Digital technologies – such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, cognitive computing, big data, automation, the Internet of Things, advanced robotics and blockchain – are affecting many occupations, both jobs and tasks. The types of skills being demanded by employers are also changing, causing disruption in the task and skill profiles of traditional occupations, such as those in the manufacturing sector. The gig economy also emerged, with people working flexible hours, often producing deliverables with the help of technology.
In my previous blog I highlighted some of the effects the drivers of change are having on the types of skills anticipated for the future labour market, such as readiness to change. Now I would like to look deeper into current and emerging digital innovations for acquiring agility and resilience through Life Long Learning (LLL).
Adopting the LLL approach can help all countries, both developed and developing, not only to produce digital catalysts and entrepreneurs for the labour market, but also an agile and digitally savvy workforce – young and old – who are skilled, re-skilled, and up-skilled to adapt to technology affecting their careers.
This requires investment in digital skills through the education system, vocational skills training across age groups, and investment by enterprises in the training of workers. For example, new learners can start with core, generic, digital skills such as basic digital literacy, sending emails and using social media. They could then advance to learning programming skills, customer management skills, and digital media and design. Thereafter, more advanced learners could opt for acquiring specialized ‘Industry 4.0’ digital skills for creating, managing and maintaining advanced technologies in the manufacturing sector.
To unfold this digital education and training strategy, and work towards developing and implementing a digital learning policy, countries need to have both trainers and infrastructure. Interestingly, both low and high-technology can facilitate LLL in a cost-effective manner.
Digital technology is being increasingly used worldwide to provide greater, low cost, access to high quality, personalized learning, through online videos, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), online learning portals, mobile applications, and challenge-based games. Instructors and schools are using digital technologies to track the learning outcomes of educational programmes using assessment exercises that capture individual learner progress through tablets and smartphones.
The results are presented on virtual dashboards for instructors. Programmes utilizing artificial intelligence and data analytics then identify trends in computerized databases, and produce reports for learners and parents on areas of improvement. Computerized Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) and Labour Market Information Systems (LMIS) can provide information on access to education, and assessment results by gender and the location of schools (e.g. urban/rural). Low-end digital technologies such as pre-recorded educational videos, satellite-based tools, television and radio programmes are also very powerful tools in reaching learners from vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, even in remote areas. Cross-country technology transfer and knowledge-sharing are the keys to demystifying and delivering the benefits the technology revolution offers. Employers’ and workers’ organizations frequently have a leading role in life-long learning, including anticipating future skill requirements and participating in their delivery.
So, can we use innovation to steer LLL? Yes, we can. Whether you are a young person looking for a job, a worker worried about losing your job because of increasing automation, or, someone who is simply in awe of the different technologies, acquiring new skills that meet changing market demands could improve your employability, and this can be achieved through modern technologies.
VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University is one of the best colleges and universities in the nation when it comes to distance education, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 Best Online Programs rankings released today.
This is the eighth year U.S. News and World Report has numerically ranked online degree programs, with the annual rankings being described as one of the most extensive evaluations of United States-based distance education programs ever published. VSU earned coveted spots on the publication’s 2019 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs and 2019 Best Online Graduate Education Programs lists.
Best Online Bachelor’s Programs
VSU came in at No. 137 on U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs list. A total of 367 public, private, and for-profit institutions of higher education were evaluated in this category.
“VSU’s Center for eLearning has worked hard with faculty to make competitive classes and programs for online delivery,” said Jarrod K. Murray, associate director of VSU’s Center for eLearning. “With an environment that is always changing and improving, our team communicates both internally and externally to find proactive and adaptable solutions. As we listen to the needs of our students and faculty, we seek to overcome any challenges with new innovative approaches as well utilizing proven methods. We work as a unit to actively support our students and faculty so that they can have the best college experience, even at a distance.”
Best Online Graduate Education Programs
VSU came in at No. 139 on U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 Best Online Graduate Education Programs list. A total of 311 public, private, and for-profit institutions of higher education were evaluated in this category.
“It is an honor to be acknowledged as one of the top colleges in the United States providing online degrees and courses,” said Dr. Bernard Oliver, dean of the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services. “This is a true testimony of the dedication and commitment of the faculty to develop educational programs that address the educational needs of a diverse population. The recent focus in higher education on personalized learning, competency based learning, and academic certificates suggests that the Dewar College of Education and Human Services is innovative and entrepreneurial in meeting the changing educational needs in higher education. This is a true testament of our vision of providing accessible evidence-based knowledge to enhance teaching, learning, and human development.”
The Dewar College of Education and Human Services is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and all initial educator preparation programs are approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Several of the college’s online educator preparation programs are nationally recognized by their Specialized Professional Association (SPA).
Online Programs at VSU
VSU offers more than 60 bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and doctoral degrees; endorsements; certificates; minors; and more online.
Undergraduate students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, office administration and technology, organizational leadership, or psychology; a Bachelor of Arts in French language and culture, legal assistant studies, or Spanish language and culture; a Bachelor of Applied Science in human capital performance; a Bachelor of Business Administration in management; and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in emergent media and communication.
Graduate students can pursue a Master of Education in adult and career education, curriculum and instruction in accomplished teaching, education leadership, elementary education, health and physical education, instructional technology and training, instructional technology, or middle grades math and science; a Master of Science in criminal justice; a Master of Arts in Teaching in English to speakers of other languages, foreign language education, health and physical education, special education deaf and hard of hearing education, special education adapted curriculum, or special education general curriculum; a Master of Arts in English studies for language arts teachers; a Master of Business Administration in healthcare administration or through the Georgia WebMBA initiative; a Master of Library and Information Science; a Master of Public Administration or Doctor of Public Administration; an Education Specialist in coaching pedagogy in physical education, educational leadership, instructional technology, school counseling, special education, or teacher leadership; and a Doctor of Education in leadership or curriculum and instruction.
Students have opportunities to enhance their education and training through the pursuit of a certificate in online teaching, European Union studies, nonprofit management, public management, Spanish for professionals, and teaching English to speakers of other languages; certification in educational leadership, performance-based leadership, or school library media; an endorsement in English to speakers of other languages, gifted education, online teaching, or reading education; and a minor in coaching, French, nutritional science, psychology, or Spanish.
VSU also offers students an accelerated option for completing all of the core coursework for a bachelor’s degree in a non-science major in as little as three semesters. Through SmartPath Core, these classes are never full, always available, offered in eight-week sessions, and taught by VSU faculty.
U.S. News and World Report Rankings Methodology
To determine this year’s rankings, U.S. News and World Report looked at the following:
• Engagement: Quality online graduate education and bachelor’s programs promote participation in courses, allowing students opportunities to readily interact with their instructors and classmates, as is possible in a campus-based setting. In turn, instructors are not only accessible and responsive, but they are also tasked with helping to create an experience rewarding enough that students stay enrolled and complete their degrees in a reasonable amount of time.
• Services and Technology: Programs that incorporate diverse online learning technologies allow greater flexibility for students to take classes from a distance. Outside of classes, strong support structures provide learning assistance, career guidance, and financial aid resources commensurate with quality campus-based programs.
• Student Excellence: Students entering with proven aptitudes, ambitions, and accomplishments are better equipped to handle the demands of rigorous coursework. Furthermore, online degrees that schools award judiciously will have greater legitimacy in the job market.
• Faculty Credentials and Training: Strong online programs employ instructors with academic credentials that mirror those of instructors for campus-based programs, and they have the resources to train these instructors on how to teach distance learners.
• Expert Opinion: A survey of high-ranking academic officials helps account for intangible factors affecting program quality that are not captured by statistics. Also, degrees from programs that are well respected by academics may be held in higher regard among employers.
Call the Center for eLearning at (229) 245-6490 to learn more about online education opportunities available at VSU.
Blockchain has shifted from hype to reality across many industries including Financial Services, Supply Chain, Retail, Healthcare and Government. While traditional tech and crypto organizations are generally male dominated, women have embraced blockchain technology from its inception. This is no more evident than at companies where women occupy many of the blockchain roles and leadership positions. Join this panel to hear three women in blockchain share their experience and their POV on the future of blockchain.
René Bostic is the Technical Vice President of Innovation and New Technologies for IBM Cloud. She is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies to include Blockchain. Cloud Expo named René a faculty member for both their 2017 & 2018 Conferences. In addition, she was a speaker at the O’Reilly Software Architecture Conference (New York), Cloud Expo Europe (London), AdTech (London), Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Germany (Berlin), Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Russia (Moscow), Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Prague (Czech Republic), Armenia Blockchain Forum (Yerevan, Armenia), Blockchain Shift (Miami, Florida) and IBM Think Roadshows (USA/Canada). René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a member of the Society of Information Management (SIM).
Laura Loughran is a Product Manager within IBM’s Blockchain group. Laura’s team is bringing to market the IBM Food Trust Solution, a Blockchain ecosystem bringing transparency in the food chain, accountability, and traceability to retailers, suppliers, farmers and more. Prior to IBM Blockchain, Laura spent 3+ years working in a number of roles at IBM. She brought to market a predictive analytics solution for marketers, and also spent time in management consulting and graphic design. Laura studied Politics at Princeton University. She currently resides in New York, NY.
