CONFIDENTIAL REPORT: Atlanta’s cyber attack could cost taxpayers $17 million – Atlanta Journal Constitution

The cyber attack that struck the City of Atlanta in March could cost taxpayers as much as $17 million, according to a report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News.

The seven-page document — marked “confidential and privileged” — identifies roughly $6 million in existing contracts along with an additional $11 million in potential costs associated with the March 22 attack.

“It is breathtaking in that they’re having to do a complete overhaul,” Don Hunt, a professor at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, told Channel 2. “They’ve been very busy the past few months.”

The report does not disclose who authored it, nor does it make clear how much of the expenses the city would have incurred regardless of the attack.

But with a potential figure of $17 million, Atlanta’s ransomware attack is one of the more expensive suffered by any local government in the U.S. in 2018.

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By comparison, a ransomware attack against Colorado’s Department of Transportation earlier this year is expected to cost $2 million.

“We are pleased with the progress of the recovery efforts. In addition to responding to the criminal attack against the City of Atlanta, we are using this opportunity to make the City more secure,” said a spokesperson in an email. “Unfortunately, in today’s world, governments are seeing an increase in cyber attacks… As you already know, the City is insured against cyber-attack. We continue to work through that process for the most cost-effective outcome for our residents.”

In March, city employees were told to shut off their computers to stop a virus from spreading through the network and encrypting data. A cyber criminal group demanded that the city pay it about $51,000 in bitcoins — a crypto currency that allows for anonymous transactions online.

The city refused to pay the ransom.

For weeks the watershed department could only accept payments at City Hall, and the city’s municipal court had no way of accepting payments for traffic tickets.

The city has yet to reveal the extent of data loss. But two months ago, the AJC and Channel 2 Action News discovered that years of Atlanta Police footage from officers’ patrol cars was lost and unable to be recovered after the March attack.

Chief Erika Shields said the lost footage could compromise DUI cases if an officer’s testimony isn’t sufficient. It’s unclear how many investigations might be affected.

Of the $6 million the city has already agreed to spend, the vast majority is paying for security services and software upgrades, according to the confidential report. The city will pay about $1.1 million for new desktops, laptops, smart phones and tablets.

March 23, 2018 Atlanta: Employees at Atlanta City Hall were handed instructions as they come through the front doors to not turn on computers or log on to their workstations on Friday March 23, 2018. Friday’s action comes as city officials are struggling to determine how much sensitive information may have been compromised in a Thursday cyber attack. The city has also received demands that it pay a ransom of an unspecified amount, officials confirmed. But officials had yet to make a determination if it would pay the ransom. Hartsfield-Jackson International took down the wi-fi at the world’s busiest airport after a cyber attack on the city. The Atlanta airport’s website said after the cyber attack that security wait times and flight information may not be accurate. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Before the attack, the city received years of warnings about security weaknesses.

The city’s independent auditor in 2010 warned that the Information Technology Department “currently does not have funding for business continuity and disaster recovery plans.” In 2014, the city still lacked such a plan.

Another audit released in January found that the department of Atlanta Information Management and the Office of Information Security regularly identified vulnerabilities in the city’s network but not the root causes.

“In one case,” the audit said, “monthly vulnerability scan results indicated the presence of 1,500-2,000 severe vulnerabilities in the scanned population, with a history that went back over a year with no evidence of mitigation of the underlying issues.”

According to a 2017 list of employees in the department of Atlanta Information Management, only two of the department’s 154 employees had the word security in their titles.

The city’s information technology leadership appears to have been overwhelmingly focused on making Atlanta a so-called “Smart City” — a designation for cities that emphasize information and communication technology to enhance public services such as utilities and transportation.

However, several cyber security trade publications in recent months have highlighted how these cities are especially vulnerable to attacks because of massive interdependent computer systems that constantly communicate with each other and often aren’t tested for weaknesses before being deployed.

In the first few months of 2018, the department of Atlanta Information Management’s Twitter page references “Smart Cities” in nearly every tweet.

Just before the attack, the department on Twitter advertises a locally held smart city technology forum titled “Can’t Out-Smart Atlanta.”

“It’s Smart City panel time!” the department tweets on March 15.

It’s next tweet is a video of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ first press conference regarding the ransomware cyber attack.

Putting Stamp Sand to Good Use, and Then Some – Michigan Tech News (press release)

The Whiz Kids team from Lake Linden-Hubbell High School have participated in eCYBERMISSION, a US Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP). Their mission: research and develop a process to benefit their community.

The Whiz Kids—Siona Beaudoin, Beau Hakala and Gabriel Poirier—is the only team from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The group has been advised by students, faculty and staff from Michigan Technological University and focused on stamp sands for the past three years.

“Our elementary school, playground and football field were constructed on top of stamp sands—materials left over from stamping the copper out of the mine rock,” the team wrote in their AEOP grant proposal. “Also, many of our grandparents worked in area mines.”

The team decided to try to use some of the stamp sand. Their goal was twofold: decrease the amount of stamp sand in the area and help prevent it from migrating any further.

