The digital transformation seems to have become the lifeline of administrative, educational and business sectors in the face of the serious health and economic situation that we are going through. The urgency of incorporating more traditional activities into the digital world has revealed the existence of numerous gaps and deficiencies that are currently being addressed through the incorporation of technological tools and means.
However, are we prepared as a society to take this step? The problem is that it is not possible to digitize these activities overnight. Digitization is an evolutionary path that not only consists of implementing technology and making use of it, but also requires a cultural change that has to be people-centered and must be worked from the base.
If we search in Google introducing the words “education” and “digitization” all the results speak of “digitization of education”, “digital transformation of education”, “digitalization in the classroom”. As soon as we navigate through any of them, we will see that, in the educational field, all efforts are focusing on providing tools.
The clearest proof of this is that in June 2020 the Government of Spain approved the Educa en Digital Program, whose objective was to promote the technological transformation of education, nothing to do with its title, because, with a budget of 260 million euros, the main purpose has been the purchase of electronic devices.
Promote the development of a high-performance digital educational ecosystem.
Perfect digital skills and abilities for digital transformation.
The first priority is not only to provide infrastructure, connectivity and digital equipment, but also to train teachers and educational staff in digital skills and confidence.
The second priority focuses on objectives such as digital literacy, computer education, knowledge and understanding of existing technologies, and effective and responsible use of digital media, all aimed at preparing and training in digital skills from early ages and to the generation of digital specialists in older ages.
There are many problems that demonstrate the need to replace the current approach, which only focuses on the provision of technological means, by one that proposes the incorporation of digitization as one of the priority objectives of the current educational model, and that the EU proposes for the next few years.
According to the EU Kids Online survey carried out between October and December 2018 on activities, mediation, opportunities and online risks of minors between the ages of 9 and 17:
More than 32% of minors see inappropriate and harmful content on the Internet.
33% have experienced some form of harassment.
26% have received sexual messages.
40% have contacted strangers online.
19% have met an Internet contact in person.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows a significant statistical association in the increase from 4.6% to 11 % of cases of adolescent students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder caused by hyperconnectivity and exposure to digital media.
These figures are undoubtedly the reflection of a deficient, inadequate or non-existent education in digitization of our children and young people who, at an early age and throughout their lives, make an increasingly intensive use of different devices, apps, social networks, etc., without receiving, in a standardized way, information and basic notions of access, good practices, recommendations and existing risks.
Without any doubt, the incorporation of a study plan on education in digitization, in the different educational stages, would help to close the existing gender gap. The change of model in vocational and university training should encourage the development in our young people of advanced digital skills to generate more specialists as a result of the commitment to studies and digital careers.
One more fact that shows the lack of preparation of our society for the world of digitalization is that, according to the Internet User Safety Office (OSI), 93% of security breaches correspond to social engineering attacks. These types of attacks are based on the principle that “the user is the weakest link”; in Wikipedia they are defined as “attacks based on tricking a user into accessing their information”. And they are so successful because no one has made us aware of the dangers that accompany the digital world or prepared us to know the measures we must take in order to detect and protect ourselves.
In short, the absence of educational plans in digitization weighs down the preparation and adaptation of our young people to a society that demands and needs that their companies and businesses include digitization as something innate and not as a tool that is introduced by “force” and , at times, as a traumatic change and a threat.
According to Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”; but currently we are only using technology to make that change.
The regulation and inclusion of materials, resources and content on digitization in the educational curriculum of the different school stages (infant, primary, secondary) and pre-work (Vocational Training and University) would help prepare and train the society of the future. Make no mistake, if the generations of “digital natives” do not receive an adequate education in this sense, they will inherit many of the current problems and will suffer other different ones that will arise taking advantage of the poor preparation of these new generations.
Meanwhile, today’s companies and businesses trying to modernize must use the same principle, adding awareness, education and training of their employees and managers to their technological priorities, which will undoubtedly lead to a cultural change and the review of their productive processes and business models. All this to increase the chances of success of the transformation project, which will help companies respond to an increasingly digitized society and economy.
For a month, almost since the end of the confinement, we have received daily news about the cases of regrowth, which have not stopped increasing in number and incidence.
In Spain we are told, through the media, about how important the work of trackers is to keep outbreaks at bay, and how necessary it would be to increase the number of them to improve infection detection rates. community. But the truth is that cases continue to increase, to the point that there are already European countries that have begun to take measures against travelers from Spain because the incidence of the virus in our country does not stop growing, I repeat, only a few weeks after the end of confinement.
We all already know the ability of this virus to spread rapidly. We can say that the moment a person comes into contact with the virus, community transmission can be exponential, that is, one person can infect ten others, each of those ten to ten others and so on.
In addition, if we come into contact with the virus and have to provide a list of our contacts during the last 14 days, it is hard to believe that we are able to remember all the people we have been close to, even more so when depending on many of these people we do not know about our daily activities.
Responsibility, honesty or the personal circumstances of the respondents also play a role in the reliability of the answers obtained by the trackers.
Taking all this into account, it is clear the doubtful effectiveness of the work of a tracker who, through telephone calls, tries to locate and identify all the possible contacts of a contagion case.
It is at least curious than in the technological era in which we are, in which the tools that incorporate artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, Internet of Things are multiplying … to make our lives easier, solve daily problems and help us in the decision making, these same tools are not being used to face the greatest health crisis of the 21st century and we are turning to manual tracking as the main measure to try to control outbreaks.
