Is there a way to really help manage online privacy?

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Today’s post is contributed by John Sabo, Chair, OASIS IDtrust Member Section Steering Committee and Director of Global Government Relations at CA Technologies. John will be addressing the OECD High Level Meeting on the Internet Economy: Generating Innovation and Growth, taking place on 28-29 June. Ministers, internet experts and internet economy business leaders will discuss and adopt shared principles for a continued open and trusted Internet. 

How can business and policy makers address data protection and privacy issues as innovation spurs the creation every week of new Internet technologies and business models? 

It’s not as if the policy and technology communities are sitting on their hands.  Major organizations such as the World Economic Forum have published studies bringing attention to the issue, for example examining privacy and cloud computing. The work underway to revamp the European Data Protection Directive is a significant effort.  Likewise, government initiatives, such as the U.S. National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, prominently include data privacy as a core component.  And in the technical community, we see initiatives designed to enhance privacy and trust in federated identity systems such as those sponsored by the Kantara Initiative and the Open Identity Exchange.  Unfortunately, while valuable, ad hoc initiatives represent an incomplete path for actually delivering Internet-scale online privacy and trust.  

A huge complicating factor is that the expectations of individuals about how their personal information should be collected, communicated, used, protected and deleted are anything but uniform and are heavily context-and time-dependent.  Such dependency is replete with twists and turns that make data protection and privacy management difficult.  My smartphone helps me navigate, but in the process is collecting, storing and transmitting personal information to…to whom?  Who is aggregating it, what privacy and security controls are in place, and is it even possible to trace the data flows?  My favorite social network site has made me happy for a while, but now I’m worried about my professional image, and I want my social graph expunged.  Unfortunately, while I may now choose an offline social world, my personal information may live forever in cyberspace to be used in other contexts.  Individuals have few capabilities to manage their context-dependent privacy choices, and yet the online systems and devices they rely on likewise have virtually no technical mechanisms available to support privacy policy management across systems, applications and jurisdictional boundaries.    

It would be naïve to argue that there is a simple, elegant solution to these problems.  But there is a path forward, which is the greater use of the expertise and resources of standards development organizations that are addressing privacy risk management issues from a framework-level perspective.  ISO/IEC is developing a privacy framework (ISO/IEC 29100), a privacy capability assessment framework (ISO/IEC 29190), and a privacy reference architecture (ISO/IEC 29101). In the OASIS standards organization, the Privacy Management Reference Model Technical Committee, which I co-chair, is developing a standard that will address systemic, lifecycle privacy management and provide a tool to help manage contextual privacy policies and requirements. 

A very important characteristic of these framework-level initiatives is ongoing and close collaboration among policymakers and technical standards experts, through which interdependent data privacy policy and technical management requirements will become better understood and defined.  This is the kind of collaboration that we need to move from never-ending privacy discussions toward harmonized policies, internationally-recognized standards, new technical solutions and increased privacy trust.

Useful links

OECD work on the Internet economy

You can follow the discussions via live webcast at:

Reading, the second digital divide

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Today’s post is from Andreas Schleicher of the OECD Directorate for Education, “the world’s schoolmaster” according to The Atlantic

While the quality of online education is a subject of intense debate among educators, parents and students alike, what is no longer open to debate is the need for digital literacy. A recent report in The Guardian affirmed that adults with Internet skills are 25% more likely to get work and to earn as much as 10% more than their colleagues who don’t have such skills.

Are our children well-prepared to enter this technology-rich world?

Not as well as you might expect a crop of “digital natives” to be. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) finds that nearly 17% of 15-year-olds who have grown up “wired” do not have the skills to move easily through the digital environment—which means that these students could have a difficult time completing their studies and, later on, looking and applying for work, filling out forms to pay their taxes or even reserving a seat on a train.

PISA’s groundbreaking 2009 survey of students’ digital literacy shows some fascinating results. For example, in each of the 19 countries that participated in the digital reading assessment, the more frequently students search for information on line, the better their performance in digital reading.

Meanwhile, being unfamiliar with online social practices, such as e-mailing and chatting, seems to be associated with low digital reading proficiency. However, students who frequently send e-mails and chat on line attain lower digital reading scores, on average, than students who are only moderately involved in these activities.

Similarly, students who sometimes use computers at home for leisure or schoolwork scored higher in the digital reading assessment than both rare and intensive users. And after accounting for students’ academic abilities, the frequency of computer use at home, particularly for leisure activities, is positively associated with students’ ability to “navigate” among pages on the Internet, while the frequency of computer use at school is not. This finding suggests that students learn digital navigation skills by themselves, simply by exploring the nearly infinite offerings on the Internet. To help students at school, education systems should consider integrating computer use into curricula and investing more in training teachers on how to use digital technologies, both to help them teach and to help students learn.