Because stamp sand is rich in copper, many plants cannot grow in it. In fall 2016, the Whiz Kids decided to see which plants could grow in stamp sand. Using containers under grow lights at their school, they determined alfalfa and fescue grew well, while trefoil and red clover did not. This research won them first place in the national e-CYBERMISSION 8th grade competition. The team is now growing alfalfa and fescue in test plots on the Lake Linden stamp sands.

Because stamp sand is rich in copper, many plants cannot grow in it.

In fall 2017, as ninth graders, the Whiz Kids placed first in Michigan. Instead of progressing through the eCYBERMISSION competition, they won an $1,800 STEM in Action Grant from the AEOP to continue researching stamp sand.

This time, the team used stamp sand from Lake Linden and nearby town of Gay as part of the fine aggregate in concrete. They found that the compressive strength of concrete made with stamp sand and commercial sand exceeded the strength requirements of lightweight concrete.

“Their hard work and dedication to a local scientific problem has shown that a few students at a small school can make a huge impact on their community. Growing plants on stamp sand and using stamp sand in concrete have opened the door to methods that could actually be used to remediate the stamp sands in the Lake Superior watershed.”Nick Squires, science teacher, Lake Linden High School

Whiz Kids Go to Washington

Both last year and this summer, the Whiz Kids traveled to Washington, DC to present their work at the eCYBERMISSION National Competition. It began on Father’s Day, June 17 – the day of the Houghton County flood. They were supposed to leave on the 6 a.m. flight at the Houghton Airport.

Gabriel Poirier made it there on time. Beau Hakala was stuck in Mason between two mud slides that covered M-26. With the help of people in Mason, he and his family were driven through the flooded roads to Signa Beaudoin’s house, so that Beaudoin’s father could drive them to the airport. United Airlines staff and TSA employees helped everyone stranded; The flight finally left around 5 p.m. and the team arrived in Washington DC at midnight.

whiz kids team stand with EPA officials
Mitigating stamp sand encroachment involves many stakeholders.

While in DC, the team presented their concrete research at an eCYBERMISSION showcase and poster session. As part of the week-long activities, the team met with staff members of Michigan Representative Jack Bergman and Senator Debbie Stabenow, where they discussed their projects and their potential impact on the community. With help from Representative Bergman, the team met with scientists at the EPA to learn how the agency implements new remediation methods. The team also received information about EPA contacts in Chicago and Duluth to discuss their projects in greater detail.

As eCYBERMISSION attendees, they enjoyed engineering activities while in DC, including how to operate and program drones, create a circuit and use night vision goggles to see the lights in the circuit as well as about cybersecurity by hacking into a system.

Mentoring Makes the Difference

The Whiz Kids traveled to DC with their advisor Ryan Knoll, a chemical engineering senior at Michigan Tech and graduate of Lake Linden High School. Also advising the Whiz Kids are Lake Linden high school teacher Nick Squires; Gretchen Hein, a senior lecturer in Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech; and Rob Fritz, a Technical Lab Coordinator in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech. Fritz helped the team identify and test concrete mixtures.

“Ryan has been working with the team for two years,” Hein says. “He is dedicated to the team and spends up to 10 hours a week with them after school.”

“Ryan helped them develop technical writing skills and experimental process skills; he has emphasized the importance of science and math in high school and showed the team how their classes will help them be successful in college. He has truly been a mentor to the team.” Gretchen Hein, Engineering Fundamentals, Michigan Tech

“Mentoring this team has been a great experience for me, too,” Knoll says. “It has helped me develop communication, teaching and presentation skills. The experience also may have given me an advantage while interviewing to be an Engineering Technician Intern at Koppers Performance Chemicals, in Hubbell. I look forward to working with the Whiz Kids as they continue their research throughout the next school year.”

Joining the Conversation

As part of their research and interest in stamp sand, the Whiz Kids have attended public meetings on Buffalo Reef and Big Traverse. “They were excited to see that using stamp sand in concrete was one of the proposed remediation methods,” Hein says.

Researchers at Michigan Tech will help design long-term solutions for removing mine waste from the shoreline of Lake Superior and Buffalo Reef, an important fish spawning ground. According to one recent estimate, without action, more than 60 percent of the reef will be smothered by stamp sands in the next 10 years.

The work is in partnership with state and federal agencies, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, area businesses and community members, stakeholders are approaching the problem of removing a large volume of stamp sands to protect fish habitat, homes and beaches. With creative solutions, the Whiz Kids are joining the conversation.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

UNDP joins Tech Giants in Partnership on AI – UNDP

NEW YORK, August 1 – UNDP joins the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (AI), a consortium of companies, academics, and NGOs working to ensure that AI is developed in a safe, ethical, and transparent manner. Founded in 2016 by the tech giants – Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft – It has since been joined by industry leaders such as Accenture, Intel, Oxford Internet Institute – University of Oxford, eBay, as well as non profit organizations such as UNICEF and Human Rights Watch and many more.

Through the partnership, UNDP’s Innovation Facility will work with partners and communities to responsibly test and scale the use of AI to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. By harnessing the power of data, we can inform risk, policy and program evaluation, we also can utilize robotics and Internet of Things (IoT) to collect data and reach the previously deemed unreachable – to leave no one behind.