Contact Traceability Apps have already proven in other countries (China, Korea or Singapore) that they are an effective technological solution and it would only be necessary to establish the standards under which they should be used.
Existing contact-tracing systems offer resources for the development of apps to help identify contacts of those infected by Covid and to allow citizens to know if they have been close to Covid patients. These applications are exchanging identifiers (anonymized numbers) with all the phones of people who remain within reach of our phone’s bluetooth for a minimum of 15 minutes, and keep them for a maximum time of 14 days. In this way, when a citizen reflects in his App that he is positive for Covid19 or is reported in an official health system, the codes collected by the infected person’s phone will be uploaded to the cloud. Each smartphone is periodically downloaded and compared to these codes and, if there is a match, the notification is automatically generated informing that it has been in contact or near an infected person and what measures to take.
The implementation and operation of these apps is so simple and the result if all of us had them installed on our phone – in Spain more than 90% of Spaniards use a smartphone – so effective that it is difficult to understand why they are doing crawls manually.
One of the reasons offered by the authorities for not using this type of app is the protection of citizens’ data. But when can this type of application threaten privacy? Very simple; when they are designed to misuse or interested use of the information that they are capable of collecting.
In this type of apps there are two conceptions, centralization and decentralization:
Decentralized apps when the information that is collected is hosted in a distributed, analyzed and compared way only on the users’ phones and the servers that intervene only do so as points of dissemination. In this case, two large technological giants that are directly competitive in the world of technology and mobility and with very different business models, Apple and Google, have agreed to offer IOS and Android app developers the necessary tools to that can create contract-tracing apps based on the decentralized model. In addition, they require the authorities to bet on their APIs, a commitment to make use of them only for the pandemic and not for other purposes as a way to provide certainty and answer questions about privacy and other hidden purposes.
Centralized apps when the information that this type of app can capture is hosted on servers controlled by a company or body and the match or match analysis is carried out on those servers.
But, haven’t we pointed out that the data collected by Bluetooth is anonymized identifiers? There is one of the problems, that the information collected is not really anonymous and that the objective of its collection is not only to notify possible contacts of a positive case of Covid.
The problem of privacy and the lack of a standard means that European countries have not been able to agree to create and use a tool, so each one is waging war on their own. In Spain, in the middle of the second wave, nothing has been heard since on May 20, Nadia Calviño, Minister of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation announced the testing phase in the Canary Islands of an app, based on the decentralized model, that used the resources and APIs provided by Apple and Google.
In the European Union 40% of the total final energy is consumed in residential and tertiary buildings. That is reason behind several European Directives established with the aim that the Member States develop long-term strategiesencouraging the renovation of residential and commercial buildings applying specific energy efficiency criteria. In order to define efficient strategies they have to be established in a holistic way; beyond individual buildings and thinking in wider terms of districts and cities. For this reason, several research projects are nowadays exploring the best way to perform retrofitting activities with those results in mind.
Nonetheless, the definition of a retrofitting strategy for any neighbourhood or any city is a trivial issue. There are many factors that must be analysed before proceeding with such intervention. Although the objectives to be achieved are often clear (reduction of energy consumption, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, including renewable energies, etc.), the method to achieve those objectives is variable and different measures can be applied to the same scenario with varying degrees of success. The analysis of the most effective measures in cost-benefit terms requires of a considerable amount of information about the considered area and carrying out a series of complex calculations that allow to obtain indicators associated with the several possible interventions that may take place.
So it is at this point that the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) adds value: performing calculations through simulation tools (including energy, costs and environmental aspects among others) the analysis of the different scenarios is more accurate and also tedious manual processes prone to failures are automated. However, although different simulation tools are available in the market a single specific tool that fully automates retrofitting interventions just does not exist nowadays.
In this regard, CARTIF is currently working on several projects aimed at creating such tools for designing retrofitting projects in cities such as the new project Nature4Cities or OptEEmAL, started in 2015. Both projects are funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 R&D programme.
Nature4Cities aim is the development of a tool to support design of energy retrofitting projects in urban environments by applying Nature Based Solutions (NBS). This type of solutions has already been covered by my colleagues in a previous post.
On the other hand, OptEEmAL project focuses on developing a design platform for energy retrofitting projects at district level. Working with input data provided by the user (BIM, CityGML and other type of data) the OptEEmAL platform automatically generates and evaluates possible retrofitting scenarios based on implementing a set of measures for energy conservation.
Such measures are contained in a catalogue according to a data model based on standards (such as IFC). The solutions included in this catalogue are both passive (envelope improvements, change of windows) and active (concerning energy generation systems, renewable energies or control strategies) and are applied both at building and district level. These measures may be generic solutions with default values or specific solutions provided by commercial entities.
In order to evaluate the various potential scenarios, a set of performance indicators are analysed and then categorised into different categories: energy, comfort, environmental, economic, social and urban. Once the optimisation has taken place, the OptEEmAL platform shows to the user the solution with better results in terms of indicators. As a result of the process OptEEmAL provides the user with very detailed information on the retrofitting project.
CARTIFwill continue working in this area of knowledge with our strong commitment to support energy efficiency and ultimately improve the cities and places where we live.
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