The survey also finds that the gender gap in reading performance is narrower in digital reading than it is in print reading. Across all countries that participated in the digital reading assessment, girls outperform boys by an average of 24 score points in digital reading, while the difference in print reading is 38 score points – the equivalent of one year of formal schooling. These findings suggest that boys may be more interested in reading texts that are available to them on the Internet than in reading material that is conventionally consumed in print form, such as novels and non-fiction books. In turn, educators could use this finding as the basis of new strategies aimed at encouraging boys to read more and, ultimately, to become more enthusiastic and proficient readers.

This fourth round of the triennial PISA surveys also offers a broad view of how access to digital technologies has expanded over the past decade. Across the OECD countries that participated in both the PISA 2000 and 2009 surveys, the percentage of students who reported having at least one computer at home increased from 72% in 2000 to 94% in 2009, while home access to the Internet doubled from 45% to 89% during the same period. And there was also an increase in the computer-to-student ratio in schools – evidence that education systems invested substantially in information and communication technologies during the past decade.

The so-called “digital divide” used to be about access to computers. Today, there’s a second divide: between those people who are lost in the digital environment and those who have the skills to navigate efficiently and effectively through all the information now available to them through digital technologies. It is up to us – concerned policy makers, educators and parents – to ensure that our children are not left behind on the analog side of the digital divide. It is no overstatement to suggest that their futures depend on it.

Useful links

PISA website

OECD educationtoday blog

Andreas Schleicher on Twitter

Immediate action and long-term approaches for food security and food price volatility

Click to see the OECD-FAO Outlook

This post is contributed by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, following his address to the agriculture ministers of the G20 countries meeting in Paris on June 22.   

The OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook to 2020 published this week expects commodity prices for cereals to be 20% higher over the coming decade compared with the 2000s, and meat 30% higher. That’s good news for farmers the world over, but for the one in seven of the world’s population who goes to bed hungry, it could spell disaster.

Moreover, price volatility could make matters worse.

So what should we do?

The immediate priority is to address the severe consequences of hunger and malnutrition, whose root cause is poverty. Undernourishment rapidly leads to underweight babies and prevents young children from developing properly, both physically and cognitively. The related problems generally last for life.

In a report including contributions from 10 international organisations OECD coordinated with FAO, we make a number of recommendations to deal with the consequences of high and volatile prices on the most vulnerable.

Working closely with the UN World Food Programme, we propose setting up small strategic food reserves for rapid deployment through safety net programmes in situations where countries find it impossible to procure supplies for themselves.

We also outline a number of market-based financial instruments to assist vulnerable countries and households, including measures designed to help farmers manage unavoidable risks.

In brief, we propose a wide range of safety nets that can come to the aid of the most vulnerable, quickly.

The long term priority – the sustainable solution to price volatility and food insecurity – is to improve the productivity and resilience of global agriculture. Doing so requires action on a number of fronts.

OECD and FAO have a joint proposal for a new Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS). Associated with AMIS is a proposal for a Rapid Response Forum to improve international coordination of government responses to food emergencies, preferably before a situation becomes a widespread crisis.

Better information and transparency on financial markets is also important, as is consistency between regulatory regimes. This would help reduce opportunity for market manipulation and ensure that the farm and food sector has instruments at its disposal to help smooth price fluctuations and to manage risk.

Agricultural trade will be even more important in the years to come. Food has to flow more easily from surplus to deficit areas and humanitarian food purchases and shipments must not be caught up in export restrictions or be taxed. Most of the future growth of supply – and demand – will come from developing countries, but supply growth will be stalled if competitive suppliers around the world are not able to access regional and global markets.

Even if WTO trade negotiations are currently in great difficulty, we must reduce the import and export barriers to trade in food, feed and fuel that add to price volatility and constrain global food security.

We have also made tough recommendations on biofuel policies that subsidize production, mandate blends, and restrict trade.

Let’s be very clear about this. We support the development of a wide variety of renewable fuels, including biofuels. But our analysis has shown that there are higher costs and lower benefits than anticipated, as well as unintended negative impacts, from current biofuel policies.

Finally – and arguably most importantly – in our report, the international organisations make a strong case for various actions to improve farm productivity. This is an essential ingredient in a sustainable and long-term solution to the challenge of increasing food production between 70% and 100% by 2050.

For many developing countries, greater use of existing technologies offers immediate and significant opportunities. For all countries, new science and technology offers further promise.

Returns to investment in agricultural research are enormous: generally over 20% and as high as 80 % a year. But the lead times are very long – often 20 years or more. The investment that will bring those long-term benefits has to start now.

Required investments are way beyond what can be achieved with public funds or development aid, although both are important. National governments have to create an enabling environment that encourages private and public-private investments to flow.

OECD will focus more on this, drawing upon its agriculture, science and development communities to highlight best policy practices for increased innovation in agriculture.