UNDP’s AI portfolio is growing rapidly. Drones and remote sensing are used to improve data collection and inform decisions: in the Maldives for disaster preparedness, and in Uganda to engage refugee and host communities in jointly developing infrastructures. We partnered with IBM to automate UNDP’s Rapid Integrated Assessment, aligning national development plans and sectoral strategies with the 169 Sustainable Development Goals’ targets; and with the UNEP, UNDP has launched the UN Biodiversity Lab, powered by MapX. The spatial data platform will help countries support conservation efforts and accelerate delivery of the 2030 Agenda.

In line with UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2018-2021, innovation plays a central role in fulfilling the organization’s mission and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Benjamin Kumpf, UNDP’s Innovation Facility Lead states, “advances in robotics and AI have the potential to radically redefine human development pathways. The path to such redefinitions entails concrete AI experiments to increase the effectiveness of our work as well as norm-setting: we have to think beyond guidelines for ethical AI to designing accountability frameworks.”

The Partnership on AI aims to advance public understanding of AI, formulate best practices, and serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.

About UNDP Innovation

UNDP works in over 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. In 2014, UNDP established the Innovation Facility to foster innovation for development, with the support of the Government of Denmark. The Innovation Facility provides technical support and funding to UNDP teams around the world to test frontier tech and apply new approaches to deliver better results.

For more information about UNDP Innovation Facility visit and follow @UNDP_Innovation

About The PAI

The Partnership on AI is a consortium of companies, academics, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and nonprofits dedicated to ensuring that artificial intelligence (AI) – the capacity for computer programs to learn, decide, and mimic other intelligent human behavior – is developed in a safe, ethical, and transparent manner. Tech giants Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft founded the non-profit organization to advance public understanding of AI, formulate best practices, and serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society.

Full list of partners

Amazon, Apple, Deepmind, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Aaai, ACLU, Accenture, Affectiva, Ai Forum New Zealand, Ai Now Institute, The Allen Institute For Artificial Intelligence (Ai2), Amnesty International, Article 19, Association For Computing Machinery, Center For Democracy & Technology (Cdt), Center For Human-compatible Artificial Intelligence, Center For Information Technology Policy Princeton University, Centre For Internet And Society, India (Cis), Leverhulme Centre For The Future of Intelligence (Cfi), Cogitai, Data & Society Research Institute, Digital Asia Hub, Doteveryone, Ebay, Element Ai, Electronic Frontier Foundation (Eff), Fraunhofer Iao, The Future of Humanity, Future of Life Institute, The Future of Privacy Forum, The Hastings Center, Hong Kong University of Science And Technology Department Of Electronic & Computer Engineering, Human Rights Watch, Intel, Markkula Center For Applied Ethics Santa Clara University, Mckinsey & Company, Nvidia, Omidyar Network Openai, Oxford Internet Institute – University of Oxford, Salesforce, SAP, Sony, Tufts University Hri Lab, UCL Engineering, UNDP, UNICEF, University of Washington Tech Policy Lab, Upturn, Xprize, Zalando

Media queries: Sangita Khadka, Communications Specialist, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, email:, Tel: +1 212 906 5043

China Internet Nationwide Financial Services signed an agreement with Research Institute of Information Technology (RIIT) of Tsinghua University to establish an Industry Trusted Blockchain Application Technology Joint Research Center – PR Newswire

BEIJING, Aug. 1, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — China Internet Nationwide Financial Services Inc. (NASDAQ: CIFS) (“CIFS” or the “Company”), a financial advisory services provider and financial technology company today announced that its contractually controlled and managed company, Sheng Ying Xin (Beijing) Management Consulting Co., Ltd., has signed an agreement with RIIT of Tsinghua University to establish an Industry Trusted Blockchain Application Technology Joint Research Center (“Research Center”) with the purpose of researching and developing 1) key technologies able to support efficiency, safety, and longevity of the blockchain ecosystem, 2) common architectural systems and development models able to support trusted blockchain applications for a range of industries.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and big data technology, the team of researchers from both CIFS and RIIT will develop a series of enterprise-level blockchain applications to address the challenges and needs that many corporations in China are facing today. For example, blockchain applications may be used to optimize transitions, increase traceability and transparency within the supply chain (upstream or downstream), track manufacturing process, assembly, delivery, and maintenance of products with suppliers and vendors. It can also be used to track agricultural products from farmers to consumers to ensure product quality, alleviate food safety issues and ensure fair pricing of produce and livestock.

Mr. Jianxin Lin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CIFS noted, “The establishment of the Research Center is another important step forward and part of our new business strategy to transform CIFS’ business from a traditional financial advisory service provider to a financial technology (“FinTech”) company. FinTech will be the main driver of the next phase of our growth.”

Mr. Lin added, “Using underlying technologies and algorithms, our teams will research and build blockchain applications for different business segments such as supply chain, agricultural products, medical/pharmaceutical, logistics and so on. Implementation of blockchain solutions provides companies across industries with multiple benefits including a high degree of trust for business transactions. Additionally, blockchain has the potential to significantly improve our life as citizens, and change the way we work and interact in our society.”