Carolyn Rogers is a Blockchain Offering Manager at IBM, responsible for go-to-market and strategy for the IBM Blockchain Platform. Previously, Carolyn served in strategic marketing roles across IBM Cloud, Ecosystem Development, and Corporate Advertising. She received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and is currently pursuing an MBA at NYU Stern.
Adam Mastrelli (Moderator) works in Strategy & Business Development for IBM Blockchain Ecosystem and is a proven problem solver and promoter. Adam has designed his life to avoid complacency and has crafted an expansive range of experiences that include documentary filmmaking, professional stage and film acting, and NGO management. Adam received his BA in from Duke University and an MBA in Finance from the University of Florida. He continues to push himself in every aspect of his life, completing the New York City marathon and the 56-mile Comrades ultra marathon in South Africa. He is proficient in Italian and Spanish and can make small talk in Swedish and Zulu. He thrives on new technologies, global experiences, and the next challenge that lies ahead.
Lessons Learned as Businesses Exchange Value and Information with Blockchain Technologies
Are you curious about the future of Blockchain? Viewed as both an opportunity and a threat, Blockchain technology is allowing your business to reimagine business networks and the fundamental ways they exchange value and information. Blockchain has shifted from hype to reality across many industries including Financial Services, Supply Chain, Retail, Healthcare and Government. Supported by the Linux Foundation’s open source, open-standards based Hyperledger Project, Blockchain has the potential to improve regulatory compliance, reduce cost as well as advance trade. Come to this session to understand what the future holds for Blockchain by taking a closer look at lessons learned and recent innovations.
Blockchain for Business
Blockchain is a shared, secure record of exchange that establishes trust, accountability and transparency across business networks. Supported by the Linux Foundation’s open source, open-standards based Hyperledger Project, Blockchain has the potential to improve regulatory compliance, reduce cost as well as advance trade. Are you curious about how Blockchain is built for business?
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throughout enterprises of all sizes.
CloudEXPO Has Been the M&A Capital For Cloud Companies
CloudEXPO has been the M&A capital for Cloud companies for more than a decade with memorable acquisition news stories which came out of CloudEXPO expo floor. DevOpsSUMMIT New York faculty member Greg Bledsoe shared his views on IBM’s Red Hat acquisition live from NASDAQ floor. Acquisition news was announced during CloudEXPO New York which took place November 12-13, 2019 in New York City.
Our Silicon Valley 2019 schedule will showcase 200 keynotes, sessions, general sessions, power panels, and hands on tutorials presented by 150 rockstar speakers in 10 hottest conference tracks of 2019:
CloudEXPO is the single event where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discus cloud computing and all that it entails. For more than a decade, sponsors and exhibitors of CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities through our following unique tools. For more information on sponsorship, exhibit, and keynote opportunities call us at 954 242-0444 or contact us ▸ Here
Featured on-site presentation and ongoing on-demand webcast exposure to a captive audience of industry decision-makers
Showcase exhibition during our new extended dedicated expo hours
Breakout Session Priority scheduling for Sponsors that have been guaranteed a 40-minute technical session
Online advertising on 4,5 million article pages in SYS-CON’s leading i-Technology Publications
Capitalize on our Comprehensive Marketing efforts leading up to the show with print mailings, e-newsletters and extensive online media coverage
Financial enterprises in New York City, London, Singapore, and other world financial capitals are embracing a new generation of smart, automated FinTech that eliminates many cumbersome, slow, and expensive intermediate processes from their businesses. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 23rd CloudEXPO, June 24-26, 2019 at Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA will find fresh new content in full new FinTech & Enterprise Blockchain track.
DevOpsSUMMIT, Cloud-Native, and Serverless Computing Tracks at CloudEXPO Silicon Valley 2019
Cloud-Native thinking and Serverless Computing are now the norm in financial services, manufacturing, telco, healthcare, transportation, energy, media, entertainment, retail and other consumer industries, as well as the public sector.
The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
DevOpsSUMMIT at CloudEXPO expands the DevOps community, enable a wide sharing of knowledge, and educate delegates and technology providers alike.
Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation. DX encompasses the continuing technology revolution, and is addressing society’s most important issues throughout the entire $78 trillion 21st-century global economy.
DXWorldEXPO® has organized these issues along 10 tracks, 22 keynotes and general sessions, and a faculty of 222 of the world’s top speakers.
DXWorldEXPO® has three major themes on its conference agenda:
Technology – The Revolution Continues
Economy – The 21st Century Emerges
Society – The Big Issues
Global 2000 companies have more than US$40 trillion in annual revenue – more than 50% of the world’s entire GDP. The Global 2000 spends a total of US$2.4 trillion annually on enterprise IT. The average Global 2000 company has US$11 billion in annual revenue. The average Global 2000 company spends more than $600 million annually on enterprise IT. Governments throughout the world spend another US$500 billion on IT – much of it dedicated to new Smart City initiatives.
For the past 10 years CloudEXPO® helped drive the migration to modern enterprise IT infrastructures, built upon the foundation of cloud computing. Today’s hybrid, multiple cloud IT infrastructures integrate Big Data, analytics, blockchain, the IoT, mobile devices, and the latest in cryptography and enterprise-grade security.
Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. DX is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
About DXWorldEXPO LLC
DXWorldEXPO LLC is a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based trade show company and the creator of DXWorldEXPO – Digital Transformation Conference & Expo. The company produces and presents the world’s most influential technology events including CloudEXPO, DevOpsSUMMIT, and FinTechEXPO.
There is a new crop of prodigious teens that are expunging the old ways and blazing new trails on the African tech scene, and Ethiopia’s Betelhem Dessie might just sit atop the leaderboard of that talent-laden list.
The 19-year-old techie seems to be on the fast-track as she has blitzed her way through the ranks to become one of the youngest leaders in ‘Sheba Valley’ – the name given to Ethiopia’s buzzing tech ecosystem.
At a stage in her life when she’d probably be lauded by most for not flaunting a particularly tricky course in college, the Ethiopian ‘Supergirl’ is strutting her way through projects that would usually be considered no place for a person her age.
Betelhem Dessie With A Prototype Of ‘Sophia’
Image Source: morebranches.com
As Project Manager, Dessie calls the shots on various robotics programs run by iCog Labs; an AI and robotics lab operating out of Addis-Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. The company, which came into existence in 2013, takes pride in its flagship creation – ‘Sophia the Robot.’ And you won’t be wrong to think she also put in work on this one.
From as early as nine years of age, Dessie had her compass aligned for a steady course through a jolly voyage of coding. Now only 19, she already has claim to four software programs copyrighted to her name exclusively. And there’s more. Dessie has three other patents in collaboration with other organisations, while she is known to have as many as five other projects in the pipeline.
The only thing that adds more gloss to the shine of the achievements mentioned above is the fact that one of the programs she developed is currently being used by the Ethiopian government to map and monitor rivers that serve irrigation purposes in the country.
However, what now looks a lot like a meteoric rise did have something of the unlikeliest of starts. In a conversation with CNN, Dessie recounted the awakening that dealt her from a very early age.
She recalled having asked her father for money on her ninth birthday and getting turned down because there wasn’t any to give her on that day.
For a child her age, she would surely be pardoned for going into a tantrum fit, but little Dessie had other ideas. That singular disappointment, though understandable and seemingly inconsequential at the time, may have triggered something in the young girl which led her to carve out her path from such a young age.
Dessie’s father was a businessman who sold electronics out of a small store in Harar; a city in eastern Ethiopia. He earned a respectable income, but Dessie had decided to make her own money. With the materials she could access, she found herself a pet hustle in handling such tasks as video editing and pushing music files into the cell phones of customers. For her efforts, she made a few bucks, and before long, she had saved up quite a sum.
As rudimentary as that seems, that was kind of her first ‘valuable’ encounter with technology, and it was to mark the beginning of what has been an inspiring journey.
Exposed to new possibilities by the experience she garnered from her first small venture, she went ahead to improve and update her skills. Soon, she was handling computer maintenance and installing software. It was from here that she developed some of her computer skills and knowledge, while also working up a big appetite for tech and coding.
Although she is currently studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering at Addis Ababa Institute of Technology (AAIT), she has been at the center of various initiatives aimed at imparting coding and robotics skills to Ethiopia’s younger generation and fostering the development of tech in the country.
Forming part of her undertakings are such projects as Anyone Can Code (ACC), The Remus, Girls Can Code, and a host of others. Also, her position at iCog Labs meant that she was right in the mix during the development of Sophia – the world’s first humanoid robot who has bagged citizenship in Saudi Arabia, can display up to 60 unique facial expressions, and also carry a conversation.
Sophia The Robot, Image Source: thisisafrica.me
It’s almost criminal that not very many people are aware that the world’s first humanoid robot is the product of concerted efforts between a team of developers from one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, Ethiopia, and a Hong Kong-based robotics company known as Hanson Robotics. As a matter of fact, the famous Sophia the Robot was partly-assembled in Ethiopia.
