WFH tweets, indicating a positive response to the concept of working from home over the course of the pandemic.

Generating a word-cloud to observe the frequency of the words appearing in the tweets during this period, we also found the overall sentiment of the social media response to #WFH to be positive. There is a clear sense of productivity, with words such as “team”, “tips”, “satisfaction”, “service”, “remote”, “support” and “good” among the most prominent.

Word-cloud for tweets from 27th to 30th of March 2020 #WFH.

To build a deeper understanding of these positive feelings, we then mapped the sentiment generated from the tweets per day before the lockdown in the UK.

As the effects of coronavirus and lockdown intensified, so too did the mentions of working from home on Twitter. But there were dips too, most noticeably at the end of March 27, where there was a steep drop in #wfh references of nearly 50% which lasted for three days. We believe this could align with media reports highlighting concerns about children’s wellbeing during lockdown and widely expressed worries about the security of online meeting software, which were also expressed in some of the tweets.

There were negative experiences recorded too. For workers with children to look after, the changed dynamic of domestic life created new and widespread challenges. Yet this also inspired moments of gratitude and offers of help. The tweets we looked at showed evidence of small online communities forming, with people very happy to share #WFH tips and ideas.

Of course, working from home is not a new concept. But coronavirus has, in a very short space of time, forced it to become a normality for much wider sectors of the workforce. And overall, our research shows that the response to this has been positive.

This raises a new quandary about what will happen after the lockdown is lifted. Will businesses start to widen the practice to allow more flexibility to their employees? And if they don’t, how will employees feel about a return to the “old” ways of doing things? No doubt the response on social media will give us some clues.The Conversation

Fiona Carroll, Senior Lecturer in Computing and Information Systems, Cardiff Metropolitan University; Mohamed Mostafa, Senior Lecturer in Data Science, Cardiff Metropolitan University, and Simon Thorne, Senior Lecturer in Computing and ​Information Systems, Cardiff Metropolitan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation, on Fibre Optics and Community-driven innovation

The remote British village that built one of the fastest internet networks in the UK

© B4RN, Author provided
Kira Allmann, University of Oxford

Nestled between Lancashire’s stand-out beauty, the Forest of Bowland, and the breathtaking vistas of the Yorkshire Dales, the serene, postcard-perfect village of Clapham seems far removed from the COVID-19 pandemic. But when the British government announced a nationwide lockdown in mid-March, Clapham went on high alert.

Local residents formed what they dubbed “Clapham COBRA”, a volunteer emergency response initiative that aimed to mitigate the negative effects of isolation by sharing information, delivering supplies, and checking in on one another. Like many rural villages, Clapham is fairly geographically isolated and home to an ageing population, with most of its roughly 600 residents over the age of 45. But when it came to confronting extreme isolation, it also has a unique advantage: unlike much of rural England, Clapham boasts one of the best internet connections in the country – and the locals built it themselves.

Ann Sheridan remembers well the moment she got Broadband for the Rural North, known as “B4RN” (pronounced “barn”), to her house in Clapham in March 2016. She recounted to me over the phone:

I remember my next door neighbours nearly coming to blows because their son downloaded the whole series of Game of Thrones on a 2 megabits per second (Mbps) internet connection. And none of them could do anything else on the internet for days, right? So it was obvious that if the community wasn’t going to be left behind … we had to do something.

B4RN started planning to roll out its fibre-to-the-home network in Clapham in 2014, and by the end of 2018, around 180 homes out of 300 in the village had been hooked up with an affordable full gigabit-per-second symmetrical connection (currently only around 10% of homes in Britain are even capable of receiving such a connection). The speeds are impressive, especially in a rural context where internet connectivity lags horrendously behind urban areas in Britain. Rural download speeds average around 28Mbps, compared to 62.9Mbps on average in urban areas. B4RN, meanwhile, delivers 1,000Mbps.

The internet is more important than ever during the lockdown, where lack of access exposes other inequalities in internet use and skills. But B4RN means much more to digitally and geographically isolated communities than the internet service it provides.

Fibre-optic cable reel in a sheep field. © Kira Allmann, 2019, Author provided

A community network

B4RN is registered as a Community Benefit Society, which means the business belongs to the communities who need it: community members own the enterprise, and in B4RN’s case, they also actually build a lot of the infrastructure themselves. As a result, the process of “getting” B4RN involves a substantial commitment – of time, training, money, and physical labour.

Ann Sheridan was a B4RN “champion”, meaning that she – along with three other volunteers – headed the effort to build B4RN in her village. The role involved “all kinds of things”, she recalls. Building a fibre-optic internet network from scratch involves a steep learning curve and a lot of teamwork. Community members need to map their coverage area, secure permissions (called wayleaves) to cross their neighbours’ land, and dig trenches across fields and gardens to lay plastic ducting for the fibre-optic cable.