Mr. Bin Yang, Vice President of Tsinghua University, noted, “The development of industry-trusted blockchain application technologies has become a vital national strategy for all countries. It is an important goal for us to deeply build digital ecosystems, which once integrated into our economy should speed up China’s economic transition by upgrading the industry standard. The digital transformation has only just begun and the development of industry trusted blockchain applications is expected to have a number of positive impacts for the society.”

About Research Institute of Information Technology (RIIT) of Tsinghua University

RIIT as part of the School of Information Science and Technology (SIST) of Tsinghua University and a division of Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science and Technology (TNLIST), is the major force and central base of Tsinghua University’s research and development efforts in the area of information technology. Established in 2003, RIIT consists of eight technology R&D centers and multiple joint research labs cooperated with domestic and foreign Enterprises.

RIIT also encourages multidisciplinary collaboration, stimulates academic exploration, and facilitates talents exchange and recruiting. It brings the most advanced research achievement and technology development into SIST’s course study and research projects. The joint effort in scientific study and technological innovation between RIIT and related academic departments as well as laboratories will greatly benefit the students enrolled in SIST’s degree programs.

About China Internet Nationwide Financial Services Inc.

Incorporated in 2014 and headquartered in Beijing, China Internet Nationwide Financial Services Inc. provides financial advisory services, including commercial payment advisory, intermediary bank loan advisory, and international corporate financing advisory, to meet the financing and capital needs of its clients, comprised largely of small-to-medium sized enterprises. Beijing Anytrust Science & Technology Co., Ltd. (“Anytrust”) is a wholly owned subsidiary of CIFS focusing on providing data infrastructure design, big data access and analytics, and document automation for enterprises and government agencies in China.

For more information about the CIFS and Anytrust, please visit or

For more information contact:

Investor Relations (China)

China Internet Nationwide Financial Services, Inc.

+1 212 220-6998

Investor Relations Service (US)

Lena Cati:

+1 212 836-9611

Forward Looking Statements

This news release contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and as defined in the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements can be identified by terminology such as “will,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “future,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimates” and similar statements. All statements other than statements of historical fact in this press release are forward-looking statements and involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on management’s current expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections about the Company and the industry in which the Company operates, but involve a number of unknown risks and uncertainties, Further information regarding these and other risks is included in the Company’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The Company undertakes no obligation to update forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent occurring events or circumstances, or changes in its expectations, except as may be required by law. Although the Company believes that the expectations expressed in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, it cannot assure you that such expectations will turn out to be correct, and actual results may differ materially from the anticipated results. You are urged to consider these factors carefully in evaluating the forward-looking statements contained herein and are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements, which are qualified in their entirety by these cautionary statements.

SOURCE China Internet Nationwide Financial Services Inc.

Virginia Launches Program to Connect All EDs Across the State – Healthcare Informatics

CommonWell’s executive director said this latest step “breaks down another interoperability barrier”

Connection capabilities to the Carequality framework, by members of the CommonWell Health Alliance, are now “generally available,” according to officials who made an announcement today.

CommonWell, a trade association providing a vendor-neutral platform and interoperability services for its members, announced in August that it had started a limited roll-out of live bidirectional data sharing with an initial set of CommonWell members and providers and other Carequality Interoperability Framework adopters. This marked a key step in a collaborative effort to increase health IT connectivity across the country by enabling CommonWell subscribers to engage in health data exchange through directed queries with Carequality-enabled providers, and vice versa.

In just the first two weeks of a few CommonWell-enabled providers being connected, Jitin Asnaani, CommonWell Health Alliance executive director, said there were more than 4,000 documents bilaterally exchanged with Carequality-enabled providers.

Since then, by leveraging the technological infrastructure built by CommonWell service provider Change Healthcare, members Cerner and Greenway Health successfully completed a focused rollout of the connection with a handful of their provider clients, who have been exchanging data daily with Carequality-enabled providers, officials stated today.

Now, since the connection went live in July, officials noted that CommonWell-enabled providers have bilaterally exchanged more than 200,000 documents with Carequality-enabled providers locally and nationwide.


Advancements in Healthcare: Interoperability, Data Exchange, and More

Micky Tripathi, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, is one of the most well-informed and well-respected healthcare IT leaders in the U.S. Tripathi has…

“We are proud to break down yet another barrier to interoperability by making this much-anticipated connection available to our members and their clients,” Asnaani said in a statement today. “This increased connectivity will serve to empower providers with access to patient health data critical to their healthcare decision-making.”

In December 2016, CommonWell and Carequality, an initiative of The Sequoia Project, announced connectivity and collaboration efforts with the aim of providing additional health data sharing options for stakeholders. Officials said that the immediate focus of the work between Carequality and CommonWell would be on extending providers’ ability to request and retrieve medical records electronically from other providers. In the past two years, teams at both organizations have been working to establish that connectivity.