With a client base that spans places the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, and China, iCog Labs is more than holding on its own on the tech scene. The company is also known to collaborate with the Ethiopian government on some hardware and software projects.
Indeed, with tech spaces like iCog Labs doing a good job of creating fast-rising cyberspace in Sheba Valley, it is little wonder why youngsters like Betelhem Dessie are rising fast.
Dessie appears to have made getting more young people involved in tech her current focus. In spite of her academic commitments, she still finds time to travel to different parts of Ethiopia and meet young scholars. Her mission? To inspire her country’s next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.
Her current project, Solve-IT, has her working with young people to uncover innovative, technological solutions to some of the problems faced by their respective immediate communities. , and 19-year-old Dessie is lead. Now, isn’t that some feat?
The first research on Apple’s Health Records initiative has been released and the research findings indicate that patients are generally satisfied with the app’s ease-of-use and feel that it improves their understanding of their health and has facilitated conversations with clinicians.
The University of California San Diego Health was an early adopter of the Apple Health Records feature, as one of the first 12 health systems to test the app, and researchers set out to gauge the initial reactions of patients to the new platform. The research, led by Christian Dameff, M.D., department of emergency medicine; Brian Clay, M.D., department of medicine, and Christopher Longhurst, M.D., department of pediatrics as well as CIO and associate CMO at UCSD Health, was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In January 2018, Apple announced that it would be testing the Health Records feature out with 12 hospitals, inclusive of some of the most prominent healthcare institutions in the U.S. Then in March, Apple tripled the number of health systems participating, from 12 to 39, and announced that the new capability was available to all iPhone users with the latest iOS 11.3 update. As of a January 10, 2019 update from Apple, about 160 provider institutions are on board with the project.
To gauge patients’ responses, UCSD Health researchers sent a brief, three-question, anonymous online survey to 425 patients who activated the personal health record feature in 2018. Of the 132 patients who responded, 96 percent indicated that they could easily connect their mobile devices to the platform and 78 percent said they were satisfied with using the feature. What’s more, 90 percent of survey respondents said the smartphone solution improved their understanding of their own health, facilitated conversations with their clinicians, or improved sharing of personal health information with friends and family. However, less than half (48 percent) reported improvement with all three of these outcomes, according to the research.
As of fall 2018, UC San Diego Health has hundreds of personal health record users who have downloaded thousands of clinical results and other pieces of medical information though the platform.
“As with many other new products and solutions, such enthusiasm is common from early adopters,” the researchers note. “The platform will need to prove that it is useful, sustainable, scalable, and actually improves health outcomes.”
The key questions are whether this personal health record will improve patient outcomes and lower costs while also increasing quality, the researchers wrote. “Three key developments may contribute to success: the ubiquity of mobile technology, the maturation of health data communications standards, and the widespread use of mobile software distribution platforms,” Drs. Dameff, Clay and Longhurst wrote.
The researchers note that interoperable personal health records are not a novel concept; unsuccessful attempts to collect digital patient records have been pursued by several major technology companies.
When Microsoft introduced HealthVault (2007) and Google launched Google Health (2008) personal health records, the first iPhone and Android devices had just been released, according to the UCSD Health researchers. “The newly launched Android Market and iOS App Store offered just hundreds of apps to download compared with the millions of apps available today. Thousands of apps on these devices are related to health or fitness. Since that time, smartphones have become the de facto standard for communication for consumers,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers also point out that if device manufacturers incorporate these features into the core smartphone operating system, this would lead to wide dissemination of these applications with a simple software update, and could possibly seamlessly push features to millions of patients.
“Although it remains too soon to draw firm conclusions, the continued development of patient-facing health care technologies by well-established technology companies suggests that the digital health care landscape may now be sufficiently mature to foster the broad adoption of personal health records. Whether these technological advances ultimately improve patient outcomes, lower costs, and improve quality remain the most important unanswered questions,” the UCSD Health researchers wrote.
The UCSD research is the first to gauge patients’ responses to the Apple Health Records feature, however, back in May, Orem, Utah-based KLAS Research published a report that gathered feedback from executives at all 12 of the early adopter health systems that partnered with Apple through the beta process. The report sought to validate the significance of Apple’s move. KLAS researchers spoke with healthcare executives at participating health systems to gauge their experience.
KLAS researchers note in the report that Apple’s revelation created a stir for at least a few reasons: Apple is a consumer-oriented healthcare outsider; Apple is attempting to make inroads where peers Google and Microsoft have failed; and the feature has the potential to impact millions of patients given the iPhone’s broad customer base.
According to the report, early participants say that Apple’s move is not just a marketing ploy and that it has both short-term benefits and long-term potential to impact how provider organizations interact with patients and how patients manage their health.
Close to 60 percent of respondents say they expect Apple’s “ready-to-go” patient-record portability to have an immediate positive impact, within zero to six months. Another 33 percent expect to see benefits from the Apple health records feature within six to 12 months. According to the report, one CIO said, “Honestly, there are no hurdles for us. The work effort to turn the app on is measured in days. There is no IT team that needs to do anything fancy or complicated. The wonder of this app is that the lift is tiny and the benefit is huge.”
KLAS researchers also looked at next steps and participants indicated that Health Records’ impact will depend on Apple’s ability to scale education, adoption, and data complexity. The KLAS report notes that there are over 2,000 hospital-based health systems in the U.S., and, in order to reach more than one-third of these, Apple will need to expand to EMR vendors beyond their current partners (athenahealth, Cerner, and Epic). According to KLAS data, back in March, of all the acute care hospitals in the U.S., only 5 percent are among the health systems that are participating. What’s more, 48 percent of hospitals of non-participating health systems use Apple partner EMRs (athenahealth, Cerner and Epic) and 47 percent of hospitals are currently using other EMRs (Allscripts, CPSI, Meditech).
“In terms of capabilities, participants say that being able to upload data back into the EMR will be vital and that eventually Health Records’ data model will need to support more detailed data than the C-CDA data elements handled today,” according to the KLAS report.
The KLAS report notes that, eventually, if this general capability is going to benefit all patients in the U.S., it will need to expand beyond Apple to other smartphone vendors. One CIO stated, “If an Android version becomes available that will be a home run for a lot of people.”
Although overall U.S. lead exposure rates have steadily declined over the past few decades, lead persists in our environment and continues to affect the health of individuals around the country. Indeed, at the height of the Flint, Michigan, lead contamination and water crisis in 2016, a Reuters report found that, in the United States, 3,810 communities had lead poisoning levels at least double those in Flint.1
Lead poisoning is completely preventable. But, because lead has no smell, taste, or color, communities and public health officials have significant challenges finding and measuring the presence of the toxic metal. One force driving this dynamic is technology: Accurately and reliably testing for the presence of lead in water, paint, soil, dust, and elsewhere requires the use of expensive technologies and advanced methods in analytical chemistry. This makes managing, reducing, and ultimately eliminating lead exposure incredibly difficult.
Meanwhile, recent research and early-stage technological developments point to promising new testing methods that would amount to a paradigm shift in how lead exposure is addressed.
This issue brief provides background on the U.S. lead crisis and summarizes legislative efforts to combat it. The brief then presents a new proposal for Congress to provide funding to advance these new testing innovations, accelerate their commercialization through competition, and bring forth 21st century approaches to environmental monitoring and public health.
Called the Lead Exposure Activity Detection (LEAD) Innovation Fund, the proposal is as necessary as it is timely. Currently, Congress is also working on an infrastructure bill that could go a long way toward tackling the persistent issue of lead.2 And while President Donald Trump’s administration recently released the Federal Action Plan to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure, the plan lacks the needed action steps proposed in this brief.3
Background on the U.S. lead crisis
Lead has long been known to be a toxin to humans. Seizures, coma, and even death can occur with high exposure rates to lead. Moderate levels of exposure can have lasting health implications, causing intellectual and developmental disabilities, emotional and behavioral problems—including ADHD and criminal behavior—as well affecting hearing, speech, and other growth and development issues.4
But there are no safe levels of lead exposure; any amount is harmful. Indeed, these health effects can occur even with minuscule amounts of lead in the blood stream, including below the blood-lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter—the reference point at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the initiation of public health actions.5
Children under the age of 5 are particularly vulnerable because their body, brain, and metabolism are still developing. However, low-dose lead exposure affects adults as well. A recent study estimates that, every year, 412,000 adult cardiac-related deaths in the United States can be attributed to low-level lead exposure.6 Another study within the past year demonstrated that low-level lead exposure from topsoil resulted in decreased fertility.7 In this sense, lead contamination is also a disability rights issue that requires a fundamental rethinking of supports and services, from early childhood education to care for aging residents.