This article is part of Conversation Insights
The Insights team generates long-form journalism derived from interdisciplinary research. The team is working with academics from different backgrounds who have been engaged in projects aimed at tackling societal and scientific challenges.


In the end, the connections B4RN facilitates in a place like Clapham are more than technological – they’re personal. And the impact of those connections is especially evident now. “Everybody in the village knows every everyone, it was like that anyway,” Sheridan explains. “But B4RN put rocket boosters under it.”

Over the last year, I have visited and spoken with people in many different communities that have had a hand in building B4RN, and each time I have heard a similar story: you dig B4RN into your own back garden, but B4RN also digs into you. The mutual understanding and genuine friendships fostered among local people during the building process last well beyond the installation itself. In Clapham, the collaborative effort that went into B4RN contributed to a pre-existing rapport that helped in the face of the coronavirus lockdown.

As Sheridan put it: “We know each other. We know our strengths and weaknesses, so we can just crack on with things.”

B4RN co-founder Chris Conder demonstrating at a Friday afternoon computer club. Cake is always included. © Kira Allmann, 2019, Author provided

The connectivity divide

B4RN was born of necessity. To date, traditional profit-making telecommunications companies have struggled to reach rural communities. Mobile coverage lags behind, too: 83% of urban premises have complete 4G coverage, but in rural areas, it’s just 41%. In some areas, including many of the places B4RN operates, there’s no coverage whatsoever.

A major reason for this disparity is that private telecom companies have few financial incentives to extend their networks to rural areas. More physical infrastructure is needed to reach scattered villages and homes, and there are rarely enough potential paying customers in these sparsely populated areas to offset the costs.


Read more: Working from home? The UK’s broadband and wifi will be put to the test


Government incentives, such as subsidies and voucher schemes, have helped to spur private companies to take on less commercially viable “builds”, but companies are still slow to carry them out and tend to prioritise bolstering existing infrastructure over building entirely new networks. Year on year, the pervasive digitisation of everyday life, from banking to entertainment, has made this rural-urban digital divide even more profound.

According to the UK’s telecommunications regulator Ofcom, around 11% of rural premises cannot access even a 10 Mbps connection, and although Ofcom observes 95% coverage of “superfast” broadband (30 Mbps) nationwide, those statistics are collected from telecom companies themselves. Rural users often describe much worse service.

In a 2019 survey of National Farmers Union members, 30% said they experienced less than a 2Mbps connection, and only 17% could access a 24Mbps connection. Rural communities are getting left behind, and their experiences of disconnection are invisible in aggregate statistics.

‘I wanted broadband’

On arrival in Clapham in spring 2019, I met Chris Conder, a straight-talking farmer’s wife who was arguably the driving force behind B4RN. Her unwavering campaign for broadband for her village, Wray, has spanned almost two decades and spurred more than one experimental infrastructure project. Like many people I’ve spoken to in rural villages, Conder’s desire for broadband was personal.

“I was a carer for granddad, who had dementia,” Conder told me. Getting him proper care at their rural farm was difficult, but she had heard about telemedicine, and it seemed like exactly the thing she needed.

I would ring the doctor, and I would say, look he’s just thrown the newspaper in the fire and nearly set fire to the house because he’s read something in it that upset him, or he’s fallen on the floor, will you please send somebody out? And the doctor would send the psychiatric nurse a week on Tuesday. And when the psychiatric nurse came, there was a lovely old man sat in his chair, drinking his tea, happy as Larry. So, I couldn’t get any help with his medication, and his condition got worse and worse. And I knew I could do video conferencing if I had broadband, so I tried everything to get broadband … I just thought, if only the doctor could see what he was doing, he would say, oh my goodness, yes, let’s just change his medication.

At first, she investigated options through a major telecom provider. But the costs were high, and villages would have to endure a long wait. In some cases, communities were told to raise tens of thousands of pounds for a company to install a fibre cabinet nearby, but when it arrived, speeds in people’s homes, which were often miles away from the cabinet connection, were still abysmal.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had someone visit us without their own car,” I remember Conder saying on the phone to me in 2018, when I was planning that first excursion up to B4RN from Oxford. “How will you get around here?” Although not far from cities like Lancaster or Manchester, the train station where Conder ultimately met me was decidedly remote in certain consequential ways. One glance across the undulating hills dotted with forests and sliced through by rocky rivers, and it’s obvious why getting the internet here is no small feat.

