December 2nd, 2013
10:53 AM ET

The end of the World Wide Web?

By Bhaskar Chakravorti, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bhaskar Chakravorti is the senior associate dean of International Business & Finance at The Fletcher School at Tufts University and founding executive director of Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context. He is the author of the book The Slow Pace of Fast Change.  The views expressed are his own.

In a flat world, unflattering news moves quickly. The snowballing effects of the Snowden revelations about U.S. National Security Agency surveillance of Internet traffic threaten to break up the World Wide Web. Consider some of the news since the scandal broke: 100,000 Germans have signed up for a service called Email Made in Germany that guarantees that German email is stored in German servers; some Indian government employees have been advised to switch to typewriters (yes, you read that right) for sensitive documents; the Brazilians are reportedly planning a BRICS-only fiber-optic cable from Fortaleza in Brazil to Vladivostok in Russia, with stops along the way in Cape Town, Chennai and Shantou; the usually unflappable Swiss have begun to build a domestic cloud service for fear of American surveillance.

The chorus of voices to de-Americanize the Internet has grown well beyond those of the usual suspects of Russia, China, Iran and United Arab Emirates. Now, with the grumbling of the EU and the BRICS countries, the dissent risks reaching a tipping point.


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Topics: Technology
Why China isn’t an innovation powerhouse
October 24th, 2013
10:23 AM ET

Why China isn’t an innovation powerhouse

By Guy de Jonquières, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Guy de Jonquières is a senior fellow at the European Centre for International Political Economy. This article is based on his recently published paper, Who’s Afraid of China’s High-Tech Challenge?

Some of the sheen may be wearing off China’s miracle growth story as it faces a growing array of economic challenges. But the country’s drive to become an innovation powerhouse and global leader in science and advanced technologies continues to inspire shock and awe abroad.

China has already overtaken the United States and Japan to become the largest recipient of patent applications and is forecast to outstrip the U.S. as the biggest source of scientific publications by 2020. Its universities turn out about 2 million engineering graduates annually, more than any other country.

Beijing’s plans are more breathtaking still. The most far-reaching is the Strategic Emerging Industries initiative, which is backed by state funding of as much as $2 trillion over five years and aims to leapfrog today’s global leaders in sectors such as clean energy, information technology, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and new materials.

However, as so often in China, all is not quite as it seems. Surging national patent applications, it turns out, have been spurred less by an explosion of innovation than by numerical government targets for filings and lavish state incentives to ensure they are met. This looks suspiciously like a case of “Never mind the quality, just feel the weight.”


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Topics: China • Technology
October 2nd, 2013
09:31 AM ET

How to write a constitution with Google

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Google launched a new website called “Constitute” last week with the Comparative Constitution Project. The site is a digital archive of constitutions and other founding documents from more than 175 countries. One of its goals is to assist countries like Egypt that are emerging from political crisis to amend or replace their constitutions.

There’s more demand for this kind of thing than you will think. Every year, approximately five new constitutions are written and as many as 30 are amended or revised. More than 900 have been written since 1789.

If you want to read all of the constitutions in full, you can. But additionally passages of each constitution have been tagged with a topic. Interested in freedom of religion? Looks like you have 167 choices. The right to bear arms, many fewer options. That’s where America is exceptional.

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Topics: Last Look • Technology
August 9th, 2013
07:37 PM ET

What we're reading: Lavabit and the NSA

By Fareed Zakaria

“The N.S.A. is not supposed to spy on Americans. There are times when its mission – to identify foreign national-security threats – leads it to communications involving Americans. There are warrants for that, issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, or at least there are supposed to be,” writes Amy Davidson in the New Yorker.

“Some of the documents released by Snowden showed that the FISA court had given the N.S.A. vague and general dispensations; others showed how it got around the question of individualized warrants entirely in the bulk collection of data like call records. This was done, in part, by redefining simple words like “relevant” and “collect” – and, now, “about.” This is the other alarming part of Savage’s piece: the further confirmation of the degradation of language. Every time the Administration says not to worry – that surveillance does not “target” Americans – the word seems to mean less and less, to the point where one expects it to argue that an American does not count as its target – with the legal protections that word implies – unless he is wearing a dartboard with a bull’s eye around his neck.”


