Archive | June 2013

Women in Science & Technology: Critical for Innovation


Since 2001, the National Science Foundation has invested more than $130 million to support ADVANCE projects at nearly 100 institutions of higher education and STEM-related, not-for-profit organizations across the U.S. CONNECT@RIT (Creating Opportunity Networks for Engagement and Collective Transformation) focuses on improving conditions for female STEM faculty, with a unique emphasis on women who are deaf and hard-of-hearing at the university. RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) will address issues of recruitment, retention and advancement of female faculty through reassessment of some of its academic and human resource policies, expanding a newly established faculty mentoring program and increasing professional development and leadership opportunities.

Part of the NSF research included looking inward at RIT where a climate survey and examination of HR data trends led to the identification of barriers for women faculty. These ranged from the recruitment and advancement of women faculty to balancing work and life. RIT had only 23 percent of its female tenured and tenure track faculty in STEM disciplines, below the 30 percent average represented in U.S. colleges and universities, even though the number of female faculty had tripled at RIT over a 15-year period. Further data revealed gender-based, average salary gaps existed at each faculty rank, and that women left the faculty ranks at a rate nearly twice that of their male colleagues. These findings mirrored national trends for women in STEM careers in academia and in industry.

Among the Connect@RIT project goals includes attracting 30 percent female applicants for RIT STEM faculty positions, at least 75 percent of STEM departments achieving a critical mass of female faculty, retention rates for female faculty that closely mirror those of male faculty, and an increase in the percentage of women in academic leadership positions to a level which maps to their overall representation at RIT. The finish line for the project is five years out and the researchers have plenty of work ahead. But we are confident they will have a similar finish to last year’s race team.

In summary, a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. This is especially true for colleges and universities, like RIT, that specialize in innovation. RIT has historically been a leader in developing new technologies, systems and approaches. RIT faculty and research teams often partner with business and industry leaders on research and development initiatives. In order to effectively continue in this capacity – to cultivate the best and brightest minds and to be an innovation resource for industry – everybody must proactively encourage diversity.

Diversity isn’t an altruistic aspiration; it’s a competitive demand.

Facebook: How Often U.S. Government Comes Calling for Data

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Facebook revealed more detail on how frequently it gets information requests from government agencies in a public statement late Friday.

In a post on the company’s press site, Facebook General Counsel Ted Ullyot said it received between 9,000-10,000 requests over the six-month period ending on Dec. 31, 2012. That adds up to roughly 1,500 requests per month. . Ullyot said the nature of the requests from “government entities” is quite varied, including things like a local sheriff trying to locate a missing child to national security agencies investigating terrorist activity.

Ullyot said Facebook was only permitted to disclose the number of requests after negotiations with “U.S. national security authorities,” where Facebook urged for more transparency around the orders the company is required to comply with. Going forward, Facebook will now include the number of national-security requests (including FISA-related ones) in a transparency report, and is the first company to be allowed to do so, Ullyot wrote.

Although he said the change was “progress,” Ullyot said Facebook will continue to push for more transparency.

With the disclosure, Ullyot said he hopes it will give people a better idea of just how much of Facebook’s user base is affected by government requests. Those 9,000-10,000 requested data on between 18,000-19,000 Facebook accounts, or 0.002% of Facebook users.

Ullyot reiterated some of what Mark Zuckerberg said in his denials about government accessing Facebook data over the past couple of weeks: that Facebook scrutinizes every government request for user data, and that it rejects them “frequently.”

Facebook and other major tech companies have recently been under intense scrutiny after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden made claims that the government was obtaining large amounts of user data from wireless carriers and Internet services in a program called PRISM, and keeping it secret from the public.

Apple, iOS 7 and WWDC: 7 articles for you to read

Apple WWDC

Apple CEO Tim Cook touted iOS 7 as “the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone.” And it’s true. All the icons are still there in the familiar grid, but all the felt and wood-grain design elements have been taken out to pasture. Everything looks far more modern than it did before, and it’s all presented in a flatter, more layered interface.