Lead was once widely used across a number of major industries. It is a metal that occurs naturally, predominantly in the form of ore, in the Earth’s crust. Because of its malleability, low melting point, and resistance to corrosion, lead has been called the “useful metal” by various industries.8 Lead became ubiquitously used in paints, pipes and plumbing, gasoline, food containers, cosmetics, and many other everyday items.
As the health implications of lead became more widely known, however, industries ran campaigns to counter the growing body of criticism. For example, paint companies used to espouse the benefits of leaded paint.9 In many cities, leaded pipes were actually mandated due to highly effective lobbying campaigns by the lead industry.10
Eventually, laws and regulations caught up. Through the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act (LBPPPA), lead paint for use inside homes was banned in the 1970s, with important updates occurring in 1987 and 1992. Lead’s use in pipes was initially curtailed in the 1980s, with further legislative restrictions on the use of lead across plumbing systems occurring in 1996 and 2011 through amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. And leaded gasoline, which becomes airborne before settling in nearby soil, was ended through a phased ban in the 1990s, though some small airplanes continue to use leaded fuel.11 Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been addressing the use of lead in food, food wares, supplements, and cosmetics. For example, in October of 2018, the FDA issued a rule to limit the use of lead in hair dyes commercially sold.12
Each regulatory action limited the amount of lead being newly contributed to the environment, and public health benefits have followed: Elevated blood lead levels in children have declined significantly over the past two decades.13 Unfortunately, a heavy metal such as lead does not just disappear. And, given the complexity and costs involved, efforts to remove lead are slow going and unequally applied. Legacy lead thus persists in millions of homes and water systems as well as in the soil of playgrounds, gardens, and parks across the country. Indeed, more than one-third of all U.S. homes have lead somewhere in them.14 In 2015, water systems that were cited for lead violations served 18 million people.15
While lead exposure cuts across demographics, those affected by it are more likely to be low income communities of color living in substandard housing. Communities of color remain at increased risk for higher blood lead concentration.16
New efforts to gather data on lead exposure have led to startling results. A recent study of Chicago found that out of nearly 3,000 water samples, 70 percent contained lead.17 Two years ago, Pittsburgh—and, just within the last two months, Newark, New Jersey—made headlines by having highly visible lead-in-water situations.18 Chattanooga, Tennessee, residents recently learned of significant lead levels in their soil, while an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-led “first of its kind” effort is studying the same issue in Oakland, California.19
Moreover, many of the buildings meant to protect children are sources of lead exposure. A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report found that nearly half of schools surveyed across the country had not tested for lead in their drinking water within the past 12 months, but of those schools that did test, more than one-third found elevated levels.20 A 2018 Reuters investigation found that children of military families living on bases have suffered from high exposure to lead from paint within military-supplied housing.21
Challenges in addressing exposure to lead
There are many challenges inherent in lead remediation efforts, including the large costs that come with replacing lead pipes, replacing contaminated soil, and mitigating the lead paint present in millions of homes and buildings.
This brief highlights an underlying, foundational challenge to addressing the issue of lead: Right now, accurate, reliable, low-level detection requires sophisticated, expensive equipment that is typically found only in formal laboratories and college and university settings. The costs of simply detecting and tracking the presence of lead in schools, homes, and playgrounds is a barrier that needs to be addressed before real management of lead exposure can occur.
For instance, top-performing EPA water testing standards—specifically EPA Method 200.8—require Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) analysis.22 These machines cost over $100,000 and require significant training to learn how to operate and understand the results.23 This is true in other areas as well. Lead in paint testing requires handheld lead analyzers that can cost over $20,000.24 These costs add up quickly: The city of New York recently estimated that testing its 130,000 public housing units for lead would cost about $80 million.25
Meanwhile, there are some inexpensive do-it-yourself (DIY) lead-screening solutions available. Many stores, including home construction and improvement stores as well as online retailers and marketplaces such as Amazon, have lead-screening kits for sale. These tests—which can come in the form of a dipstick for water testing or pens and swabs to test paint and dust—use chemicals that react to lead and change colors to indicate the presence of the metal.26 However, these products do not produce results reliable enough to be fully recognized by the EPA, despite being sold in many stores.27 Indeed, no commercial DIY lead-testing kit has met the EPA’s criteria for both positive and negative findings.28 And, importantly, these analogue methods do not allow for quantitative analysis, which makes low-level detection near impossible.
The lack of low-cost, high-quality lead-testing tools is a problem for a number of reasons. First, it makes individual sample testing slow and inefficient. Samples often have to be sent to a lab and analyzed, and this takes time.
Second, the high cost of quality testing equipment makes testing prohibitive, meaning that institutions will test less often. This is a problem. The presence of lead in a water sample varies greatly depending on the volume of water collected, upstream disturbances, and time of day.29 This means that one-time tests are not always accurate indicators of the problem, and expensive testing methods and technologies hinder the ability of public health officials to do another round of testing.
Third, the high cost of testing puts the power of testing in the hands of institutions and companies that are able to afford the equipment and the professionals required. This leaves concerned parents and active citizen scientists with little power to understand the health of their home environment. They are subject to the timelines, process, and reliability of their local public health departments, which are chronically underfunded.30
The good news is that researchers have been exploring ways to move beyond this paradigm, and they have been making major gains. As one paper in the typically dry and understated European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry puts it, “The new developments in reusable, disposable, and affordable electrochemical [lead] sensors has been exciting.”31
Developments and recommendations
There are a number of promising technology and research innovations worth highlighting. For example, some researchers are manipulating bacteria into biosensors.32 Others are digitizing and integrating smartphone technology to create next-generation approaches to colorimetry.33 Still, others are advancing lower-cost approaches to using electricity to measurably excite lead ions.34
The development of these approaches goes beyond that found in formal research institutions. Two years ago, for example, an 11-year-old won a national competition with her low-cost device for testing lead in water.35 More recently, a group of young women won second place in a NASA-led competition for their approach to removing lead in water.36 Finally, aiming to accelerate the “smart cities” movement, multiple separate research efforts have aimed to develop cheap, continuous lead-monitoring devices that can stay within water pipes and report data via Wi-Fi or satellite.37
These are exciting developments; however, these technologies remain in the early stages of research, often with no clear path for commercialization. To accelerate these efforts and spur needed research in other areas, the Center for American Progress proposes a Lead Exposure Activity Detection (LEAD) Innovation Fund, detailed below.
The LEAD Innovation Fund
The proposed LEAD Innovation Fund, to be managed by the National Science Foundation, would accelerate the development of next-generation approaches to lead detection and monitoring. Specifically, it would focus on approaches that are smarter and cheaper and that better meet benchmarks set by federal agencies such as the EPA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The fund aims to address the underlying problems present with the current state of lead-screening and lead-monitoring technologies. Goals of this fund could include:
The development of improved low-cost, consumer-facing lead-screening tools that are fully recognized by the EPA or other relevant agencies and certification organizations
The development of technologies to identify the location of lead service lines
The piloting of the use of continuous monitoring sensors
The development of digital analyzers to supplant analogue analyzers
The spurring of research into the future of big data in digital environmental signaling
Among the mechanisms included in the proposed LEAD Innovation Fund is a multistage competition for the development of inexpensive, hand-held lead-testing technologies of both water and other substances that would give immediate, reliable results.
Over the past decade, prizes and challenges have proven to be appropriate and useful mechanisms to spur innovation in critical areas, and there are a number of federally managed challenges currently underway from which the LEAD Innovation Fund could take inspiration. For instance, the American-Made Solar Prize Challenge is a $3 million prize competition funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, designed to revitalize U.S. solar manufacturing.38 The Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX) is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Society of Nephrology to accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases.39 And the EPA, in partnership with four other federal agencies, is running the Nutrient Sensor Action Challenge, a multistage competition to spur the development of sensors to measure excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the nation’s waters.40
The LEAD Innovation Fund competition would build on these and other efforts. The fund would outline a set of targets, coupled with incentives, that researchers, entrepreneurs, and citizen scientists would need to meet in order to win each stage of the competition, from concept and ideation to prototype and scaling. As appropriate, outside partnerships, organizations, and investors would be incorporated.
Other mechanisms of the fund could spur innovative, classroom-based activities, and cultivate local partnerships to pilot community-driven approaches to lead exposure detection. For instance, the fund might run a competition where high school science students partner with a local college or university to develop ways to test their schools, homes, and playgrounds for lead. This would generate useful data on lead exposure rates while educating the next generation of scientists and cultivating critical local conversations on the impact the lived environment has on one’s health. Still, other mechanisms could go toward the data and technology infrastructure of public health, such as advancing the role of big data and predictive analytics to identify exposure risk and prevent lead poisoning.41
The cost of the proposed LEAD Innovation Fund is $25 million, which would cover prize money, programmatic administration, and other costs. The administering agency would be required to do due diligence market analysis and conduct research on effective competition design and other modern, open approaches to research and development funding opportunities. The fund would also help ensure that local efforts that expose the presence of lead within communities get connected to existing educational resources for how to limit exposure and to existing funding streams for remediation.