Together, CommonWell members and Carequality participants represent more than 90 percent of the acute EHR market and nearly 60 percent of the ambulatory EHR market. More than 15,000 hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations have been actively deployed under the Carequality framework or CommonWell network.

Carequality is a national-level, consensus-built, common interoperability framework to enable exchange between and among health data sharing networks. It brings together electronic health record (EHR) vendors, record locator service (RLS) providers and other types of existing networks from the private sector and government, to determine technical and policy agreements to enable data to flow between and among networks and platforms.

CommonWell Health Alliance operates a health data sharing network that enables interoperability using a suite of services aiming to simplify cross-vendor nationwide data exchange. Services include patient ID management, advanced record location, and query/retrieve broker services, allowing a single query to retrieve multiple records for a patient from member systems.

Following the August announcement of the limited bi-directional data sharing capabilities, Micky Tripathi, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative said, “This is the ‘golden spike’ moment, connecting the two big railroads, like when AT&T and Verizon finally got connected. This is building that bridge.” Tripathi, who also directly observes and participates in conversations with Carequality and CommonWell, added, “It will take a while for all of the production sites and different vendors to get up and running. That will probably take a couple of years. But you have to have the bridge to connect them to begin.”

One key element in this progression is that currently, EHR giant Epic is not a member of CommonWell, despite other major EHR vendors pushing Epic in that direction. “Because sharing among Epic customers is already universal, when CommonWell connects to Carequality, the entire Epic base will become available, creating instant value for most areas of the country,” a recent KLAS report on interoperability stated.

Interestingly, Tripathi noted in August that once there is “general availability” of the data sharing services for all Carequality and CommonWell members, the competition factor will become less important. “It makes both networks more valuable,” Tripathi said at the time.

It appears as if that “general availability” time has now come. “Thanks to the CommonWell-Carequality connection, our patients can have access to their medical records regardless of the EHR a health care facility uses,” said David Callecod, president and CEO of Lafayette General Health, a Cerner client located in Lafayette, La. “When data is made readily available, providers can make diagnostic and treatment decisions more quickly, and patients can recover sooner. Better data means better communication with our patients and providers, better care and better outcomes. This is a very powerful tool!”

Officials also noted that with the connection officially in production, additional CommonWell members, including Brightree, Evident and MEDITECH, are in the process of subscribing to the connection and taking it live with their provider clients.

Finding Funds for Coding Programs – T.H.E. Journal

Furthering STEM Education

Finding Funds for Coding Programs

Coding programs don’t have to break the bank. Here are some resources and tactics for funding computer science affordably and without skimping on quality.

Photo credit: J.D. Ferries-Rowe, CIO, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School

As the importance of coding grows each year, school districts inevitably feel pressure to fund clubs and find money for specialized instruction within the curriculum. The pressure is not exclusive to upper grades. If anything, educators such as Katie M. Blagden increasingly see the benefits of early introduction to coding language.

As a science/technology/engineering/arts/mathematics (STEAM) coach and teacher at Ayers Ryal Side Elementary School, Beverly, MA, Blagden teaches rudimentary coding to kindergarten students using Kibo Robots. The robots feature coding blocks that come in sets of 10, 14, 18 and 21.

Blagden personally made the pitch for Kibo funds to the school’s PTO, taking care to integrate the school’s stated mission into the plea. “Our district’s mission is to get students prepared for the outside world and their career, and one of the things that could be important in careers is coding,” she said. “Kibo Robots are extremely affordable. Our PTO provided funds, and we purchased 10 of the Kibo 10s at $229 each.”

Many younger grades do not have a 1-to-1 or bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, but the robots require no additional device. “That’s the best part,” said Blagden. “Our schools do not have a 1-to-1 policy for technology. Normally with coding, only one or two students can be doing it at a time. You can always get just a couple of Kibos and put them on stations. Kibo robots do not require any sort of computer connection, which is great for students and great for the school budget.”

Finding a Grant

Whether it’s Kibos or other coding equipment, additional attachments can be acquired as needs increase. Public and private grants are available for updates and original purchases. On the private side, J.D. Ferries-Rowe has seen grant opportunities expand over the years, primarily because businesses, including tech companies, are keen to nurture talent and ultimately bolster their potential workforce.

As chief information officer at Indianapolis-based Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, Ferries-Rowe contends that the key to successfully getting private grants is making the case. “Develop a convincing case and you can approach businesses,” he says. “We go to businesses that are affiliated with our school. Or we go to businesses that parents own. We make the case that our coding efforts are valuable, and then say, ‘Here is what we need.'”

Numerous private grants are available from various tech companies. Teacher Geek lists STEM grants by state. You can also find updated grant listings at

Using Free Tools and Negotiating Deals

“We teach coding and basic digital citizenship [to every freshman] as basic as and the Scratch programming environment []” said Ferries-Rowe. Both are free. “We use free programs to make sure we get 100 coverage coverage for all the kids. We quickly enhanced the Scratch part of that curriculum by adding Makey Makey Boards. You can find these in bulk from China for $25 per unit (retail $50). Since we work in teams of three, we were able to cover an entire classroom worth of Makey Makey Boards for $300.”