It’ll be interesting to see how the general public responds to the new design. It looks a lot slicker, but some may find it less homey than previous versions.

Some of the new features include:

  • There’s a parallax effect for 3-D-like motion for home-screen images. Basically, your background photo responds to the angle at which your phone is being held to make it seem like your icons are floating above the picture.
    Control Center gives you quick access to common settings (sound, brightness, connectivity options) by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
  • Multitasking has been expanded as well to include all apps instead of select ones like music apps or apps like Skype.
  • AirDrop lets you quickly share photos with your friends around you wirelessly. Taking a dig at Samsung’s marketing efforts, Federighi added, “No need to wander around the room bumping your phone.”
  • The revamped Photos app organizes your photos by location and date. Apple calls the feature Moments.
    Siri has been overhauled with a less-robotic female voice and the addition of a male voice.
  • “iOS in the car” is a new initiative involving several major car companies in which they’ll build the ability to turn your car’s information screen into a stripped-down version of iOS, with access to Maps, messaging and voice-activated controls. Look for it in cars starting in 2014.
  • The App Store will finally allow you to let your apps automatically update themselves.
  • The long-rumored iTunes Radio feature has been realized. It functions very similarly to Pandora, letting you play custom Web radio stations based on particular artists. Songs can be purchased in iTunes or shared with friends; the service is free but ad-supported. If you’re an iTunes Match subscriber, the service contains no ads.
  • Activation lock makes it so your phone can’t be used if it gets stolen, even if the thief wipes everything first.


by Om Malik (courtesy gigaom)
Anytime Apple announces a new piece of hardware or changes its software, we get a lot of people weighing in on those developments. The news of iOS 7 wasn’t any different. There are hundreds of posts out there, but here are seven I like.

It has been one of those weeks where I have not had time to sit down and think about the various news announcements from Apple’a  annual World Wide Developer Conference. However, I have come across some really great articles that are worth reading and sharing. Here are some of my picks.

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MENA: environment for innovation & entrepreneurship

 mena innovation and entrepreneurship

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Launching a sustainable business goes well beyond learning how to draft a business plan or fill out a financing application.

It involves a range of skills, both “hard” and “soft”, such as managing a start-up enterprise, motivating employees, assembling a cohesive team, tailoring a product to a well-defined market, adapting rapidly to fast-changing circumstances and consumer sentiment, and understanding how to convert an interesting technology into a viable business. These skills are not acquired, and nor can businesses succeed, in a vacuum. They need a business “ecosystem”, where potential entrepreneurs can learn the right skills and innovation is both encouraged and nurtured. For the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), this will require a change in the cultural attitude toward entrepreneurship.

Nascent ecosystem emerging in MENA

A nascent ecosystem has been emerging in MENA over the past five years. The few businesses that have achieved success in this evolving environment were private sector led, usually by members of the diaspora or those who had either studied or started a business abroad. These individuals come equipped with access to international networks and markets and they have clear incentives to see their ventures succeed. They invest their time as well as their money; key ingredients for a successful business ecosystem that need to be further encouraged. Governments need to know that strengthening innovation-led growth entails understanding and promoting investments in research and development (R&D), cultivating the necessary skills, putting in place a functional and effective business environment and the mechanisms to foster private and public collaboration.