The LEAD Innovation Fund would spark important, transformative change that goes beyond just advancement in analytical methods and greater awareness of lead exposure rates within communities. By nudging the market toward digital solutions, the fund would accelerate modern, data-driven approaches to public health and environmental signaling.
By investing in continuous monitoring devices, the fund would also shift the paradigm beyond the limited capabilities of point-in-time testing and support the growing movement toward smart cities. Most importantly, by emphasizing the democratization of technology, the fund would spur developments in low-cost, handheld devices that would give power to individuals everywhere.
In short, this comparatively small, one-time investment in lead screening and detection technology would be a powerful lever for change with both short- and long-term positive returns for children, cities, and the future of public health.
Ulrich Boser is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Read Holman is a fellow at Public Lab, a community and nonprofit democratizing science to address environmental issues.
M.A. Del Toral, A. Porter, and M.R. Schock, “Detection and evaluation of elevated lead release from service lines: a field study,” Environmental Science and Technology 47 (16) (2013): 9300-9307, available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23879429#. ↩
Yifan Dai and Chung Chiun Liu, “A Simple, Cost-Effective Sensor for Detecting Lead Ions in Water Using Under-Potential Deposited Bismuth Sub-Layer with Differential Pulse Voltammetry (DPV),” Sensors 17 (5) (2017): 950-961, available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5461074/. ↩
CIOs bring perspective. “CIOs play a crucial role in helping auto manufactures embrace a digital-first strategy and focus investments on customer satisfaction, efficiency and standards,” says Chris Pick, founder of the TBM Council, a CIO trade group. CIOs across all industries are shifting roles from being “cost centers to value providers,” and having a greater influence on business-side decisions.
DOWNLOAD EXCLUSIVE: AI IN THE WORKPLACE
EY Finds Machines Can Work 24/7
Ernst & Young LLP is bullish on artificial intelligence’s potential to transform its professional services business both for clients and employees, despite broader societal concerns that the technology could displace human workers.
Jeff Wong, EY’s chief innovation officer, is focusing this year on expanding the company’s AI and automation initiatives after witnessing AI’s ability to significantly speed up work. There’s also growing demand for the technology among many of EY’s business units, he said.
The growth of AI could have negative impacts on society and human jobs, some experts say, but Mr. Wong disagrees. “The reality is that the return from AI, I think, is becoming really obvious and evident,” he said.
Case in point: the company spent the past 10 months developing a machine learning-based software program that can read hundreds of pages of contract documents and reduce the time it takes for humans to review and audit contracts, Mr. Wong said.
Now, humans review lease contracts, for example, in minutes instead of hours with the help of the program, he said. “Machines don’t get tired, they don’t take breaks, they can understand different terms across different lawyers and law firms that write different things,” he said. That frees up workers to focus on more interesting questions about contracts, such as the risks associated with them, he said.
Under Mr. Wong’s direction, the company is now training AI engines to read all types of business documents, ranging from annual reports to agreements and relevant business news. The goal is to build an AI-based program that could, for example, immediately provide a detailed report about how a specific transaction written about in a financial newspaper could impact a client’s business. The AI-generated report could include answers to questions about strategy behind the transaction, potential financial impact on the client’s market capitalization and impact on the client’s supply chain.
“We can get to that level of sophistication. We already do that as advisors, but (with AI) we could do it 24/7, instantaneously,” Mr. Wong said.
— Sara Castellanos
Defense Department cyber report: Not exactly encouraging.Motherboard draws the attention to a Jan. 9 cyber report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General which in the not-so-encouraging summary declares: “As of September 30, 2018, there were 266 open cybersecurity‑related recommendations, dating as far back as 2008.”
Facebook removes more Russian accounts. The social network said Thursday it removed several hundred Facebook and Instagram accounts and pages linked to two operations originating out of Russia. Reuters has more.
2004 is calling. When Motorola first released the ultrathin Razr V3 flip phone in 2004, it became an overnight status symbol, the WSJ’s Sarah Krouse and Rob Barry report. The new version from Lenovo Group Inc.revives the device as a smartphone with a foldable screen. Starting price is a very 2019 $1,500.
MORE TECHNOLOGY NEWS
Huawei targeted in U.S. criminal probe. Federal prosecutors are pursuing a criminal investigation of China’s Huawei Technologies Co. for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. business partners, including technology used by T-Mobile US Inc. to test smartphones, according to people familiar with the matter. The Journal’s Dan Strumpf, Nicole Hong and Aruna Viswanatha have more.
Adding to the case. The company has long been under scrutiny by the U.S., which has effectively blocked the company from installing its telecom equipment in major U.S. networks because of concerns that its gear could be used to spy on Americans.
Not a good month. Canadian authorities last month arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. authorities. She is accused of misleading banks about the nature of Huawei’s business in Iran. And Polish authorities last week arrested Huawei executive Wang Weijing and charged him with conducting espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.
And now Germany. The country, one of Huawei’s most important foreign markets, is now exploring ways to ban the use of its products in the country’s telecommunications infrastructure, the WSJ’s Bojan Pancevski reports. Germany is scheduled to host its auction for 5G spectrum licenses this spring
Google to raise GSuite prices.CNBC reports that the 20% price increase, with individual monthly rates for Gmail’s Basic Edition increasing to $6 from $5 and the Business Edition increasing to $12 from $10, will take effect April 2. Enterprise Edition prices will remain the same, CNBC says.
One IT firm’s work order: Poll-rigging for Trump. In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, Michael Cohen, then Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, paid a small IT firm led by John Gauger, currently CIO at Liberty University in Virginia, to rig online polls in his boss’s favor, the WSJ’s Michael Rothfeld, Rob Barry and Joe Palazzolo report.
Microsoft pledges $500 million to Seattle’s housing problem. The pledge to support affordable housing comes as the area suffers a shortage of about 305,000 housing units for middle- and low-income families, the WSJ’s Jay Greene reports. The Puget Sound region, home to Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc., has been among the nation’s hottest real-estate markets
WorkingIt. The WSJ’s Eliot Brown reports that Adam Neumann, founder and chief executive of office space giant WeWork Cos., has made millions of dollars by leasing multiple properties in which he has an ownership stake back to his company.
Fair trade. Some are discovering that as they remove Facebook Inc. from their lives, they are forgetting their friends’ birthdays. The WSJ’s Joanna Stern reports from the front lines of digital etiquette.
Augmented reality firm Niantic raises $245 million. Previous acquisitions by the Pokémon Go maker have bolstered its work in areas such as augmented reality, computer vision, neural networks and community building, says the WSJ’s Katie Roof.
AI firm Fractal Analytics raises $200 million. Based in India, the enterprise-focused tech company is valued at $500 million, CNBC reports.
When Charles Wolfram went to work at Studebaker’s South Bend, Ind., automobile plant after fighting in World War II, he was long on ambition but short on know-how. Nonetheless, he quickly found himself moving from unloading boxes with a small crane to a job that required more skill: torch soldering. From there, he became a metal finisher and, after that, a welder.
At each turn, Wolfram recalled, “I thought, you know, I’ll learn something different”—and so he did, all on the company’s dime. The top executives at Studebaker, Wolfram said, didn’t question that if someone came to the factory with “no experience, they had to train” him.
“We were geared to educating people,” Odell Newburn, another employee of the company during the 1940s and ’50s, remembered, adding that he’d always look back at the training he obtained as “very central to me.”
Two generations later, the prospect that U.S. corporations are going to teach new skills to their front-line workers has, by and large, gone the way of the Studebaker.
Over the past 18 months, my Drucker Institute colleagues and I have been working to figure out how to remedy this situation. Is it possible to build a new system that ensures people will have the tools they need to adapt, especially as workplace skills and knowledge are becoming obsolete on an ever-faster basis? In response, we’ve devised an innovative system of lifelong learning for South Bend that pulls together a wide range of players — employers, yes, but also educational institutions, government and nonprofit training entities, and community groups of all kinds. We aim to launch the system in early 2020, in collaboration with the office of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and the St. Joseph County Public Library.
We don’t have any illusions about how difficult it will be to get many businesses, in particular, to join in — in part because of how far we’ve come from the days of Wolfram and the Studebaker plant.
Like other elements of the social contract between employer and employee — job security, wages, health coverage and retirement benefits — corporate education has been scaled back over the past four decades. “Businesses are training far fewer workers than they did in years past,” the Center for American Progress noted in a recent paper on the topic. “And when businesses do train their workers, they tend to invest in the ones who are more highly educated or highly paid.”
There are prominent exceptions, such as Walmart and AT&T, and some businesses have started to dangle training as a way to attract workers amid the current tight job market. Yet scholars who have studied the issue leave no doubt: Corporate training has been on a steady decline overall. And unions, which once played a key role in training, have withered. The result is “a Catch-22,” the Brookings Institution’s Isabel Sawhill has pointed out. “Many jobs require experience or training, but how do you get that experience and training if you can’t get into a job that provides it in the first place?”
Resolving this dilemma is not only a necessity for affected workers and their communities: As artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies usher in what some call the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it’s also a social imperative for anyone wishing to rein in income inequality. “As automation advances, a widening gap between the top and bottom of the labor market is emerging,” the consultancy Korn Ferry warned last summer.