B4RN vehicle parked in a field in rural northwest England during a fibre installation. © Kira Allmann, 2019, Author provided

Building resilient, fibre-fed networks in rural areas is challenging and expensive for any telecom operator. In recognition of this fact, the UK government has committed £5 billion to rolling out rural fibre networks. The high costs are due to many factors. Homes are often spread far apart, and getting a connection from one property to the next requires obtaining legal permission to cross big stretches of privately held land. In addition, there’s old infrastructure in place – mostly copper wires laid to carry telephone signals – which companies have largely preferred to repurpose for carrying internet connections, rather than put down new fibre-optic lines across the many rivers, roads, railway lines, and ancient stone walls that stand in the way.

So, Conder and a few exasperated friends began investigating alternative options, like wireless mesh networking. Those efforts brought her into contact with computer network engineers at the University of Lancaster, and after years of collaborating, campaigning and cajoling, B4RN was established in 2011 – with Barry Forde (now B4RN CEO), a professor of computer networking at Lancaster University, at the helm. He contributed his technical expertise while Conder exercised her chutzpah.

Conder and Forde, along with a few other local advocates, made up the founding management committee, and all that remained was to turn their ambitious vision into reality without breaking the bank. And that’s how the B4RN motto was minted: “JFDI”; “just flipping do it”.

Just Flippin’ Do It

The B4RN management team started raising money for their network by selling shares in the business, but communities still needed to fundraise aggressively to afford the build, which could easily could have reached into the hundreds of thousands of pounds for materials and specialist contractors. They needed to keep costs down, and that’s when, according to Conder, the local postman in Wray made a game-changing suggestion.

Conder sometimes ran a small hair cutting business out of her farmhouse, and the postman was in for a trim one day while she nattered away about the B4RN plans. After listening to her various apprehensions about actually pulling it all off, he said: “You’re farmers, right? You’ve got diggers. Why not dig it in yourselves?”

Preparing fibre-optic cable for fusing. © Kira Allmann, 2019, Author provided

And the rest was history. Conder and the other founding members had already been volunteering nearly full time for B4RN, but they realised that if they recruited almost every new subscriber as a volunteer (responsible for digging in their own connection), that would expedite the whole process and keep the costs low. Early adopters recruited neighbours, and neighbours recruited neighbours. They negotiated free wayleaves to cross each other’s land and pooled resources like spades, diggers, drills, and other equipment. The first village to get connected was Quernmore in 2012, and Conder’s village, Wray, nearly 20km away, came online in 2014.

When Conder requested a quote from BT for laying fibre from the nearest mast in Melling to Wray, BT told her it would cost £120 per metre. B4RN’s first round of shares raised £300,000 to purchase the ducting, cabling, and other equipment for their own build, and they compensated volunteers £1.50 per metre of core ducting they put down. Not only did they save money on the initial network roll-out across rural farmland, but they kept the funding entirely in the community from start to finish.

Today, B4RN has connected roughly 7,000 homes in the rural north-west of England. Alongside the volunteers who still carry out the local build, they employ 56 permanent staff members to run the network day-to-day. A connection costs £150 per subscriber, and the monthly subscription for a full 1000Mbps connection is a flat £30 per month. It’s difficult to compare broadband prices meaningfully across UK providers, but Cable.co.uk reports that the average cost of broadband in the UK is about £0.86 per megabit per month. B4RN’s monthly price is closer to £0.03 per megabit.

For other communities considering their options in hard-to-reach areas across the country, B4RN now features as a “case study” in the government’s guidance on community-led broadband projects. And before lockdown, B4RN’s periodic “show and tell days” offered prospective communities the chance to visit B4RN-land and learn how to do it first-hand. As a result of this knowledge exchange, B4RN has inspired and trained other projects in places like Norfolk and Devon and Somerset.

Government support

Over time, recognition of the importance of affordable broadband connectivity has slowly grown, reflected in several important initiatives to spur infrastructure development in rural areas. And just as the scale of the COVID-19 crisis necessitated an imminent national lockdown in March, the government’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) came into effect. It grants people in the UK the right to request a decent broadband connection (of at least 10 Mbps).

In a public recognition of the UK’s digital divide, the 2019 general election manifestos of all three major parties contained ambitious broadband plans. Labour even promised to nationalise British Telecom (BT) in order to provide free broadband to the country, which was roundly derided. But the coronavirus crisis has trained a spotlight on the importance of broadband in everyday life and arguably given substance to the hotly contested supposition that internet access is a question of basic rights.

“Most people at the moment would switch the gas off, I think, rather than switch the broadband off,” Jorj Haston, the B4RN Volunteer Coordinator and Training Officer told me over the phone in April.