Two initiatives from World Bank

The World Bank has launched two initiatives to support the fledgling ecosystem and help foster innovation and entrepreneurship in MENA. “Supporting the Ecosystem for Fostering a Dynamic Entrepreneurship” is funded by a Bank Development Grant Facility that supports regional partnerships for development. The program leverages a partnership between two leading regional incubators Oasis500 and Wamda to boost the support they already provide to pre and early start-ups across the region. In addition to expanding mentorship, skills development and access to investors, the incubators will also engage stakeholders (governments, universities, investors, other incubators) in each country as a means of expanding the partnership and broadening the transfer and exchange of critical knowledge and skills. Outreach is an important component and will include dissemination of success stories and “lessons learned.” To ensure they reach a diverse audience, a variety of media and platforms will be used, such as popular web sites, an Arabic Entrepreneurship Newsletter, comics, info graphics, cartoons and videos. Particular attention will be paid to rural areas and to groups who tend not to see themselves as entrepreneurs, such as women and youth. The Bank continues to seek funding and partnerships with other entities that have a track record of supporting entrepreneurship and building this capacity in the region.

The second initiative works at the policy level. The World Bank, the private sector, academia, think tanks, civil society experts and governments formed a community of practitioners to cultivate change through innovation and technology. “The How-to of Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship” (ITE) was launched last year in Prague. It is a practitioners’ exchange, networking and learning activity. Its goal is to help countries in the region advance policies that promote the various elements required for a thriving, innovative economy. It provides an opportunity for the exchange of operational lessons from other countries on the “how” of public support in this area.

WalmartLabs keeps getting smarter with Inkiru acquisition

 big data - data analysis

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Inkiru has developed an active learning system that combines real-time predictive intelligence, big data analytics and a customizable decision engine to inform and streamline business decisions

Predictive intelligence bought by WalmartLabs

Inkiru‘s predictive analytics platform will enable us to further accelerate the big data capabilities that @WalmartLabs has propelled forward at scale…including site personalization, search, fraud prevention and marketing. Walmart’s data scientists will now be able to work with big data directly and create impact faster than ever before.

Related Video

Walmart Labs Inkiru – A Funny Name for Serious Analytics (SiliconANGLE)

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By Derrick Harris (courtesy GigaOm)
Summary:WalmartLabs has acquired a predictive analytics startup called Inkiru to bolster its ability to create better customer experiences through data. The division of Walmart was created in 2011 on a foundation of big data.
Walmart, it seems, will not go gently into that good night when it comes to the company’s fight against e-commerce giant Amazon. It offered more evidence of its longevity on Monday, as WalmartLabs, the company’s division dedicated to developing new technologies for the web and mobile worlds, acquired a predictive analytics startup called Inkiru.

Inkiru, which has created software for real-time predictive analytics for things like customer targeting and credit risk, seems like a fine fit with the WalmartLabs mission. On mobile devices, for example, being able to deliver deals to customers at the right time and the right place is critical. Here’s how WalmartLabs characterized the fit in a press…

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BYD: Electric Bus for U.S.


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For being the first to bring electric to public transportation. The ever-innovative Chinese automobile company created the world’s first purely electric bus.

BYD’s e-BUS 12 releases zero emissions, can go for more than 150 miles on a single charge, and uses solar panels located on the roof to convert solar energy into electricity. The buses have been tested in China, Southeast Asia, and Europe; Hertz car rentals will use the buses to transport passengers at LAX.

BYD Electric Bus for U.S. consumer market

Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD has its eye on the U.S. consumer market, even though it’s focused on fleets for the time being. “We want to sell cars to consumers in the U.S. in the next several years,” BYD senior vice president Stella Li told reporters yesterday. BYD could localize production of passenger cars here in about 10 years, she said.

Li was in Lancaster, a desert city about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, where BYD just opened a production plant. The plant will initially produce electric buses, starting in October. BYD aims to turn out 50 units in the first year. The plant will have an annual capacity of 1,000 units, said Li.

“The is the first time a Chinese bus company is opening a manufacturing plant in the U.S. and the first North and South America plant for BYD,” Li told a gathering that included officials from Lancaster, Los Angeles County, the state of California, and several municipal transit companies.

BYD already has a contract with the Long Beach Transit for 10 ebuses, which will be in service in the first half of 2014, Long Beach Transit spokesman Kevin Lee told Stanford University has also placed on order for three ebuses, said BYD fleet sales manager Joel Reikes.