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Topics: Lavabit • Technology
Time to tear down the internet ‘walls’
June 26th, 2013
09:33 AM ET

Time to tear down the internet ‘walls’

By Katrina Lantos Swett, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Katrina Lantos Swett is the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Fifty years ago today, on June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy stood in West Berlin and condemned the newly erected Berlin Wall. Twenty-four years later, President Ronald Reagan traveled to West Berlin and challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

In the decades between these speeches, human rights and religious freedom advocates behind the Iron Curtain defied the walls of tyranny by relying on the samizdat, a clandestine system to print and distribute government-suppressed material. Today, many use the internet in much the same way, raising both challenges and opportunities as the forces of repression and freedom clash in the virtual and physical worlds.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton characterized the internet as “the public space of the 21st century.” The challenge is to keep this space free, open, and secure – a global platform to express ideas and exchange information, not a tool to repress people.


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Topics: Human Rights • Internet • Technology
How big data helps fight flu
May 29th, 2013
12:22 PM ET

How big data helps fight flu

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Kenneth Cukier, data editor of The Economist, and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, a professor at Oxford’s Internet Institute, about the applications of “big data.”

So, what’s the big story here?  I mean, we’ve always had data. Why is big data a quantum leap?

Cukier: Well, first we have vastly more data than we ever had before. That’s new. But secondly, we have more data on things that we never had rendered into a data format before. It was always informational, but not data. So you can take where you are, a location, as one example. Words in books that are now digitized and also datafied, is another. When you think about social media platforms like Facebook, it “datafies” our friendships. LinkedIn datafies our professional contacts. And we can do new things with that.

You have an example about the flu that’s fascinating, how Google and big data allowed people to figure out where flus were breaking.

Mayer-Schonberger: Yes, indeed. Think back at the H1N1 flu crisis that we had. And the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta wanted to find out where the flu was. And they asked doctors to report every flu case. But, by the time they had collected all the information and tabulated it, two weeks went by. And that’s an eternity if you have a pandemic at hand. And Google, at that time, thought that they could do better just by looking at what people searched for online.


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Topics: GPS Show • Health • Technology
April 27th, 2013
09:44 PM ET

Schmidt: Internet overwhelmingly used in positive way

Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Google Executive Director Eric Schmidt about the role of technology in society and his trip to North Korea, which was detailed in his daughter’s blog.

So when you watched this Boston episode, what did you think about the power of technology, for this process of self-radicalizing on the Internet is just fascinating. Where people no longer need a community, they no longer need a leader, they can just kind of find all that information out there.

Look, this is a terrible thing in Boston and obviously, we don't want it to happen again.  There were some good digital stories about it, the use of the crowd sourcing of the photos, the fact that somebody left a cell phone that was tracked to help find and ultimately cause the shootout with the two that killed the one, etc.

The fact of the matter is, people have gotten bad information from books and so forth. Now it's more readily available on the Internet. But overwhelmingly, the Internet is used for a positive force and it can be used to catch these people.

And that's why, at the end of the day, you say look, we can look at the way in which China monitors the Internet, or people use the Internet for bad reasons, but ultimately, it's a hopeful story, you think.

It is. And one way to understand it is that we're all going through a journey together. And that journey goes from relatively little connectivity and little knowledge to having everyone in the world be connected.

That is overwhelmingly positive for medical care, for education, for safety, for security, for commerce, for global expansion, for trade – for a number of the things that we care about, it's overwhelmingly good.

Now, it also brings some bad people to the table that we didn't hear from before. And we need to figure out a way to anticipate that and deal with them. But overwhelmingly, people are good – 99.99 percent of the people in the world are very, very good. That's our solution.

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Topics: Technology
March 12th, 2013
11:34 AM ET

The trouble with U.S. drone policy

For more What in the World, watch GPS on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET

By Global Public Square staff

Senator Rand Paul decided to drone on last week about drones. He employed a rare talking filibuster to stall a confirmation vote for John Brennan as the CIA's director. All told, he went on for 12 hours and 52 minutes, including when he took questions from his Republican colleagues.

Washington also saw some tough questioning for Eric Holder. The attorney general was forced to admit it would unconstitutional to kill an American citizen with drone strikes on U.S. soil unless there was a Pearl Harbor-type imminent threat.