B4RN volunteers digging and installing a chamber. © B4RN, Author provided

Crisis demand

Right now, B4RN is in the middle of building out the network in around two dozen communities. A further two dozen are in the planning stages. The process can take time, as communities scrape together funding and coordinate volunteer “dig days” to move a project forward. Lockdown has inevitably slowed things down, but the volunteer-driven nature of each community build, along with the open lines of communication between community champions and B4RN staff, have offered unexpected advantages when it comes to getting people connected under lockdown conditions.

In Silverdale, near Morecambe Bay, local B4RN champion Martin Lange is responding quickly to “desperate” local residents who are waiting on connections. Silverdale is mid-build, with around 400 homes online so far. “Over the last two years, we’ve learned all the tricks,” Lange says, talking about B4RN. “I’ve got all of this kit in my garage.” The decentralised nature of B4RN builds, where community volunteers often do much of the technical installation, has meant that champions like Lange can continue to make connections and identify local priority cases based on word-of-mouth.

B4RN volunteers digging a trench for ducting in Over Kellet. © B4RN, 2019, Author provided

The week I spoke with him, Lange had just connected a Silverdale man and his family, who were self-isolating due to illness. The man had emailed saying they urgently needed the internet to do work and school online, with one child who has special needs. Lange blew the fibre to the man’s house: sending the fibre-optic cable through plastic ducting using compressed air. This is a job that would normally take an hour with two volunteers but took Lange four, working alone to observe social distancing guidelines. Then, wearing gloves, he fused the fibre into the router, working outside the house. Finally, he passed the sterile router back through the window.

B4RN volunteers and staff have been coming up with “quick fixes” rapidly in recent months, getting creative about how to install connections without getting too close. That’s a challenge for B4RN, which has been built in many ways on physical proximity. On “dig days”, villages would typically come together to work on various aspects of the network together. And there’s something for everyone to do.

“People who maybe necessarily couldn’t dig, think, oh, this project isn’t really for me, but there’s so much more to it than that,” Mike Iddon, a B4RN champion in Burton-in-Kendal, says. They need people to draw the local network maps or to clearly label the ducting. Some folks contribute by providing tea and cake.

Fibre ducting trench dug by B4RN volunteers in Caton. © B4RN, 2015, Author provided

These days, B4RN staff and volunteers – like Lange and Iddon – are passing routers through windows, walking people through the digging and installation process over the phone, and setting up wireless hotspots in areas where the fibre hasn’t quite reached the homes. Where they can, B4RN staff are also implementing temporary connections for key workers and organisations. In recent weeks, they have connected a policewoman in the Ribble Valley on the COVID-19 response team, a haematologist in Cumbria who needed to set up a home office to serve his self-isolating patients, and a pharmaceutical warehouse in Lancashire supplying the NHS.

Resilience

Lockdown has highlighted the importance of the internet. But paradoxically, B4RN’s model for success has more to do with the power of human connections that have long been integral to geographically isolated rural communities.

Modern times and trends have eroded many facets of rural life, as local institutions like village halls and shops have buckled under the economic pressures of ever-increasing centralisation of services in metropolitan areas – or online. Young people have fled the countryside for educational and economic opportunities in cities. In this context, B4RN offers a new local venue for community-building – a social space forged in and of the digital age.

B4RN volunteers moving a reel of plastic ducting in a field. © B4RN, 2015, Author provided

During normal times, a small bunch of B4RN volunteers – led by Conder – organise a weekly “computer club” at B4RN headquarters in Melling. People from all over B4RN’s northwest coverage area trundle in with their devices and questions, and get advice from local folks on how to set up a wifi booster or ring the grandkids on Skype. Under lockdown, it’s these in person services that are missed most.

In this rural corner of the country, B4RN is succeeding – doggedly, gradually – where other attempts at extending digital connectivity have failed. This mostly comes down to local commitment and local knowledge. The coronavirus pandemic has made apparent something these communities have felt for a long time – the internet is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity for participating fully in an increasingly digitised society.

In the process, communities have shored up their personal ties and re-energised a community spirit that can do more than get the internet to a few hundred local living rooms. In Ann Sheridan’s words, “It builds community resilience”. And that resilience is plainly apparent now. One thing’s for sure: come rain or shine, or a global pandemic, B4RN will keep making connections. They will just flippin’ do it.