Made in U.S.A., By a Chinese Company

BYD has plants that assemble buses from imported parts—known as knock-down assembly—in numerous other countries, including Egypt and Bulgaria. Though some of the parts for the plant in Lancaster will be imported from China, Long Beach Transit used federal funds to buy the BYD buses, and one of the funding conditions is that the BYD ebuses must have at least 60 percent U.S.-produced content.

That isn’t a problem, said Li. The buses will have more than 70 percent local content, she said, and that is before considering the inductive chargers that will be used in Long Beach. If they are included, “It is close to 80 percent,” said Li. Those chargers are from Wave Inc., a Utah startup, and are considered part of the local content, said John Inglish, a Wave director, in an interview with It will install two chargers in Long Beach.

Among additional local content, the batteries for the ebuses will be assembled at a nearby plant using imported cells. And, the multiplex electronic control is sourced from I/O Controls Corp. in Azusa, Calif., Michael Kuang, vice president of engineering at I/O Controls, told

6 Tips For Building Innovation Into Your Company

Word Ball - Innovate

Innovation is a big corporate buzzword, and it’s one of the hottest topics on this blog. That’s because it’s one of the biggest mysteries to business leaders. A new study from Accenture, “Why Low Risk Innovation Is Costly,” revealed that fewer than one in five chief executives believes their company’s strategic investments in innovation are paying off. Because of the high percentage of failure, nearly half of the executives surveyed said their companies were less likely to risk implementing breakthrough ideas.

Innovation only happens in the right environment, one where everyone is not only allowed to innovate, but they are actively encouraged to speak up and bring new ideas to the table. This may sound like common sense, but it is far from common practice. How do you create an innovative environment?

  1. Innovation only comes by invitation. Invite people to bring forth their new ideas. True innovation takes place when people are free to raise ideas, take ownership of them, and then implement them. If people are required to ask permission for every step they take, they will stop asking permission.
  2. Innovation is not a solo sport, it requires a group of players with skills specific to the effort. Many companies appoint an innovation department or hire a chief innovation officer, which can make innovation just another stovepipe in the organization. The message this sends to your organization is that innovation is “their job” and “not mine” – siloed off. While an idea may come from one individual, it’s the cross-functional creativity, trust, and collaboration that bring innovation to life.
  3. Encourage everyone to put their ideas to test fast, fail fast, and then reiterate. If people wait for perfection before they put the idea to work, the effort will lose steam before it ever gets off the ground.
  4. Value the lessons taken from failure as much as your successes, and apply those lessons toward each new attempt. This makes it safe for everyone to innovate. The idea is not to encourage failure but to foster innovation that leads to winning success as rapidly as possible.
  5. Ensure this behavior gets modeled at every level, from the very top to individual contributor. That means the senior leaders must be actively involved, not just mandating the change.
  6. Resist the desire to project manage your way to innovation. It cannot be generated by focusing solely on budgets, resources, and timelines. If you try, you can guarantee your innovation investment will be wasted.

Obama Wants to Upgrade 99% of Students to High-Speed Internet by 2018


Capacity to communicate quicker is key.
United States is on the right way to produce the best innovative student.


Obama-Connected-Initiative[1]by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (courtesy mashable)

President Barack Obama thinks American students aren’t connected enough, and that access to faster Internet connections and technologies is crucial in today’s schools. That’s why he wants to make sure that 99% of students have high-speed broadband access within the next five years.

“We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology,” Obama said in a statement published by the White House.

Obama will announce the new initiative, ConnectED, on Thursday during a speech at a high-tech middle school in Mooresville, N.C.

The initiative calls on the Federal Communications Commission to provide virtually all American students with high-speed broadband and wireless access in their schools and libraries by 2018. The initiative should also give students and teachers the tools needed to take advantage of high-speed Internet access.

“Basic Internet access is no…

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Jamaica: hub of innovation in Caribbean?