Brebeuf recently started doing coding-related virtual reality (VR) design using “co-spaces” which sells blocks of student licenses in groups of 50 for $75. Ferries-Rowe explains: “You can go to a company with a real dollar sign pitch and say, ‘Here’s how much it costs for an individual license to co-space, and we want 50 licenses to do the following projects and skills that you as a company are looking for. Can you help us with that funding?’ If you go in with a pitch that has an actual goal and a real world number, along with the number of students that will be impacted, they are much more likely to give. You can pass the virtual hat.”

6 takeaways from Treasury fintech report: National charter, breaches and more – American Banker

One of the biggest recommendations by Treasury was an endorsement of OCC plans to create a new federal bank charter for fintech firms. The bank regulatory agency appeared to be waiting for that official backing, since hours later the OCC announced that it was moving ahead with accepting charter applications.

For years, the agency was weighing the charter idea, before Comptroller Joseph Otting took the helm last year. But the concept ran into several obstacles, including legal challenges by state regulators, who argued the agency did not have the authority to charter and supervise fintech firms on a national scale. The OCC developed the plan under former Comptroller Thomas Curry.

“Treasury recommends that the OCC move forward with prudent and carefully considered applications for special purpose national bank charters,” the report said.

However, it added that fintech firms receiving such a charter “should not be permitted to accept FDIC-insured deposits, to reduce risks to taxpayers” and the Federal Reserve should decide whether those firms should have access to the payments system.

The Treasury also recognized that state regulators play a role in harmonizing licensing requirements across states, an initiative that some states have already launched earlier this year after many fintech firms said the state-by-state process is cumbersome and outdated.

“Treasury supports state regulators’ efforts to build a more unified licensing regime and supervisory process across the states,” the report said. “Such efforts might include adoption of a passporting regime for licensure.”

The Treasury also added that if state regulators “are unable to achieve meaningful harmonization across their licensing and supervisory regimes within three years, Congress should act to encourage greater uniformity in rules governing lending and money transmission to be adopted, supervised, and enforced by state regulators.”

Pushing The Ethical Boundaries Of Big Data: A Look At China’s Social Credit Scoring System – Forbes Now

Big data analytics is rapidly transforming our lives. This information alters how we interact, make decisions, conduct business, track performance and measure outcomes. Emerging tools and techniques increasingly allow organizations to aggregate data into large, integrated systems that can predict patterns of consumer purchases, preferences and behaviors.

So-called model citizens of “social trustworthiness” are depicted on a board in Rongcheng, China on January, 17, 2018. (Andreas Landwehr/picture alliance via Getty Images)

There is much good to be gained from data science, but the negative side includes concerns over data privacy, risk management and cybersecurity, not to mention valid ethical debates over the fairness of digital divides, open access and the democratic use of public information. Now there is a new system being pioneered in China that has the potential to encompass many of these concerns: the creation of social credit scores by the government for its citizens. Will China’s social credit scores represent a grand technological breakthrough for society or ultimately be an example of ethical quicksand?

Let’s first understand what social credit scores mean. Imagine if data from your social media, voting records, financial information, online purchasing, credit history, tax payments, legal matters, etc. was gathered into your social credit score (SCS). This massive database could also use information from your health-tracking apps, your location via geo-tracking software, personal information via facial recognition software, and facts about your relationships, friends and family. This is not purely futuristic science fiction.

In 2010, the Chinese government launched a social credit score pilot program in a province just north of Shanghai that awards points for trustworthiness and deducts points for negative behaviors. This pilot system provides incentives for those with a high social credit score such as priority access to public housing, travel visas and job promotions. A number of other providences subsequently adopted similar systems that gather financial, social and other information on China’s 1.3 billion citizens. Right now, this system is designated as “optional.” The plan outlined by the Chinese government is to make their citizen scores mandatory and publicly available by 2020.

Beyond traditional concerns over data privacy and cybersecurity, this form of social ranking poses deeper ethical dilemmas. First, the dilemma of conformity vs. coercion is central to address. The purpose of incentives is to reinforce positive behaviors and issue punitive measures to deter negative actions. Some scholars argue that this is merely government trying to use a system that feels like a game to create universal conformity. It is one thing to reward positive behavior, but one could argue that the introduction of penalties for “untrustworthiness” produces consequences for lack of adherence to government-mandated social behaviors. How the scoring algorithm is defined is a critical ethical issue because social values and norms can quickly be overridden by pressure to comply with laws and regulations. Government-imposed sanctions and penalties can become coercive if there is not an adequate system of checks and balances. Issues of individual choice, rights and freedom may succumb to government-enforced standards when the social credit system becomes mandatory.

The use of big data analytics to credit social credit scores is being pioneered by the Chinese government (Shutterstock).

A second ethical dilemma is the issue of transparency vs. trafficking. The use of gamification with social status scores means that both your absolute score and position relative to others is important. On the positive side, public disclosure of people’s rankings provides points of comparison and transparency. However, it can create an unintended incentive for individuals to use unethical or underground means to improve their overall score and their relative position. As Rachel Botsman writes in Wired, “we are bound to see the birth of reputation black markets selling under-the-counter ways to boost trustworthiness.” Individuals with financial means can use their wealth to increase their score. The trafficking of ways to improve one’s SCS is similar to what we have seen within the U.S. with predatory businesses that take advantage of individuals seeking to improve their financial (FICO) credit score.