For you: more from our Insights series:

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Kira Allmann, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation, on China and AI

China and AI: what the world can learn and what it should be wary of

Shutterstock
Hessy Elliott, Nesta

China announced in 2017 its ambition to become the world leader in artificial intelligence (AI) by 2030. While the US still leads in absolute terms, China appears to be making more rapid progress than either the US or the EU, and central and local government spending on AI in China is estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

The move has led – at least in the West – to warnings of a global AI arms race and concerns about the growing reach of China’s authoritarian surveillance state. But treating China as a “villain” in this way is both overly simplistic and potentially costly. While there are undoubtedly aspects of the Chinese government’s approach to AI that are highly concerning and rightly should be condemned, it’s important that this does not cloud all analysis of China’s AI innovation.

The world needs to engage seriously with China’s AI development and take a closer look at what’s really going on. The story is complex and it’s important to highlight where China is making promising advances in useful AI applications and to challenge common misconceptions, as well as to caution against problematic uses.

Nesta has explored the broad spectrum of AI activity in China – the good, the bad and the unexpected.

The good

China’s approach to AI development and implementation is fast-paced and pragmatic, oriented towards finding applications which can help solve real-world problems. Rapid progress is being made in the field of healthcare, for example, as China grapples with providing easy access to affordable and high-quality services for its ageing population.

Applications include “AI doctor” chatbots, which help to connect communities in remote areas with experienced consultants via telemedicine; machine learning to speed up pharmaceutical research; and the use of deep learning for medical image processing, which can help with the early detection of cancer and other diseases.

Chinese AI tools are being used in the fight against COVID-19. Shutterstock

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, medical AI applications have surged as Chinese researchers and tech companies have rushed to try and combat the virus by speeding up screening, diagnosis and new drug development. AI tools used in Wuhan, China, to tackle COVID-19 – by helping accelerate CT scan diagnosis – are now being used in Italy and have been also offered to the NHS in the UK.

The bad

But there are also elements of China’s use of AI which are seriously concerning. Positive advances in practical AI applications which are benefiting citizens and society don’t detract from the fact that China’s authoritarian government is also using AI and citizens’ data in ways that violate privacy and civil liberties.

Most disturbingly, reports and leaked documents have revealed the government’s use of facial recognition technologies to enable the surveillance and detention of Muslim ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province.

The emergence of opaque social governance systems which lack accountability mechanisms are also a cause for concern.

In Shanghai’s “smart court” system, for example, AI-generated assessments are used to help with sentencing decisions. But it is difficult for defendants to assess the tool’s potential biases, the quality of the data and the soundness of the algorithm, making it hard for them to challenge the decisions made.

China’s experience reminds us of the need for transparency and accountability when it comes to AI in public services. Systems must be designed and implemented in ways that are inclusive and protect citizens’ digital rights.

The unexpected

Commentators have often interpreted the State Council’s 2017 Artificial Intelligence Development Plan as an indication that China’s AI mobilisation is a top-down, centrally planned strategy.

But a closer look at the dynamics of China’s AI development reveals the importance of local government in implementing innovation policy. Municipal and provincial governments across China are establishing cross-sector partnerships with research institutions and tech companies to create local AI innovation ecosystems and drive rapid research and development.

Beyond the thriving major cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, efforts to develop successful innovation hubs are also underway in other regions. A promising example is the city of Hangzhou, in Zhejiang Province, which has established an “AI Town”, clustering together the tech company Alibaba, Zhejiang University and local businesses to work collaboratively on AI development. China’s local ecosystem approach could offer interesting insights to policymakers in the UK aiming to boost research and innovation outside the capital and tackle longstanding regional economic imbalances.

China’s accelerating AI innovation deserves the world’s full attention, but it is unhelpful to reduce all the many developments into a simplistic narrative about China as a threat or a villain. Observers outside China need to engage seriously with the debate and make more of an effort to understand – and learn from – the nuances of what’s really happening.The Conversation

Hessy Elliott, Researcher, Nesta

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus: The Conversation, on AI

Coronavirus: how the pandemic has exposed AI’s limitations

AI has its limitations in a crisis. Shutterstock
Kathy Peach, Nesta

It should have been artificial intelligence’s moment in the sun. With billions of dollars of investment in recent years, AI has been touted as a solution to every conceivable problem. So when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, a multitude of AI models were immediately put to work.

Some hunted for new compounds that could be used to develop a vaccine, or attempted to improve diagnosis. Some tracked the evolution of the disease, or generated predictions for patient outcomes. Some modelled the number of cases expected given different policy choices, or tracked similarities and differences between regions.

The results, to date, have been largely disappointing. Very few of these projects have had any operational impact – hardly living up to the hype or the billions in investment. At the same time, the pandemic highlighted the fragility of many AI models. From entertainment recommendation systems to fraud detection and inventory management – the crisis has seen AI systems go awry as they struggled to adapt to sudden collective shifts in behaviour.