Can the global food and agriculture system meet the challenges of the coming decades? I’m optimistic. Throughout history, farmers have demonstrated again and again their capacity to adapt to new circumstances, adopt new methods and technologies, and supply safe and nutritious food for growing populations.

Since 1960, cereal production world-wide has doubled, and fruit and vegetable production has tripled. The increases in meat production have been even more dramatic – pork production has more than tripled and poultry has increased sevenfold.

The G20 is giving agriculture the importance it deserves. And acting now will position the sector well for a profitable future in the service of us all.

Useful links

OECD work on agriculture

Lessons in resilience from PISA

Some children are more resilient than others

It won’t be news to anyone at this stage that – on average – students from poorer families don’t do as well in school as kids from middle class families.

As the OECD’s PISA education research has shown, social background is consistently one of the major factors that determines average student performance. 

But it’s important to emphasise the word “average”.

In just about every place that takes part in PISA, a proportion of kids from poorer families buck the trend – they do much better in school than might be predicted based on their family circumstances.

Such kids even have a name – “resilient students”. Across OECD countries, about three out of ten kids from poorer families are resilient, according to results from the latest round of PISA.

But the findings also show big variations between countries: In effect, in some places social background has a much smaller impact than in others. In Korea, for instance, well over 50% of kids from poorer backgrounds are resilient, and among some non-OECD members the proportion is even higher: Over 70% in the Chinese city of Shanghai. Finland – a traditional PISA high-flyer – also does well, with close to 50% of students beating the odds. The results are less encouraging at the other end of the scale: Only 20% of students are resilient in Austria and, as the BBC reports, only around 24% in the United Kingdom.

The research offers some insights into the factors that can help to encourage resilience. Spending more time in class is one: “In France, Germany and the Netherlands, resilient students spend at least one hour and 45 minutes more in science classes per week than disadvantaged low-achievers do,” the latest edition of PISA In Focus notes. Self-confidence and motivation also matter.

Incidentally, if you want to find out more about the man behind OECD PISA – our colleague Andreas Schleicher – he’s profiled in the latest edition of The Atlantic. Andreas tells journalist Amanda Ripley about the state of  education research before PISA: “I remember everyone telling you, ‘We have the best education system in the world,’” he says. “To his data-driven mind,” she comments, “this was madness. How can everyone be the best?”

Useful Links

OECD educationtoday blog

Andreas Schleicher on Twitter

Peacebuilding and statebuilding come before the Millennium Development Goals

 Guest post by Donata Garrasi of the OECD’s Development Co-operation Directorate and Co-ordinator of the International Dialogue for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding

Imagine you can’t take your child to the doctor because the clinic is on the other side of a bridge it’s too dangerous to cross. Imagine you’re trying to get an education but you can’t read after sunset because there’s no light. Imagine the only people who’ll protect you from an armed gang are the members of another armed gang. Imagine you’re a government trying to deal with problems like these after a civil war or invasion that’s lasted for years and destroyed your country and you’ll easily understand why no fragile state has achieved a single Millennium Development Goal, or is likely to do so by the 2015 target date, even though these states receive over 30% of development assistance.

If the MDGs set the bar impossibly high, what should fragile states aim for? The International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding was created in 2008 after the Accra High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness to devise a set of realistic peacebuilding and statebuilding objectives that address the root causes of conflict and fragility. The first Dialogue, held in Dili, Timor-Leste in April 2010, saw the formation of the g7+, “an independent and autonomous forum of fragile and conflict affected countries and regions”. At the second global meeting in Liberian capital Monrovia last week, delegates from over 40 countries, international agencies and civil society organisations had a “frank and open exchange of views” on what has worked, what hasn’t and what can be done starting now.

“The problem is, you guys don’t trust us,” Timor Leste’s finance minister Emilia Pires told the donor countries, urging them to lose their control freak attitude. But delegates from fragile states were just as harsh regarding their own responsibilities, with one Togolese speaker suggesting that citizens of donor countries would refuse to spend another penny on aid if they knew where most of the money went. There was disagreement on using the term “fragile”, with some arguing that it stigmatised countries, other that it was simply being realistic and could be useful in determining whether particular kinds of assistance should be granted. One participant claimed that fragile would be an improvement on the state his country was in at present. Olivier Kamitatu, DR Congo’s planning minister, summed up the majority feeling, and the ambitions of the Dialogue, when he said that “The g7+ is extremely useful in giving us a common voice in international discussions, but it’s a club we’d like to leave as quickly as possible”.

The “Monrovia Roadmap”, agreed on by the whole range of development partners, defines five practical objectives for peacebuilding and statebuilding. “Establish and strengthen citizen security” is one of the five. Without security and the assurance that people can go about their daily lives in safety, the rest is meaningless. But who should implement objectives, and monitor progress? If the state hasn’t functioned for years or is seen as defending special interests, then political processes have to start by building trust among groups who may be hostile to each other, including the government and civil society. Therefore the Roadmap calls on states to “Foster inclusive political settlements and conflict resolution”.