As these underground or predatory businesses emerge to raise individuals’ SCS scores, a third ethical dilemma may emerge. The type of scoring system may not measure trustworthiness; it may merely segregate people into privileged and non-privileges classes. The notion that incentives will provide special access to individuals with high social credit scores raises the question of whether these systems ensure privilege or profiling. Those with acceptable or high scores will have greater access to job opportunities, social activities, travel visas, educational opportunities and the ability to borrow money. Employers can use these scores to sort individuals on “trustworthiness,” which may preclude people from being considered for types of employment where this screening dimension is deemed necessary. With this massive amount of data publicly available, there will be a drive to identify the factors that predict trustworthiness, which can ultimately lead to social profiling using big data analytics tools. Who gets access and who does not may be left to predictive analytical models that sometimes ignore the ability of social and educational systems to create transformative opportunities for individuals, especially those who start from underprivileged backgrounds.

There are other ethical issues that public social credit systems may present. If unaddressed, these issues can become an ethical quicksand that widens the divide across people through the use of a socially constructed algorithm of “trustworthiness.” These ethical issues must be discussed, debated and addressed before social credit systems become the new global norm. It is important for people to challenge the ethical assumptions that underly public ratings of citizenship.

Do these social credit systems represent an opportunity or are they ethical quicksand? I wonder what George Orwell would say.

Senator Mark Warner Drops New Policy Proposals For Regulating Tech –

The team at Facebook is not having a great week, as it seems all of its recent data scandal chickens have come home to roost. Last Wednesday, its market cap took a $120 billion beating in the aftermath of earnings that fell short of revenue and earnings targets. Analysts say this is the first indication that the animus over the Cambridge Analytica issue could have a longer-term impact on three dimensions of its platform: advertisers, users and the cost to run the platform.

Two days later, Facebook and its executive team found themselves named in a class-action lawsuit – actually, several of them – alleging that the social network made false and misleading statements related to the decline of monthly active users prior to the second-quarter earnings report.

Over the weekend, Last Week Tonight served up its own version an “honest Facebook” ad – in a parody of the apology ad they offered up a few weeks ago – that was pretty brutal and immediately went viral.

And then today, three-and-a-half months after Mark Zuckerberg spent about 10 hours testifying in front of senators and congress people to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica incident (and explaining the internet to our elected representatives), the other shoe dropped when it came to the long-speculated subject of the federal government regulating big tech.

Virginia Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a policy paper detailing 20 options for the government to start regulating big tech a lot more closely.

“The speed with which these products have grown and come to dominate nearly every aspect of our social, political and economic lives has in many ways obscured the shortcomings of their creators in anticipating the harmful effects of their use,” the report stated in its opening paragraphs. “Government has failed to adapt and has been incapable or unwilling to adequately address the impacts of these trends on privacy, competition and public discourse.”

Thanks, Facebook, for being the catalyst for that.

What It Targets (and Why)

In fairness to Facebook, it is far from the only target of the regulations. Though the site was uniquely and specifically called out in the report for its various failings around the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Senator Warner’s report made it very clear that Facebook was the most visible problem at present, but not the only one.

In fact, reports called out most of the biggest and brightest names in technology as falling under the scope of the regulatory options being put forward: Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon and Apple were all name-checked within the first hundred or so words.

And why not? There’s nothing like hovering near the $1 trillion market cap to cause policy makers to suspect that you must be doing something wrong.

The report did note that all of these firms deserved both credit and praise for technological transformation they have engendered around the world. It also logged that much of what these firms do in terms of tracking data is actually predicated on the perfectly sound goal of providing better customer service across the board.

“User tracking can have important consumer benefits – for instance, by showing users more relevant ads and helping to optimize user experience across different apps.”

The problem, according to the report, is that all the opportunities for consumer harm that also exist in tracking and compiling extensive data profiles for consumers – particularly in light of the fact that these profiles and their contents are largely unknown to the customers to whom they refer.

The report notes that pervasive tracking can give businesses a chance to use behavioral data on a customer’s shopping and spending habits and exploit it to “drive engagement with an app or service.”

Or use it in ways that consumers like.

It can also influence the path a democracy might take, the report noted, referring specifically to the Cambridge Analytica scandal – or have an effect on a consumer’s life in a way that he or she might not have reasonably expected.

Assuming, it appears, that the impact on that consumer’s life as a result of those technologies is probably negative.

The good news, according to the report, is that there are “numerous opportunities” for policymakers, stakeholders and technologists to work together to operate to the broader advantage of “society, competition and broad-based innovation.”

“[The goal] is to make sure that we are adopting appropriate safeguards to ensure that this ecosystem no longer exists as the ‘Wild West’ – unmanaged and not accountable to users or broader society.”

So, how to get there?