The unlikely hero

The unlikely hero emerging from the ashes of this pandemic is instead the crowd. Crowds of scientists around the world sharing data and insights faster than ever before. Crowds of local makers manufacturing PPE for hospitals failed by supply chains. Crowds of ordinary people organising through mutual aid groups to look after each other.

COVID-19 has reminded us of just how quickly humans can adapt existing knowledge, skills and behaviours to entirely new situations – something that highly-specialised AI systems just can’t do. At least yet.

We now face the daunting challenge of recovering from the worst economic contraction on record, with society’s fault lines and inequalities more visible than ever. At the same time, another crisis – climate change – looms on the horizon.

At Nesta, we believe that the solution to these complex problems is to bring together the distinct capabilities of both crowd intelligence and machine intelligence to create new systems of “collective intelligence”.

In 2019, we funded 12 experiments to help advance knowledge on how new combinations of machine and crowd intelligence could help solve pressing social issues. We have much to learn from the findings as we begin the task of rebuilding from the devastation of COVID-19.

In one of the experiments, researchers from the Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione in Rome studied the use of an AI system designed to reduce social biases in collective decision-making. The AI, which held back information from the group members on what others thought early on, encouraged participants to spend more time evaluating the options by themselves.

The system succeeded in reducing the tendency of people to “follow the herd” by failing to hear diverse or minority views, or challenge assumptions – all of which are criticisms that have been levelled at the British government’s scientific advisory committees throughout the pandemic.

In another experiment, the AI Lab at Brussels University asked people to delegate decisions to AI “agents” they could choose to represent them. They found that participants were more likely to choose their agents with long-term collective goals in mind, rather than short-term goals that maximised individual benefit.

Figures representing social distancing
The crowd can change its behaviour. Shutterstock

Making personal sacrifices for the common good is something that humans usually struggle with, though the British public did surprise scientists with its willingness to adopt new social-distancing behaviours to halt COVID-19. As countries around the world attempt to kickstart their flagging economies, will people be similarly willing to act for the common good and accept the trade-offs needed to cut carbon emissions, too?

New possibilities

COVID-19 may have knocked Brexit off the front pages for the last few months, but the UK’s democracy will be tested in the coming months by the need to steer a divided nation through tough choices in the wake of Britain’s departure from the EU and an economic recession.

In a third experiment, a technology company called Unanimous AI partnered with Imperial College, London to run an experiment on a new way of voting, using AI algorithms inspired by swarms of bees. Their “swarming” approach allows participants to see consensus emerging during the decision-making process and converge on a decision together in real-time – helping people to find collectively acceptable solutions. People were consistently happier with the results generated through this method of voting than those produced by majority vote.

In each of these experiments, we’ve glimpsed what could be possible if we get the relationship between AI and crowd intelligence right. We’ve also seen how widely held assumptions about the negative effects of artificial intelligence have been challenged. When used carefully, perhaps AI could lead to longer-term thinking and help us confront, rather than entrench, social biases.

Alongside our partners, the Omidyar Network, Wellcome, Cloudera Foundation and UNDP, we are investing in growing the field of collective-intelligence design. As efforts to rebuild our societies after coronavirus begin, we’re calling on others to join us. We need academic institutions to set up dedicated research programmes, more collaboration between disciplines, and investors to launch large-scale funding opportunities for collective intelligence R&D focused on social impact. Our list of recommendations is the best place to get started.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to experiment with novel combinations of crowd and machine intelligence, including launching the next round of our grants programme this autumn. The world is changing fast and it’s time for the direction of AI development to change, too.The Conversation

Kathy Peach, Head of the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, Nesta

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What is threat hunting?

And what is the value of threat hunting to your business?

Firstly, we will start with this excellent video by our partner Panda Security on their Managed Threat Hunting service which is bundled with Adaptive Defense 360 (AD360).

When we find a process that we don’t know, we send it (only once) to our labs to be classified. In the vast majority of cases for PandaLabs this is an automated process (99.998%). For the small remainder, we have a team of security analysts who will manually inspect and classify, creating rules for the continuous improvement of our automatic detections.

https://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/security/edr-threat-hunting/, accessed 2nd of August 2020

In practice, this attestation service means that 100% of processes running on your network is 1) attested and investigated by specialists in industry and 2) never needs to be attested again (even if it is made malicious AD360 will terminate the process through its Machine Learning toolset).

So do Hayachi Services provide Managed Security Services?

The short answer is no, we don’t need to. Our partners do this as part of the product portfolio that we bring to the legal industry (lawtech and legaltech are included here).