Usually, filibusters can be viewed as a bizarre, quasi-constitutional mechanism that is basically anti-democratic. But it's important to have a serious debate about drones, not just on the legality of whether they can be used to kill an American citizen, but a broader debate about them.


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Topics: Conflict • Taliban • Technology • Terrorism • United States • What in the World?
February 13th, 2013
09:46 AM ET

Should companies take responsibility for repression?

By Wenzel Michalski and Ben Wagner, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Wenzel Michalski is the Germany director at Human Rights Watch. You can follow him @WenzelMichalski. Ben Wagner is a researcher at the European University Institute and a visiting academic fellow at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are their own.

The Arab uprisings have been a poignant reminder of how the Internet can promote free expression and assembly, but also how governments can try abuse it. The medium used by demonstrators to organize protests and bring medical supplies to Tahrir Square, for example, was also used by the government to pinpoint human rights defenders for arrest, harassment, and even torture.

This reality will likely be on the minds of policymakers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, who are meeting in Vienna to discuss how to advance media freedoms, and who will be fully aware that while the Internet is a catalyst for popular protest, it is also targeted by governments to stifle those same voices.


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Topics: Bahrain • Technology
November 9th, 2012
12:06 PM ET

How fast can you learn?

For more Last Look watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

Ethiopia has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world, and the village of Wonchi is no exception. Nobody there can read or write. That’s why I was astonished when I saw what Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child organization did there.

They dropped 20 Motorola tablets, preloaded with mostly literacy apps in the village with no instructions. Within four minutes, one boy had found the on/off switch – an unknown entity in these parts – and he then taught the others. In a few days, they were each using about 50 apps each.

Watch the video for the full Look.

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Topics: Africa • Technology
October 22nd, 2012
06:17 PM ET

Are Chinese firms a cyber threat?

By A. Greer Meisels & Mihoko Matsubara, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: A. Greer Meisels is associate director and research fellow at the Center for the National Interest. Mihoko Matsubara is a cybersecurity analyst and was previously a research fellow at the Pacific Forum CSIS. The views expressed are their own.

The United States and its allies count technological innovations and critical infrastructure among their strategic resources and, as such, their military and economic strategies increasingly rely on information and communications technology. Unfortunately, as a recent U.S. congressional report on Chinese telecommunication equipment heavyweights Huawei and ZTE suggested, these technologies are now threatened by cyber espionage and sabotage.

After reading the congressional report, it’s hard not to breathe a sigh of relief that a general like Sun Tzu did not have cyber instruments in his arsenal. The report declared Huawei and ZTE potential threats to U.S. national security given their alleged ties to the Chinese government and its military, which some believe might increase the risk of their engaging in espionage and sabotage activities.


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Topics: China • Technology • United States
The key to economic success? Geography
October 9th, 2012
01:13 PM ET

The key to economic success? Geography

By Enrico Moretti, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Enrico Moretti is professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Infrastructure and Urbanization Program at the International Growth Centre (London School of Economics and Oxford University). He is the author of ‘The New Geography of Jobs.’ The views expressed are his own.

The economic map of America today does not show just one country – it shows three increasingly different countries. At one extreme are America’s brain hubs – cities like Seattle, Raleigh-Durham, Austin, Boston, New York and Washington DC – with a thriving innovation-driven economy and a labor force among the most creative and best paid on the planet. The most striking example is San Francisco, where the labor market for tech workers is the strongest it has been in a decade. At the other extreme are cities once dominated by traditional manufacturing – Detroit, Flint, Cleveland – with shrinking labor force and salaries. In the middle there is the rest of America, apparently undecided on which direction to take.

Historically, there have always been prosperous communities and struggling communities. But the difference was small until the 1980’s, and has been growing dramatically since then. In 1980, the salary of a college educated worker in Austin was lower than in Flint. Today it is 45 percent higher in Austin, and the gap keeps expanding with every passing year. The gap for workers with a high school degree is a staggering 70 percent by some estimates. It is not that workers in Austin have higher IQ than those in Flint, or work harder. The ecosystem that surrounds them is different. The mounting economic divide between American communities – arguably one of the most important developments in the history of the United States of the past half a century – is not an accident, but reflects a structural change in the American economy.


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Topics: Business • Economy • Technology • United States
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