What can be done to fix what appears to be a growing disconnect among workers, jobs and skills? Some experts have proposed strategies to spur companies to pour more money into training, including changes to accounting rules and tax policy. Others, meanwhile, are asking employers to fit into a larger training ecosystem. Skillful, Opportunity@Work and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation are among those engaged in this kind of effort.
This is also the approach we are taking at the Drucker Institute as we prepare to build our lifelong learning system in South Bend. If it’s successful, we and our partner, the design firm IDEO, intend to assist other cities across America in adopting the model themselves. Walmart and Google.org, Google’s philanthropy arm, have taken the lead in funding the initiative.
What will our system look like?
Part digital and part physical, it will take what is a highly fragmented set of learning resources, identify those that have proved to be most effective, integrate them efficiently and make them available and inviting to the entire city — with an emphasis on ensuring that what’s being taught is relevant and accessible for the most economically vulnerable.
The hub of the system will be an online portal that will allow all of South Bend’s 100,000 residents to understand what skills are in demand based on timely employer input. It will then link them to opportunities to acquire those skills, hard or soft, either locally or through courses available on the platform. It will also let them sign up for mentoring sessions and job-shadowing experiences. And, crucially, it will keep a record of what has been learned through a badging and credentialing regime.
We will also use a network of physical spaces — including library branches and neighborhood tech centers — to supply wireless connectivity, host study groups and serve as a conduit to other support, like child care, to help workers train and study.
As we’ve laid the groundwork for our system, we have strived to consider the wants and needs of hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds from across South Bend. We’ve cultivated relationships with schools, colleges and universities; churches and neighborhood associations; workforce development agencies; and early-childhood and senior learning centers. We’ve also sought ideas from a host of companies in South Bend: General Stamping & Metalworks, Lippert Components, Ridge Auto Parts, LaSalle Hospitality Group and others.
What’s in it for them?
Like many employers throughout the U.S., those in South Bend complain that they can’t find enough workers with adequate skills. As our system gets up and running, it should be easier to do so, saving them time and expense. Indeed, we are confident that businesses in South Bend will eventually see such a positive return, they will help cover the system’s cost.
But we’ve also made clear that this isn’t a one-sided deal. Just as companies will be able to search the system to find qualified workers, workers will be able to search the system to find “preferred employers.” We’re still finalizing the details, but companies that receive this designation will need to give paid time or other incentives for their employees to use the lifelong learning system on a regular basis, as well as meet other criteria.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves. The era in which it was routine for companies to take prime responsibility for training workers like Charles Wolfram and Odell Newburn has passed.
But what we’re discovering is that employers are, in fact, willing to participate actively in a broader learning network — one in which players from across the community acknowledge that each has a contribution to make and that, by banding together, we can begin to tackle one of our nation’s most urgent challenges.
As Americans look to build the skills they need for the fast-changing job market, a new type of education provider has swept onto the scene: the coding boot camp, an intensive, short-term training program for students trying to land high-tech jobs.
Although they still account for a tiny share of American higher education, they’re growing fast; last year the camps graduated 20,000 students, 20 percent up from the previous year. As more workers sign up, the camps are drawing attention from policymakers as an efficient, job-focused alternative to a costly and complicated higher-education system.
“These nontraditional technology education models are part of the solution to closing the skills gap,’’ Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said when he introduced legislation to promote coding camps for military veterans in 2017.
The appeal is easy to see: Instead of the big, expensive infrastructure of traditional higher ed, boot camps tend to be small, adaptable and infused with the kind of startup mentality that drives much of the high-tech job market. And graduates tend to see quick results: Many get jobs quickly with a salary boost that easily covers the average $12,000 tuition.
As boot camps proliferate, policymakers in Washington have been asking whether the federal government should get behind the idea—specifically, by opening up some of the $130 billion it doles out annually in student loan guarantees and Pell Grants for higher education. Currently, this aid can be used only for accredited schools, which means students can’t use federal grants or loans for coding camps, which are unaccredited and largely operate as for-profit businesses.
But the Trump administration, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, wants to expand alternatives to traditional higher education and loosen some federal restrictions to make it easier for accredited colleges and universities to partner with boot camp operators.
The Obama administration had already dipped a toe in that water, experimenting with allowing a small amount of federal aid to go to coding boot camps, among other types of nontraditional education providers. And Congress in 2017 added $15 million in new funding for an expansion of the GI Bill to support veterans who want to train at a coding boot camp.
As the government gingerly experiments with coding camps, critics have warned that an infusion of federal money could open the floodgates to fraud and abuse by unscrupulous operators. The Obama-era experiment and the GI Bill pilot program both included provisions meant to measure effectiveness, but they’re so new thatthey haven’t begun yielding meaningful results.
Undaunted, the Trump administration is poised to double down on the idea. As part of a sweeping higher education overhaul, DeVos wants to make it easier for federal funds to flow to all types of alternative education providers, including coding camps.
Specifically, DeVos has proposed eliminating a longstanding federal restriction on accredited colleges outsourcing their educational programs to an outside, unaccredited provider. The current rule caps that outsourcing at 50 percent; the administration is considering allowing as much as 100 percent of a program to be outsourced while still being eligible for federal aid. So, a student could effectively attend a boot camp using federal loans, using an accredited college as a pass-through.
The Education Department proposal, which is part of a broad effort to loosen the federal reins on higher education, is aimed at allowing more innovation in higher education, officials said. Diane Auer Jones, a top DeVos aide leading the regulatory overhaul, said that the administration is focused on boosting university partnerships with employers; boot camps might be part of that, though the overall ambition is much larger.
“Where we really want to drive innovation, though, is in work-based learning,” Jones said last year. “I just don’t think that there are that many institutions that want to outsource 100 percent of a program to a coding boot camp. There could be some. I just don’t think that that is what we’re thinking about.”
Still, the proposal represents a significant expansion of the Obama experiment, which required coding boot camps to partner with traditional, accredited colleges and have a third-party organization monitor and track student outcomes as a condition of waiving the 50 percent outsourcing rule. The DeVos proposal seeks to eliminate that requirement for anyone.
Boot camps typically run three or four months and cost roughly $12,000, though in some cases as much as $20,000, according to Course Report, an industry publication. When the program works and a student lands a job, the investment pays off very directly: A December 2018 survey by Course Report found that boot camp graduates typically found a job within six months and reported an average jump in salary of nearly 50 percent, or roughly $21,000.
Without federal backing, students have to pay for the boot camps out of pocket, through private loans or tap another financing option. That may mean that lower-income students or those with credit problems might have a harder time accessing this type of education. Ensuring access to these programs to lower-income Americans was a prime motivation for the Obama-era policy.
Coding schools themselves are not advocating for federal funding. Liz Simon, vice president of legal and external affairs at General Assembly, one of the oldest and most prominent coding boot camps, said she would advise policymakers to proceed cautiously.
“We’ve seen examples in the past where federal aid has been exploited,” she said. The company sees creating access for low-income students as an important part of its mission, but it’s been able to accomplish that without federal financial aid.
“We’ve not felt like we’ve needed Pell Grants to reach a population of lower income students,” she said. Students who can’t afford to pay out of pocket typically pay through income-share agreements, where students commit to paying a percentage of their future earnings for a period of time.
As the industry has grown, it has faced some upheaval, and some high-profile problems. Two coding boot camps acquired by large for-profit education companies to much fanfare closed in 2017, both citing challenges in developing sustainable business models. A boot camp called Flatiron School in 2017 agreed to pay $375,000 to settle allegations by the New York attorney general that it had inflated claims about the success of its graduates. And Woz U, a coding boot camp that bears the name of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, has faced complaints by students about the quality of its program.
Critics worry that federal aid would only fuel a boom in fly-by-night operators, repeating the abuses of for-profit colleges as they rapidly expanded during the Great Recession. Driven by displaced workers seeking a way back into the workforce, the for-profit colleges often failed to deliver on their promises to students and fueled a massive increase in student loan defaults.
“The fear would be that you take taxpayers’ money and their trust that student aid is being spent to benefit students and you turn it into a boondoggle for a bunch of low-quality predatory training programs,” said Carrie Wofford, who helped lead a sweeping Senate investigation into for-profit colleges in 2012 and now leads the advocacy group Veterans Education Success.
This is why the Obama-era pilot programs included quality guardrails.Wofford and other veterans groups persuaded both Republicans and Democrats to add some protective provisions to the GI Bill benefits including a “pay for success”provision. “We crafted it so coding boot camp providers don’t get paid unless the veteran gets a job,” Wofford said, calling it a blueprint for setting minimum standards in any expansion of federal aid to such programs.
Ryan Burke worked on coding boot camps as White House economic policy adviser for President Barack Obama — and then went to a Flatiron coding boot camp herself as a student after leaving the administration. Now a manager at Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic venture of former Google executive Eric Schmidt, she’s a fan of boot camps but agrees that any federal support for the programs should be linked to their performance.