Rather than responding reactively to malware threats, our security analysts are actively engaging in Threat Hunting.

https://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/security/edr-threat-hunting/, accessed 2nd of August 2020

As an example, by installing the Free Business Trial of AD360 onto your endpoints, and giving Panda Security up to two weeks to identify everything installed on your endpoints – you would have already used and benefited from the Threat Hunting service provided with AD360.

Well, what are you waiting for? Chat with us!

We can arrange a technical demo and give you 30 days to see Panda Security Adaptive Defense 360 in production.

devcom

Hayachi Services will have pride of presence at devcom, the B2B event which sits alongside gamescom.

What is devcom we hear you ask?

Nobody quite describes the event better than UKIE who represents the gaming industry in the UK.

Gamescom & devcom, the most important trade and consumer show in Europe, will be a digital only show in 2020. Ukie will continue to support and promote UK companies at this show with a dedicated UK area and additional networking opportunities.

https://ukie.org.uk/event/2020/08/17/gamescom-devcom-2020, accessed 2nd of August 2020

And what will we be doing?

The lovely thing about these events is that a great deal happens, Hayachi Services will of course be: networking, demonstrating our products and solutions, chatting, and attending the various talks during the event.

See you there!

Our ‘New Normal’: Securing Your Remote Workforce

The year 2019-20 has brought a variety of changes to how we work.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic striking, our world has materially changed: our working practices have accelerated towards businesses being operationally ready to support remote working, and an immediate increase in cyberattacks has followed.

Productivity has been increasing in the UK and abroad as a result of smarter working practices and many businesses will stick to this new way of operating, for example businesses such as Slater and Gordon are moving to a digital-first operating model as of Spring 2020.

See their Youtube video below.

However this growth in the operation of businesses being digital-first comes with new risks. Exciting for some, such as international cybercriminals.

From phishing and scam attempts to more advanced and targeted DDoS attacks or supply-chain attacks, our new way of working has sustained a new threat landscape.

At Hayachi Services we work closely with our partners Opswat and Panda Security, to help secure the IT estates of our clients and protect against this new wave of cyberthreats.

Business has had to accelerate digital transformation objectives and now heavily depend on cloud infrastructure in order to operate. This speedy move to the cloud creates risk as organisations of all sizes have not had sufficient time to undertake due diligence and in-depth risk assessments of our New Normal of remote working, hybrid-cloud and disparate workforces.

It typically takes 6 months for organisations to detect a databreach and by that point damage has already been done, followed by loss of reputation on reporting this. Post-Covid this figure will continue and likely grow with the continued pace of more rapid digital transformation without implementation of best-practice to improve their cybersecurity posture. All in order to simply continue our operation as businesses.

Official figures from the NCSC

Of course all digital infrastructure exists in a physical space, and so we at Hayachi Services firmly believe the most appropriate way to secure our clients is to build holistic multi-vendor solutions which operate from Zero-Trust and build resilience for our clients.

Deploy for the future of your remote workforce

Our partner Panda Security use a world-leading cloud-based solution called Adaptive Defense 360 (AD360) to mitigate against complex malware attacks. Put simply: it stops malware, ransomware and viruses at the door. By preventing processes not digitally-signed and approved by Panda Security from executing – nothing can execute that isn’t trusted.

Their unique 100% attestation service alongside complimentary 24/7 technical helpdesk support ensures users of AD360 benefit from a complete Managed Security Services solution. And more: advanced Threat Intelligence which utilises Machine Learning to avoid ‘noise’; a range of modules such as Data Control and Patch Management facilitates organisations of all sizes to deploy a cloud-ready and holistic cybersecurity posture.

Equally, our partner Opswat take the view that we should by default ‘Trust No File. Trust No Device’. Practically this means Opswat uses deep Content Disarm and Reconstruction (deep-CDR)as well as multi-engine scanning to give anything using your information systems a thorough virtual X-Ray. It is difficult to detail the power of Opswat‘s portfolio in brief, but suffice to say 96% of US Nuclear Facilities depend on Opswat to secure their systems.

All of our partners work with Defence and Critical Infrastructure; as we at Hayachi Services believe Law is Critical Infrastructure we have curated our partnerships to bring the best in the cybersecurity industry to the legal profession.

Want to find out more on how to protect your business in this New Normal? Chat with us, we are always happy to talk!

What is a CVE?

CVE stands for Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures, in essence it represents a security risk that has been classified and can be remediated on its own.

At Hayachi Services we take the security of your organisation seriously, and so all of our Partners use CVEs to help keep you secure and classify risk on your systems.

For example, one of the modules that is offered with Panda Security’s Adaptive Defense is Patch Management. This tool uses CVE classifications on hundreds of applications to ensure that you can keep track of the Common Vulnerabilities your IT Estate has and remediate them with the click of a button.