The Suggested Regulations

There are a lot of suggestions in the report, but probably the most eye-catching is the suggestion that the U.S. adopt a GDPR-like legislation.

These new regulations would require tech companies to obtain individual consent to use consumer data, notify customers of a data breach within 72 hours and allow people to access their personal data and take it with them if they switch digital services. The Warner paper further recommends that some of the regulations can be legislated separately, as opposed to as a single parcel of rules, a la what just went into effect in the EU.

Also particularly eye-catching is a move to redefine a wide range of tech firms, including Twitter, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Comcast, Verizon and Microsoft as “information fiduciaries.” This wholly de novo legal term would require firms to protect consumer data and not utilize it for their own benefit or for the benefit of third parties. This proposal, many critics have already noted, would effectively destroy the business model of several of these firms, and countless others.

It also reflects a similar lack of understanding that the regulators across the pond have for what these platform businesses do, how they are constructed and how those business models work.

A smaller-scope version of that proposal – which watchers agree would at least be less damaging – would simply treat many of these firms as the media companies they have long resisted being dubbed, and make internet platforms accountable to defamation and invasion of privacy laws, much as news media outlets already are.

On the less controversial side of the suggestions, the paper also advocates for media literacy in schools, including a public initiative to begin internet education early in life. The proposal also recommends beefing up military spending for the prevention of cyberattacks, as well as elevating sanctions and punitive measures against nations like Russia that already have a history of attacking U.S. institutions through disinformation campaigns and various types of cybercrime.

What’s Next

Given that 87 million people’s data was leaked via the Cambridge Analytica scandal – and the outrage that came along with it – regulation proposals were almost certainly a guarantee.

How well the regulators understand what they are regulating remains an open question. The report, for example, calls out various online lending platforms that include “social media data” to make underwriting decisions.

“Users have no reason to expect that certain browsing behavior could determine the interest they pay on an auto-loan, much less that what their friends post could be used to determine that,” the report wrote.

A sound point – though PYMNTS has interviewed dozens of online lenders over the last nine years, and zero percent use things likes social media history and browsing data (or friends’ posts) to make underwriting decisions.

In fact, the vast, vast majority don’t use that kind of data for underwriting decisions at all – though they do often use it as a tool to establish identity. The reason is that social media data and browsing is highly curated and not all that informative. It’s hard to manipulate financial data – consumers paying their bills on time is what underwriters tend to look at most.

Using “alternative data streams” doesn’t mean looking at Facebook or Twitter to make underwriting decisions, it means looking at things like rent and phone bill payments that aren’t represented in traditional credit reports. That point of confusion seems to make a case that Senator Warner and other regulators perhaps have a bit more research to do before letting the ink dry on any new regulations.

But it seems that no matter what, regulation is soon coming to big tech. David Redl, a senior U.S. Commerce Department official who oversees the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, noted in a speech on Friday that the administration is currently hard at work on a data privacy doctrine. While Senator Warner’s regulations do come from a Democrat, the Trump administration might welcome a rare chance to work across the aisle and collectively get some regulations in place.

Which means change is likely coming to the regulatory world in which big tech lives.

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Emergency room errors caused largely by faulty cognitive processes, study finds – Healthcare Finance News

Almost half of medical errors in the emergency room are due to problems with information processing, according to a new study published in De Gruyter’s Journal Diagnosis. This issue is not related to technology — it’s a cognitive shortcoming, and accounts for 45 percent of all ER errors.

Care quality in the ER matters, and not just in terms of the patient’s health. Consumerism in healthcare is creating an industry in which patients increasingly call the shots, opening up their wallets to hospitals and providers with the best reputations and online ratings.

Payers also increasingly link reimbursement to quality, creating a financial incentive for hospitals to offer a tip-top experience.

Medical errors are estimated to cause 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S., the report found, and it suggested that errors are due to the way doctors cognitively process the data they have about patients. In other words, doctors have the right information, but might not act on it in the best way.

The emergency department is a very different clinical environment than inpatient wards, with frequent interruptions and often incomplete or unreliable information. Despite this, the study shows that doctors in an emergency department with trainees make similar types of errors to those made with admitted patients — more information processing errors are made than errors of inadequate knowledge or inadequate information.

Researchers looked at patients who came back to emergency departments a second time within 72 hours and were admitted to the hospital on their second visit, an indicator that care could have been improved during the first visit. A trained team of physicians looked at each case to determine whether the team during the patient’s first visit might have made a mistake, and if one was found, determined the type of mistake that was made.

The most frequently identified type of error (45 percent of cases) was a problem with information processing, followed by problems with verifying information that was gathered (31 percent).

Inadequate knowledge (6 percent) and inadequate information gathering (18 percent) occurred relatively infrequently. Misjudging how significant a finding was and prematurely deciding on an incorrect diagnosis were the individual errors that occurred most frequently (13 percent each).

Lacking in the study was an underlying reason why these cognitive errors occurred, but previous research has shown that physician burnout can negatively impact decision-making and overall care quality.

The study found that patients with abdominal complaints may be particularly vulnerable to these types of errors, through the reason for this remains obscure.

Twitter: @JELagasse

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