“Whether it’s a coding boot camp, community college or four-year school — for federal student aid, the question should be: ‘What are people’s wages before training and what are they after?’” Burke said. “If you get to a value differential, we’ll fund you.”
That’s actually a higher accountability standard than traditional universities face; federal loans can be used for education at accredited schools regardless of job or earnings outcomes. But in a fast-moving and unaccredited new industry, those accountability provisions are important, Burke said. “There’s huge risk in getting this wrong,” Burke said. “If you get it wrong, you lose a lot of the political capital to get it right.”
Michael Stratford is an education reporter for POLITICO Pro.
ATLANTA—On a blistering hot June day, Georgia State University incoming freshman Jaila Heathman found herself feted inside the football stadium by cheerleaders, football coach Shawn Elliott, grilled chicken sandwiches and the booming sound of “Uptown Funk.” The academic year wouldn’t start for two months, and Heathman wasn’t a handpicked athletic recruit or an academic star. In fact, she was someone who Georgia State’s computer system decided was just a bit underprepared for college.
Heathman had been invited to the stadium party by an algorithm. For the past seven years, Georgia State has been feeding student data into a “Moneyball”-style predictive analytics system, a custom piece of software designed to figure out who is ready to succeed in college, and how to keep them enrolled. By crunching numbers such as the student’s grades in critical classes like 10th-grade English, Georgia State identified Heathman as among the university’s weaker incoming freshmen, meaning she’s at risk of joining the 31 million Americans who started college and never finished. The stadium event was a highlight ofits Summer Success Academy, a pre-college academic prep program that coaches participants selected by the system on skills like managing time, reading textbooks and talking to professors.
“I feel like that shows how much effort they are willing to put into their students,” Heathman said. “A lot of schools, and even professors, they’ll just let you fail and not even care because you’re paying for the class.”
Georgia State’s leaders turned to predictive analytics to fix a long, perplexing problem in higher education: The 4 out of 10 students who start college and don’t finish in at least six years—some never. Education is supposed to be a ladder to prosperity, but in the decades-long push to open college doors wide, an unintended casualty has been the college dropout. The percentage of Americans who started college but didn’t earn a four-year degree has doubled since 1960, with an estimated 20 percent of working adults having some college credits, but no degree—a sign of dashed hopes and, often, the crush of student loan debt without the economic boost of a diploma.
In years past, it was just accepted at Georgia State—as it is in much of higher education—that this attrition was inevitable, and a large chunk of students like Heathman would simply fizzle out, to be replaced with a new crop of students. But pressure is growing to change this. The nation’s $1.5 trillion student loan burden weighs heavily on students and schools. The Great Recession reshaped the conversation in higher education to focus more on workplace skills and value. And better data make it easier to track graduation statistics; several states now have performance-based higher education funding systems—all factors pressing on universities to address the issue.
Georgia State isn’t the only university using “big data” to tackle the problem of college completion, but it stands out for two reasons: First, the program has been operating longer than most of the others, and second, because it has improved outcomes with low-income, first-generation and minority students—groups that have the hardest time succeeding in higher education.
For the past seven years, the university has monitored its 52,000 students using 800 different academic risk factors, from how well they’re doing in algebra to whether they’ve started to miss class regularly. It also tracks 14 financial indicators, like unpaid student debt. The goal is to catch students before they reach a crisis point and provide the advising and instructional help to get them through it.
Georgia State’s six-year graduation rate in 2018 was 55 percent, up from 48 percent in 2011 before the program rolled out. That might not sound earth-shattering, but when it comes to college completion, every percentage point is hard-won. The fact that its student body is disproportionately disadvantaged economically and socially also makes this progress notable. These days, Georgia State graduates more black students than any other nonprofit educational institution in the United States, according to an analysis by Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and minority students make up 71 percent of its student body. Nearly 60 percent of Georgia State’s students are eligible for Pell Grants, meaning many come from households making $40,000 or less.
For all these reasons, Georgia State has become a celebrity of sorts as universities desperately look for the secret sauce to improve college completion rates. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has visited the campus to see the data in action, as have Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and John B. King Jr., the Education secretary before her. College administrators from as far away as South Africa have come to observe first hand.
The question they are all trying to answer is whether Georgia State’s model is a one-off, or a recipe that can be duplicated elsewhere. Georgia State’s analytics program is hard to separate from the university’s broader investment in academic counseling, which has seen the school vastly expand its advising staff over the past seven years, from 13 professionals to more than 70—a big salary commitment for a cash-strapped state university.
Timothy Renick, a Princeton- and Dartmouth-trained religious scholar who is the Georgia State administrator overseeing the effort, says by adding the additional advisers, the university brought the student-to-adviser ratio down to 320 to 1, which is near the recommended standard by the National Association of Academic Advisers. He notes that while many universities have the same proportion of counselors, Georgia State is one of the rare large public universities whose black, Hispanic and Pell-eligible students have graduated at or above the overall rate of the student body the past four years. The university’s predictive analytics system has allowed it to move the needle, he says, in ways the others haven’t.
Still, even with that improvement, nearly half of Georgia State students still fail to graduate within six years. And skeptics of data-analytics programs have raised worries that their intensive student tracking borders on Big Brother-style surveillance—and on substitute parenting, at a stage in life when students have a right to privacy and should be rising and falling on their own decisions. For his part, Renick sees the ethical equation differently, calling the system a “moral imperative.”
“For generations, well-resourced institutions have been very willing to sell the promise of a college degree to low-income families. And these families have often trusted us their sons and daughters, and also their finances, taking out loans and putting great hope in the promises that we offer,’’ Renick said in an interview. “It’s about time we begin to deliver on promises that we’ve made.”
WITH THE EDGE of campus just a few blocks from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Georgia State has helped bring life to a gloomy section of downtown Atlanta as its ambitions grew over the past two decades from a commuter school to an urban residential campus, constructing new student housing and classrooms, taking over and renovating old office towers. The nerve center of the advising system is located on the fourth and fifth floors of a 26-story white stone tower that used to be a bank; Coca-Cola used to store its secret formula in a basement vault.
Eric Cuevas, the director of student success at Georgia State, said many universities put the student advising center in a basement office. “We get priority placement,” Cuevas said.
When academic counselor Emily Buis arrives at work each morning, she opens her computer to a “dashboard” and a spreadsheet she uses to track each of the 250-plus students she advises, and every interaction she has with each one. Thanks to the school’s prediction system, each student on her screen is identified with a “risk level” of green, yellow or red.She can also see the data behind why the student is coded this way; a STEM student underperforming in a math class, for example, might need extra attention.
The goal for Buis isto communicate by email, phone or in person at least once with each student assigned to her within the first four to five weeks of the semester. A few months later, Buis individually reviews each student’s registration for the next semester to ensure they are in the right classes to keep them on the path to graduation; those who haven’t registered get a phone call.
In between, an “early alert” from a professor to Buis with concerns about any aspect of a student’s performance will prompt her to reach out to the student. Sudden drops in GPA or low early quiz scores are cause for concern. She also reaches out to students assigned to her through various “campaigns”; one week, for example, she’ll check in with all her pre-journalism students. Buis said it sounds “cheesy,” but “all of my students are on my radar.”
The heart of Georgia State’s system is its predictive analytics engine, an algorithm built in 2012 with 10 years of data that included 144,000 student records and 2.5 million grades. It’s updated nightly, and the data is scoured to look for patterns in student performance.
Georgia State’s partner in developing the system was EAB, a Washington-based firm. Renick said the system—groundbreaking when it was developed—was built on ideas from the health care industry, where hospitals would scour large data sets for early signs a patient was at risk.
For all the details collected about each student, the main emphasis ofGeorgia State’s program is ensuring students get a few big things right: that they’re in a major well-suited to their talents, taking classes in the correct sequence, and not loading up their schedule with classes they don’t need.In 2018 alone, university officials said they did nearly 3,000 “course corrections” to make sure students were enrolled in the right classes for their major. Before the system was rolled out, Renick said the average Georgia State student was taking more than 20 “wasted” credit hours that did not apply to any graduation requirement; now, extraneous courses have been reduced so much that students are graduating on average a semester sooner.
Each adviser has an extra screen on his or her desk that shows students what the system predicts about their chance of success in a major based on the academic records of previous Georgia State students. A student wanting to go to law school who has gotten Cs in political science classes but As in English might be encouraged to switch to an English major but keep their dream of going to law school. The system signals that those who get a C in math pass chemistry at just a 40 percent rate, so weaker math students are encouraged to get more support before they attempt chemistry.
It might sound impersonal, but counselors have found that the predictive analytics system is sometimes more effective as a tool, since it gives students data to work with, rather than advice from a counselor they may or may not know or trust.“You turn the screen around and they make their own decision,” said Elisha Jarrett, associate director of the university advisement center.