4-day visit to Santiago on Innovation

A 12-person delegation, headed by Julian Robinson, minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, has just returned from a four-day visit to Santiago, Chile, to see first-hand how that country is developing a robust ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation.

The primary purpose of the mission was to visit Start-up Chile (SUP), a government-financed programme launched in August 2010 to attract early-stage, high-potential entrepreneurs to bootstrap their ventures in Chile, without taking equity in the firms.

Its goal was to convert Chile into the innovation and entrepreneurial hub of Latin America, akin to other centres of innovation in the world, particularly the Silicon Valley.

The Jamaican group was particularly thrilled to meet the founder of SUP, Nicolas Shea, a Stanford-educated entrepreneur who was recruited by the then minister of economy, Juan Andrés Fontaine, to join his staff as his entrepreneurship adviser. Only days after Shea relocated to Chile, a massive earthquake struck in February 2010, causing more than $15 billion in damages.

Today, after two and a half years, SUP is a highly successful programme that supports both foreigners and Chileans to create innovative ventures using much the same model as it did in 2010 with some minor changes to enhance its effectiveness.

Now, 40 per cent of the applications received are from Chile, but it is clear that the original objective of importing talent with a view to changing the entrepreneurial culture is still very much at the forefront of the programme.

To understand SUP innovative program

With a current budget of US$12 million per year, funded by Chile’s economic development agency CORFO, which is itself funded by a tax on mining companies operating in Chile, SUP can boast some impressive results.

Today, it has received 5,600 applications from 70 countries, admitted more than 1,000 entrepreneurs from 53 countries, and a host of social impacts – almost 600 “meet-ups” organised by SUP and participants or “suppers”, and 3,790 hours of mentorship provided by suppers. Additionally, there are all kinds of spin-off programmes supporting entrepreneurship and innovation and a global rush to emulate the programme’s design elements and impacts.

SUP has also created strong links to local and international companies and entrepreneurs, the global investor community, local and international universities and other programmes in Chile.

We visited one facility, Wayra, a tech incubator operated by Telefónica that incubates 10 companies for 10 months. The incubator manager, Claudio Barahona Jacobs said that Wayra wants to support international start-ups to capture the “winds of talent blowing” in its midst.

Coaching important

Wayra makes a direct investment of US$50,000 in each company in three parts: an initial sum and the other two tranches when agreed milestones are achieved. The investment is in the form of convertible notes. The incubator provides space and services, coaching in how to make a pitch to investors, how to run a company, to hire people and be a boss.

The entrepreneurs we spoke to said that the coaching was one of the most important elements of the programme, and they also participate in management courses run in collaboration with a local university.

Critical is making business links with Telefónica itself, using the company as a distribution channel or as a first customer, testing the applications developed by the entrepreneurs.

Telefónica has 11 million customers in Chile who have smartphones and 300 million business and consumer customers in 30 countries worldwide, so the company is a vital link to this huge market for mobile apps and business applications for its incubator clients.

Optimistic about Jamaica

SUP’s founder, Nicolas Shea, is optimistic about Jamaica and encouraged the group to adopt and adapt the best elements of the SUP programme. The World Bank and Minister Robinson plan to invite Shea and a number of the Chileans whom we met to Jamaica, later in the year, to continue discussions with a wider group of stakeholders.

Everyone on the mission agreed that Jamaica has the opportunity to replicate some of the successful elements of the Start-up Chile programme. Jamaica has talented and technologically savvy young people who are eager to tap into the global demand for creative applications that solve real-world business and social problems.

In so doing, they create their own employment. We have the interest and support of international development partners including the World Bank to finance initiatives that will support the growth of the Jamaican economy. It is an opportunity to forge public-private partnerships to provide early stage and venture capital financing for SMEs, mentorships and access to markets. But will our leaders champion such efforts to move us beyond mere talk? And will we collectively have the courage to act now to secure the future of our nation?