Equally Red Hat use Smart Management to allow you to easily update and keep control of your Red Hat Enterprise Linux estate, at no extra cost to you – another bit of value when buying with Red Hat.

So then, why is it important to pay for world-class solutions to avoid these ‘Common’ Vulnerabilities?

A CVE can be a dangerous thing even if it is well known, in the same way that while Phishing attacks are common they still do incredible damage to business and individuals.

Businesses will at times use Legacy software, for compatibility and compliance reasons as well as the simple fact that sometimes that business-critical tools aren’t always available on a newer system.

For example at CERN they are aware of the risk of legacy operating systems and take steps to protect themselves, and the example used is powerful: who would walk naked through a quarantine ward and expect not to be infected?

Being aware of the most obvious, commons risks across your estate – having the reporting, patching and control of what is within your risk appetite and what needs to be secured immediately is incredibly powerful.

The National Cyber Security Centre do weekly threat reports for exactly this reason, new threats develop organically every day and keeping a finger to the pulse is essential.

How can Hayachi Services help?

Simple question, and a simple answer. Chat with us! We can talk about your risk appetite and suggest actions to help protect your business.

Our Partners work with the smallest SMEs and Charities all the way up to the Fortune500, Defence and Critical Infrastructure so we’ll certainly have something to allay your concerns.

We are proudly vendor neutral, and while our favourites are our Partners from across industry that isn’t to say we will only recommend what we personally sell.

Favouritism doesn’t keep our clients safe, so we don’t do it!

You can find our Partner’s pages on CVEs below:

Panda Security – why should you choose it?

Seeing how most of the people use internet nowadays for a great variety of things from just surfing, watching online content, shopping and even managing their bank accounts, everyone knows what an Antivirus is, it keeps you digitally secure.

And security is very important.

Our partner Panda Security has its origins in Spain, on 1990 and being 30 years in the cybersecurity market you can guess they’re doing things right.

In 2007 Panda Security was the first security company to start using Cloud technology with their Antivirus solutions, soon after they implemented it on their entire portfolio.
In 2015, Panda Security launched a world-first solution called Adaptive Defense 360 and soon after were declared a Gartner Visionary in 2018.

The unique thing about Panda Security’s Adaptive Defense 360 is the 100% Attestation service they undertake using digital signatures. In laymen’s it means, everything it lets you run is certified-secure and it won’t let anything other than a 100% certified application run on your system.

We consider Panda Security’s AD360 platform to still be visionary today.

With how things have shaped this year cyber attacks based around Covid have become the norm; from fake cures to complex and direct phishing, DDoS and network breaches, Panda Security have helped organisation of all sizes use countermeasures to stay secure.

Panda Security’s Endpoint Detection and Response solution is unique, it detects advanced threats and at the protects your estate from advanced attacks not normally recognisable such as weaponised applications.

Panda Adaptive Defense 360 will prevent anything to execute if it doesn’t have a digital signature verified on their database, this measure has prevented malware hidden in files since it’s launch it’s efficiency proves it’s the best choice for SME all over the world.

And if your outfit doesn’t quite need the power of the world’s only 100% attested EDR, we also love Panda Security’s Endpoint Protection Plus solution as it is just as no-nonsense.

What is an API, why should you care?

API stands for application programming interface. The long and short of what it does to integrate applications. This can be singularly your bespoke apps or lots of third-party applications, or both.

How does software talk to each other? Through an API.

For example you may have a Document Management System or File Transfer service that clients use, but need it to go from your web-portal to the DMS – or for it to be scanned with multiple Anti-Virus to make absolutely sure it’s safe to be on your system.

Curious how that would work? Chat with us and we’ll demo it to you.

APIs are known to save time, money and reduce complexity in systems. For example instead of coding into your website where your office is, making complicated pages of code and reinventing the wheel – you can just the use the OpenStreet API. By the way, if you don’t have your location on your website you can find their API here to get cracking.

If you use a tool which doesn’t have an API, or support API integration this means simply: it will cost you more time and money to build on top of and integrate this tool. So don’t buy it; if it’s Open Source really push for the API integration in the community where you can’t get the functionality elsewhere.

Serious software players work to be open, interoperable and provide you the support necessary to make the tool work for you.

All of our partners do exactly this – we wouldn’t have it any other way – and if you want to a more technical explanation of APIs this article by Red Hat has you covered.

Make things secure, easy to integrate and keep control of your toolbox.

I’ve been saying lately that if a screwdriver doesn’t fit your hand, you wouldn’t change the hand!

Director of Hayachi Services, Amritpal Gill