For Jarrett, the real benefits of the system have been its ability to flag students who aren’t failing but might be quietly struggling, and for whom the right support in time would make a huge difference. “The student that got the B-, the C, or maybe the C-, we were failing those students,” Jarrett said. “We didn’t have a way to really reach out and capture those students and make sure those students were coming in.”
For many Georgia State students, their first encounter with the predictive analytics system is an email from an adviser asking the student to come see them. Casey Prout, a sophomore who wants to be a nurse, got one of those emails her first week of freshman year after a low score on a chemistry quiz. She met with an academic coach who discussed study strategies with her. Ultimately, she said, she got a high ‘C’ in the class—enough to keep her on track in her major—and was glad she stuck it out. “I was like, oh my gosh, how did they already know I struggled in chemistry?” Prout said. At first, she said, she felt singled out. “But then, once you go in there, they reassure you: ‘We caught it early, and we wanted to make sure you keep going from here’.”
At first the system felt novel for the students and counselors. But today, the emails and other supports built around the predictive analytics system are so second nature for Georgia State students that some don’t even know the program is unusual.
“They don’t do that?” said student Cabria de Chabert when told other universities don’t send out similar alerts. “There’s only so much a person can do coming out of high school without the experience. You’re going to need a little push, so I appreciate it.”
The data have identified some unexpected patterns that signal trouble; the system also identified “toxic combinations” of classes, and now encourages students not to take these classes in the same semester. The university determined, for example, that students might pass physics and organic chemistry at good rates if taken separately, but struggle if they take them at the same time.
Both the College of Business and the School of Nursing revamped their academic prerequisites after the number crunching. In the business school, students used to need a 2.5 GPA to take upper-level classes—leading about 1,000 students hovering right below that cutoff to take “junk” classes for multiple semesters as they attempted to improve their GPA, said Allison Calhoun-Brown, the associate vice president for student success. Today, the requirement is more focused: business students need a 2.8 GPA in five select classes deemed more critical for them, which addressed the problem, she said. In the nursing program, it was long believed that a two-course sequence in Physiology and Anatomy was the most important predictor of success. But Georgia State’s data found a student’s grade in his or her first math class was more predictive than either one, so the math score is now used to determine whether a student is admitted into the program, Renick said.
The university is constantly looking for other ways to put the data to work. After it learned that 20 percent of its incoming freshmen were dropping out the summer before they even started, it developed an artificial intelligence “chatbot” to answer common questions about starting college. The bot handled 200,000 queries—and immediately delivered results. About 320 additional students attended that fall compared with the patterns of previous years.
The university also pays close attention to students’ finances. Georgia State wants to know if a student has financial holds or an unpaid balance, or has exhausted eligibility for a Pell Grant. Since even small-scale financial stresses cause dropouts, the university pays out about $2 million annually in microgrants to students identified as needing financial help. A $300 grant is enough to keep some students in school.
Looking ahead, the university is exploring the possibility of monitoring each student’s “electronic footprint” systematically to see if it can be used as an early warning sign that a student is in distress. The hope is that if a student who had been regularly signing onto campus Wi-Fi and electronic course platforms were suddenly to stop, the university would be able to find a way to intervene early.
Students don’t always welcome being singled out, such as the incoming freshmen told they need to participate in the Summer Success Academy.But Calhoun-Brown said the school tries to approach students and parents with a truthful, but respectful tone, emphasizing that the program has identified the student as someone who could benefit from extra assistance—similar to what a Division I athlete would receive.
“We are trying to communicate that we believe in the students,” Calhoun-Brown said. “We are trying to build our reputation at Georgia State on not who we exclude, but who we include, and who we succeed with.”
Elliott, the football coach, says the university’s rising graduation rates have even become a recruiting tool to attract athletes. Elliott said his players are in the advising center almost daily, and the analytics system has become a selling point with prospective players’ parents, who want to make sure their children graduate.
“A lot of universities talk about eligibility but … when they step foot on campus we’re talking about graduation,” Elliott said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”
IN THE YEARS since Georgia State rolled out its system, multiple vendors have begun offering similar services, and the use of predictive analytics as a student success tool has become much more prevalent. Demographic data, grades, test scores and attendance records are all scoured for clues to student success or failure.
As with many appealing technologies, few of those adopters are using the tool to its full potential, says Bridget Burns, an expert on higher-education innovation. Burns, executive director of the University Innovation Alliance, sees Georgia State as an example of one of the few universities truly harvesting the potential of predictive analytics. “There is not a light switch. You do not plug a predictive analytics system into your campus and all of a sudden it’s a miracle. It doesn’t work like that. It is complicated. It is difficult,” Burns said.
Bruce Vandal, a senior vice president at Complete College America, a nonprofit focused on raising college graduation rates, said systems that use data to track and then intervene to help students are the wave of the future, but are only one part of the solution. Getting universities to focus on student support services, including advisers, can be a daunting task. This often isn’t where colleges direct their attention, he said. In the race to build flashy student facilities and hire top faculty, “getting institutions to redistribute their resources to these types of activities is a daunting one,” Vandal said.
At Georgia State, the technology is a tiny fraction of the university’s advising costs.The university spends about $150,000 annually on the technology, and the additional advisers cost about $2.5 million.It might seem hard to justify at universities that are increasingly run like businesses. But Renick says the cost-benefit is more than clear: Dropouts mean lost revenue for the school, andthe university generates more than $3 million in tuition and fees for every 1 percentage point increase in students who stay enrolled. He estimates that the university saves millions with the program.
Georgia State’s model isn’t the only way to use an analytics program.Arizona State University, one of the nation’s largest universities, with more than 100,000 traditional and online students, offers an advanced online adviser system that requires students to take courses early on deemed diagnostic for success in the major they’re pursuing. It also aggressively tracks attendance and reaches out to students who miss class. The University of Texas has a comprehensive initiative focused on getting students graduated in four years that uses predictive analytics to rate each student’s chance of graduation before they step onto the campus and builds freshman housing groups using the data. Both schools have seen increases in graduation rates.
Some university leaders envision a time when predictive analytics systems in higher education could become even more sophisticated, drawing a portrait of the whole student that incorporates social activities such as Greek life membership, study abroad participation and swipe-card data that track the time students are spending in a campus gym or computer lab—all activities that universities use to help group students or track them in other ways to help them succeed.
Amid the excitement about these types of systems there are also some ethical concerns, including that they are a little too Big Brother. Alan Rubel, director of the Center for Law, Society and Justice at the University of Wisconsin, said it may be true, for example, that a student who is political or religious might be more successful as a student, but that doesn’t mean the university should track whether students go to campaign rallies or church services. Ethics concerns have also been raised about building students’ health and criminal records into the systems.
“I don’t think universities ought to be in the business of collecting that information in the first place, regardless of whether it’s relevant to our mission,” Rubel said. “There are some things, surely, that universities ought not to be in the business of collecting or corresponding to academic concerns.”
Beyond what universities are doing, Rubel said there are too few safeguards restricting what third-party vendors and researchers can do with the data. Georgia State says it follows federal privacy laws and that student data are passcode protected, housed behind firewalls and accessible only to those authorized and trained to use them. Renick emphasized under Georgia State’s approach, it’s not collecting much information that it didn’t before it rolled out the system—the difference is that the insights are shared with students.
Others worry that while the universities’ motivation might be good, the systems might be pushing low-income and minority students away from science, engineering or math fields by reinforcing biases and inequities in America’s education system.
E. Gordon Gee, a longtime college administrator who is the president of West Virginia University, said he views predictive analytics as an important safety net but worries the systems can’t account for serendipity, such as the students he’s seen over the years who discover an academic passion and quickly change academically for the better.
“We don’t want to become mechanical in how we treat people,” Gee said.
Iris Palmer, a senior education policy analyst at the New America think tankwho tracks the use of predictive analytics in higher education, said it’s a “really hard line” for universities to walk. “On one hand, if you know that a student doesn’t have the academic record to be successful in a major like nursing or engineering, don’t you have the obligation to tell them that ahead of time before they waste their time and energy? And shouldn’t you be able to say, ‘Hey, there’s this alternative you might want to try to be better suited to your academics’?” Palmer said.
On the other hand, Palmer said, the systems have to be rolled out carefully because “we have historical inequalities and structural and racial issues that can be embedded into their systems if we’re not careful in how to build and how we implement the systems.”
At Georgia State, Renick said the system doesn’t use factors such as race, ethnicity or income when it comes to making predictions. He said the university has 100 percent more students graduating in STEM majors since 2011, in part because the university is able to offer additional supports to help get STEM majors to graduation.
For all its successes, the system isn’t perfect. After the end of her first semester at Georgia State, Heathman said she didn’t feel the same enthusiasm for the university that she had months earlier. While she enjoyed the stadium celebration and appreciated the support she received, Heathman said it was too “sporadic.” She said she failed algebra after getting confused about the start time for her final, so she’ll have to retake the class.
But importantly, she’s still enrolled in school.
“Basically, I just have to talk to my counselor to figure out what’s going on before it ends with me having a super-low GPA,” Heathman said.
Kimberly Hefling is an education reporter for POLITICO Pro.