Reggae legend Peter Tosh understood another of the objectives when he sang that he didn’t want peace but “equal rights and justice”. It is vital to “Address injustices and support increasing citizen access to justice”. Unemployment is a source of tension and can fuel conflict when joining an armed group may be the most attractive job available, or the only one. The objective to “Generate employment and improve livelihoods” will require a mix of labour-intensive public and community works, increased agricultural productivity, and domestic private sector development. All this costs money, and although international partners will continue to finance some activities, the objective is to “Manage revenues and build capacity for accountable and equitable social service delivery”. It’s an ambitious set of objectives, but as Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf pointed out in her closing remarks, “The challenges are huge, but they’re not bigger than challenges we’ve faced in the past”.

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility

Goodbye conflict, welcome development?

Today’s post is contributed by Donata Garrasi of the OECD’s Development Co-operation Directorate and Co-ordinator of the International Dialogue for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding

Have the populations of fragile states and countries affected by conflict benefited from the money, effort and time devoted to peacebuilding and statebuilding?

The most reassuring finding from the 2010 Human Security Report is that high-intensity wars, those that kill at least 1000 people a year, have declined by 78% since 1988, while long-term trends indicate reductions in the risks of both international and civil wars (although Libya, Yemen and Syria show that these risks are still significant).

The World Bank’s latest World Development Report agrees that although war is less of a problem now than in the 20th century, insecurity has become a primary development challenge. One-and-a-half billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict, or large-scale, organised criminal violence and no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has achieved a single Millennium Development Goal.

New threats—organised crime and trafficking, civil unrest due to global economic shocks, terrorism—have supplemented wars.

So what can be done to say “goodbye conflict, welcome development” as the slogan of the g7+ group of fragile countries hopes?

The second global meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding being held in Monrovia, Liberia on 15-16 June gives conflict-affected states a common voice in their discussions with international partners, and for the first time, these states themselves will make commitments on the concrete steps they’ll take to change things.

Two outcomes are targeted. First, a new agreement on peacebuilding and statebuilding priorities is required. Second, a commitment on how to realise these is needed.

Security, justice, and jobs are priorities for conflict-affected communities. Without security and the assurance that people can go about their daily lives in safety, the rest is meaningless.

People on the ground can all tell stories about money being spent on a bridge they cannot even cross for fear of being attacked.

For many young men, joining an armed group may be the most attractive job available, or the only one, if they want to feed their family. A Somali pirate for instance can earn from $12,000 to $150,000 from a successful hijack according to a report in the Financial Times, compared with $500 a year for the average citizen.

It’s not that these countries are inherently poor, but too often wealth from natural resources or other activities benefits only a few people, and there are also problems with how international assistance is provided.

The OECD reports that 30% of Official Development Assistance goes to fragile and conflict-affected countries, but what does this mean in practice?

Bella Bird, co-chair of the International Dialogue, points out that “International partners tend to expect too much too soon from still very weak national institutions; take a short-term perspective; avoid risk; and apply complex systems. At the same time, national governments in fragile countries have often tended to promise too much to their constituents or exclude large parts of society, which can fuel dissatisfaction and lead to further unrest”.

The result can be that trust in national institutions is so low that donors set up parallel systems to deliver programmes, but although “high risk leads to high return” as Emilia Pires, Minister of Finance from Timor Leste reminds international partners in her country, donors find it hard to justify to their taxpayers investing in high-risk environments.

In Monrovia, participants will be looking for innovation, for changing the rules of the game of “how business is done in fragile countries”.

Conflict affected states themselves know what works best and the best way of analysing and tackling problems. Even though historical, economic, cultural and political situations vary widely, they can learn from each other.

The most fruitful dialogue will be among them, and leadership has to come from within affected countries and communities.

With leadership comes responsibility. Participants will be urged to make binding, verifiable commitments on practical steps to achieving common goals.

The first of these has to be to accept dialogue. Dialogue among national actors to identify priorities to build peace and develop a vision on how to move “from fragility to stability”.

Dialogue between national and international partners to reach a consensus on what needs to be done in fragile and conflict affected contexts to help end the cycle of violence.

To begin making peace, you don’t need to forgive and you almost certainly won’t forget the injustices that led to conflict, but you do need to make a commitment, and be realistic about the time the whole process will take.

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility

Want a better life? Put your mind to it.

Everybody thinks on occasion about how life might be improved.  But working towards that better life means solving a certain number of knotty problems.   What do you think should be tackled first? Complex answers to this simple poll are much appreciated- just put them in the comments section.  Now, put your minds to it!